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Headlines added December 2, 2008

Source of geysers on Saturn's moon may be underground water
A joint project between Jet Propulsion Lab in California, the University of Central Florida in Orlando and the University of Colorado have shown that Saturn's moon may have underground water which is spewing plumes of water vapor into space through geysers.  12/2/08
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Headlines added earlier / - NASA's Spirit Mars rover has arrived at a site dubbed "Home Plate" within Gusev crater. But what the robot found has left scientists puzzled.     2/11/2006
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Pits and tectonic grabens in Phlegethon Catena on Mars
European Space Agency | EurekAlert!
These images, taken by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, show pits and tectonic 'grabens' in the Phlegethon Catena region of Mars. 2/9/2006
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Frozen Water Discovered on "Deep Impact" Comet
Elizabeth Svoboda | National Geographic News
Did comets spark life on Earth? New findings from NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft are adding to the debate. 2/5/2006
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Finding life on Mars and outer space begins by examining Earth's inner space
JASON Foundation for Education | EurekAlert!
Clues to finding current or past life on Mars now or at some point in the past begins with an examination of Earth's most extreme environments and the adaptable microscopic life that thrives there, according to a group of researchers on an international broadcast science expedition January 30 through February 4 with The JASON Project. 1/31/2006
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New 'planet' is larger than Pluto
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft | EurekAlert!
Bonn astronomers measure size of recently discovered solar system object. 1/31/2006
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Spacecraft, heal thyself
European Space Agency | EurekAlert!
Building spacecraft is a tough job. They are precision pieces of engineering that have to survive in the airless environment of space, where temperatures can swing from hundreds of degrees Celsius to hundreds of degree below zero in moments. Once a spacecraft is in orbit, engineers have virtually no chance of repairing anything that breaks. But what if a spacecraft could fix itself?
Thanks to a new study funded by ESA's General Studies Programme, and carried out by the Department of Aerospace Engineering, University of Bristol, UK, engineers have taken a step towards that amazing possibility. They took their inspiration from nature. "When we cut ourselves we don't have to glue ourselves back together, instead we have a self-healing mechanism. Our blood hardens to form a protective seal for new skin to form underneath," says Dr Christopher Semprimoschnig, a materials scientist at ESA's European Space Technology Research Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands, who oversaw the study. 1/19/2006
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NASA poised to launch first Pluto probe (Reuters)
Irene Klotz | Yahoo! News
Reuters - NASA's first space probe to Pluto, set to lift off on Tuesday, will use radioactive plutonium pellets to power much of its expected nine-year journey to the far reaches of the solar system.
The U.S. space agency, which is seeing protests against the plutonium load, will use the largest rocket in the U.S. fleet as part of a plan that calls for bouncing the small probe, about the size of a grand piano, off Jupiter's massive gravity field en route to Pluto.   
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Stardust parachutes to soft landing in Utah with dust samples from comet
University of Washington | EurekAlert!
Nearly seven years after setting off in pursuit of comet Wild 2, the Stardust return capsule streaked across the night sky of the Western United States early Sunday, making a soft parachute landing in the Utah desert southwest of Salt Lake City.
Special helicopter-borne teams secured and recovered the capsule, containing tens of thousands of comet grains and as many as 100 bits of interstellar dust, shortly after it landed. The capsule was moved to a clean room at the Air Force's Utah Testing and Training Range, where a canister containing the collector grid was to be extracted and shipped to the Johnson Space Center in Houston later this week.     
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Meteorite Impact Reformulated Earth's Crust, Study Shows
John Roach | National Geographic News
About 1.8 billion years ago, a meteorite or comet the size of Mount Everest slammed into what is now Canada.
According to James Mungall, a University of Toronto geologist, the impact turned part of the Earth's crust inside out and dusted the surface with a rare metal.
Mungall and other experts studying impact craters, such as this one in Sudbury, Ontario, hope to understand how a period of continual bombardment about four billion years ago shaped the planet.
Until now researchers had found scant evidence that a meteorite could pierce through Earth's upper crust and alter its compositional makeup.  1/13/2006
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UC Berkeley astronomers find magnetic Slinky in constellation of Orion
University of California - Berkeley | EurekAlert!
Astronomers announced today (Thursday, Jan. 12) what may be the first discovery of a helical magnetic field in interstellar space, coiled like a snake around a gas cloud in the constellation of Orion.
"You can think of this structure as a giant, magnetic Slinky wrapped around a long, finger-like interstellar cloud,'' said Timothy Robishaw, a graduate student in astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley. "The magnetic field lines are like stretched rubber bands; the tension squeezes the cloud into its filamentary shape.''
Astronomers have long hoped to find specific cases in which magnetic forces directly influence the shape of interstellar clouds, but according to Robishaw, "telescopes just haven't been up to the task ... until now."     1/11/2006
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Satellites see largest jet of particles created between Sun and Earth
European Space Agency | EurekAlert!
A flotilla of space-weather satellites - ESA's Cluster and NASA's ACE and Wind - observed for the first time steady large-scale jets of charged particles in the solar wind between the Sun and Earth.
When such huge jets of particles impact on Earth's magnetic shield, they could cause powerful magnetic storms on our planet. Understanding the mechanism behind these phenomena - called 'magnetic reconnection' – is also fundamental to many explosive phenomena, such as solar flares, powerful gamma-ray bursts from 'magnetars' (dead stars noted for their extreme magnetic fields) and laboratory nuclear fusion. 1/11/2006
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Cosmic battle creates Milky-Way sized tunnel
Naval Research Laboratory | EurekAlert
A team of astronomers is announcing today that they have discovered a giant Milky Way-sized tunnel filled with high energy particles in a distant galaxy cluster. These new findings are of special interest to astronomers as they may provide the missing evolutionary link necessary to understand the cycle of birth and death, as well as the environmental impact, of radio jets which result from ravenous supermassive black holes within giant galaxies.
Using the Chandra X-ray Observatory to study the multi-million degree gas in the galaxy cluster Abell 2597, the scientists discovered an unusual X-ray tunnel large enough to fit the entire Milky Way galaxy inside. The cluster, located at a distance of roughly one billion light years, contains a tunnel in the hot gas, which measures nearly 110 thousand light years by 36 thousand light years in size. The tunnel, which appears to originate near the core of the central giant galaxy in the cluster, may be more than 200 million years old. 1/11/2006
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Massive star cluster found in Milky Way
Rochester Institute of Technology
A massive cluster of red supergiants -- super-sized stars on the verge of exploding -- was recently discovered in the Milky Way by a group of astronomers using infrared technology to penetrate the thick dust that cloaks much of the galaxy.
Only a few hundred such stars are known to exist in the galaxy, with the previous largest collection of them containing only five. These are the biggest stars: a single red supergiant at the center of the solar system would reach the orbit of Jupiter. The 14 together imply a sea of smaller stars in the cluster having a total mass of at least 20,000 solar masses, according to astronomer Don Figer.
"It seems odd that here is a spectacularly bright cluster and that we are only seeing it now," says Figer, formerly at Space Telescope Science Institute and now at Rochester Institute of Technology. "We didn't have infrared technology until recently and so people are rescanning the whole galaxy."
He adds: "This gives us the richest sample of stars getting ready to explode. We still don't understand what they do in their last stage."     1/8/2006
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Milky Way galaxy is warped and vibrating like a drum
University of California - Berkeley | EurekAlert!
The most prominent of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies - a pair of galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds - appears to be interacting with the Milky Way's ghostly dark matter to create a mysterious warp in the galactic disk that has puzzled astronomers for half a century.
The warp, seen most clearly in the thin disk of hydrogen gas permeating the galaxy, extends across the entire 200,000-light year diameter of the Milky Way, with the sun and earth sitting somewhere near the crease. Leo Blitz, professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and his colleagues, Evan Levine and Carl Heiles, have charted this warp and analyzed it in detail for the first time, based on a new galactic map of hydrogen gas (HI) emissions.     1/8/2006
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Mapping Orion's winds
Vanderbilt University | EurekAlert!
For the past few months, Bob O'Dell has been mapping the winds blowing in the Orion Nebula, the closest stellar nursery similar to the one in which the Sun was born. New data from the Hubble Orion Heritage Program, a major observational effort by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004 and 2005, have given the Vanderbilt astronomer the information he needs to measure the stellar winds with unprecedented detail.
"Determining how stellar winds interact with the ambient material in stellar nurseries like Orion is a critical factor in understanding the process of star creation," says O'Dell, distinguished research professor of astrophysics and an international authority on Orion.
All stars, including the Sun, give off a stream of particles as they burn.     1/9/2006
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Astronomers shed surprising light on our galaxy's black hole
Northwestern University | EurekAlert!
In the most comprehensive study of Sagittarius A*, the enigmatic supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy, astronomers led by Northwestern University's Farhad Yusef-Zadeh -- using nine ground and space-based telescopes including the Hubble Space Telescope -- have discovered that Sagittarius A* produces rapid flares close to the innermost region of the black hole in many different wavelengths and that these emissions go up and down together.
This insight into the frequent bursts of radiation observed shooting off the black hole like firecrackers -- similar to solar flares -- will help scientists better understand the dynamics of Sgr A* and the source of its flares.
"We observed that the less energetic infrared flares occur simultaneously with the more energetic X-ray flares as well the submillimeter flares," said Yusef-Zadeh. "From this, we infer that the particles that are accelerated near the black hole give rise to X-ray, infrared and submillimeter emission. In addition, not all of the material that approaches the black hole gets sucked in. Some of the material may be ejected from the vicinity of the central black hole or event horizon. Our observations hint that these flares have enough energy to escape from the closest confines of the supermassive black hole's sphere of influence." 1/9/2006
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Virtual microscope allows public to search for dust grains in Stardust detectors
University of California - Berkeley | EurekAlert!
Astronomy buffs who jumped at the chance to use their home computers in the SETI@home search for intelligent life in the universe will soon be able to join an Internet-based search for dust grains originating from stars millions of light years away.
In a new project called Stardust@home, University of California, Berkeley, researchers will invite Internet users to help them search for a few dozen submicroscopic grains of interstellar dust captured by NASA's Stardust spacecraft and due to return to Earth in January 2006.
Though Stardust's main mission was to capture dust from the tail of comet Wild 2 - dust dating from the origins of the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago - it also captured a sprinkling of dust from distant stars, perhaps created in supernova explosions less than 10 million years ago.
"These will be the very first contemporary interstellar dust grains ever brought back to Earth for study," said Andrew Westphal, a UC Berkeley senior fellow and associate director of the campus's Space Sciences Laboratory who developed the technique NASA will use to digitally scan the aerogel in which the interstellar dust grains are embedded. "Stardust is not only the first mission to return samples from a comet, it is the first sample return mission from the galaxy."      1/9/2006
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Measuring Charon     1/3/2006    Read whole story

Apollo Chronicles: Dark Shadows      1/4/2006    Read whole story

NOVA scienceNOW: 10th Planet    1/3/2006    View whole story

Stardust nears end of epic journey; Researchers await its treasure    1/2/2006   Read whole story

Rovers Still Exploring Mars After 2 Years (AP)       1/2/2006   Read whole story

Moon Storms    12/31/2005   Read whole story

Gov't Issues Proposed Space Tourism Rules (AP)    12/30/2005    Read whole story

Hubble Reveals New Moons, Rings Around Uranus     12/23/2005   Read whole story

An Explosion on the Moon     12/23/2005   Read whole story

Plasma engine passes initial test     12/14/2005   Read whole story

Rivers of Methane May Flow on Saturn's Largest Moon    12/14/2005   Read whole story


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