The icy eyes of Mars


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One thing all solid bodies in the Solar System share in common is craters. Some worlds, like Mercury or the Moon, are covered in them, having no atmosphere to erode them away. Earth has relatively few; our dynamic atmosphere and water circulation wipes them out after a few millennia. And some icy bodies like Saturn’s moon Enceladus or Jupiter’s Europa only have a few because their surfaces are also constantly changing… on a geologic timescale.

Source : Sen Blog

Rosetta images reveal crack hundreds of meters long in comet 67P


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Image of Comet 67P taken by ESA’s Rosetta (Click Image to Download)

The European Space Agency (ESA) succeeded in delivering the Philae lander to the surface of comet 67P several months ago, but its Rosetta probe hasn’t been twiddling its robotic thumbs since then. It’s still in orbit of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko to study the comet as it gets closer to the sun. In the newest set of images published by the ESA, scientists reveal 67P is coming apart at the seams. A huge crack was discovered running hundreds of meters along the surface.

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To visualize what’s happening, it’s important to know a little about the shape of 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko. Many of us have an idea of comets as being more or less round, but many of them are actually quite oddly shaped. For example, 67P has two lobes, one smaller than the other, connected by a narrow neck. It looks a little like a rubber duck. The crack detected by Rosetta’s Osiris camera is in the neck region, which is also where most of the gas and dust is being expelled.

The crack is about one meter in width, which wouldn’t be so impressive if it wasn’t covering such a large area. The neck region where the crack was found is only 1km wide after all, so a few hundred meters is nothing to sneeze at. In the image above, the crack is visible in two locations on the surface, but the middle section is obscured by layers of dust, which the ESA team has found is plentiful on the surface of 67P, especially in the neck region where the object’s minimal gravity is even less substantial.

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67P won’t reach its closest approach to the sun for several months, but it’s already losing more than 11kg of gas and dust every second. Scientists are unsure if the crack will worsen or close up as the comet continues to lose weight. If the stresses on the neck increase, the comet could fracture and break in two .
Some researchers believe that 67P’s shape is the result of two smaller objects colliding in the distant past, so this crack could be following an existing “fault line” in the structure. It’s also possible this crack is nothing out of the ordinary for porous comets like 67P as they erode. It’s hard to say for sure — this is the first time we’ve gotten such a close-up look at a comet.

Rosetta dropped the Philae lander off on 67P back in November, but it didn’t quite go as planned. The lander’s harpoons failed to fire, which caused it to bounce along the surface, eventually coming to rest in a shadow that prevented the solar panels from creating enough power. After doing most of its science, Philae went to sleep. The ESA has continued to monitor conditions on the comet with Rosetta and hopes that when the comet nears the sun, it will shine more light on Philae, allowing it to come back online.

Philae isn’t close enough to the neck region to offer any insights about the newly discovered crack, but it can certainly tell us more about the composition of 67P. Even if Philae never comes back online, Rosetta will keep an eye on the surface from a few kilometers up. It will be there through 67P’s solar perigee in August, and will follow as it heads back out toward Jupiter.

Source : Geek.com

Large Asteroids to Flyby Earth in January Through March. Should Humans Worry?


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A view of the asteroid Lutetia from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft (Click Image to download)

Asteroids are headed in Earth’s direction and with most of them about as wide as a double-decker bus, a collision would most likely result in significant damage. However, while experts warn against the potential dangers of these asteroids, they also say that it is unlikely that these will veer off course and hit the planet.

According to NASA’s Near Earth Object Program, there will be 43 asteroids flying close to Earth in January and 25 in February. In March, the number further drops to 15. The biggest threat for January is the asteroid 2007 EJ slated to closely approach the planet on Jan. 12. With a maximum diameter of nearly 1 mile, the asteroid is traveling at around 34,500 miles per hour.

The next-biggest asteroid threat for the first month of the year is the 1991 VE. It features a diameter of 0.87 miles and is expected to skim past the planet on Jan. 17. On Jan. 15 and 23, 0.68-mile wide asteroids will be flying by, the 2014 UF206 and the 2062 Aten, respectively.

At 0.75 miles wide, the 2003 YK118 will follow in Feb. 27. On the same day, the biggest asteroid threat for the quarter, the 1.4-mile wide 2000 EE14 can be expected. For March, the biggest an asteroid will get will be the 2002 GM2, which measures 0.68 miles in diameter. It’s scheduled to come close to Earth on March 3.

The 2000 EE14 will also not only be the biggest for the quarter but it will also be flying by the closest, coming in up to nearly 17 million miles within the proximity of the Earth’s center.

Alarmed that about a million undetected asteroids are flying around in space right now, scientists launched Asteroid Day to raise awareness and prevent the disaster that happened 65 million years ago from happening as much as possible.

According to NASA, the agency is aware of more than 1,500 PHAs or potentially hazardous asteroids. These are defined using parameters that measure how big of a potential an asteroid has for dangerously coming close to the planet. But just because an asteroid has a high potential doesn’t mean that it will impact Earth. The measure of potential is there to simply gauge just how big the possibility of a threat is. PHAs are constantly monitored to improve predictions for close-approach statistics, which in turn improves predictions for threat and impact.

Source : techtimes , Photo by ESA

Hubble captures image of galaxy 60 million light-years away


The beautiful side of IC 335

Photo: Hubble/NASA and ESA) IC 335 located at Fornax Galaxy (Click Image to Dwonload)

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a galaxy far, far away …

Located 60 million light-years away, the galaxy IC 335 is part of a galaxy group containing three other galaxies, and located in the Fornax Galaxy.

NASA shared the stunning space image on Facebook Dec. 24, and it has been liked more than 33,000 times.

Because many of the characteristics of a galaxy are only visible from its face, NASA says it’s difficult to classify the “edge on” IC 335.

According to NASA, the “45,000 light-year-long galaxy could be classified as an SO type,” or lenticular galaxy, which typically have a thin stellar disk and a bulge and fall between a true spiral and an elliptical galaxy.

This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the galaxy IC 335 in front of a backdrop of distant galaxies. IC 335 is part of a galaxy group containing three other galaxies, and located in the Fornax Galaxy Cluster 60 million light-years away.

As seen in this image, the disk of IC 335 appears edge-on from the vantage point of Earth. This makes it harder for astronomers to classify it, as most of the characteristics of a galaxy’s morphology — the arms of a spiral or the bar across the center — are only visible on its face. Still, the 45 000 light-year-long galaxy could be classified as an S0 type.

These lenticular galaxies are an intermediate state in galaxy morphological classification schemes between true spiral and elliptical galaxies. They have a thin stellar disk and a bulge, like spiral galaxies, but in contrast to typical spiral galaxies they have used up most of the interstellar medium. Only a few new stars can be created out of the material that is left and the star formation rate is very low. Hence, the population of stars in S0 galaxies consists mainly of aging stars, very similar to the star population in elliptical galaxies.

As S0 galaxies have only ill-defined spiral arms they are easily mistaken for elliptical galaxies if they are seen inclined face-on or edge-on as IC 335 here. And indeed, despite the morphological differences between S0 and elliptical class galaxies, they share some common characteristics, like typical sizes and spectral features.

Both classes are also deemed “early-type” galaxies, because they are evolving passively. However, while elliptical galaxies may be passively evolving when we observe them, they have usually had violent interactions with other galaxies in their past. In contrast, S0 galaxies are either aging and fading spiral galaxies, which never had any interactions with other galaxies, or they are the aging result of a single merger between two spiral galaxies in the past. The exact nature of these galaxies is still a matter of debate.

Credit:  USA TODAY /ESA/Hubble and NASA

Top 10 great space moments in 2014 (pictures)


Source :c|net

It was a big year for space exploration, from rodeo-riding a comet to getting more familiar with Mars, distant planets and the beginning of it all.

1. Rosetta and Philae meet a comet

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Photo by: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR  (Click Image to Image)

The first successful soft landing on a comet wasn’t just the biggest space story of the year. It was probably also the biggest science story of 2014.

The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft traveled 10 years to drop the Philae lander onto a comet. The landing was bumpy, but scientists were able to conduct a few days worth of experiments on the comet’s surface that first week.

But neither Rosetta nor Philae may be finished yet.

Look for more great science from both in 2015.

2. Orion lifts off

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Orion lift Off (Click Image to download)

A new era in space exploration began in December with the successful test flight of the Orion spacecraft, thanks to a big assist from some massive, heavy rockets.

Orion is scheduled to make an unmanned trip to the moon, but it is later expected to carry manned missions to an asteroid and Mars.

3. New Horizons awakens

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Artist ‘s Impression of New Horizons near Pluto and its moon Charon (Click Image to Download)

Rosetta wasn’t the only spacecraft to wake up after a long journey in 2014. In December, NASA’s New Horizons probe switched itself back “on” after a 1,873 day-long hibernation.

Originally launched in 2006, the craft is on track for its mission to survey Pluto and its moons in 2015.

4. India’s Mars Orbiter Mission

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Mars Picture taken by ISRO’s MOM (Click Image to Download)

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), also called Mangalyaan is a spacecraft orbiting Mars since 24 September 2014. It was launched on 5 November 2013 by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is India’s first interplanetary mission and ISRO has become the fourth space agency to reach Mars, after the Soviet space program, NASA, and the European Space Agency. It is also the first nation to reach Mars orbit on its first attempt, and the first Asian nation to do so.

5. Comet buzzes Mars

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In October, we got a rare close look at a comet on a once-in-a-million-years journey. The comet came so close to Mars that humanity’s orbiters circling the Red Planet actually had to hide on the other side to avoid the comet’s debris cloud.

The orbiters and rovers on the surface were still able to capture images of the comet as it whizzed by.

6. Exoplanets everywhere

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In 2014, not only did our knowledge of distant exoplanets grow by leaps and bounds, but so did the evidence that many of them might host the elements to support life as we know it.

As of December 15, 2014, we know of 22 planets beyond our solar system where there is reason to believe they could be habitable.

7. Space is still hard

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2014 was not a year without tragedy in space and near-space exploration. In October, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one pilot.

This came within days of an explosion that happened after the liftoff of an unmanned Antares rocket carrying a payload to the International Space Station. Also, in August a SpaceX rocket exploded over Texas during a test flight.

In a year when science began to make amazing feats look easy, these were three reminders of the old adage that “space is hard.”

8. ALMA’s Image of Another Solar System

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The best image ever of planet formation around an infant star.

It’s a real image of a planet-forming disk around the infant star, in this case a sunlike star approximately 450 light-years from Earth, known to astronomers as HL Tau.

It is impressive. It reveals in great detail what astronomers just a few decades ago were only theorizing about, and that is that all stars are believed to form within slow-spinning clouds of gas and dust. As the clouds spin, they flatten out into these disks. Over time, the dust particles in the cloud begin to stick together by a process known as acretion, and that process is what ultimately forms the planets like our Earth, and moons like our moon, plus the asteroids, all of which mostly still move (as they did in the original cloud) in this flat space – this disk-like space – encircling the parent star.

9.Aiming for Manned Missions to Mars

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In a year when Mars rovers continued to expand our understanding of the Red Planet, momentum continued to build for a manned mission to our distant neighbor.

NASA is looking seriously at “deep sleep” methods to easily get humans to Mars, likely in the 2030s. Elon Musk started talking about getting mankind to Mars in half that time, and Mars One is already looking for astronauts to blast off in less than a decade’s time, despite potential problems.

10. Racing back to the moon

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Mars is cool, but isn’t there more to do on the moon?

Lunar Mission One is just one of the teams that thinks so — it raised about a million dollars for its plan to drill the moon’s south pole.

Meanwhile, teams competing in the Google Lunar XPrize continued working toward returning to our lone natural satellite.

The moon, Mars, comets, asteroids and beyond — stay tuned to @crave to see where we go in 2015.

From the Hubble, a new image of a glittering cosmic wonderland with stars as old as the universe itself


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(Click Image to Download)

It kind of looks like a snow globe — or maybe like the glittering ornament atop a massive Christmas tree.

Or like your neighbor’s house during December, if you’re lucky enough to live next to an aggressive seasonal decorator.

But this image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows Messier 92. Messier 92 is a globular cluster, or a spherical group of old stars bound tightly together by gravity. Their density can make globular clusters appear quite bright, and this is one of the brightest in our whole galaxy.

You may even have seen this cosmic bauble before. It’s over 25,000 light years away from Earth, but with 330,000 stars packed tightly into it, it’s often visible with the naked eye. You can catch its occasional appearances in the constellation Hercules.

Astronomers know from Messier 92’s molecular composition that it isn’t just bright — it’s also very old. About as old as the universe itself, in fact.

Like this image? You could have been the one to create it. A version of this photo was submitted by Gilles Chapdelaine as part of the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image competition. The Hubble has beamed back so much data that not all of it has been translated into visible images, but the public is welcome to sift through archives to try to find stellar shots worth sharing.Find out more at the Hubble Web site.

Source : Washington post

What Our Milky Way Galaxy Looked Like 10 Billion Years Ago


Using two supercomputers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Swiss National Supercomputing Center, a group of researchers headed by Dr Simon Portegies Zwart of Leiden Observatory has simulated the long term evolution of the Milky Way Galaxy over a period of six billion years – from 10 to 4 billion years ago.

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(Click Image to Download)

If you took a photo of our Milky Way Galaxy today from a distance, it would show a spiral galaxy with a bright, central bar of dense star populations.

The Sun would be located outside this bar near one of the spiral arms composed of stars and interstellar dust; beyond the visible galaxy would be a dark matter halo.

Now, if you wanted to go back in time and take a video of our Milky Way Galaxy forming, you could go back 10 billion years, but many of the galaxy’s prominent features would not be recognizable.

You would have to wait about 5 billion years to witness the formation of our Solar System. By this point, 4.6 billion years ago, the galaxy looks almost like it does today.

This is the timeline Dr Portegies Zwart and his colleagues are seeing emerge when they use supercomputers to simulate the Milky Way’s evolution.

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This image shows what the Milky Way Galaxy looked like ten billion years ago. Image credit: SURFsara / J. Bédorf / NVIDIA.

“We don’t really know how the structure of the galaxy came about. What we realized is we can use the positions, velocities, and masses of stars in three-dimensional space to allow the structure to emerge out of the self-gravity of the system,” Dr Portegies Zwart said.

The challenge of computing galactic structure on a star-by-star basis is, as you might imagine, the sheer number of stars in the Milky Way – at least 100 billion. Therefore, the team needed at least a 100 billion-particle simulation to connect all the dots.

Before the development of the team’s code, known as Bonsai, the largest galaxy simulation topped out around 100 million particles.

The team tested an early version of Bonsai on the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility’s Titan – the second-most-powerful supercomputer in the world – to improve scalability in the code.

After scaling Bonsai, the scientists ran Bonsai on the Piz Daint supercomputer at the Swiss National Supercomputing Center and simulated galaxy formation over 6 billion years with 51 million particles representing the forces of stars and dark matter.

After a successful Piz Daint run, the team returned to Titan to maximize the code’s parallelism. Bonsai achieved nearly 25 petaflops of sustained single-precision, floating point performance on the Titan.

The team aims to compare simulation results to new observations coming from ESA’s Gaia satellite launched in 2013.

“One percent of the particles, or stars, in our simulated galaxy should match Gaia data,” Dr Portegies Zwart said.

Source : sci-news

Ground-Based Telescope Observes Exoplanet Transiting Bright Star


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 Graphical representation of an Exoplanet (Click Image to Download)

For the first time, an international team of astronomers has used a ground-based telescope to detect and observe the transit of a planet in front of a Sun-like star outside of our own solar system.

Until now, only space-based telescopes were capable of detecting the transits of exoplanets as they passed by bright stars.

Distortions caused by the atmosphere , the same phenomenon that makes stars look like they’re twinkling, makes it difficult for astronomers to observe transiting planets around bright stars from telescopes based on Earth.

In September, 2013, Japanese astronomers, using the ground-based Subaru telescope were able to observe the transit of super-Earth, GJ 1214b , but this exoplanet orbits a much dimmer star, known as a red dwarf.

According to team leader, Dr. Ernst de Mooij  of Queen’s University Belfast  in Northern Ireland, 55 Cancri e, was measured to have a diameter of about 26,000 km, which is twice that of Earth, but with eight times its mass.

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This artist’s conception shows the super-Earth 55 Cancri e (right) compared to the Earth (left). (NASA/JPL) (Click Image to Download)

The most recent achievement involves a super-sized Earth-like planet in a binary star system more than 40-light years away. Called 55 Cancri e , the planet orbits its primary star 55 Cancri A , in the constellation Cancer. The solar system’s secondary star, 55 Cancri B, is a red dwarf star which is located about 159,321,732,615 km from the primary star.

Scientists say that while the primary star can be seen with the naked eye, it takes ideal conditions such as a clear and moonless night.

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An artist’s concept of exoplanet 55 Cancri e as it closely orbits its star 55 Cancri A (NASA/JPL-Caltech) (Click Image to Download)

Previous studies have found that the planet makes one complete orbit around its sun in about 18 hours and that since its daytime temperature can reach nearly 1,700° Celsius, 55 Cancri e is not at all hospitable to life.

A number of small, extra-solar planets are expected to be discovered in the next ten years as new observational space missions — including NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) , and the European Space Agency’s Planetary Transits and Oscillations of Stars (PLATO)  –are launched.

Both PLATO – set to go in 2014 and TESS, scheduled for a 2017 launch – will look for transiting Earth-like planets circling nearby bright stars.

Source : blogs.voanews.com

Esa’s mission to Jupiter is GO! ‘Juice’ spacecraft will launch in 2022


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(Click Image to Download)

  • Jupiter and its moons could be best hope of finding signs of alien life
  • Jupiter icy moons explorer (Juice) will reach the Jovian system in 2030
  • It will explore volcanic Io, Europa and rock-ice Ganymede and Callisto
  • Juice will also take a look at Jupiter’s atmosphere and magnetosphere

Astronomers claim Jupiter and its moons could provide the best hope of finding signs of alien life in our solar system.

Now, in an effort to explorer its distant oceans, the Jupiter icy moons explorer (Juice) mission has been given the green light to launch in 2022.

The five-tonne satellite will reach Jupiter in 2030 where it will use its suite of instruments to explore the planet’s atmosphere, magnetosphere and tenuous set of rings.

Juice will also look at Jupiter’s diverse Galilean moons – volcanic Io, icy Europa and rock-ice Ganymede and Callisto – which make the Jovian system a miniature solar system in its own right.

The focus will largely be on Ganymede, though, and will the first time any icy moon has been orbited by a spacecraft.

Earlier this year, scientists said Ganymede might have ice and oceans stacked up in several layers similar to a club sandwich.

Previously, the moon was thought to harbour a thick ocean sandwiched between just two layers of ice, one on top and one on bottom, but now it seems it has multiple layers.

Scientists claims that places where water and rock interact are important for the development of life. For example, it is possible life began on Earth in bubbling vents on our sea floor.

Prior to the new study, Ganymede’s rocky sea bottom was thought to be coated with ice, not liquid – a problem for the emergence of life.

It will visit Callisto, the most heavily cratered object in the solar system, and will twice fly by Europa.

Juice is hoping to make the first measurements of the thickness of Europa’s icy crust and will identify candidate sites for future in situ exploration.

The Galileo mission found strong evidence that a subsurface ocean of salty water is in contact with a rocky seafloor.

Source : Daily mail

Philae reveals presence of large amount of water ice on the comet


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A comet seen from close up – the surface looks like rock, but is a mixture of water ice, carbonaceous particles and interesting compounds. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR  (Click Image to Download ) 

The European Space Agency has revealed that the comet – 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko “is not nearly as soft and fluffy as it was believed to be”.

The first results to emerge from the team of the SESAME experiment (Surface Electrical, Seismic and Acoustic Monitoring Experiment) confirm that “the strength of the ice found under a layer of dust on the first landing site is surprisingly high”.

“The mechanical properties of 67P will be derived. SESAME’s two other instruments suggest that cometary activity at this landing site is low, as well as revealing the presence of a large amount of water ice under the lander,” Klaus Seidensticker from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research said.

Source : Times of india , SEN Blog