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ESA Space Science 26 Jul 2017, 13:00 UTC The international Cassini-Huygens mission has made a surprising detection of a molecule that is instrumental in the production of complex organics within the hazy atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan.
MIT 26 Jul 2017, 03:59 UTC Lindy Elkins-Tanton ’87, SM ’87, PhD ’02 is reaching for the stars — literally. She is the principal investigator for Psyche, a NASA mission that will explore an unusual metal asteroid known as 16 Psyche. The mission does not launch until 2023, but preparations have begun in collaboration with faculty in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). Professors Benjamin Weiss and Maria Zuber, who also serves as MIT's vice president for research, wrote a paper about the asteroid with Elkins-Tanton that was the basis for the team’s selection for NASA’s Discovery Program. MIT Professor Richard Binzel is also a team member. At MIT, Elkins-Tanton earned BS and MS degrees in geology and geochemistry with a concentration on how planets form. Then she detoured from academia to the business world before becoming a college lecturer in mathematics in 1995. “I realized that in academia, you have this incredible privilege of always being able to ask a harder, bigger question, so you never get bored, and you have the opportunity to inspire students to do more in their lives,” says Elkins-Tanton. She returned to MIT to earn a PhD in geology and geophysics, and for the next decade after ...
MIT 25 Jul 2017, 19:35 UTC Molecular gas is the raw material which fuels star formation throughout the universe. Now, using the revolutionary Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) telescope, an international team of scientists has conducted one of the largest studies of molecular gas in distant galaxy clusters — rare conglomerations containing hundreds of galaxies, trillions of stars, and dark matter. Scientists from the Spitzer Adaptation of the Red-sequence Cluster Survey (SpARCS) collaboration observed the galaxies within these distant clusters as they were when the universe was only 4 billion years old. They found that they harbor larger molecular gas reservoirs compared to galaxies in found in more typical isolated environments with fewer galaxy neighbors, known as field galaxies. “We expected to find molecular gas deficiencies in these cluster galaxies compared to the field,” says lead author Allison Noble, a postdoc at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. “Galaxies in nearby clusters are dead, lacking star formation activity and with little to no molecular gas. In these distant clusters, we are instead detecting gas-rich galaxies, but their star formation rates are on par with field galaxies.” The results were recently published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Noble is a member of the research ...
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory News and Features 25 Jul 2017, 17:04 UTC Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the Sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many "long-period comets" will never approach the Sun in a person's lifetime. In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud -- a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 186 billion miles (300 billion kilometers) away from the Sun -- can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.
United Kingdom Space Agency 25 Jul 2017, 07:45 UTC This observation, which means the true length of Saturn’s day is still unknown, is one of several early findings from the final phase of Cassini’s mission, known as the Grand Finale. Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere. Cassini is now in the 15th of 22 weekly orbits that pass through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings. The spacecraft began its finale on 26 April and will continue its dives until 15 September, when it will make a mission-ending plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere. The UK has involvement on 4 instruments onboard the Cassini spacecraft, including as the Principal Investigator for the magnetometer, built to measure planetary and inter-planetary magnetic fields and developed by a team at Imperial College, London. Professor Michele Dougherty, Cassini magnetometer investigation lead at Imperial College, London, said: The instrument and the spacecraft were originally designed to be in orbit at Saturn for four years and 13 years later we are still there and everything is in really good shape! What we should remember is that neither Cassini nor the instruments were designed to carry out ...
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory News and Features 24 Jul 2017, 20:34 UTC With the push of a button, final commands for the European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder mission were beamed to space on July 18, a final goodbye before the spacecraft was powered down.
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Tom's Astronomy Blog 27 Jul 2017, 04:44 UTC What a great image from Cassini! Click the image for a larger version and you can see the haze in the very upper reaches of Saturn’s atmosphere. NASA – This false-color view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft gazes toward the rings beyond Saturn’s sunlit horizon. Along the limb (the planet’s edge) at left can be seen a thin, detached haze. This haze vanishes toward the left side of the scene. Cassini will pass through Saturn’s upper atmosphere during the final five orbits of the mission, before making a fateful plunge into Saturn on Sept. 15, 2017. The region through which the spacecraft will fly on those last orbits is well above the haze seen here, which is in Saturn’s stratosphere. In fact, even when Cassini plunges toward Saturn to meet its fate, contact with the spacecraft is expected to be lost before it reaches the depth of this haze. This view is a false-color composite made using images taken in red, green and ultraviolet spectral filters. The images were obtained using the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on July 16, 2017, at a distance of about 777,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers) from Saturn. Image scale is about 4 miles (7 kilometers) per ...
The Guardian 27 Jul 2017, 01:00 UTC Nearly half of the atoms that make up our bodies may have formed beyond the Milky Way and travelled to the solar system on intergalactic winds driven by giant exploding stars, astronomers claim.
Spaceflight Now 26 Jul 2017, 21:09 UTC In a commercial push to return to the Moon while celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Astrobotic Technology Inc. has contracted with United Launch Alliance to use an Atlas 5 rocket to send the Peregrine lander to the lunar surface in 2019.
Universe Today 26 Jul 2017, 19:01 UTC In 2010, NASA accounted its commitment to mount a crewed mission to Mars by the third decade of the 21st century. Towards this end, they have working hard to create the necessary technologies – such as the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the Orion spacecraft. At the same time, they have partnered with the private sector to develop the necessary components and expertise needed to get crews beyond Earth and the Moon. To this end, NASA recently awarded a Phase II contract to Lockheed Martin to create a new space habitat that will build on the lessons learned from the International Space Station (ISS). Known as the Deep Space Gateway, this habitat will serve as a spaceport in lunar orbit that will facilitate exploration near the Moon and assist in longer-duration missions that take us far from Earth.
NASA Space Station Blog 26 Jul 2017, 15:50 UTC The Soyuz MS-05 spacecraft that will launch three new crew members to the International Space Station has rolled out to its launch pad in Kazakhstan. The rocket was carted slowly by train from its processing facility to the pad and vertically raised to its launch position at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Cosmonaut Sergey Ryazanskiy will command the Soyuz when it launches Friday at 11:41 a.m. EDT. He will be flanked by flight engineers Randy Bresnik from NASA and Paolo Nespoli from the European Space Agency. The trio will take a six-hour, 19-minute ride from Earth to the station’s Rassvet module. NASA TV will broadcast the launch and docking activities live beginning at 10:45 a.m.
Scientific American 26 Jul 2017, 14:00 UTC Despite technical glitches and regulatory hurdles, nanosatellite swarms could someday be the cornerstone for revolutionary interplanetary or even interstellar space-science missions