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Mars

New Data Indicates Arctic-Ocean Sized Body of Water on Ancient Mars 46

Posted by timothy
from the sounds-brisk dept.
mdsolar writes After six years of planetary observations, scientists at NASA say they have found convincing new evidence that ancient Mars had an ocean. It was probably the size of the Arctic Ocean, larger than previously estimated, the researchers reported on Thursday. The body of water spread across the low-lying plain of the planet's northern hemisphere for millions of years, they said. If confirmed, the findings would add significantly to scientists' understanding of the planet's history and lend new weight to the view that ancient Mars had everything needed for life to emerge. Update: 03/05 22:42 GMT by T : Correction: that headline should have read "Arctic" initially, rather than Antarctic.
Biotech

NASA Ames Reproduces the Building Blocks of Life In Laboratory 119

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-it-yourself dept.
hypnosec writes "Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center have reproduced non-biologically the three basic components of life found in both DNA and RNA — uracil, cytosine, and thymine. For their experiment scientists deposited an ice sample containing pyrimidine — a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen — on a cold substrate in a chamber with space-like conditions such as very high vacuum, extremely low temperatures, and irradiated the sample with high-energy ultraviolet photons from a hydrogen lamp. Researchers discovered that such an arrangement produces these essential ingredients of life. "We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, cytosine, and thymine, all three components of RNA and DNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space," said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. "We are showing that these laboratory processes, which simulate conditions in outer space, can make several fundamental building blocks used by living organisms on Earth."
Space

Massive Exoplanet Evolved In Extreme 4-Star System 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the four-is-better-than-one dept.
astroengine writes "For only the second time, an exoplanet living with an expansive family of four stars has been revealed. The exoplanet, which is a huge gaseous world 10 times the mass of Jupiter, was previously known to occupy a 3-star system, but a fourth star (a red dwarf) has now been found, revealing quadruple star systems possessing planets are more common than we thought. "About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving," said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The whole 4-star family is collectively known as 30 Ari, located some 136 light-years from Earth — in our interstellar backyard. The exoplanet orbits the primary star of the system once every 335 days. The primary star has a new-found binary partner (which the exoplanet does not orbit) and this pair are locked in an orbital dance with a secondary binary, separated by a distance of 1,670 astronomical unit (AU), where 1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and sun.
Mars

Mars Curiosity Rover Experiences Short Circuit, Will Be Stationary For Days 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the shocking-news-from-mars dept.
hypnosec writes: NASA says its Mars Curiosity rover has experienced a transient short circuit. The team has halted all work from the rover temporarily while engineers analyze the situation. Telemetry data received from Curiosity indicated the short circuit, after which the vehicle followed its programmed response, stopping the arm activity underway whenthe irregularity in the electric current happened. Curiosity will stay parked as its engineers analyze the situation and figure out if any damage has been done. NASA says a transient short circuit would have little effect on the rover's operations in some systems, but it could force the team to restrict use of whatever mechanism caused the problem.
Space

NASA's Spitzer Team Releases Highest-resolution View of the Full Galactic Plane 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-going-to-need-a-bigger-screen dept.
StartsWithABang writes From our vantage point within the Milky Way, most of our 200-400 billion stars are obscured by the dust lanes present within. But thanks to its views in infrared light, the Spitzer Space Telescope can glimpse not only all of the stars and the dust simultaneously, it can do it at an alarming resolution. Recently, NASA has put together a 360 panorama of more than 2,000,000 Spitzer images taken from 2003-2014, and one astrophysicist has gone and stitched them together into a single, 180,000-pixel-long viewable experience that shows less than 3% of the sky, but nearly 50% of its stars.
ISS

Spacewalking Astronauts Finish Extensive, Tricky Cable Job 22

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-work-larry dept.
An anonymous reader writes news about a three-day cable job completed outside the International Space Station. "Spacewalking astronauts successfully completed a three-day cable job outside the International Space Station on Sunday, routing several-hundred feet of power and data lines for new crew capsules commissioned by NASA. It was the third spacewalk in just over a week for Americans Terry Virts and Butch Wilmore, and the quickest succession of spacewalks since NASA's former shuttle days. The advance work was needed for the manned spacecraft under development by Boeing and SpaceX. A pair of docking ports will fly up later this year, followed by the capsules themselves, with astronauts aboard, in 2017."
Space

One Astronomer's Quest To Reinstate Pluto As a Planet 190

Posted by Soulskill
from the emotional-investment-in-nouns dept.
sarahnaomi writes: Most of us grew up believing that tiny, distant Pluto was the outermost planet in our solar system. Then, one day, the scientific powers that be decreed that it wasn't. But it seems the matter is far from settled. David Weintraub—who describes Pluto's exile as a stunt organized by a "very small clique of Pluto-haters"—would have the dwarf world rejoin the ranks of our Solar System's fully-fledged planets today. But solid evidence that Pluto deserves the title may come in July, when NASA's New Horizons spacecraft slingshots around the icy rock and sends us back a detailed picture of its composition. Pluto's planethood was revoked by majority vote on the final day of the 2006 IAU conference. Over 2,500 astronomers attended the meeting throughout the week, but only 394 votes ultimately decided Pluto's fate: 237 in favor of demoting the planet and 157 against.
NASA

Ceres' Mystery Bright Dots May Have Volcanic Origin 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the stay-out-of-the-lava dept.
astroengine writes As NASA's Dawn mission slowly spirals in on its dwarf planet target, Ceres' alien landscape is becoming sharper by the day. And, at a distance of only 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers), the robotic spacecraft has revealed multiple bright patches on the surface, but one of the brightest spots has revealed a dimmer bright patch right next door. "Ceres' bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin," said Chris Russell, of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and principal investigator for the Dawn mission. "This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations."
ISS

ISS Crew Install Cables For 2017 Arrival of Commercial Capsules 100

Posted by timothy
from the in-meters-they're-even-longer dept.
The Associated Press, as carried by the San Francisco Chronicle, reports that NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Terry Virts have attached more than 300 feet of cable to the exterior of the International Space Station in a series of three planned spacewalks; in total, the wiring job they're undertaking will involve 764 feet of power and data cables. The extensive rewiring is needed to prepare for NASA’s next phase 260 miles up: the 2017 arrival of the first commercial spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts to the orbiting lab. NASA is paying Boeing and SpaceX to build the capsules and fly them from Cape Canaveral, which hasn’t seen a manned launch since the shuttles retired in 2011. Instead, Russia is doing all the taxi work — for a steep price. The first of two docking ports for the Boeing and SpaceX vessels — still under development — is due to arrive in June. Even more spacewalks will be needed to set everything up. Mission Control left two cables — or about 24 feet worth — for the next spacewalk coming up Wednesday. Four hundred feet of additional cable will be installed next Sunday on spacewalk No. 3.
ISS

In Space, a Laptop Doubles As a VR Headset 26

Posted by Soulskill
from the elegant-hardware-solutions dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: On Earth, the engineers and developers in charge of building the Oculus Rift and other virtual-reality headsets are concerned about weight: Who wants to strap on something so heavy it cricks their neck? But in space, weight isn't an issue, which is why an astronaut can strap a laptop to his head via a heavy and complicated-looking rig and use it as a virtual-reality device. NASA astronaut Terry Virts recently did just that to train himself in the use of SAFER (Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue), a jetpack worn during spacewalks. (In the movie Gravity, George Clooney's character uses a highly unrealistic version of SAFER to maneuver around a space shuttle.)
Space

Time-Lapse of Pluto and Charon Produced By New Horizons 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the drifting-ever-closer dept.
schwit1 writes: Cool images! Using New Horizons' long range camera, scientists have compiled a movie showing Charon and Pluto orbiting each other during the last week of January 2015. "Pluto and Charon were observed for an entire rotation of each body; a "day" on Pluto and Charon is 6.4 Earth days. The first of the images was taken when New Horizons was about 3 billion miles from Earth, but just 126 million miles (203 million kilometers) from Pluto — about 30% farther than Earth's distance from the Sun. The last frame came 6.5 days later, with New Horizons more than 5 million miles (8 million kilometers) closer." The wobble easily visible in Pluto's motion is due to the gravity of Charon, about one-eighth as massive as Pluto and about the size of Texas. Our view of Pluto and Charon is only going to get better as New Horizons zooms towards its July fly-by.
Space

Five Glorious Years of Sun Images In a Four-Minute Video 49

Posted by Soulskill
from the dang,-sun dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In early 2010, NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory. It carried a number of sensors dedicated to watching and measuring various aspects of the Sun. The SDO's team just celebrated its fifth anniversary by going through a half-decade worth of images, pulling out the most amazing ones, and stitching them into an amazing video (YouTube). It includes enormous flares, sunspots, the transit of Venus, and more.
Earth

NASA: Increasing Carbon Emissions Risk Megadroughts 264

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-only-we-could-drink-oil dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Droughts in the western U.S. have been bad recently, but not as bad as they could be. Researchers from NASA, Cornell, and Columbia are now warning that if we don't slow the rate at which we produce greenhouse gases, then we're dramatically increasing our odds of a drought that lasts upwards of three decades. "The scientists were interested in megadroughts that took place between 1100 and 1300 in North America. These medieval-period droughts, on a year-to-year basis, were no worse than droughts seen in the recent past. But they lasted, in some cases, 30 to 50 years. When these past megadroughts are compared side-by-side with computer model projections of the 21st century, both the moderate and business-as-usual emissions scenarios are drier, and the risk of droughts lasting 30 years or longer increases significantly."
NASA

SpaceX Signs Lease Agreement With Air Force For Landing Pad 53

Posted by timothy
from the military-musk-complex dept.
PaisteUser writes Space News reports that SpaceX has signed a historic agreement to allow construction of a landing pad for Falcon 9 booster stages. From the article: "The U.S. Air Force announced Feb. 10 that SpaceX has signed a five-year lease for Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 13, which was used to launch Atlas rockets and missiles between 1956 and 1978. In its new role, it will serve as a landing pad for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy booster cores launched from Florida, the Air Force said. Financial terms of the lease were not disclosed." Patrick Air Force Base also provides the documentation used for the environmental impact study which details out how the landing pad will be constructed.
NASA

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches, Rocket Recovery Attempt Scrapped 69

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-at-first-you-don't-succeed dept.
An anonymous reader writes After scrubbing a launch Sunday because a radar glitch, and canceling one Tuesday due to high winds, SpaceX has successfully launched the Falcon 9 rocket holding the Deep Space Climate Observatory satellite. The DSCOVR will orbit between Earth and the sun, observing and providing advanced warning of particles and magnetic fields emitted by the sun. The planned attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket via autonomous drone ship was scrapped due to huge waves in the Atlantic.
Space

Comets Form Like Deep Fried Ice Cream Scoops 37

Posted by samzenpus
from the hold-the-whipped-cream dept.
astroengine writes Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, Calif., have added another oddity to the cometary 'weird list': comets are best described as scoops of deep fried ice cream. "The crust is made of crystalline ice, while the interior is colder and more porous," said Murthy Gudipati of JPL, co-author of a recent study appearing in The Journal of Physical Chemistry. "The organics are like a final layer of chocolate on top."
NASA

NASA Releases Details of Titan Submarine Concept 119

Posted by Soulskill
from the star-trek-and-seaquest-crossover dept.
Zothecula writes: Now that NASA has got the hang of planetary rovers, the space agency is looking at sending submarines into space around the year 2040. At the recent 2015 NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts Symposium, NASA scientists and engineers presented a study of the Titan Submarine Phase I Conceptual Design (PDF), which outlines a possible mission to Saturn's largest moon, Titan, where the unmanned submersible would explore the seas of liquid hydrocarbons at the Titanian poles.

"At its heart, the submarine would use a 1 kW radiothermal Stirling generator. This would not only provide power to propel the craft, but it would also keep the electronics from freezing. Unfortunately, Titan is so cold that it's almost a cryogenic environment, so the waste heat from the generator would cause the liquids around it to boil and this would need be taken into account when designing the sub to minimize interference. However, NASA estimates that the boat could do about one meter per second (3.6 km/h, 2.2 mph)."
Businesses

West To East Coast: SpaceX Ready For Extreme Multitasking 23

Posted by timothy
from the all-in-the-same-gang dept.
astroengine writes Breaking new ground is nothing new for SpaceX, but how about launch and landing operations on opposite sides of the country at the same time? A poor weather forecast in Florida prompted SpaceX to pass on a second launch opportunity Monday to put the Deep Space Climate Observatory into orbit. The first launch attempt on Sunday was called off with two minutes to spare because of a glitch with a ground-based radar system needed to track the Falcon 9 rocket in flight. The launch of the spacecraft, nicknamed DSCOVR, is now pegged for 6:05 p.m. EST Tuesday, which overlaps with the return flight of a Dragon cargo ship from the International Space Station.
Moon

Neil Armstrong's Widow Discovers Moon Camera In Bag 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-did-I-leave-that dept.
hypnosec writes Over 40 years after Neil Armstrong's Apollo 11 trip, a hidden bag full of artifacts has been discovered by his widow Carol Armstrong. Carol found the bag after Neil's death shortly after he underwent heart surgery. The bag contained a total of 20 items including the priceless 16mm movie camera that recorded Apollo 11's descent to the surface of the moon, an optical alignment sight used by the crew for docking maneuvers, and a waist tether among other things. The bag and its contents are now on loan to the National Air and Space Museum for preservation, research and eventual public display.
Communications

Tracking System Bug Delays SpaceX's DSCOVR Launch 48

Posted by timothy
from the for-want-of-a-highly-sophisticated-tracking-system dept.
The SpaceX two-fer launch that was scheduled for today has been scrubbed. NBC News reports that the launch was postponed until Monday at the earliest due to a problem with the range-tracking system in Florida. That means an ambitious second attempt to land the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage on an oceangoing platform will also have to be delayed. ... Satellites such as the Advanced Composition Explorer and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, which are already located at the L1 point, can provide up to an hour's warning of major storms. Both those satellites are well past their anticipated lifetimes, however, and DSCOVR is designed to provide a much-needed backup. SpaceX's two-stage Falcon 9 rocket will boost DSCOVR into a preliminary orbit, but it will take 110 days of in-space maneuvers to get the probe into the right position. This launch would mark the first time that SpaceX has sent a spacecraft so far, and it will be judged a success if DSCOVR reaches its intended orbit. The delayed launch could take place as soon as tomorrow (Monday) evening.