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NASA

+ - Vasimr VX-200 Reaches Full Power Efficiency

Matt_dk writes: Ad Astra Rocket Company’s VASIMR® VX-200 rocket prototype demonstrated its highest power efficiency and performance so far in tests, which ended Friday November 19 at the company’s Houston laboratory. Last week’s results met the efficiency milestone set by the company as it specifies the requirements for the VF-200 flight engine for the International Space Station. The VX-200 is the full power laboratory prototype that provides the technical basis for the design of the flight hardware.
Science

+ - Researchers trap antimatter atoms

Matt_dk writes: In the movie Angels and Demons, scientists have solved one of the most perplexing scientific problems: the capture and storage of antimatter. In real life, trapping atomic antimatter has never been accomplished, until now. “This is a major discovery. It could enable experiments that result in dramatic changes to the current view of fundamental physics or in confirmation of what we already know now,” says Rob Thompson, head of physics and astronomy at the University of Calgary and co-investigator in the ALPHA collaboration, one of two teams competing to gain a better understanding of antimatter and our universe.
Space

+ - UK Astronomers Find Snooker Star System

Matt_dk writes: UK Astronomers have discover an unusual star system which looks like, and may even once have behaved like, a game of snooker. They looked at a binary star system which is 1670 light years away from Earth. NN Serpentis is actually a binary star system consisting of two stars, a red dwarf and a white dwarf, which orbit each other in an incredibly close, tight orbit. By lucky chance Earth sits in the same plane as this binary star system, so we can see the larger red dwarf eclipse the white dwarf every 3 hours and 7 minutes.
Space

+ - Cosmic curiosity reveals ghostly dead quasar

Matt_dk writes: While sorting through hundreds of galaxy images as part of the Galaxy Zoo citizen science project two years ago, Dutch schoolteacher and volunteer astronomer Hanny van Arkel stumbled upon a strange-looking object that baffled professional astronomers. Two years later, a team led by Yale University researchers has discovered that the unique object represents a snapshot in time that reveals surprising clues about the life cycle of black holes.
Science

+ - Earth Sized Planets Said To Be Common->

Txantslusam writes: Nasa conjectures that Earth sized planets are more common than first thought, but that from the Keck Observatory, they can't see them through the haze of our atmosphere. The inference is that of the 'green zone' where life can be harbored safely and allowed to evolve. I would posit that these [habitable planets] are not as common as alluded to. Of all the extrasolar systems found, a great number host 'Hot Jupiters' in closer orbit around the star than Mercury. If this is the case in any planetary system, then the existence of a rocky Earth-like planet at all, leave alone within the said 'green zone' where liquid water exists and therefore the possibility for life is simply not possible. Such rocky planets would have been discarded into the cosmos away from the star (http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/3547/recipes-for-renegade-planets) or would, by virtue of sound astrophysics, have been acreted into the Hot Jupiter planet.

Albeit that recent studies show that Jupiter (or larger) sized outer planets probably sling at least as many comets and other bodies toward Earth as they do shield it from (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/weekinreview/26overbye.html and also http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2010/06/massive-fireball-slammed-jupiter-last-week-does-the-giant-planet-protect-earth-video.html), there still are, and will be counter arguments to that as well. Be that is it may, certainly haveing Jupiter sized gas giants on the outside of this 'green zone' is certainly more conducive to harboring life as one with a Hot Jupiter. Or is it? Again as with many Scientific inquiry, more questions get posed than the number of answers attained. Even given the idea that Earth is 30% more likely to get shot in the head with a Jupiter where it is for Earth than not, life is happening here. The question needs to be asked 'how we got here?' despite the purported increased likelyhood of being hit. Could it be that life needs to be 'injected' into a suitable host planet? This is explored in an article featured in the journal 'Nature Chemistry' (http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2010/09/comet-impact-shockwave-may-have-planted-seeds-of-life-on-earth.ars). From this article, it could reasonably be asserted that although it may not be the very origins of life, it was certainly necessary for the transition of RNA based life into DNA based life. DNA based life necessarily must exist for evolution to be more progressive and consistent rather than the generationally unpredictable RNA based orgainisms. Could it be, therefore, that these impacts are fundamental to us being here and to our continued evolution?

It certainly requies more research to gain insight; are they perhaps not some sort of 'blessiing in disguise?

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Space

+ - Solar Shield Protecting the North American Power

Matt_dk writes: Every hundred years or so, a solar storm comes along so potent it fills the skies of Earth with blood-red auroras, makes compass needles point in the wrong direction, and sends electric currents coursing through the planet’s topsoil. The most famous such storm, the Carrington Event of 1859, actually shocked telegraph operators and set some of their offices on fire. A 2008 report by the National Academy of Sciences warns that if such a storm occurred today, we could experience widespread power blackouts with permanent damage to many key transformers. A new NASA project called “Solar Shield” could help keep the lights on.
NASA

+ - NASA and DARPA Announce a "100 Year Starship"

Matt_dk writes: The Director of NASA's Ames Center, Pete Worden has announced an initiative to move space flight to the next level. This plan, dubbed the "Hundred Year Starship" has received $100,000 from NASA and $ 1 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The Ames Director went on to expound how these efforts will seek to emulate the fictional starships seen on the television show Star Trek. He stated that the public could expect to see the first prototype of a new propulsion system within the next few years.
Space

+ - Astronomers Find Weird, Warm Spot on Exoplanet->

SGDK664 writes: Observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveal a distant planet with a warm spot in the wrong place. Using Spitzer, an infrared observatory, astronomers found that upsilon Andromedae b's hot spot is offset by a whopping 80 degrees. Basically, the hot spot is over to the side of the planet instead of directly under the glare of the sun. "We really didn't expect to find a hot spot with such a large offset," said Ian Crossfield, lead author of a new paper about the discovery appearing in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal. "It's clear that we understand even less about the atmospheric energetics of hot Jupiters than we thought we did."
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NASA

+ - How to Deflect an Asteroid with Today's Technology

Matt_dk writes: Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart is among an international group of people championing the need for the human race to prepare for what will certainly happen one day: an asteroid threat to Earth. Schweickart said the technology is available today to send a mission to an asteroid in an attempt to move it, or change its orbit so that an asteroid that threatens to hit Earth will pass by harmlessly. What would such a mission entail?
Space

+ - The Milky Way Galaxy Might Be Square

Matt_dk writes: Just like being stuck inside and not being able to see what the outside of your house looks like, we’re trapped inside the Milky Way galaxy and aren’t able to see its complete structure. Most of us have this vision of a circular, spiral galaxy with gracefully curving spiral arms. Nope, says a group of astronomers from Brazil. The Milky Way might be square. Not like a box, but, in places, the spiral arms are straight rather than curved, giving the Milky Way a distinctly square look. And our solar system sits right on one the straightest parts of an outer arm.
NASA

+ - Mysterious pulsar with hidden powers discovered

Matt_dk writes: Observations with NASA's Chandra, Swift, and Rossi X-ray observatories, Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, and ESA's XMM-Newton have revealed that a slowly rotating neutron star with an ordinary surface magnetic field is giving off bursts of X-rays and gamma rays. This discovery may indicate the presence of an internal magnetic field much more intense than the surface magnetic field, with implications for how the most powerful magnets in the cosmos evolve.
Space

+ - A Asteroid Will Pass Very Close to Earth Tomorrow

Matt_dk writes: A small asteroid will pass very close to Earth this Tuesday. Astronomers are still tracking the object, now designated as 2010 TD54, and various estimates say it could possibly come within anywhere from 52,000 km (33,000 miles) to 64,000 km (40,000 miles) on October 12, with closest approach at approximately 11:25 UT.
Space

+ - Saturn's Rings Formed from Large Moon Destruction->

Matt_dk writes: The formation of Saturn's rings has been one of the classical if not eternal questions in astronomy. But one researcher has provided a provocative new theory to answer that question. Robin Canup from the Southwest Research Institute has uncovered evidence that the rings came from a large, Titan-sized moon that was destroyed as it spiraled into a young Saturn.
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