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+ - Two Exocomet Families Found Around Baby Star System->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Scientists have found two families of comets in the developing Beta Pictoris star system, located about 64 million light-years from Earth, including one group that appears to be remnants of a smashed-up protoplanet. The discovery bolsters our theoretical understanding of the violent processes that led to the formation of Earth and the other terrestrial planets in the solar system. “If you look back at the solar system when it was only 22 million years old, you might have seen phenomena that’s a like more like what’s happening in Beta Pic,” astrophysicist Aki Roberge, with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., told Discovery News."
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+ - Mars Orbiter Beams Back Images of Comet's Surprisingly Tiny Nucleus->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "The High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has become the first instrument orbiting Mars to beam back images of comet Siding Spring’s nucleus and coma. And by default, it has also become the first ever mission to photograph a long-period comet’s pristine nucleus on its first foray into the inner solar system. Interestingly, through analysis of these first HiRISE observations, astronomers have determined that the icy nucleus at the comet’s core is much smaller than originally thought. “Telescopic observers had modeled the size of the nucleus as about half a mile, or one kilometer, wide,” writes a NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory news release. “However, the best HiRISE images show only two to three pixels across the brightest feature, probably the nucleus, suggesting a size less than half that estimate.”"
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+ - Saturn's 'Death Star' Moon May Hide Subsurface Ocean->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "With its heavily cratered, geologically dead surface, Saturn's moon Mimas was considered to be scientifically boring. But appearances can be deceiving. Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, new research shows something strange inside Mimas that is causing the moon to sway as it orbits around the ringed gas giant. Computer models point to two possibilities. First is that Mimas, which is about 250 miles in diameter, has an oblong or football-shaped core, a clue that the moon may have formed inside Saturn’s ice rings. The second option is that Mimas has a global ocean located 16 miles to 19 miles beneath its icy crust."
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+ - Mars' Atmosphere is Leeching Out Into Space->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Early results from NASA’s recently arrived MAVEN Mars spacecraft show an extensive, tenuous cloud of hydrogen surrounding the red planet, the result of water breaking down in the atmosphere, scientists said Tuesday. MAVEN, an acronym for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, arrived on Sept. 21 to help answer questions about what caused a planet that was once warm and wet to turn into the cold, dry desert that appears today. “It’s measurements like these that will allow us to estimate the escape rate of hydrogen from the Martian atmosphere to space today. It’s an important measurement to make because the hydrogen ... comes from water lower down in the atmosphere,” MAVEN scientist Mike Chaffin, with the University of Colorado, Boulder, told reporters on a conference call."
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+ - Rosetta Stalks Dark Comet in Stunning New Space Selfie->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "At a distance of only 10 miles from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko’s surface, the European Rosetta mission has captured yet another dazzling self portrait with the dark comet lurking in the background. But the orbiter couldn’t have snapped this “selfie” without the help of a little friend — the attached Philae lander that is currently undergoing preparations for its historic comet surface landing in November."
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+ - NASA Eyes Crew Deep Sleep Option for Mars Mission->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "A NASA-backed study explores an innovative way to dramatically cut the cost of a human expedition to Mars — put the crew in stasis. The deep sleep, called torpor, would reduce astronauts’ metabolic functions with existing medical procedures. Torpor also can occur naturally in cases of hypothermia. “Therapeutic torpor has been around in theory since the 1980s and really since 2003 has been a staple for critical care trauma patients in hospitals," aerospace engineer Mark Schaffer, with SpaceWorks Enterprises in Atlanta, said at the International Astronomical Congress in Toronto this week. "Protocols exist in most major medical centers for inducing therapeutic hypothermia on patients to essentially keep them alive until they can get the kind of treatment that they need.” Coupled with intravenous feeding, a crew could be put in hibernation for the transit time to Mars, which under the best-case scenario would take 180 days one-way."
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+ - The 'Man in the Moon' was Created by Mega Volcano->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Whenever you look up at the near side of the moon, you see a face looking back at you. This is the “Man in the Moon” and it has inspired many questions about how it could have formed. There has been some debate as to how this vast feature — called Oceanus Procellarum, which measures around 1,800 miles wide — was created. But after using gravity data from NASA’s twin GRAIL spacecraft, researchers have found compelling evidence that it was formed in the wake of a mega volcanic eruption and not the location of a massive asteroid strike."
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+ - Indian Mars Mission Beams Back First Photographs->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "India’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) got straight to work as it closed in on Martian orbit on Tuesday — it began taking photographs of the Red Planet and its atmosphere and surface as it slowed down to reach its ultimate destination. After a two day wait, those first images are slowly trickling onto the Internet. And they’re beauties!"
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+ - Solar System's Water is Older Than the Sun->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Next time you’re swimming in the ocean, consider this: part of the water is older than the sun. So concludes a team of scientists who ran computer models comparing the ratios of hydrogen isotopes over time. Taking into account new insights that the solar nebula had less ionizing radiation than previously thought, the models show that at least some of the water found in the ocean, as well as in comets, meteorites and on the moon, predate the sun’s birth."
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+ - Curiosity Finds a Weird 'Ball' on Mars-> 3

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "This recent photographic example of the Martian surface by NASA rover Curiosity's Mastcam camera was uploaded to the mission’s photo archive on sol 746 (Sept. 11). While compiling a mosaic of images of the surrounding landscape, the rover captured a rather un-Mars-like shape atop a rocky outcrop. There’s a perfect-looking sphere sitting proudly on a flat rock surface. It’s dusty, but under that dust it appears a little darker than the surrounding rock. At first glance it looks like an old cannonball or possibly a dirty golf ball. But knowing that Mars is somewhat lacking in the 16th Century battleship and golf cart departments, there was likely another answer. According to MSL scientists based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., the ball isn’t as big as it looks — it’s approximately one centimeter wide. Their explanation is that it is most likely something known as a “concretion.” Other examples of concretions have been found on the Martian surface before — take, for example, the tiny haematite concretions, or “blueberries”, observed by Mars rover Opportunity in 2004 — and they were created during sedimentary rock formation when Mars was abundant in liquid water many millions of years ago."
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+ - Mystery Signal Could be Dark Matter Hint in ISS Detector->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Analysis of 41 billion cosmic rays striking the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector aboard the International Space Station shows an unknown phenomena that is “consistent with a dark matter particle” known as a neutralino, researchers announced Thursday. Key to the hunt is the ratio of positrons to electrons and so far the evidence from AMS points in the direction of dark matter. The smoking gun scientists look for is a rise in the ratio of positrons to electrons, followed by a dramatic fall — the telltale sign of dark matter annihilating the Milky Way’s halo, which lies beyond its central disk of stars and dust. However, “we have not found the definitive proof of dark matter,” AMS lead researcher Samuel Ting, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CERN in Switzerland, wrote in an email to Discovery News. “Whereas all the AMS results point in the right direction, we still need to measure how quickly the positron fraction falls off at the highest energies in order to rule out astrophysical sources such as pulsars.” But still, this new finding is a tantalizing step in the dark matter direction."
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+ - Rosetta's Lander Philae Snaps Mind-Blowing Comet Selfie->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "You’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive “selfie” than this! Attached to the European Space Agency's comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta, the Philae lander opened one of its robotic eyes when the mission was orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko at a distance of only 50 kilometers (31 miles) on Sunday. With two high-contrast exposures, the lander captured one of Rosetta’s solar panels in the foreground with the comet behind."
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+ - Space Station's 'Cubesat Cannon' has Gone Rogue->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Last night (Thursday), two more of Planet Lab’s shoebox-sized Earth imaging satellites launched themselves from aboard the International Space Station, the latest in a series of technical mysteries involving a commercially owned CubeSat deployer located outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module. Station commander Steve Swanson was storing some blood samples in one of the station’s freezers Friday morning when he noticed that the doors on NanoRack’s cubesat deployer were open, said NASA mission commentator Pat Ryan. Flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston determined that two CubeSats had been inadvertently released. “No crew members or ground controllers saw the deployment. They reviewed all the camera footage and there was no views of it there either,” Ryan said."
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+ - Welcome to Laniakea, Our New Cosmic Home->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "Using a new mapping technique that takes into account the motions — and not just the distances — of nearby galaxies, astronomers discovered that the Milky Way is located in the suburb of a massive, previously unknown super-cluster they named Laniakea, a term from Hawaiian words meaning “immeasurable heaven.” Actually, Laniakea’s girth is measurable, though difficult to conceptualize. The super-cluster spans 520 million light-years in diameter, more than five times larger than the cluster previously believed to be the Milky Way’s cosmic home."
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+ - Can We Call Pluto and Charon a 'Binary Planet' Yet?->

Submitted by astroengine
astroengine (1577233) writes "The debate as to whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet rumbles on, but in a new animation of the small world, one can’t help but imagine another definition for Pluto. As NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft continues its epic journey into the outer solar system, its Kuiper Belt target is becoming brighter and more defined. Seen through the mission’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera, this new set of observations clearly shows Pluto and its biggest moon Charon locked in a tight orbital dance separated by only 11,200 miles. (Compared with the Earth-moon orbital separation of around 240,000 miles, you can see how compact the Pluto-Charon system really is.) Both bodies are shown to be orbiting a common point — the "barycenter" is located well above Pluto's surface prompting a new debate on whether or not Pluto and Charon should be redefined as a "binary planet"."
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