Sunday, December 4, 2016

Vega Rocket to Send Turkish Earth-Observing Satellite into Orbit

Encapsulated in its protective payload fairing, GÖKTÜRK-1 is hoisted to the upper level of the Vega launch site’s mobile gantry, readying it for installation atop the launcher. Photo Credits: ESA / CNES / Arianespace

Arianespace is gearing up for its tenth mission of the year that will launch the Göktürk-1 Earth-observing spacecraft for the Turkish Armed Forces. The satellite will be launched by the company’s light-lift Vega booster on Dec. 5 at 13:51 GMT (8:51 a.m. EST) from the Vega Launch Complex (SLV) in Kourou, French Guiana.

New Evidence on the Formation of the Solar System

Supercomputer model of a low-mass supernova. Photo credit: Bernhard Mueller, MNRAS 453, 287–310 (2015)

International research involving a Monash University scientist is using new computer models and evidence from meteorites to show that a low-mass supernova triggered the formation of our solar system. The research is published in the most recent issue of leading scientific journal Nature Communications.

Embryonic Cluster Galaxy Immersed in Giant Cloud of Cold Gas

Artist's conception of the Spiderweb. In this image, the protogalaxies are shown in white and pink, and the blue indicates the location of the carbon monoxide gas in which the protogalaxies are immersed. CREDIT: ESO/M. Kornmesser. This figure is licensed under CC BY 4.0 International License.

Astronomers studying a cluster of still-forming protogalaxies seen as they were more than 10 billion years ago have found that a giant galaxy in the center of the cluster is forming from a surprisingly-dense soup of molecular gas. "This is different from what we see in the nearby Universe, where galaxies in clusters grow by cannibalizing other galaxies. In this cluster, a giant galaxy is growing by feeding on the soup of cold gas in which it is submerged," said Bjorn Emonts of the Center for Astrobiology in Spain, who led an international research team.

Astronomers Watch Star Clusters Spewing Out Dust

In the galaxy II Zw 40, dust (shown in yellow) is strongly associated with clusters of stars (shown in orange). UCLA researchers have used new observations of this galaxy to confirm that these stars are creating enormous amounts of dust. Credit: S. M. Consiglio et al., Astrophysical Journal Letters, 2016

Galaxies are often thought of as sparkling with stars, but they also contain gas and dust. Now, a team led by UCLA astronomers has used new data to show that stars are responsible for producing dust on galactic scales, a finding consistent with long-standing theory. Dust is important because it is a key component of rocky planets such as Earth. This research is published online in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Tangled Threads Weave Through Cosmic Oddity

This picture, taken by Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), shows NGC 4696, the largest galaxy in the Centaurus Cluster.  The new images taken with Hubble show the dusty filaments surrounding the centre of this huge galaxy in greater detail than ever before. These filaments loop and curl inwards in an intriguing spiral shape, swirling around the supermassive black hole at such a distance that they are dragged into and eventually consumed by the black hole itself.  Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble, A. Fabian

New observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have revealed the intricate structure of the galaxy NGC 4696 in greater detail than ever before. The elliptical galaxy is a beautiful cosmic oddity with a bright core wrapped in system of dark, swirling, thread-like filaments.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Climate Cycles May Explain How Running Water Carved Mars' Surface Features

Gale Crater on surface of Mars was once filled with liquid water for 10,000 to 10 million years, according to findings from the Mars Science Laboratory (MLS). A new study from Penn State scientists suggests dramatic climate cycles may have produced warm periods long enough to thaw the planet and create the water features on the surface today.  From Topographic evidence for lakes in Gale Crater, abstract, 44th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (2013).  Image: William Dietrich / University of California Berkley

Dramatic climate cycles on early Mars, triggered by buildup of greenhouse gases, may be the key to understanding how liquid water left its mark on the planet's surface, according to a team of planetary scientists. Scientists have long debated how deep canyons and extensive valley networks — like the kinds carved by running water over millions of years on Earth — could form on Mars some 3.8 billion years ago, a time many believe the planet was frozen.

Offers New Perspective on How Pluto’s 'Icy Heart' Came to Be

Pluto, shown here in the front of this false-color image, has a bright ice-covered "heart." The left, roughly oval lobe is the basin provisionally named Sputnik Planitia. Sputnik Planitia appears directly opposite Pluto's moon, Charon (back). Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI.

Pluto’s “icy heart” is a bright, two-lobed feature on its surface that has attracted researchers ever since its discovery by the NASA New Horizons team in 2015. Of particular interest is the heart’s western lobe, informally named Sputnik Planitia, a deep basin containing three kinds of ices—frozen nitrogen, methane and carbon monoxide—and appearing opposite Charon, Pluto’s tidally locked moon. Sputnik Planitia’s unique attributes have spurred a number of scenarios for its formation, all of which identify the feature as an impact basin, a depression created by a smaller body striking Pluto at extremely high speed.