Friday, September 30, 2016

ALMA Catches Stellar Cocoon with Curious Chemistry

This figure shows observations of the first hot core to be found outside the Milky Way with ALMA and a view of the region of sky in infrared light.  Left: Distributions of molecular line emission from a hot molecular core in the Large Magellanic Cloud observed with ALMA. Emissions from dust, sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitric oxide (NO), and formaldehyde (H2CO) are shown as examples. Right: An infrared image of the surrounding star-forming region (based on data from the NASA/Spitzer Space Telescope).  Credit: T. Shimonishi/Tohoku University, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

A hot and dense mass of complex molecules, cocooning a newborn star, has been discovered by a Japanese team of astronomers using ALMA. This unique hot molecular core is the first of its kind to have been detected outside the Milky Way galaxy. It has a very different molecular composition from similar objects in our own galaxy — a tantalizing hint that the chemistry taking place across the Universe could be much more diverse than expected.

Curiosity Finds Evidence of Mars Crust Contributing to Atmosphere

Chemistry that takes place in the surface material on Mars can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected. The isotopes – variants that have different numbers of neutrons – are formed in the loose rocks and material that make up the regolith. The chemistry begins when cosmic rays penetrate into the surface material. If the cosmic rays strike an atom of barium (Ba), the barium can lose one or more of its neutrons (n0). Atoms of xenon can pick up some of those neutrons – a process called neutron capture – to form the isotopes xenon-124 and xenon-126. In the same way, atoms of bromine (Br) can lose some of their neutrons to krypton, leading to the formation of krypton-80 and krypton-82 isotopes. These isotopes can enter the atmosphere when the regolith is disturbed by impacts and abrasion and gas escapes from the regolith. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA's Curiosity rover has found evidence that chemistry in the surface material on Mars contributed dynamically to the makeup of its atmosphere over time. It’s another clue that the history of the Red Planet’s atmosphere is more complex and interesting than a simple legacy of loss.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

NASA Solicits Ideas for Innovative Technology That Will Take Us to Mars

This artist’s concept from 1985 depicts hardware which might be involved during manned missions to Mars. Image Credit: NASA

Last week, NASA announced a call for white papers, asking for submissions of innovative ideas that could be essential for future exploration of our solar system, including manned missions Mars. The initiative, known as iTech, engages the public, universities, space industry and U.S. government agencies to offer technology solutions necessary for space exploration.

Fermi Finds Record-breaking Binary in Galaxy Next Door

Observations from Fermi's Large Area Telescope (magenta line) show that gamma rays from LMC P3 rise and fall over the course of 10.3 days. The companion is thought to be a neutron star. Illustrations across the top show how the changing position of the neutron star relates to the gamma-ray cycle. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Using data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and other facilities, an international team of scientists has found the first gamma-ray binary in another galaxy and the most luminous one ever seen. The dual-star system, dubbed LMC P3, contains a massive star and a crushed stellar core that interact to produce a cyclic flood of gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light.

World's First Private Orbital Launch Complex Completed in New Zealand

Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. Photo Credit: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab, a US-New Zealand company that aims to provide commercial rocket launch services, announced on Monday, Sept. 26, the completion of the world’s first private space launch site on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. The facility, named Launch Complex 1, will serve as the primary site for launches of the company’s Electron rocket carrying satellites into space.

The Frontier Fields: Where Primordial Galaxies Lurk

This image of galaxy cluster Abell 2744, also called Pandora's Cluster, was taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The cluster is also being studied by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory in a collaboration called the Frontier Fields project. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

In the ongoing hunt for the universe's earliest galaxies, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has wrapped up its observations for the Frontier Fields project. This ambitious project has combined the power of all three of NASA's Great Observatories -- Spitzer, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory -- to delve as far back in time and space as current technology can allow.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Elon Musk Shows Off Interplanetary Transport System

A rendering of what SpaceX expects the Interplanetary Transport System to look like. The rocket will launch from historic Launch Complex 39A, which sent the first humans to the Moon in 1969. Image Credit: SpaceX

In a presentation akin to something out of science fiction, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, announced the Interplanetary Transport System (ITS). The two-stage rocket would be bigger and send more payloads to orbit (and beyond) than anything in the history of spaceflight. At the 67th International Astronautical Congress held in Guadalajara, Mexico, Musk detailed the components of ITS – a giant booster stage and a giant spaceship totally 400 feet (122 meters) tall. The NewSpace entrepreneur’s discussion was entitled “Making humans a Multiplanetary Species”.