Thursday, January 19, 2017

Curiosity Examines Possible Mud Cracks

The network of cracks in this Martian rock slab called "Old Soaker" may have formed from the drying of a mud layer more than 3 billion years ago. The view spans about 3 feet (90 centimeters) left-to-right and combines three images taken by the MAHLI camera on the arm of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Scientists used NASA's Curiosity Mars rover in recent weeks to examine slabs of rock cross-hatched with shallow ridges that likely originated as cracks in drying mud. "Mud cracks are the most likely scenario here," said Curiosity science team member Nathan Stein. He is a graduate student at Caltech in Pasadena, California, who led the investigation of a site called "Old Soaker," on lower Mount Sharp, Mars.

Galaxy Murder Mystery

This artist’s impression shows the spiral galaxy NGC 4921 based on observations made by the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: ICRAR, NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

It’s the big astrophysical whodunnit. Across the Universe, galaxies are being killed and the question scientists want answered is, what’s killing them? New research published by a global team of researchers, based at the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR), seeks to answer that question. The study reveals that a phenomenon called ram-pressure stripping is more prevalent than previously thought, driving gas from galaxies and sending them to an early death by depriving them of the material to make new stars.

Japan's Akatsuki Probe Spots Giant Wave in the Atmosphere of Venus

a–e, Sequence of brightness temperature distributions obtained by LIR from 7 December to 11 December 2015. The equator and evening terminator are shown by solid and dashed lines, respectively. The colour bar is valid only for a; the temperature ranges for b–e are adjusted so that the mean temperatures in a circle with a radius of 0.1 RV at the disk centre are constant, where RV is the Venus radius. f, UV brightness image obtained by UVI at a wavelength of 283 nm. Credit: JAXA

In December 2015, Japan’s Akatsuki Venus Climate Orbiter finally started beaming back images of Venus. Its epic journey included wandering off course around the sun for half a decade before entering orbit around the solar system's second planet. But the data so far has been worth the wait. During its first month of orbit the craft caught images of a large, stationary bow-shaped wave in the upper atmosphere of the planet.

A Tale of Two Pulsars' Tails: Plumes Offer Geometry Lessons to Astronomers

An artist’s representation of what the three unusual tails of the pulsar Geminga may look like close up. NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is giving astronomers a better look at pulsars and their associated pulsar wind nebulae, enabling new constraints on the geometry of pulsars and why they look the way they do from Earth.   Image: Illustrations by Nahks TrEhnl

Like cosmic lighthouses sweeping the universe with bursts of energy, pulsars have fascinated and baffled astronomers since they were first discovered 50 years ago. In two studies, international teams of astronomers suggest that recent images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory of two pulsars — Geminga and B0355+54 — may help shine a light on the distinctive emission signatures of pulsars, as well as their often perplexing geometry.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ALMA Starts Observing the Sun

This ALMA image of an enormous sunspot was taken at a wavelength of 1.25 millimetres. Sunspots are transient features that occur in regions where the Sun’s magnetic field is extremely concentrated and powerful. They have lower temperatures than their surrounding regions, which is why they appear relatively dark.  These observations are the first ever made of the Sun with a facility where ESO is a partner. They are an important expansion of the range of observations that can be used to probe the mysterious physics of our nearest star.  Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

New images taken with the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have revealed otherwise invisible details of our Sun, including a new view of the dark, contorted center of a sunspot that is nearly twice the diameter of the Earth. The images are the first ever made of the Sun with a facility where ESO is a partner. The results are an important expansion of the range of observations that can be used to probe the physics of our nearest star. The ALMA antennas had been carefully designed so they could image the Sun without being damaged by the intense heat of the focused light.

Researchers Find Likely Cause – and Potential Way to Prevent – Vision Deterioration in Space

Volunteer Wendy Hancock, left, and researcher Dr. Lonnie Petersen hang on to supports during a zero-gravity interval. Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center

Vision deterioration in astronauts who spend a long time in space is likely due to the lack of a day-night cycle in intracranial pressure. But using a vacuum device to lower pressure for part of each day might prevent the problem, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers said. Their study appears in the Journal of Physiology.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Last Man on the Moon, Gene Cernan, Passes Away at 82

Cernan inside the Lunar Module Challenger after a moonwalk during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Photo Credit: NASA

Astronaut Eugene (Gene) A. Cernan died Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, at the age of 82. He flew into space three times – aboard Gemini IX in 1966, Apollo 10 in 1969, and as commander of Apollo 17 in 1972. Cernan was largely known by the title noted in his autobiography, “The Last Man on the Moon.”