Friday, July 1, 2016

Dawn Completes Primary Mission

NASA's Dawn mission exceeded all expectations during its primary mission to Vesta and Ceres. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On June 30, just in time for the global celebration known as Asteroid Day, NASA's Dawn spacecraft completed its primary mission. The mission exceeded all expectations originally set for its exploration of protoplanet Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. The historic mission is the first to orbit two extraterrestrial solar system targets, and the first to orbit any object in the main asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. On March 6, 2015, Dawn also became the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a dwarf planet.

Researchers Find Surface of Mercury Arose from Deep Inside the Planet

Artist's rendering of the MESSENGER spacecraft at Mercury. Credit: NASA

NASA researchers have found that several volcanic deposits on Mercury's surface require mantle melting to have started close to the planet's core-mantle boundary, which lies only 400 km below the planets surface and making it unique in the solar system. This is reported at the Goldschmidt conference in Yokohama, Japan.

Universe Becoming Cleaner as Cosmic Dust Gets Mopped Up by Stars

A small glimpse of one region, a tenth of the full area of the Herschel ATLAS images. Everything in this image, apart from the picture of the moon, which has just been placed there to show the area of sky covered by the survey and the small square that shows the area covered by the Hubble Deep Field, consists of far-infrared emission from cosmic dust. Credit: The Herschel ATLAS team and the European Space Agency

The Universe is becoming gradually cleaner as more and more cosmic dust is being mopped up by the formation of stars within galaxies, an international team of astronomers has revealed. Peering back 12 billion years using the Herschel space telescope to produce far-infrared images of the sky, the team led by researchers at Cardiff University has been able to observe the very early formation of galaxies and compare them to galaxies that have formed much more recently.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

China Conducts Surprise Launch of Its Second Shijian-16 Satellite

A Long March 4B rocket carrying China’s second Shijian-16 satellite blasts off on June 29, 2016, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Photo Credit: Xinhua / Wang Jiangbo

Without any prior notice, China carried out on Wednesday, June 29, a secretive lift off of its Long March 4B booster carrying the Shijian-16 No.2 satellite. The rocket blasted off at exactly 11:21 a.m. local time (3:21 GMT), from the Launch Site 43 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located in China’s northwest Gansu Province.

Researchers Create New Method for Identifying Black Holes

This artist's illustration depicts the merging black hole binary systems for GW150914 (left image) and GW151226 (right image). The black hole pairs are shown together in this illustration, but were actually detected at different times, and on different parts of the sky. The images have been scaled to show the difference in black hole masses. In the GW150914 event, the black holes were 29 and 36 times that of our Sun, while in GW151226, the two black holes weighed in at 14 and 8 solar masses. Image credit: LIGO/A. Simonnet.

Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) professors have developed a faster, more accurate way to assess gravitational wave signals and infer the astronomical sources that made them. Their method directly compares data from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) to cutting-edge numerical simulations of binary black holes, including simulations performed at RIT.

Recent Hydrothermal Activity May Explain Ceres' Brightest Area

The center of Ceres' mysterious Occator Crater is the brightest area on the dwarf planet. The inset perspective view shows new data on this feature: Red signifies a high abundance of carbonates, while gray indicates a low carbonate abundance. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/ASI/INAF

The brightest area on Ceres, located in the mysterious Occator Crater, has the highest concentration of carbonate minerals ever seen outside Earth, according to a new study from scientists on NASA's Dawn mission. The study, published online in the journal Nature, is one of two new papers about the makeup of Ceres.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How Much Water Is Inside Jupiter? NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Is About to Find Out

Artist concept of Juno. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Juno spacecraft is just a few days shy of its arrival at the solar system’s biggest planet. The highly-anticipated mission, is about to take a peek into the real nature of Jupiter, hopefully providing new insights about the structure of this gaseous giant. Juno could be on the verge of redefining our current knowledge about what lies deep beneath Jupiter’s thick and violent atmosphere.