Saturday, August 27, 2016

ALMA Finds Unexpected Trove of Gas Around Larger Stars

ALMA image of the debris disk surrounding a star in the Scorpius-Centaurus Association known as HIP 73145. The green region maps the carbon monoxide gas that suffuses the debris disk. The red is the millimeter-wavelength light emitted by the dust surrounding the central star. The star HIP 73145 is estimated to be approximately twice the mass of the Sun. The disk in this system extends well past what would be the orbit of Neptune in our solar system, drawn in for scale. The location of the central star is also highlighted for reference. Credit: J. Lieman-Sifry, et al., ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)surveyed dozens of young stars – some Sun-like and others approximately double that size – and discovered that the larger variety have surprisingly rich reservoirs of carbon monoxide gas in their debris disks. In contrast, the lower-mass, Sun-like stars have debris disks that are virtually gas-free.

Friday, August 26, 2016

China Unveils Its 2020 Mars Mission

Artist’s impression of China’s 2020 Mars rover. Image Credit: Xinhua

China has released on Tuesday, Aug. 23, the first images of its ambitious Mars mission, planned to be launched in 2020. The design of the mission was presented at a press conference in Beijing, during which the mission scientists showed off pictures of an orbiter, lander and rover that will be send to the Red Planet within four years.

SpaceX’s CRS-9 Dragon Returns to Earth

The CRS-9 Dragon slowly descends on its three main parachutes into the Pacific Ocean. Photo Credit: SpaceX

After more than a month berthed to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX‘s CRS-9 Dragon capsule was detached and released from the orbiting complex. A few hours later, the spacecraft was deorbited and recovered in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Rosetta Spacecraft Captures Comet Outburst

Rosetta’s OSIRIS wide-angle camera captured an outburst from the Atum region on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko’s large lobe on 19 February 2016. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

In unprecedented observations made earlier this year, Rosetta unexpectedly captured a dramatic comet outburst that may have been triggered by a landslide. Nine of Rosetta’s instruments, including its cameras, dust collectors, and gas and plasma analyzers, were monitoring the comet from about 35 km in a coordinated planned sequence when the outburst happened on 19 February.

A Better Way to Learn if Alien Planets Have the Right Stuff

Illustration by Michael S. Helfenbein / Yale University

A new method for analyzing the chemical composition of stars may help scientists winnow the search for Earth 2.0. Yale University researchers Debra Fischer and John Michael Brewer, in a new study that will appear in the Astrophysical Journal, describe a computational modeling technique that gives a clearer sense of the chemistry of stars, revealing the conditions present when their planets formed. The system creates a new way to assess the habitability and biological evolution possibilities of planets outside our solar system.

Scientists Solve Mystery on Surface of Mercury

In this perspective view, we look northwest over the Caloris Basin, a depression about 1500 km in diameter formed several billion years ago by the impact of a large projectile into the surface of Mercury. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington/Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA scientists at Johnson Space Center have solved a longstanding mystery about why some of Mercury’s surface looks new, but some appears to be old. The scientists in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division are working with data from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which orbited Mercury from 2011 to 2015. This unprecedented feat provided continuous, up-close observation of our solar system's innermost planet and revealed that the planet is extremely diverse.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ariane 5 Successfully Lofts Two Communications Satellites for Intelsat

Ariane 5 rocket lifts off with two Intelsat satellites on Aug. 24. Credit: Arianespace

Thundering off the launch pad at Kourou in French Guiana, an Ariane 5 booster took to the skies on Wednesday, Aug 24, to deliver Intelsat 33e and Intelsat 36 commsats into orbit. The mission, designated VA232 in Arianespace’s numbering system, lifted off at 5:55 p.m. EDT (21:55 GMT) from the Ariane Launch Complex No. 3 (ELA 3).