Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Mysterious objects called brown dwarfs are sometimes called “failed stars.” They are too small to fuse hydrogen in their cores, the way most stars do, but also too large to be classified as planets.
But a new study in the journal Nature suggests they succeed in creating powerful auroral displays, similar to the kind seen around the magnetic poles on Earth.
“This is a whole new manifestation of magnetic activity for that kind of object,” said Leon Harding, a technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and co-author on the study.
Written by DC Agle and Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA scientists have used two giant, Earth-based radio telescopes to bounce radar signals off a passing asteroid and produce images of the peanut-shaped body as it approached close to Earth this past weekend.
The asteroid appears to be a contact binary — an asteroid with two lobes that are stuck together.
The images show the rotation of the asteroid, named 1999 JD6, which made its closest approach on July 24th at 9:55pm PDT (12:55am EDT on July 25th) at a distance of about 4.5 million miles (7.2 million kilometers, or about 19 times the distance from Earth to the moon).
Written by Felicia Chou
Washington, D.C. – Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the discovery of the nearest rocky planet outside our solar system, larger than Earth and a potential gold mine of science data.
Dubbed HD 219134b, this exoplanet, which orbits too close to its star to sustain life, is a mere 21 light-years away. While the planet itself can’t be seen directly, even by telescopes, the star it orbits is visible to the naked eye in dark skies in the Cassiopeia constellation, near the North Star.
Washington, D.C. – When someone says “Once in a Blue Moon,” you know what they mean: Rare, seldom, even absurd.
This year it means “the end of July.”
For the second time this month, the Moon is about to become full. There was one full Moon on July 2nd, and now a second is coming on July 31st. According to modern folklore, whenever there are two full Moons in a calendar month, the second one is “blue.”
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – With its biggest orbit maneuver since 2006, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) will prepare this week for the arrival of NASA’s next Mars lander, InSight, next year.
A planned 77-second firing of six intermediate-size thrusters on July 29th will adjust the orbit timing of the veteran spacecraft so it will be in position to receive radio transmissions from InSight as the newcomer descends through the Martian atmosphere and touches down on September 28th, 2016.
Written Dwayne Brown and Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – Flowing ice and a surprising extended haze are among the newest discoveries from NASA’s New Horizons mission, which reveal distant Pluto to be an icy world of wonders.
“We knew that a mission to Pluto would bring some surprises, and now — 10 days after closest approach — we can say that our expectation has been more than surpassed,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA’s associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate. “With flowing ices, exotic surface chemistry, mountain ranges, and vast haze, Pluto is showing a diversity of planetary geology that is truly thrilling.”
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons mission has found evidence of exotic ices flowing across Pluto’s surface, at the left edge of its bright heart-shaped area. New close-up images from the spacecraft’s Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) reveal signs of recent geologic activity, something scientists hoped to find but didn’t expect.
“We’ve only seen surfaces like this on active worlds like Earth and Mars,” said mission co-investigator John Spencer of SwRI. “I’m really smiling.”
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – The discovery of a super-Earth-sized planet orbiting a sun-like star brings us closer than ever to finding a twin of our own watery world. But NASA’s Kepler space telescope has captured evidence of other potentially habitable planets amid the sea of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
To take a brief tour of the more prominent contenders, it helps to zero in on the “habitable zone” around their stars. This is the band of congenial temperatures for planetary orbits — not too close and not too far.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Approaching the third anniversary of its landing on Mars, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has found a target unlike anything it has studied before — bedrock with surprisingly high levels of silica. Silica is a rock-forming compound containing silicon and oxygen, commonly found on Earth as quartz.
This area lies just downhill from a geological contact zone the rover has been studying near “Marias Pass” on lower Mount Sharp.
In fact, the Curiosity team decided to back up the rover 46 meters (151 feet) from the geological contact zone to investigate the high-silica target dubbed “Elk.”
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope finds Earth size planet around a star like our sun in the Habitable Zone
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable-zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”
The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet — of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030.
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