Written by Guy Webster
Vienna, Austria – Mars has lost much of its original atmosphere, but what’s left remains quite active, recent findings from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity indicate. Rover team members reported diverse findings today at the European Geosciences Union 2013 General Assembly, in Vienna.
Evidence has strengthened this month that Mars lost much of its original atmosphere by a process of gas escaping from the top of the atmosphere.
Written by Karen Jenvey
Moffett Field, CA – NASA and international researchers have discovered that Earth’s moon has more in common than previously thought with large asteroids roaming our solar system.
Scientists from NASA’s Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), Moffett Field, CA, discovered that the same population of high-speed projectiles that impacted our lunar neighbor four billion years ago, also hit the asteroid Vesta and perhaps other large asteroids.
Written by Karen Jenvey
Moffett Field, CA – Scientists found treasure when they studied a meteorite that was recovered April 22nd, 2012 at Sutter’s Mill, the gold discovery site that led to the 1849 California Gold Rush. Detection of the falling meteorites by Doppler weather radar allowed for rapid recovery so that scientists could study for the first time a primitive meteorite with little exposure to the elements, providing the most pristine look yet at the surface of primitive asteroids.
An international team of 70 researchers reported in an issue of “Science” that this meteorite was classified as a Carbonaceous-Mighei or CM-type carbonaceous chondrite and that they were able to identify for the first time the source region of these meteorites.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s car-sized rover, Curiosity, has taken significant steps toward understanding how Mars may have lost much of its original atmosphere.
Learning what happened to the Martian atmosphere will help scientists assess whether the planet ever was habitable. The present atmosphere of Mars is 100 times thinner than Earth’s.
A set of instruments aboard the rover has ingested and analyzed samples of the atmosphere collected near the “Rocknest” site in Gale Crater where the rover is stopped for research.
Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has revealed that the giant asteroid Vesta has its own version of ring around the collar. Two new papers based on observations from the low-altitude mapping orbit of the Dawn mission show that volatile, or easily evaporated materials, have colored Vesta’s surface in a broad swath around its equator.
Pothole-like features mark some of the asteroid’s surface where the volatiles, likely water, released from hydrated minerals boiled off. While Dawn did not find actual water ice at Vesta, there are signs of hydrated minerals delivered by meteorites and dust evident in the giant asteroid’s chemistry and geology. The findings appear today in the journal Science.
Written by Jia-Rui Cook
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has provided researchers with the first orbital analysis of the giant asteroid Vesta, yielding new insights into its creation and kinship with terrestrial planets and Earth’s moon.
Vesta now has been revealed as a special fossil of the early solar system with a more varied, diverse surface than originally thought. Scientists have confirmed a variety of ways in which Vesta more closely resembles a small planet or Earth’s moon than another asteroid. Results appear in the journal Science.
Written by Dauna Coulter
Pasadena, CA – When NASA’s Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around giant asteroid Vesta in July, scientists fully expected the probe to reveal some surprising sights. But no one expected a 13-mile high mountain, two and a half times higher than Mount Everest, to be one of them.
The existence of this towering peak could solve a longstanding mystery: How did so many pieces of Vesta end up right here on our own planet?
Written by Janet Anderson
Huntsville, AL – The 2012 Quadrantids, a little-known meteor shower named after an extinct constellation, will present an excellent chance for hardy souls to start the year off with some late-night meteor watching.
Peaking in the wee morning hours of January 4th, the Quadrantids have a maximum rate of about 100 per hour, varying between 60-200. The waxing gibbous moon will set around 3:00am local time, leaving about two hours of excellent meteor observing before dawn. It’s a good thing, too, because unlike the more famous Perseid and Geminid meteor showers, the Quadrantids only last a few hours — it’s the morning of January 4th, or nothing.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Surprising but true: Every day, on average, more than 40 tons of meteoroids strike our planet. Most are tiny specks of comet dust that disintegrate harmlessly high up in Earth’s atmosphere, producing a slow drizzle of meteors in the night sky. Bigger chunks of asteroid and comet debris yield dozens of nightly fireballs around the globe. Some are large enough to pepper the ground with actual meteorites.
With so much “stuff” zeroing in on our planet, NASA could use some help keeping track of it all.
Enter the Meteor Counter–a new iPhone app designed to harness the power of citizen scientists to keep track of meteoroids.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Observations from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission indicate the family of asteroids some believed was responsible for the demise of the dinosaurs is not likely the culprit, keeping open the case on one of Earth’s greatest mysteries.
While scientists are confident a large asteroid crashed into Earth approximately 65 million years ago, leading to the extinction of dinosaurs and some other life forms on our planet, they do not know exactly where the asteroid came from or how it made its way to Earth. A 2007 study using visible-light data from ground-based telescopes first suggested the remnant of a huge asteroid, known as Baptistina, as a possible suspect.
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