Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside our solar system on May 12th, 2009. From the trove of data collected, we have learned that planets are common, that most sun-like stars have at least one planet and that nature makes planets with unimaginable diversity.
Kepler launched on March 6th, 2009. Its mission was to survey a portion of our galaxy to determine what fraction of stars might harbor potentially habitable, Earth-sized exoplanets, or planets that orbit other stars.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – On Earth, the fastest runners can finish a marathon in hours. On Mars it takes about 11 years.
On Tuesday, March 24th 2015, NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon– 26.219 miles – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.
“This mission isn’t about setting distance records; it’s about making scientific discoveries,” says Steve Squyres, Opportunity principal investigator at Cornell University. “Still, running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool.”
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA laboratory experiments suggest the dark material coating some geological features of Jupiter’s moon Europa is likely sea salt from a subsurface ocean, discolored by exposure to radiation.
The presence of sea salt on Europa’s surface suggests the ocean is interacting with its rocky seafloor — an important consideration in determining whether the icy moon could support life.
The study is accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and is available online.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – An asteroid, designated 1999 FN53, will safely pass more than 26 times the distance of Earth to the moon on May 14th. To put it another way, at its closest point, the asteroid will get no closer than 6.3 million miles away (10 million kilometers).
It will not get closer than that for well over 100 years. And even then, (119 years from now) it will be so far away it will not affect our planet in any way, shape or form. 1999 FN53 is approximately 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) across.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – The mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres are better resolved in a new sequence of images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 3rd and 4th, 2015. The images were taken from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers).
In this closest-yet view, the brightest spots within a crater in the northern hemisphere are revealed to be composed of many smaller spots. However, their exact nature remains unknown.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – The sun dips to a Martian horizon in a blue-tinged sky in images sent home to Earth this week from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.
Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) to record the sunset during an evening of skywatching on April 15th, 2015.
The imaging was done between dust storms, but some dust remained suspended high in the atmosphere. The sunset observations help researchers assess the vertical distribution of dust in the atmosphere.
Written by Rob Gutro
Greenbelt, MD – Scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that the immense halo of gas enveloping the Andromeda galaxy, our nearest massive galactic neighbor, is about six times larger and 1,000 times more massive than previously measured.
The dark, nearly invisible halo stretches about a million light-years from its host galaxy, halfway to our own Milky Way galaxy. This finding promises to tell astronomers more about the evolution and structure of majestic giant spirals, one of the most common types of galaxies in the universe.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has found evidence that a massive star exploded in a lopsided fashion, sending ejected material flying in one direction and the core of the star in the other.
The findings offer the best proof yet that star explosions of this type, called Type II or core-collapse supernovae, are inherently asymmetrical, a phenomenon that had been difficult to prove before now.
NASA’s Cassini data shows eruptions on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus’ could be curtain like eruptions instead of discrete jets
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – New research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission suggests most of the eruptions from Saturn’s moon Enceladus might be diffuse curtains rather than discrete jets.
Many features that appear to be individual jets of material erupting along the length of prominent fractures in the moon’s south polar region might be phantoms created by an optical illusion, according to the new study.
The research is being published on Thursday, May 7th, in the journal Nature.
Written by Patrick Lynch
Washington, D.C. – Ethanol fuel refineries could be releasing much larger amounts of ozone-forming compounds into the atmosphere than current assessments suggest, according to a new study based on a field campaign that included a NASA sensor.
Airborne measurements made downwind from an ethanol fuel refinery in Decatur, Illinois, in 2013 found ethanol emissions 30 times higher than government estimates.
The measurements also showed emissions of all volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which include ethanol, were five times higher than government numbers, which estimate emissions based on manufacturing information.
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