Topic: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – After several days of continued observations, scientists continue to work to determine and to understand the fate of Comet ISON: There’s no doubt that the comet shrank in size considerably as it rounded the sun and there’s no doubt that something made it out on the other side to shoot back into space.
The question remains as to whether the bright spot seen moving away from the sun was simply debris, or whether a small nucleus of the original ball of ice was still there. Regardless, it is likely that it is now only dust.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s WISE mission has released a new and improved atlas and catalog brimming with data on three-quarters of a billion objects detected during two full scans of the sky.
WISE, which stands for Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, scanned the entire sky in infrared light in 2010, snapping a dozen pictures of every star and galaxy. By October of that year, the spacecraft ran out of the coolant needed to chill some of its heat-seeking detectors. NASA then decided to fund a second scan of the sky to look for asteroids and comets, in a project called NEOWISE.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Black holes can be petite, with masses only about 10 times that of our sun — or monstrous, boasting the equivalent in mass up to 10 billion suns. Do black holes also come in size medium?
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is busy scrutinizing a class of black holes that may fall into the proposed medium-sized category.
Written by Susan Hendrix
Greenbelt, MD – A comet’s journey through the solar system is perilous and violent. A giant ejection of solar material from the sun could rip its tail off.
Before it reaches Mars — at some 230 million miles away from the sun — the radiation of the sun begins to boil its water, the first step toward breaking the comet apart.
And, if it survives all this, the intense radiation and pressure as it flies near to the surface of the sun could destroy it altogether.
Written by Francis Reddy
Greenbelt, MD – On April 27th, a blast of light from a dying star in a distant galaxy became the focus of astronomers around the world. The explosion, known as a gamma-ray burst and designated GRB 130427A, tops the charts as one of the brightest ever seen.
A trio of NASA satellites, working in concert with ground-based robotic telescopes, captured never-before-seen details that challenge current theoretical understandings of how gamma-ray bursts work.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Watching a tree grow might be more frustrating than waiting for a pot to boil, but luckily for biologists, there are tree rings. Beginning at a tree trunk’s dense core and moving out to the soft bark, the passage of time is marked by concentric rings, revealing chapters of the tree’s history.
Galaxies outlive trees by billions of years, making their growth impossible to see. But like biologists, astronomers can read the rings in a galaxy’s disk to unravel its past.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Examination of the Martian atmosphere by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover confirms that some meteorites that have dropped to Earth really are from the Red Planet.
A key new measurement of the inert gas argon in Mars’ atmosphere by Curiosity’s laboratory provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origin of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origin of other meteorites.
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has found propylene, a chemical used to make food-storage containers, car bumpers and other consumer products, on Saturn’s moon Titan.
This is the first definitive detection of the plastic ingredient on any moon or planet, other than Earth.
A small amount of propylene was identified in Titan’s lower atmosphere by Cassini’s composite infrared spectrometer (CIRS). This instrument measures the infrared light, or heat radiation, emitted from Saturn and its moons in much the same way our hands feel the warmth of a fire.
Pasadena, CA – Data from NASA’s Curiosity rover has revealed the Martian environment lacks methane. This is a surprise to researchers because previous data reported by U.S. and international scientists indicated positive detections.
The roving laboratory performed extensive tests to search for traces of Martian methane. Whether the Martian atmosphere contains traces of the gas has been a question of high interest for years because methane could be a potential sign of life, although it also can be produced without biology.
Pasadena, CA – By analyzing the distinctive cracks lining the icy face of Europa, NASA scientists found evidence that this moon of Jupiter likely spun around a tilted axis at some point.
Europa’s tilt could influence calculations of how much of the moon’s history is recorded in its frozen shell, how much heat is generated by tides in its ocean, and even how long the ocean has been liquid.
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