Topic: Solar System
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 Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Comet ISON is now inside the orbit of Earth as it plunges headlong toward the sun for a fiery close encounter on November 28th.
The comet is putting on a good show for observatories around the solar system, especially after an outburst on November 13th-14th that boosted the comet’s brightness 10-fold. NASA spacecraft and amateur astronomers alike are snapping crisp pictures of the comet’s gossamer green atmosphere and suddenly riotous tail.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Billions of years ago when the planets of our solar system were still young, Mars was a very different world. Liquid water flowed in long rivers that emptied into lakes and shallow seas. A thick atmosphere blanketed the planet and kept it warm.
In this cozy environment, living microbes might have found a home, starting Mars down the path toward becoming a second life-filled planet next door to our own.
But that’s not how things turned out.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet outside the solar system that has a rocky composition like that of Earth. Kepler-78b whizzes around its host star every 8.5 hours, making it a blazing inferno and not suitable for life as we know it. The results are published in two papers in the journal Nature.
“The news arrived in grand style with the message: ‘Kepler-10b has a baby brother,’” said Natalie Batalha, Kepler mission scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, CA. Batalha led the team that discovered Kepler-10b, a larger but also rocky planet identified by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Planets rich in carbon, including so-called diamond planets, may lack oceans, according to NASA-funded theoretical research.
Our sun is a carbon-poor star, and as result, our planet Earth is made up largely of silicates, not carbon. Stars with much more carbon than the sun, on the other hand, are predicted to make planets chock full of carbon, and perhaps even layers of diamond.
By modeling the ingredients in these carbon-based planetary systems, the scientists determined they lack icy water reservoirs thought to supply planets with oceans.
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.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have created the first cloud map of a planet beyond our solar system, a sizzling, Jupiter-like world known as Kepler-7b.
The planet is marked by high clouds in the west and clear skies in the east. Previous studies from Spitzer have resulted in temperature maps of planets orbiting other stars, but this is the first look at cloud structures on a distant world.
NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft observations of asteroid Vesta help scientists determine accuracy of Space and Ground based Telescopes
Pasadena, CA – Tantalized by images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data, scientists thought the giant asteroid Vesta deserved a closer look. They got a chance to do that in 2011 and 2012, when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbited the giant asteroid, and they were able to check earlier conclusions.
A new study involving Dawn’s observations during that time period demonstrates how this relationship works with Hubble and ground-based telescopes to clarify our understanding of a solar system object.
NASA along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Test new Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) Technology
Pasadena, CA – NASA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are collaborating on a first-of-its-kind portable radar device to detect the heartbeats and breathing patterns of victims trapped in large piles of rubble resulting from a disaster.
The prototype technology, called Finding Individuals for Disaster and Emergency Response (FINDER) can locate individuals buried as deep as 30 feet (about 9 meters) in crushed materials, hidden behind 20 feet (about 6 meters) of solid concrete, and from a distance of 100 feet (about 30 meters) in open spaces.
Washington, D.C. – Launched on a clear winter day in January 2005, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft spanned 268 million miles (431 million kilometers) of deep space in 172 days, then reached out and touched comet Tempel 1. The collision between the coffee table-sized impactor and city-sized comet occurred on July 4th, 2005, at 1:52am EDT.
This hyper-speed collision between spaceborne iceberg and copper-fortified, rocket-powered probe was the first of its kind. It was a boon to not only comet science, but to the study of the evolution of our solar system.
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