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NASA funded researchers report on the Fall of the Maya Civilization, “They Did it to Themselves”

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – For 1200 years, the Maya dominated Central America. At their peak around 900 A.D., Maya cities teemed with more than 2,000 people per square mile — comparable to modern Los Angeles County.

Even in rural areas the Maya numbered 200 to 400 people per square mile. But suddenly, all was quiet. And the profound silence testified to one of the greatest demographic disasters in human prehistory — the demise of the once vibrant Maya society.

Mayan ruins in Guatemala. (Photo by Tom Sever)

Mayan ruins in Guatemala. (Photo by Tom Sever)

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NASA to deliver Curiosity rover to Mar’s Surface using Sky Crane

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On August 5th at 10:31pm Pacific Time, NASA will gently deposit their new, 2000-pound Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars, wheels-first and ready to roll. Quite a feat – because it will come screaming through the Martian atmosphere at 13,000 mph.

Curiosity, aka the Mars Science Laboratory, will be the largest mission ever to land on another planet. It’s big because it has a big mystery to solve: was Mars ever or is it still capable of harboring life?

This artist's concept shows the sky crane maneuver during the descent of NASA's Curiosity rover to the Martian surface. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows the sky crane maneuver during the descent of NASA’s Curiosity rover to the Martian surface. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity ready to complete First Martian Marathon

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – With all the fanfare about Mars rover Curiosity landing on the Red Planet in August 2012, it’s easy to forget that there’s already a rover on Mars—an older, smaller cousin set to accomplish a feat unprecedented in the history of Solar System exploration.

Mars rover Opportunity is on track to complete the first extraterrestrial marathon.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers water jets on Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

Is it Snowing Microbes on Enceladus?

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – There’s a tiny moon orbiting beyond Saturn’s rings that’s full of promise, and maybe — just maybe — microbes.

In a series of tantalizingly close flybys to the moon, named “Enceladus,” NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has revealed watery jets erupting from what may be a vast underground sea. These jets, which spew through cracks in the moon’s icy shell, could lead back to a habitable zone that is uniquely accessible in all the solar system.

Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice from many locations near the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus. More than 30 individual jets of different sizes can be seen in this image captured during a flyby of NASA's Cassini spacecraft on November 21st, 2009. (Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Dramatic plumes, both large and small, spray water ice from many locations near the south pole of Saturn's moon Enceladus. More than 30 individual jets of different sizes can be seen in this image captured during a flyby of NASA's Cassini spacecraft on November 21st, 2009. (Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is finding Mysterious Objects at the Edge of the Electromagnetic Spectrum

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The human eye is crucial to astronomy. Without the ability to see, the luminous universe of stars, planets and galaxies would be closed to us, unknown forever. Nevertheless, astronomers cannot shake their fascination with the invisible.

Outside the realm of human vision is an entire electromagnetic spectrum of wonders. Each type of light–­from radio waves to gamma-rays–reveals something unique about the universe. Some wavelengths are best for studying black holes; others reveal newborn stars and planets; while others illuminate the earliest years of cosmic history.


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NASA and NOAA developing Next Generation Weather Satellites to Improve Tornado Warnings

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)Washington, D.C. – Next-Gen Weather Satellites to Improve Tornado Warnings February 29th, 2012: When you read the following paragraph, consider the following: Tornado season hasn’t even started yet.

On January 22nd and 23rd, 2012, more than 37 tornadoes struck the southern USA. Ten of them tore across the Lower Mississippi Valley into Alabama. Worst hit were St. Clair and Jefferson County, AL, where 2 people were killed, about 100 others injured, and at least $30 million in damage was done. It was a chilling reminder of the April 2011 onslaught of deadly tornadoes that took a staggering toll across southern and Midwestern states.1

Storm clouds approach Huntsville, Alabama on April 27th, 2011. (Photo credit: Nancy Vreuls of NASA/MSFC)

Storm clouds approach Huntsville, Alabama on April 27th, 2011. (Photo credit: Nancy Vreuls of NASA/MSFC)

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Europe Hammered by Winter, Is North America Next?

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – For the first half of this year’s winter, the big news was warm temperatures and lack of snow. Ski resorts were covered in bare dirt, while January temperatures in southern California topped July highs.

Then, out of the blue, Europe got clobbered: Over the past two weeks, temperatures in Eastern Europe have nose-dived to -30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit). Blizzards and the bone-chilling cold have resulted in the deaths of over 550 people so far, with rooftop-high snow drifts trapping tens of thousands of villagers in their homes and cutting off access to entire towns. It has even snowed as far south as North Africa.

This map shows temperature anomalies for Europe and western Russia from January 25th to February 1st, 2012, compared to temperatures for the same dates from 2001 to 2011. The anomalies are based on land surface temperatures observed by the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite.

This map shows temperature anomalies for Europe and western Russia from January 25th to February 1st, 2012, compared to temperatures for the same dates from 2001 to 2011. The anomalies are based on land surface temperatures observed by the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite.

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Mission to Land on a Comet

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft is en route to intercept a comet– and to make history. In 2014, Rosetta will enter orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenkoand land a probe on it, two firsts.

Rosetta’s goal is to learn the primordial story a comet tells as it gloriously falls to pieces.

Comets are primitive leftovers from our solar system’s ‘construction’ about 4.5 billion years ago. Because they spend much of their time in the deep freeze of the outer solar system, comets are well preserved—a gold mine for astronomers who want to know what conditions were like back “in the beginning.”

An artist's concept of Rosetta in orbit while the mission's lander explores the comet's surface.

An artist's concept of Rosetta in orbit while the mission's lander explores the comet's surface.

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What Happened to all the Snow?

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Winter seems to be on hold this year in some parts of the United States. Snowfall has been scarce so far in places that were overwhelmed with the white stuff by the same time last year.

Here’s a prime example. “The Mammoth Mountain ski resort in the Sierras of California got more than 200 inches of snow last December,” says NASA climatologist Bill Patzert of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “This December they got less than 10 inches.”

Temperatures have flip-flopped too. There were 583 new heat records broken in the first five days of January in the US.

(left) Effects of the positive phase of the arctic oscillation; (right) effects of the negative phase of the arctic oscillation (Figures courtesy of J. Wallace, University of Washington)

(left) Effects of the positive phase of the arctic oscillation; (right) effects of the negative phase of the arctic oscillation (Figures courtesy of J. Wallace, University of Washington)

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Space Mountain Produces Terrestrial Meteorites

 

Written by Dauna Coulter
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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?

A side view of Vesta's great south polar mountain. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

A side view of Vesta's great south polar mountain. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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