The Fate of Mars’ Atmosphere

There is plenty of evidence that Mars at one time had an atmosphere that allowed water to flow on its surface. What happened to it? To find out, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft is flying high above the Red Planet with a battery of sensors. While previous Mars orbiters have peered down at the planet’s surface, MAVEN is spending part of its time gazing at the stars, looking for subtle changes in their color as they dip through the limb of Mars and set below the horizon. Such stellar occultations reveal what the atmosphere is made of, and how its composition varies with altitude. MAVEN’s observations are providing the most detailed picture of the Mars upper atmosphere to date, helping scientists understand how Mars turned from a warm and wet planet in its youth, into the forbidding desert that we see today.

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The Wonders of Pluto

New Horizons Mission has sent back a gallery of stunning images. Who would have known that Pluto was so beautiful and so complex? Watch these images on the biggest screen possible and feel like you are right there on this cold remote beauty.

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Hubble’s Pluto Discoveries

From HubbleCast. Before NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past Pluto in July 2015, almost all of the information scientists had about this mysterious dwarf planet came from observations made by Hubble. What discoveries did Hubble make in the Pluto system and how will the greatest telescope ever built advance our knowledge of this distant, icy world following New Horizons’ flyby?

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Magnetism and the Search for Life

From ESO-Cast. Giant telescopes are being used to search for the subtle signs of magnetic fields in other stars and even to map out the star spots on their surfaces. This information is beginning to reveal how and why so many stars, including our own Sun, are magnetic, and what the implications might be for life on Earth and elsewhere in the Universe. Astronomers are beginning to use signs of magnetic fields generated by stars to assess the habitability of planets that orbit them.

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Discoveries of a Restless Young Solar System

From Hubblecast. Using images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have discovered unique and totally unexpected structures within the dusty disc around the star AU Microscopii. These fast-moving wave-like features are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted. What are they, and what do they tell us about the restless early years of a solar system in the making?

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Finding Earth’s Twin

Among the methods astronomers have used to discover extra solar planets, the most successful is a technique called transit photometry. It measures changes in a star’s brightness caused when a planet crosses in front of its star along our line of sight.

Astronomers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope have employed this technique to become the most successful planet-hunting spacecraft to date, with more than a thousand established discoveries and many more awaiting confirmation. Future missions carrying improved technology are now in the works.

How much can they tell us about alien planetary systems similar to our own?A great deal, according to a recently published study. It shows that in the best-case scenarios, these upcoming missions could uncover planetary moons, ringed worlds similar to Saturn, and even large collections of asteroids.

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has used this technique to become the most successful planet-hunting spacecraft to date, with more than a thousand established discoveries and many more awaiting confirmation. Missions carrying improved technology are now planned, but how much more can they tell us about alien planetary systems similar to our own?

A great deal, according to recently published studies by Michael Hippke at the Institute for Data Analysis in Neukirchen-Vluyn, Germany, Continue reading Finding Earth’s Twin

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Mars: Death of a Planet

This is the story of a discovery made on St. Patrick’s Day, 2015. We learned just how much Mars is at the mercy of our sun. During a solar outburst that hit Mars that day, the NASA spacecraft Maven measured an accelerated loss of molecules in its upper atmosphere.

In its early days, Mars appears to have had enough surface water to cover the entire planet to a depth of 140 meters, and an atmosphere that was thick enough to hold it there. But a more active sun in those days began a long slow process of steadily eroding the Martian air and sending it out into space. The water dried up, and whatever life forms had developed had no chance to thrive and evolve on the surface.

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Cinematic Mars

Mars Express, the first planetary mission of the European Space Agency, was sent to the Red Planet in 2003. It sent a lander down to the surface, and although it failed to fully deploy , the orbiter has been taking pictures and mapping the surface ever since. It has produced high-resolution mineralogical maps, radar soundings of permafrost, and probing the composition of the atmosphere.

Its images, now released for general use, show the dramatic landscapes of Mars, sculpted by ancient volcanoes, water flows, and the scouring action of dust storms. Now we an revel in these cinematic images and imagine what it’s like to fly over the surface of Mars.

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Life Of Hubble

Decades before the Hubble Space Telescope, Dr. Edwin Powell Hubble revolutionised the field of astronomy. Take a look at the life and work of this brilliant American astronomer for whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named. From Hubblecast.

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SuperTornado: Anatomy of a MegaDisaster

May 22nd, 2011. A powerful tornado cut a mile-wide swath through Joplin, Missouri. It was the costliest tornado disaster in history, with insured losses close to two billion dollars. It was also one of the deadliest, with 161 lives lost… and one thousand injured.

The scale of the Joplin disaster drew teams of scientists hoping to find out what made this storm so destructive. And what can be done to protect communities and people in the future. What did they learn by peering inside the violent realm of a Super Tornado?

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