The Shrinking Expanding Moon

From NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. New images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft show the moon’s crust is being stretched, forming minute valleys in a few small areas on the lunar surface. Scientists propose this geologic activity occurred less than 50 million years ago, which is considered recent compared to the moon’s age of more than 4.5 billion years.

A team of researchers analyzing high-resolution images obtained by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) show small, narrow trenches typically much longer than they are wide. This indicates the lunar crust is being pulled apart at these locations. These linear valleys, known as graben, form when the moon’s crust stretches, breaks and drops down along two bounding faults. A handful of these graben systems have been found across the lunar surface.

We think the moon is in a general state of global contraction because of cooling of a still hot interior,” said Thomas Watters of the Center for Earth and Planetary Studies at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, and lead author of a paper on this research appearing in the March issue of the journal Nature Geoscience. “The graben tell us forces acting to shrink the moon were Continue reading The Shrinking Expanding Moon

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Wandering Stars: a tour of the planets

A beauteous rip through the solar sytem, based on NASA’s Science on a Sphere program “The Wanderers.” In ancient times, humans watched the skies looking for clues to their future and to aid in their very survival. They soon observed that some stars were not fixed, but moved in the sky from night to night. They called these stars the wanderers.

At the center of our solar system is the sun, binding the planets with its gravitational pull. From our viewpoint on earth, the sun appears small in the sky, but in reality it dwarfs even Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system.

The distance from the sun to the small worlds traveling it are vast. Light takes eight minutes to reach earth, and nearly a day to reach the farthest known bodies. Join us now as we tour our solar system, starting with sun-baked mercury and traveling to the remotest outskirts, where small, icy bodies move with only the faintest connection to our sun.

Mercury
Mercury, the closest planet to Sun is also the smallest terrestrial planet. It orbits so swiftly that its year lasts only 88 Earth days. The airless cratered surface could almost Continue reading Wandering Stars: a tour of the planets

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Seeing Earth from Space: New International Space Station Time-lapse

We’ve all seen pictures of Earth from space, but have we really taken the time to appreciate what our planet looks like against the starscapes of the Milky Way galaxy? Here, we beckon viewers to see Earth in its cosmic context, which includes the stars, interstellar gases, the moon, the sun, and the solar winds. Be sure to watch in full HD, 1080p, and imagine you’re an astronaut aboard the International Space Station with a little time on your hands.

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NASA Debunks Wacky 2012 Claims

Listen up, 2012ers, it’s not really going to happen, hard as that is to bear. The issue with Dec. 21, 2012 and the predicted disasters that some folks think will come, probably started with the so-called end of the Mayan calendar. Their calendar does not end on Dec. 21, 2012. It’s just the end of the cycle and the beginning of a new one. It’s just like on Dec. 31st, our calendar comes to an end but a new calendar for the next year begins on Jan. 1st .

Niburu is supposed to be a planet that’s four times the size of the Earth. It’s going to get very close to the Earth and cause all kinds of disasters. So this enormous planet is suppose to be coming toward Earth, but if it were, we would’ve seen it long ago and if it were invisible somehow, we would’ve seen the affects of this planet on neighboring planets.

Thousands of astronomers who scan the night skies on a daily basis have not seen this. And then there’s folks who think that NASA astronomers are actually hiding this information so as to prevent panic from the populous. Can you imagine thousands of Continue reading NASA Debunks Wacky 2012 Claims

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Cruising To Mars

As Rover Curiosity hurtles through space on its way to Mars, it is confronted with many issues that NASA scientists must constantly account for. See the next step of Curiosity’s journey to the red planet.

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Birth of a Great Observatory

For many centuries, maps of the southern sky showed extensive blank areas — the Terra Incognita of the heavens. The year 1595: For the first time, Dutch traders set sail to the East Indies. At night, navigators Pieter Keyser and Frederik de Houtman measured the positions of more than 130 stars in the southern sky. Soon, celestial globes and maps showed twelve new constellations, none of which had ever been seen before by any European.

See this fascinating story from ESOCast.

The British were the first to construct a permanent astronomical outpost in the southern hemisphere. The Royal Observatory at the Cape of Good Hope was founded in 1820. Not much later, John Herschel built his own private observatory, close to South Africa’s famous Table Mountain.

What a view! Dark skies. Bright clusters and star clouds high overhead. Little wonder that Harvard, Yale and Leiden observatories followed suit with their own southern stations. But the exploration of the southern sky still took lots of courage, passion and perseverance. Until fifty years ago, almost all major telescopes were located north of the equator.

So why is the southern sky so important? First of all, because it was largely uncharted territory. You Continue reading Birth of a Great Observatory

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Narrowing the Search for Dark Matter

Scientists have further narrowed the search for a hypothetical particle that could be dark matter, the mysterious stuff that makes up 80 percent of all the mass in the universe. This video from NASA Astrophysics presents the new results, compiled from two years’ worth of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Gamma rays are very energetic light, and the telescope looks for faint gamma-ray signals that are generated by a variety of sources, such as gas and dust spiraling into supermassive black holes or exploding stars. But another potential source of gamma rays is dark matter. Although no one is sure what dark matter is, one of the leading candidates is a yet-to-be-discovered particle called a weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP). When two of these WIMPs meet, the theory goes, they can annihilate one another and generate gamma rays.

There are many possible versions of WIMPs, and they’re expected to span a wide range of masses, producing a range of gamma rays with different energies. Using Fermi, the scientists focused on 10 small galaxies that orbit the Milky Way, searching for gamma-ray signals within a specific range of energies. They found no signs of annihilating WIMPs, which rules out certain kinds Continue reading Narrowing the Search for Dark Matter

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Tornadoes and Twisters On Mars

Dust devils occur on Earth as well as on Mars. They are spinning columns of air, made visible by the dust they pull off the ground. Unlike a tornado, a dust devil typically forms on a clear day when the ground is heated by the sun, warming the air just above the ground. As heated air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler air above it, the air may begin to rotate, if conditions are just right.
The Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured an image of one of these Martian Twisters. Using this image, scientists have recreated this dust devil in digital space.

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Hubble’s Greatest Snaps

Here’s Hubble’s best year by year from HubbleCast:

1990: Saturn
Among the first images to be sent back from Hubble after its launch in April 1990, this image of Saturn is good by the standards of ground-based telescopes.

1991: Orion Nebula
Although not perfectly sharp, this early image of the Orion Nebula nevertheless shows the rich colours and structures of this bright star-forming region.

1992: Herbig-Haro 2
Throughout the region of the Orion Nebula are numerous streamers of gas that come from newborn stars, known to astronomers as Herbig-Haro Objects.

1993: Messier 100
In late 1993, Hubble’s teething problems were resolved in the first servicing mission. Before-and-after images of the core of spiral galaxy Messier 100 show how this dramatically improved the telescope’s image quality.

1994: Shoemaker-Levy 9 hits Jupiter
Soon after the astronauts repaired Hubble during the first servicing mission, comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter.

1995: Eagle Nebula
Hubble’s image of the ‘pillars of creation’ in the Eagle Nebula is one of its most famous. These huge, dusty structures enshroud pockets of ongoing star formation.

1996: NGC 6826
This image from 1996 shows a planetary nebula, which represents the other extremity of a star’s life from the Eagle Nebula. Planetary nebulae form when Sun-like stars puff out their outer layers Continue reading Hubble’s Greatest Snaps

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DYNAMIC EARTH – Trailer for a New Fulldome Planetarium Show

DYNAMIC EARTH is a 24-minute ultra high resolution fulldome production, narrated by the actor Liam Neeson. It’s now playing at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC and full dome theaters around the world.

The show explores the inner workings of Earth’s climate system. With visualizations based on satellite monitoring data and advanced supercomputer simulations, this cutting-edge production follows a trail of energy that flows from the Sun into the interlocking systems that shape our climate: the atmosphere, oceans, and the biosphere. Audiences will ride along on swirling ocean and wind currents, dive into the heart of a monster hurricane, come face-to-face with sharks and gigantic whales, and fly into roiling volcanoes.

Dynamic Earth explores concepts and terms essential to understanding the climate:

· The relationship of Earth and the Sun. The Earth is close enough to the Sun to bask in its warmth, thanks to a series of natural defenses, including its magnetic field.

· Life and the carbon cycle. Earth’s climate control system depends on the ability of living organisms to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it long term.

· Plate tectonics and its role in the carbon cycle. Audiences will learn that CO2 emissions from human activities Continue reading DYNAMIC EARTH – Trailer for a New Fulldome Planetarium Show

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Space is exciting