If we want to find life on Mars it might help to study the most forbidding places on Earth. And it turns out there are four places so inhospitable – too cold, dry, hot or salty – that match the conditions on Mars. A team of scientists visited these sites to see if life can survive.
“The big questions are: what is life, how can we define it and what are the requirements for supporting life? To understand the results we receive back from missions like Curiosity, we need to have detailed knowledge of similar environments on Earth. In the field campaigns, we have studied ecosystems…found a range of complex chemical processes that allow life to survive in unexpected places.”
The results are helping to guide NASA’s mission to Mars with the rover Curiosity. Hinting at places where life might be found, how cloud cover can help create moisture, and showing that bacteria can survive just below the surface.
Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, the photo was assembled by combining 10 years of Hubble photographs taken of a patch of sky. The XDF is a small fraction of the angular diameter of the full moon…and contains about 5,500 galaxies. The faintest galaxies are one ten-billionth the brightness of what the human eye can see.
The mission’s ChemCam instrument hit a fist-sized rock named “Coronation” with 30 pulses of its laser during a 10-second period. Each pulse delivers more than a million watts of power for about five one-billionths of a second.
The energy from the laser creates a puff of ionized, glowing plasma. ChemCam catches the light with a telescope and analyzes it with three spectrometers for information about what elements are in the rock.
NASA said the main function of this was target practice to calibrate the ChemCam.
A newly discovered cluster of galaxies, more than 5 billion light years from Earth…is among the most massive clusters of galaxies in the universe, and produces X-rays at a rate faster than any other known cluster.
It also creates new stars at an “unmatched” pace of more than 700 per year, said Michael McDonald. “This extreme rate of star formation was unexpected,” he said during a NASA news conference Wednesday, noting that the Milky Way forms just one or two stars a year.
In addition to being massive, unique, and the biggest star-nursery in the universe, this area, called Phoenix, also helps theorists with something, the galactic cooling problem.
For years scientists have been coming up with explanations for how stars are formed. The earliest being a mass of molecules would collapse in on themselves as fusion begins. The mass would then accumulate until its gravity becomes strong enough to spin, turn into a sphere, and pull on everything around it, collecting planets, asteroids, and other debris into its solar system.
But, this doesn’t take into account thermodynamics, specifically why doesn’t the star expand as it heats up. Indeed, several half-stars were observed in the universe stuck in this state of expansion unable to contract into the ultra-compact ball of a star.
That’s where a new theory comes in, the galactic “cooling flow”.
**There appears to be no name for the theory, all references are to a general theory theory of star formation.
This says the creation of stars is a lot like an explosion, with an initial burst of heat which then dissipates bringing cool air back into the explosion zone. In this case, thermonuclear fusion ignites much of the galaxy and begins sucking into the center lots of mass, including the surrounding galaxies.
As the (star) forms, this plasma initially heats up due to the gravitational energy released from the infall of smaller galaxies.
As the gas cools, it should condense and sink inward, a process known as a “cooling flow.” In the cluster’s center, this cooling flow can lead to very dense cores of gas, termed “cool cores,” which should fuel bursts of star formation in all clusters that go through this process. Most of these predictions had been confirmed with observations – the X-ray glow, the lower temperatures at the cluster centers – but starbursts accompanying this cooling remain rare. – TG Daily
A step forward in our knowledge of star formation, but something tells me we are not there yet.
Another epic journey for the retirement of a space shuttle. This one is Endeavour and it is destined for Los Angeles. It will arrive at the airport, LAX, on September 20, where it will be moved through heart of the city to the California Science Center.
This will be the first time a spacecraft has been moved through a city and it should be quite a spectacle.
Moving the shuttle — which measures 57 feet tall at the tip of the tail and has a wingspan of 78 feet — will be no easy task. Trees will be pruned back or taken out. Power lines will be raised. Traffic signals will be removed.
At its top speed, the transporters carrying the shuttle will travel about 2 mph along the city streets.
This full-circle scene combines 817 images taken by the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. It shows the terrain that surrounded the rover while it was stationary for four months of work during its most recent Martian winter.
Its release this week coincides with two milestones: Opportunity completing its 3,000th Martian day on July 2, and NASA continuing past 15 years of robotic presence at Mars.
NASA has awarded the largest prize in aviation history, created to inspire the development of more fuel-efficient aircraft and spark the start of a new electric airplane industry. The technologies demonstrated by the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, competitors may end up in general aviation aircraft, spawning new jobs and new industries for the 21st century.
The first place prize of $1.35 million was awarded to team Pipistrel-USA.com of State College, Pa. The second place prize of $120,000 went to team eGenius, of Ramona, Calif.
“NASA congratulates Pipistrel-USA.com for proving that ultra-efficient aviation is within our grasp,” said Joe Parrish, NASA’s acting chief technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Today we’ve shown that electric aircraft have moved beyond science fiction and are now in the realm of practice.”
The winning aircraft had to fly 200 miles in less than two hours and use less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent in electricity. The first and second place teams, which were both electric-powered, achieved twice the fuel efficiency requirement of the competition, meaning they flew 200 miles using just over a half-gallon of fuel equivalent per passenger.
“Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction,” said Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team Pipistrel-USA.com. “Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation.”