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Updated: 40 min 52 sec ago

Swirling cloud at Titan's pole is cold and toxic

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 14:00
Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Cassini mission have discovered that a giant, toxic cloud is hovering over the south pole of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, after the atmosphere there cooled dramatically. The scientists found that this giant polar vortex contains frozen particles of the toxic compound hydrogen cyanide, or HCN.

Astronomy: Wild ducks take flight in open cluster

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 09:02
The Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile has taken this beautiful image, dappled with blue stars, of one of the most star-rich open clusters currently known -- Messier 11, also known as NGC 6705 or the Wild Duck Cluster.

U.S., India to collaborate on Mars exploration, Earth-observing mission

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 19:49
In a meeting Sept. 30, 2014 in Toronto, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), signed two documents to launch a NASA-ISRO satellite mission to observe Earth and establish a pathway for future joint missions to explore Mars.

Rosetta to deploy lander on November 12

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 19:47
The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission will deploy its lander, Philae, to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Nov. 12. Philae's landing site, currently known as Site J, is located on the smaller of the comet's two "lobes," with a backup site on the larger lobe.

NASA's Swift mission observes mega flares from nearby red dwarf star

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 17:15
On April 23, NASA's Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a nearby red dwarf star. The initial blast from this record-setting series of explosions was as much as 10,000 times more powerful than the largest solar flare ever recorded.

Astronomers find 'cousin' planets around twin stars

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 09:04
Astronomers have found two new Jupiter-sized extra-solar planets, each orbiting one star of a binary-star system.  Most known extra-solar planets orbit stars that are alone, like our Sun. Yet many stars are part of binary systems, twin stars formed from the same gas cloud. Now, for the first time, two stars of a binary system are both found to host a "hot Jupiter'' exoplanet.

Cassini watches mysterious feature evolve in hydrocarbon sea on Saturn's moon Titan

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 12:32
NASA's Cassini spacecraft is monitoring the evolution of a mysterious feature in a large hydrocarbon sea on Saturn's moon Titan. The feature covers an area of about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest seas on Titan. It has now been observed twice by Cassini's radar experiment, but its appearance changed between the two apparitions.

Simulations reveal an unusual death for ancient stars

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 09:05
Certain primordial stars -- between 55,000 and 56,000 times the mass of our sun, or solar masses -- may have died unusually. In death, these objects -- among the universe's first generation of stars -- would have exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no remnant black hole behind.

New molecule found in space connotes life origins

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 21:36
Hunting from a distance of 27,000 light years, astronomers have discovered an unusual carbon-based molecule contained within a giant gas cloud in interstellar space. The discovery suggests that the complex molecules needed for life may have their origins in interstellar space.

'Milky Way explorer' tours the solar system

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 15:04
Imagine seeing the Sun, planets, and a myriad other objects in our Solar System as you have never seen them before -- in invisible radio light! The National Radio Astronomy Observatory released a new Solar System installment of its Milky Way Explorer.

Turning the Moon into a cosmic ray detector

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 08:58
Scientists are to turn the Moon into a giant particle detector to help understand the origin of Ultra-High-Energy (UHE) cosmic rays -- the most energetic particles in the Universe. The origin of UHE cosmic rays is one of the great mysteries in astrophysics. Nobody knows where these extremely rare cosmic rays come from or how they get their enormous energies. Physicists detect them on Earth at a rate of less than one particle per square kilometer per century.

Earth's water is older than the sun: Likely originated as ices that formed in interstellar space

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 14:12
Water was crucial to the rise of life on Earth and is also important to evaluating the possibility of life on other planets. Identifying the original source of Earth's water is key to understanding how life-fostering environments come into being and how likely they are to be found elsewhere. New work found that much of our solar system's water likely originated as ices that formed in interstellar space.

Amino acids? Interstellar molecules are branching out

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 14:12
Scientists have for the first time detected a carbon-bearing molecule with a 'branched' structure in interstellar space. The discovery of iso-propyl cyanide opens a new frontier in the complexity of molecules found in regions of star formation, and bodes well for the presence of amino acids, for which this branched structure is a key characteristic.

A galaxy of deception: Hubble snaps what looks like a young galaxy in the local Universe

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 10:21
Astronomers usually have to peer very far into the distance to see back in time, and view the Universe as it was when it was young. This new image of galaxy DDO 68, otherwise known as UGC 5340, was thought to offer an exception. This ragged collection of stars and gas clouds looks at first glance like a recently-formed galaxy in our own cosmic neighborhood. But, is it really as young as it looks?

Most metal-poor star hints at universe's first supernovae

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 13:50
In a new study, researchers point out that the elemental abundance of the most iron-poor star can be explained by elements ejected from supernova explosions of the universe's first stars. This reveals that massive stars, which are several tens of times more immense than the Sun, were present among the first stars.

Clear skies on exo-Neptune: Smallest exoplanet ever found to have water vapor

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 13:50
Astronomers have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a planet outside our Solar System. The planet, known as HAT-P-11b, is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest exoplanet ever on which water vapor has been detected.

India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft successfully inserted into orbit around Red Planet

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 10:25
India's Mars Orbiter Spacecraft successfully entered into an orbit around the planet Mars this morning (Sept. 24, 2014) by firing its 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) along with eight smaller liquid engines. In the coming weeks, the spacecraft will be thoroughly tested in Mars orbit and the systematic observation of the planet using the spacecraft's five scientific instruments is expected to begin.

'Univofutah': Asteroid named for University of Utah

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 16:11
What’s rocky, about a mile wide, orbits between Mars and Jupiter and poses no threat to Earth? An asteroid named “Univofutah” after the University of Utah. Discovered on Sept. 8, 2008, by a longtime Utah astronomy educator, the asteroid also known as 391795 (2008 RV77) this month was renamed Univofutah by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Infant solar system shows signs of windy weather

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 15:29
Astronomers have observed what may be the first-ever signs of windy weather around a T Tauri star, an infant analog of our own Sun. This may help explain why some T Tauri stars have disks that glow weirdly in infrared light while others shine in a more expected fashion.

NASA's Newest Mars Mission Spacecraft Enters Orbit around Red Planet

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 11:11
NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars' orbit at 7:24 p.m. PDT (10:24 p.m. EDT) Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.