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Everyday news through scientist eyes.
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World's first mission to the Moon's south pole announced

World's first mission to the Moon's south pole announced | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it

The world's first mission to the South Pole of the Moon was announced today by the International Lunar Observatory Association (ILOA) and Moon Express, Inc. The private enterprise mission will be both scientific and commercial, and will deliver the International Lunar Observatory (ILO) to the Moon's South Pole aboard a Moon Express robotic lander, establishing permanent astrophysical observations and lunar commercial communications systems for professional and amateur researchers.

Biosciencia's insight:

The ILO and its precursor will have an internet-based access and control system and will be the first private space telescope to operate from the lunar surface, available to researchers, educators and the general public through the internet, allowing the world to access Galaxy / astronomical images from the surface of the Moon and creating a new model of "citizen science" public participation and international collaboration.

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High-energy γ-ray astronomy comes back to Earth

High-energy γ-ray astronomy comes back to Earth | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it

Planned ground-based telescope array could shed light on dark matter and the origin of cosmic rays.

Biosciencia's insight:

In the 1950s, astronomers pioneered the technique of tracking γ-rays by their atmospheric signature (see 'Tell-tale trails'). Three operational ground-based arrays consisting of just a few telescopes have since identified more than 150 high-energy γ-ray sources.

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Mars pebbles prove water history

Mars pebbles prove water history | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
Scientists say the rounded pebbles seen by the Curiosity Mars rover are proof that many of the landscapes on the Red Planet were cut by flowing water.
Biosciencia's insight:

The team only has pictures from the rover's main cameras. Attempts will be made to get close-up, high-resolution imagery of Gale's conglomerates in the weeks ahead using the Mahli "hand lens".

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Giant band of galactic gas likely has dual origin

Giant band of galactic gas likely has dual origin | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it

An enormous ribbon of gas that threads through the thinner gas of the Milky Way's halo is the result of a gravitational tug-of-war between the two Magellanic Clouds, the brightest satellite galaxies orbiting our own.

The Magellanic Sream, as the ribbon is known, stretches for hundreds of thousands of light-years behind the Magellanic Clouds; a smaller additional component pokes out ahead of them. The stream was discovered in the 1970s, and recent theoretical models suggest that it is caused by the gravitational pull of the Large Magellanic Cloud tearing gas out of its lesser sibling, the Small Magellanic Cloud. This stripping, the result of tidal forces, would have begun some 2 billion years ago, and together with an interaction with the Milky Way's halo it would have spread the gas into its current shape.

But, in 2007, astronomer David Nidever, now at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and his collaborators defied conventional wisdom by proposing that part of the Magellanic Stream came from the Large Magellanic Cloud, as stellar winds and supernovae blew gas out. Now observations bolster this idea. Astronomers led by Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, and Philipp Richter at the University of Potsdam in Germany estimated the amount of oxygen and sulphur in different parts of the Magellanic Stream from the way that these elements absorb ultraviolet light emitted by distant galaxies that appear behind the stream. Over most of the stream, oxygen and sulphur levels are low, the team reports, matching the abundances in the Small Magellanic Cloud around 2 billion years ago.

However, in a separate paper, the astronomers find that one section of the stream that lies close to the Magellanic Clouds contains much more sulphur, matching the current abundances of the Large Magellanic Cloud, which has more stars than its sibling to create this element. The new measurements are in agreement with Nidever's suggestion, and Fox suspects that the Magellanic Stream probably originates from both galaxies. "It's almost like you have two strands wrapped around each other," he says.

"They were able to make some really amazing and precise measurements," Nidever says.

Astronomer Gurtina Besla of Columbia University in New York believes that the findings address the greater question of why the two flamboyant galaxies differ from their peers. All of the Milky Way's other satellite galaxies are 'dead' — devoid of gas and of bright young stars.

Besla says that the observations support a new idea: that the Magellanic Clouds, rather than being long-time close neighbors of the Milky Way, follow a gargantuan elliptical orbit and are passing close to it for the first time. Had they been near us all their lives, as astronomers once thought, gas in the Milky Way's halo would have pushed gas out of the Magellanic Clouds, boosting oxygen and sulphur levels along the entire Magellanic Stream — and killing off the two galaxies by robbing them of the gas needed to spawn the brilliant new stars that make them glitter.

Biosciencia's insight:

The Magellanic Stream, a band of gas (pink in this false-color image) that sweeps across part of the sky around the Milky Way (horizontal light-blue band), originates in part from the interaction of the two Magellanic Clouds (white regions at bottom right).

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Watch the Biggest Explosion Ever Seen on the Moon

Watch the Biggest Explosion Ever Seen on the Moon | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
NASA scientists recorded the biggest explosion from a meteorite impact on the moon that they have seen in eight years of monitoring.
Biosciencia's insight:

The March 17 impact created a blast that was bright enough to be seen from Earth with the naked eye. It may have generated a crater roughly 20 meters wide, which could be imaged by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiternext time it passes over the area, allowing researchers to see a very fresh impact on the moon.

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Scientists ask public to hunt for power plants

Scientists ask public to hunt for power plants | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
Initiative will use crowdsourced data to inform global carbon modelling.
Nature News doi: 10.1038/nature.2013.12969
Biosciencia's insight:

Researchers are seeking help to determine the location, type of fuel and electricity generation for many of the world's estimated 30,000 power plants.

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Tadpole Galaxies Offer Snapshots of the Milky Way s Youth

Tadpole  Galaxies Offer Snapshots of the Milky Way s Youth | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
Giant spiral galaxies such as Andromeda and the Milky Way outshine and outweigh most of their galactic peers. They grew so large both by swallowing lesser galaxies and by grabbing gas from the space around them.
Biosciencia's insight:

First spotted in the 1990s, tadpole galaxies sport bright heads, which spawn brilliant new stars, and long, faint tails. Most tadpoles are billions of light-years distant, meaning they were more common when the universe was young. From such great distances, though, studying the odd galaxies is difficult.

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Earth and Moon Got Water from Common Source

Earth and Moon Got Water from Common Source | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
Measurements of the chemical composition of Moon rocks suggest that Earth was born with its water already present, rather than having the precious liquid delivered several hundred million years later by comets or asteroids.
Biosciencia's insight:

Analyses of rocks brought back by the Apollo program show that the Moon's water shares a common origin with water on Earth.

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Meteorite Found in Antarctica May Help Reveal Secrets of Life on Mars

Meteorite Found in Antarctica May Help Reveal Secrets of Life on Mars | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
Geologists led by Dr Lydia Hallis from the University of Hawaii have examined a meteorite that formed on Mars more than 1 billion years ago to determine if conditions were ever right on the planet to sustain life.
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Vegetation as seen by Suomi NPP

Vegetation as seen by Suomi NPP | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it

Images crafted from a year's worth of data collected by the Suomi NPP satellite provide a vivid depiction of worldwide vegetation.

Biosciencia's insight:

The images show the difference between green and arid areas of Earth as seen in data from the Visible-Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS, instrument aboard Suomi NPP. VIIRS detects changes in the reflection of light, producing images that measure vegetation changes over time.

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Study explains decades of black hole observations

Study explains decades of black hole observations | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
(Phys.org) —A new study by astronomers at NASA, Johns Hopkins University and Rochester Institute of Technology confirms long-held suspicions about how stellar-mass black holes produce their highest-energy light.
Biosciencia's insight:

This annotated image labels several features in the simulation, including the event horizon of the black hole. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

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NASA launching experiment to examine the beginnings of the universe

NASA launching experiment to examine the beginnings of the universe | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
(Phys.org) —Scientists will seek to gain answers to these questions with the launch of the Cosmic Infrared Background ExpeRIment (CIBER) on a Black Brant XII suborbital sounding rocket between 11 and 11:59 p.m.
Biosciencia's insight:

Numerical simulation of the density of matter when the universe was one billion years old. Galaxies formation follows the gravitational wells produced by dark matter, where hydrogen gas coalesces, and the first stars ignite. CIBER studies the total sky brightness, to probe the component from first stars and galaxies using spectral signatures, and searches for the distinctive spatial pattern seen in this image, produced by large-scale structures from dark matter.

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Curiosity rover drills into second Mars rock - NBCNews.com (blog)

Curiosity rover drills into second Mars rock - NBCNews.com (blog) | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
Wired
Curiosity rover drills into second Mars rock
NBCNews.com (blog)
The resulting powdered sample will be delivered to the robot's onboard science instruments in the coming days.
Biosciencia's insight:

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity drilled into this rock target, "Cumberland," on Sunday, collecting a powdered sample of material from the rock's interior. Analysis of the Cumberland sample will check results from "John Klein," the first rock..

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How to build a Mars colony that lasts – forever

How to build a Mars colony that lasts – forever | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
A sustainable outpost on the Red Planet may be our civilisation's only chance of long-term continuity, but challenges include growing food in Martian soil and overcoming insomnia    
Biosciencia's insight:

As the only other planet in the solar system we are likely to be able to settle on, Mars looks like the best first step towards establishing an off-Earth foothold. But making Mars a sustainable destination will require a few advances beyond those needed for one-off trips.

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Space Oddity: Commander Chris Hadfield covers David Bowie in space

Space Oddity: Commander Chris Hadfield covers David Bowie in space | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
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Filmed on the International Space Station with an acoustic guitar, Canadian astronaut marks end of stay in space with out of this world finale.

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Spacewalking repair halts station leak - for now (Update)

Spacewalking repair halts station leak - for now (Update) | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
Astronauts making a rare, hastily planned spacewalk replaced a pump outside the International Space Station on Saturday in hopes of plugging a serious ammonia leak.
Biosciencia's insight:

The astronauts Christopher Cassidy and Thomas Marshburn made a spacewalk to replace the pump after flakes of frozen ammonia coolant were spotted outside the station on Thursday.

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Weather forecasts on Mars

Weather forecasts on Mars | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it
(Phys.org) —In the north of the red planet snowfalls occur with great regularity. Expeditions of Mars rovers into this region could therefore be easily planned.
Biosciencia's insight:

In winter a layer of frozen carbon dioxide covers the Martian North Pole. Approximately 50 percent of this ice cap falls to the ground as snow.

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NASA Probe Spies Giant Hurricane on Saturn

NASA Probe Spies Giant Hurricane on Saturn | Biosciencia News | Scoop.it

A monster-sized hurricane raging around Saturn's north pole has come into focus, thanks to NASA's Cassini spacecraft, and researchers hope it will help shape our understanding of similar storms on Earth.

 

"Morphologically, this giant storm resembles that of hurricanes and typhoons on Earth—with an eye at its center and spiraling clouds outside—but this Saturnian hurricane is on a titanic scale," said Kunio Sayanagi, a Cassini imaging team member at Hampton University in Virginia.

 

Just the eye of the storm is estimated to stretch 1,250 miles (2,000 kilometers) across—more than 20 times larger than hurricanes that swirl on Earth. Scientists aren't sure when the hurricane formed, but speculate that it could be a permanent weather feature, said fellow Cassini imaging team scientist Andrew Ingersoll at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

 

When Cassini first arrived at the gas giant in 2004, the planet's northern hemisphere was deep in winter, with its north pole tilted away from the sun and shrouded in darkness. But the orbiter's two infrared cameras—which act like night-vision goggles—were able to pierce through the polar night and capture the first hints of the massive storm's existence.

With the eye of the storm being an actual hole in the clouds, the deeper, warmer layers of Saturn's atmosphere were exposed, showing up on the cameras as a telltale thermal emission, said Sayanagi.

 

"These cameras don't have very high resolution, but still saw a [infrared] hotspot at the pole earlier in the mission, which we found interesting," he explained.

 

Springtime for Saturn's northern hemisphere arrived in 2009, but Cassini researchers weren't able to get the spacecraft into the proper orbit to take pictures of the hurricane with optical cameras until November 2012.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
Biosciencia's insight:

A high-resolution picture of a large hurricane over Saturn's North Pole, taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

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