Category Astronomy/ Space

Middle-Aged Sun observed by Tracking Motion of Mercury

NASA and MIT scientists analyzed subtle changes in Mercury's motion to learn about the Sun and how its dynamics influence the planet's orbit. The position of Mercury over time was determined from radio tracking data obtained while NASA's MESSENGER mission was active. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA and MIT scientists analyzed subtle changes in Mercury’s motion to learn about the Sun and how its dynamics influence the planet’s orbit. The position of Mercury over time was determined from radio tracking data obtained while NASA’s MESSENGER mission was active. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Like the waistband of a couch potato in midlife, the orbits of planets in our solar system are expanding. It happens because the Sun’s gravitational grip gradually weakens as our star ages and loses mass. Now, a team of NASA and MIT scientists has indirectly measured this mass loss and other solar parameters by looking at changes in Mercury’s orbit.

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Meteoritic Stardust unlocks Timing of Supernova Dust Formation

An electron microscope image of a micron-sized supernova silicon carbide, SiC, stardust grain (lower right) extracted from a primitive meteorite. Such grains originated more than 4.6 billion years ago in the ashes of Type II supernovae, typified here (upper left) by a Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab Nebula, the remnant of a supernova explosion in 1054. Laboratory analysis of such tiny dust grains provides unique information on these massive stellar explosions. (1 ?m is one millionth of a meter.) Credit: NASA and Larry Nittler.

An electron microscope image of a micron-sized supernova silicon carbide, SiC, stardust grain (lower right) extracted from a primitive meteorite. Such grains originated more than 4.6 billion years ago in the ashes of Type II supernovae, typified here (upper left) by a Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab Nebula, the remnant of a supernova explosion in 1054. Laboratory analysis of such tiny dust grains provides unique information on these massive stellar explosions. (1 ?m is one millionth of a meter.) Credit: NASA and Larry Nittler.

To astronomers, dust can be a nuisance by blocking the light of distant stars, or it can be a tool to study the history of our universe, galaxy, and Solar System...

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Neutron-Star Merger yields new puzzle for Astrophysicists

This graphic shows the X-ray counterpart to the gravitational wave source GW170817, produced by the merger of two neutron stars. The left image is the sum of observations with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory taken in late August and early Sept. 2017, and the right image is the sum of Chandra observations taken in early Dec. 2017. The X-ray counterpart to GW170817 is shown to the upper left of its host galaxy, NGC 4993, located about 130 million light years from Earth. The counterpart has become about four times brighter over three months. GW170817 was first observed on Aug. 17, 2017. Credit: NASA/CXC/McGill/J.Ruan et al.

This graphic shows the X-ray counterpart to the gravitational wave source GW170817, produced by the merger of two neutron stars. The left image is the sum of observations with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory taken in late August and early Sept. 2017, and the right image is the sum of Chandra observations taken in early Dec. 2017. The X-ray counterpart to GW170817 is shown to the upper left of its host galaxy, NGC 4993, located about 130 million light years from Earth. The counterpart has become about four times brighter over three months. GW170817 was first observed on Aug. 17, 2017. Credit: NASA/CXC/McGill/J.Ruan et al.

The afterglow from the distant neutron-star merger detected last August by LIGO has continued to brighten – much to the surprise of astrophysicists studying the aftermath...

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New Technique for Finding Life on Mars

Co-author I. Altshuler sampling permafrost terrain near the McGill Arctic research station, Canadian high Arctic. Credit: Dr Jacqueline Goordial

Co-author I. Altshuler sampling permafrost terrain near the McGill Arctic research station, Canadian high Arctic. Credit: Dr Jacqueline Goordial

Miniature instruments and new techniques can detect and analyze microorganisms in extreme environments resembling those on Mars. Researchers demonstrate for the first time the potential of existing technology to directly detect and characterize life on Mars and other planets. The study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, used miniaturized scientific instruments and new microbiology techniques to identify and examine microorganisms in the Canadian high Arctic – one of the closest analogs to Mars on Earth...

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