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cometsDeep Impact Takes Stunning Pitures of Hartley 2

NASA's Deep Impact probe has been sending of comet called Hartley 2 Hours after the space probe flew within about 435 miles of its small and curvy body. The images show that Hartley 2 is shaped like a dumbbell with two bulbous, roughened edges and a smooth band in between. It is 2km long and 400m across at the narrow point of the neck. Five years ago, the Deep Impact spacecraft, operated by engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in southern California, shot an 820-pound copper impactor into the comet Tempel 1 to determine its composition. After that mission, NASA officials decided to send the spacecraft to another comet. Hartley 2 was chosen because of its small size -- its total volume is about 100 times smaller than that of Tempel 1.


Earth-like Planet Discovered

Researchers of the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics discovered a new exoplanet - a planet outside of our solar system - which shows signs of the presence of large amounts of water. The planet called GJ 1214b has six times the mass of Earth. The planet’s density suggests that water comprises three-fourths of the planet’s surface and that some of the water is in crystalline form. Located about 40 light-years from Earth, the exoplanet orbits a dim red star about one-fifth the size of the Sun.

Water on Moon

The NASA LCROSS ission has identified significant amounts of water on the Moon. The water was ejected together with the debris caused by the impact of a rocket booster which was slammed into the Moons surface. The sources of the water is most likely ice as the impact happened at the Cabeus crater which is permanently shadowed.

Caves on Mars

The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) of NASA's Odyssey spacecraft has found evidence of what look like caves on the slopes of a Martian volcano. The spacecraft has sent back images of very dark, nearly circular features that appear to be openings to underground spaces. The features have been dubbed the seven sisters --Dena, Chloe, Wendy, Annie, Abbey, Nikki and Jeanne--after loved ones of the researchers who found them. The potential caves were spotted near a massive Martian volcano, Arisa Mons. Their openings range from about 330 to 820 feet (100 to 250 meters) wide, and one of them, Dena, is thought to extend nearly 430 feet (130 meters) beneath the planet's surface.

"They are cooler than the surrounding surface in the day and warmer at night," said Glen Cushing of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Team and Northern Arizona University. "Their thermal behavior is not as steady as large caves on Earth that often maintain a fairly constant temperature, but it is consistent with these being deep holes in the ground."

"Whether these are just deep vertical shafts or openings into spacious caverns, they are entries to the subsurface of Mars," said USGS researcher Tim Titus. "Somewhere on Mars, caves might provide a protected niche for past or current life, or shelter for humans in the future."

More evidence for water on Mars

New images from the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show astonishing details of tectonic fractures within the Candor Chasma region of Valles Marineris. The picture on the right was taken by High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera on Dec. 2, 2006. The image is approximately 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) across. Illumination from the upper left (Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona). It shows a series of linear fractures, called joints, that are surrounded by "halos" of light-toned bedrock. In a paper entiteled "Fracture-Controlled Paleo-Fluid Flow in Candor Chasma, Mars" and published in the journal Science, Chris H. Okubo, the principal author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, and his co-worker Alfred McEwen argue that the "halos" offer clear evidence of past fluid flow through the bedrock. These new images suggest that subsurface fluids -- probably water, liquid carbon dioxide or a combination of the two - once flowed abundantly in the western Candor Chasma region of Mars.

Hirise images Pathfinder

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment "Hiise" of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has sent back very detailed images of the 1997 landing site of NASA's Mars Pathfinder. The pictures reveal details of hardware on the surface and the geology of the region. Detailed images can be found at NASA Pages and at on the website of Hirise.


Titan's Liquid Lakes
Scientists report definitive evidence of the presence of lakes filled with liquid methane on Saturn's moon Titan in this week's journal Nature cover story. Radar imaging data from a July 22, 2006, flyby provide convincing evidence for large bodies of liquid on Titan. Based on the lake characteristics, Cassini scientists think they are observing liquid-filled lakes on Titan today. Another possibility is that these depressions and channels formed in the past and have now been filled by a low-density deposit that is darker than any observed elsewhere on Titan. However, the absence of wind-blown features in this area makes the low-density hypothesis unlikely. More ...


Storm on Saturn

NASA'a Cassini spacecraft has observed what looks like a very large hurricane above the south pole of Saturn. The Storm on Saturn shows one of the characteristic features of hurricanes, a wall of tall clouds around the center. Interestingly, the mechanism which leads to the formation of these "eye wall clouds" on Eartch involves water: They form where moist air flows inward across the ocean's surface, rising vertically and releasing a heavy rain around an interior circle of descending air that is the eye of the storm itself. Since Saturn is a gas planet, a different mechanism involving strong convection must be involved in the formation of the hurricanle-like storm on Saturn. The observed system is much larger than any hurricane on Earth: It is approximately 5,000 miles across, or two thirds the diameter of Earth. The eye wall clouds tower 20 to 45 miles above those in the center of the storm and are two to five times taller than the clouds of thunderstorms and hurricanes on Earth. Wind speeds reach 350 miles/hour. The storm is locked above the South Pole (hurricanes on Eartch move). "The clear skies over the eye appear to extend down to a level about twice as deep as the usual cloud level observed on Saturn," said Kevin H. Baines, of Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "This gives us the deepest view yet into Saturn over a wide range of wavelengths, and reveals a mysterious set of dark clouds at the bottom of the eye." The measurements revealed that the center of the storm appears dark in a wavelength which is absorbed by methane. More ...

Image: A swirling hurricane-like vortex at Saturn's south pole, where the vertical structure of the clouds is highlighted by shadows. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute


Victoria's Secrets

NASA is exploring Victoria crater on Mars from land and "air". While Mars rover Opportunity is beginning to explore layered rocks in cliffs ringing the massive Victoria crater, NASA's newest eye in the Martian sky, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, photographed the rover and its surroundings from above. The level of detail in the photo from the high-resolution camera will help guide the rover's exploration of Victoria. "This is a tremendous example of how our Mars missions in orbit and on the surface are designed to reinforce each other and expand our ability to explore and discover," said Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program in Washington. "You can only achieve this compelling level of exploration capability with the sustained exploration approach we are conducting at Mars through integrated orbiters and landers."

"The combination of the ground-level and aerial view is much more powerful than either alone," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. Squyres is principal investigator for Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. "If you were a geologist driving up to the edge of a crater in your jeep, the first thing you would do would be to pick up the aerial photo you brought with you and use it to understand what you're seeing from ground level. That's exactly what we're doing here." More ...
Image Credit: NASA

Liquid Water on Enceladus

NASA's Cassini mission has revealed that Saturn's icy moon Enceladus may have subsurface reservoirs of liquid water. In vol 311, issue 5766 of the journal Science, scientists describe geysers erupting from the moon's surface. Modeling indicates that these geysers are most likely tied to liquid water below the moons surface. The heating source that supports the liquid water and powers the geysers is unclear: tidal heating, which creates the liquid water oceans thought to exist below the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa, is insufficient to work on Enceladus. More ...



"Stardust" on Final Approach for Landing

NASA's Stardust mission return capsule will land Sunday, Jan. 15, at approximately 2:12 a.m. Pacific time (3:12 a.m. Mountain time) on the Utah Test and Training Range. Stardust is completing a 2.88 billion mile round-trip odyssey to capture and return cometary and interstellar dust particles to Earth. More ...

University of California, Berkeley is inviting Internet users to help them search for a few dozen submicroscopic grains of interstellar dust captured by NASA's Stardust spacecraft:


Countdown for "New Horizons" Launch to Pluto

Five days are left before the the first mission to the last planet nad its moon will take off from Kennedy Space Center. The National Academy of Sciences has ranked the exploration of Pluto-Charon and the Kuiper Belt among the highest priorities for space exploration, citing the fundamental scienti€c importance of these bodies to advancing understanding of our solar system. Different than the inner, rocky planets (like Earth) or the outer gas giants, Pluto is a different type of planet known as an “ice dwarf,” commonly found in the Kuiper Belt region billions of miles from the sun. More ...


Opportunity Celebrates One Mars Year

A mission planned for 90 days has turned into an adventure that's lasted nearly two Earth years! With over four miles on her odometer, Opportunity has returned over 58,000 images. The ground covered and the science transported back across the void of space has helped to
see into our planetary neighbor's alluringly watery past. More ...
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

Discovery of Subsurface Ice on Mars
On 11/30/05, ESA announces that tor the first time in the history of planetary exploration, the MARSIS radar on board ESA's Mars Express has provided direct information about the deep subsurface of Mars. First data include buried impact craters, probing of layered deposits at the north pole and hints of the presence of deep underground water-ice. More ...


Spirit Starts to Climb down from Husband Hill

The first explorer ever to scale a summit on another planet, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit has begun a long trek downward from the top of "Husband Hill" to new destinations. More ...
Image Credit: NASA


Shenzhou Lands Safely

China's second manned space flight has returned to earth safely.
The Shenzhou 6 spacecraft landed in Inner Mongolia early Monday morning after orbiting the earth for five days. More ...





Expedition 12: Third Tourist in Space

A Russian Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome late Friday, boosting a fresh two-man crew - and history's third space tourist - into orbit for an Oct. 3 rendezvous and docking with the international space station. More ...



Cassini flys by Saturn moons
Cassini performed back-to-back flybys of Saturn moons Tethys and Hyperion last weekend, coming closer than ever before to each of them. Tethys has a scarred, ancient surface, while Hyperion is a strange, spongy-looking body with dark-floored craters that speckle its surface. More ...


Deep Impact Touches Comet Temple 1

After 172 days and 431 million kilometers (268 million miles) of deep space stalking, Deep Impact successfully reached out and touched comet Tempel 1. The collision between the coffee table-sized impactor and city-sized comet occurred at 1:52 a.m. EDT. More ...




SpaceShipOne Makes History with First Manned Private Spaceflight

The first non-governmental rocket ship flew to the edge of space today and was piloted to a safe landing on an airport runway in the Mojave Desert. Civilian test pilot Mike Melvill brought SpaceShipOne down to the Mojave Airport tarmac after flying to 100 kilometers (62 miles) in altitude, leaving the Earths atmosphere during his history-making sub-orbital space ride. More ...

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