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Mystery of Mars 'jelly doughnut' solved
(Feb 16, 2014) When a rock suddenly
appeared in front of the Opportunity rover on Mars last month, scientists
were puzzled. Now, scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab say they've
solved the mystery. The rover, it seems, rolled over a larger rock,
first breaking it, and then kicking a fragment – Pinnacle Island,
as the rock eventually became known – over with its wheel to land
right in front of the camera at just the right moment.
Experiment passes nuclear fusion 'ignition' milestone
(Feb 13, 2014) US researchers have achieved
a world first in an ambitious experiment that aims to recreate the conditions
at the heart of the sun and pave the way for nuclear fusion reactors.
The scientists generated more energy from fusion reactions than they
put into the nuclear fuel, in a small but crucial step along the road
to harnessing fusion power.
Best evidence yet for present-day water flows on Mars
(Feb 11, 2014) NASA spacecraft orbiting
Mars have provided some of the strongest clues to date that liquid water
may exist on the Red Planet today. Dark, finger-like markings have been
seen advancing down some Martian slopes when temperatures rise. The
new clues include corresponding seasonal changes in iron minerals on
the same slopes and a survey of ground temperatures and other traits
at active sites. These support a suggestion that brines with an iron-mineral
antifreeze, such as ferric sulfate, may flow seasonally, though there
are still other possible explanations.
A history of curious artifacts sent into space
(Feb 10, 2014) Since the dawn of the
Space Age in 1957, thousands of artifacts and memorabilia have been
flown into space. Some have been hoisted on brief suborbital flights,
while others have been flung out of the solar system, never to return.
Here are some of the more unusual and memorable oness.
more (Universe Today)
First weather map of a brown dwarf
(Feb 8, 2014) ESO's Very Large Telescope
has been used to create the first ever map of the weather on the surface
of the nearest brown dwarf to Earth. An international team has made
a chart of the dark and light features on WISE J104915.57-531906.1B,
which is informally known as Luhman 16B and is one of two recently discovered
brown dwarfs forming a pair only six light-years from the Sun.
Kepler finds a very wobbly planet
(Feb 6, 2014) Imagine living on a planet
with seasons so erratic you would hardly know whether to wear Bermuda
shorts or a heavy overcoat. That is the situation on a weird, wobbly
world found by NASA's planet-hunting Kepler space telescope (now defunct).
The planet, called Kepler-413b, precesses wildly on its spin axis, so
that its axis can vary by as much as 30 degrees over 11 years, leading
to rapid and erratic changes in seasons.
Curiosity Mars rover becomes a dune buggy
(Feb 4, 2014) The Curiosity Mars rover
looks set to try to drive over a 1m-high dune. The sand bank is currently
blocking the robot's path into a small valley and a route with fewer
of the sharp rocks that lately have been making big dents in the vehicle's
Nearest star system may host a 'superhabitable' world
(Jan 31, 2014) Earth may be our home,
but another planet even cosier for life could be orbiting the star next
door. A detailed analysis of what might make planets suitable for life
says that Alpha Centauri B, the star closest to our sun, would be the
perfect star to host a "superhabitable" planet – a world of islands,
shallow seas, and gentle slopes, where the conditions needed to support
a diverse array of life forms would persist for up to 10 billion years.
more (New Scientist)
To give you some idea of how far apart stars are ...
(Jan 29, 2014) The distance between
stars is hard to grasp. But perhaps this scale model will help. On the
left is a plastic ball about 6cm (2½cm) across held by me in our
apartment in Dundee, Scotland; on the left is an orange, slightly bigger,
held by me a few days later at my son's house near Valencia, Spain.
The distance between them, about 1.750km, fairly accurately represents
to scale the distance between the Sun and Alpha Centauri A (the brightest
member of the nearest star system to the Sun).
RX J1532.9+3021: Extreme power of black hole revealed
(Jan 27, 2014) Astronomers have used
NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and a suite of other telescopes to
reveal one of the most powerful black holes known. The black hole has
created enormous structures in the hot gas surrounding it and prevented
trillions of stars from forming. The black hole is in a galaxy cluster
named RX J1532.9+3021 (RX J1532 for short), located about 3.9 billion
light-years from Earth.
Date for first launch of Dream Chaser set
(Jan 24, 2014) The Sierra Nevada Corporation
has set Nov 1, 2016, for the maiden flight of its space shuttle replacement.
Known as Dream Chaser, the winged vehicle will launch atop an Atlas
V from Florida's Kennedy Space Centre. Though smaller than NASA's famous
orbiters, Dream Chaser has still been designed to carry up to seven
astronauts into low-Earth orbit.
Ceres seen venting water vapor
(Jan 23, 2014) Observations of the Solar
System's biggest asteroid suggest it is spewing plumes of water vapor
into space. Ceres has long been thought to contain substantial quantities
of ice within its body, but this is the first time such releases have
Gaia settles into orbit around the L2 point, ready to map the
(Jan 22, 2014) Gaia – ESA's billion-star
surveyor -- is now in its operational orbit around the L2 Lagrangian
point, 1.5 million km from Earth. Following closely after the awakening
of Rosetta, it's been quite a day for Europe in space.
Rare type of brown dwarf directly imaged
(Jan 21, 2014) A team of researchers
led by Justin R. Crepp, the Freimann Assistant Professor of Physics
at the University of Notre Dame, has directly imaged a very rare type
of brown dwarf that can serve as a benchmark for studying objects with
masses that lie between stars and planets. HD 19467 B, a T-dwarf, is
a very faint companion to a nearby Sun-like star, more than 100,000
times as dim as its host.
Cosmic web fo dark matter glimpsed
(Jan 20, 2014) The hidden tendrils of
dark matter that underlie the visible Universe may have been traced
out for the first time. Cosmology theory predicts that galaxies are
embedded in a cosmic web, most of which is dark matter. Astronomers
obtained the first direct images of a part of this network, by exploiting
the fact that a luminous object called a quasar can act as a natural
What's happening to the Sun?
(Jan 18, 2014) There's something strange
happening with the Sun. It should be just about at the peak of its cycle
of activity. Instead, it's a quiet as it's been for a century. The drop
off in activity is happening surprisingly quickly, and scientists are
now watching closely to see if it will continue to plummet.
Mystery rock spotted by Opportunity on Mars
(Jan 17, 2014) A mysterious rock suddenly
appeared in front of the Opportunity rover's cameras on Mars, puzzling
scientists who describe the rock as both "a total surprise" and "about
the size of a jelly donut." The news of the rock, which NASA scientists
have dubbed "Pinnacle Island", came during a talk by Mars Exploration
Rover head scientist Steve Squyres during the 10th anniversary celebration
for the Mars rovers.
Exoplanet found around solar twin in star cluster
(Jan 15, 2014) Astronomers have used
ESO's HARPS planet hunter in Chile, along with other telescopes around
the world, to discover three planets orbiting stars in the cluster Messier
67. Although more than one thousand planets outside the Solar System
are now confirmed, only a handful have been found in star clusters.
Remarkably one of these new exoplanets is orbiting a star that is a
rare solar twin.
Capturing the 'Hand of God'
(Jan 13, 2014) A new image of the pulsar
wind nebula known as the 'Hand of God' has been captured by NASA's Nuclear
Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR). The photograph captured by the
telescope shows the nebula 17,000 light-years away, which is powered
by a dead, spinning star called PSR B1509-58. The pulsar itself is just
19 km long, but spins around nearly seven times every second.
more (The Independent)
A new type of hypervelocity star
(Jan 10, 2014) An international team
of astronomers has discovered a surprising new class of "hypervelocity
stars" – solitary stars moving fast enough to escape the gravitational
grasp of the Milky Way galaxy. "These new hypervelocity stars are very
different from the ones that have been discovered previously," said
Vanderbilt University graduate student Lauren Palladino, lead author
on the study. "The original hypervelocity stars are large blue stars
and appear to have originated from the galactic center. Our new stars
are relatively small -- about the size of the sun – and the surprising
part is that none of them appear to come from the galactic core."
more (Scienee Daily)
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