NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane on Mars

Original story courtesy of NASA

NASA’s Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. While not necessarily evidence of life itself, these findings are a good sign for future missions exploring the planet’s surface and subsurface.

The new findings – “tough” organic molecules in three-billion-year-old sedimentary rocks near the surface, as well as seasonal variations in the levels of methane in the atmosphere – appear in the June 8 edition of the journal Science.

Organic molecules contain carbon and hydrogen, and also may include oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. While commonly associated with life, organic molecules also can be created by non-biological processes and are not necessarily indicators of life.

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NASA’s Insight Takes Off For Mars

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE: NASA on Saturday blasted off its latest Mars lander, InSight, designed to perch on the surface and listen for “Marsquakes” ahead of eventual human missions to explore the Red Planet. “Three, two, one, liftoff!” said a NASA commentator as the spacecraft launched on a dark, foggy morning atop an Atlas V […]

via NASA’s InSight, made to detect ‘marsquakes’, blasts off from California air force base — The Siasat Daily

At Nine Billion Light Years, ‘Icarus’ Is the Most Distant Star Ever Observed

Original story via MOTHERBOARD

Thanks to gravitational lensing, astronomers can observe normal stars across colossal stretches of space and time.

Nine billion light years is a practically unfathomable distance, but astronomers have managed to peer across this vast expanse of spacetime to capture images of a single “normal” star (meaning that it is not currently going through a supernova).

This far-flung star, nicknamed “Icarus” though it is officially called MACS J1149 Lensed Star 1, is the most distant non-exploding star ever observed by humans, according to new research published Monday in Nature Astronomy. The paper’s first author, University of Minnesota astronomer Patrick Kelly, said in a statement the star is “at least 100 times farther away than the next individual star we can study, except for supernova explosions.”

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Stephen Hawking, One of the World’s Brilliant Minds, has died.

ARTICLE VIA BBC NEWS 

World renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has died at the age of 76.

He died peacefully at his home in Cambridge in the early hours of Wednesday, his family said.

The British scientist was famed for his work with black holes and relativity, and wrote several popular science books including A Brief History of Time.

At the age of 22 Prof Hawking was given only a few years to live after being diagnosed with a rare form of motor neurone disease.

The illness left him in a wheelchair and largely unable to speak except through a voice synthesiser.

In a statement his children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said: “We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today.

“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years.”

They praised his “courage and persistence” and said his “brilliance and humour” inspired people across the world.

“He once said, ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love.’ We will miss him forever.”

A book of condolence has been opened at Gonville and Caius College in Cambridge, where Prof Hawking was a fellow.

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Could the Stability of Gravitational Waves Rule Out Hidden Dimensions?

From Science News

When it comes to the dimensions of spacetime, what you see may be what you get.

Using observations from the collision of two neutron stars that made headlines in 2017 (SN: 11/11/17, p. 6), scientists found no evidence of gravity leaking into hidden dimensions. The number of observed large spatial dimensions — kilometer-scale or bigger — is still limited to the three we know and love, the researchers report January 24 at arXiv.org.

Just as insects floating on a pond may be unaware of what’s above or below the water’s surface, our 3-D world might be part of a higher-dimensional universe that we can’t directly observe. However, says astrophysicist David Spergel of Princeton University, a coauthor of the new study, “gravity might be able to explore those other dimensions.”

Such extra dimensions might explain some conundrums in physics, such as the existence of dark matter (an as-yet-unidentified source of mass in the universe) and dark energy (which causes the universe’s expansion rate to accelerate), says coauthor Daniel Holz, an astrophysicist at the University of Chicago. “That’s why people get excited about these modifications.”

To look for any hint of leaking gravity, scientists turned to the light and gravitational waves emitted in the neutron star smashup detected on August 17, 2017

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Could We Be Wrong About Gravitational Waves?

“In 2010, Erik Verlinde surprised the world with a completely new theory of gravity. According to Verlinde, gravity is not a fundamental force of nature, but an emergent phenomenon. In the same way that temperature arises from the movement of microscopic particles, gravity emerges from the changes of fundamental bits of information, stored in the very structure of spacetime.”

Read More (on The Space Academy)

RIP Cassini

Cassini’s Saturn Mission Goes Out In A Blaze Of Glory NPR RIP, Cassini: Historic Mission Ends with Fiery Plunge into Saturn Space.com NASA’s groundbreaking Cassini probe is dead after 20 years of exploring Saturn on nuclear power Business Insider The Cassini Spacecraft Burns Up In Saturn’s Atmosphere Popular Mechanics Full coverage from Top Stories – Google News http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/15/550709214/cassinis-saturn-mission-goes-out-in-a-blaze-of-glory

via Cassini’s Saturn Mission Goes Out In A Blaze Of Glory — Wanda Posner

Fascinating look inside Saturn’s Rings

Full Article courtesy of NASA here

September 7, 2017

These are the highest-resolution color images of any part of Saturn’s rings, to date, showing a portion of the inner-central part of the planet’s B Ring. The view is a mosaic of two images that show a region that lies between 61,300 and 65,600 miles (98,600 and 105,500 kilometers) from Saturn’s center.

The first image (Figure A, above) is a natural color composite, created using images taken with red, green and blue spectral filters. The pale tan color is generally not perceptible with the naked eye in telescope views, especially given that Saturn has a similar hue.

The material responsible for bestowing this color on the rings—which are mostly water ice and would otherwise appear white—is a matter of intense debate among ring scientists that will hopefully be settled by new in-situ observations before the end of Cassini’s mission.

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Two Galaxies, One Photo

Since it left Earth on April 24, 1990, the Hubble telescope has delivered again and again stunning snapshots of the vast universe around us, and kept us in awe of the marvels of space. To mark the 27th anniversary of the telescope’s launch, NASA has released this epic image of two galaxies captured in one…

via NASA’s Hubble telescope captured two galaxies in one epic photo — Quartz