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October 8, 2015

After Mars, NASA announces water on Pluto

After Mars, NASA announces water on Pluto

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

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The blue haze of Pluto.
Image: NASA.

NASA released yesterday the first coloured pictures of Pluto‘s blue atmosphere and water ice on the surface taken by the space probe New Horizons.

NASA said the haze particles may be grey or red in colour, but the scattering of light producing blue colour indicates the size of the particles. Smaller particles results in the scattering of the blue light. Scientists calls those soot like grey-red particles tholins.

The scientists suggest nitrogen and methane in the upper atmosphere, exposed to the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, break and combine to form more complex macromolecules similar to a process first observed on Titan, Saturn‘s satellite. Some of them grow to tholins. Eventually they are coated with volatile gas frost and fall to the surface, contributing to its red color.

Water ice on Pluto.
Image: NASA.

The data collected from the probe’s Ralph spectral composition mapper shows several small zones of water ice on Pluto. Alex Parker from Southwest Research institute (SwRI) tweeted, “We expected water-ice to be there, but we’ve searched for water-ice in Pluto’s spectrum for decades and not seen it before now”.

“Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt?”, New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern of SwRI remarked; “It’s gorgeous.” “This world is alive […] It has weather, it has hazes in the atmosphere, active geology.”

The space probe has traveled 100 million km further since July 14.


Related news[]

  • NASA announces water on Mars” — Wikinews, October 1, 2015
  • “NASA’s New Horizons space probe performs first close planetary flyby of Pluto” — Wikinews, July 17, 2015

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  • Wikipedia-logo-v2.svg Atmosphere of Pluto

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October 1, 2015

NASA announces water on Mars

NASA announces water on Mars – Wikinews, the free news source

NASA announces water on Mars

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

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Mars from the Viking Orbiter, 1980.
Image: NASA/USGS.

Warm season flows on slope in Newton Crater
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.

On Monday, NASA announced that signs of liquid water have been found on Mars. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft found evidence of the liquid on the Martian surface, in long dark spots on the Red Planet thought to be formed because of water flow.

In a news conference, NASA’s planetary science director, Jim Green said, “We now know Mars was once a planet very much like Earth with warm salty seas and fresh water lakes […] but something has happened to Mars, it lost its water.”

Water is thought to flow down slopes in the warm summer months and dry up as the temperature drops seasonally. Scientists have different theories about the water’s origin, as perhaps from the Martian atmosphere or from ice below the surface.

In 2011, Lujendra Ojha proposed the theory of water on the Martian surface, after studying salt samples from Martian soil. The temperature of Mars is close to the freezing point of water, but the presence of salt lowers the freezing point. Alfred McEwen, professor of planetary geology at the University of Arizona, described the water as “briny”. Moreover, the recurring slope lineae (RSL) on the surface of Mars are found to slide down the slope in the hotter season indicating the presence of water.

NASA’s associate administrator John Grunsfeld said those observations gave a better picture about the planet’s resources that could be helpful in the future. Grunsfeld tweeted Water on Mars, not just frozen. Is anything drinking it? Someday we wil find out on our #JourneyToMars.

To mark this discovery, Google created a doodle in which Mars is sipping water.



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September 22, 2015

Texas student Ahmed Mohamed inspires social movement

Texas student Ahmed Mohamed inspires social movement

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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News of police response to a boy’s digital clock in Texas last week has inspired a global social movement in support of the youth. Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old boy from Irving, Texas, was arrested at his school by police after he brought a digital clock he had made to school. After news of the police response was reported, Mohamed received support online ranging from US President Barack Obama to Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. Yesterday Mohamed received VIP attention at Google headquarters in California at the Google Science Fair — and tommorow he plans to meet international dignitaries at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

US President Barack Obama tweet to student Ahmed Mohamed
Image: Twitter/Barack Obama.

Mohamed brought the digital clock he made to school on September 14, and a teacher mistakenly thought it resembled a bomb. Police arrested and questioned the student. Images of the boy wearing a NASA T-shirt and handcuffed by the police were quickly posted and reposted online.

Cquote1.svg Hoping that the #istandwithahmed movement translates into a substantive national conversation on race, punishment, and incarceration. Cquote2.svg

Marc Lamont Hill

The Deseret News observed that the hashtag on Twitter, #IStandWithAhmed, had become an international phenomenon. The Straits Times noted what began as individual messages to Mohamed had grown into a “support movement”. American academic and professor Marc Lamont Hill commented, “Hoping that the #istandwithahmed movement translates into a substantive national conversation on race, punishment, and incarceration.”

The Twitter attention led to outreach from Google and Mohamed was invited to their Google Science Fair. Mohamed was a VIP guest at the Google Science Fair this weekend, and was able to meet finalists at the event held at Google’s headquarters located in Mountain View, California. Co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin, personally met with Mohamed during his visit to Google.

On Wednesday, Mohamed and his father are to travel to the United Nations. His father Mohamed El-Hassan Mohamed said he was taking his entire family to the U.N. headquarters in New York, because international dignitaries wanted to meet with his son and express their support.

Psychology major at University of Texas Arlington Amneh Jafari heard of the incident and wanted to issue her support to Mohamed. She chose the hastag #IStandWithAhmed and posted to Twitter. Jafari said she felt Mohamed had been subject to Islamophobia and her hashtag created greater awareness about this issue. The hashtag took on a life of its own, and was used in messages on Twitter over one million times by Thursday night.

NASA tweeted support of Ahmed Mohamed via its account International Space Station
Image: Twitter/NASA.

US President Barack Obama tweeted using his @POTUS account: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

Twitter gave Mohamed the option to come to their company for an internship. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg tweeted to Mohamed and said the boy was welcome to come and tour the company.

Executive director of the Dallas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Alia Salem said Mohamed wishes to use his newfound fame and attention to spotlight social causes including the treatment of Muslims in the United States.

University of Texas Arlington Muslim Student Association president Sehar Memon said the large amount of positive feedback for Mohamed had helped make his situation much better. Memon also said she believed the social movement in reaction to Mohamed helped improve Muslim/non-Muslim.

Both the Irving Independent School District and the Irving Police Department have asserted that the boy’s religion and name were not a factor in the manner in which they approached the situation.



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July 17, 2015

NASA\’s New Horizons space probe performs first close planetary flyby of Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons space probe performs first close planetary flyby of Pluto

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Friday, July 17, 2015

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On Tuesday, NASA’s space probe New Horizons reached near Pluto. It was launched about nine-and-a-half years ago on January 19, 2006 to collect data about the dwarf planet, amongst other targets. With its flyby on Tuesday it became the first spacecraft to explore Pluto closely.

NASA collected data regarding the geology of the planet. The space probe had seven scientific instruments and massed about 450 kilograms (about 1000 lb). The probe has Pluto and the Kuiper Belt as its highest priorities. Scientists released images from the flyby on Wednesday. Mission scientist John Spencer said, “We have not found a single impact crater on this image. This means it must be a very young surface”. He put the age of the current surface at no more than 100 million years.

The images also did not show craters on its natural satellite, Charon. NASA said mountains on the planet may be made of water-ice.

In February 2007 the space probe flew by Jupiter. The future mission is to explore the Kuiper Belt.

The Atlas V 551 rocket, used to launch New Horizons, being processed a month before launch.
Image: NASA.

View of Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41, with the Atlas V carrying New Horizons on the pad.
Image: NASA.

NASA TV footage of New Horizons launch from Cape Canaveral. (4:00)
Video: NASA.

A composite image of Jupiter and Io, taken by New Horizons on February 28 and March 1, 2007 respectively. Jupiter is shown in infrared, whereas Io is shown in near true-color.
Image: NASA.

A composite false-color image of Oval BA, otherwise known as the “Little Red Spot”, using New Horizons LORRI and the Hubble Space Telescope‘s WFPC2.
Image: NASA.

2015: Pluto image (color) by New Horizons from 18 million km away, late last month.
Image: NASA.

Pluto as viewed by New Horizons, July 13, 2015.
Image: NASA.

Icy landscape on Pluto.
Image: NASA.



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July 16, 2015

NASA\’s New Horizons space probe performs the first planetary flyby of Pluto

NASA’s New Horizons space probe performs the first planetary flyby of Pluto

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

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On Tuesday, NASA‘s space probe New Horizons reached near Pluto. It was launched about nine-and-a-half years ago on January 19, 2006 to collect data about the dwarf planet, amongst other targets. With its flyby on Tuesday it became the first spacecraft to explore Pluto closely.

NASA collected data regarding the geology of the planet. The space probe had seven scientific instruments and massed about 450 kilograms (about 1000 lb). The probe has Pluto and the Kuiper Belt as its highest priorities. Scientists released images from the flyby on Wednesday. Mission scientist John Spencer said, “We have not found a single impact crater on this image. This means it must be a very young surface”. He put the age of the current surface at no more than 100 million years.

The images also did not show craters on its natural satellite, Charon. NASA said mountains on the planet may be made of water-ice.

In February 2007 the space probe flew by Jupiter. The future mission is to explore the Kuiper Belt.

The Atlas V 551 rocket, used to launch New Horizons, being processed a month before launch.
Image: NASA.

View of Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 41, with the Atlas V carrying New Horizons on the pad.
Image: NASA.

NASA TV footage of New Horizons launch from Cape Canaveral. (4:00)
Video: NASA.

A composite image of Jupiter and Io, taken by New Horizons on February 28 and March 1, 2007 respectively. Jupiter is shown in infrared, whereas Io is shown in near true-color.
Image: NASA.

A composite false-color image of Oval BA, otherwise known as the “Little Red Spot”, using New Horizons LORRI and the Hubble Space Telescope‘s WFPC2.
Image: NASA.

2015: Pluto image (color) by New Horizons from 18 million km away, late last month.
Image: NASA.

Pluto as viewed by New Horizons, July 13, 2015.
Image: NASA.

Icy landscape on Pluto.
Image: NASA.



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January 30, 2015

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

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Friday, January 30, 2015

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Astronomers reported on Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal they have found an ancient solar system with several Earth-like planets.

Artist’s concept of a rocky exoplanet (Kepler-37b). From file.

Image: NASA

They said the system dates roughly to the formation of the Milky Way galaxy. They found the planets orbiting around Kepler-444, about 117 light years from Earth. Researchers investigated Kepler-444 with NASA’s Kepler telescope using a method called astroseismology.

Scientists explain they studied the star and noticed planets passing in front of it because it created a dimming effect in which the star seems less bright for a short period of time, when there are actually planets passing between the observer and the star.

Because these planets are older than Earth, this suggests life might have existed in the early universe, the researchers say.

According to Daniel Huber, part of the research team at the University of Sydney, it takes under ten days for these five planets to orbit the star and all of them are too close to it to sustain life. These planets are smaller than Earth, with the largest compared to Venus.

This month, the number of exoplanets found using the Kepler telescope passed 1,000.


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December 8, 2014

Orion Spacecraft accomplishes first spaceflight test

Orion Spacecraft accomplishes first spaceflight test

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Monday, December 8, 2014

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The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop.
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

NASA has finally accomplished its first spaceflight with the new Orion spacecraft, uncrewed, on Friday morning. The spacecraft has now traveled farther from the Earth than any other spacecraft designed to carry a crew has traveled in over four decades.

The Orion crew module was launched off from Space Launch Complex 37 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida mounted on top of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. Four and a half hours later, the space module landed in the Pacific Ocean.

During the mission, the spacecraft reached an altitude of 3,600 miles (5800 kilometers) and experienced periods of intense radiation when traveling twice through the Van Allen belt. Upon re-entry in the Earth’s atmosphere, Orion achieved speeds of 20,000 miles per hour (32,000 kilometers per hour) and temperatures reached 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit (2200 degrees Celsius).

NASA has reported the entire spacecraft remained in one piece, with all the onboard computers still working despite the high radiation in the Van Allen belt. All the parachutes deployed without incident.

NASA said this is the farthest spacecraft have flown since the Apollo 17 mission 42 years ago, opening up new human explorations of space and getting closer to the goal of putting people on Mars.

Had astronauts been on board Orion, they would have experienced 8.2 times the force of gravity on Earth, NASA said.

Astronaut Rex Walheim, of the last Space Shuttle mission, talked about future crewed Mars missions and becoming “a multi-planetary species”.

The Orion program manager hopes NASA will look at information from this spaceflight and apply it to the next Orion spacecraft, to be launched by the Space Launch System rocket.


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October 30, 2014

Launch failure occurs at Virginia spaceport

Launch failure occurs at Virginia spaceport

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

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Nasa Wallops Flight Facility Insignia
Image: Wallops Flight Facility.

A launch failure occurred at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday.

The failure occurred when Orbital Sciences Corporation‘s Antares rocket, which was carrying the Cygnus vehicle with cargo of 5,000 pounds (about 2,300 kg), exploded after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. local time (2222 UTC), creating a massive fireball in the sky. Nobody was reported injured during the explosion, but the rocket was destroyed. The cargo was supplies for the International Space Station (ISS). Despite the explosion, the astronauts working on the ISS will not run out of food or supplies, according to a NASA statement released on Tuesday.

Orbital’s vice president Frank Culbertson said the contractor’s spacecraft will not fly until the cause of the failure is determined. NASA plans to continue the mission of delivering supplies to astronauts once it fully understands how this happened.

The rocket was to launch on Monday night, but a boat entered the hazard area, delaying the launch until the following night.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation by NASA and Orbital Sciences. NASA said the National Transportation Safety Board is monitoring the investigation.



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August 23, 2014

SpaceX test rocket crashes in Texas

SpaceX test rocket crashes in Texas – Wikinews, the free news source

SpaceX test rocket crashes in Texas

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

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The crashed rocket is a test unit for a reusable version of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle. Pictured is the first flight of the V1.1, which launched Canada’s CASSIOPE spacecraft into a polar orbit in September 2013.
Image: U.S. Air Force/Michael Peterson.

SpaceX’s F9R test vehicle self-destructed yesterday during a test flight at their McGregor, Texas test facility. There were no injuries. According to a witness, “there is a big grass fire from falling debris.”

According to a statement issued by SpaceX, “Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times.”

John Taylor, a SpaceX spokesman, said that “[d]uring the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission.” SpaceX has said that more information will be forthcoming once they’ve analyzed the flight data.



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August 16, 2014

US researchers find a large asteroid held together by forces other than gravity

US researchers find a large asteroid held together by forces other than gravity

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

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Asteroid 1950 DA, Arecibo Observatory radar image

A team of researchers from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has confirmed that near-Earth asteroid (29075) 1950 DA is primarily held together by van der Waals forces rather than gravity. They have shown that the rotation rate of the 1.1 km asteroid is higher than could be possible if only gravity and friction were responsible for holding it together. Cohesive forces prevent large scale shedding of material and breakup of the asteroid. Their study was published Wednesday in Nature.

The researchers found that the bulk density 1.7±0.7 g/cm³ of the asteroid is approximately two times lower than the value required for self-gravity to balance out the centrifugal forces caused by rotation. As Ben Rozitis, a planetary scientist and a co-author of the study, told Space.com: “I was expecting to find a high-density metallic asteroid, as such an asteroid wouldn’t require cohesive forces to hold itself together under its fast rotation. Instead we found the opposite! […] We knew from previous work that this asteroid was rotating faster than it should be, and we wanted to know why”.

Spectral observations of 1950DA indicated that it is either an E- or M-type asteroid in the Tholen classification. However, its low optical albedo and low radar circular polarization ratio (a very smooth surface at centimetre to decimetre scales) showed that it cannot be an E-type asteroid.

Unusually for an M-type asteroid (which are mostly metallic), 1950DA has low radar albedo. It would have been puzzling, if it was not for the Rosetta observations of 21 Lutetia, which is also an M-type asteroid with very similar low radar albedo. Researchers have used for 1950DA the same meteorite analogue which was earlier found to fit best 21 Lutetia: enstatite chondrite with grain density of 3.55 g/cm³. It allowed to calculate macro-porosity of 51±19%, indicating that 1950DA is a rubble-pile asteroid.

Taking into account thermal-infrared measurements of thermal inertia, presence of a fine-grained regolith is implied, primarily around 1950DA’s equator. Negative ambient gravity near the equator of the asteroid (48±24% of its surface) requires existence of cohesive forces to prevent loss of material. This is similar to an effect noticed between the fine grains of regolith on the Moon. Lunar regolith was found to be highly cohesive because of van der Waals forces between grains by the Apollo 17 expedition in 1974.

As Ben Rozitis explained: “We found a low-density rubble pile that traditionally would be unable to hold itself together unless cohesive forces were present. It’s exciting because we’ve provided the first evidence that cohesive forces are important for small asteroids, which had only been predicted up until now.”

The balance between cohesion and negative gravity requires small grain sizes consistent with the grain size distribution on 1950DA, and similar to that of another rubble-pile asteroid, (25143) Itokawa. Unlike Itokawa, 1950DA does not have large boulders on the surface; they may have been lost as 1950DA’s rotation accelerated due to YORP effect. This effect results in a change of the rotation rate of an asteroid (either faster or slower), and is caused when the Sun heats up an object unevenly, due to asymmetric surface topography. As the heat escapes, the rotation rate is slowly changed due to an uneven rate of cooling. The researchers find that a rubble-pile asteroid may have a high rotation rate, if it is held together by cohesive forces between the grains. But as the spin rate increases due to YORP effect, the centrifugal force may cause the rubble pile to eventually separate as it happened with P/2013 R3.

The findings may have implications for asteroid impact avoidance. A very small impulse may break one potentially hazardous object into several pieces. As Ben Rozitis said: “You’d want to avoid interacting with the asteroid directly. An alternative is to use a ‘gravity tractor,’ or a heavy spacecraft placed near the asteroid, which uses the force of gravity to pull the asteroid off course”. Bong Wie, an aerospace engineer at Iowa State University in Ames, noted: “I just hope that an asteroid on a collision course with Earth will not be spinning rapidly and it will not be a rubble-pile asteroid”.

According to Daniel Scheeres, an aerospace engineer at the University of Colorado, Boulder, understanding such cohesive forces may also be important for future asteroid mining. Ben Rozitis clarified: “Mining missions intend to visit small asteroids about 10 meters (33 feet) or less in size, as it is thought that they are predominantly solid bodies. However, cohesive forces enable such small asteroids to be rubble piles instead. A small rubble-pile asteroid would be harder to interact with and collect, as it can easily deform or break up when subject to external forces.”

The study was supported by Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology and the NASA.



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