S. Pole Telescope Produces Most Detailed Images of the Early Universe

Using a powerful new instrument at the South Pole, a team of cosmologists has produced the most detailed images of the early Universe ever recorded. The research team, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has made public their measurements of subtle temperature differences in the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation. The CMB is the remnant radiation that escaped from the rapidly cooling Universe about 400,000 years after the Big Bang. Images of the CMB provide researchers with a snapshot of the Universe in its infancy, and can be used to place strong constraints on its constituents and structure. The new results provide additional evidence to support the currently favored model of the Universe in which 30 percent of all energy is a strange form of dark matter that doesn’t interact with light and 65 percent is in an even stranger form of dark energy that appears to be causing the expansion of the Universe to accelerate. Only the remaining five percent of the energy in the Universe takes the form of familiar matter like that which makes up planets and stars.

NASA develops new design process for future spacecraft

Building the next Starship Enterprise may have just gotten a little simpler. NASA has announced what it says is an efficient, timely, revolutionary process that may help design the next generation of space vehicles. Engineers at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, in collaboration with astronauts from NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, are using the Virtual Flight Rapid Integration Test Environment (VF-RITE) to develop and evaluate vehicle designs that may eventually ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The new process quickly and efficiently incorporates virtual test-flight data into the design process, creating a continuous dialog between test pilots and vehicle designers.

Featherweight Jupiter Moon Is Likely a Jumble of Pieces

NASA’s Galileo spacecraft continues to deliver surprises with the discovery that Jupiter’s potato-shaped inner moon, named Amalthea, appears to have a very low density, indicating it is full of holes. “The density is unexpectedly low,” said Dr. John D. Anderson, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Amalthea is apparently a loosely packed pile of rubble.” The empty gaps between solid chunks likely take up more of the moon’s total volume than the solid pieces, and even the chunks are probably material that is not dense enough to fit some theories about the origin of Jupiter’s moons. “Amalthea now seems more likely to be mostly rock with maybe a little ice, rather than a denser mix of rock and iron,” said JPL’s Dr. Torrence Johnson, project scientist for Galileo.

French use robot arm to remotely diagnose patient at sea

French researchers say they have for the first time demonstrated the use of a teleoperated robotic arm for echographic diagnosis in a remote situation. The objective of the project was to demonstrate how teleoperated echographic diagnosis can be carried out on patients at remote locations. A radiologist at St Anne’s Hospital in Toulon used the teleoperated robotic arm to diagnose a test patient on board the ship stationed at sea. With the robotic arm, videoconferencing equipment and satellite communications, the radiologist was able to assess the severity of medical problems from the remote site. This has important implications for spaceflight and research as it means that astronauts on board the international space station can receive diagnostic attention without returning to Earth.

Dark Streaks on Martian Slopes May Signal Active Water

Salty water driven by hot magma from Mars’ deep interior may be forming some of the mysterious dark slope streaks visible near the Red Planet’s equator, according to researchers in Arizona. They have determined the dark slope streaks generally occur in areas of long-lived hydrothermal activity, magma-ground-ice interactions, and volcanic activity. Some of the dark slope streaks are brand new?they have formed after the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft began detailed mapping of the planet in April 1999. Others have been observed to fade away on decadal time scales. Their findings support the hypothesis that Mars remains hydrologically active and that water could be shaping the planet’s landscape today.

NASA Research Offers Explanation for Earth’s Bulging Waistline

A team of researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the Royal Observatory of Belgium has apparently solved a recently observed mystery regarding changes to the physical shape of Earth and its gravity field. The answer, they found, appears to lie in the melting of sub-polar glaciers and mass shifts in the Southern, Pacific and Indian Oceans associated with global-scale climate changes.

Coral Layers Good Proxy for Atlantic Climate Cycles

Tree rings may tell how old a tree is, but the rings or annual bands in some skeletal coral may tell not only the age of the animal, but also something of the dynamics of the ocean in which it grew, according to Penn State and University of Miami researchers. “Some coral grows like a tree; each year a complete layer with both a high and low-density skeletal calcium carbonate band is formed by the coral animal,” says Dr. Lisa Greer, assistant professor of geosciences. “Not all corals create rings, but the massive corals like boulder star coral or pin cushion coral do.”

NASA to showcase innovative research for treating blindness

A technology designed to restore vision in patients suffering from age-related blindness will be demonstrated by a scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley today. Developed by NASA Ames in conjunction with the Stanford University School of Medicine, the “Vision Chip” may help improve age-related macular degeneration, the number one cause of blindness in the elderly. “Nanotechnology that could restore vision is an exciting example of how NASA science and engineering, origially intended for outer space, can return enormous dividends for everyday life here on Earth,” said Dr. David J. Loftus, a member of both the Life Sciences Division and the Integrated Product Team on Devices and Nanotechnology at NASA Ames.

‘Hormonal’ software could help satellite self-assemble in space

A unique design for self-organizing robots controlled by “hormonal” software is moving toward space. At the Robosphere 2002 conference held at the NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley November 14-15, Wei-Min Shen of the USC School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute (ISI) presented an overview of an audacious project to have pieces of the proposed half-mile-long Space Solar Power System satellite put themselves together–self-assemble–without the help of astronauts.

Hubble helps measure massive extrasolar planet

NASA Hubble Space Telescope’s crisp view has allowed an international team of astronomers to apply a previously unproven technique (astrometry) for making a precise measurement of the mass of a planet outside our solar system. The Hubble results place the planet at 1.89 to 2.4 times the mass of Jupiter, our solar system’s largest world. Previous estimates, about which there are some uncertainties, place the planet’s mass between 1.9 and 100 times that of Jupiter.

Space Station glovebox parts returned to Earth for repair

After extensive troubleshooting efforts by the crew of the International Space Station, elements of the Microgravity Science Glovebox are being returned to Earth for repairs this week by Space Shuttle Endeavour. Space Station science experiments and payload operations are managed by the Payload Operations Center at Marshall Center. Elements of the Microgravity Science Glovebox were packed aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour for return to Earth for repairs this week after extensive troubleshooting efforts by the crew of the International Space Station.

Revolutionary new theory for origins of life on Earth

A totally new and highly controversial theory on the origin of life on earth, is set to cause a storm in the science world and has implications for the existence of life on other planets. Researchers in the United Kingdom claim that living systems originated from inorganic incubators – small compartments in iron sulphide rocks. The first cells were not living cells, they say, but inorganic ones made of iron sulphide and were formed not at the earth’s surface but in total darkness at the bottom of the oceans. Life, they say, is a chemical consequence of convection currents through the earth’s crust and in principle, this could happen on any wet, rocky planet.