Like farmers across the nation bringing in their crops this season, researchers in Wisconsin are carefully taking stock of a very special harvest ? one grown aboard the International Space Station.
The Cassini Imaging Team today is releasing a color composite image of Saturn and its moon, Titan, 20 months before the Cassini spacecraft arrives at the planet. The image is available online from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at and from the Cassini Imaging Team’s University of Arizona site. The image shows the shadow of the planet falling across its famous rings and includes Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
Researchers have found that a portion of anomalous cosmic rays — charged particles accelerated to enormous energies by the solar wind — results from interactions with dust grains from a belt of comet-sized objects near Pluto’s orbit. These objects make up what is known as the Kuiper Belt, a remnant of the formation of the solar system.
Reddish spots on the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa may indicate pockets of warmer ice rising from below. This upwelling could provide an elevator ride to the surface for material in an ocean beneath the ice, say scientists studying data from NASA’s Galileo spacecraft.
Researchers working at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, say they have for the first time probed the properties of whole atoms of antimatter, the “mirror image” of matter. Their results provide the first look into the inside of an antimatter atom and are a big step on the way to testing standard theories of how the universe operates.
Physicists in Israel have developed a new formula for predicting when clouds will spew forth rain. The trick, it seems, is all in the cloud turbulence. The more turbulence, the greater likelihood small droplets will smack into each other and form larger, heavier drops that fall to earth. Clouds are formed by warm water vapors rising to the sky. When a cloud cools, the vapors condense into droplets that increase in size and are eventually pulled back to earth by gravity, causing rain. Simple as this cycle may sound, when and where exactly the rain will fall is extremely difficult to predict.
Before starting its 35th and final orbit around Jupiter next week, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft will visit three intriguing features of the giant planet’s neighborhood for the first time: a small moon named Amalthea, a dusty ring and the inner region of Jupiter’s high-energy magnetic environment.
A new moon of the planet Uranus has been discovered and confirmed by a team of astronomers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This most-recently discovered natural satellite, named S/2001 U 1, brings the total number of confirmed uranian moons to 21. The new kid on the block — and five others like it — have very irregular, eccentric orbits that don’t share the same orbital plane as the larger moons of Uranus. Ranging in size from 10 to 20 kilometers, these moons are thought to be remnants of ancient collisions that occurred at the early stage of planetary formation.
Two of the three largest impact craters on Earth have nearly the same size and structure, researchers say, but one was caused by a comet while the other was caused by an asteroid. These results could have implications for where scientists might look for evidence of primitive life on Mars.
New evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory challenges an alternative theory of gravity that eliminates the need for dark matter. The observation also narrows the field for competing forms of dark matter, the elusive material thought to be the dominant form of matter in the universe. An observation of the galaxy NGC 720 shows it is enveloped in a slightly flattened, or ellipsoidal cloud of hot gas that has an orientation different from that of the optical image of the galaxy. The flattening is too large to be explained by theories in which stars and gas are assumed to contain most of the mass in the galaxy. “The shape and orientation of the hot gas cloud require it to be confined by an egg-shaped dark matter halo,” said a researcher involved in the stoudy. “This means that dark matter is not just an illusion due to a shortcoming of the standard theory of gravity ? it is real.”
With scientific instruments on NASA’s Voyagers, Galileo, Cassini and more than two dozen other spacecraft, University of Iowa physicist Dr. Don Gurnett has been recording waves that course through the thin, electrically charged gas pervading the near-vacuum of outer space. Gurnett converted the recorded plasma waves into sounds, much as a receiver turns radio waves into sound waves. “I’ve got a cardboard box full of cassette tapes of sounds that I’ve collected over nearly 40 years,” he said. Gurnett’s tapes have inspired a 10-movement musical composition called “Sun Rings.” The Grammy-nominated Kronos Quartet will premiere “Rings” this month.
Contrary to an opinion held by some researchers, a new analysis of more than 20 years of historical data has found no evidence that the increasing number of large icebergs off Antarctica’s coasts is a result of global warming trends. “The dramatic increase in the number of large icebergs as recorded by the National Ice Center database does not represent a climatic change,” said Brigham Young University’s David Long. “Our reanalysis suggests that the number of icebergs remained roughly constant from 1978 to the late 1990s.” Using BYU’s supercomputers, Long enhanced images of the waters around Antarctica transmitted by satellite. Comparing this data to records from the federal government’s National Ice Center, which tracks icebergs larger than ten miles on one side, he determined that previous tracking measures were inadequate, resulting in a gross undercounting.