Magnetic processes in space can accelerate electrons to near light speed

A chance observation of high-energy electrons emanating from a tiny region of space where the sun and Earth’s magnetic fields intertwine provides the first solid evidence that a process called magnetic reconnection accelerates electrons to near the speed of light in the Earth’s magnetosphere and perhaps throughout the universe where magnetic fields entangle.

Researchers Say Tiny Phytoplankton Plays Large Role in Earth’s Climate

The ecological importance of phytoplankton, microscopic plants that free-float through the world’s oceans, is well known. Among their key roles, the one-celled organisms are the major source of sustenance for animal life in the seas. Now, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego say that phytoplankton exert a significant and previously uncalculated influence on Earth’s climate.

Physicists to ‘boost’ satellite with microwaves

A California physicist will announce plans for the first known attempt to push a spacecraft into the Earth’s orbit with energy beamed up from the ground. The satellite will be called the Cosmos Sail, the first solar-sail craft to orbit Earth. The physics team developed the sail with researchers from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Made from lightweight layers of aluminized mylar, the sail will allow a craft to be propelled from low orbit to high orbit and ultimately into interplanetary space, driven by microwave energy, similar to the way wind pushes a sailboat across the sea.

NASA develops tool to improve accident investigations

Nasa has developed a Web-based software tool meant to help scientists and engineers investigating accidents work more effectively and efficiently. The InvestigationOrganizer, developed at NASA Ames Research Center, is a Web-based tool that provides information storage, management, and analysis capabilities to accident investigation teams. Current investigating and reporting methods used by NASA’s mishap investigation teams tend to be disparate and cumbersome. Teams have no standard methods or tools for information storage, management, dissemination or analysis ? all issues that InvestigationOrganizer is designed to address.

NASA’s Stardust Comet-Chaser Passes Asteroid Test

All systems on NASA’s Stardust spacecraft performed successfully when tested in a flyby of asteroid Annefrank on Friday, heightening anticipation for Stardust’s encounter with its primary target, comet Wild 2, 14 months from now. As a bonus, Stardust discovered that Annefrank is about twice the size anticipated, but with a dimmer surface. The dimmer surface increased the challenge of sighting the object as the spacecraft approached.

Cassini Spacecraft Camera Sights Saturn

Thar she blows.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 Get First Look into Antimatter

Finally, a little exposure.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 develop new rain prediction formula

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.