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.

Satellite Could Help Predict Hantaviral Transmission Risk

Researchers report that satellite imagery could be used to determine areas at high-risk for exposure to Sin Nombre virus (SNV), a rodent-born disease that causes the often fatal hantaviral pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in humans. According to the researchers, satellite imaging detects the distinct environmental conditions that may serve as a refuge for the disease-carrying deer mice. Higher populations of infected deer mice increase the risk of HPS to humans.

Jupiter-like planets formed in hundreds, not millions of years

An accepted assumption in astrophysics holds that it takes more than 1 million years for gas giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn to form from the cosmic debris circling a young star. But new research suggests such planets form in a dramatically shorter period, as little as a few hundred years. The forming planets have to be able to survive the effects of nearby stars burning brightly, heating and dispersing the gases that accumulate around the giant planets. If the process takes too long, the gases will be dissipated by the radiation from those stars, said University of Washington astrophysicist Thomas R. Quinn.

NASA Awards Caltech Five-Year, $8 billion JPL Contract

NASA has awarded the California Institute of Technology a new five-year contract to manage the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It is estimated the contract will cover more than $8 billion worth of work. The contract extends for five years the JPL agreement between Caltech and NASA for management of JPL beyond its current expiration date of Sept. 30, 2003. The NASA contract includes a new provision that, based on performance reviews, may extend the contract period of performance for up to an additional five years.

New NASA theory may help improve weather predictions

Less precipitation and more lightning eventually may be forecast as a result of a NASA study that shows that cloud droplets freeze from the outside inward instead of the opposite. The new theory of how super-cooled water droplets in clouds freeze, which appears in this week’s on-line edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reverses a 60-year-old assumption.