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Video of Pete Worden and Peter Schwartz. Audio podcast of the full 19-minute conversation also available. NASA Ames Director Simon “Pete” Worden revealed Saturday that NASA Ames has “just started a project with DARPA called the Hundred Year Starship,” with $1 million funding from DARPA and $100K from NASA. “You heard it here,” said Worden at “ Long Conversation ,” a Long Now Foundation event in San Francisco.
Black Hole M87 An artist's rendering of the black hole's event horizon. Gemini Observatory/AURA/Lynette Cook A universal heavyweight champion was crowned this morning at the 217th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle: A giant black hole weighing a staggering 6.6 billion suns accepted the title of the most massive black hole for which a precise mass has been determined. That’s not to say it’s necessarily the largest black hole in the universe by any means, but in this neck of the cosmic woods we haven’t measured a bigger one. Located at the heart of the galaxy M87 some 50 million light years away in the direction of Virgo, the black hole is so big it could swallow our solar system hole easily. Its event horizon--the boundary at which nothing, not even light, can escape the monster’s gravitational pull--is four times as large as the orbit of Neptune, our sun’s outermost planetary satellite.
A supermassive black hole discovered inside a nearby dwarf galaxy may help explain how galaxies grew in the early universe. At its center, nearly every large galaxy contains a supermassive black hole surrounded by a big bulge of stars. But whether the black hole or the bulge formed first has long been a chicken-and-egg question in astronomy. (Related: "'Hidden' Black Holes Discovered in Distant Galaxies." ) New x-ray and radio observations of the dwarf galaxy Henize 2-10 show that, while the tiny galaxy lacks a bulge, it very likely contains a supermassive black hole—one about a quarter as large as the black hole at the center of our Milky Way . Henize 2-10 is small and irregularly shaped, and it's actively forming stars, which means it's very similar to early galaxies, researchers say.
Space :: News :: November 15, 2010 :: :: Email :: Print An analysis of public data from a NASA satellite turns up massive, previously unseen galactic structures By John Matson DOUBLE BUBBLE: An artist's conception showing the approximate scale of the newfound Fermi bubbles above and below the Milky Way. Image: NASA/GSFC A group of astrophysicists has located two massive bubbles of plasma, each extending tens of thousands of light-years, emitting high-energy radiation above and below the plane of the galaxy.
Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on Twitter Richardson Crater Dunes, Partially Defrosted. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona A new batch of images has been released by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissaince Orbiter and –as usual — they are stunning. In the image above, there is a lot going on!
An Artist's Impression of the Martian Ocean 3.5 Billion Years Ago University of Colorado It took NASA a few decades, several probes, and a whole lot of money to find hard evidence for the existence of water on the surface of Mars. But timing is everything. Had the agency been looking for water on the Red Planet a few billion years earlier, all they would've needed was a telescope.
Methane disappears and regenerates every year, according to new study Martian Methane Map NASA Methane concentrations on Mars change with the seasons as well as location, and the gas disappears within a Martian year, according to a new study by Italian scientists. The finding, developed over five Earth years using NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor, adds to the ongoing debate about the nature of CH4 on Mars . Methane peaks during the fall in three regions: Tharsis, Elysium and Arabia Terrae. The biggest volcanoes on Mars are in Tharsis and Elysium, and vast amounts of water ice are buried beneath the sands of Arabia Terrae.
The first direct measurement of a super-Earth exoplanet's atmosphere finds the world is either shrouded in steam or covered in clouds. "This is the first probe of an atmosphere of a super-Earth planet," said exoplanet observer Jacob Bean of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, lead author of a paper describing the cloudy world in the Dec. 2 Nature. "It's a real big step in the direction of doing this kind of work for a planet that's potentially habitable." The planet, called GJ 1214b , is the smallest planet yet to have its atmosphere examined -- but it's just the latest in nearly a decade of probing exoplanet atmospheres. The others have all been gas giants. When the first exoplanet atmosphere was measured in 2002, many astronomers dismissed it as a one-time success.
Pools of liquid water may even now exist just a few meters below the Martian surface, according to new research. The finding hints that humans may one day be able to tap into Mars 's watery bounty. Although the surface of Mars is too frigid for liquid water to be stable, pockets of water underground could be kept warm enough by an insulating blanket of porous sediment, an international team writes in the November issue of the journal Icarus . (Related: "Liquid Water Recently Seen on Mars?"
Richard A. Lovett in San Francisco Despite its extreme cold, the dwarf planet still appears to be warm enough to "easily" have a subsurface ocean, according to a new model of the rate at which radioactive heat might still warm Pluto's core. And that ocean wouldn't be a mere puddle, noted planetary scientist Guillaume Robuchon of the University of California, Santa Cruz . Rather, the ocean could be 60 to 105 miles (100 to 170 kilometers) thick beneath a 120-mile (200-kilometer) layer of ice, Robuchon said at an annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco earlier this week. If so, Pluto would join a list of outer solar system bodies—such as Saturn's moons Titan and Enceladus—believed to possibly hold liquid water, a key ingredient for life as we know it.
<img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-40403" title="Keck Observatory.Hatch" src="http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2010/10/Keck-Observatory.Hatch.jpeg" alt="" width="660" height="538" /> Nearly one in four sun-like stars should host an Earth-mass planet, according to a new census. <img class="alignright size-full wp-image-40404" title="ExoplanetBarChart" src="http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2010/10/ExoplanetBarChart-460x356-custom.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="356" /> The finding is the first quantitative measurement of the frequency of planets of various masses in the galaxy. “It’s a landmark paper,” said exoplanet expert Josh Winn of MIT, who was not involved in the new study. “There’s been all this talk, that low-mass planets like the Earth are very common.
<img class="alignnone size-full wp-image-46881" title="Kepler10b" src="http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2011/01/Kepler10b.jpg" alt="" width="660" height="371" /> SEATTLE — The planet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope has spotted its first rocky exoplanet, astronomers announced today at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society . “This is the first unquestionably rocky planet orbiting a star outside our solar system,” said astronomer Natalie Batalha of San Jose State University, a member of the Kepler team. “It’s an important milestone for our team, and I think it’s an important milestone for humanity.” The new planet, called Kepler 10-b, orbits a sun-like star 560 light-years away.
SAN FRANCISCO — Three icy volcanoes line up on Saturn’s moon Titan, giving some of the best evidence yet that explosive eruptions are possible on worlds beyond Earth. <img class="alignleft size-full wp-image-44762" title="agu2010_bug" src="http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/wiredscience/2010/12/agu2010_bug1.jpg" alt="" width="210" height="120" /> The volcanic peaks and pits lie in a region called Sotra Facula on Titan’s southern hemisphere. The mountains rise more than 3,000 feet into the air, and the deepest hole sinks nearly 5,000 feet below the surrounding plains, geologists announced in a press conference here at the American Geophysical Union meeting Dec. 14. “It’s a combination of features that you really can’t make any way other than volcanism,” said geophysicist Randolph Kirk of the U.S. Geological Survey.
Saturn's Moon Rhea NASA NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has taken a breath of oxygen while passing over the icy surface of Saturn’s second-largest moon, marking the first time a spacecraft has directly sampled oxygen in the atmosphere of another body. Cruising just 60 miles above Rhea, one of more than 60 moons orbiting Saturn, Cassini found an extremely thin atmosphere of oxygen and carbon dioxide likely sustained by high-energy particles slamming into the moon’s frozen surface. Rhea’s isn’t the only other atmosphere in the universe, but it is so thin that Cassini had to fly through it just to confirm that it was there at all (other atmosphere’s have been detected and studied from afar by tools like the Hubble Space Telescope).
An oxygen atmosphere has been found on Saturn 's second largest moon , Rhea, astronomers announced Thursday—but don't hold your breath for colonization opportunities. For one thing, the 932-mile-wide (1,500-kilometer-wide), ice-covered moon is more than 932 million miles (1.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. For another, the average surface temperature is -292 degrees Fahrenheit (-180 degrees Celsius). And at less than 62 miles (100 kilometers) thick, the newfound oxygen layer is so thin that, at Earthlike temperatures and pressure, Rhea's entire atmosphere would fit in a single midsize building.