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Saturn Moon Has Oxygen Atmosphere

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. Still, the discovery implies that worlds with oxygen-filled air may not be so unusual in the cosmos. (Related: "Potentially Habitable Planets Are Common, Study Says.") At about 327,000 miles (527,000 kilometers) from Saturn, Rhea orbits inside the planet's magnetic field. Knowing where and how oxygen exists in the universe may in turn help scientists plan future robotic and manned missions.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/11/101125-saturn-moon-oxygen-atmosphere-discovered-science-space/

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Dark Jupiter May Haunt Edge of Solar System A century of comet data suggests a dark, Jupiter-sized object is lurking at the solar system’s outer edge and hurling chunks of ice and dust toward Earth. “We’ve accumulated 10 years’ more data, double the comets we viewed to test this hypothesis,” said planetary scientist John Matese of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “Only now should we be able to falsify or verify that you could have a Jupiter-mass object out there.” In 1999, Matese and colleague Daniel Whitmire suggested the sun has a hidden companion that boots icy bodies from the Oort Cloud, a spherical haze of comets at the solar system’s fringes, into the inner solar system where we can see them. In a new analysis of observations dating back to 1898, Matese and Whitmire confirm their original idea: About 20 percent of the comets visible from Earth were sent by a dark, distant planet. “But we began to ask, what kind of an object could you hope to infer from the present data that we are seeing?”

Strongest evidence yet indicates Enceladus hiding saltwater ocean This image shows icy spray spewing from Saturn's moon, Enceladus. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute The new discovery was made during the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn , a collaboration of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. Launched in 1997, the mission spacecraft arrived at the Saturn system in 2004 and has been touring the giant ringed planet and its vast moon system ever since.

Strange massive tear in the solar surface- Earth quivers So, if this mystery object which is much larger than a comet – supposedly several times the size of the earth – were to come into range of the sun to be incinerated, would it not produce pretty much the larger ‘holes’ that we see here? Could NONE of it really be left? I notice that all the talk of Planet X has ceased. NASA ‘they say’ mentioned this object, and then disavowed having mentioned it.

Twinkling Stars May Reveal Human-Size Wormholes If wormholes big enough to fit a human or a spaceship exist, telescopes should be able to detect any wavering starlight the space-time shortcuts cause while moving in front of a distant star. Star brightness would fluctuate from a wormhole because of gravitational lensing, caused when a massive object (such as a galaxy) warps the fabric of space and bends light around it. The effect, which resembles the distortion of objects behind a thick lens, exaggerates with increasingly massive objects. When it comes to wormhole hunting, said Nagoya University astrophysicist Fumio Abe, looking for the distant signatures of smaller gravitational lenses, called microlenses, is the way to go.

The Unsolved Mystery of Saturn's Hexagon -4 Times the Size of Earth "Cassini is indebted to Voyager for its many fascinating discoveries and for pavingthe way for Cassini," says Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at JPL, who started her career working on Voyager from 1977 to 1989. "On Cassini, we still compare our data to Voyager's and proudly build on Voyager's heritage." But the Voyager Mission left a few mysteries that Cassini has not yet solved. One of the most perplexing mysteries is Saturn's hexagpn.

Radiation Rings Hint Universe Was Recycled Over and Over Most cosmologists trace the birth of the universe to the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. But a new analysis of the relic radiation generated by that explosive event suggests the universe got its start eons earlier and has cycled through myriad episodes of birth and death, with the Big Bang merely the most recent in a series of starting guns. That startling notion, proposed by theoretical physicist Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford in England and Vahe Gurzadyan of the Yerevan Physics Institute and Yerevan State University in Armenia, goes against the standard theory of cosmology known as inflation. The researchers base their findings on circular patterns they discovered in the cosmic microwave background, the ubiquitous microwave glow left over from the Big Bang.

Titan’s Haze Could Hold Recipe for Life, No Water Needed When it comes to determining exactly where in the solar system life began, things have never been so up in the air. Scientists over the past decade have suggested deep-sea hydrothermal vents, underground aquifers, partially frozen lakes and even comets as locations for the origin of life. Now an experiment that simulates chemical reactions in the atmosphere of Titan, Saturn’s haze-shrouded moon, adds a new location to the list of unexpected places where life could have begun — in the sky. The study used radio waves as an energy source, simulating the action of ultraviolet radiation from the sun that strikes the top of Titan’s thick atmosphere and breaks apart molecules such as methane and molecular nitrogen. The experiment is the first to produce amino acids and the nucleotide bases that make up DNA and RNA — the basic ingredients of life — without the need for liquid water, says Sarah Hörst of the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Scientific shifts go beyond the zodiac By Alan Boyle, Science Editor, NBC News It seems that the world was shocked to learn this week that astrology no longer reflects astronomical realities. But such shifts are merely part of the routine in a changing universe. Astronomers Find First Evidence Of Other Universes Our cosmos was "bruised" in collisions with other universes. Now astronomers have found the first evidence of these impacts in the cosmic microwave background There's something exciting afoot in world of cosmology. Last month, Roger Penrose at the University of Oxford and Vahe Gurzadyan at Yerevan State University in Armenia announced that they had found patterns of concentric circles in the cosmic microwave background, the echo of the Big Bang. This, they say, is exactly what you'd expect if the universe were eternally cyclical.

Tempest-from-hell seen on Saturn (PhysOrg.com) -- Scientists analyzing data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft now have the first-ever, up-close details of a Saturn storm that is eight times the surface area of Earth. On Dec. 5, 2010, Cassini first detected the storm that has been raging ever since. It appears approximately 35 degrees north latitude of Saturn. Pictures from Cassini's imaging cameras show the storm wrapping around the entire planet covering approximately 2 billion square miles (4 billion square kilometers). The storm is about 500 times larger than the biggest storm previously seen by Cassini during several months from 2009 to 2010.

In Flyby of Saturn's Moon Rhea, Cassini Probe Gets First Whiff of Non-Earthly Oxygen 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). According to Cassini's onboard science instruments, Rhea's atmosphere contains something like 50 billion oxygen molecules per cubic meter, matched by 20 billion carbon dioxide molecules.

Related:  Space Exploration