Scientists have found a potential building block for life in a Martian meteorite recovered from Antarctica.
Parts of the rock contain rich concentrations of boron, which biochemists suspect played a key role in the development of ribonucleic acid, or RNA.
RNA is a biological molecule, which scientists believe was the stepping stone for life on Earth. It, like deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, which evolved later, can store and transmit information to cells.
What does this mean for Curiosity on the Red Planet?
The existence of our solar system’s innermost planet has been common knowledge since ancient times, but that doesn’t actually mean we’ve always know much about it. Mercury’s proximity to the Sun has allowed it to jealously guard its secrets, and so this NASA video offers an unprecedentedly detailed view of the planet’s surface.
This video is based on images taken by the MESSENGER probe, the first spacecraft to actually orbit Mercury. It has allowed astronomers to get the first up-close view at the planet’s geology; until now, the sum total of our knowledge was limited to a single Mariner flyby in 1975. Over the past year, MESSENGER has taken over 80,000 images with plans to take 80,000 more. That’s allowed us to assemble this complete visual representation of Mercury’s surface, with each pixel representing about a square kilometer; the video expands on this previously published image…
The palette of pandemonium colors an interstellar cloud red, blue, and black as stars form within.
This image, captured by a telescope at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory at the fringe of Chile’s Atacama Desert, shows a cloud of mostly hydrogen gas glowing red as electrons, freed by blasts of intense energy, recombine with the atoms. The blue area at right is reflected starlight bouncing off particles of dust. The dark splotches are regions where the dust is too thick for light to penetrate.
Astronomers have found evidence that galaxies are connected via an enormous cosmic web of intergalactic gas that helps many of them stay prolific star creators. Researchers studied the space between two nearby spiral galaxies, the Andromeda Galaxy and M33, which are 750,000 light-years apart and lie 2.5 million and 2.8 million light-years from Earth, respectively.
As the scientists report online recently in Nature, a previously known gaseous column between the two galaxies contains seven gas clouds (white blobs in the image), the largest being 21,000 light-years across. Made mostly of neutral hydrogen gas, the clouds have probably condensed from the filament of gas stretching between the two galaxies. This discovery suggests that even as galaxies turn their gas into stars, they grab more gas from their surroundings and thereby prolong their star-making careers.
Suspended in time and space, the aftermath of a massive star’s dramatic ending in a supernova explosion is captured by ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory. Nested knots of hot gas glowing green at X-ray wavelengths – equivalent to millions of degrees celsius – fill the structured central region of this expanding supernova remnant.
Supernova remnants are the glowing fireballs created after a massive star – greater than eight of our Suns – has exhausted its fuel supply and collapses in on itself, ejecting its remaining layers of gas in a blinding explosion. A neutron star or black hole may remain at the heart of the explosion, obscured by the expanding shell of ejected material that also contains material swept up from the interstellar medium – the space between stars…
On Board Mars Express, In Orbit Around the Red Planet
Grabens, dendritic valleys, lava flows and the highest known mountain in the Solar System – in the images from the German stereo camera on board the Mars Express spacecraft, the topography of the Red Planet appears so three-dimensional that you could walk through it.
“For the first time, we can see Mars spatially – in three dimensions,” says Ralf Jaumann, project manager for the mission at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).
The spacecraft with the camera on board was launched on 2 June 2003. Since its arrival at Mars six-and-a-half months later, it has orbited the planet almost 12,000 times and provided scientists with unprecedented images. It has been used to gradually create a 3D image of Mars, enabling the planetary researchers to acquire new and surprising information about the climate and development of the Red Planet…
Newly Discovered variety of Dark Matter Could From ‘Dark Atoms’
by Charles Q. Choi
The mysterious dark matter that makes up most of the matter in the universe could be composed, in part, of invisible and nearly intangible counterparts of atoms, protons and electrons, researchers say.
Dark matter is an invisible substance thought to make up five-sixths of all matter in the universe. Scientists inferred the existence of dark matter via its gravitational effects on the movements of stars and galaxies.
Most researchers think dark matter is composed of a new type of particle, one that interacts very weakly at best with all the known forces of the universe save gravity. As such, dark matter can almost never be seen or touched, and rarely even collides with itself…
Cosmic quiver: Saturn’s vibrations create spirals in rings
Astronomers know that gravity from Saturn’s various moons tug at the planet’s rings and make spirals in them. But the catalyst for certain spiral patterns has been difficult to pin down. Now, two Cornell astronomers have determined the source: Saturn itself…
An international team of researchers, including University of Hawaii at Manoa astronomer Brent Tully, has mapped the motions of structures of the nearby universe in greater detail than ever before.
The maps are presented as a video, which provides a dynamic three-dimensional representation of the universe through the use of rotation, panning, and zooming. The video was announced last week at the conference “Cosmic Flows: Observations and Simulations” in Marseille, France, that honored the career and 70th birthday of Tully…
A team of researchers has discovered evidence that an extrasolar planet may be forming quite far from its star—- about twice the distance Pluto is from our Sun. The planet lies inside a dusty, gaseous disk around a small red dwarf TW Hydrae, which is only about 55 percent of the mass of the Sun. The discovery adds to the ever-increasing variety of planetary systems in the Milky Way…
This image from the Spitzer Space Telescope reveals a giant “bubble” in space. Almost 100 light-years across and 15,000 light-years away, the expanding blob is triggering bursts of star formation.
At the bubble’s core sits a cluster of several dozen blazing young stars. These stars—each dozens of times more massive than the sun—drive fierce winds that carve out a void in the interstellar gas and dust.
As the growing bubble plows through space, it compresses gas. The compression triggers new waves of star formation. All along the bubble’s edge new stars begin to light up. The stellar infants begin blowing bubbles of their own. The smaller bubbles (circled for clarity) appear strung out along the main bubble’s edge. Images like this give astronomers a rare glimpse into how stars are born…
NASA Hubble Space Telescope observations in August 2002 show that Neptune’s brightness has increased significantly since 1996. The rise is due to an increase in the amount of clouds observed in the planet’s southern hemisphere. These increases may be due to seasonal changes caused by a variation in solar heating. Because Neptune’s rotation axis is inclined 29 degrees to its orbital plane, it is subject to seasonal solar heating during its 164.8-year orbit of the Sun.
This seasonal variation is 900 times smaller than experienced by Earth because Neptune is much farther from the Sun. The rate of seasonal change also is much slower because Neptune takes 165 years to orbit the Sun. So, springtime in the southern hemisphere will last for several decades! Remarkably, this is evidence that Neptune is responding to the weak radiation from the Sun. These images were taken in visible and near-infrared light by Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2.
Image: NASA, L. Sromovsky, and P. Fry (University of Wisconsin-Madison) [high-resolution]