Space

The exoplanet GJ 436b has left scientists confused after defying their assumptions about the composition of its atmosphere.

Neptune-sized planets as hot as 800 Kelvin -- about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit -- should contain high levels of methane and very little carbon monoxide. Instead, the researchers found 7,000 times less methane than expected and plenty of carbon monoxide.

Using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, researchers measured the dimming of light as GJ 436b passed behind its star and re-emerged. The difference in the two light levels -- measured six times at different infrared wavelengths -- represents the light emitted by the planet itself.
The ESO's VISTA telescope has captured a stunning new image of the Cat's Paw Nebula - NGC 6334.

The view in the infrared is strikingly different from that in visible light. With dust obscuring the view far less, astronomers can learn much more about how stars in the nebula form and develop in their first few million years of life.

NGC 6334 is one of the most active nurseries of massive stars in our galaxy and lies toward the heart of the Milky Way, 5500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius (the Scorpion).
I just received edition 1.1 of the "TubeSat Personal Satellite Kit Assembly Guide".  Rather than reprinting the entire 50-page instruction set, I decided to rewrite it as "Building Tubey, the Picosatellite", in faux children book style.

Welcome, kids!  Although Tubey the Picosatellite is very complex, we're going to build him with just a few steps.  Right now, we have his clothes-- a bare metal cylinder that Tubey has to fit into.  He'll get rid of his 'clothes' after launch, though.  Yes, Tubey flies naked!


A new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research suggest that solar wind may charge polar lunar craters to hundreds of volts as it flows over natural obstructions on the moon.

The findings are important for NASA scientists who are investigating the resources, including water ice, which exist in polar lunar craters. Solar wind inflow into craters can erode the surface, which affects recently discovered water molecules. Static discharge could short out sensitive equipment, while the sticky and extremely abrasive lunar dust could wear out spacesuits and may be hazardous if tracked inside spacecraft and inhaled over long periods.
With little fanfare, NASA released on online simulation of spacewalking, the ISS, and real science in space.  Real physics, real challenges, no sissified arcade-y action or twitch gaming.  Just you, physics, and a mission.  And they call it... "Station Spacewalk Game"


I read with interest and excitement a very lightweight preprint on the Cornell preprint arxiv this afternoon. Although I usually skip reading papers on subjects I know little about (Cosmology), the title startled me enough to plunge into it:

"Solution to the Dark Energy Problem".

Single author, Paul Howard Frampton. Hmmm. A thought crossed my mind at the very start. Was this the work of a crackpot, sneaked into the arxiv while nobody was looking ?
Thank goodness Bruce Willis is around, or the Midwest would have been a smoking crater this morning!

Authorities in several Midwestern states were flooded Wednesday night with reports of a gigantic fireball lighting up the sky, the National Weather Service said. Yes, gigantic fireball - although a few did say it could possibly be a meteor - but there was really no other way to describe the astronomical event.
Through the study of a popular Martian meteorite's age, University of Houston researchers have uncovered important details about the history of volcanic activity on Mars.

ALH84001 is a thoroughly studied, well-known Martian meteorite, unique among Mars rocks available for study on Earth. Since its formation age is more than 2.5 billion years older than any other recognized Martian meteorite, it offers scientists the only view of Mars' early history. Data from this rock may also help geologists better understand, through analogy, the processes of early Earth evolution.

The new analysis of ALH84001 is published in Science
                
Could you successfully launch a high precision functioning space satellite that was made out of wood? Instead of speculating, I asked.  In my 365DOA Podcast I called up Randa Milliron, the CEO of InterOrbital.com, aka the TubeSat people.  Not only was she not scared away by the idea, but we got into a lively discussion on Steampunk in Space.
Scientists assume that all exoplanets orbit in more or less the same plane and  move along their orbits in the same direction of their host star's rotation. But now astronomers have discovered nine new exoplanets that may upset this conventional wisdom.

Researchers say that when combined with earlier observations of transiting exoplanets, the new images indicate that six out of a larger sample of 27 were found to be orbiting in the opposite direction to the rotation of their host star -- the exact reverse of what is seen in our own solar system.