This new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows two contrasting galaxies: NGC 1316, and its smaller neighbor NGC 1317. These two are quite close to each other in space, but they have very different histories. The small spiral NGC 1317 has led an uneventful life, but NGC 1316 has engulfed several other galaxies in its violent history and shows the battle scars.
The solar system has a new most-distant member, bringing its outer frontier into focus.
New work from Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory reports the discovery of a distant dwarf planet, called 2012 VP113, which was found beyond the known edge of the solar system. This is likely one of thousands of distant objects that are thought to form the so-called inner Oort cloud. What’s more, their work indicates the potential presence of an enormous planet, perhaps up to 10 times the size of Earth, not yet seen, but possibly influencing the orbit of 2012 VP113, as well as other inner Oort cloud objects.
Their findings are published March 27 in Nature.
Researchers in Spain have designed a vacuum chamber capable of mimicking conditions on Mars to test gear for use in future missions.
Review of Scientific Instruments
A research team in Spain has the enviable job of testing out new electromechanical gear for potential use in future missions to the “Red Planet.” They do it within their Mars environmental simulation chamber, which is specially designed to mimic conditions on the fourth planet from the Sun — right down to its infamous Martian dust.
Mars is a key target for future space exploration, thanks to indications that the planet may have either been capable of supporting life in the past or is possibly even supporting it right now within its subsurface.
To answer the many questions about the habitability of Mars, it’s critical to first develop new sensors and instruments capable of detecting the planet’s atmospheric and surface characteristics. In the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, which is produced by AIP Publishing, researchers from Centro de Astrobiología, INTA-CSIC, and Instituto de Ciencias de Materials de Madrid describe their work mimicking conditions on Mars.
New global imaging and topographic data from MESSENGER show that the innermost planet has contracted far more than previous estimates. The results are based on a global study of more than 5,900 geological landforms, such as curving cliff-like scarps and wrinkle ridges, that have resulted from the planet’s contraction as Mercury cooled. The findings, published online March 16, 2014, in Nature Geoscience, are key to understanding the planet’s thermal, tectonic, and volcanic history, and the structure of its unusually large metallic core.
If Galileo was still alive and kicking, he might want to take a selfie with some of the thousands of citizen scientists all around the world for their surprisingly accurate work of counting craters on the pock-marked moon.
A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder showed that as a group, volunteer counters who examined a particular patch of lunar real estate using NASA images did just as well in identifying individual craters as professional crater counters with five to 50 years of experience. And Galileo, who was observing the craters some 400 years ago with a rudimentary telescope, likely would be in awe.
“The new research points out that crowdsourcing is a viable way to do planetary science,” said Research Scientist Stuart Robbins of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, who led the study. The study compared the results of eight professional planetary crater counters with several thousand amateur crater counters from every corner of the globe.