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Author Topic: Science Photo of the Week  (Read 468326 times)

Offline NakedScientist

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Science Photo of the Week
« on: 16/05/2004 07:03:10 »
In view of the success of Question of The Week (QOTW), I thought we should have a scientific image of the week.

Please keep these scientifically relevant. Each image should be accompanied by a few lines of description, and a reference / acknowledgement of the source if it is not yourself.

Please do not converse about the photos in this forum, it's intended as an image library. Instead start a separate thread to discuss them.

I reserve the right to remove inappropriate images or comments.

TNS
« Last Edit: 18/01/2012 15:23:44 by BenV »


 

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"Residents of Tainan learned a lesson in whale biology after the decomposing remains of a 60-ton sperm whale exploded on a busy street, showering nearby cars and shops with blood and organs and stopping traffic for hours."

Source : MSNBC



Links : Naked Scientists Radio Show coverage of this story 1st February 2004 http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/news/news/523/
« Last Edit: 30/11/2013 20:17:09 by CliffordK »
 

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  Dying Star Sculpts Rungs of Gas and Dust

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Astronomers may not have observed the fabled "Stairway to Heaven," but
 they have photographed something almost as intriguing: ladder-like
structures surrounding a dying star. A new image, taken with NASA's
Hubble Space Telescope, reveals startling new details of one of the
most unusual nebulae known in our Milky Way. Cataloged as HD 44179,
this nebula is more commonly called the "Red Rectangle" because of its
 unique shape and color as seen with ground-based telescopes.

I acknowldege that I 'borrowed' this info from the hubble website and
that I did not take this picture myself....my ladder is just not tall
enough !!


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« Last Edit: 01/01/2006 04:11:14 by neilep »
 
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The particles were seen in arteries with calcified aneurysms
(Image: American Physiological Society)


Doctors claim to have uncovered new evidence that the tiny particles
known as "nannobacteria" are indeed alive and may cause a range of
human illnesses.

The existence of nannobacteria is one of the most controversial of
scientific questions - some experts claim they are simply too small to
 be life forms.

But US scientists report they have now isolated these cell-like
structures in tissue from diseased human arteries.

Source: BBCi News

Link for more info:

http://www.msstate.edu/dept/geosciences/4site/nannobacteria.htm

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« Last Edit: 01/01/2006 04:13:02 by neilep »
 

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Imaging Study Shows Brain Maturing

The brain's center of reasoning and problem solving is among the last
to mature, a new study graphically reveals. The decade-long magnetic
resonance imaging (MRI) study of normal brain development, from ages 4
 to 21, by researchers at NIH's National Institute of Mental Health
 (NIMH) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) shows that
such "higher-order" brain centers, such as the prefrontal cortex,
don't fully develop until young adulthood.



Time-Lapse Imaging Tracks Brain Maturation from ages 5 to 20

-- Constructed from MRI scans of healthy children and teens, the
time-lapse "movie", from which the above images were extracted,
compresses 15 years of brain development (ages 5 - 20) into just a few
 seconds. Red indicates more gray matter, blue less gray matter. Gray
 matter wanes in a back-to-front wave as the brain matures and neural
 connections are pruned. Areas performing more basic functions mature
 earlier; areas for higher order functions mature later. The
prefrontal cortex, which handles reasoning and other "executive"
functions, emerged late in evolution and is among the last to mature.
 Studies in twins are showing that development of such late-maturing
areas is less influenced by heredity than areas that mature earlier.
(Source: Paul Thompson, Ph.D., UCLA Laboratory of Neuroimaging


Source:   NIH/National Institute Of Mental Health
 


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NASA has announced new findings from the Spitzer Space Telescope, including the discovery of significant amounts of icy organic materials sprinkled throughout several "planetary construction zones," or dusty planet-forming discs, which circle infant stars.
These materials, icy dust particles coated with water, methanol and carbon dioxide, may help explain the origin of icy planetoids like comets. Scientists believe these comets may have endowed Earth with some of its water and many of its biogenic, life-enabling materials.

Out of the dust, a planet is born as depicted in this artist's illustration. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)


SOURCE NASA

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Sources : Genome News Network (top), CDC (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention) (below).

Electron micrographs showing particles of the 100 nm diameter SARS coronavirus, so named because the particles carry a corona (crown) of glycoproteins around their envelope

The virus is a relative of the common cold and first appeared in China in late 2002.
« Last Edit: 30/06/2008 08:26:36 by Karen W. »
 

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SATURN'S STORM ALLEY


Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

This image shows several dark storms confined to a region below 30
degrees south latitude in Saturn's atmosphere. This turbulent region
has produced quite a few storms during Cassini's approach to Saturn,
 including some that have merged. A number of other interesting
smaller-scale atmospheric features are also becoming visible.


The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on
 May 11, 2004, from a distance of 26.4 million kilometers (16.4
million miles) from Saturn through a filter centered at 750
nanometers. The image scale is 157 kilometers (98 miles) per pixel.
Contrast in the image was enhanced to aid visibility.


SOURCE  SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM



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Record-Breaking Ice Core May Hold Key to Climate Variation


Image: BAS

Scientists have successfully drilled through an Antarctic ice sheet to extract the longest ice core ever recovered, according to a report published today in the journal Nature. The cylinder of ice dates back nearly three quarters of a million years and will help researchers better understand our planet’s history of cyclical climate variation. "This has the potential to separate the human-caused impacts from the natural and place it in a much clearer context," explains James White of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who was not involved in the research but penned a commentary on the find for this week’s issue of the journal Science.

Source: Scientific American

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Saturn's moon reveals violent past

Phoebe may be a captured comet CLICK (Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Images of Saturn's battered, icy moon Phoebe have been captured by the Cassini spacecraft

The mysterious moon is an outsider, lying further out than any of Saturn's other major moons, and being the only major moon to orbit backwards. Because of these quirks it has been suggested that Phoebe was either an asteroid or comet captured by the giant planet's gravitational field.

The new pictures show that most of the moon is dark, but impacts have blasted holes in the surface to reveal much brighter material underneath, which is probably a mixture of ices. So Phoebe looks like a dirty snowball - the term coined to describe comets.

SOURCE:NewScientist.com news service



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Insect enjoys warmer UK climate

Experts say its arrival in the UK is a clear sign of climate change




An insect that normally inhabits warm countries has been found living and breeding in the UK, entomologists say.
The green "shield" bug, which attacks a broad range of crops, is usually seen in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Australia, North America and Africa.

Its arrival in Britain is a clear sign of climate change, claim experts from the Natural History Museum, London.

"I'm always reluctant to invoke global warming but it's the only explanation," said curator of beetles, Max Barclay.

Stink bugs

The green vegetable bug (Nezara viridula) is similar to the UK's native green shield bug (Palomena prasina), but is paler in colour and has a longer, narrower shape. Also, unlike its British cousin, the green vegetable bug has no brown markings.

The insects - sometimes known as "stink" bugs, because of the foul odour they emit when threatened - are regular stowaways to the UK.

They often get shipped in with imported vegetables but, until recently, they have not been able to stand Britain's cold climate.

Now three healthy colonies have been found in London - two in the Queen's Park area and one in Kings Cross.


SOURCE BBC NEWS

I've seen these little critters the last couple of years...I just figured they were an insect I hadn't seen before......well...in a way I was right. I've never smelt the pong but that's probably because I'm an angel, and I've never threatened one !![}:)]

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Countdown to private space trip

SpaceShipOne, the first private manned spacecraft, is undergoing final preparations before its historic flight to the edge of space on Monday.
The craft, built by aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, will be launched into the sky by its carrier, White Knight, then rocket upwards to 100km (62 miles).

No private craft has ever been so high. In May, it reached 64km (40 miles) in a test flight, doubling its last best.

"It's all been done privately on essentially a shoestring budget compared to what the governments spend," former Nasa astronaut Rick Searfoss told the BBC. "It's a whole different model and we should all be excited about the prospects it can lead to."

The attempt over California's Mojave Desert is due to launch at 1330 GMT.



Leading the way
On Monday, SpaceShipOne will attempt to become the first private vehicle to take an individual above the Earth’s atmosphere.

The rocket plane, developed in just a few years by the Californian company Scaled Composites, has room for a pilot and two passengers.

The passenger seats will be empty for the first space flight.



Two steps up
SpaceShipOne is carried to more than 14km (47,000ft), slung beneath the White Knight craft.

SpaceShipOne is then released and glides for a few seconds before the pilot lights the rocket and points the vehicle straight up.

Its speed will exceed Mach 3 (three times the speed of sound).



Out of this world
SpaceShipOne will just break the Earth’s atmosphere.

The pilot will experience three minutes in a near-weightless environment.

At the top of its flight, the vehicle must adjust its wings into a high-drag configuration so that when it falls back to Earth its speed is controlled and heating of the airframe is minimised.


SOURCE BBC NEWS

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SpaceShipOne rockets into history

Melvill climbs from SpaceShipOne after landing as Allen approaches. Credit: William Harwood

MOJAVE, Calif. - A privately-built rocket plane soared into space today, boosting a 63-year-old test pilot on a thrilling, at times scary ride out of Earth's discernible atmosphere and into history as the first non government-sponsored astronaut.
The successful voyage sets the stage for a possible attempt later this summer to win the coveted Ansari X-Prize, a $10 million award that will go to the first team that can launch a privately developed, manned craft on sub-orbital flights to space twice in two weeks.
But SpaceShipOne, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and built by legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan, will not fly again until Rutan's team of pilots and engineers figures out what triggered the failure of a critical flight control system during the climb to space.
"There is no way we would fly again without knowing the cause and without assuring we have totally fixed it because it's a very critical system," Rutan told reporters later. He called it "the most serious flight safety systems problem that we have had in entire program."
Based on a preliminary analysis of flight data, engineers believe a component called a trim actuator failed, causing the sleek rocket plane to suddenly roll as it streaked through the extreme upper atmosphere.
Pilot Mike Melvill quickly activated a backup system that "saved the day," but by the time the roll problem was corrected, SpaceShipOne was off course. It re-entered the atmosphere 22 miles from its planned 5-by-5 mile re-entry zone.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM
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<font size="5">INCREDIBLE DISCOVERY OF NEW SEA HORSE FOUND</font id="size5">



Sorry...but seeing as I'm clearly the only contributor to this thread, I think I'm entitled to bring a little laughter here too......besides...you got to admit...that's a great piccy eh ?]

<font color="blue">'Men are the same as women...just inside out !'</font id="blue">
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Hubble IMAX film gives ride through space and time

Credit: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon (STScI)

This unforgettable cosmic journey is presented in the award-winning IMAX short film, "Hubble: Galaxies Across Space and Time," which transforms images and data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope into a voyage that sweeps viewers across the cosmos. Using the 650-megapixel-mosaic image created by the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), more than 11,000 galaxy images were extracted and assembled into an accurate 3-D model for the three-minute movie. The large-format film was created by a team of Hubble image and visualization experts in the Office of Public Outreach at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md. The film was directed by Frank Summers, an astrophysicist and science visualization specialist.

Galaxies are vast assemblages of stars, gas, and dust. And viewers experience these majestic cities of stars on a movie screen as tall as a five-story building. The film opens with looming images of two mature galaxies that are relatively nearby Earth, and then pans through the vibrant and diverse panorama of thousands of galaxies in the GOODS mosaic.

The ensuing 3-D journey through these galaxies provides more than just a new perspective in space, it also takes the audience back in time. Because light takes time to cross space, the galaxies farther away from Earth are seen further back in cosmic history. The virtual voyage reveals galaxies as they appeared billions of years ago, when they were still in the process of forming.

SOURCE...SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Rings of success

Close encounter: The Cassini spacecraft has captured this image of Saturn.

AUSTRALIA will be the ears of the world when a tiny spacecraft named Cassini completes a seven-year journey to Saturn on Thursday.
Cassini will fly through Saturn's outer rings to establish itself in the planet's orbit early on Thursday afternoon.
The Canberra deep space communication complex at Tidbinbilla will tune its three main antennas to pick up the faint success signal.
Cassini will spend four years orbiting the planet taking pictures and analysing the composition of its rings, moons, how the planet was formed and why it has rings.


SOURCE: HERALDSUN.NEWS.COM
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Many questions remain about cloning

Cloning creates potentially dangerous abnormalities in embryos, researchers have warned at a German conference.
Scientists from Cornell University in New York, US, found cloned mice embryos had significant development problems.

Far fewer problems were seen in embryos fertilised using conventional methods of assisted reproduction, such as IVF.

The team told the European Fertility Conference in Berlin its study on rodents offered further proof that reproductive cloning was unsafe.

Sixty-eight mouse eggs were fertilised using conventional assisted reproduction techniques (ART) and cloning.

It was found far fewer of the cloned embryos reached the blastocyst stage at which embryos are three to five days old.

The researchers also observed unusual patterns of genetic development in the clones.

Call for a ban

Dr Takumi Takeuchi, who led the research, said: "We found significantly impaired development in the cloned embryos compared with those derived from more conventional ART techniques and this has made us more convinced that reproductive cloning is unsafe and should not be applied to humans."


SOURCE..BBC NEWS

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Cassini mission hinges on Wednesday's engine firing
 

Cassini fires its engine to enter orbit around Saturn as illustrated in this artist's concept. Credit: NASA/JPL

After a seven-year voyage from Earth, NASA's $3.3 billion Cassini probe is racing toward a make-or-break rocket firing Wednesday, a 96-minute maneuver designed to put the craft in orbit around the ringed planet Saturn for a four-year scientific odyssey.

Flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., sent final commands to Cassini over the weekend, setting the stage for main engine ignition at 10:35:42 p.m. Wednesday.

Operating more than 930 million miles from Earth - so far it takes radio signals an hour and 23 minutes to make a one-way trip - Cassini's on-board computer system must carry out the all-important rocket firing on its own.
To achieve orbit around Saturn, the 12,600-pound Cassini must reduce its velocity by about 1,400 mph using a rocket engine that only produces 100 pounds of push. As a result, the engine must fire for 96.4 minutes to put Cassini into the desired orbit.

If the engine shuts down early, the computer will switch to a spare. But the end result must be roughly the same - 96 minutes of braking - or Cassini might not be able to achieve its long-awaited mission.


SOURCE...SPACEFILGHTNOW.COM

UPDATE 1st July 2004
Cassini successfully arrives at Saturn
NASA's $3.3 billion Cassini probe completed a seven-year, 2.2-billion mile voyage tonight, firing its main engine for a nerve-wracking 96 minutes to successfully brake into orbit around the ringed planet Saturn.
Throughout the all-or-nothing rocket firing, flight controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., could only sit and wait, monitoring events that had already taken place 934 million miles away.

At that distance, radio signals, moving at 186,000 miles per second, needed an hour and 24 minutes to complete a one-way trip between Saturn and Earth. As a result, Cassini's on-board computer was responsible for carrying out the most critical maneuver since launch Oct. 15, 1997, a maneuver that simply had to work or the mission would end in failure.

To everyone's relief, Cassini's main engine fired up on time at 10:36 p.m. EDT and shut down at 12:12 a.m., putting the craft in its planned initial orbit around Saturn.



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First pictures from Saturn orbit show rich ring detail

The first batch of photographs snapped by the Cassini Saturn orbiter earlier today reached the Jet Propulsion Laboratory around 8:30 a.m., zoomed-in shots of the planet's myriad rings showing a ghostly tapestry of icy, back-lit particles arrayed in sharply defined bands.

One of the images taken by Cassini from orbit of Saturn shows a close-up view of the planet's rings. Credit: NASA/JPL

Much brighter shots showing the rings from the sunlit side were expected to reach Earth later this morning, but scientists were elated at the initial results.

"Look at that structure, it's so regular!" marveled imaging team leader Carolyn Porco as a picture came in showing well-defined bands of brightness and darkness. "I'm wondering if we're looking at a density wave. This looks like it might be a density wave, but I'm not quite sure."

Density waves, caused by gravitational interactions with nearby moons, are thought to be "kissing cousins" of the waves that produce the spiral structure seen in galaxies like Earth's Milky Way.

SOURCE SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Ancient African Skull Fills Gap, Fuels Debate


Remains of the hominids that lived in Africa between a million and half a million years ago are frustratingly rare in the fossil record. Bones from this time period have been recovered in Europe and Asia, but the paucity of finds from Africa has prevented a full understanding of just what members of the species Homo erectus looked like. Indeed, some paleontologists posit that hominids from this time period should be divided into multiple lineages, whereas others suggest that there was simply wide variation within H. erectus. A discovery described today in the journal Science is helping to fill the fossil gap.
Richard Potts of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and his colleagues found 11 fragments of a single hominid skull during excavations at an archaeological site in Olorgesailie, Kenya. Together these finds mark the first discovery of ancient human bone at the site since exploration began in 1942. Based on radiometric dating and sedimentary evidence, the team estimates that the fossil is between 900,000 and 970,000 years old. The skull is from an adult or near-adult and shares some features with H. erectus. If it is a member of this species, it is a very petite representative. The researchers note that it is the smallest individual yet known from the time interval spanning 1.7 million and half a million years ago. Because many of the tools recovered from the same site are large and would have required significant strength and size to handle, Potts and his collaborators conclude that there was wide physical variation in the population to which this hominid belonged, with both large and small individuals present.
Other researchers interpret the new find differently, however. “[The skull] doesn't look like anything else we know so far,” contends Jeffrey H. Schwartz of the University of Pittsburgh, who penned an accompanying commentary in Science. He argues that a number of the fossils categorized as H. erectus show too much variation from the original, or type, H. erectus skull discovered in the late 19th century in Java to be considered members of the same species.

SOURCE SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.COM

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Sticky bees combat insect pests

The mites have killed off many colonies
A powder that exploits the natural stickiness of honey bees could help control a devastating insect pest.
The Varroa mite is endemic in British hives and in large numbers can sap a bee colony's strength.

The powder has proved useful in helping spread chemical anti-mite agents much more widely around a hive than other mite-controlling substances.

The powder could help suppress the mite to low levels and ensure the usefulness of other controls is not exhausted

Mite damage


Varroa destructor: Mites make bees susceptible to disease
A Varroa species of mite was first discovered in Britain in 1992 but was thought to be present in hives long before then.

The first outbreak devastated honey bee numbers, with many keepers losing up to 75% of their colonies.
Chemical controls known as pyrethroids have proved effective in controlling Varroa but lax use has produced mites resistant to them.

Beekeepers fear this means mite numbers are set to boom again leading to more lost colonies.
But now Southampton-based Exosect has developed a novel way of distributing another Varroa-controlling chemical around hives.

The Exomite system uses a powder that can be made to stick to the bee by exploiting its natural electrostatic charge.

The wax powder being used as a carrier medium is a harmless food grade substance.

The charged powder can be dosed with oils, such as thymol, used in other anti-mite products.

SOURCE: BBC NEWS




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New view of a stellar nursery
EUROPEAN SOUTHERN OBSERVATORY NEWS RELEASE

Credit: European Southern Observatory
Orion the Hunter is perhaps the best-known constellation in the sky, well placed in the winter for observers in both the northern and southern hemispheres, and instantly recognisable. Just below Orion's belt (three distinctive stars in a row), the hilt of his sword holds a great jewel in the sky, the beautiful Orion Nebula. Bright enough to be seen with the naked eye, the nebula, also known as Messier 42, is a wide complex of gas and dust, illuminated by several massive and hot stars at its core, the famous Trapezium stars.
For astronomers, Orion is surely one of the most important constellations, as it contains one of the nearest and most active stellar nurseries in the Milky Way, the galaxy in which we live. Here tens of thousands of new stars have formed within the past ten million years or so - a very short span of time in astronomical terms. For comparison: our own Sun is now 4,600 million years old and has not yet reached half-age. Reduced to a human time-scale, star formation in Orion would have been going on for just one month as compared to the Sun's 40 years.

In fact, located at a distance of 1500 light years, the Orion Nebula plays such an important role in astrophysics that it can be argued that our understanding of star formation is for a large part based on the Orion Nebula.

It is thus no surprise that the Orion Nebula is one of the most studied objects in the night sky.


SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM






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Cassini photos thrill, mystify scientists
New pictures of Saturn's enigmatic moon Titan, taken by cameras aboard the Cassini probe that are capable of penetrating the thick smog-like haze that blankets the frigid world, show strange looking surface features and a deck of methane clouds the size of Arizona. But so far, the instruments have not detected reflections from the surfaces of lakes or small seas of liquid hydrocarbons many scientists believe must form in the ultra-cold environment
But like the sun glint off rivers and lakes visible from airplanes on Earth, the reflections in question can only be seen in a small region of Titan, about 1 percent of the visible surface, based on the relative positions of the sun and Cassini.

"If we go by 30 times and we haven't seen it, we're going to start getting worried," said Kevin Baines, a member of Cassini's Visual Infrared Mapping Spectrometer team. "But I'd say so far, just going by once, it may have been that the specular reflection point was a continent, a dry area. So the planet could have plenty of liquids and we just got faked out. We don't know," he said in a telephone interview. "It's just 1 percent of the planet, we shouldn't reach any conclusions from that."

Cassini's first flyby of Titan, the day after the craft braked into orbit around the ringed planet, was at a distance of more than 200,000 miles. In October, the nuclear-powered probe will pass within just 745 miles of Titan and "we really expect to get a great view then," said Elizabeth Turtle, a member of the Cassini imaging team.




Piercing the ubiquitous layer of smog enshrouding Titan,
 this combination of images from the Cassini visual and infrared
 mapping spectrometer reveals an exotic surface covered with a
variety of materials in the southern hemisphere. Image: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.


A mosaic of Titan's south polar region acquired as Cassini
passed by at a range of 339,000 kilometers (210,600 miles) on July 2.
 These images were acquired through special filters designed to see
through the thick haze and atmosphere. The surface features become
more blurry toward the limb, where the light reflected off the surface
 must pass through more atmosphere before reaching the camera. The
 bright spots near the bottom represent a field of clouds near the
 south pole. Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.



SOURCE: SPACEFIGHTNOW.COM


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Ultraviolet pictures hint at origin of Saturn's rings

The best view ever of Saturn's rings in the ultraviolet indicates there is more ice toward the outer part of the rings, hinting at ring origin and evolution, say two University of Colorado at Boulder researchers involved in the Cassini mission.

From the inside out, the "Cassini division" in faint red at left is followed
by the A ring in its entirety. The A ring begins with a "dirty" interior of red
followed by a general pattern of more turquoise as it spreads away from the planet,
 which indicates denser material made up of ice. The red band roughly three-fourths of
the way outward in the A ring is known as the Encke gap.


This image shows the outer C and inner B rings respectively from left to right,
 with the inner B ring beginning a little more than halfway across the image. The general pattern
is from "dirty" red particles to the denser ice shown in turquoise as the ringlets spread outward.

The ring system begins from the inside out with the D, C, B and A rings followed by
the F, G and E rings. The red in both images indicates sparser ringlets likely made of "dirty," and possibly smaller, particles than in the denser,
 icier turquoise ringlets.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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« Last Edit: 10/11/2004 17:45:02 by neilep »
 

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How to fail at being a star
HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS NEWS RELEASE

At the 13th Cambridge Workshop on "Cool Stars, Stellar Systems, and the Sun," Dr. Kevin L. Luhman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) announced the discovery of a unique pair of newborn brown dwarfs in orbit around each other. Brown dwarfs are a relatively new class of objects discovered in the mid-1990s that are too small to ignite hydrogen fusion and shine as stars, yet too big to be considered planets. "Are brown dwarfs miniature failed stars, or super-sized planets, or are they altogether different from either stars or planets?" asks Luhman. The unique nature of this new brown dwarf pair has brought astronomers a step closer to the answer

Newly discovered young brown dwarfs with masses of 50 and 25 times the mass of Jupiter orbit each other at a distance of about 20 billion miles (six times the distance of Pluto from the Sun). Credit: K. Luhman (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

One possible explanation for the origin of brown dwarfs is that they are born in the same way as stars. Stars form in huge interstellar clouds in which gravity causes clumps of gas and dust to collapse into "seeds," which then steadily pull in more and more material until they grow to become stars. However, when this process is studied in detail by computer, many simulations fail to produce brown dwarfs. Instead, all the seeds grow into full-fledged stars. This result led some astronomers to wonder if brown dwarfs and stars are created in different ways.

"In one alternative that has been proposed recently," explains Luhman, "the seeds in an interstellar cloud pull on each other through their gravity, causing a slingshot effect and ejecting some of the seeds from the cloud before they have a chance to grow into stars. These small bodies are what we see as brown dwarfs, according to that hypothesis."
Testing these ideas for the birth of brown dwarfs is hampered by the fact that brown dwarfs are normally extremely faint and hard to detect in the sky. For most of their lives, they are not hot enough to ignite hydrogen fusion, so they do not shine brightly like stars, and instead are relatively dim like planets. However, for a short time immediately following their birth, brown dwarfs are relatively bright due to the leftover heat from their formation. As a result, brown dwarfs are easiest to find and study at an age of around 1 million years, which is newborn compared to the 4.5 billion year age of our Sun.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHT.COM




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