Science Photo of the Week

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Transparent Transistor: See-through component for flexible displays



Imagine a car windshield that suddenly lights up to reveal a map of the city and directions to your next destination. Or picture a computer display that you can not only see through but also roll into a tube and slip into your coat pocket. Scientists in Japan have taken a major step to fulfilling such visions with the creation of a transparent transistor deposited on plastic.

NOW YOU SEE IT. Transparent transistors on a
 sheet of plastic can be seen only at certain angles.
 Such circuitry could find its way into computer displays
 in car windshields and other curved surfaces


Hideo Hosono and his colleagues at the Tokyo Institute of Technology developed a transparent semiconductor material out of indium gallium zinc oxide. Although other research groups have previously made transparent circuitry, "their performance was not so good," says Hosono. In contrast, prototype transistors made from his team's new material are 10 times as conductive as the silicon transistors used in today's liquid-crystal displays.

SOURCE: SCIENCENEWS.ORG


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Color at Night: Geckos can distinguish hues by dim moonlight



Of all the vertebrates, a gecko has just become the first to ace behavioral tests for seeing color in very low illumination.

People, for example, go color-blind in light equivalent to dim moonlight, but helmet geckos, Tarentola chazaliae, don't. They can still tell a blue from a gray of the same intensity, report Lina S.V. Roth and Almut Kelber, both of the University of Lund in Sweden, in an upcoming Biology Letters.


A Gecko enjoying the Sun yesterday:
TWILIGHT ZONE. In dim light, the helmet gecko can tell blue
 from gray, even when people can't. Inset: Pupil nearly closed
in bright light (left) and wide open in dim light (right).


SOURCE: SCIENCENEWS.ORG




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Hovering over Titan

CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE
A mosaic of nine processed images recently acquired during Cassini's first very close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on Oct. 26, 2004, constitutes the most detailed full-disc view of the mysterious moon.



The view is centered on 15 degrees South latitude, and 156 degrees West longitude. Brightness variations across the surface and bright clouds near the south pole are easily seen.

The images that comprise the mosaic have been processed to reduce the effects of the atmosphere and to sharpen surface features. The mosaic has been trimmed to show only the illuminated surface and not the atmosphere above the edge of the moon. The Sun was behind Cassini so nearly the full disc is illuminated. Pixels scales of the composite images vary from 2 to 4 kilometers per pixel (1.2 to 2.5 miles per pixel).

Surface features are best seen near the center of the disc, where the spacecraft is looking directly downwards; the contrast becomes progressively lower and surface features become fuzzier towards the outside, where the spacecraft is peering through haze, a circumstance that washes out surface features.

BIGG JPEG HERE (500k) http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06141.jpg

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM



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A baby galaxy uncovered in a grown-up universe

UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA NEWS RELEASE


Using the Hubble Space Telescope, a University of Virginia scientist has identified what may be the youngest galaxy ever seen in the universe. By cosmological standards it is a mere toddler. Called I Zwicky 18, it may be as young as 500 million years old. Comparatively, our Milky Way galaxy is more than 20 times older - or about 12 billion years old, the typical age of galaxies across the universe.

Hubble snapped a view of what may be the youngest galaxy
ever seen. This "late bloomer" may not have begun active star
formation until about 13 billion years after the Big Bang. Called I
Zwicky 18 , the galaxy may be as young as 500 million
years old. This youngster has gone though several sudden bursts of
star formation ‹ the first only some 500 million years ago and the
latest only 4 million years ago. This galaxy is typical of the kinds
 of galaxies that inhabited the early universe. The galaxy is
classified as a dwarf irregular galaxy and is much smaller than our
Milky Way. Credit: NASA, ESA, Y. Izotov (Main Astronomical
Observatory, Kyiv, UA) and T. Thuan (University of Virginia)


BIG PICCY (511k)http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/2004/35/images/a/formats/print.jpg

The finding, reported in the Dec. 1 issue of the Astrophysical Journal, provides new insight into how galaxies first formed. The galaxy I Zwicky 18 offers a glimpse of how the early Milky Way may have looked.

The baby galaxy managed to remain in an embryonic state as a cold gas cloud of primeval hydrogen and helium for most of the universe's evolution. As innumerable galaxies blossomed all over space, this late-bloomer did not begin active star formation until some 13 billion years after the Big Bang, and went through a sudden first starburst only about 500 million years ago.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Nature's canvas at Saturn
CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE


In a splendid portrait created by light and gravity, Saturn's lonely moon Mimas is seen against the cool, blue-streaked backdrop of Saturn's northern hemisphere. Delicate shadows cast by the rings arc gracefully across the planet, fading into darkness on Saturn's night side.


Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Download larger image version here http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06142.jpg
 
The part of the atmosphere seen here appears darker and more bluish than the warm brown and gold hues seen in Cassini images of the southern hemisphere, due to preferential scattering of blue wavelengths by the cloud-free upper atmosphere.

The bright blue swath near Mimas (398 kilometers, or 247 miles across) is created by sunlight passing through the Cassini division (4,800 kilometers, or 2,980 miles wide). The rightmost part of this distinctive feature is slightly overexposed and therefore bright white in this image. Shadows of several thin ringlets within the division can be seen here as well. The dark band that stretches across the center of the image is the shadow of Saturn's B ring, the densest of the main rings. Part of the actual Cassini division appears at the bottom, along with the A ring and the narrow, outer F ring. The A ring is transparent enough that, from this viewing angle, the atmosphere and threadlike shadows cast by the inner C ring are visible through it.

Images taken with red, green and blue filters were combined to create this color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on Nov. 7, 2004, at a distance of 3.7 million kilometers (2.3 million miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 22 kilometers (14 miles) per pixel.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM




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Gazing down on Saturn
CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE
Posted: December 1, 2004

Cassini pierced the ring plane and rounded Saturn on Oct. 27, 2004, capturing this view of the dark portion of the rings. A portion of the planet's atmosphere is visible here, as is its shadow on the surface of the rings.


BIG PIUCCY http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06532.jpg (120k)


Night side ringplane

The usually bright B ring (at center in below picture) appears very dim in this view of the rings taken on the side of the rings that is not illuminated. The scene resembles a photographic negative, with bright and dark areas reversed (although in some places in the rings, the blackness of space is seen.) From this viewing angle, the rings are lit from below: both dense and empty regions are dark, and regions of intermediate particle density are bright.


THE BIGGY PICCY http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06533.jpg  (120k)

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Sacrificial burial deepens mystery at Teotihuacan (MEXICO), but confirms the city's militarism
A spectacular new discovery from an ongoing excavation at the Teotihuacan's Pyramid of the Moon is revealing a grisly sacrificial burial from a period when the ancient metropolis was at its peak, with artwork unlike any seen before in Mesoamerica.

Though archaeologists hope that discoveries at the pyramid will answer lingering questions about the distinctive culture that built the great city, the new find deepens the mystery, with clear cultural connections to other burials found at the site, but with some markedly new elements.



 Partially uncovered figurine, carved in jade, found in
connection with three unbound, seated bodies and other objects at
the top of the pyramid's fifth stage (the offering was presumably
made in the construction of the sixth stage), circa 350 AD.
 This object is notable in that it is carved from jade that originated in
Guatemala, and appears to be Mayan in style. Other jade objects on
top of the figurine are beads and earspools.

THE BIG PIC
http://www.eurekalert.org/images/release_graphics/arizona120204.1.jpg (420k)



With the excavation of the pyramid nearly complete, one important conclusion is emerging: combined with past burials at the site, the new find strongly suggests that the Pyramid of the Moon was significant to the Teotihuacano people as a site for celebrating state power through ceremony and sacrifice. Contrary to some past interpretation, militarism was apparently central to the city's culture.

SOURCE: EUREKALAERT.ORG
Source: Saburo Sugiyama,

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Saturn's ring gap

CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE


An intriguing knotted ringlet within the Encke Gap is the main attraction in this Cassini image. The Encke Gap is a small division near the outer edge of Saturn's rings that is about 300 kilometers (190 miles) wide. The tiny moon Pan (20 kilometers, or 12 miles across) orbits within the gap and maintains it. Many waves produced by orbiting moons are visible.


The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on Oct. 29, 2004, at a distance of about 807,000 kilometers (501,000 miles) from Saturn. The image scale is 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) per pixel.

Bigger Pic here http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06534.jpg

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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I put that gap there just to freak you guys out !

I am GOD..You are Not..I don't exist !!
It's tough not existing !!

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Explosions in majestic spiral galaxy beauties


Images of beautiful galaxies, and in particular of spiral brethren
of our own Milky Way, leaves no-one unmoved. It is difficult indeed
to resist the charm of these impressive grand structures.
Astronomers at Paranal Observatory used the versatile VIMOS
instrument on the Very Large Telescope to photograph two magnificent
examples of such "island universes", both of which are seen in a
southern constellation with an animal name. But more significantly, both galaxies
 harboured a particular type of supernova, the
explosion of a massive star during a late and fatal evolutionary stage.


A composite colour-coded image shows the "grand design" spiral

galaxy NGC 6118, at a distance of 80 million light-years. Credit: ESO



Another magnificent spiral galaxy, NGC 7424, is seen at a
distance of 40 million light-years. Credit: ESO


SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Darfur aid workers receiving assistance from orbit
 

It is hard to overstate the scale of the humanitarian emergency unfolding in Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region: by current estimates there are 1.45 million people displaced from their homes across an area the size of France. However, images from space are assisting aid workers as they cope with the crisis.




The map displays the Al Fashir region in Sudan/Darfur based on LANDSAT archive images and SPOT and Envisat's ASAR fresh acquisitions of August 2004. The background image allows different surface properties to be pictured, such as desert with dunes and rocks as well as wadis and riverbeds.








This map shows the impact of potentially flooded wadis on the road network in Al Junaynah area, obtained using SPOT, RADARSAT and Envisat's ASAR acquisitions of August 2004. The Ardamata IDP camp is located within the area marked in yellow.





The IKONOS 1-metre resolution image, acquired on 14 August 2004, shows the Guba Clinic within Al Fashir, the capital of north Darfur state and distribution point for food and supplies.


 An ESA-supported consortium called Respond is supplying Earth Observation-derived maps and other geographical information products direct to users in the field including the German Red Cross (DRK), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) and the German federal disaster relief agency Technisches Hilfswerk (THW).

The Respond team made use of ten different sensors from nine separate spacecraft, including instruments on ESA's Envisat satellite - the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) and the Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS), with imagery delivered in near-real time.

SOURCE:ESA.INT (European Space Agency)



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Saturn's moon Iapetus as you've never seen it

CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE
Posted: December 8, 2004

New details on Iapetus are illuminated by reflected light from Saturn in this revealing Cassini image. Never-before-seen features on the Saturn-facing part of Iapetus' bright trailing hemisphere are visible for the first time, including many dark spots, and a sharper view of a dark, circular structure that was first seen at very low resolution by NASA's Voyager 1 in 1980. Iapetus diameter is 1,436 kilometers (892 miles).



The image shows mainly the night side of Iapetus; part of the far brighter sunlit side appears at the right and is overexposed due to the long integration time of 180 seconds. Despite this long exposure time, almost no blurring due to the spacecraft's motion is apparent. This technique for imaging the night side of Iapetus will be used again during a flyby on Jan. 1, 2005, when Cassini will pass 13 times closer to the icy moon.

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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INCREDIBLE IRREFUTABLE PROOF OF LIFE ON MARS REVEALED


The answer as to whether we are alone in the Universe has today been answered by the dramatic picture below.

"It's Life Jim, but not as we know it" were the words quoted by Leonard Nimoy in a mad and crazy cacophony of a newscast aired on the news today.

"It is without a doubt the most fundamental discovery of all time" said a passing down-and-out on his way to a hostel for his free tea and fish 'n' chips.

I stopped a cat in mid tracks and asked for it's reaction "Meow" it said..........Well !!...there you have it ladies and gentleman !!

Early indications are, is that the Martian is friendly and wishes to make contact.......

" There is more to report but I must leave to do a poo poo " I have just reported myself saying.





The Martian saying 'hello' on what appears to be a distinctly non red but BLUE landscape !!




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That looks like the space alien who kidnapped me a couple of years ago.  I thought they were all in Roswell!
 

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Cassini makes Titan return pass

The pictures are the closest ever taken of the moon


The Cassini spacecraft has made one last flyby of Titan before it despatches the Huygens probe for a rendezvous with the Saturnian moon.



It will give engineers a final chance to obtain detailed information on the behaviour of the satellite's atmosphere

This data will be essential if Huygens is to have a fighting chance of surviving its 6km/s entry into Titan's thick "air" on 14 January next year.

The flyby will also give scientists another peek at the mysterious moon.

Because of the smoggy conditions on Titan, the two previous Cassini flybys in July and October failed to give any clear indication of the surface conditions Huygens is likely to meet - if it makes it that far.



1. Antennas enabling communication with Earth
2. Boom carrying instrument to measure magnetic fields
3. Two cameras will take 300,000 pictures of the planet
4. Infra-red spectrometer analyses Saturn's temperature and composition
5. Radioisotope thermoelectric generators supply 750W of power
6. Cassini has two engines - one is a back-up
7. Thrusters used for small changes of direction or speed
8. Huygens probe will land on Saturn's largest moon, Titan
9. Plasma spectrometer measures charged particles and solar winds

SOURCE: BBC

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Mars rovers spot water-clue mineral, frost, clouds

NASA NEWS RELEASE

Scientists have identified a water-signature mineral called goethite in bedrock that the NASA's Mars rover Spirit examined in the "Columbia Hills," one of the mission's surest indicators yet for a wet history on Spirit's side of Mars.


Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity captured this view of "Burns
Cliff" after driving right to the base of this southeastern portion
 of the inner wall of "Endurance Crater." Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell


Big Pic here http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/mer/2004-12-13/Burns_Cliff_L2-med.jpg

"Goethite, like the jarosite that Opportunity found on the other side of Mars, is strong evidence for water activity," said Dr. Goestar Klingelhoefer of the University of Mainz, Germany, lead scientist for the iron-mineral analyzer on each rover, the Moessbauer spectrometer. Goethite forms only in the presence of water, whether in liquid, ice or gaseous form. Hematite, a mineral that had previously been identified in Columbia Hills bedrock, usually, but not always, forms in the presence of water.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Symphony of colors in the Tarantula Nebula

HUBBLE EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY INFORMATION CENTRE RELEASE


The Tarantula Nebula is the most vigorous star forming region known in the local Universe. Using the power of the freely available ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator package a young amateur astronomer has created this amazing panorama of the centre of the Tarantula. The original image was taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and subsequently retrieved from the ESO/ST-ECF Science Archive in Munich, Germany.




Just imagine seeing this for the first time through your space ship porthole...big piccy 330k http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/screen/heic0416a.jpg

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM



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An Electron Runs through It
Surprising rivulets and ripples complicate the microchip picture

Peter Weiss

Most paintings or prints lose their definition the closer you get to them. That doesn't happen
when you put your nose near the arresting prints of Harvard University physicist
Eric J. Heller. The closer you approach Heller's prints, which resemble swaying seaweed,
 rippling silks, and Georgia O'Keeffe flowers, the more refined the images get. By the
standard artistic metrics of form, color, and composition, these are stunning artworks.
 Yet each one tells a scientific tale as well: Heller's prints depict the subtle
 interplay between some microchip electrons and the crystalline landscape in which they move.


IN A DIFFERENT VEIN. This and the two richly branching
images below show artistic renderings of simulated electron-flow
paths in thin sheets of electrons.


Within a stack of various semiconductor materials are infinitesimally thin zones
where one semiconductor layer ends and another begins. Each zone can harbor a sheet of electrons.
 Physicists refer to such sheets as electron gases. Cool to cryogenic temperatures a chip
made of precisely deposited gallium arsenide and aluminum gallium arsenide, for example,
and a curious branching of the flow of electrons in the sheet becomes detectable.

That's the physical phenomenon that Heller models in computers and portrays with his prints,
 which now go for hundreds of dollars or more.

ROUGH TERRAIN. A topographic-type plot of energy variation
across a patch of a two-dimensional electron gas shows uneveness that shapes electron paths.






SOURCE: SCIENCENEWS.ORG



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A new twist on an old nebula

SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INSTITUTE NEWS RELEASE


Looks can be deceiving, especially when it comes to celestial objects like galaxies and nebulas.
 These objects are so far away that astronomers cannot see their three-dimensional structure.
The Helix Nebula, for example, resembles a doughnut in colorful images. Earlier images of this
complex object -- the gaseous envelope ejected by a dying, sun-like star -- did not allow
astronomers to precisely interpret its structure. One possible interpretation was that the
Helix's form resembled a snake-like coil.


The top composite image is a view of the colorful Helix
Nebula taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Cerro Tololo
Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The object is so large that
both telescopes were needed to capture a complete view. The bottom
illustration shows how the Helix would appear if viewed from the
side. Credits for the image and illustration: NASA, ESA, C.R. O'Dell
(Vanderbilt University), and M. Meixner, P. McCullough, and G. Bacon
(Space Telescope Science Institute)


Now, a team of astronomers using observations from several observatories, including NASA's
Hubble Space Telescope, has established that the Helix's structure is even more perplexing.
 Their evidence suggests that the Helix consists of two gaseous disks nearly perpendicular
to each other.

A team of astronomers, led by C. Robert O'Dell of Vanderbilt University in Nashville,
Tenn., made its finding using highly detailed images from the Hubble telescope's Advanced Camera
 for Surveys, pictures from Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, and measurements
from ground-based optical and radio telescopes which show the speed and direction of the
outflows of material from the dying star. The Helix, the closest planetary nebula to
Earth, is a favorite target of professional and amateur astronomers. Astronomers hope this
finding will provide insights on how expelled shells of gas from dying stars like our
Sun form the complex shapes called planetary nebulas. The results are published in the
November issue of the Astronomical Journal.

Big Pic (497k)http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/2004/32/images/a/formats/print.jpg

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Delta 4-Heavy hits snag on test flight
BY JUSTIN RAY
SPACEFLIGHT NOW


The test launch of Boeing's Delta 4-Heavy rocket began with a breath-taking blastoff from Cape
Canaveral Tuesday afternoon but lower-than-expected performance during the initial minutes
 of flight ultimately caused the mission to fall short of its intended orbit. Nonetheless,
 Boeing officials called the demonstration flight a success.




The 23-story rocket roared to life while enveloped in a hellish fire at pad 37B as free hydrogen
from the three Rocketdyne RS-68 engines ignited. As the countdown reached zero, a dozen bolts
 that held the rocket to the pad for the past year popped and the 1.6-million pound vehicle
 thundered into a clear blue sky at 4:50 p.m. EST (2150 GMT)



Gulping three tons of propellant per second, the engines won the battle against gravity to
blast the rocket away from Earth as the powerplants raged at full throttle.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Cassini orbiter deploys Titan descent probe

BY WILLIAM HARWOOD

note...All times in the following story refer to Earth-received time, i.e., when events are confirmed to have happened, not
the actual time an event happens at Saturn. One-way light time from Saturn to Earth currently is about 68 minutes.



In a long-awaited milestone, a European-built probe carrying cameras and a suite of scientific
 instruments was released from NASA's Cassini Saturn orbiter Christmas Eve, setting up
a dramatic Jan. 14 plunge into the atmosphere of the ringed planet's mysterious moon Titan.


An artist's concept shows Cassini deploying Huygens. Credit: ESA


Ejected by springs designed to impart a 7-rpm rotation for stability, the Huygens probe
 was jettisoned from the Cassini mothership around 10:08 p.m. EST. Flight controllers at the
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., verified a clean separation 16 minutes later.

"The short story is the release went absolutely nominally," said Earl Maize, Cassini deputy
program manager. "As near as we can tell from all the telemetry we've seen, we've had a
perfect separation. The release sequence was executed on board the spacecraft at 7:07 this
evening Pacific Standard Time. We were out of radio contact at the time, we expected the
 release to impart a recoil to the spacecraft and it would take it some minutes to recover
 radio contact with the Earth. We got back into contact at 7:24 and telemetry soon thereafter
 verified that all of the events went just as we expected."


An artist's concept shows Huygens en route to Titan. Credit: ESA

To reach Titan's surface, Huygens first must survive its high-speed plunge into the moon's atmosphere.
 After slowing to about 870 mph due to atmospheric friction, Huygens' aft cover will be
pulled away by a pilot chute and the spacecraft's 27-foot-wide main parachute will deploy.
The chute will be jettisoned 15 minutes after entry begins and from that point on, Huygens will
ride beneath a smaller 9.8-foot-wide parachute. Impact on the surface at some 11 mph is
expected around 7:31 a.m. on Jan. 14


An artist's concept shows the Huygens craft making its descent to Titan on Jan. 14. Credit: ESA

Assuming the 705-pound Huygens doesn't splash down in a hydrocarbon lake, "we have good confidence
the probe will survive landing," said Jean-Pierre Lebreton, European Space Agency project scientist.
 "The landing speed is very low and there is a very good probability the probe will survive landing
and we have capability to do measurements for half an hour on the surface. During the three-hour
 measurement phase, the probe will transmit its data to the overflying orbiter."

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM




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Huygens timeline




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Aging universe may still be spawning massive galaxies

NASA NEWS RELEASE


NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer has spotted what appear to be massive "baby" galaxies
in our corner of the universe. Previously, astronomers thought the universe's birth rate
had dramatically declined and only small galaxies were forming.


These animation stills show a typical young galaxy, teeming with
hot, newborn stars and exploding supernovas. The supernovas are seen
 as white flashes of light. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


"We knew there were really massive young galaxies eons ago, but we thought they had all
 matured into older ones more like our Milky Way. If these galaxies are indeed newly formed,
 then this implies parts of the universe are still hotbeds of galaxy birth," said Dr.
Chris Martin. He is principal investigator for the Galaxy Evolution Explorer at the
 California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif., and co-author of the study.

Martin and colleagues, led by Dr. Tim Heckman of Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore,
Md., unearthed three-dozen bright, compact galaxies that greatly resemble the youthful
 galaxies of more than 10 billions years ago. These new galaxies are relatively close to us,
 ranging from two to four billion light-years away. They may be as young as 100 million to
one billion years old. The Milky Way is approximately 10 billion years old.

The Galaxy Evolution Explorer was launched on April 28, 2003. Its mission is to study
the shape, brightness, size and distance of galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic
 history. The Explorer's 50-centimeter-diameter (19.7-inch) telescope sweeps the skies
 in search of ultraviolet-light sources.

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM



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Cassini shows moon's influence at ringed Saturn


CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE


Mimas orbits beyond the outer fringes of Saturn's main rings, perturbing the orbits of
 ring particles and creating gaps like the Huygens Gap within the Cassini Division
 (the wide, dark gap near lower left). The outer edge of the B ring (lower left corner)
and the thin, outermost section of the A ring appear notably brighter than the bulk
 of the A ring, suggesting differences in ring particle density or composition. Small knots
in the thin F ring are visible at lower right. Mimas is 398 kilometers (247 miles) across


Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Download larger image version here http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06550.jpg

This view is from Cassini's vantage point beneath the ring plane. The image was taken
in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow angle camera on Nov. 18, 2004,
 at a distance of approximately 4.7 million kilometers (2.9 million miles) from Saturn.
The image scale is 27 kilometers (17 miles) per pixel. Contrast was enhanced to aid visibility.

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM




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Mars rover Opportunity visits heat shield impact site



NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has returned this view of its discard heat shield,
 which crashed to the planet's surface during the craft's descent and landing last January.


Credit: NASA/JPL
Download a larger version here
http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA07157.jpg

The image was taken during the rover's 325th martian day (December 22) and released
by NASA on Tuesday.

The main structure from the successfully used shield is to the far left. Additional fragments
 of the heat shield lie in the upper center of the image. The heat shield's impact mark
 is visible just above and to the right of the foreground shadow of Opportunity's camera mast.
 This view is a mosaic of three images taken with the rover's navigation camera.

Opportunity has driven well over one mile on the plains of Meridiani while searching for
evidence of past water on the Red Planet.


This orbital view shows the course the rover drove from its
landing to its 324th martian day, or sol (Dec. 21, 2004), including
the historic path of Opportunity's six months of exploration inside Endurance Crater. Credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS/OSU

Download a larger version here
http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA07154.jpg

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Most powerful eruption in the universe discovered
NASA NEWS RELEASE


Astronomers have found the most powerful eruption in the universe using NASA's Chandra X-ray
 Observatory. A super massive black hole generated this eruption by growing at a remarkable rate.
This discovery shows the enormous appetite of large black holes, and the profound impact they have
 on their surroundings.


This Chandra image shows two vast cavities - each 600,000
light years in diameter - in the hot, X-ray emitting gas that
 pervades the galaxy cluster MS 0735.6+7421 (MS 0735 for short).
Although the cavities contain very little hot gas, they are filled with a two-sided,
 elongated, magnetized bubble of extremely high-
energy electrons that emit radio waves. Credit: NASA/CXC/Ohio
U./B.McNamara


The huge eruption was seen in a Chandra image of the hot, X- ray emitting gas of a
galaxy cluster called MS 0735.6+7421. Two vast cavities extend away from the super massive
black hole in the cluster's central galaxy. The eruption, which has lasted for more than 100
million years, has generated energy equivalent to hundreds of millions of gamma-ray bursts.

This event was caused by gravitational energy release, as enormous amounts of matter fell
 toward a black hole. Most of the matter was swallowed, but some of it was violently ejected
 before being captured by the black hole. "I was stunned to find that a mass of about 300
million suns was swallowed," said Brian McNamara of Ohio University in Athens. "This is as large
 as another super massive black hole." He is lead author of the study about the discovery,
which is in the January 6, 2005, issue of Nature.

Astronomers are not sure where such large amounts of matter came from. One theory is gas
from the host galaxy catastrophically cooled and was swallowed by the black hole.
The energy released shows the black hole in MS 0735 has grown dramatically during this eruption.
 Previous studies suggest other large black holes have grown very little in the recent past,
and that only smaller black holes are still growing quickly.


An artist's depiction shows the eruption from a supermassive
black hole. Credit: NASA/CXC/A.Hobart


SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

ps: That explosion is dwarfed by my bum after chilli beans !![:D]


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Ancient DNA helps solve the legend of giant eagles


Hamilton, ON - Gigantic eagles swooping from the skies to rescue Frodo and Sam in the
Lord of the Rings may not be just the stuff of legends and fairytales, according
to research published in the journal PloS Biology.

McMaster University anthropologist Michael Bunce has shed new light on the evolution of
the extinct Haast’s eagle, the giant bird that once ruled the skies over New Zealand.


 Haast's Eagle hunting moa, Image courtesy of John Megahan.'

Weighing between 20 and 30 pounds, the enormous Haast's Eagle dominated its environment.
 It was 30 to 40 per cent heavier than the largest living bird of prey around today,
the Harpy Eagle of Central and South America.

Working in New Zealand, Bunce extracted DNA from fossil eagle bones dating back about 2000 years.


SOURCE: EUREKALERT.ORG


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Twinkle Toes: How geckos' sticky feet stay clean

Peter Weiss

So strong is the stickiness of some geckos' feet that the lizards can hang from a ceiling
 by a single toe. Despite that clinginess, the forest of adhesive fibers on the underside
 of each toe stays nearly dirtfree without grooming or washing.

 
TOE PRINT. When the underside of a gecko toe (left) was
 dusted with microspheres and pressed onto glass, millions of sticky
 fibers in the thin, platelike structures shed microspheres onto the
glass, leaving a print visible under laser light (right).


Now, researchers say they've figured out the secret. Moreover, because dirt typically
weakens adhesive bonds, the findings could inspire improved surface-attachment schemes for
 mountain climbers and robots.

In the new study, Wendy R. Hansen and Kellar Autumn coated the feet of live Tokay geckos with
ceramic microspheres. This mock dirt counteracted the weak van der Waals forces that usually
sum into a lizard's tenacious grip on surfaces.

Using glass as a model surface, the researchers determined the foot-glass attraction as the
 lizards took a series of steps. With each step, the grip became stronger, indicating
that microspheres were being shed
SOURCE: SCIENCE NEWS.ORG


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Tiny, Atom-based Detector Senses Weak Magnetic Fields

A low-power, magnetic sensor about the size of a grain of rice that can detect magnetic field
 changes as small as 50 picoteslas—a million times weaker than the Earth's magnetic field—has
 been demonstrated by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST). Described in the Dec. 27 issue of Applied Physics Letters,* the device can be powered
with batteries and is about 100 times smaller than current atom-based sensors with similar
 sensitivities, which typically weigh several kilograms (about 6 pounds).




Photo of the NIST chip-scale magnetometer. The sensor is
about as tall as a grain of rice. The widest block near the top of
the device is an enclosed, transparent cell that holds a vapor of
rubidium atoms. (Photo by Peter Schwindt/NIST)


The new magnetic sensor is based on the principles of a NIST chip-scale atomic clock,
announced in August 2004. Expected applications for a commercialized version of the new sensor
 could include hand-held devices for sensing unexploded ordnance, precision navigation,
 geophysical mapping to locate minerals or oil, and medical instruments.

Magnetic fields are produced by the motion of electrons either in the form of an electrical
current or in certain metals such as iron, cobalt and nickel. The NIST miniature magnetometer
is sensitive enough to detect a concealed rifle about 12 meters (40 feet) away or a
six-inch-diameter steel pipeline up to 35 meters (120 feet) underground.
The sensor works by detecting minute changes in the energy levels of electrons in the presence
of a magnetic field.


SOURCE: SCIENCEDAILY.COM


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Encountering Iapetus
CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE

On New Year's Eve 2004, Cassini flew past Saturn's intriguing moon Iapetus, capturing the
four visible light images that were put together to form this global view.


The scene is dominated by a dark, heavily-cratered region, called Cassini Regio, that covers
nearly an entire hemisphere of Iapetus. Iapetus is 1,436 kilometers (892 miles) across.
The view is centered on the moon's equator and on roughly 90 degrees west longitude -- a location
that always faces the direction of Iapetus's orbital motion around Saturn.



BIG PIC http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06166.jpg
The most unique, and perhaps most remarkable feature discovered on Iapetus in Cassini images
is a topographic ridge that coincides almost exactly with the geographic equator.
The ridge is conspicuous in the picture as an approximately 20-kilometer wide (12 miles)
 band that extends from the western (left) side of the disc almost to the day/night boundary
 on the right. On the left horizon, the peak of the ridge reaches at least 13 kilometers
(8 miles) above the surrounding terrain. Along the roughly 1,300 kilometer (800 mile)
length over which it can be traced in this picture, it remains almost exactly parallel
 to the equator within a couple of degrees. The physical origin of the ridge has yet to be
explained. It is not yet clear whether the ridge is a mountain belt that has folded upward,
or an extensional crack in the surface through which material
from inside Iapetus erupted onto the surface and accumulated locally, forming the ridge.


The origin of Cassini Regio is a long-standing debate among scientists. One theory
 proposes that its dark material may have erupted onto Iapetus's icy surface from the interior.
 Another theory holds that the dark material represented accumulated debris ejected by impact
 events on dark, outer satellites of Saturn. Details of this Cassini image mosaic do not
definitively rule out either of the theories. However, they do provide important new
insights and constraints.


SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM



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Giant landslide on Iapetus
CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE


A spectacular landslide within the low-brightness region of Iapetus's surface known
as Cassini Regio is visible in this image from Cassini. Iapetus is one of the moons of Saturn.
 



The landslide material appears to have collapsed from a scarp 15 kilometers high (9 miles)
 that forms the rim of an ancient 600 kilometer (375 mile) impact basin. Unconsolidated
rubble from the landslide extends halfway across a conspicuous, 120-kilometer diameter (75-mile) flat-floored impact crater that lies just inside
 the basin scarp.

The BIGGY http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06171.jpg

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Satellite sees matter speed-racing around a black hole

EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY NEWS RELEASE

Using a 'radar-gun' technique, typical of police speed-traps, scientists have clocked three
 separate clumps of hot iron gas whipping around a black hole at 30,000 kilometres per second,
 about a tenth of the speed of light.


This animation depicts three hot chunks of matter orbiting a
black hole. If placed in our Solar System, this black hole would

appear like a dark abyss spread out nearly as wide as Mercury's
orbit. And the three chunks (each as large as the Sun) would be as
 
far out as Jupiter. They orbit the black hole in a lightning-quick
30 000 kilometres per second, over a tenth of the speed of light.
Credits: NASA/Dana Berry, SkyWorks Digital


The observation, made with ESA's XMM-Newton observatory, marks the first time scientists
could trace individual blobs of shredded matter on a complete journey around a black hole.
 This provides a crucial measurement that has long been missing from black hole studies:
 an orbital period. Knowing this, scientists can measure black hole mass and other characteristics
 that have long eluded them.

It's noted that if this black hole were placed in our Solar System, it would appear like a
dark abyss spread out nearly as wide as Mercury's orbit. And the three clumps of matter
 detected would be as far out as Jupiter. They orbit the black hole in a lightning-quick 27 hours
 (compared to the 12 years it takes Jupiter to orbit the Sun).

Black holes are regions in space in which gravity prevents all matter and light from escaping.
 What scientists see is not the black hole itself but rather the light emitted close to
it as matter falls towards the black hole and heats to extremely high temperatures



SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Beyond Einstein: Spacetime wave orbits black hole

HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS RELEASE


Astronomers Jon Miller (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and Jeroen Homan (MIT) have
 seen evidence of hot iron gas riding a ripple in spacetime around a black hole. This spacetime
wave, if confirmed, would represent a new phenomenon that goes beyond Einstein's general
 relativity.


Astronomers have discovered evidence for physics beyond
Einstein's general relativity. This artist's conception shows a

galactic black hole being orbited by a ripple in spacetime--a
distortion in the fabric of space itself. Credit: Dana Berry
(CfA/NASA)
 


These observations confirm one important theory about how a black hole's extreme gravity
can stretch light. The data also paint an intriguing image of how a spinning black hole can
 drag the very fabric of space around with it, creating a choppy spacetime sea that distorts
 everything falling into the black hole.

Miller and Homan observed the phenomenon with NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer.
They present this result today at a press conference at the 205th meeting of the American
 Astronomical Society in San Diego, Calif.

"Black holes are such extreme objects that they can actually warp and drag the fabric of
spacetime around with them as they spin," said Miller, who is the lead author on an article
to be published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. "Gas whipping around the black hole
 has no choice but to ride that wave. Albert Einstein predicted this over 80 years ago,
and now we are starting to see evidence for it."


This artist's conception shows the binary system
GRS1915+105, which shows evidence for a wave of spacetime in its

accretion disk. A 10 solar mass black hole at the center of the disk
pulls gas from a nearby companion star. The gas spiraling into the

black hole heats so much that it emits X-ray radiation. Credit: Dana
Berry (CfA/NASA)


Using the Rossi Explorer, Miller and Homan studied a black hole named GRS 1915+105,
 about 40,000 light years away in the constellation Aquila, the Eagle. They noticed
that a low-frequency QPO of 1 to 2 hertz was tied to changes in the broad iron K line,
as if the two features knew of each other. The fact that the two signals were in synch
and were unaffected by other phenomena-such as black hole jet activity-strongly
suggests that both are occurring very close to the black hole. And this, the scientists
say, rules out a theory stating that broad iron lines are created in black hole winds far
 from the black hole itself.

This discovery raised the question of what could be causing the connection. "High-frequency
 QPOs are likely from matter racing around the black hole, glowing like lightbulbs on a merry-go-round,"
said Homan. "Of course, matter is moving much faster around a black hole than on any amusement
park attraction. We see frequencies of hundreds of hertz, or hundreds of revolutions
 of the disk per second. That's quite a ride."

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW>COM

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See-through galaxy

HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS RELEASE

The center of our galaxy is hidden behind a "brick wall" of obscuring dust so thick
 that not even the Hubble Space Telescope can penetrate it. Astronomers Silas Laycock
 and Josh Grindlay (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and colleagues have lifted that
 veil to reveal a beautiful vista swarming with stars. Moreover, their hunt for specific stars
associated with X-ray-emitting sources has ruled out one of two options for the nature of
these X-ray sources: most apparently are not associated with massive stars, which would have
shown up as bright counterparts in their deep infrared images. This points to the X-ray sources
 being white dwarfs, not black holes or neutron stars, accreting matter from low-mass binary
 companion stars.



This deepest-ever infrared view of a region near the
galactic center shows thousands of stars crowded into an area only 6

light-years across. Locations of bright stars don't match locations
of X-ray sources, indicating that the galactic center may contain

many faint Sun-like stars with X-ray-emitting white dwarf
companions. Credit: Silas Laycock (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for

Astrophysics)


To peer into the galactic center, Laycock and Grindlay used the unique capabilities
of the 6.5-meter-diameter Magellan Telescope in Chile. By gathering infrared light that
more easily penetrates dust, the astronomers were able to detect thousands of stars that
otherwise would have remained hidden. Their goal was to identify stars that orbit,
and feed, X-ray-emitting white dwarfs, neutron stars or black holes - any of which could
yield the faint X-ray sources discovered originally with NASA's Chandra X-ray
 Observatory.

"If we found that most of the hard X-ray sources were high-mass X-ray binaries, it would
tell us that there had been a lot of recent star formation because massive stars don't live
 long," says Laycock. "Instead, we found that most of the X-ray sources are likely to
 be older systems associated with low-mass stars."

That conclusion comes from a null result: that is, most of the counterparts to the
X-ray sources must be fainter than the brightness expected if the X-ray sources had massive
 companions. Since massive stars are both rare and bright, an association with the
X-ray sources would have been easy to spot. Smaller stars are more common and fainter,
 making it difficult to match them to a specific X-ray source. Analysis of the infrared
images found only a chance number of matches between stars and the locations of X-ray sources.
 Many of those matches likely were due to the crowded field of view.

"The fact that we found no significant excess of bright infrared counterparts means that
the galactic center Chandra sources are probably low-mass binaries. Since by far the most
 common low-mass binaries with X-ray luminosities, spectra, and variability similar to
 the galactic center Chandra sources are accreting magnetic white dwarfs, we conclude
these are the most likely identification," says Grindlay.

If the X-ray sources near the galactic center are accreting white dwarfs, the large numbers
of compact low-mass binaries required could suggest that they formed in the very dense star
cluster around the galactic center or that they have been "deposited" there
by the destruction of globular clusters. Deeper infrared observations and spectra
 of the sources are needed
to make actual identifications and constrain the masses of the accreting compact objects.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Lottery Ball Machine and Chicken Display Their Offspring !!





SOURCE: Lottery Ball and Chicken Monthly !

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Saharan dust affects Florida thunderstorms
NASA NEWS RELEASE


Scientists using NASA satellite data have discovered tiny particles of dust blowing across
the Atlantic Ocean from the Sahara Desert can affect Florida thunderstorms.


Saharan dust is seen blowing off Northwest Africa by NASA's
 SeaWiFS orbiting satellite instrument. Credit: NASA


Dust affects the size of the top or "anvil" of a thunderstorm, the strength
and number of updrafts of warm winds. It also affects the strength of convective
(heat generated) thunderstorms by influencing the amount of rain that builds up and falls.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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First Huygens images show strange new world

BY WILLIAM HARWOOD

The European Space Agency unveiled the first raw images from the Huygens Titan probe today,
 black-and-white pictures showing ice blocks strewn across the surface and hard-to-interpret
features resembling drainage channels and, possibly, a frigid shoreline of sorts.


This is one of the first raw images returned by the ESA
Huygens probe during its successful descent. It was taken from an
altitude of 16.2 kilometres with a resolution of approximately 40
metres per pixel. It apparently shows short, stubby drainage
channels leading to a shoreline. Credit: ESA/NASA TV


As of 3 p.m. EST (2000 GMT), more than 350 images from the Huygens main camera were on
the ground, shot at altitudes above and below the haze layer that marks Titan's thick
nitrogen atmosphere. The first picture shown to reporters was shot at an altitude of
 about 10 miles with a surface resolution of about 50 feet.

"I think it's pretty clear you see things that look pretty much like drainage channels,
 maye not like drainage
channels like on rivers on the Earth, but perhaps stubby box canyons with seepage out of
 the walls, flowing down towards what looks very much like a shoreline,"
said Martin Tomasko, principal investigator for Huygens' descent imager.

"We suspected there would be liquid on the surface of Titan, we suspected we would see
things that looked like drainage channels and shorelines, but we've never been able to
 see them with this clarity."

A second photo showed the surface of Titan surrounding the Huygens probe after it touched
down on the frigid moon. The scene resembled recent photos from NASA's Mars rovers,
 showing a rock-strewn plain stretching away toward a hazy horizon.


This raw image was returned by the Descent Imager/Spectral
Radiometer camera onboard the European Space Agency's Huygens probe
after the probe descended through the atmosphere of Titan. It shows
the surface of Titan with ice blocks strewn around. The size and
distance of the blocks will be determined when the image is properly processed. Credit: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona


Said European Space agency science chief David Southwood: "I am just delighted. I just
wanted to know that there was complexity down there, that this really was a world
that was going to yield totally new science. I'm now convinced we're going to do it.
it's the end of a wonderful day, I'm going to remember it for the rest of my life."

Despite Tomasko's off-the-cuff interpretation of the initial picture, it was not
 immediately clear whether the images did, in fact, show liquid ethane or related
compounds theorized to exist on the surface.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW>COM




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First Huygens pictures




This image was returned January 14 by ESA's Huygens probe during its successful descent
to land on Titan. This is the coloured view, following processing to add reflection spectra
data, gives a better indication of the actual colour of the surface. Initially thought
 to be rocks or ice blocks, they are more pebble-sized. The two rock-like objects just
 below the middle of the image are about 15 centimetres (left) and 4 centimetres (centre) across
respectively, at a distance of about 85 centimetres from Huygens. The surface is darker
 than originally expected, consisting of a mixture of water and hydrocarbon ice.
There is also evidence of erosion at the base of these objects, indicating possible
 fluvial activity. Credits: ESA/NASA/University of Arizona
 

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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Huygens descent probe landed in Titanian mud

EUROPEAN SPACE AGENCY NEWS RELEASE

Although Huygens landed on Titan's surface last Friday, activity at ESA's European Space
 Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany, continues at a furious pace. Scientists
 are still working to refine the exact location of the probe's landing site.



A view of Huygens probable landing site based on initial,
best-guess estimates. Scientists on the Huygens Descent
 Imager/Spectral Radiometer (DISR) science team are still working to
 refine the exact location of the probe's landing site, but they
estimate that it lies within the white circle shown in this image.
Credits: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona


While Huygens rests frozen at -180 degrees Celsius on Titan's landscape, a symbolic
 finale to the engineering and flight phase of this historic mission, scientists
have taken little time off to eat or sleep.

They have been processing, examining and analysing data, and sometimes even
dreaming about it when they sleep. There's enough data to keep Huygens scientists
 busy for months and even years to come.

Landing with a splat
Scientists had theorised that the probe would drop out of the haze at between 70 and
50 kilometres. In fact, Huygens began to emerge from the haze only at 30 kilometres
above the surface.

When the probe landed, it was not with a thud, or a splash, but a 'splat'. It landed in Titanian 'mud'.

"I think the biggest surprise is that we survived landing and that we lasted so long," said
DISR team member Charles See. "There wasn't even a glitch at impact. That landing was a
 lot friendlier than we anticipated."

DISR's downward-looking High Resolution Imager camera lens apparently accumulated
some material, which suggests the probe may have settled into the surface. "Either that or we steamed
hydrocarbons off the surface and they collected onto the lens," said See.

"The probe's parachute disappeared from sight on landing, so the probe probably isn't
 pointing east, or we would have seen the parachute," said DISR team member Mike Bushroe.

When the mission was designed, it was decided that the DISR's 20-Watt landing lamp
 should turn on 700 metres above the surface and illuminate the landing site for
as long as 15 minutes after touchdown.

"In fact, not only did the landing lamp turn on at exactly 700 metres, but also
it was still shining more than an hour later, when Cassini moved beyond Titan's
horizon for its ongoing exploratory tour of the giant moon and the Saturnian system," said Tomasko.


SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM



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Titan forecast calls for rain, Huygens data shows
BY WILLIAM HARWOOD

Liquid methane apparently falls like rain on Saturn's smog-shrouded moon Titan, washing down
icy channels that ultimately spill into broad lakebeds dotted with ice islands and shoals,
 according to the latest data from Europe's Huygens probe. While the spacecraft did not detect
 any standing pools of
liquefied natural gas in its immediate area, the data indicate rainfall is common on
Titan and that liquid methane is present within a few inches of its surface.




This mosaic of three frames provides unprecedented detail of
 the high ridge area including the flow down into a major river
channel from different sources. Credits: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of
Arizona

Download larger image version here

http://esamultimedia.esa.int/images/cassini_huygens/huygens_land/press_release_050120/HRICoastLineMoasic_H.jpg

This isn't Mars, where the liquid that's done the erosion is buried underneath a solid," said
 Toby Owen, an interdisciplinary scientist with the Cassini-Huygens mission. "This is a
 planet where the liquids are right there. It might have rained yesterday. This is
 really a very active situation. That's the important news about detecting methane.
It isn't that we think methane is there. It's really there in the liquid state."

Said Martin Tomasko, principal investigator with the Huygens descent imager instrument:
"What we know is the place we landed is dry at the moment. But the liquid is not 200
meters underground, the liquid was within a few centimeters of the surface, indicating
that it must have rained not very long ago. Does that mean yesterday or the day before,
 the week before? We don't really know. But the feeling is, in the place we landed,
it must rain fairly frequently. But we can't be more precise than that."





A view of Titan from the VIMS instrument on the Cassini
orbiter. The Huygens probe landed in the small red circle on the
boundary of the bright and dark regions. The size of the circle
shows the field of view of the Huygens DISR imager from an altitude
of 20 kilometres. Credits: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Download larger image version here

http://esamultimedia.esa.int/images/cassini_huygens/huygens_land/press_release_050120/VIMS_HuygensLandingSite_H.jpg

Data from Huygens shows nitrogen is the dominant gas in the upper atmosphere of Titan.
 But as the probe descended, methane concentrations shot up.



A single image from the Huygens DISR instrument of a dark
plain area on Titan, seen during descent to the landing site, that
indicates flow around bright 'islands'. The areas below and above
the bright islands may be at different elevations. Credits:
 ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

 


"We don't think we have open pools of liquid methane, but the methane kind of
sinks down into the surface material," he said. "It's more like Arizona or someplace
 like that where the river beds are dry most of the time but after rain, you might
 have open flowing liquids and pools. These pools gradually dry out, the liquid sinks
down into the surface. Perhaps it's very seasonal."

No one yet knows. But Jean-Pierre Lebreton, the Huygens mission scientist for the
European Space Agency, said Titan would make an ideal target for some future robot lander.

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM




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Opportunity rover finds an iron meteorite on Mars

NASA/JPL NEWS RELEASE


NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found an iron meteorite, the first
meteorite of any type ever identified on another planet.


Opportunity finds meteorite on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

The pitted, basketball-size object is mostly made of iron and nickel according to readings
from spectrometers on the rover. Only a small fraction of the meteorites fallen
on Earth are similarly metal-rich. Others are rockier. As an example, the meteorite
 that blasted the famous Meteor Crater in Arizona is similar in composition.


"This is a huge surprise, though maybe it shouldn't have been," said Dr. Steve Squyres of
 Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science instruments
 on Opportunity and its twin, Spirit.

The meteorite, dubbed "Heat Shield Rock," sits near debris of Opportunity's heat
shield on the surface of Meridiani Planum, a cratered flatland that has been Opportunity's
home since the robot landed on Mars nearly one year ago.

"I never thought we would get to use our instruments on a rock from someplace other
than Mars," Squyres said. "Think about where an iron meteorite comes from: a destroyed
planet or planetesimal that was big enough to differentiate into a metallic core and a rocky mantle."

SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW>COM


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Desertification alters regional ecosystem climate interactions

Stanford, CA. Using advanced remote-sensing techniques from a U-2 surveillance plane
and field studies, scientists from the Carnegie Institution Department of Global
Ecology have for the first time determined large-scale interactions between ecosystems
and the climate during the process of desertification. The study, to be published in
the January 2005 issue of Global Change Biology, is a milestone both for the new methods
 employed and for understanding what is happening as agricultural and grazing lands
change into desert--a top environmental worry of the United Nations.



This image shows how spectral data, information contained in reflected light, obtained from the
 NASA Airborne Visible and Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) is organized into "data cubes. " It also
shows what the reflecting light reveals as the sensor collects data from the canopy to the soil. The different
types of vegetation are grasslands, transition areas, and desert shrublands in the Northern Chihuahua region
 of New Mexico.  


Typically, remote-sensing for ecological research looks at the greenness of the top layer
of vegetation, which is used to determine the amount of plant growth, or net primary
production (NPP). NPP data are useful for understanding the global carbon cycle as plants
breath in and lock up the greenhouse gas CO2 . NPP data, though, are not as important as are
 the changes in the type and distribution of vegetation as an area transitions into desert.
 Using the (AVIRIS), the scientists are able to analyze the physical structure of ecosystems
including the live and dead plants. The data are viewed in 3-dimensions at very high
 resolution and can give a much broader picture of the processes at work, including carbon
cycling and other chemical and biological activities.

SOURCE:EURAKAALERT.ORG



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Rare leopard 'faces extinction'  

By Richard Black
BBC environment correspondent  

The world's rarest cat, the Amur leopard, is facing extinction in the wild, conservationists
have warned.

They have blamed a recent decision by the Russian government to approve an oil pipeline
through the leopards' only habitat, on the harsh eastern coast.
 



Amur leopards are a little lighter in colour than other leopards
 

It is estimated that only about 30 of the animals survive in the wild.

Human settlements and forest fires have already pushed the Amur leopard to the brink
of extinction - there are more in captivity than there are in the wild.


At the end of December, Russia approved a plan for a pipeline bringing oil from Siberia
to a new terminal on the coast, opening up export routes to east Asia.

The pipeline will pass through the Amur leopards' only remaining range - and conservationists
 working with the Zoological Society of London say it could be the last straw.

They are appealing to the Russian government to re-route the pipeline and give the
world's rarest cat one more life.

SOURCE: BBC


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Swirls in the south

CASSINI PHOTO RELEASE

The turbulent boundaries between dark belts and bright zones are seen prominently
in this processed image of Saturn's southern atmosphere. Disturbed boundaries
between these cloud bands are due to wind shear and density differences between adjacent bands.


Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute
Download larger image version here

http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA06568.jpg
 

The planet appears more bland in natural color images, but this infrared view
 uncovers far more detail.

The image was taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide angle camera at a distance of
approximately 614,000 kilometers (382,000 miles) from Saturn through a filter sensitive
to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 890 nanometers. The image scale is 37
kilometers (23 miles) per pixel.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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A Carrot Rainbow
Janet Raloff

Thanksgiving menus typically include root vegetables. Although some of those vegetables can
 be slightly exotic—from kohlrabi and rutabaga to ginger—many are familiar standbys, such
 as carrots. Long, fat, and orange, they make good snacks, add moisture to cakes, and
sometimes serve as the nose on a snowman's face.


High beta-carotene carrots developed from lines initially
bred at the USDA's Madison, Wis., laboratory.
USDA




Orange was not the carrot's original tint, however. A native of western Asia, this
cool-season member of the parsley family started out in various shades of white,
yellow, and purple. It took on orange shades only under the hand of 16th century Dutch
horticulturalists, according to researchers with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

In recent years, other USDA scientists have enhanced the now-familiar orange carrots
 by breeding lines with elevated concentrations of the pigment beta-carotene—a material
 from which the body fashions vitamin A. The result: Most U.S. carrots now offer about
 75 percent more beta-carotene than they did 25 years ago.


In some cases, such as the purple carrot shown above, the deep hue goes all the way through the root.
In other instances, the intense color tints only the outer edges of the root (below).



However, plant geneticist Philipp Simon and his carrot-breeding colleagues at USDA's
Vegetable Crops Research Unit in Madison, Wis., didn't stop there. They've been breeding
carrots in a rainbow of antique hues, including red and deep purple, to survive in U.S. soils
and appeal to American flavor preferences.

Some carrot slices doing synchronized line dancing yesterday


A sampling of USDA's nontraditional carrots.
Stephen Ausmus



Red carrots have proven a particular challenge. Many haven't proven too tasty without heavy
cooking—a problem since the vast majority of U.S. carrots is eaten raw. Most imported red
carrots, from Asia, fall prey to the root-rot fungus Sclerotium rolfsii that's present in most U.S. soils.



SOURCE:SCIENCENEWS>ORG
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Asteroid collisions may explain star's appearance

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA NEWS RELEASE


The recent collision of two huge asteroids or tiny planets may be the cause of the mysterious
lopsided appearance of the most famous of the universe's planet-forming stars, a team of
astronomers says.


This is an artist's rendering of a possible collision scenario between two huge asteroids or tiny planets. University of
Florida astronomers say such a collision may be the cause of the lopsided appearance of Beta Pictoris. Credit: Gemini Observatory
 illustration by Jon Lomberg

 
Relying on observations from the Gemini South telescope in Chile, the University of Florida-led
team has concluded that differences in brightness in the dust disc surrounding a star known as
Beta Pictoris stem from an extra bright clump on one side of the disc. This clump, the
astronomers say, is composed of dust particles that are consistently smaller than particles
 elsewhere in the disc -- likely evidence of a collision of two massive asteroids or
tiny developing planets known as planetismals that may have occurred as recently as in the
past few decades.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM


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Dark matter haloes were first objects in the universe

UNIVERSITY OF ZURICH NEWS RELEASE


Ghostly haloes of dark matter as heavy as the earth and as large as our solar system were
 the first structures to form in the universe, according to new calculations from scientists
 at the University of Zurich, published in this week's issue of Nature.


A zoom into the first object to form in the universe. The two inset regions are each expanded by a scale of a hundred so you
 can see the single earth mass dark matter halo which is about the size of the solar system. The large blue region is 10,000 light
 years across.

 
Our own galaxy still contains quadrillions of these halos with one expected to pass by
Earth every few thousand years, leaving a bright, detectable trail of gamma rays in its
 wake, the scientists say. Day to day, countless random dark matter particles rain down upon
the Earth and through our bodies undetected.

"These dark matter haloes were the gravitational 'glue' that attracted ordinary matter,
 eventually enabling stars and galaxies to form," said Prof. Ben Moore of the Institute for
 Theoretical Physics at the University of Zurich, a co-author on the Nature report. "These structures,
 the building blocks of all we see today, started forming early, only about 20 million years
after the big bang."

Dark matter comprises over 80 percent of the mass of the universe, yet its nature is unknown.
 It seems to be intrinsically different from the atoms that make up matter all around us.
 Dark matter has never been detected directly; its presence is inferred through its gravitational
 influence on ordinary matter.

The Zurich scientists based their calculation on the leading candidate for dark matter,
a theoretical particle called a neutralino, thought to have been created in the big bang.
Their results entailed several months of number crunching on the zBox, a new supercomputer
 designed and built at the University of Zurich by Moore and Drs. Joachim Stadel and Juerg
Diemand, co-authors on the report.


SOURCE:SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM



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Pluto-Charon origin may mirror Earth and Moon

SOUTHWEST RESEARCH INSTITUTE NEWS RELEASE
The evolution of Kuiper Belt objects, Pluto and its lone moon Charon may have something in common
with Earth and our single Moon: a giant impact in the distant past.


Credit: Southwest Research Institute


Dr. Robin Canup, assistant director of Southwest Research Institute's (SwRI)
 Department of Space Studies, argues for such an origin for the Pluto-Charon pair in
an article for the January 28 issue of the journal Science.


In both the Earth-Moon and Pluto-Charon cases, Canup's smooth particle hydrodynamic
simulations depict an origin in which a large, oblique collision with the growing planet
 produced its satellite and provided the current planet-moon system with its angular momentum.

While the Moon has only about 1 percent of the mass of Earth, Charon accounts for a much
larger 10 to 15 percent of Pluto's total mass. Canup's simulations suggest that a
proportionally much larger impactor -- one nearly as large as Pluto itself -- was
responsible for Charon, and that the satellite likely formed intact as a direct result of the collision.

According to Canup, a collision in the early Kuiper Belt -- a disk of comet-like objects
 orbiting in the outer solar system beyond Neptune -- could have given rise to a
planet and satellite with relative sizes and angular rotation characteristics
consistent with those of the Pluto-Charon pair. The colliding objects would
have been about 1,600 to 2,000 kilometers in diameter, or each about half the size of the Earth's Moon.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM



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Arid Australian interior linked to landscape burning
 by ancient humans



The image of a controlled
 burn in the interior of Australia today,
 featured on the cover of the January 2005
 issue of Geology, illustrates how Australia
 might have looked 50,000 years ago.
Photo courtesy Gifford Miller, University of
Colorado at Boulder


 Landscape burning by ancient hunters and gatherers may have triggered the failure
 of the annual Australian Monsoon some 12,000 years ago, resulting in the desertification
of the country's interior that is evident today, according to a new study.

University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Gifford Miller said the study builds on his
research group's previous findings that dozens of giant animal species went extinct
in Australia roughly 50,000 years ago due to ecosystem changes caused by human burning.
 The new study indicates such burning may have altered the flora enough to decrease the
exchange of water vapor between the biosphere and atmosphere, causing the failure of
the Australian Monsoon over the interior.

"The question is whether localized burning 50,000 years ago could have had a continental-scale
effect," said Miller, a fellow at CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.
"The implications are that the burning practices of early humans may have changed the
climate of the Australian continent by weakening the penetration of monsoon moisture into the interior."

SOURCE:EUREKAALERT.ORG


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Light continues to echo three
 years after stellar outburst


SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INSTITUTE NEWS RELEASE
Posted: February 3, 2005

The Hubble Space Telescope's latest image of the star V838 Monocerotis (V838 Mon) reveals
dramatic changes in the illumination of surrounding dusty cloud structures. The effect,
 called a light echo, has been unveiling never-before-seen dust patterns ever since
the star suddenly brightened for several weeks in early 2002.


Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)
Download larger image version here

http://imgsrc.hubblesite.org/hu/db/2005/02/images/a/formats/print.jpg


The illumination of interstellar dust comes from the red supergiant star at the middle of the image, which gave off a pulse of light three years ago, somewhat similar to setting off a flashbulb in a darkened room. The dust surrounding V838 Mon may have been ejected from the star during a previous explosion, similar to the 2002 event.

The echoing of light through space is similar to the echoing of sound through air.
 As light from the stellar explosion continues to propagate outwards, different
parts of the surrounding dust are illuminated, just as a sound echo bounces off of objects
 near the source, and later, objects further from the source. Eventually, when light
from the back side of the nebula begins to arrive, the light echo will give the illusion
 of contracting, and finally it will disappear.

SOURCE: SPACEFLIGHTNOW.COM

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