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Saline hiding places for bacteria in Río Tinto could be like those on Mars

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The natrojarosite precipitates of Río Tinto hide microorganisms (green) within their salt microniches. (Credit: F. Gómez / CAB.)

Jan. 11, 2013 — Researchers at the Centre of Astrobiology have identified microorganisms that live inside salt deposits in the acidic and ferrous environment of the Tinto River in Huelva, Spain. The extreme conditions of these microniches appear to be similar to those of the salt deposits on Mars and Jupiter's moon, Europa. This possibility should be borne in mind on missions operating in these places, such as Curiosity.

The high doses of radiation, lack of moisture and extreme temperature and pressure on the surface of Mars make the development of life...

NASA's GALEX reveals the largest-known spiral galaxy

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This composite of the giant barred spiral galaxy NGC 6872 combines visible light images from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope with far-ultraviolet (1,528 angstroms) data from NASA's GALEX and 3.6-micron infrared data acquired by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. A previously unsuspected tidal dwarf galaxy candidate appears only in the ultraviolet, indicating the presence of many hot young stars. IC 4970, the small disk galaxy interacting with NGC 6872, is located...

Cloudy mystery solved: A puzzling cloud near the galaxy's center may hold clues to how stars are born

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This image, taken with NASA's Spitzer infrared space telescope, shows the mysterious galactic cloud, seen as the black object on the left. The galactic center is the bright spot on the right. (Credit: NASA/Spitzer/Benjamin et al., Churchwell et al.)

Jan. 10, 2013 — It's the mystery of the curiously dense cloud. And astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) are on the case.

Near the crowded galactic center, where billowing clouds of gas...

NASA researchers studying advanced nuclear rocket technologies

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Amy Sivak, an engineer in the Propulsion Research & Technology Branch of the Marshall Center's Engineering Directorate, keeps an eye on NTREES testing in progress. (Credit: MSFC/Emmett Given)

Jan. 10, 2013 — Advanced propulsion researchers at NASA are a step closer to solving the challenge of safely sending human explorers to Mars and other solar system destinations.

By using an innovative test facility at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in...

A jumble of exotic stars: New VISTA snap of star cluster 47 Tucanae

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This bright cluster of stars is 47 Tucanae (NGC 104), shown here in an image taken by ESO’s VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy) from the Paranal Observatory in Chile. This cluster is located around 15 000 light-years away from us and contains millions of stars, some of which are unusual and exotic. This image was taken as part of the VISTA Magellanic Cloud survey, a project that is scanning the region of the Magellanic Clouds, two small galaxies that are...

Life possible on extrasolar moons

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Artist’s conception of two extrasolar moons orbiting a giant gaseous planet. (Credit: R. Heller, AIP)

Jan. 10, 2013 — In their search for habitable worlds, astronomers have started to consider exomoons, or those likely orbiting planets outside the solar system. In a new study, a pair of researchers has found that exomoons are just as likely to support life as exoplanets.

The research, conducted by René Heller of Germany's Leibniz Institute for...

Mapping the Milky Way: Radio telescopes give clues to structure, history

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Red areas mark locations of a string of newly-discovered HII regions stretching across a portion of the MIlky Way. (Credit: HRDS Survey Team, NRAO/AUI/NSF (radio); Axel Mellinger (optical))

Jan. 9, 2013 — Astronomers have discovered hundreds of previously-unknown sites of massive star formation in the Milky Way, including the most distant such objects yet found in our home Galaxy. Ongoing studies of these objects promise to give crucial clues about the structure and...

Next-generation adaptive optics brings remarkable details to light in stellar nursery

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This image, obtained during the late commissioning phase of the GeMS adaptive optics system, with the Gemini South AO Imager (GSAOI) on the night of Dec. 28, 2012, reveals exquisite details in the outskirts of the Orion Nebula. The large adaptive optics field-of-view (85 arcseconds across) demonstrates the system's extreme resolution and uniform correction across the entire field. The three filters used for this composite color image include [Fe II], H2, and, K(short)-continuum (2.093...

SOFIA spots recent starbursts in the Milky Way galaxy's center

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Figure 1a: SOFIA/FORCAST mid-infrared image of the Milky Way Galaxy's nucleus showing the Circumnuclear Ring (CNR) of gas and dust clouds orbiting a central supermassive black hole. Figure 1b: HST/NICMOS near-infrared image showing the same field of view with the same scale and orientation as Figure 1a. At this wavelength, opaque dust in the plane of the Milky Way hides features that are seen in the SOFIA image. Figure 2a: SOFIA/FORCAST mid-infrared image of a region including the...