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Asteroids, Comets and Meteors

Mars' Reull Vallis: A river ran through it

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Topographic view of Reull Vallis: This colour-coded overhead view is based on an ESA Mars Express HRSC digital terrain model of the Reull Vallis region, from which the topography of the landscape can be derived. The colour coding shows the depth of the main channel, coloured in blue, which contrasts clearly against the Promethei Terra Highlands and their smooth, soft and rounded mountain tops. Centred at around 41°S and 107°E, the image has a ground resolution of about 16 m per pixel. The image was taken during revolution 10657 on 14 May 2012. (Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum))

Jan. 22, 2013 — ESA's Mars Express imaged the striking upper part of the Reull Vallis region of Mars with its...

Mars may have supported life: Martian underground could contain clues to life's origins

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This view of layered rocks on the floor of McLaughlin Crater shows sedimentary rocks that contain spectroscopic evidence for minerals formed through interaction with water. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Jan. 20, 2013 — Minerals found in the subsurface of Mars, a zone of more than three miles below ground, make for the strongest evidence yet that the red planet may have supported life, according to research "Groundwater activity on Mars and implications...

Asteroid deflection mission seeks smashing ideas

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AIDA mission concept: The US-European Asteroid Impact and Deflection mission – AIDA. This innovative but low-budget transatlantic partnership involves the joint operations of two small spacecraft sent to intercept a binary asteroid. The first Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft, designed by the US Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory will collide with the smaller of the two asteroids. Meanwhile, ESA’s Asteroid Impact Monitor (AIM) craft will survey these...

NASA rules out Earth impact in 2036 for asteroid Apophis

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Asteroid Apophis was discovered on June 19, 2004. (Credit: UH/IA)

Jan. 11, 2013 — NASA scientists at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., effectively have ruled out the possibility the asteroid Apophis will impact Earth during a close flyby in 2036. The scientists used updated information obtained by NASA-supported telescopes in 2011 and 2012, as well as new data from the time leading up to Apophis' distant Earth flyby Jan. 9...

Oxygen to the core: Earth's core formed under more oxidizing conditions than previously proposed

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An artist's conception of Earth's inner and outer core. (Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory)

Jan. 10, 2013 — An international collaboration including researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has discovered that Earth's core formed under more oxidizing conditions than previously proposed.

Through a series of laser-heated diamond anvil cell experiments at high pressure (350,000 to 700,000 atmospheres of...

NASA's robotic refueling demo set to jumpstart expanded capabilities in space

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The Robotic Refueling Mission, or RRM, investigation (center, on platform) uses the International Space Station’s Canadarm2 and the Canadian Dextre robot (right) to demonstrate satellite-servicing tasks. (Credit: NASA)

Jan. 10, 2013 — In mid-January, NASA will take the next step in advancing robotic satellite-servicing technologies as it tests the Robotic Refueling Mission, or RRM aboard the International Space Station. The investigation may one day...

Herschel spacecraft eyes asteroid Apophis

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The Photodetecting Array Camera and Spectrometer instrument aboard the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory captured asteroid Apophis in its field of view during the approach to Earth on Jan. 5 and 6, 2013. (Credit: ESA/Herschel/PACS/MACH-11/MPE/ESAC)

Jan. 9, 2013 — Scientists using the Herschel Space Observatory made new observations of asteroid Apophis as it approached Earth this past weekend. The data show the asteroid to be bigger than first...

First meteorite linked to Martian crust

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The unusual Martian meteorite, Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, is the first meteorite that scientists have found linked to the Martian crust. (Credit: Image courtesy Carl Agee, University of New Mexico)

Jan. 3, 2013 — After extensive analyses by a team of scientists led by Carl Agee at the University of New Mexico, researchers have identified a new class of Martian meteorite that likely originated from Mars's crust. It is also the only meteoritic sample dated to 2.1...

Spinal ultrasounds seeking why astronauts grow taller in space

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The body navigator portion of the Just-In-Time tool reveals the internal anatomy structure as the user moves the mouse over an area of the body image. By allowing the user to see below the skin surface, they can identify the region of interest and correctly orient the ultrasound imaging transducer. (Credit: Image courtesy of Scott A. Dulchavsky)

Jan. 3, 2013 — Did you ever wish you could be just a teensy bit taller? Well, if you spend a few months in space, you could...

Quadrantids create year's first meteor shower

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False-color image of a rare early Quadrantid, captured by a NASA meteor camera in 2010. (Credit: NASA/MSFC)

Jan. 2, 2013 — A little-known meteor shower named after an extinct constellation, the Quadrantids will present an excellent chance for hardy souls to start the year off with some late-night meteor watching. Peaking in the wee morning hours of Jan. 3, the Quadrantids have a maximum rate of about 80 per hour, varying between 60-200. Unfortunately, light from a...

NASA puts Orion backup parachutes to the test

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A mockup Orion capsule is poised to drop from a plane 25,000 feet above the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona to test the parachute design for the spacecraft that will take humans farther than they’ve ever been before – and return them to Earth at greater speeds than ever before. (Credit: NASA)

Dec. 20, 2012 — NASA completed the latest in a series of parachute tests for its Orion spacecraft Thursday at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in...

Clays on Mars: More plentiful than expected

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Water-ice clouds, polar ice, polar regions, and geological features can be seen in this full-disk image of Mars. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

Dec. 20, 2012 — A new study co-authored by the Georgia Institute of Technology indicates that clay minerals, rocks that usually form when water is present for long periods of time, cover a larger portion of Mars than previously thought. In fact, Assistant Professor James Wray and the research team say clays were in some of the rocks...

Meteorite triggered scientific 'Gold Rush'

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Geology professor Qing-zhu Yin holds a fragment of the meteorite that exploded over the Sierra foothills this past spring. (Credit: Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis photo)

Dec. 20, 2012 — A meteorite that exploded as a fireball over California's Sierra foothills this past spring was among the fastest, rarest meteorites known to have hit Earth, and it traveled a highly eccentric orbital route to get here.

An international team of scientists presents these and other...

New meteorite suggests that asteroid surfaces more complex than previously thought

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These are some of the 77 fragments of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite fall that were collected in April 2012. (Credit: NASA/E. James)

Dec. 20, 2012 — Meteorites that had fallen from an asteroid impact that lit up the skies over California and Nevada in April are showing scientists just how complex an asteroid surface can be. A new study published in Science this week by an international team of researchers describes the speedy recovery of the meteorites and reports...

Asteroid Toutatis slowly tumbles by Earth

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Radar imagery of asteroid Toutatis taken by NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar on Dec. 12 and 13, 2012. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Dec. 16, 2012 — Scientists working with NASA's 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., have generated a series of radar data images of a three-mile-long (4.8-kilometer) asteroid that made its closest approach to Earth on Dec. 12, 2012.

The radar data images of asteroid Toutatis have been...

Mariner 2's encounter with Venus: NASA celebrates 50 years of planetary exploration

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Mariner 2 was the world's first successful interplanetary spacecraft. Launched August 27, 1962, on an Atlas-Agena rocket, Mariner 2 passed within about 34,000 kilometers (21,000 miles) of Venus, sending back valuable new information about interplanetary space and the Venusian atmosphere. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

Dec. 12, 2012 — Fifty years ago on a mid-December day, NASA's Mariner 2 spacecraft sailed close to the shrouded planet Venus, marking the first time any spacecraft...

Cassini spots mini Nile River on Saturn's moon Titan

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This image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows a vast river system on Saturn's moon Titan. It is the first time images from space have revealed a river system so vast and in such high resolution anywhere other than Earth. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

Dec. 12, 2012 — Scientists with NASA's Cassini mission have spotted what appears to be a miniature, extraterrestrial likeness of Earth's Nile River: a river valley on Saturn's moon Titan that stretches more than 200...

Geminid meteors set to light up winter sky

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An all-sky image of the 2004 Geminids meteor shower. (Credit: Chris L. Peterson, Cloudbait Observatory)

Dec. 12, 2012 — On the evening of December 13 and the morning of 14 December, skywatchers across the world will be looking up as the Geminid meteor shower reaches its peak, in potentially one of the best night sky events of the year.

At its peak and in a clear, dark sky tens of 'shooting stars' or meteors may be visible each hour. Meteors are the result of...

Grains gang up to bear brunt of missile and meteorite impacts

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The way a meteorite or missile transfers the energy of its impact to sand and dirt grains is far more complex than scientists thought. (Credit: Impact illustration courtesy of NASA)

Dec. 11, 2012 — High-speed video of projectiles slamming into a bed of disks has given scientists a new microscopic picture of the way a meteorite or missile transfers the energy of its impact to sand and dirt grains.

The transfer is jerky, not smooth. "It was surprising just how...

What is creating gullies on giant asteroid Vesta?

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This image shows examples of long, narrow, sinuous gullies that scientists on NASA's Dawn mission have found on the giant asteroid Vesta. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Dec. 6, 2012 — In a preliminary analysis of images from NASA's Dawn mission, scientists have spotted intriguing gullies that sculpt the walls of geologically young craters on the giant asteroid Vesta. Led by Jennifer Scully, a Dawn team member at the University of California, Los Angeles...

Sungrazing comets as solar probes

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On Dec. 15, 2011, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured footage of Comet Lovejoy approaching the sun. The images and data collected by NASA's solar observing fleet can help scientists learn more about the sun itself. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Scientific Visual Studio)

BestAstronomy (Dec. 6, 2012) — To observe how winds move high in Earth's atmosphere, scientists sometimes release clouds of barium as tracers to track how the material corkscrews, blows around, and...