NASA Prevents Space Wreck; Black Hole Winds; Oldest Fossils Found

Posted March 3rd, 2017 at 4:15 pm (UTC-4)
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Artist’s conception of MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) observing the “Christmas Lights Aurora" on Mars. (University of Colorado)

Artist’s conception of MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) observing the “Christmas Lights Aurora” on Mars. (University of Colorado)

NASA Prevents a Wreck at Mars

The folks at NASA’s MAVEN program recently had to give their spacecraft a small unscheduled course correction so that it wouldn’t smash into Mars’s moon Phobos.

The spacecraft that’s been circling the Red Planet for a little over two years conducted a motor burn that give it a slight bump, about .4 meter per second in speed.

That minor maneuver however is keeping the spacecraft from smashing into the Martian moon sometime around March 6, 2017.

MAVEN instead will miss crossing into the path of Phobos by 2 and a half minutes.

NASA reports that this has been the only collision avoidance operation the spacecraft conducted since arriving at Mars in September 2014.

According to the space agency, MAVEN, short for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, has been studying the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and how they interact with both the Sun and its solar wind.

This artist's concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with X-ray emission emanating from its inner region (pink) and ultrafast winds (light purple lines) streaming from the surrounding disk. (ESA)

This artist’s concept illustrates a supermassive black hole with X-ray emission emanating from its inner region (pink) and ultrafast winds (light purple lines) streaming from the surrounding disk. (ESA)

Winds from Black Hole Blow Very Hot and Then Cold

Black holes are regions of space with such incredible gravitational pull that not even light can escape them.

Circling the black holes are disks of dust and gas they feed on called accretion disks.

While black holes may have a voracious appetite, scientists say they can only consume so much at one time.

Because of this, black holes have been known to be sloppy eaters tossing out quick moving streams of hot gas winds that can blow throughout their host galaxies.

Scientists studying data from NASA’s NuSTAR telescope and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton telescope have just found that these winds can get incredibly hot and then cool down within just a few hours.

The researchers who say these winds travel at a quarter of the speed of light and contain a vast amount of matter, can actually disturb star formation within the black hole’s host galaxy.

An image of a protoplanetary disk, made using results from the new model, after the formation of a spontaneous dust trap, visible as a bright dust ring. Gas is depicted in blue and dust in red. (Jean-Francois Gonzalez)

An image of a protoplanetary disk, made using results from the new model, after the formation of a spontaneous dust trap, visible as a bright dust ring. Gas is depicted in blue and dust in red.
(Jean-Francois Gonzalez)

Planet Formation Missing Link Found?

A new study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society suggests that scientists have found the proverbial “missing link” in the formation of planets.

The study provides an explanation of how dust left over from star formation gathers or accretes materials that eventually go on to form planets and planetary systems.

A new theory developed by the scientists from various numerical simulations and analytical calculations explains the progression from dust particles into pebbles then into what will become the building blocks of planets.

Gas also left over from star formation moves the particles around, which could prevent them from accreting.

But research suggests that high pressure regions called “dust traps” form to slow the dust particles enough so that they can join together and grow into larger objects.

These “dust traps” are also said to prevent the growing objects from being fragmented by other particles.

Haematite tubes from the hydrothermal vent deposits in Quebec, Canada that represent the oldest microfossils and evidence for life on Earth. The remains are at least 3,770 million years old. (Matthew Dodd, UCL)

Haematite tubes from the hydrothermal vent deposits in Quebec, Canada that represent the oldest microfossils and evidence for life on Earth. The remains are at least 3,770 million years old. (Matthew Dodd, UCL)

Scientists Find World’s Oldest Fossils

An international team of researchers say they’ve found the world’s oldest fossils.

In a study published by the journal “Nature”, the researchers say they discovered the remains of microorganisms dating back some 3.8 billion years ago.

They say their finding provides direct evidence of one of the oldest life forms on Earth.

What they actually found, encased in layers of quartz, are some miniscule filaments and tubes that were formed by the ancient bacteria.

They assert that the microorganisms lived on iron in which the scientists think was once part of the iron-rich deep-sea hydrothermal system.

Study first author Matthew Dodd from the UK’s University College London says that the discovery supports the idea that life emerged from hot, seafloor vents shortly after Earth formed 4.54 billion years ago.

Record-breaking pulsar, identified as NGC 5907 X-1. The image includes X-ray emission data (blue/white) from ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory, and optical data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (galaxy and foreground stars). Inset shows the X-ray pulsation of the spinning neutron star. (ESA/XMM-Newton; NASA/Chandra and SDSS)

Record-breaking pulsar – NGC 5907 X-1. The image includes X-ray emission data (blue/white) from ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope and NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory, and optical data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (galaxy and foreground stars). Inset shows the X-ray pulsation of the spinning neutron star. (ESA/XMM-Newton; NASA/Chandra and SDSS)

Astronomers Spot Record Setting Pulsar

The European Space Agency says an international group of astronomers has discovered a record setting pulsar some 50 million light-years from Earth.

Using data gathered by the space agency’s XXM-Newton x-ray space observatory and archival data from NASA’s NuStar x-ray space telescope, the scientists say the pulsar is the most distant and the brightest of its kind that’s been detected so far.

The pulsar is called NGC 5907 X-1. ESA says that every second it pumps out the same amount of energy released by our Sun in 3.5 years.

A pulsar is a type of neutron star, which is the collapsed core of a star that exploded in a massive supernova.

What makes it a pulsar is that this neutron star also pumps out two rotating and pulsing symmetrical beams of electromagnetic radiation that shine so brightly scientists call them cosmic lighthouses.

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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