NASA News Digest: Space Science For 27 August – 1 October 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The NASA News service provides up-to-date announcements of NASA policy, news events, and space science. A recent selection of space science articles are provided below, including direct links to the full announcements. Those interested in receiving these news announcements directly from NASA can subscribe to their service by sending an email to:

hqnews-request@newsletters.nasa.gov?subject=subscribe

NASA Telescopes Uncover Early Construction of Giant Galaxy

RELEASE 14-230 (Click here for the full article) – 27 August 2014

2014october10_14_230Astronomers have for the first time caught a glimpse of the earliest stages of massive galaxy construction. The building site, dubbed “Sparky,” is a dense galactic core blazing with the light of millions of newborn stars that are forming at a ferocious rate.

The discovery was made possible through combined observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory, in which NASA plays an important role.

A fully developed elliptical galaxy is a gas-deficient gathering of ancient stars theorized to develop from the inside out, with a compact core marking its beginnings. Because the galactic core is so far away, the light of the forming galaxy that is observable from Earth was actually created 11 billion years ago, just 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

For more information about Spitzer, visit: www.nasa.gov/spitzer

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble

Scientists Find Evidence of ‘Diving’ Tectonic Plates on Jupiter’s Moon Europa

RELEASE 14-241 (Click here for the full article) – 8 September 2014

2014october10_14_241Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This indicates the first sign of this type of surface-shifting geological activity on a world other than Earth.

Researchers have clear visual evidence of Europa’s icy crust expanding. However, they could not find areas where the old crust was destroyed to make room for the new. While examining Europa images taken by NASA’s Galileo orbiter in the early 2000s, planetary geologists Simon Kattenhorn, of the University of Idaho, Moscow, and Louise Prockter, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, discovered some unusual geological boundaries.

“We have been puzzled for years as to how all this new terrain could be formed, but we couldn’t figure out how it was accommodated,” said Prockter. “We finally think we’ve found the answer.”

For more information about Europa and images of the plate tectonics, visit:
solarsystem.nasa.gov/europa

Information is available online about the Galileo Mission at:
www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/galileo/

Hubble Finds Supernova Companion Star after Two Decades of Searching

RELEASE 14-231 (Click here for the full article) – 9 September 2014

2014october10_14_231Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered a companion star to a rare type of supernova. The discovery confirms a long-held theory that the supernova, dubbed SN 1993J, occurred inside what is called a binary system, where two interacting stars caused a cosmic explosion.

“This is like a crime scene, and we finally identified the robber,” said Alex Filippenko, professor of astronomy at University of California (UC) at Berkeley. “The companion star stole a bunch of hydrogen before the primary star exploded.”

SN 1993J is an example of a Type IIb supernova, unusual stellar explosions that contains much less hydrogen than found in a typical supernova. Astronomers believe the companion star took most of the hydrogen surrounding the exploding main star and continued to burn as a super-hot helium star.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble

Hubble Helps Find Smallest Known Galaxy Containing a Supermassive Black Hole

RELEASE 14-251 (Click here for the full article) – 17 September 2014

2014october10_14_251Astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground observation have found an unlikely object in an improbable place — a monster black hole lurking inside one of the tiniest galaxies ever known.

The black hole is five times the mass of the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. It is inside one of the densest galaxies known to date — the M60-UCD1 dwarf galaxy that crams 140 million stars within a diameter of about 300 light-years, which is only 1/500th of our galaxy’s diameter.

If you lived inside this dwarf galaxy, the night sky would dazzle with at least 1 million stars visible to the naked eye. Our nighttime sky as seen from Earth’s surface shows 4,000 stars.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble

NASA Mission Points to Origin of “Ocean of Storms” on Earth’s Moon

RELEASE 14-236 (Click here for the full article) – 1 October 2014

2014october10_14_236Using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), mission scientists have solved a lunar mystery almost as old as the moon itself.

Early theories suggested the craggy outline of a region of the moon’s surface known as Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, was caused by an asteroid impact. If this theory had been correct, the basin it formed would be the largest asteroid impact basin on the moon. However, mission scientists studying GRAIL data believe they have found evidence the craggy outline of this rectangular region — roughly 1,600 miles (2,600 kilometers) across — is actually the result of the formation of ancient rift valleys.

“The nearside of the moon has been studied for centuries, and yet continues to offer up surprises for scientists with the right tools,” said Maria Zuber, principal investigator of NASA’s GRAIL mission, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. “We interpret the gravity anomalies discovered by GRAIL as part of the lunar magma plumbing system — the conduits that fed lava to the surface during ancient volcanic eruptions.”

For more information about GRAIL, visit: www.nasa.gov/grail

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