NASA News Digest: Space Science For 27 October – 5 December 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’S Chandra Observatory Identifies Impact of Cosmic Chaos on Star Birth

RELEASE 14-296 (Click here for the full article) – 27 October 2014

2014dec14_14_296The same phenomenon that causes a bumpy airplane ride, turbulence, may be the solution to a long-standing mystery about stars’ birth, or the absence of it, according to a new study using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Galaxy clusters are the largest objects in the universe, held together by gravity. These behemoths contain hundreds or thousands of individual galaxies that are immersed in gas with temperatures of millions of degrees.

This hot gas, which is the heftiest component of the galaxy clusters aside from unseen dark matter, glows brightly in X-ray light detected by Chandra. Over time, the gas in the centers of these clusters should cool enough that stars form at prodigious rates. However, this is not what astronomers have observed in many galaxy clusters.

An interactive image, podcast, and video about these findings are available at: chandra.si.edu
For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: www.nasa.gov/chandra

NASA Rocket Experiment Finds the Universe Brighter Than We Thought

RELEASE 14-310 (Click here for the full article) – 6 November 2014

2014dec14_14_310A NASA sounding rocket experiment has detected a surprising surplus of infrared light in the dark space between galaxies, a diffuse cosmic glow as bright as all known galaxies combined. The glow is thought to be from orphaned stars flung out of galaxies.

The findings redefine what scientists think of as galaxies. Galaxies may not have a set boundary of stars, but instead stretch out to great distances, forming a vast, interconnected sea of stars.

Observations from the Cosmic Infrared Background Experiment, or CIBER, are helping settle a debate on whether this background infrared light in the universe, previously detected by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, comes from these streams of stripped stars too distant to be seen individually, or alternatively from the first galaxies to form in the universe.

For more information on NASA’s sounding rocket experiments, visit:
www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sounding-rockets/
For more information about CIBER, visit: ciber.caltech.edu/rocket.html

Mars Spacecraft Reveal Comet Flyby Effects on Martian Atmosphere

RELEASE 14-311 (Click here for the full article) – 7 November 2014

2014dec14_14_311Two NASA and one European spacecraft that obtained the first up-close observations of a comet flyby of Mars on Oct. 19, have gathered new information about the basic properties of the comet’s nucleus and directly detected the effects on the Martian atmosphere.

Data from observations carried out by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and a radar instrument on the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Mars Express spacecraft have revealed that debris from the comet added a temporary and very strong layer of ions to the ionosphere, the electrically charged layer high above Mars. In these observations, scientists were able to make a direct connection from the input of debris from a specific meteor shower to the formation of this kind of transient layer in response; that is a first on any planet, including Earth.

For more information about NASA’s Mars missions, visit: www.nasa.gov/mars

NASA’s New Orion Spacecraft Completes First Spaceflight Test

RELEASE 14-325 (Click here for the full article) – 5 December 2014

2014dec14_14_325NASA marked a major milestone Friday on its journey to Mars as the Orion spacecraft completed its first voyage to space, traveling farther than any spacecraft designed for astronauts has been in more than 40 years.

“Today’s flight test of Orion is a huge step for NASA and a really critical part of our work to pioneer deep space on our Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “The teams did a tremendous job putting Orion through its paces in the real environment it will endure as we push the boundary of human exploration in the coming years.”

For more information about Orion, its flight test and the Journey to Mars, visit: www.nasa.gov/orion and go.nasa.gov/1pVQu0S

NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope Reveals New Source of Gamma Rays

RELEASE 14-326 (Click here for the full article) – 8 December 2014

2014dec14_14_326Observations by NASA’s Curiosity Rover indicate Mars’ Mount Sharp was built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years.

This interpretation of Curiosity’s finds in Gale Crater suggests ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many locations on the Red Planet.

“If our hypothesis for Mount Sharp holds up, it challenges the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local, or only underground on Mars,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. “A more radical explanation is that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but so far we don’t know how the atmosphere did that.”

For more information about Curiosity, visit: www.nasa.gov/msl and mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: facebook.com/marscuriosity and twitter.com/marscuriosity

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