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October 2012


Like a Hollywood starlet constantly retouching her makeup, the giant asteroid Vesta is constantly stirring its outermost layer to present a young face. Data from NASA's Dawn mission show that a form of weathering that occurs on the moon and other airless bodies we've visited in the inner solar system does not alter Vesta's outermost layer in the same way. Carbon-rich asteroids have also been splattering dark material on Vesta's surface over a long span of the body's history. The results are described in two papers released today in the journal Nature.


Like a Hollywood starlet constantly retouching her makeup, the giant asteroid Vesta is constantly stirring its outermost layer to present a young face. Data from NASA's Dawn mission show that a form of weathering that occurs on the moon and other airless bodies we've visited in the inner solar system does not alter Vesta's outermost layer in the same way.


Saturn's moon Mimas appears near Saturn, dwarfed by its parent planet in this image. Mimas (246 miles, or 396 kilometers across) appears tiny compared to the storms clearly visible in far northern and southern hemispheres of Saturn.


Described as a "dusty curtain" or "ghostly apparition," mysterious reflection nebula VdB 152 really is very faint. Far from your neighborhood on this Halloween Night, the cosmic phantom is nearly 1,400 light-years away.

Saturn's moon Mimas appears near Saturn, dwarfed by its parent planet in this image. Mimas (246 miles, or 396 kilometers across) appears tiny compared to the storms clearly visible in far northern and southern hemispheres of Saturn.

This view looks toward the unilluminated side of the rings from about 18 degrees below the ringplane. North on Saturn is up and rotated 27 degrees to the left.

Described as a "dusty curtain" or "ghostly apparition," mysterious reflection nebula VdB 152 really is very faint. Far from your neighborhood on this Halloween Night, the cosmic phantom is nearly 1,400 light-years away. Also catalogued as Ced 201, it lies along the northern Milky Way in the royal constellation Cepheus. Near the edge of a large molecular cloud, pockets of interstellar dust in the region block light from background stars or scatter light from the embedded bright star giving parts of the nebula a characteristic blue color.

At 11:41:18 AM Moscow Time, logistics spacecraft Progress M-17M was launched from the Baikonur launch site.

The purpose of the launch is to support further in-orbit operation of the International Space Station (ISS) in accordance with Russian commitments under that project.

New research, funded by the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), theorizes that our early Earth and moon were both created together in a giant collision of two planetary bodies that were each five times the size of Mars.

This new theory about how Earth's moon formed is challenging the commonly believed "giant impact hypothesis," which suggests that Earth's moon formed from a colossal impact of a hypothetical planetary embryo, named Theia, with Earth, early in our Solar System's history.


New research, funded by the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), theorizes that our early Earth and moon were both created together in a giant collision of two planetary bodies that were each five times the size of Mars.

East of Argentina, swirls of peacock green stretched across roughly 300 kilometers (175 miles) of the southern Atlantic Ocean on October 27, 2012. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image the same day. It shows an area southeast of Punta Ninfas.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has completed initial experiments showing the mineralogy of Martian soil is similar to weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii.

The minerals were identified in the first sample of Martian soil ingested recently by the rover. Curiosity used its Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument (CheMin) to obtain the results, which are filling gaps and adding confidence to earlier estimates of the mineralogical makeup of the dust and fine soil widespread on the Red Planet.


NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has completed initial experiments showing the mineralogy of Martian soil is similar to weathered basaltic soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii.

"NASA has released a Request for Information (RFI) to explore the potential interest and use of its unique facilities, labs and technical expertise for structural testing at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston. The facilities and capabilities could support commercial, government and academic activities, and possibly lead to new technology developments. The RFI is seeking responses from prospective partners interested in using Johnson's extensive testing facilities to provide high-performance solutions for a variety of structural testing in diverse industries, including aerospace. These solutions can help businesses meet their challenges by helping engineers develop deeper insight in their materials and building processes." More

"The Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI) invites undergraduates with at least 50 semester hours of credit to experience research in the planetary sciences. As a summer intern, you will work one-on-one with a scientist either at the LPI or NASA Johnson Space Center on a research project of current interest in planetary science. Furthermore, you will participate in peer-reviewed research, learn from top-notch planetary scientists, and preview various careers in science. The 10-week program begins June 3, 2013, and ends on August 9, 2013. Selected students will receive a $5000.00 stipend plus a travel stipend of $1000.00 (U.S. students) (foreign nationals will receive a $1500.00 foreign travel reimbursement)." More

"This year's "Fly Your Thesis!" campaign ended on 25 October. For three days, a specially equipped aircraft flew 31 manoeuvres - or parabolas - that generate microgravity conditions, giving students invaluable experience in how to design, construct and run experiments in a near weightless environment. Three student teams participated along with nine professional teams in the 57th ESA parabolic flight campaign. All investigated phenomena that are virtually impossible to study on the ground under the normal pull of gravity. The campaign began on 15 October and for the first five days the student teams readied their experiments for flight. This included loading the equipment into the body of the specially modified A-300 Airbus, and checking that everything was working." More


Stars are born in hiding, when dense regions within clouds of gas and dust collapse under their own gravity. But the clouds not only provide the raw material for star formation, they also absorb most of the light from their interior, hiding from view the crucial details of stellar birth -- one of the key astronomical processes if we want to understand our own origins!

Stars are born in hiding, when dense regions within clouds of gas and dust collapse under their own gravity. But the clouds not only provide the raw material for star formation, they also absorb most of the light from their interior, hiding from view the crucial details of stellar birth -- one of the key astronomical processes if we want to understand our own origins!

Europe's polar orbiting weather satellite, MetOp-A, captured this image of Hurricane Sandy just as the huge storm hit the east coast of the US yesterday. The MetOp programme is developed as a joint undertaking between ESA and Eumetsat for operational meteorology.

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NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured a visible image of Hurricane Sandy battering the U.S. East coast on Monday, Oct. 29 at 9:10 a.m. EDT that showed the immense extent of the storm. The image was created by the NASA GOES Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. Tropical Storm force winds extend almost 500 miles from the center making it almost 1,000 miles in diameter.


As Hurricane Sandy nears landfall NASA and NOAA satellites are tracking the storm to provide continuous updates. This is the latest track. As well NASA is using the International Space Station to take pictures of Sandy. These latest images were take at 11:16 a.m. ET.

One of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way almost got away with theft. However, new simulations convicted the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) of stealing stars from its neighbor, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). And the crucial evidence came from surveys looking for something entirely different -- dark objects on the outskirts of the Milky Way.


One of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way almost got away with theft. However, new simulations convicted the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) of stealing stars from its neighbor, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). And the crucial evidence came from surveys looking for something entirely different -- dark objects on the outskirts of the Milky Way.

Using a brand-new radio telescope, astronomers have produced one of the best images ever made at the lowest frequencies of giant bubbles produced by a super-massive black hole. The observations were performed at frequencies ranging from 20 to 160 MHz which are normally used for communications by airplane pilots. The picture shows what looks like a giant balloon filled with radio emitting plasma, which exceeds the size of an entire galaxy.


Using a brand-new radio telescope, astronomers have produced one of the best images ever made at the lowest frequencies of giant bubbles produced by a super-massive black hole.

The cosmic cauldron has brewed up a Halloween trick in the form of a ghostly face that glows in X-rays, as seen by ESA's XMM-Newton space telescope. The eerie entity is a bubble bursting with the fiery stellar wind of a 'live fast, die young' star.

The bubble lies 5000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Canis Major, the 'greater dog', and can be imagined to take on a dog- or wolf-like face.


The cosmic cauldron has brewed up a Halloween trick in the form of a ghostly face that glows in X-rays, as seen by ESA's XMM-Newton space telescope. The eerie entity is a bubble bursting with the fiery stellar wind of a 'live fast, die young' star.

NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured this visible image of the massive Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 28 at 1302 UTC (9:02 a.m. EDT). The line of clouds from the Gulf of Mexico north are associated with the cold front that Sandy is merging with. Sandy's western cloud edge is already over the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S. Credit: NASA GOES Project. Larger image


NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured this visible image of the massive Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 28 at 1302 UTC (9:02 a.m. EDT).

A Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Dragon spacecraft splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 2:22 p.m. CDT Sunday a few hundred miles west of Baja California, Mexico. The splashdown successfully ended the first contracted cargo delivery flight contracted by NASA to resupply the International Space Station.

This image was created combining NOAA's GOES-13 and GOES-15 satellite imagery on Oct. 27 and shows the cloud cover from Hurricane Sandy interacting with the long line of clouds associated with the cold front approaching the eastern U.S. The composite image was created using SSEC's McIDAS software and NOAA's GOES imager satellite imagery. Credit: NOAA/UWI/SSEC


Sandy weakened to a Tropical Storm and strengthened back into a hurricane early on Saturday Oct. 26, and its pressure was dropping, meaning that the storm is intensifying as it becomes an extra-tropical storm.

"NASA and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Worcester, Mass., have opened registration and are seeking teams to compete in next year's robot technology demonstration competition, which offers as much as $1.5 million in prize money. During the 2013 NASA-WPI Sample Return Robot Challenge, teams will compete to demonstrate a robot can locate and retrieve geologic samples from a wide and varied terrain without human control. The objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in automatic navigation and robotic manipulator technologies. Innovations stemming from this challenge may improve NASA's capability to explore a variety of destinations in space, as well as enhance the nation's robotic technology for use in industries and applications on Earth. The competition is planned for June 2013 in Worcester, Mass., attracting competitors from industry and academia nationwide." More

"NASA has a new online science resource for teachers and students to help bring Earth, the solar system, and the universe into their schools and homes. Called NASA Wavelength, the site features hundreds of resources organized by topic and audience level from elementary to college, and out-of-school programs that span the extent of NASA science. Educators at all levels can locate educational resources through information on educational standards, subjects and keywords and other relevant details, such as learning time required to carry out a lesson or an activity, cost of materials and more. "NASA Wavelength not only lets users find nearly everything they want to know about NASA science, but it also allows them to provide direct feedback to NASA to enhance our products," said Stephanie Stockman, education lead for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) in Washington. "This truly is a living, digital library of resources that will allow educators to find and share the best of NASA science education resources to advance their teaching." More

This visible-light image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the vicinity of the star Fomalhaut, including the location of its dust ring and disputed planet, Fomalhaut b. A coronagraphic mask helped dim the star's brightness. This view combines two 2006 observations that were taken with masks of different sizes (1.8 and 3 arcseconds). (Credit: NASA/ESA/T. Currie, U. Toronto)


A second look at data from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is reanimating the claim that the nearby star Fomalhaut hosts a massive exoplanet. The study suggests that the planet, named Fomalhaut b, is a rare and possibly unique object that is completely shrouded by dust.

NASA's TRMM satellite revealed Hurricane Sandy's heavy rainfall and the storm is expected to couple with a powerful cold front and Arctic air to bring that heavy rainfall to the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S. Some forecasters are calling this combination of weather factors "Frankenstorm" because of the close proximity to Halloween. However, because Sandy is a woman's name, the storm could be considered a "bride of Frankenstorm."


NASA's TRMM satellite revealed Hurricane Sandy's heavy rainfall and the storm is expected to couple with a powerful cold front and Arctic air to bring that heavy rainfall to the Mid-Atlantic and northeastern U.S.

This image acquired over the Middle East shows the northern end of the Persian Gulf, along with the border of Iran and Iraq and the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab river.

This view of Earth's horizon, shows smoke trails from the launch of the Soyuz TMA-06M spacecraft, was photographed by an Expedition 33 crew member on the International Space Station.

Early in the morning on Oct. 25, 2012, the Suomi NPP satellite passed over Hurricane Sandy after it made landfall over Cuba and Jamaica, capturing this highly detailed infrared imagery, showing areas of deep convection around the central eye. Besides the highly detailed infrared imagery, the satellite shows visible-like imagery of the cloud tops, along with the city lights of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Image Credit: NOAA/NASA. Larger image


Early in the morning on Oct. 25, 2012, the Suomi NPP satellite passed over Hurricane Sandy after it made landfall over Cuba and Jamaica, capturing this highly detailed infrared imagery, showing areas of deep convection around the central eye.

Hubble astronomers have looked at one of the most distant and brightest quasars in the universe and are surprised by what they did not see: the underlying host galaxy of stars feeding the quasar. The best explanation is that the galaxy is shrouded in so much dust that the stars are completely hidden everywhere. Astronomers believe that the James Webb Space Telescope will reveal the galaxy.


Hubble astronomers have looked at one of the most distant and brightest quasars in the universe and are surprised by what they did not see: the underlying host galaxy of stars feeding the quasar.

ESA's quartet of satellites studying Earth's magnetosphere, Cluster, has discovered that our protective magnetic bubble lets the solar wind in under a wider range of conditions than previously believed.

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have obtained a remarkable new view of a whopper of an elliptical galaxy that may have been puffed up by the actions of one or more black holes in its core.


Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have obtained a remarkable new view of a whopper of an elliptical galaxy that may have been puffed up by the actions of one or more black holes in its core.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has tracked the aftermath of a rare massive storm on Saturn. Data reveal record-setting disturbances in the planet's upper atmosphere long after the visible signs of the storm abated, in addition to an indication the storm was more forceful than scientists previously thought.


NASA's Cassini spacecraft has tracked the aftermath of a rare massive storm on Saturn. Data reveal record-setting disturbances in the planet's upper atmosphere long after the visible signs of the storm abated, in addition to an indication the storm was more forceful than scientists previously thought.

J. Craig Wheeler has studied the exploding stars called supernovae for more than four decades. Now he has a new idea on the identity of the "parents" of one of the most important types of supernovae -- the Type Ia, those used as "standard candles" in cosmology studies that led to the discovery of dark energy, the mysterious force causing the universe's expansion to speed up.

New research in the FASEB Journal suggests that a major cause of low blood pressure during standing is the compromised ability of arteries and veins to constrict normally and return blood back to the heart.

"NASA has selected 10 university-led proposals for study of innovative, early-stage space technologies designed to improve shielding from space radiation, spacecraft thermal management and optical systems. The 1-year grants are worth approximately $250,000 each, with an additional year of research possible. Each of these technology areas requires dramatic improvements over existing capabilities for future science and human exploration missions. Early stage, or low technology readiness level concepts, could mature into tools that solve the difficult challenges facing future NASA missions. The selected areas address the high-priority technical needs as identified by the National Research Council in its recent report "NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and Priorities: Restoring NASA's Technological Edge and Paving the Way for a New Era in Space." "NASA's Space Technology Program is moving out on solving the cross-cutting technology challenges we face as we move beyond low-Earth orbit and head to an asteroid, Mars and beyond," said Michael Gazarik the program's director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Our science and human deep space missions need advancements in these technology areas to enable exploration of space. We're excited and proud to partner with the best minds from American universities to take on these tough technical challenges." More

Could it be that dark matter "halos" -- the huge, invisible cocoons of mass that envelop entire galaxies and account for most of the matter in the universe -- aren't completely dark after all but contain a small number of stars? Astronomers from UCLA, UC Irvine and elsewhere make a case for that in the Oct. 25 issue of the journal Nature.


Could it be that dark matter "halos" -- the huge, invisible cocoons of mass that envelop entire galaxies and account for most of the matter in the universe -- aren't completely dark after all but contain a small number of stars?

The steady and dramatic decline in the sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean over the last three decades has become a focus of media and public attention. At the opposite end of the Earth, however, something more complex is happening.

Scientists at the University of Arizona and in California have completed the most challenging large astronomical mirror ever made. For the past several years, a group of optical scientists and engineers working at the UA Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory underneath the UA's football stadium have been polishing an 8.4-meter (27.5-foot) diameter mirror with an unusual, highly asymmetric shape.

Scientists at the University of Arizona and in California have completed the most challenging large astronomical mirror ever made. For the past several years, a group of optical scientists and engineers working at the UA Steward Observatory Mirror Laboratory underneath the UA's football stadium have been polishing an 8.4-meter (27.5-foot) diameter mirror with an unusual, highly asymmetric shape.


Scientists at the University of Arizona and in California have completed the most challenging large astronomical mirror ever made.

Using a whopping nine-gigapixel image from the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory, an international team of astronomers has created a catalogue of more than 84 million stars in the central parts of the Milky Way. This gigantic dataset contains more than ten times more stars than previous studies and is a major step forward for the understanding of our home galaxy.


Using a whopping nine-gigapixel image from the VISTA infrared survey telescope at ESO's Paranal Observatory, an international team of astronomers has created a catalogue of more than 84 million stars in the central parts of the Milky Way.

Most researchers imagine the initial oxygenation of the ocean and atmosphere to have been something like a staircase, but with steps only going up.


The search for extrasolar planets has already detected rocky planets and interesting planetary candidates in the Habitable Zone of their host stars. Astrobiologists are pioneering new ways of imaging and examining these worlds, including how to assess their habitability.

Get ready for a fascinating eating experience in the center of our galaxy. The event involves a black hole that may devour much of an approaching cloud of dust and gas known as G2.

A supercomputer simulation prepared by two Lab physicists and a former postdoc suggests that some of G2 will survive, although its surviving mass will be torn apart, leaving it with a different shape and questionable fate.

Mount Shasta, California is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 33 crew member on the International Space Station. The Cascade Range includes many impressive stratovolcanoes along its north-south extent, some active over the past few hundred years.


NASA astronaut Kevin Ford and Russian cosmonauts Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on their mission to the International Space Station at 5:51 a.m. CDT Tuesday (4:51 p.m. Kazakhstan time).

The sun emitted a significant solar flare on Oct. 22, 2012, peaking at 11:17 p.m. EDT. The flare came from an active region on the left side of the sun that has been numbered AR 1598, which has already been the source of a number of weaker flares. This flare was classified as an X.1-class flare.

The sun emitted a significant solar flare on Oct. 22, 2012, peaking at 11:17 p.m. EDT. The flare came from an active region on the left side of the sun that has been numbered AR 1598, which has already been the source of a number of weaker flares. This flare was classified as an X.1-class flare.

This image of a solar flare on Oct 22, 2012, combines the light from two different wavelengths as captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The wavelengths are 131 and 335 Angstroms, typically colorized in teal and blue, respectively. The former is a particularly good wavelength for observing solar flares, while the latter helps highlight active regions on the sun where such flares can originate. Credit: NASA/SDO/GSFC


On Oct. 22, 2012, the sun emitted another mid-level flare, which peaked at 2:51 p.m. EDT. The flare emerged from the same region as the M9 flare on Oct. 20, an active region that has been numbered AR 1598. The flare is classified as an M5 flare, which means it was weaker than the earlier one.

Most big galaxies fit into one of two camps: pinwheel-shaped spiral galaxies and blobby elliptical galaxies. Spirals like the Milky Way are hip and happening places, with plenty of gas and dust to birth new stars. Ellipticals are like cosmic retirement villages, full of aging residents in the form of red giant stars. Now, astronomers have discovered that one well-known elliptical has a split personality. Centaurus A is hiding a gassy spiral in its center.


Most big galaxies fit into one of two camps: pinwheel-shaped spiral galaxies and blobby elliptical galaxies. Spirals like the Milky Way are hip and happening places, with plenty of gas and dust to birth new stars.

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide, Expedition 33 flight engineer, uses a still camera to photograph the Canadarm2 robotic arm's Latching End Effector (LEE) from a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. ISS033-E-012353 (16 Oct. 2012) --- high res (1.0 M) low res (68 K)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Aki Hoshide, Expedition 33 flight engineer, uses a still camera to photograph the Canadarm2 robotic arm's Latching End Effector (LEE) from a window in the Cupola of the International Space Station. ISS033-E-012353 (16 Oct. 2012) --- high res (1.0 M) low res (68 K)

Wake Island is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 33 crew member on the International Space Station. The atoll of Wake Island is located in the central Pacific Ocean approximately 4,000 kilometers to the west-southwest of Hawaii and 2,400 kilometers to the northwest of Guam. In addition to Wake Island, the atoll includes the smaller Peale and Wilkes Island for a total land surface area of 6.5 square kilometers.

The Soyuz rocket is rolled out to the launch pad by train, on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Launch of the Soyuz rocket is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 23. The rocket will send Expedition 33/34 Flight Engineer Kevin Ford of NASA, Soyuz Commander Oleg Novitskiy and Flight Engineer Engineer Evgeny Tarelkin of ROSCOSMOS on a five-month mission aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls. Larger Image