NASA's Cassini deliver Holiday treat from Saturn

The satellite conjunctions in which one moon pass in facade of or behind one more. Cassini scientists regularly create these explanations to study the ever-changing orbit of the planet's moons. But even in these routine images, the Saturnian system shines. A few of Saturn's stark, airless, icy moons appear to dangle next to the orange orb of Titan, the only moon in the solar system with a extensive atmosphere. Titan's atmosphere is of vast interest because of its similarity to the atmosphere supposed to live long ago on the untimely Earth.

While it may be chilly in Earth's northern hemisphere, it is at present northern spring in the Saturnian system and it will remain so for several Earth years. Present plans to make bigger the Cassini mission through 2017 will supply a continued bounty of methodically satisfying and regal views of Saturn and its moons and rings, as spectators are treat to the way of northern spring and the influx of summer in May 2017.

Flights rerouted as enormoussolar tempesslam Earth

Radiation storm are not damaging to humans, on soil at least, according to the US room agency. They can, however, have an effect on satellite operation and small wave radio.

Solar radiation from a huge sun storm - the main in nearly a decade - collide with the Earth's atmosphere on Tuesday, prompt an airline to redirect flights and sky watchers to seek out stunning light displays.US carrier Delta Air Lines said it had attuned flight routes for transpolar journeys between Asia and the United States to keep away from problems cause by the radiation storm.

NASA long-established the coronal mass ejection (CME) began collide with Earth's attractive field around 10:00 AM (1500 GMT) on Tuesday, addition that the storm was now being careful the largest since October 2003.Radiation storm are not harmful to humans, on Earth at smallest amount, according to the US space agency. They can, though, affect satellite operation and short wave radio.

The storm's radiation, likely to carry on bombarding Earth's atmosphere from side to side Wednesday, and its possible disturbance to satellite communications in the Polar Regions encouraged the flight rerouting, airline officials said. Atlanta-based Delta, the world's next largest airline, said "a handful" of routes had their journey attuned "based on potential impact" of the solar storm on infrastructure equipment, spokesman Anthony Black told AFP.

Routes from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul took a more southerly route after the solar flare erupted on Sunday. The airline said it would carry on monitoring solar activity before go back flights to their normal routes.

Due to the strange intensity of the photons raining on Earth, the spectacular aurora borealis - the stunning "Northern Lights" show - which is often seen closer to the Arctic pole at this time of year, has been seen as far south as Scotland and northern England, and at lower latitude in the United States.

The event started late Sunday with a moderate-sized solar flare that erupt right near the centre of the Sun, said Doug Biesecker, a physicist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Center."The flare itself was nothing spectacular, but it sent off a very fast coronal mass ejection itinerant four million miles per hour (6.4 million kilometers per hour)," he told AFP.Space weather watchers said the best aurora sightings are usually around midnight local time. Rob Stammes, who run the Lofoten Polar Light Centre in Lofoten, Norway said the CME's arrival Tuesday had shaped a surge in ground current inside his laboratory.

Re-thinking an Alien World

Forty light years as of Earth, a rocky world name "55 Cancri e" circles dangerously close to a stellar inferno.  Implementation one orbit in only 18 hours, the alien planet is 26 times closer to its close relative star than Mercury is to the Sun. If soil were in the same position, the soil beneath our feet would heat up to about 3200 F.  Researchers have extended thought that 55 Cancri e must be a wasteland of dry rock.

Now they’re thoughts again.  New comments by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope suggest that 55 Cancri e may be wetter and weirder than anyone imagined.

Spitzer recently deliberates the extremely small amount of light 55 Cancri e blocks when it crosses in front of its star. These transits occur every 18 hours, giving researchers repeated opportunity to gather the data they need to approximation the width, quantity and density of the planet.

According to the new observations, 55 Cancri e has a mass 7.8 times and a radius just over twice that of Earth. Those property place 55 Cancri e in the "super-Earth" class of exoplanets, a few dozen of which have been found. Only a handful of known super-Earths, on the other hand, cross the face of their stars as view from our vantage point in the cosmos, so 55 Cancri e is better understood than most.

When 55 Cancri e was discovered in 2004, initial estimate of its size and mass were consistent with a dense planet of solid rock.  Spitzer data suggest otherwise: About a fifth of the planet's mass must be made of light rudiments and compounds--including water. Given the intense heat and high pressure these materials likely experience, researchers think the compounds likely exist in a "supercritical" fluid state.

A supercritical fluid is a high-pressure, high-temperature state of matter best describe as a liquid-like gas, and a marvelous in the black. Water become supercritical in some steam turbines--and it tends to melt the tips of the turbine blades. Supercritical carbon dioxide is used to remove caffeine from coffee beans, and sometimes to dry-clean clothes. Liquid-fueled rocket propellant is also supercritical when it emerges from the tail of a spacecraft.

On 55 Cancri e, this material may be literally oozing--or is it sweltering?--out of the rocks.

With supercritical solvents rising from the planet’s surface, a star of terrifying proportions filling much of the daytime sky, and whole years rushing past in a matter of hours, 55 Cancri e teaches a valuable lesson: Just because a planet is similar in size to Earth does not mean the planet is like Earth.

Planck Space Telescope warm Up as intended

"The High Frequency Instrument has reached the end of its observe life, but the Low Frequency Instrument will carry on observing for another year, and psychoanalysis of data from both instruments is still in the early phase," said Charles Lawrence, the U.S. Planck project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The scientific payoff as of the High Frequency instrument brilliantly winning operation is motionless to come."

NASA plays a significant role in the Planck mission, which is lead by the European Space Agency. In addition to serving with the analysis of the data, NASA contributes several key components to the mission itself. JPL built the state-of-the-art detectors that allowable the High Frequency Instrument to detect icy temperature down to nearly absolute zero, the coldest temperature hypothetically within reach.

Less than half a million years after the cosmos was created 13.7 billion years ago, the initial fireball cooled to temperatures of about 4,000 degrees Celsius (about 7,200 degrees Fahrenheit), releasing bright, visible light. As the cosmos has expanded, it has cooled radically, and its early light has faded and shifted to microwave wavelengths.

By studying pattern stamped in that light today, scientists hope to appreciate the Big Bang and the very early universe, as it appear long before galaxies and stars first shaped.Planck has been measure these patterns by survey the whole sky with its High Frequency Instrument and its Low Frequency Instrument. Mutual, they give Planck supreme wavelength coverage and the ability to resolve faint particulars.

Launched in May 2009, the smallest amount obligation for success was for the spacecraft to complete two whole surveys of the sky. In the end, Planck worked completely in completing not two, but five whole-sky surveys with both instrument. The Low Frequency Instrument will go on surveying the sky for a large part of 2012, as long as data to improve the excellence of the final results. The first results on the Big Bang and very early universe will not approach for a different year.

NASA Discovers New Double-Star Planet Systems

While long anticipated in both science and science fiction, the existence of a circumbinary planet -- a planet orbiting two stars – like "Tatooine" portrayed in the film Star Wars more than 30 years ago, was not definitively established until the discovery of Kepler-16b, announced in September 2011.

Today, using data from NASA’s Kepler mission, astronomers announced the discovery of two new double-star planet systems – Kepler-34 and Kepler-35 – at the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas, Jan. 8-12, 2012.

"This work further establishes that such 'two sun' planets are not rare exceptions, but may in fact be common, with many millions existing in our galaxy," said William Welsh of San Diego State University and Kepler participating scientist who led the study. "This discovery broadens the hunting ground for systems that could support life."

The Kepler space telescope detects planets and planet candidates by measuring dips in the brightness of more than 150,000 stars to search for planets crossing in front, or transiting, their stars. The Kepler science team requires at least three transits to verify a signal as a planet.

The two new planets, named Kepler-34b and Kepler-35b, are both gaseous Saturn-size planets. Kepler-34b orbits its two sun-like stars every 289 days, and the stars orbit one another every 28 days. Kepler-35b orbits its smaller and cooler host stars every 131 days, and the stellar pair orbit each other every 21 days. The planets reside too close to their parent stars to be in the "habitable zone"- the region where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface.

At 4,900 and 5,400 light-years from Earth, located in the constellation Cygnus, Kepler-34b and Kepler-35b are among the most distant planets discovered. The findings are described in a new study published Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 in the journal Nature.

NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., manages Kepler's ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., managed the Kepler mission's development.

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NASA Helps Kick Off 2012 FIRST Robotics Competition

An international robotics competition aimed at developing a new generation of technology leaders kicks off at 10:30 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 7. NASA, the largest sponsor of the FIRST Robotics Competition, and its centers across the nation will join local technology firms to launch the event. The main competition kickoff will take place at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester and will air live on NASA Television.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology -- is a long-standing challenge to inspire curiosity and create interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) among high school students. Encouraging students to pursue STEM studies and careers is the focus of NASA's education programs.

"NASA's Science Mission Directorate is proud to have sponsored this technology revolution for the past 19 years," said John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "This program has given tens of thousands of students a crucial mentoring experience if they choose to be a part of future exploration endeavors in space. FIRST Robotics is fun and exciting and will sustain an unprecedented positive educational impact on our nation's youth."

The FIRST Robotics Competition gives students the opportunity to design, build and test a robot that can perform specific functions. The competition also gives students the opportunity to be mentored by NASA professionals, who help them to explore potential solutions to robotics problems and understand the real-world challenges faced by engineers and researchers.

"FIRST Robotics has had a tremendous impact on students' interest in robotics and invention since its inception," said Leland Melvin, NASA's associate administrator for Education. "In fact, it was a mutual interest in FIRST Robotics that led the agency to a recently announced collaboration with entertainer We are excited to work together to help inspire the next generation to pursue STEM and robotics studies."

During the live broadcast of this year's competition kickoff, inventor and FIRST founder Dean Kamen and designers of the annual challenge will reveal this year's competition scenario. This kicks off a six-week design and building frenzy for students and their engineering mentors.

Each year, participating FIRST teams are presented with a new robotics competition scenario with twists and nuances to challenge both rookie and veteran teams. Each team receives a kit of parts and has six weeks to design and build a robot based on the team's interpretation of the game scenario. Other than dimension and weight restrictions, the look and function of the robots is up to each team.

NASA plays a significant role by providing public access to robotics programs to encourage young people to investigate careers in the sciences and engineering. Through the NASA Robotics Alliance Project, the agency provides grants to teams and sponsors four regional student competitions. NASA engineers and scientists participate with many of these teams as technical participants and mentors to the students. Through these mentoring activities, NASA engineers are able to directly share their expertise and experiences with the nation's next generation of technical leaders.

This year, there will be regional competitions across the country, as well as four additional international competitions in March and April. The FIRST Championship competition will be held April 25-28 in St. Louis.

The program was founded in 1989 by Kamen to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people, their schools and communities. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST is a non-profit organization that designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue academic opportunities.