Showing blog posts tagged with "Space Exploration"
by AMNH on
After only six months in orbit about Mercury, a NASA spacecraft has collected measurements that have discredited most theories about how our solar system’s innermost planet formed. Data gathered by instruments on MESSENGER reveal that Mercury’s surface has Earth-like levels of potassium and an even higher sulfur abundance, evidence that is at odds with most theories for how the super-dense planet came to be.
Launched in August 2004, MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging. It entered orbit about Mercury—the first spacecraft to do so—in March of this year.
Some of these new findings, published in a set of seven Sciencepapers available online today, were first predicted in 2003 by Denton Ebel, curator in the Museum’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Conel Alexander, a researcher in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. The two scientists recently published a separate paper highlighting their model in Planetary and Space Science.
by AMNH on
This spring, Director of the Carnegie Observatories Wendy Freedman spoke at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium about astronomer Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the galaxies and the expansion of the universe, how astronomers measure vast distances, and how the Hubble Space Telescope is used to measure the size and age of the universe. Mike Shara, curator in the Department of Astrophysics, sat down with Freedman for an interview in the Hayden Planetarium to discuss the expansion of the universe, dark matter, and building the 25-meter telescope.
by AMNH on
After flying nearly 5 billion miles over six years, the MESSENGER spacecraft is scheduled to begin orbiting the innermost planet. On Thursday, March 17, join Denton Ebel, associate curator in the Museum’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, and Joe Boesenberg, senior scientific assistant in the department to watch a live feed from MESSENGER operations center at Johns Hopkins University and hear about new information that has been gleaned from the mission so far, such as the importance of understanding the planet’s high-density composition.
To date, three flybys of Mercury have yielded insights into this least explored terrestrial planet, starting with a historic flyby in January 2008. The Museum’s Science Bulletins chronicled the MESSENGER science team’s reaction as the orbiter’s first images of Mercury rolled in. Click below to watch the Science Bulletins video feature. For more about the MESSENGER mission, check out the article, “First Planet Finishes Last.”
by AMNH on
Astronomers associated with NASA’s Kepler observatory have announced the discovery of more than 1,200 new candidate exoplanets. Michael Shara, a curator in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics, writes about the significance of the findings below.
Does life exist anywhere in the universe except on Earth? “Star Trek” may have convinced much of the public that the universe is teeming with technological civilizations, but the correct answer is: We don’t know for certain if life–even bacterial life — exists anywhere except on Earth. A critical challenge in answering this question is determining whether planets — especially Earth-like planets — orbit other stars.
The search for Earth-like planets has just taken a giant leap forward, thanks in part to the tireless work of the dozens of astronomers associated with NASA’s Kepler observatory. Their quest to find exoplanets — planets orbiting stars other than our Sun — has been a stunning success. It is now certain that planets are as common stars.
Fifteen years ago the University of California, Berkeley’s Geoff Marcy and a handful of colleagues began an almost quixotic quest for exoplanets. Dozens, and then hundreds of astronomers joined the quest after Geneva’s Michel Mayor, Marcy, and their colleagues began reporting the first discoveries. Herculean efforts led to the cataloguing of 500 exoplanets by the end of 2010. Now the Kepler team has announced the discovery of more than 1,200 new candidate exoplanets, and enough details about each of these new worlds to begin to draw far-reaching conclusions about abodes for life in the universe.