Martian Sand Dunes Movement

NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed that movement in sand dune fields on the Red Planet occurs on a surprisingly large scale, about the same as in dune fields on Earth. This is unexpected because Mars has a much thinner atmosphere than Earth, is only about one percent as dense, and its high-speed winds are less frequent and weaker than Earth’s. For years, researchers debated whether sand dunes observed on Mars were mostly fossil features related to past climate, rather than currently active.

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Hubble to Observe Venus Transit

Astronomers are planning to use NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to observe next month’s historic transit of Venus across the sun’s face. But there’s a twist. Astronomers can’t point Hubble anywhere near the sun, because our star’s bright light could damage the telescope’s super-sensitive instruments. So Hubble will watch the June 5-6 Venus transit by using the moon as a mirror. The goal is to see if Hubble can determine the makeup of Venus’ atmosphere by studying sunlight that has poured through it.

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Alien Planets Eaten by White Dwarf Stars

Astronomers have caught four dying stars in the act of chowing down on rocky alien planets similar to Earth, a destructive cosmic process that may one day play out in our very own solar system. Evidence of the distant celestial meals was found around four white dwarfs, stars that are in the final stages of their lives. According to astrophysicists at the University of Warwick in the U.K. the stars are surrounded by dust and rocky debris from shattered alien planets that appear to have once shared very similar compositions to Earth.

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Origin of strange ravines in dunes on Mars

Red Planet Volcanic Glass May Be Hotspot for Life

The newly discovered glass dune fields, spread across almost a third of the planet Mars, likely formed from interactions between magma and ice, or water, interactions that could create the perfect environments for microbial life. The northern lowlands spread across millions of square miles in the Red Planet’s northern hemisphere. But dark sediments in the region have puzzled planetary scientists. Briony Horgan and James Bell, both of Arizona State University, used the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter to re-examine light radiated from the Martian plains.

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Habitable Planets Around Red Dwarf Stars

According to a recent study, tens of billions of planets around red dwarfs are likely capable of containing liquid water, dramatically increasing the potential to find signs of life somewhere other than Earth. Red dwarfs are stars that are fainter, cooler and less massive than the sun. These stars, which typically also live longer than Class G stars like the sun, are thought to make up about 80 percent of the stars in the Milky Way, astronomers have said.

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Daytime Fireball Surprises California

According to news reports residents in California and Nevada reported hearing a sonic boom and seeing a bright fireball streak across the sky early Sunday morning. Experts said the sonic boom and fireball were likely caused by a meteor passing through Earth’s atmosphere. The explosive noise shook some homes and startled unsuspecting people across both states, reported the Associated Press. Calls were placed to local law enforcement agencies after the event, and several eyewitnesses initially thought they had experienced an earthquake.

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Ontario Lacus Very Similar to Etosha Salt Pan

A recent study finds that the lake known as Ontario Lacus on Saturn’s moon Titan (left) bears striking similarity to a salt pan on Earth known as the Etosha Pan (right). A group led by Thomas Cornet of the Université de Nantes, France, a Cassini associate, found evidence for long-standing channels etched into the lake bed within the southern boundary of the depression. This suggests that Ontario Lacus, previously thought to be completely filled with liquid hydrocarbons, could actually be a depression that drains and refills from below, exposing liquid areas ringed by materials like saturated sand or mudflats.

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Lyrid Meteor Shower Will Reach Maximum Intensity This Week

The Lyrids are a strong meteor shower lasting from April 16 to April 26 each year. The Lyrid meteor shower is expected to reach maximum intensity overnight from Saturday to Sunday (April 21 to 22), with the best observing opportunities coming between midnight and dawn on the 22nd local time, experts say. The moon will be nearly new at that time, so its glare shouldn’t drown out too many of the Lyrids’ brief flashes. The dark skies could make a big difference for meteor-watchers, because the Lyrids are historically a mild shower.

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