Asteroids Smacked Moon Stronger During Period Lunar Cataclysm

A team of researchers from the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., tracked the history of crater formation on the moon using digital maps, and found evidence of a dramatic shift in the velocity and energy of the asteroid bombardment during a period called the “lunar cataclysm” that occurred 4 billion years ago. According to researchers the timing of this shift could coincide with disturbances in the solar system’s main asteroid belt caused by changes in the movement of the outer planets.

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Moon Appears Close to Venus on February 25

The moon and Venus, the sky’s brightest planet, will pair up closest together for the month this evening (Saturday, February 25).When say that the moon and Venus are closest together for the month, we really mean the two bodies are closest together on the sky’s dome. Although they’re nearly aligned along the same line of sight, the two are nowhere close together in space. Tonight’s moon lies about a quarter million miles from Earth, whereas Venus lodges nearly 350 times farther away than the moon. And Jupiter looms farther out yet, at nearly six times Venus’ distance. Tonight’s waxing crescent moon is about 16 percent illuminated in sunlight.

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Nasa Juno Spacecraft

Juno has Successfully Completed First Trajectory Correction Maneuver

NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully refined its flight path Wednesday with the mission’s first trajectory correction maneuver. The maneuver took place on February 1. It is the first of a dozen planned rocket firings that, over the next five years, will keep Juno on course for its rendezvous with Jupiter. The trajectory correction maneuver, which adjusts the spacecraft’s flight path, began at 10:10 a.m. PST (1:10 p.m. EST) on February 1. The Juno spacecraft’s thrusters fired for 25 minutes, consumed about 6.9 pounds (3.11 kilograms) of fuel and changed the spacecraft’s speed by 3.9 feet, or 1.2 meters, per second.

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Jupiter and Moon

First Quarter Moon Near Jupiter

On January 30, 2012, the waxing moon will appear again near our giant planet Jupiter. Take a moment to look at this pairing high in the southwest sky after sunset. The moon will reach first quarter stage at 11:10 p.m. Central Time. At this stage the moon appears half-lit in sunshine and half-immersed in the moon’s own shadow. Our moon takes about 29.5 days to get through its phases as it orbits Earth. The moon is always half lit by the sun, but as it orbits Earth, we see different parts of this illumination that’s how we see the phases.

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Asteroid Vesta

Vesta Likely Cold and Dark Enough for Ice

According to the first published models of Vesta’s average global temperatures and illumination by the sun though generally thought to be quite dry, roughly half of the giant asteroid Vesta is expected to be so cold and to receive so little sunlight that water ice could have survived there for billions of years. According to Timothy Stubbs of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County near the north and south poles, the conditions appear to be favorable for water ice to exist beneath the surface. Vesta probably does not have any significant permanently shadowed craters where water ice could stay frozen on the surface all the time, not even in the roughly 300-mile-diameter (480-kilometer-diameter) crater near the south pole.

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Pluto rings

Pluto May Have Rings

Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune all have rings, leaving Pluto as the only outer planet without rings. But PSI Senior Scientist Henry Throop would love to change that. Using both giant telescopes on Earth, and a small spacecraft currently on its way to Pluto, Throop is searching for signs that Pluto may have rings orbiting it, just like its neighbors. Astronomers expect that Pluto could well have rings, they’ve just never been discovered. Until now astronomers haven’t found any rings. Throop is working with NASA’s New Horizons mission, which is sending a spacecraft to Pluto, to arrive in 2015.

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