Moon Scarred Crust Hints at Recent Activity

According to researchers the moon’s crust was apparently active far more recently than previously believed and these new findings raise questions about how the moon formed and evolved. Although the Earth’s crust is still shifting, driven by the churning semimolten rock underneath it, researchers had thought the moon had cooled off much too long ago to still have any such tectonic activity. Images collected by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter hints the moon has probably seen tectonic activity within the last 50 million years. In these photos, researchers spotted a dozen or so narrow, trenchlike features known as graben in the lunar highlands and in the dark plains of volcanic rock known as the mare basalts. Graben are essentially troughs with two faults or cracks in the surface on either side of them.

THEMIS Celebrates Its Five Years in Space

It was the first and so far, only time NASA has launched five satellites at one time. Carefully balanced inside a Delta II rocket, the five THEMIS (short for Timed History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) spacecraft were launched into space from Cape Canaveral at 6:01 p.m. ET on February 17, 2007. The spacecraft were nestled in a ring shape, four around the outside and one on a middle pedestal. Those five satellites working in tandem was crucial for THEMIS job of tracking energy as it moves through space.

Janitor Satellite that will Help Clean up Space

Swiss scientists announced that they plans to develop a machine that acts almost like a vacuum cleaner to scoop up thousands of abandoned satellite and rocket parts, cleaning up outer space. CleanSpace One, a project to build the first in a family of so-called “janitor satellites” that will help clean up space. The prototype space junk cleaner will be a rectangular satellite nearly 12 inches (30 centimeters) long and about 4 inches (10 cm) tall and wide. Slated to launch as early as 2015, CleanSpace One will rendezvous with one of two defunct objects in orbit, either the Swisscube picosatellite or its cousin TIsat, both 61 cubic inches (1,000 cubic cm) in size.

Europe Vega Rocket Successfully Launched

The European Space Agency’s new Vega rocket, which is designed to launch small satellites, blasted off from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana, on the northern Atlantic coast of South America on February 13 and reached orbit minutes later. Liftoff occurred at 5 a.m. ET (1000 GMT). ESA spent 700 million Euros (about $930 million) and nearly nine years developing the four-stage Vega rocket and plans to spend another 300 million Euros (about $399 million) on the booster’s first five flights. The new booster is designed to serve as a launcher for small payloads to complement Europe’s heavy-lift Ariane 5 rockets and the medium-class Russian Soyuz rockets that lift off from the Guiana Space Center.

Subaru Telescope Captures Stealth Merger of Dwarf Galaxies

An international team of scientists led by David Martinez-Delgado (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Germany) has conducted research that reveals a “stealth merger” of dwarf galaxies, where an in-falling satellite galaxy is nearly undetectable by conventional means yet has a substantial influence on its host galaxy. Researchers used the Subaru Telescope to obtain high-resolution images of individual stars in a dense stream of stars in the outer regions of a nearby dwarf galaxy (NGC 4449), these outlying stars are the remains of an even smaller companion galaxy in the process of merging with its host.

Electrons Shoot Toward Space Not Earth

As the sun heads toward its 2013 maximum, the corresponding increase in space weather may temporarily strip the radiation belts around Earth of their charged electrons. But according to new study of data recorded by 11 independent spacecraft reveals that the deadly particles are blown into space rather than cast into our planet’s atmosphere, as some scientists have suggested. Streams of highly charged electrons zip through the Van Allen radiation belts circling Earth. When particles from the sun collide with the planet’s magnetic field, which shields Earth from the worst effects, the resulting geomagnetic storms can decrease the number of dangerous electrons.

NASA New Satellite Captures Blue Marble Earth Image

Suomi NPP, NASA’s newest Earth-watching satellite, has taken a high resolution image of Earth, one of the most beautiful such images ever created. The satellite, named after the “father of satellite meteorology,” Verner E. Suomi, is designed to create fabulous images of Earth, monitor for natural disasters and improve weather forecasts as well as our understanding of long-term climate changes. The image is a composite, created using a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. It echoes the legendary “Blue Marble” photograph, taken by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft on December 7, 1972.

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