Science Daily: Comets and Asteroids

Scientists dig into the origin of organics on dwarf planet Ceres

Since NASA's Dawn spacecraft detected localized organic-rich material on Ceres, scientists have been digging into the data to explore different scenarios for its origin. After considering the viability of comet or asteroid delivery, the preponderance of evidence suggests the organics are most likely native to Ceres.

Solar eruptions could electrify Martian moons

Powerful solar eruptions could electrically charge areas of the Martian moon Phobos to hundreds of volts, presenting a complex electrical environment that could possibly affect sensitive electronics carried by future robotic explorers, according to a new NASA study. The study also considered electrical charges that could develop as astronauts transit the surface on potential human missions to Phobos.

A mission to Mars could make its own oxygen thanks to plasma technology

Plasma technology could hold the key to creating a sustainable oxygen supply on Mars, a new study has found. It suggests that Mars, with its 96 per cent carbon dioxide atmosphere, has nearly ideal conditions for creating oxygen from CO2 through a process known as decomposition.

Potential human habitat located on the moon

A new study confirms the existence of a large open lava tube in the Marius Hills region of the moon, which could be used to protect astronauts from hazardous conditions on the surface.

Space greens beat the blues

Where people will go in the cosmos, plants will go, say researchers in a new report. Plants may also play a key role in maintaining the psychological well-being of space crews. The next frontier of space plant experimentation is to examine the psychological impact of plant life on astronauts.

How bright is the moon, really?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is planning to take new measurements of the Moon's brightness, a highly useful property that satellites rely upon every day.

Looking for microbe 'fingerprints' on simulated Martian rocks

Scientists are searching for unique bio-signatures left on synthetic extraterrestrial minerals by microbial activity. A new paper describes investigations into these signatures at a miniaturized 'Mars farm' where researchers can observe interactions between the archaeon Metallosphaera sedula and Mars-like rocks. These microbes are capable of oxidizing and integrating metals into their metabolism.

Hubble observes source of gravitational waves for the first time

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has observed for the first time the source of a gravitational wave, created by the merger of two neutron stars. This merger created a kilonova -- an object predicted by theory decades ago -- that ejects heavy elements such as gold and platinum into space. This event also provides the strongest evidence yet that short duration gamma-ray bursts are caused by mergers of neutron stars.

Space radiation won't stop NASA's human exploration

While it's true that space radiation is one of the biggest challenges for a human journey to Mars, it's also true that NASA is developing technologies and countermeasures to ensure a safe and successful journey to the red planet.

Star Dust Helps Explain Mysterious Dimming Star

Astronomers are working to understand the mysterious dimming of Tabby's Star. The astronomers report that space dust orbiting the star -- not alien megastructures -- is the likely cause of the star's long-term dimming.

Satellites map photosynthesis at high resolution

Life on Earth is impossible without photosynthesis. It provides food and oxygen to all higher life forms and plays an important role in the climate system, since this process regulates the uptake of carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere and its fixation in biomass. However, quantification of photosynthesis at the ecosystem-to-global scale remains uncertain. Now an international team of scientists have made a major step forward.

Haumea, the most peculiar of Pluto companions, has a ring around it

The trans-neptunian belt contains four dwarf planets, among which Haumea stands out for its extremely elongated shape and rapid rotation. A stellar occultation makes it possible to establish the main physical characteristics of this previously little known body -- among which most surprising was the presence of a ring.

This is a test: Asteroid tracking network observes close approach

On Oct. 12 EDT (Oct. 11 PDT), a small asteroid designated 2012 TC4 will safely pass by Earth at a distance of approximately 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers). This is a little over one tenth the distance to the Moon and just above the orbital altitude of communications satellites. This encounter with TC4 is being used by asteroid trackers around the world to test their ability to operate as a coordinated international asteroid warning network.

Giant exoplanet hunters: Look for debris disks

There's no map showing all the billions of exoplanets hiding in our galaxy -- they're so distant and faint compared to their stars, it's hard to find them. Now, astronomers hunting for new worlds have established a possible signpost for giant exoplanets.

Remote sensing for cosmic dust and other celestial bodies

Astronomers review the state-of-the-art in polarimetry studies of the small bodies in our solar system. Combined with different observational techniques, polarimetry may be used as a remote sensing technique to measure asteroids' size, to reveal the composition and size variation of dust in comets or of aerosols in planetary atmospheres, or even to detect extra-terrestrial biomarkers.

Ancient asteroid impact exposes the moon's interior

A large basin on the moon has revealed that its interior is made of a different mineral than Earth's interior, contradicting the theory that the interior of the planets look mostly the same.

Mars study yields clues to possible cradle of life

The discovery of evidence for ancient sea-floor hydrothermal deposits on Mars identifies an area on the planet that may offer clues about the origin of life on Earth. The research offers evidence that these deposits were formed by heated water from a volcanically active part of the planet's crust entering the bottom of a large sea long ago.

New telescope attachment allows ground-based observations of new worlds

A new, low-cost attachment to telescopes allows previously unachievable precision in ground-based observations of planets beyond our solar system. With it, ground-based telescopes can produce measurements of light intensity that rival the highest quality photometric observations from space.