Cassini chronicles life of Saturn's giant storm

New images from Cassini chronicle the birth and evolution of the colossal storm that ravaged the northern face of Saturn for nearly a year.

These new full-color mosaics and animations show the storm from its emergence as a tiny spot in a single image almost one year ago, on Dec. 5, 2010, through its subsequent growth into a storm so large it completely encircled the planet by late January 2011.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter catches Mars sand dunes in motion

Images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show sand dunes and ripples moving across the surface of Mars at dozens of locations and shifting up to several yards.

These observations reveal the planet's sandy surface is more dynamic than previously thought.

Hubble confirms that galaxies are the ultimate recyclers

Galaxies learned to "go green" early in the history of the universe, continuously recycling immense volumes of hydrogen gas and heavy elements to build successive generations of stars stretching over billions of years.

This ongoing recycling keeps galaxies from emptying their "fuel tanks" and therefore stretches out their star-forming epoch to over 10 billion years. However, galaxies that ignite a rapid firestorm of star birth can blow away their remaining fuel, essentially turning off further star-birth activity.

Galileo spacecraft data show evidence of liquid water on icy Europa

Data from the Galileo mission have provided scientists evidence of what appears to be a body of liquid water, equal in volume to the North American Great Lakes, beneath the icy surface of Jupiter's moon, Europa.

The data suggest there is significant exchange between Europa's icy shell and the ocean beneath. This information could bolster arguments that Europa's global subsurface ocean represents a potential habitat for life elsewhere in our solar system. The findings are published in the scientific journal Nature.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera team releases high resolution global topographic map of Moon

The science team that oversees the imaging system on board the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has released the highest resolution near-global topographic map of the moon ever created.

This new topographic map, from Arizona State University in Tempe, shows the surface shape and features over nearly the entire moon with a pixel scale close to 100 meters (328 feet).

Cluster reveals Earth's bow shock is remarkably thin

A new study based on data from ESA's Cluster mission has revealed that the bow shock formed by the solar wind as it encounters Earth's magnetic field is remarkably thin: it measures only 17 kilometres across.

Thin astrophysical shocks such as this are candidate sites for early phases of particle acceleration. The finding thus sheds new light on the much debated issue of particle injection in the context of cosmic ray acceleration.

NASA extends MESSENGER mission

NASA has announced that it will extend the MESSENGER mission for an additional year of orbital operations at Mercury beyond the planned end of the primary mission on March 17, 2012.

The MESSENGER probe became the first spacecraft to orbit the innermost planet on March 18, 2011.

Voyager 2 completes switch to backup thruster set

Voyager 2 has successfully switched to the backup set of thrusters that controls the roll of the spacecraft.

Deep Space Network personnel sent commands to the spacecraft to make the change on Nov. 4 and received confirmation yesterday that the switch has been made.

LISA Pathfinder takes major step in hunt for gravitational waves

Sensors destined for ESA's LISA Pathfinder mission in 2014 have far exceeded expectations, paving the way for a mission to detect one of the most elusive forces permeating through space -- gravitational waves.

The Optical Metrology Subsystem underwent its first full tests under space-like temperature and vacuum conditions using an almost complete version of the spacecraft.

Hubble: The belly of the cosmic Whale

The Hubble Space Telescope has peered deep into NGC 4631, better known as the Whale Galaxy.

Here, a profusion of starbirth lights up the galactic centre, revealing bands of dark material between us and the starburst. The galaxy's activity tapers off in its outer regions where there are fewer stars and less dust, but these are still punctuated by pockets of star formation.

Kicking up dust - Saturn and the solar wind send tiny particles flying

Dust particles act in an unusual way around Saturn. Instead of being attracted to the giant planet as might be expected, dust particles are ejected away from Saturn in streams that move at speeds of more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) per second.

Using data from Cassini, a team of scientists led by H.-W. (Sean) Hsu has now successfully modeled these dust streams. They found that the streams result from the effects of the solar wind and Saturn's magnetic field on tiny, electrically charged dust particles in Saturn's vicinity. Studying the dust stream phenomenon, at both Saturn and Jupiter, provides new information on the sources of the dust as well as interactions within the mix of electrons, ions, and neutrals in which the charged dust is immersed, called a dusty plasma.

Opportunity continues studies while heading north

The seasonal plan for Opportunity is to winter over on the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater where northerly tilts are favorable for solar array energy production.

As such, the project has been driving the rover towards the north end of the cape with a route along the west side that creates opportunities for science along the way. The science team is investigating a light-toned vein, called "Homestake" with the instruments on the rover's robotic arm.

Swift catches asteroid flyby

As asteroid 2005 YU55 swept past Earth in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Nov. 9, telescopes aboard Swift joined professional and amateur astronomers around the globe in monitoring the fast-moving space rock.

The unique ultraviolet data will aid scientists in understanding the asteroid's surface composition.

Chandra: 30 Doradus and the growing Tarantula within

The star-forming region, 30 Doradus, is one of the largest located close to the Milky Way and is found in the neighboring galaxy Large Magellanic Cloud.

About 2,400 massive stars in the center of 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula Nebula, are producing intense radiation and powerful winds as they blow off material.

Hubble uncovers tiny galaxies bursting with starbirth in early universe

Using its infrared vision to peer nine billion years back in time, the Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered an extraordinary population of tiny, young galaxies that are brimming with star formation.

The galaxies are churning out stars at such a rate that the number of stars in them would double in just ten million years. For comparison, the Milky Way has taken a thousand times longer to double its stellar population.

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