Heavens

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has revealed for the first time surface details of Saturn's moon Hyperion, including cup-like craters filled with hydrocarbons that may indicate more widespread presence in our solar system of basic chemicals necessary for life.

Hundreds of thousands of vibrant blue and red stars are visible in this new image of galaxy NGC 4449 taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Hot bluish white clusters of massive stars are scattered throughout the galaxy, interspersed with numerous dustier reddish regions of current star formation. Massive dark clouds of gas and dust are silhouetted against the flaming starlight.

Massive Jupiter is undergoing dramatic atmospheric changes that have never been seen before with the keen "eye" of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope.

Jupiter's turbulent clouds are always changing as they encounter atmospheric disturbances while sweeping around the planet at hundreds of miles per hour. But these Hubble images reveal a rapid transformation in the shape and color of Jupiter's clouds near the equator, marking an entire face of the globe.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed an X-ray jet blasting away from a neutron star in a binary system. This discovery may help astronomers understand how neutron stars as well as black holes can generate powerful beams of relativistic particles.

The jet was found in Circinus X-1, a system where a neutron star is in orbit around a star several times the mass of the Sun, about 20,000 light years from Earth. A neutron star is an extremely dense remnant of an exploded star consisting of tightly packed neutrons.

A team led by Vasily Belokurov at the University of Cambridge in England has found the largest optical Einstein ring known. The astronomers say the object, which they dub the Cosmic Horseshoe, provides a unique laboratory for studying what the universe was like at one-fifth its present age.

Satellite tracking software freely available on the Internet and a smattering of textbook physics could be used by any organisation that can get hold of an intermediate range rocket to mount an unsophisticated attack on military or civilian satellites. Such an attack would require modest engineering capability and only a limited budget.

Since the discovery of an Earth-like planet around Gliese 581 20 light years away in the constellation Libra, the topic of a new home has generated a lot of excitement.

Bruce Fegley, Jr., Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has worked on computer models that can provide hints to what comprises the atmosphere of a planet like that and better-known celestial bodies in our own solar system.

It's fun to imagine life on other planets being advanced alien civilizations and exotic creatures conversing in foreign languages but it's not possible to determine any of those things now.

Instead, by studying various biosignatures found in the light spectrum leaking out to Earth, researchers can speculate on what kind of photosynthesis might occur on such planets and what the extrasolar plants might look like.

Paint it black

ESA is preparing for future human exploration missions to Mars. We are currently looking for volunteers to take part in a 520-day simulated Mars mission.

To go to Mars is still a dream and one of the last gigantic challenges. But one day some of us will be on precisely that journey to the Red Planet. A journey with no way out once the spaceship is on a direct path to Mars.

The world is abuzz with the discovery of an extrasolar, Earthlike planet around the star Gliese 581 that is relatively close to our Earth at 20 light years away in the constellation Libra.

Bruce Fegley, Jr., Ph.D., professor of earth and planetary sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has worked on computer models that can provide hints to what comprises the atmosphere of such planets and better-known celestial bodies in our own solar system.