Well, NASA scientists say no way! Do your research.
Metal On Mars? Shiny Object Seen By Curiosity Rover Explained By NASA Scientists (PHOTOS)
By: Mike Wall
Published: 02/12/2013 02:13 PM EST on SPACE.com
NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has photographed a shiny, metallic-looking object that bears a passing resemblance to a door handle or a hood ornament.
The Curiosity rover has not stumbled onto evidence of an ancient civilization that took the family van to Olympus Mons for vacation, however. The object is simply a rock that the wind has sculpted into an interesting shape, scientists said.
NASA’s original image, with the object at top-center.
“The shiny surface suggests that this rock has a fine grain and is relatively hard,” Curiosity scientists wrote Monday (Feb. 11) in an explainer blurb accompanying the image, which was taken on Jan. 30. “Hard, fine-grained rocks can be polished by the wind to form very smooth surfaces.”
Similar “ventifacted” (wind-eroded) rocks can be found here on Earth, notably on the dry, gusty plains of Antarctica, they added.
The newfound rock is not the first shiny object Curiosity has photographed on the Red Planet.
In October, the car-size rover paused its first soil-scooping activities to investigate a bright sliver lying on the ground nearby. Scientists think the scrap is a piece of plastic debris that shook loose during the robot’s dramatic sky-crane landing on the night of Aug. 5.
Later in October, Curiosity spotted bright flecks in one of the holes it dug out while scooping. That material appears to be some sort of native Martian mineral, as does the so-called “Mars flower,” which garnered a lot of attention after Curiosity photographed it in December.
While such finds may be be interesting to laypeople and researchers alike, Curiosity has bigger fish to fry. The rover’s main task is to determine whether its landing site — a huge crater called Gale — could ever have supported microbial life.
Curiosity carries 10 different scientific instruments and 17 cameras to aid in this quest, along with other tools such as a rock-boring drill. Curiosity used this drill to collect samples for the first time over the weekend, boring 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) into a Red Planet rock in a move that had never been done before on another planet.
An international team of astronomers discovered a rectangular‑shaped galaxy within a group of 250 galaxies some 70 million light years away. “In the Universe around us, most galaxies exist in one of three forms: spheroidal, disc-like, or lumpy and irregular in appearance,” said Alister Graham from Swinburne University of Technology.
He said the rare rectangular-shaped galaxy was a very unusual object. “It’s one of those things that just makes you smile because it shouldn’t exist, or rather you don’t expect it to exist. It’s a little like the precarious Leaning Tower of Pisa or the discovery of some exotic new species which at first glance appears to defy the laws of nature.”The unusually shaped galaxy was detected in a wide field-of-view image taken with the Japanese Subaru Telescope for an unrelated program by Swinburne astrophysicist Dr Lee Spitler.The astronomers suspect it is unlikely that this galaxy is shaped like a cube. Instead, they believe that it may resemble an inflated disc seen side on, like a short cylinder.
Support for this scenario comes from observations with the giant Keck Telescope in Hawaii, which revealed a rapidly spinning, thin disc with a side‑on orientation lurking at the centre of the galaxy. The outermost measured edge of this galactic disc is rotating at a speed in excess of 100,000 kilometres per hour.
“One possibility is that the galaxy may have formed out of the collision of two spiral galaxies,” said Swinburne’s Professor Duncan Forbes, co‑author of the research. “While the pre-existing stars from the initial galaxies were strewn to large orbits creating the emerald cut shape, the gas sank to the mid‑plane where it condensed to form new stars and the disc that we have observed.”
Despite its apparent uniqueness, partly due to its chance orientation, the astronomers have managed to glean useful information for modelling other galaxies.While the outer boxy shape is somewhat reminiscent of galaxy merger simulations which don’t involve the production of new stars, the disc-like structure is comparable with merger simulations involving star formation.
“This highlights the importance of combining lessons learned from both types of past simulation for better understanding galaxy evolution in the future,” said Associate Professor Graham.“One of the reasons this emerald cut galaxy was hard to find is due to its dwarf-like status: it has 50 times less stars than our own Milky Way galaxy, plus its distance from us is equivalent to that spanned by 700 Milky Way galaxies placed end-to-end.“Curiously, if the orientation was just right, when our own disc-shaped galaxy collides with the disc-shaped Andromeda galaxy about three billion years from now we may find ourselves the inhabitants of a square looking galaxy.”
The results will be published in The Astrophysical Journal.More information: Pre-publication: http://arxiv.org/p … 3.3608v1.pdf
Want to work in sunny Houston, Texas; earn upwards of $142,000 (£90,000) a year; and take the odd trip into outer space? Nasa is now seeking candidates for astronaut positions for flights to the International Space Station, trips to asteroids and journeys into deep space.
Sadly, you need to be a US citizen, and you’ll also need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, science or math and three years of professional experience. Plus, you’ll need 20/20 vision, be in tip-top medical shape, and be anywhere between 62 and 75 inches tall — to fit inside a Russian Soyuz rocket, that is.
Your odds are quite low, too. Since picking its first seven astronauts from the US military in 1959, only 330 astronauts have been picked for the intensive Astronaut Candidate training program from the thousands of applications received.
What’s in the job description of a 21st century astronaut? Successful applicants will generally work aboard the ISS in three to six month-long missions, and help Nasa’s efforts to partner up with commercial companies like SpaceX to ensure future transportation to the space station.
They’ll also help build and, eventually, fly the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), which is designed for human deep space exploration — potentially to Mars. An unmanned orbital test flight has been penciled in for an early 2014 launch.
Nasa is also in the process of picking a near-Earth asteroid to explore, with plans to set foot on a chunk of space rock in 2025. The administration plans to send a robotic precursor mission to the asteroid approximately five years before humans arrive.
Nasa’s more ambitious plans have been hampered by economic woes, and acompromise spending plan — approved by a House and Senate conference committee this week — will cut the agency’s spending money even further. Nasa will receive $17.8 billion this fiscal year — $924 million less than the White House requested and $684 million less than it received this year.
Thankfully, a House bid to cancel Nasa’s over-budget James Webb Space Telescope — a super powerful telescope that will succeed the ageing Hubble in 2018 — has been denied, but the compromise bill has capped the program’s spending at $8 billion.
$3.8 billion will go towards the human space exploration programs that these budding astronauts are being hired for, while $406 million has been earmarked to fund commercial spaceship development at Boeing, Space X, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin.
Vampire Stars, Frankensatellites & More: A Spooky Space Halloween
by Mike Wall, SPACE.com Senior Writer
Date: 28 October 2011 Time: 07:30 AM ET
An artist’s concept showing a so-called “blue straggler” star stealing mass from its partner in a binary star system. Soon the giant star (upper left) will donate the remainder of its envelope, leaving only a half-solar-mass white dwarf core (shown peeking through the tenuous envelope of the giant) as the companion to the blue straggler.
CREDIT: Aaron M. Geller
This story was updated at 10:56 a.m. EDT.
Halloween is nearly upon us, which means Earth will soon be crawling with costumed witches, ghouls and zombies. But October has shown us that our planet doesn’t have a monopoly on spookiness.
Over the last month, a series of cosmic phenomena have provided thrills and chills, just in time for Halloween. Here’s a rundown of the recent spooky space news, from revelations about vampire stars to a plan to build Frankensatellites in orbit
The secrets of stellar vampires
“Blue stragglers” are mysterious stars that act much younger than the ancient neighbors with which they formed. They burn much hotter, for example, and appear much bluer.
Astronomers have been trying to explain the origins and behavior of blue stragglers since their discovery in the 1950s, and a new study may finally have done the job. It appears that most blue stragglers are vampires, sucking hydrogen fuel away from companion stars.
The threat of death from above can inspire fear beyond reason, perhaps because we’re often helpless to predict or combat it — just ask Chicken Little. And this October brought an event that evoked some “sky is falling” sentiment.
On Oct. 22, a dead German satellite called ROSAT slammed into Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean, apparently harming nobody. It was the second uncontrolled satellite crash in a month; NASA’s defunct UARS spacecraft fell to Earth on Sept. 24, also causing no known injuries.
Experts had said that there was just a 1-in-2,000 chance that any piece of ROSAT would strike anybody anywhere on Earth. But those odds, while small, were non-zero — enough to get a lot of people talking, and some of them worrying.
Artist’s impression of the ROSAT satellite in space.
CREDIT: German Aerospace Center
Since Mary Shelley published her novel “Frankenstein” in 1818, the idea of creating new life from disparate dead parts has been a staple of the horror genre. And now the concept is getting some traction in space.
The United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on Oct. 20 that it wants to harvest still-working parts of dead satellites, then incorporate them into new space systems on the cheap.
In DARPA’s plan, a servicing satellite would pluck functioning antennas from defunct spacecraft, then attach them to newly launched mini-satellites in orbit. The “Frankensats” would save the military on launch costs, because antennas are so big, bulky and expensive to get off the ground.
Frankenstein moon mystery
Mary Shelley and her iconic novel also figure prominently in another recent celestial story.
Shelley was reportedly inspired to write “Frankenstein” in the summer of 1816, after staying up all night swapping ghost stories with her future husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron and several other friends.
At the end of the evening, Byron is said to have challenged each member of the group to come up with his or her own scary tale. Shelley later wrote that she couldn’t come up with an idea for several days, but then had a terrifying nightmare about a scientist who created a monster from an assortment of body parts.
Some authorities have questioned her version of events, suggesting Shelley may have taken some liberties with the truth for the sake of a good story. A new study, however, suggests that Shelley’s account rings true.
She mentioned that moonlight streamed into her room when she awoke from her dream in the middle of the night. After poring over astronomical records and visiting the Switzerland estate where Shelley and the group met, researchers determined that light from a bright gibbous moon probably did flood Shelley’s room in the wee hours of June 16, 1816.
Byron’s ghost story challenge, the researchers conclude, likely took place between June 10 and June 13, and Shelley probably awoke from her nightmare around 3 a.m. on June 16.
Freakishly small full moon
Full moons are another Halloween trope, bringing out the werewolves as they do (according to lore). And October’s full moon was particulary noteworthy, for it was the smallest one of the year….
Shattered Star Sends Mysterious SignalCredit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Gehrz (University of Minnesota)The Crab Nebula, the leftovers of a star that went out in a supernova in 1054, is sending out strange signals that scientists can’t fully explain. According to research published in the Oct. 7, 2011 issue of the journal Science, astronomers have detected pulsed gamma rays from the neutron star within the nebula that are far higher than the scientists expected.
The pulsed gamma rays have energies between 100 billion and 400 billion electronvolts, far higher than the 25 billion electronvolts previously detected. A 400 billion electronvolt photon is almost a trillion times more energetic than the photons that make up visible light. Explaining this high energy is going to require major adjustments to astronomers’ theories of the energy interactions in the nebula.
“The finding shows that the theory is not there yet,” said study researcher Henric Krawczynski, a professor of physics at Washington University in St. Louis. “We know less about these systems than we thought.”
This illustration shows the alien planet around pulsar PSR J1719-1438, where ultra-high pressures caused carbon to crystallize in the remnant of a dead star. The planet is made of diamond and orbits a dense pulsing star with a radius smaller than that of our sun.
CREDIT: Swinburne Astronomy Productions
A newly discovered alien planet that formed from a dead star is a real diamond in the rough.
The super-high pressure of the planet, which orbits a rapidly pulsing neutron star, has likely caused the carbon within it to crystallize into an actual diamond, a new study suggests.
The composition of the planet, which is about five times the size of Earth, is not its only outstanding feature.