"Scientific News From Space:"
"EARTHLIKE  PLANETS"  - "A Sign of Life?"  -  "Hot Jupiters"

 9/8/06 - The Journal  "Science";  Netscape News:

 According to  researchers, we may not be alone out there. In as many as one third of solar systems discovered outside our own, astronomers have found Earthlike planets that are covered with deep oceans, and their opinions state that they could very well harbor life.

"Large Magellanic Cloud"
A satellite galaxy to our own Milky Way galaxy. - NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

The joint team from the University of Colorado, Penn State University and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Maryland, said that these solar systems have something in common: "Hot Jupiters."

These are gas giants that orbit very close to their parent stars, far closer, for example, than Mercury orbits our Sun. It is the existence of these "Hot Jupiters" that may help encourage the formations of smaller, rocky, Earthlike planets.

"We now think there is a new class of ocean-covered, and possibly habitable, planets in solar systems unlike our own," University of Colorado researcher Sean Raymond said in a statement. The team surmises that the "Hot Jupiters" help rocky planets form close to their suns, as well as help pull in icy bodies that in turn produce water for the young planets - an essential ingredient for any kind of life as we humans define it.

"I think there are definitely habitable planets out there," Raymond said. "But any life on these planets could be very different from ours. There are a lot of evolutionary steps in between the formation of such planets in other systems and the presence of life forms looking back at us."



9/8/06 - The Journal  "Physics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors";  Netscape News:

Planetary scientists from the Ohio State University in Columbus have found the remains of ancient lunar impacts that occurred some 4 billion years ago that may have helped create the surface feature commonly called the "man in the moon."

This OSU study suggests that a large object hit the far side of the moon and sent a shock wave through the moon's core and all the way to the Earth-facing side. The crust recoiled and the moon still bears the scars from that encounter today. The finding holds implications for lunar prospecting and may even solve a mystery about how past impacts on Earth affect its geology today.

The early Apollo missions revealed that the moon isn't perfectly spherical. Its surface is warped in two spots; an earth-facing bulge on the near side is complemented by a large depression on the Moon's far side.

Scientists have long wondered whether these surface features were caused by Earth's gravity tugging on the moon early in its existence when its surface was still molten and malleable. But study leaders Laramie Potts and Ralph von Frese say these features are instead remnants from ancient impacts. They came to this conclusion after mapping the moon's interior through gravity fluctuations measured by NASA's Clementine and Lunar Prospector satellites to map the moon's interior.

They expected to see defects beneath the moon's crust that corresponded to craters on the surface. Old impacts, they thought, would have left marks only down to the mantle, the thick rocky layer between the moon's metallic core and its thin outer crust. And that's exactly what they saw, at first. But then they noticed on the far side of the moon that the crust looks as though it was depressed and then recoiled from a giant impact.

Beneath the depression, the mantle dips down as if it had absorbed a shock. Evidence of the ancient catastrophe should have ended there. But some 700 miles directly below the point of impact, a piece of the mantle still juts into the moon's core today.

But what they saw from the core all the way to the surface on the near side of the moon was even more surprising. The core bulges, as if core material was pushed in on the far side and pulled out into the mantle on the near side. Above that, an outward facing bulge in the mantle, and above that on the Earth-facing side of the moon, sits a bulge on the surface.

To the Ohio State scientists, the way these features line up suggests that a large object such as an asteroid hit the far side of the moon and sent a shock wave through the core that emerged on the near side. The scientists believe that a similar, but earlier impact occurred on the near side.

The "man in the moon" is a collection of dark plains on the Earth-facing side of the moon, where magma from the moon's mantle once flowed out onto the surface and flooded lunar craters. The moon has long since cooled, von Frese explained, but the dark plains are a remnant of that early active time- "a frozen magma ocean."


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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - NASA’s shuttle Discovery and its seven-astronaut crew
launched into orbit Tuesday with a thunderous roar on an ambitious mission
to add a new orbital room to the International Space Station (ISS).

"Atlantis" Successfully Launches To Space Station"

FOXNEWS -CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Space shuttle "Atlantis" with 6 astronauts, successfully launched through a partly cloudy sky at 11:15 a.m. EDT, Sat. on a mission to resume construction of the 'international space station' for the first time since the "Columbia" disaster 3 1/2 years ago. Brent Jett, Atlantis' commander said, "By our count, it has been almost 4 years, 2 return- to- flight missions, a tremendous amount of work by thousands of individuals,...We're confident that in the next few weeks, & the next few years for that matter, NASA is going to prove to our nation and our friends ... that it was worth the wait and we're ready to get to work.''

9/09/06   "Extrasolar Planet Discovered"
SPACE.com - A planet slightly larger than Jupiter was recently spotted as it passed in front of a Sun-like star 500-light-years away. Called TrES-2, the new extrasolar planet is the second to be discovered using telescopes built from off-the-shelf components similar to those used by amateur stargazers. It is also the first to be spotted in a swath of sky that NASA has targeted for a future mission that will specifically look for Earth-like worlds. Details featured in an upcoming issue of "Astrophysical Journal."





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