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ExoMars: Rover scientists to study Mawrth Vallis option

Astronomy News - 29 March 2017 - 8:58am

Europe is going to investigate a second site on Mars - called Mawrth Vallis - as a possible destination to send its 2021 rover.

Electrified sand could explain Titan’s odd backward-facing dunes

Astronomy News - 28 March 2017 - 9:26am

Saturn’s largest moon is similar to Earth in many ways – but its dunes face the wrong direction. It could be because static electricity has greater clout there

Stars Born in Winds from Supermassive Black Holes

Astronomy News - 28 March 2017 - 9:24am
Observations using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have revealed stars forming within powerful outflows of material blasted out from supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies. These are the first confirmed observations of stars forming in this kind of extreme environment. The discovery has many consequences for understanding galaxy properties and evolution. The results are published in the journal Nature.

Planet Nine: Astronomers want help from amateur stargazers

Astronomy News - 28 March 2017 - 9:24am

An Australian university has asked amateur stargazers to help find a possible ninth planet.

Enigmatic plumes from Saturn’s moon caused by cosmic collision

Astronomy News - 27 March 2017 - 10:15am

Saturn’s icy moon spews water and heat into space, but only from its south pole. A new model suggests that’s because it suffered a hit-and-run long ago

Stray supermassive black hole flung away by gravitational waves

Astronomy News - 27 March 2017 - 10:13am

The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a one-billion solar mass black hole fleeing its galaxy, showing supermassive black holes can probably merge

NASA Selects Mission to Study Churning Chaos in our Milky Way and Beyond

Astronomy News - 27 March 2017 - 10:13am
NASA has selected a science mission that will measure emissions from the interstellar medium, which is the cosmic material found between stars.

Impact crater linked to Martian tsunamis

Astronomy News - 27 March 2017 - 10:12am

Scientists locate the source of powerful tsunamis that swept across Mars three billion years ago.

Hubble detects supermassive black hole kicked out of galactic core - Astronomers suspect gravitational waves [heic1706]

Astronomy News - 24 March 2017 - 10:09am

An international team of astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have uncovered a supermassive black hole that has been propelled out of the centre of the distant galaxy 3C 186. The black hole was most likely ejected by the power of gravitational waves. This is the first time that astronomers found a supermassive black hole at such a large distance from its host galaxy centre.

Oddball star could be home to long-sought superheavy elements

Astronomy News - 24 March 2017 - 10:08am

One of the most chemically strange stars we know could chart a path to the so-called "island of stability", where massive yet relatively stable atoms exist

NASA Selects CubeSat, SmallSat Mission Concept Studies

Astronomy News - 24 March 2017 - 10:06am

NASA has selected ten studies under the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) program, to develop mission concepts using small satellites to investigate Venus, Earth’s moon, asteroids, Mars and the outer planets.

For these studies, small satellites are defined as less than 180 kilograms in mass (about 400 pounds). CubeSats are built to standard specifications of 1 unit (U), which is equal to 10x10x10 centimeters (about 4x4x4 inches). They often are launched into orbit as auxiliary payloads, significantly reducing costs.  

“These small but mighty satellites have the potential to enable transformational science,” said Dr. Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “They will provide valuable information to assist in planning future Announcements of Opportunity, and to guide NASA’s development of small spacecraft technologies for deep space science investigation.” 

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is developing a small satellite strategy, with the goal of identifying high-priority science objectives in each discipline that can be addressed with CubeSats and SmallSats, managed for appropriate cost and risk. This multi-disciplinary approach will leverage and partner with the growing commercial sector to collaboratively drive instrument and sensor innovation.

The PSDS3 awardees were recognized Monday at the 48th Lunar and Planetary Society Conference in The Woodlands, Texas. The total value of the awards is $3.6 million.

The recipients are:


Christophe Sotin, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California:  Cupid's Arrow, a 30-kilogram probe to measure noble gases and their isotopes to investigate the geological evolution of Venus and why Venus and Earth have evolved so differently.

Valeria Cottini, University of Maryland, College Park: CubeSat UV Experiment (CUVE), a 12-unit CubeSat orbiter to measure ultraviolet absorption and nightglow emissions to understand Venus’ atmospheric dynamics.


Suzanne Romaine, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts: CubeSat X-ray Telescope (CubeX), a 12-unit CubeSat to map the elemental composition mapping of airless bodies such as the moon, to understand their formation and evolutionary history using X-ray pulsar timing for deep space navigation.

Timothy Stubbs, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland: Bi-sat Observations of the Lunar Atmosphere above Swirls (BOLAS), tethered 12-unit CubeSats to investigate the lunar hydrogen cycle by simultaneously measuring electromagnetic fields near the surface of the moon, and incoming solar winds high above.


Jeffrey Plescia, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland: Asteroid Probe Experiment (APEX), a SmallSat with a deployable seismometer to rendezvous with the asteroid Apophis and directly explore its interior structure, surface properties, and rotational state.

Benton Clark, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado: CubeSat Asteroid Encounters for Science and Reconnaissance (CAESAR), a constellation of 6-unit CubeSats to evaluate the bulk properties of asteroids to assess their physical structure, and to provide constraints on their formation and evolution.


David Minton, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana: Chariot to the Moons of Mars, a 12-unit CubeSat with a deployable drag skirt to produce high-resolution imagery and surface material composition of Phobos and Deimos, to help understand how they were formed.

Anthony Colaprete, NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California: Aeolus, a 24-unit CubeSat to directly measure vertically-resolved global winds to help determine the global energy balance at Mars and understand daily climate variability.

Icy Bodies and Outer Planets

Kunio Sayanagi, Hampton University, Virginia: Small Next-generation Atmospheric Probe (SNAP), an atmospheric entry probe to measure vertical cloud structure, stratification, and winds to help understand the chemical and physical processes that shape the atmosphere of Uranus.

Robert Ebert, Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas: JUpiter MagnetosPheric boundary ExploreR (JUMPER), a SmallSat to explore Jupiter’s magnetosphere, including characterizing the solar wind upstream of the magnetosphere to provide science context for future missions such as the Europa Clipper.


For more information about NASA's CubeSat activities, visit:

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Thursday, March 23, 2017 - 15:04

Europa: Our best shot at finding alien life?

Astronomy News - 24 March 2017 - 10:05am
After years of planning, scientists are set now to send missions to explore the ocean world of Europa.

A little less ET, a little more astrophysics, if you please

Astronomy News - 23 March 2017 - 10:26am

The role of science is to rule out the boring and tedious before we embrace the extraordinary, like alien signals or "megastructures", says Geraint Lewis

How to hunt for a black hole with a telescope the size of Earth

Astronomy News - 23 March 2017 - 10:23am

How to hunt for a black hole with a telescope the size of Earth

Nature 543, 7646 (2017).

Author: Davide Castelvecchi

Astronomers hope to grab the first images of an event horizon — the point of no return.

Astronomy: Star orbits close to black hole

Astronomy News - 23 March 2017 - 10:22am

Astronomy: Star orbits close to black hole

Nature 543, 7646 (2017). doi:10.1038/543466d

A white dwarf star that circles a black hole every 28 minutes may have the closest orbit of its kind ever seen in our Galaxy.The system, called 47 Tuc X9, is some 4.5 kiloparsecs away. It was already thought to contain two objects orbiting

Keep an open mind on dark matter and rivals that do away with it

Astronomy News - 22 March 2017 - 10:42am

The hunt for dark matter particles has been fruitless and expensive, so it’s encouraging that fresh competing theories are being taken more seriously

Collapsing cliff reveals comet's interior

Astronomy News - 22 March 2017 - 10:40am

Rosetta scientists have made the first compelling link between an outburst of dust and gas and the collapse of a prominent cliff, which also exposed the pristine, icy interior of the comet.

Before and after: unique changes spotted on Rosetta's comet

Astronomy News - 22 March 2017 - 10:40am

Growing fractures, collapsing cliffs, rolling boulders and moving material burying some features on the comet's surface while exhuming others are among the remarkable changes documented during Rosetta's mission.

Rosetta saw cliffs collapse on comet

Astronomy News - 22 March 2017 - 10:39am

The comet visited by the Rosetta spacecraft is constantly being re-shaped, sometimes in dramatic fashion, a study suggests.

Mysterious water-like streaks on Mars might be sand flows instead

Astronomy News - 21 March 2017 - 10:02am

We thought the dark lines that appear on Martian slopes each summer were flowing salt water, but tumbling dust might be to blame