Thursday, December 5, 2013

News from NASA from Thanksgiving week

I concluded A great day for space in Asia, a bad day for Comet ISON by telling my readers "Stay tuned for news from NASA in a future post."  This is that future post.

First, NASA Television summarizes last week's news with ISON and the sun on This Week @NASA.

On Thanksgiving Day, Comet ISON passed about 685-thousand miles above the surface of the sun -- the comet's closest approach on a projected path around our solar system's star. Data from this close encounter is providing clues about the comet and its interaction with the solar atmosphere -- which can help us understand more about the sun itself. Also, Holiday delivery, Satellite to Japan, Chief Scientist's visits, High tech agreement, Bug off and more!
Follow over the jump for more from NASA plus a bonus article from Georgia Tech on a surprising finding from Curiosity.

Next, JPL previews the month's skywatching highlights with What's Up for December 2013.

Track comet ISON's journey as bright planets and starry events fill the sky this December.
As I've already reported, there will be no comet ISON to watch.  Just the same, the scientists are pleased with their observations as it plummeted to its demise.

Science at NASA made up for skipping a week by posting two ScienceCasts.  The first was ScienceCasts: Rock Comet Sprouts a Tail.

"Rock Comet" 3200 Phaethon has sprouted a tail, proving that the mysterious object is the source of the annual Geminid meteor shower.
Next, some technology from space in ScienceCasts: Genius Materials on the ISS.

Researchers working with magnetic fluids on the International Space Station are taking "smart materials" to the next level. With proper coaxing, molecules can assemble themselves into "genius materials" with surprising properties. This is opening a new frontier in material science.
Finally, here is the bonus item from Georgia Tech I promised: Evidence found for granite on Mars.
Posted November 18, 2013 | Atlanta, GA
Researchers now have stronger evidence of granite on Mars and a new theory for how the granite – an igneous rock common on Earth -- could have formed there, according to a new study. The findings suggest a much more geologically complex Mars than previously believed.

Large amounts of a mineral found in granite, known as feldspar, were found in an ancient Martian volcano. Further, minerals that are common in basalts that are rich in iron and magnesium, ubiquitous on Mars, are nearly completely absent at this location. The location of the feldspar also provides an explanation for how granite could have formed on Mars. Granite, or its eruptive equivalent, rhyolite, is often found on Earth in tectonically active regions such as subduction zones. This is unlikely on Mars, but the research team concluded that prolonged magmatic activity on Mars can also produce these compositions on large scales.

"We're providing the most compelling evidence to date that Mars has granitic rocks," said James Wray, an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the study's lead author.
After I included this story in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Comet ISON at perihelion), I found that one of my geology students found this article and submitted it for extra credit. Of course she got full credit.

That's it for the past week's news from NASA.  Stay tuned for the next update.

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