Saturday, July 12, 2014

Gliese 832c and other space and astronomy news

I'm running a week behind on my space news compendiums, so without any further ado, here is the the space and astronomy news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Gliese 832c) on Daily Kos,* beginning with the headline story from

Nearby Alien Planet May Be Capable of Supporting Life
By Mike Wall, Senior Writer
June 25, 2014 04:48pm ET
A newfound alien world might be able to support life — and it's just a stone's throw from Earth in the cosmic scheme of things.

An international team of astronomers has discovered an exoplanet in the star Gliese 832's "habitable zone" — the just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist on a world's surface. The planet, known as Gliese 832c, lies just 16 light-years from Earth. (For perspective, the Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light-years wide; the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years away.)

Gliese 832c is a "super-Earth" at least five times as massive as our planet, and it zips around its host star every 36 days. But that host star is a red dwarf that's much dimmer and cooler than our sun, so Gliese 832c receives about as much stellar energy as Earth does, despite orbiting much closer to its parent, researchers said.
Follow over the jump for the rest of that week's news.

NASA: 50 years after The Civil Rights Act on This Week @NASA

A special program at NASA headquarters, helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The program, moderated by CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, featured NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden , members of Congress and others, highlighting the progress of the last 50 years and the civil rights challenges that still confront us. The Civil Rights Act was signed into law July 2, 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson -- the namesake of NASA's Johnson Space Center. Also, Orion Chute Test, Cryogenic fuel tank and 3D printer testing, Carbon --observing mission previewed, Curiosity completes a Martian Year and more!
There is more general space and astronomy news in This week in science: tangled webs by DarkSyde on Daily Kos.

Cornell University: Lisa Kaltenegger searches for another 'pale blue dot'
By Kathy Hovis
June 25, 2014
Astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger, leader of a research group at the Max Planck Institute, joins the faculty of Cornell’s astronomy department July 1 as an associate professor to work on a question that is thousands of years old – are we alone in the universe?

“The search for another ‘pale blue dot,’ which Carl Sagan influenced profoundly, is what makes it a great honor for me to work – and to walk a little bit in his footsteps – at the astronomy department of a great interdisciplinary university like Cornell,” Kaltenegger said.

Kaltenegger’s research focuses on the search and characterization of planets outside the solar system, so-called exoplanets.
NASA Goddard: NASA | Goddard Goes to Mars

The Martian climate remains one of the solar system's biggest mysteries: although cold and dry today, myriad surface features on Mars carved by flowing water attest to a much warmer, wetter past. What caused this dramatic transition? Scientists think that climate change on Mars may be due to solar wind erosion of the early atmosphere, and NASA's MAVEN mission will test this hypothesis. Project Manager David F. Mitchell discusses MAVEN and the Goddard Space Flight Center's role in sending it to the Red Planet.
JPL/NASA: Curiosity Rover Report (6/24/2014): Curiosity Completes Its First Martian Year

On June 24, 2014, NASA's Curiosity rover completes her first Martian year (687 Earth days). Hear team members describe how the mission accomplished its main goal to find a past habitable environment on the Red Planet and the ongoing science studies.
Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: NASA to Launch Carbon Observatory

NASA is about to launch a satellite dedicated to the study of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) will quantify global CO2 sources and sinks, and help researchers predict the future of climate change.
University of Colorado: Solar flare satellite strengthens partnership between CU-Boulder, aerospace industry
June 25, 2014
A NASA-funded miniature satellite built by University of Colorado Boulder students to scrutinize solar flares erupting from the sun’s surface is the latest example of the university’s commitment to advancing aerospace technology and space science through strong partnerships with industry and government.

The $1 million Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS), led by CU-Boulder faculty in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, recently was selected by NASA for launch in January 2015 from the International Space Station.

The tiny satellite, known as a CubeSat, was designed and built by CU-Boulder students, but it sports a unique onboard control system developed by Boulder-based Blue Canyon Technologies that provides unprecedented accuracy and precision for orienting the satellite toward the sun.
That's it for the space news from two weeks ago.  Stay tuned for the next week's news.

*Except for the video I included in Decade: Cassini arrives at Saturn; that I posted on time.

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