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Mysterious Gullies On Asteroid Vesta May Have Been Formed By Fluids

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When I was a kid, a gully was something behind someone’s house that filled up with water when it rained, and even though it seemed too gross to just walk in and swim in it, it was perfectly fine to swing into it from a rope haphazardly tied to a tree branch. There’s no app for that. Recent satellite imagery has revealed gullies on the asteroid Vesta, and researchers are now trying to figure out where they came from. Leave it to science to take all the fun out of gullies.

Mysteries are fun, though, and that’s what these eroded paths are, at least initially. NASA’s Dawn probe spent more than a year mapping Vesta’s surface from an altitude of 210 km., and finished this round of duties in September. Vesta is the second largest body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Jennifer Scully presented evidence at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting that, of the roughly 60 craters (10 km and wider) that she examined, 11 examples showed a series of complex paths cut into the rock, “They are longer and narrower. They also interconnect, branching off one another,” Ms. Scully explains. The remains of old Plinko games from extraterrestrial Price Is Right episodes?

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Gorgeous New HD Earth at Night Images Brighten Up Your Life

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The phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” is sometimes applicable, while other times, a broad overstatement. A sailboat in front of a lighthouse? There’s a novel place to look for inspiration. But pictures from the American Geophysical Union conference demand far, far more. Not that you’re going to get that here.

NASA’s NPOESS Preparatory Project(NPP) is a polar-orbiting environmental satellite used primarily in weather forecasts and observation. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite has the capability to view the Earth during the night without demolished quality, which is itself an understatement.

The NOAA and NASA presented to conference attendees these overwhelmingly beautiful pictures, composited from data retrieved during nine days in April 2012 and 13 days in October 2012. It is the first of these image types to show the Earth completely cloudless.

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NASA Stalwart Rover Opportunity Has Completed Matijevic Hill Observations

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I can’t tell you how many things I’ve owned that didn’t last nine years without malfunctioning in at least one way. Yet the Opportunity rover is still going as strong as it ever was, proving to be one of the most cost-effective tools ever built, lasting 36 times longer than the original three-month mission.

NASA reported Opportunity is finished with its latest duty, a complete circuit around the Matijevic Hill that sits on the Western rim of the spacious Endeavor crater, itself 14 miles in diameter. Opportunity took a counterclockwise route around Matijevic Hill, named for Jacob Matijevic, who for years was the engineering team leader behind the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. Opportunity drove about 1,169 feet around the hill, bringing its total amount of martian drive time a mere 22 miles. Sounds like daily traffic down I-10.

“If you are a geologist studying a site like this, one of the first things you do is walk the outcrop, and that’s what we’ve done with Opportunity,” explains Steve Squyres, the mission’s principal investigator out of Cornell University. This specific site was chosen years earlier due to orbiting spacecraft detecting traces of clay minerals nearby. Clay forms under the wet, non-acidic conditions that are favorable for producing life, though it will probably be a while before anything of that nature is determined.

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James Cameron, Mars, And Climate Change Form The Bulk Of AGU’s 2012 Conference

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Pop culture fanatics have Comic-Con and SXSW. Geo-scientists have the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). The conference, which runs from Dec. 3-7, is being held at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, and is bound to be a reference point for numerous news stories in the days to follow. Do you have Curiosity about what one could be? I’ll admit that wasn’t smooth.

Monday’s events start with something that has probably already happened by the time anyone reads this. NASA will be holding a briefing about what the Mars rover Curiosity has been finding, which almost certainly isn’t extraterrestrial genome charts. Climate gets the bulk of today’s spotlight, as climate change’s role on the rise and fall of past civilizations is discussed. Scientists will present the effects and implications of the oddball 2011-2012 winter experienced in the Rocky Mountains, with six-week-early snows disrupting plant and animal life. Round out the day with “Black Swan cyclones” and “Pineapple Expresses,” and how ecologists are working to study and form prevention methods against both.

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NASA’s MESSENGER Probe Discovers Ice On Mercury’s Poles

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For most of us amateur science followers, Mercury is probably the very last place we would think to look for water or ice. The closest planet to our sun orbits at distances between 28.5 million miles and 43.5 million miles, and the side of the planet facing the sun at any time can get up to 430 °C, hot enough to melt lead. However, the dark side of the planet can drop to -163 °C, and because the planet rotates in a manner perpendicular to its orbit around the Sun, parts of its poles are forever in shadow, allowing for persistent, extreme cold. It’s in those polar cold regions, specifically inside some of the region’s craters, that NASA’s MESSENGER probe (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging) has found evidence of water ice…and lots of it.

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NASA Teases Major Mars Announcement

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One of the main mission goals of NASA’s Curiosity rover is to search for evidence of life on Mars — both any signs of it currently, or further insight as to whether it might have existed in the past. Sure, the former is a definitely long-shot, but you never know, right? I’m fairly certain Curiosity isn’t going to wander into a secret subterranean Martian city, but life could be found in more humble forms, such as bacteria. With all that taken into account, when NASA scientists start hinting that they have some major Curiosity/Mars-related announcement coming up, you can probably guess how websites all over the internet are going to react.

OMG THEY FOUND LIFE ON MARS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Which is all well and good, presuming they, you know, actually did find life on Mars. But they haven’t said that. Not yet. So while the science geek in me wants to seize on that wondrous possibility and begin jumping up and down, the cynical, misanthropic journalist in me is doing its level best to moderate my expectations.