Researchers have identified an explosive new mechanism that breaks down meteors as they hurtle toward Earth. New simulations of falling meteors suggest air particles penetrate the space rocks' porous interiors as they careen through the atmosphere. These air particles create pockets of high pressure that ultimately lead the rock to explode from the inside, tens of kilometers above the Earth.
When a meteor comes hurtling toward Earth, the high-pressure air in front of it seeps into its pores and cracks, pushing the body of the meteor apart and causing it to explode.
When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai'i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial details about ices in Jupiter-family comets and reveal that quirky 45P doesn't quite match any comet studied so far.
Gemini Observatory provided key observations in characterizing an object visiting from outside our solar system, 'Oumuamua. After the object was discovered by Pan-STARRS1 on Haleakala, both Gemini telescopes dropped everything to observe 'Oumuamua for three nights as it quickly dimmed from view. Researchers found that despite its interstellar origin, the object is similar in composition to some objects in our Solar System but its shape is unlike anything found around our Sun.
The vault-like, 40-foot diameter, 40-ton door of Chamber A at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston was unsealed on Nov. 18, signaling the end of cryogenic testing for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.
Objects scattered to the inner region of the Solar System by Jupiter's growth brought most of the water now found on Earth. Authors of an journal Icarus article describe a computational model which simulates the gravitational interaction between celestial bodies during the era of planet formation, also providing basis for the hypothesis of the dragging of water-rich "planetesimals".
On Nov. 14, scientists with the California Institute of Technology, the University of Washington and eight additional partner institutions, announced that the Zwicky Transient Facility, the latest sensitive tool for astrophysical observations in the Northern Hemisphere, has seen 'first light' and took its first detailed image of the night sky. When fully operational in 2018, the ZTF will scan almost the entire northern sky every night.
A new robotic camera that can capture hundreds of thousands of stars and galaxies in a single shot has taken its first image -- an event astronomers refer to as 'first light.' The camera is the centerpiece of a new automated sky survey called the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF), based at Caltech's Palomar Observatory. As partners in the ZTF effort, University of Maryland astronomers made important contributions to the planning and design of the project.
Sun-gazing missions SOHO and STEREO watched the return of comet 96P/Machholz when it entered their fields of view between Oct. 25-30. It is extremely rare for comets to be seen simultaneously from two different locations in space, and these are the most comprehensive parallel observations ever taken of this comet.
A team of WSU researchers has for the first time observed and recorded the creation of hexagonal diamond under shock compression, revealing crucial details about how it is formed. The discovery could help planetary scientists use the presence of hexagonal diamond at meteorite craters to estimate the severity of impacts.