This Exoplanet Has Prematurely Aged its Star

by Shannon Hall on September 18, 2014

 X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/I.Pillitteri et al; Optical: DSS; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Optical and X-ray images of the star WASP 18. X-ray Credit: NASA / CXC / SAO / I.Pillitteri et al; Optical Credit: DSS; Illustration Credit: NASA / CXC / M.Weiss

Hot young stars are wildly active, emitting huge eruptions of charged particles form their surfaces. But as they age they naturally become less active, their X-ray emission weakens and their rotation slows.

Astronomers have theorized that a hot Jupiter — a sizzling gas giant circling close to its host star — might be able to sustain a young star’s activity, ultimately prolonging its youth. Earlier this year, two astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics tested this hypothesis and found it true.

But now, observations of a different system show the opposite effect: a planet that’s causing its star to age much more quickly.

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Sandy Ridges Pose A Mystery For Future Martian Beach Vacations

by Elizabeth Howell on September 18, 2014

A September 2014 image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showing transverse aeolian ridges. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

A September 2014 image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showing transverse aeolian ridges. Credit: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

What are these thick dune-like features on Mars, and how were they formed? Scientists are still trying to puzzle out these ridges, which you can see above in a more tropical region of the Red Planet called Iapygia, which is south of Syrtis Major. The thick ridges were captured from orbit by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE), and we’ve included some more intriguing pictures below the jump.

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Saturn-Circling Cassini Spacecraft Plumbs Titan’s Seas Next Week

by Elizabeth Howell on September 18, 2014

Titan's thick haze. Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Titan’s thick haze. Image: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute.

Is the surf up yet on Titan? As the moon of Saturn moves towards northern summer, scientists are trying to spot signs of the winds picking up. This weekend, the Cassini spacecraft plans a look at the the largest body of liquid on Titan, Kraken Mare, to see if there are any waves on this huge hydrocarbon sea.

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United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the CLIO mission for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company launched at 8:10 p.m. EDT September 16, 2014 from Space Launch Complex-41 on  Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying the CLIO mission for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company launched at 8:10 p.m. EDT September 16, 2014 from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – On a gloomy night and delayed by rain showers and thick threatening clouds to the very last moment of a two and a half launch window, the completely clandestine satellite known only as CLIO climbed slowly from a Cape Canaveral launch pad atop the thunderous flames of an Atlas V rocket on Tuesday evening on a mysterious mission to orbit.

Under a veil of secrecy for an unknown US government customer, the clouds cleared just enough to finally launch CLIO on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V booster at 8:10 p.m. EDT September 16, 2014 from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. [click to continue…]

Artist's conception of the NASA Dawn spacecraft approaching Ceres. Credit: NASA

Artist’s conception of the NASA Dawn spacecraft approaching Ceres. Credit: NASA

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft experienced technical problems in the past week that will force it to arrive at dwarf planet Ceres one month later than planned, the agency said in a statement yesterday (Sept. 16).

Controllers discovered Dawn was in safe mode Sept. 11 after radiation disabled its ion engine, which uses electrical fields to “push” the spacecraft along. The radiation stopped all engine thrusting activities. The thrusting resumed Monday (Sept. 15) after controllers identified and fixed the problem, but then they found another anomaly troubling the spacecraft.

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