Tag Archives: california institute of technology

NASA’s Kepler Mission Finds Three Smallest Exoplanets

PASADENA, Calif. – Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler mission have discovered the three smallest planets yet detected orbiting a star beyond our sun. The planets orbit a single star, called KOI-961, and are 0.78, 0.73 and 0.57 times the radius of Earth. The smallest is about the size of Mars.

All three planets are thought to be rocky like Earth but orbit close to their star, making them too hot to be in the habitable zone, which is the region where liquid water could exist. Of the more than 700 planets confirmed to orbit other stars, called exoplanets, only a handful are known to be rocky. (more…)

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Evidence Emerges of Ancient Lake in California’s Eel River

*Ecological changes from lakebed may have led to two different populations of once-related steelhead trout*

A catastrophic landslide 22,500 years ago dammed the upper reaches of northern California’s Eel River, forming a 30-mile-long lake which has since disappeared. It left a living legacy found today in the genes of the region’s steelhead trout.

Using remote-sensing technology known as airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and hand-held global-positioning-systems (GPS) units, scientists recently found evidence for a late Pleistocene, landslide-dammed lake along the river. (more…)

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NASA’s Wise Mission Discovers Coolest Class of Stars

PASADENA, Calif. – Scientists using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have discovered the coldest class of star-like bodies, with temperatures as cool as the human body.

Astronomers hunted these dark orbs, termed Y dwarfs, for more than a decade without success. When viewed with a visible-light telescope, they are nearly impossible to see. WISE’s infrared vision allowed the telescope to finally spot the faint glow of six Y dwarfs relatively close to our sun, within a distance of about 40 light-years. (more…)

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NASA Mars Rover Approaches Long-Term Goal

The NASA Mars rover Opportunity has gained a view of Endeavour crater from barely more than a football-field’s distance away from the rim. The rim of Endeavour has been the mission’s long-term goal since mid-2008.

Endeavour offers the setting for plenty of productive work by Opportunity. The crater is 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter — more than 25 times wider than Victoria crater, an earlier stop that Opportunity examined for two years. Observations by orbiting spacecraft indicate that the ridges along Endeavour’s western rim expose rock outcrops older than any Opportunity has seen so far. The selected location for arrival at the rim, “Spirit Point,” is at the southern tip of one of those ridges, “Cape York,” on the western side of Endeavour. (more…)

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Farthest, Largest Water Mass in Universe Found, says Study Involving Caltech, CU-Boulder

An international team of astronomers led by the California Institute of Technology and involving the University of Colorado Boulder has discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe.

The distant quasar is one of the most powerful known objects in the universe and has an energy output of 1,000 trillion suns — about 65,000 times that of the Milky Way galaxy. The quasar’s power comes from matter spiraling into the central supermassive black hole, estimated at some 20 billion times the mass of our sun, said study leader Matt Bradford of Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. (more…)

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Cassini Captures Images and Sounds of Saturn Storm

PASADENA, Calif. — Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft now have the first-ever, up-close details of a Saturn storm that is eight times the surface area of Earth.

On Dec. 5, 2010, Cassini first detected the storm that has been raging ever since. It appears approximately 35 degrees north latitude of Saturn. Pictures from Cassini’s imaging cameras show the storm wrapping around the entire planet covering approximately 2 billion square miles (4 billion square kilometers). (more…)

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Caltech-led Researchers Measure Body Temperatures of Dinosaurs for the First Time

*Some Dinosaurs Were as Warm as Most Modern Mammals*

PASADENA, Calif.—Were dinosaurs slow and lumbering, or quick and agile? It depends largely on whether they were cold or warm blooded. When dinosaurs were first discovered in the mid-19th century, paleontologists thought the y were plodding beasts that had to rely on their environments to keep warm, like modern-day reptiles. But research during the last few decades suggests that they were faster creatures, nimble like the velociraptors or T. rex depicted in the movie Jurassic Park, requiring warmer, regulated body temperatures like in mammals.

Now, a team of researchers led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has developed a new approach to take body temperatures of dinosaurs for the first time, providing new insights into whether dinosaurs were cold or warm blooded. By analyzing isotopic concentrations in teeth of sauropods, the long-tailed, long-necked dinosaurs that were the biggest land animals to have ever lived—think Apatosaurus (also known as Brontosaurus)—the team found that the dinosaurs were about as warm as most modern mammals. (more…)

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NASA’s WISE Mission Offers a Taste of Galaxies to Come

PASADENA, Calif. — An assorted mix of colorful galaxies is being released today by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer mission, or WISE. The nine galaxies are a taste of what’s to come. The mission plans to release similar images for the 1,000 largest galaxies that appear in our sky, and possibly more.

“Galaxies come in all sorts of delicious flavors,” said Tom Jarrett, a WISE team member at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena, who studies our Milky Way’s neighboring galaxies. “Our first sample shows what WISE is capable of. We can produce spectacular high-resolution images of the largest galaxies.” (more…)

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