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Contact with ET may be sooner than we think ... where are they? A new study suggests that we’ve been looking in the wrong places all along....

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EPOXI checks out super-Earth planet

...the innovative Deep Impact spacecraft has now begun its new job as “super-Earth” planet hunter “EPOXI”...

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When black holes snuff out star formation ...galaxies reaching a critical size of 10 billion times the Sun could see Active Galactic Nuclei take over from supernova explosions as the main mechanism to disperse star-forming ingredients...

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STS-120 day 2 highlights

Flight Day 2 of Discovery's mission focused on heat shield inspections. This movie shows the day's highlights.

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STS-120 day 1 highlights

The highlights from shuttle Discovery's launch day are packaged into this movie.

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STS-118: Highlights

The STS-118 crew, including Barbara Morgan, narrates its mission highlights film and answers questions in this post-flight presentation.

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 Mission film

STS-120: Rollout to pad

Space shuttle Discovery rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building and travels to launch pad 39A for its STS-120 mission.

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Dawn leaves Earth

NASA's Dawn space probe launches aboard a Delta 2-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral to explore two worlds in the asteroid belt.

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Dawn: Launch preview

These briefings preview the launch and science objectives of NASA's Dawn asteroid orbiter.

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Closest view ever of Mars sand
BY DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW

Posted: June 6, 2008

Dust grains as small as one-tenth the thickness of a human hair have been imaged by NASA’s Phoenix Lander, the greatest resolution ever returned from another planet.

"We have images showing the diversity of mineralogy on Mars at a scale that is unprecedented in planetary exploration," says Michael Hecht of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena.

This mosaic of four side-by-side microscope images, including one a color composite, was acquired by the Optical Microscope, a part of the Microscopy, Electrochemistry, and Conductivity Analyser (MECA) instrument suite. The image shows a 3 millimetre diametre silicone target after it has been exposed to dust kicked up by the landing. The silicone substrate provides a sticky surface for holding the particles to be examined by the microscope. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

The Lander’s Optical Microscope instrument took images of particles that had fallen onto a sticky, exposed silicone substrate on the spacecraft during the landing phase and over subsequent days. Some of the particles may have come from inside the spacecraft during the forceful events of landing, but many match expectations for Martian particles, showing a range of shapes and colours.

"It's a first quick look," says Hecht, "This experiment was partly an insurance policy for something to observe with the microscope before getting a soil sample delivered by the arm, and partly a characterisation of the Optical Microscope. All the tools are working well."

"We will be using future observations of soil samples delivered by the Robotic Arm to confirm whether the types of particles in this dustfall sample are also seen in samples we can be certain are Martian in origin," he adds.

Meanwhile, Phoenix received commands yesterday to collect its first soil sample to be delivered to a laboratory instrument on the lander deck. The experiment will take several days to complete and process the results.

Related Stories

Jun  3   Phoenix scoops up Martian soil read more

Jun  2   Phoenix sees possible ice read more

May 30 Phoenix flexes robotic arm read more

May 28 HiRISE captures Phoenix descent read more

May 26 Spectacular new colour view of Mars read more

May 23 Phoenix prepares for Mars landing read more

 

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