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Earthshine used to test life detection method
...By imagining the Earth as an exoplanet, scientists observing our planet's reflected light on the Moon with ESO's Very Large Telescope have demonstrated a way to detect life on other worlds...
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Solid buckyballs discovered in space
...Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have detected a particular type of molecule, given the nickname “buckyball”, in a solid form for the first time...
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Steamy water-world gets the Hubble treatment
...Hubble Space Telescope observations of a 7 Earth-mass planet find an unusual water-rich world swathed in a thick, steamy atmosphere...
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Hubble spots Mars-bound comet sprout multiple jets
NASA NEWS RELEASE
Posted: MARCH 27, 2014


NASA released Thursday an image of a comet that, on October 19, will pass within 135,000 kilometres (84,000 miles) of Mars – less than half the distance between Earth and our moon.

comet_400x199
Image: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute).

The image on the left, captured March 11 by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows comet C/2013 A1, also called Siding Spring, at a distance of 353 million miles from Earth. Hubble can't see Siding Spring's icy nucleus because of its diminutive size. The nucleus is surrounded by a glowing dust cloud, or COMA, that measures roughly 19,000 kilometres (12,000 miles) across.

The right image shows the comet after image processing techniques were applied to remove the hazy glow of the coma revealing what appear to be two jets of dust coming off the location of the nucleus in opposite directions. This observation should allow astronomers to measure the direction of the nucleus’s pole, and axis of rotation.

Hubble also observed Siding Spring on January 21 as Earth was crossing its orbital plane, which is the path the comet takes as it orbits the sun. This positioning of the two bodies allowed astronomers to determine the speed of the dust coming off the nucleus.

processed
The Hubble Space Telescope photographed Comet Siding Spring on March 11, 2014. Hubble resolves two jets of dust coming from the solid icy nucleus. This is the enhanced image captured by the telescope's Wide Field Camera 3. Image: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute).

"This is critical information that we need to determine whether, and to what degree, dust grains in the coma of the comet will impact Mars and spacecraft in the vicinity of Mars," said Jian-Yang Li of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

Discovered in January 2013 by Robert H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory, the comet is falling toward the sun along a roughly 1 million year orbit and is now within the radius of Jupiter's orbit. The comet will make its closest approach to our sun on October 25, at a distance of 209 million kilometres (130 million miles) – well outside of Earth's orbit. The comet is not expected to become bright enough to be seen by the naked eye.

original
The Hubble Space Telescope pre-processed image of Comet Siding Spring. Image: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute).

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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