Thursday, August 4, 2011

Space...the final frontier

There have been many developments in the field of astronomy in the past week.  Let’s get to them, shall we?

We’ve finally found oxygen in space.  Sure, single atoms of oxygen have been found plenty of times before but this time oxygen molecules (i.e. the kind that we breathe) have been seen.   The oxygen was located within the constellation of Orion in a region that is something of a stellar nursery. 

A total of 96 new star clusters have been found in hiding.  It is estimated that there should be about 30,000 star clusters in our galaxy.  This latest find brings our discovered total to 2,596.  The 96 that were just found are known as “open clusters,” star groups that are relatively young…smaller in mass than the Sun…and therefore emit very little light.  The dust and debris of the cosmos easily block this light, making infrared telescopes the instruments of choice in searching for open clusters.

Data keeps coming in from the asteroid Vesta.  The Dawn probe is currently orbiting the asteroid and sending back impressive photos of the surface. A crater has even been located that was caused by a collision from millions of years ago.  This collision in turn sent meteorites to pelt the Earth in a buckshot manner.  

Is there flowing water on Mars?  It's starting to look that way.  There are rivulets on the slopes of several mountains on Mars.  These features disappear during winter but reappear during spring.  This is likely due to melting ice.   Given what we know of the composition of the Martian surface, this water is expected to be salty and briny...nearly like the kind that spawned life right here on Earth.  Does this mean there is life on Mars?  I say it's time to send up a team to find out.

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