Weekly News Round-up 21.02.13

This week has definitely not disappointed, both within the lab and outside of it there has been an incredible amount going on in the field of planetary science. Within the lab, after several months of slow progress making the necessary modifications to the RIMSKI instrument, we detected a krypton signal yesterday. We hope to have the machine back to standard operating parameters within a week. Outside of the lab, the world has had to rewrite the statistical odds on getting hit by a meteorite! The Russian meteorite impact captured both the interest and imagination of the public- albeit in a somewhat mass panic sense…


Russian Flying-Space-Rock-of-Death

First, I’d just like to point out- to our knowledge, no one was actually killed in the impact event- the title is name suggestion for meteorites from Katie Mack (@AstroKatie). So here’s what our research group managed to extract from the masses of media about that Russian meteorite impact:

The 15m diameter asteroid, weighing in at an impressive 10,000 tons, exploded in an air burst over Chelyabinsk Oblast on the 15th February 2013. The energy released in this air burst was approximately 20 to 30 times as powerful as a nuclear bomb. It had absolutely no relation to the asteroid 2012 DA14 which passed within the orbital radius of geosynchronous satellites shortly after the impact event. It caused widespread damage to buildings and injured close to 1491 people – many of which were superficial injuries due to building debris. It is now believed that the meteorite is an ordinary chondrite and has one of the most documented fall trajectories of any meteorite observed through history.


There’s Something Cool About Alpha Centauri A

A low temperature region has been detected within the outer layers of the star Alpha Centauri A, ESA’s Herschel observatory reported earlier this week. Obviously we aren’t talking about a region that is cold- but it is significantly lower in temperature than the surrounding layer. At a mild 4000 ºC, it is a whole 2000 ºC colder than its neighboring photosphere layer and a whole 6000 ºC colder than the outer Chromosphere! Read more about the discovery here: A cool discovery about the Sun’s next-door twin.


Curiousity Digs Deep

You might remember in one of our previous round-ups, Curiosity was preparing to implement its drill mechanism to extract a rock sample from deep within an outcrop. Well, NASA has reported the success of this task; you can read more about the update here: Curiosity confirms first scoop.


Blowing the Lid off Cosmic Rays

The source of cosmic rays has long eluded scientists but now the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has revealed the first conclusive evidence that supernovae events are the source of this incredibly fast moving matter. A Science Journal article was published earlier this week that details the work and data carried out by the NASA Fermi team- but if that is to heavy for you, check out their news report on the matter here: NASA’s Fermi proves supernova remnants produce cosmic rays.


Listening to the Stars

A recent Nature report has revealed a new record breaking smallest ever planet. The planet, called Kepler-37b, was found using astroseiemology. This involves turning minute changes in the light intensity of a star into sound waves. This planet is tiny, not much larger than our Moon. Read more about the report here: Exoplanet Kepler 37b is tiniest yet – smaller than Mercury.


In Memory of…

The Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry group would like to pay our respects to Dr David S. McKay who sadly passed away in the early hours of Wednesday morning.  His service to NASA was exemplary, reaching back as far as training the Apollo 11 astronauts. He was a treasured member of the scientific community and will be missed. Our thoughts are with his friends and family.


Finally, I’d like to leave you with this image which I’ve come across several times this week. It’s a photo taken by the Cassini probe as it passed by Saturn. If you look very closely in the top left region of Saturn’s rings, you can see a little whitish dot- that dot, is Earth. It really puts things in perspective for you!

Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA


About Mark Nottingham

Mark is a PhD student in the Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry group at UoM. Primarily working on the RIMSKI and RELAX noble gas instruments.
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