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harvey leifert

Comet ISON still intrigues and inspires, even after its demise

Comet ISON is dead, but its memory will live on." That eulogy for the much-discussed “comet of the century" was delivered today by Karl Battams of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., during a series of reports presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, Calif.

11 Dec 2013

Juno salutes its home planet and heads to Jupiter

Thanks to orbital mechanics, a spacecraft heading to Jupiter must go most of the way there, then loop around the sun, zoom back close to Earth, and finally head out again on its mission to the largest planet in the solar system. That's the story of Juno, launched by NASA on Aug. 5, 2011, and due to arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Its journey required a boost in velocity, relative to the sun, which it received when it flew as close as 559  kilometers above Earth on Oct. 9, 2013.

11 Dec 2013

Curiosity finds an ancient habitable environment in Mars' Gale Crater

San Francisco - Yellowknife Bay is named for Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, but is nowhere near that subarctic city. It is not even on Earth, but is the focus of intense interest among scores of Earthbound geologists, biologists and astronomers. Yellowknife Bay is a geologic formation on Mars in the 154-kilometer-wide Gale Crater. The Curiosity rover, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), has been exploring that crater for more than a year.

09 Dec 2013

Apollo science, 40 years later: Scientists reopen a lunar cold case

Today’s lunar scientists are like detectives who reopen old criminal cases and examine them anew with modern instruments and techniques like DNA analysis. Armed with data and analytical techniques not available in the 1970s, scientists are re-examining Apollo moon rocks and learning more than ever before about our nearest celestial neighbor.

24 Mar 2013

Kilauea’s Explosive Past — and Future

The explosive history of Kilauea is not well known. Today, it’s renowned for lobes of slow-moving, calm lava, which ooze out of cracks in the flanks of the volcano, pour downslope and eventually flow into the sea, where the lava cools and gradually enlarges the island. But in the past, Kilauea has erupted violently — more often and for much longer periods than was previously thought. Now, researchers have learned that over the past 2,500 years, violent eruptive periods lasting centuries have alternated with periods of quiet flows. Once an explosive period has begun, conditions on the Big Island will be very different from those on which the past hazard assessment was based.

17 May 2012

Undressing Vesta

Researchers find surprising characteristics of the asteroid

Since last July, NASA's Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting the asteroid Vesta and sending back images and other data to the delight and amazement of researchers. Among other surprising characteristics, Vesta has been shown to be one of the most colorful objects in the solar system.

05 Mar 2012