Taxonomy term


Warm river water melted Arctic sea ice

In September 2012, the area of the Arctic Ocean covered by sea ice was the smallest on record since satellite monitoring began in 1979. Several factors are thought to have contributed to that summer’s diminished ice, including a large cyclone in August that brought warmer ocean waters into the area and broke up the ice and a longer-term trend of thinning and weakening sea ice. Now, researchers have found that at least one large burst of warm freshwater into the Arctic earlier in the summer probably played a role as well.

23 Aug 2014

Rosetta: Off to decipher a comet's secrets

“Hello World.”

With that brief message, scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) and followers around the world sent up a collective cheer. Rosetta — the ESA spacecraft currently on a 10-year mission to orbit and land on a comet — awoke in January after a three-year hibernation, and was ready to work.

23 Jun 2014

Benchmarks: June 16, 1963 & June 18, 1983: Valentina Tereshkova and Sally Ride become first and third women in space

On June 16, 1963, during the height of the Cold War, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to fly in space. It would be 19 years before another woman would fly in space — Soviet Svetlana Savitskaya in 1982 — and 20 years before the first American woman, Sally Ride, made it into space on June 18, 1983. These pioneers inspired the generations of women astronauts who followed. In the three decades since Ride’s foray into outer space, 57 other women have also taken flight (see sidebar) and, last year, half of NASA’s new class of astronauts were women.

16 Jun 2014

MAVEN takes off for Mars to study the planet's atmosphere

NASA’s latest Mars mission, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter, successfully blasted off toward the Red Planet today to study how its evolving atmosphere contributed to climate change on Earth's neighbor.

18 Nov 2013

Geologic Column: Sometimes, the sky really is falling

Airplane pilots have a long history of using euphemisms to minimize the sense of risk in their work. Pilot-speak for crashing an airplane, for example, is “ruining your entire day.” In the same parlance, encountering an asteroid could cause all of us to have a very, very bad day. But maybe our close calls — such as the fireball that flew over Russia in February — can serve as reminders to renew our focus on searching for and understanding objects that could, literally, impact our planet.

12 May 2013

Bare Earth Elements: Mars-Observing Fleet Set to Face Silent Treatment

Outbound communications from NASA to its group of Mars-observing orbiters and rovers will be curtailed starting April 4. And as of April 9, no commands will be sent in the Red Planet’s direction. Lest anyone worry that this radio silence has to do with sequester-related budgetary constraints affecting the space agency, don’t fret, it’s only temporary and it has more to do with orbital, rather than fiscal, dynamics. The planned break in communication is a result of an impending planetary configuration, known as a solar conjunction, that will put the sun directly between Earth and Mars.

03 Apr 2013

Two NASA spacecraft reveal ancient underground cracks from moon's formation

SAN FRANCISCO: The face of the moon has always enchanted humankind, but new data from a NASA mission have given scientists a glimpse of what lies beneath the surface.

06 Dec 2012

Simple organic compounds detected by Curiosity on Mars

Too early to tell if findings are evidence of biological activity, scientists say

NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) rover, Curiosity, has detected evidence of simple, chlorinated organic compounds in soil sampled recently from the red planet, project scientists announced Monday from the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The scientists characterized the finding as very exciting, but they stressed that the results do not provide “definitive" evidence of past or present life on Mars.

03 Dec 2012

Bare Earth Elements: Let the real Curiosity begin

This has been a year of scientific milestones. In just the last few months, we have witnessed the first successful launch of a privately built spacecraft — SpaceX’s Dragon capsule — which docked with the International Space Station in May, as well as the announcement in July that the Higgs Boson, the lynchpin particle in the Standard Model of physics, had at last been confidently detected. And by now, you have surely heard that Curiosity — the latest model in NASA’s lineage of robotic Mars-exploring rovers — has successfully landed on the red planet. In case you hadn’t, here is your official notice:


06 Aug 2012

Hazardous Living: Watching Curiosity land safely was exhilarating

Sometimes humanity accomplishes something absolutely awesome. Tonight was one of those nights. We put another rover on Mars — by far the most advanced rover yet. Curiosity is now out exploring Gale Crater and much is expected of her.

06 Aug 2012