Posts Tagged ‘climate’

Three Indian Scientists Played a Role in Mapping Universe

Three Indian scientists– Sanjit Mitra, Tarun Souradeep and their graduate student Aditya Rotti — from the Inter- University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune, were a part of the team.


On March 21, the most-refined picture of the early cosmos after the Big Bang, measured by the European Space Agency’s Planck mission, was released at European Space Agency headquarters in Paris.


The map suggests that the universe is slightly older than thought. According to the map, subtle fluctuations in temperature were imprinted on the deep sky when the cosmos was about 370,000-years-old.

Planck also provided the most-precise measurements to date of tiny variations in the universe’s oldest light, called the cosmic microwave background (CMB), created more than 13 billion years ago when the universe was young—only a few hundred thousand-years-old, Sanjit Mitra told .


These measurements allow exquisite estimates of the age, composition, geometry and fate of the universe.


Next release of such results, which will include the full dataset and further refinement in the analyses, is expected in 2014, he added.


“Based on a decade-long research programme at IUCAA, the Indian team made significant contribution in alleviating effects from the complex instrumental response, as well as, in the search for subtle violations of the cosmological principle that is a key fundamental assumption in standard cosmology,” Mitra said.


The correction for complicated oddities of the instrument response has been critical for accurate estimation of key cosmological results from Planck data.


Planck is a space observatory of the European Space Agency (ESA) and designed to observe the “anisotropies of the cosmic microwave background at a high sensitivity and angular resolution.


Planck was built in the Cannes Mandelieu Space Center by Thales Alenia Space and created as the third Medium-Sized Mission (M3) of the European Space Agency’s Horizon 2000 Scientific Programme.


The project, initially called COBRAS/SAMBA, is named in honour of the German physicist Max Planck (1858?1947), who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

Source: IndiaTimes

A new video from a NASA spacecraft studying the sun has captured an unexpected sight: a wandering comet posing with the planets Earth and Mercury.

The cosmic view comes from one of NASA’s twin Stereo spacecraft that constantly watch the sun for signs of solar flares and other space weather events. It shows Mercury and Earth as they appeared with theComet Pan-STARRS, a comet that is currently visible from the Northern Hemisphere during evening twilight.

The probe captured the video of Comet Pan-STARRS, Earth and Mercury together while observing the sun from March 9 to March 12.


According to a NASA description, the video “shows the comet and its fluttering tail as it moves through space.” The Earth appears as a bright stationary object on the right side of the video, while Mercury is visible as a moving light on the left side.  [How to see Comet Pan-STARRS]

The sun is actually out of the frame in the Stereo-B spacecraft’s video, but its solar wind is visible as a stream of material, NASA officials explained.  Meanwhile, the view of Comet Pan-STARRS from space is giving scientists a wealth of data to review, they added.

“Comet scientists say the tail looks quite complex and it will take computer models to help understand exactly what’s happening in STEREO’s observations,” agency officials said in a video description. “The comet should remain visible to the naked eye through the end of March.”

Comet Pan-STARRS is currently visible to stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere just after sunset. To see the comet, look low on the western horizon just after the sun has gone down. Comet Pan-STARRS can appear as a bright head with a wispy trail, weather permitting, though some stargazers have said the bright evening twilight can make spotting it tricky.

The Comet Pan-STARRS was discovered in June 2011 by astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii. The comet’s official name is C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS).

Scientists estimate that Comet Pan-STARRS takes more than 100 million years to orbit the sun once. The comet crossed into the Northern Hemisphere evening sky last week after months of being visible to observers in the Southern Hemisphere.

NASA’s twin Stereo A and B spacecraft (the name is short for Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) observe the sun in tandem to provide unparalleled views of how material from solar eruptions makes its way to Earth. The spacecraft launched in 2006 and are part of a fleet of sun-watching spacecraft that monitor solar storms.

Comet Pan-STARRS is one of several comets gracing the night sky in 2013. Pan-STARRS was joined by the Comet Lemmon earlier this year when both were visible together in the Southern Hemisphere sky. Later this year, the sungrazing Comet ISON could put on a potentially dazzling display when it makes its closest approach to the sun in late November.

Editor’s note: If you snap an amazing photo of Comet Pan-STARRS in the night sky, or any other celestial object, and you’d like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please send images and comments, including location information, to managing editor Tariq Malik at

Email Tariq Malik at or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on


Link to video: Curiosity rover finds drinkable water on Mars, says Nasa

An ancient network of rivers on Mars once made parts of the planet habitable for microbial life, according to the latest analysis from Nasa‘sCuriosity rover.

Rock dust drilled from sediments in the giant Gale crater on the red planet were found to contain clay minerals that can have formed only in water, scientists said.

The discovery of other substances alongside the clays, such as calcium phosphate, suggest the soil was neutral or mildly alkaline, making the environment suitable for microbes.

Instruments aboard the Curiosity rover have allowed scientists to build up a gradual picture of the planet’s geological past, but the latest analyses are the strongest evidence yet that Mars was once hospitable to life.

“A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,” Michael Meyer, a lead scientist on Nasa’s Mars Exploration Program, said. “From what we know now, the answer is yes.”

The rover has been exploring an area in the basin of the Gale crater called Yellowknife Bay. Analysis of dust drilled from the bedrock found it was made from fine-grained mudstone containing clay minerals and other chemicals used by living organisms, including sulphur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon.

Scientists believe the bay region was the end of an ancient network of rivers or an old lake bed that was wet at various times in the planet’s history. The latest clues to the Martian environment came from data sent back to Nasa scientists by the rover’s sample analysis on Mars, with its chemistry and mineralogy instruments.

“The first indications are that this region could have been habitable. Though it could have been an uninhabited habitat,” said John Bridges, a planetary scientist and member of the Mars Curiosity team at Leicester University.

The rover, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), was sent to the planet to answer a simple question: was Mars ever hospitable to life? The discovery of clays that formed in water, the neutral soil conditions, and a chemical energy source for microbes, suggests the scientists finally have an answer.

Among the results the rover beamed back to Earth, scientists were surprised to find chemical compounds in different states of oxidation. Similar variations in chemical makeup are used as an energy source by some microbes on Earth.

The partial oxidation of some minerals first revealed itself when drilled samples appeared grey instead of red in the rover’s camera.

“We have characterized a very ancient, but strangely new grey Mars where conditions once were favourable for life,” said John Grotzinger, project scientist on the mission at California Institute of Technology.

The task of hunting for proof of ancient life on Mars will fall to future missions, but Bridges said that the discovery of clay minerals on the planet will help scientists direct probes to landing sites where conditions were most suited to life.

The $2.5bn car-sized rover touched down on Mars in August last year after an audacious landing that required it to be winched to the ground by a hovering spacecraft. The mission will last one Martian year, or 687 Earth days. One day on Mars is called a sol and lasts 1.027 Earth days.

“It’s a remarkable achievement. We are starting to see results from MSL that already justify the mission,” said Bridges. “We’ll take it one sol at a time.”