|*** APRIL 2007 ***|
|NASA COMPLETES FIRST CHECKOUT FLIGHT OF AIRBORNE OBSERVATORY|
|...NASA successfully completed the first of several planned checkout test flights of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aircraft. |
The flight took place in Waco, Texas, to observe the low-speed and low-altitude handling performance of the aircraft. NASA research pilot and former astronaut Gordon Fullerton led the crew making the historic first flight.
"Today's first flight of SOFIA is a major milestone for the program and I want to thank the entire SOFIA team for all of its hard work over the years in making this first flight a success," said Jon Morse, director of the Astrophysics Division, NASA Headquarters, Washington.
|NASA PREDICTS NON-GREEN PLANTS ON OTHER PLANETS|
|NASA scientists believe they have found a way to predict the color of plants on planets in other solar systems. |
Green, yellow or even red-dominant plants may live on extra-solar planets, according to scientists whose two scientific papers appear in the March issue of the journal, Astrobiology. The scientists studied light absorbed and reflected by organisms on Earth, and determined that if astronomers were to look at the light given off by planets circling distant stars, they might predict that some planets have mostly non-green plants.
"We can identify the strongest candidate wavelengths of light for the dominant color of photosynthesis on another planet," said Nancy Kiang, lead author of the study and a biometeorologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, New York. Kiang worked with a
team of scientists from the Virtual Planetary Laboratory (VPL) at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. VPL was formed
as part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI), based at the NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley.
|NASA FINDS EVIDENCE FOR NEW MOLECULAR STRUCTURE IN SPACE|
|Researchers theorize that the red glow, called the Extended Red Emission (ERE), is due to a very unusual form of charged molecular clusters. Measured in billionths of a meter (billionths of a yard), these tiny clusters are made of carbon-rich molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that are chicken-wire shaped. Astronomers have been unable to explain the red glow for more than 30 years, even though PAHs were implicated. The highly luminescent source material requires very harsh ultraviolet radiation, a radiation field so strong that most known polyatomic interstellar molecules would be destroyed. NASA Ames Research Center has been a leader in the study of PAHs under the direction of Ames' Astrochemistry Laboratory led by Dr. Louis Allamandola. |
"We have been studying polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon molecules (PAHs) in the laboratory at NASA Ames Research Center for a long time, and although I had results that strongly supported the idea that PAHs had something to do with the ERE, the experimental results made it clear that if PAHs were involved, they were present in some as-yet unknown exotic form," said Murthy Gudipati of the University of Maryland and NASA Ames, who recently joined NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory after many years of close collaboration with Allamandola.
|NASA KEPLER SCIENTISTS TO DESCRIBE HUNT FOR EARTH-SIZE PLANETS|
|..."It's the most important endeavor NASA is undertaking, in my opinion," ventured William Borucki, a space scientist and Kepler's principal investigator, who works at NASA Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley. "We are trying to find man's place in the universe. The first step in doing that is finding Earth-like planets. Ultimately, we'll travel to the stars to see who is there," Borucki predicted. |
Kepler will greatly expand the quest for planets orbiting stars - not just giant, Jupiter-size planets - but smaller Earth-size worlds that might contain liquid water, and so could harbor life. Kepler is a NASA 'Discovery' mission that scientists designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to detect potentially hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near habitable zones. A habitable zone is the distance from a star where liquid water can exist on a planet's surface...