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Busy week in the universe

By | December 03, 2012 | News

What is going on with the space projects lately? There are just so many awesome discoveries coming from outside our atmosphere in the last few months, it makes you wonder why NASA gets next to no money.

Everyone knows about the Curiosity Rover sitting up on Mars taking pictures and gathering samples of the extraterrestrial dirt, but so much more has been happening.

From what seemed to be a random announcement Thursday, new evidence was released that the planet closest to the sun might have traces of ice on its northern pole.

Researchers from NASA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Los Angeles discovered what appears to be ice and organic material in craters that are permanently lost in the shadows at the northern pole of Mercury.

According to National Geographic, the surface of Mercury can reach 801 degrees Fahrenheit. That is hot enough to melt metals such as lead and zinc. In other words, it’s pretty warm.

Finding ice on a planet that can get that hot is like finding an ice cube in the back of your oven, it just isn’t very expected. Scientists believed, as early as the 1990s, that there could be ice or water near Mercury’s poles. However, the evidence was inconclusive and didn’t reveal positive results.

The evidence taken by NASA’s MESSENGER mission showed high-resolution topographical maps of Mercury’s surface, which depicted signs of ice.

Not willing to be shown up, scientists studying the North Star Polaris found that the well-known star is quite a bit closer than previously thought.

Previously thought to be 434 light-years away, new research suggests that scientists were wrong by more than 100 light-years.

Polaris is a star that scientists use to measure distances in space, so this new discovery can change quite a bit.

The new distance measurement may help astronomers in the pursuit of several cosmic mysteries like the hunt for the elusive dark energy, researchers said.

A study by Canadian, Ukrainian and Belgian astronomers confirmed the closer distance.

In another galaxy far, far away, a supermassive black hole was found. University of Texas researchers rank this black hole among the biggest ever discovered.

A small galaxy 250 light-years away known as NGC 1277 is the home of the black hole that is equivalent to the size of 17 billion suns. That is a massive swirling ball of black death.

This black hole takes up about 14 percent of the mass of the galaxy it resides

in. The average black hole might represent only 0.1 percent of its host galaxy.

Another large black hole was discovered in 2011 that was comparable to this new sighting.

Scientists who are looking to the cosmos have really been stepping up lately. There have been so many discoveries and sure to be more in the coming years.

Saturday, astronomers detected grains of dust gathering around a faraway star and were able to take a photo of what appears to be a planet forming. The image was taken with the Subaru Telescope located in Hawaii and shows a disk of dust circling a star 450 light-years away.

Today, NASA will be giving an update into the Curiosity Rover mission on Mars. Curiosity caused a stir in the science community when it first landed earlier this year, however, the rover has failed to produce anything groundbreaking. NASA is trying to keep any wishful thinking to a minimum, but hopefully can produce something for the announcement at noon.

The cosmos are developing into a vast and interesting place filled with things hard to imagine for anyone without a million dollar telescope. These developments are all important to answer the questions humans have pondered for thousands of years. We can have our solutions if projects such as these continue into the future.

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