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Trio of super-Earths discovered ...A harvest of low mass planets has been discovered and 45 other candidate planets with masses below 30 Earth masses have also been identified...

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Sun sets on Ulysses mission

...after more than 17 years dedicated to exploring the effects of solar activity on the space that surrounds us, the sun is setting on the Ulysses mission...

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A new type of comet dust mineral

...NASA researchers have found a new mineral in a material that likely originated from comet 26P/Grigg-Skjellerup, which orbits the Sun once every five years...

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STS-120 day 2 highlights

Flight Day 2 of Discovery's mission focused on heat shield inspections. This movie shows the day's highlights.

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STS-120 day 1 highlights

The highlights from shuttle Discovery's launch day are packaged into this movie.

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STS-118: Highlights

The STS-118 crew, including Barbara Morgan, narrates its mission highlights film and answers questions in this post-flight presentation.

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STS-120: Rollout to pad

Space shuttle Discovery rolls out of the Vehicle Assembly Building and travels to launch pad 39A for its STS-120 mission.

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Dawn leaves Earth

NASA's Dawn space probe launches aboard a Delta 2-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral to explore two worlds in the asteroid belt.

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Dawn: Launch preview

These briefings preview the launch and science objectives of NASA's Dawn asteroid orbiter.

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First results from Phoenix bakery
BY DR EMILY BALDWIN
ASTRONOMY NOW

Posted: June 17, 2008

After a difficult time delivering soil samples to one of the ovens onboard Phoenix, the results are now in from the first round of baking: no water, yet.

Colour image of the “Dodo-Goldilocks” trench. White material, possibly ice, is located in the upper portion of the trench only. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University.

But there is no reason to go home yet. The soil sample that finally made it into the oven had been sitting on the lander’s deck for several days while engineers figured out a way of getting the clumpy soil through the filters and into the ovens. During that time it is more than likely that any water ice contained within the soil would have sublimated into a gas because of the thin Martian atmosphere.

"If the material is ice, it should change with time. Frost may form on it, or it could slowly sublimate," says Robotic Arm lead scientist Ray Arvidson of the University of Washington.

The sample was heated to different temperatures during the experiment, first to 35 degrees Celsius, which would melt any water, and then to 175 degrees Celsius, which would reveal any water vapour, but scientists saw no water whatsoever coming off the soil. The next experiment will heat the sample to 1000 degrees Celsius, which will vapourise any minerals that might be chemically bound to water, carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide, in order to determine the quantities of the vented gases.

Colour-coded elevation map of the “Dodo-Goldilocks” trench. The deepest areas are 7-8 centimetres and coloured in blue, and the highest areas are coloured in red and pink. Because the terrain is inclined at a 14 degree angle, the highest areas (pink) are about 20 centimetres above the lowest parts of the trench. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Texas A&M University/NASA Ames Research Centre.

Meanwhile, multi-tasking Phoenix has dug deeper into the two trenches informally known as “Dodo” and “Goldilocks” where white material, possibly ice, was previously identified. The digging has now created one large trench, nicknamed “Dod-Goldilocks”, which is 22 centimetres wide, 35 centimetres long and around 8 centimetres deep.

“We have continued to excavate in the Dodo-Goldilocks trench to expose more of the light-toned material, and we will monitor the site," says Arvidson.

The white material has only been seen in the shallowest part of the trench, farthest from the lander, indicating that it is not continuous throughout the excavated site. Scientists are speculating that the trench might be exposing a ledge or a small portion of a larger slab of white material.

The science team remain confident that future rounds of testing on soil that can be delivered immediately to the ovens will reveal evidence for the existence of water on Mars.

Related Stories

Jun  12 An oven full of sand read more

Jun  10 Clumpy Martian soil challenges Phoenix read more

Jun  6   Closest view ever of Mars sand read more

Jun  3   Phoenix scoops up Martian soil read more

Jun  2   Phoenix sees possible ice read more

May 30 Phoenix flexes robotic arm read more

May 28 HiRISE captures Phoenix descent read more

May 26 Spectacular new colour view of Mars read more

May 23 Phoenix prepares for Mars landing read more

The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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