Electric rocket engines known as Hall thrusters, which use a super high-velocity stream of ions to propel a spacecraft in space, have been used successfully onboard many missions for half a century. Erosion of the discharge channels walls, however, has limited their application to the inner solar system. A research team has found a way to effectively control this erosion by shaping the engine's magnetic field in a way that shields the walls from ion bombardment.
Simulations boost the significance of image and measurement data from space missions: based on the example of an asteroid, Bernese astrophysicist Martin Jutzi shows how collisions with other celestial bodies can be reconstructed and that even the internal structure of so-called protoplanets can be described. These models help to understand the development of our solar system.
NGC 6520 is an open star cluster that contains many hot stars that glow bright blue-white, a telltale sign of their youth. Open clusters usually contain a few thousand stars that all formed at the same time, giving them all the same age. Such clusters usually only live comparatively short lives, on the order of several hundred million years, before drifting apart.
Among the hundred billion stars which can be observed in the Milky Way, there is a group of stars, the so-named ultra-cool dwarfs, defined as stars with a temperature below 2500 K, which includes ultra-cool dwarfs and brown dwarfs.
NASA's Curiosity rover has, for the first time, used a drill carried at the end of its robotic arm to bore into a flat, veiny rock on Mars and collect a sample from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars.
Three NASA scientists teamed up to develop and demonstrate NASA's first wide-field-of-view soft X-ray camera for studying "charge exchange," a poorly understood phenomenon that occurs when the solar wind collides with Earth's exosphere and neutral gas in interplanetary space.
Using publicly available data from NASA's Kepler space telescope, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) have found that six percent of red dwarf stars have habitable, Earth-sized planets. Since red dwarfs are the most common stars in our galaxy, the closest Earth-like planet could be just 13 light-years away.
Despite its appearance, which looks much like countless other galaxies, Messier 106 hides a number of secrets. Thanks to this image, which combines data from Hubble with observations by amateur astronomers Robert Gendler and Jay GaBany, they are revealed as never before.
IBEX can map the boundary at the edge of our heliosphere in a way never before done. In 2009, IBEX saw something in that map that no one could explain: a vast ribbon dancing across the boundary that produced many more energetic neutral atoms than the surrounding areas.
Researchers have used cutting-edge solar-imaging technology to observe the Sun's chromosphere - a region of the Sun's atmosphere sandwiched between its surface and outer layer - to an unprecedented level of detail.