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It kept plasma at temperatures three times hotter than the core of the sun for over a minute.

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A BIG DAY for LISA Pathfinder technology!

FIRST LOCKS RELEASED FROM LISA PATHFINDER'S CUBES

Today, the lock fingers that kept the two test masses on LISA Pathfinder secure during the launch and cruise phase were successfully unlocked. As planned, the two cubes are still attached to the spacecraft via an additional mechanism that will hold them in place until mid February, as the teams carry on with the spacecraft and payload commissioning.

Tests on LISA Pathfinder are proceeding on schedule. The spacecraft completed its six-week journey in space, reaching its operational location in orbit around the Lagrange point L1 on 22 January 2016.
With the spacecraft settling into its new home, teams from ESA, Airbus Defence and Space (the prime contractor) and the institutes that provided the payload hardware continue to perform tests on the various systems, subsystems and instruments in preparation for when science operations will begin on 1 March.

Read more:
http://sci.esa.int/lisa-pathfinder/57290-first-locks-released-from-lisa-pathfinders-cubes/
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A Piece of Mars: Remnants of erosion | Lori Fenton's Blog

The gray area in the center of the 480×270 m (0.3×0.17 mi) area is an erosional remnant: once, more of this area was covered by the gray stuff, but some of it has eroded away (most likely by the wind) to reveal the underlying terrain below. The wind probably blew from upper left to lower right, lifting away the finer grains and leaving behind the larger, heavier ones. Some of the larger grains have formed into ripples, that in some places may be the only sign that the overlying layer was ever there.

Image credit: HiRISE ESP_043136_2020, NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona

Larger image: http://buff.ly/1Sixghs
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Milky Way with Nearby Constellations by Matt Dieterich

Right down near the horizon is Sagittarius – it looks like a teapot, with the Milky Way rising like steam from its spout. Many of the brightest, most spectacular nebulae in the night sky are located around this constellation: the Lagoon Nebula, Trifid Nebula, and the Omega Nebula. The 4 million solar mass supermassive black hole located at the center of the Milky Way is located in this region too.

Further up the Milky Way you can see the three constellations that form the Summer Triangle: Lyra, Cygnus and Aquila.

And right on the left side of the photograph is Cassiopeia, with its familiar “W” shape.

In the lower-right of the image are a few constellations from the zodiac: Scorpio, Libra and Virgo. And if you look closely you can see Saturn making its way across the sky, in the plane of the ecliptic.

Image credit: Matt Dieterich

Read more: http://buff.ly/1lUN6C2
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Get Up Early, See Five Planets at Once!
From Sky and Telescope: During the next two weeks you'll have a good chance to view five planets at once. It's a real visual treat, so don't pass up the chance to see it…You'll need to be outside about 45 minutes before sunrise. This time of year, if you work or go to school, you're usually already up by then — maybe even well positioned to scan the predawn eastern horizon as you commute to work or head off to school. Read more: http://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/observing-news/get-up-early-see-five-planets-at-once-01182015/
Image credit: Sky and Telescope
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A new planet in the solar system? Alan Stern, New Horizons' principal investigator, isn't convinced. http://bit.ly/1RAvXM5

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Possible Ice Volcano on Pluto Has the ‘Wright Stuff’

Scientists with NASA’s New Horizons mission have assembled this highest-resolution color view of one of two potential cryovolcanoes spotted on the surface of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015.

This feature, known as Wright Mons, was informally named by the New Horizons team in honor of the Wright brothers. At about 90 miles (150 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) high, this feature is enormous. If it is in fact a volcano, as suspected, it would be the largest such feature discovered in the outer solar system.

Mission scientists are intrigued by the sparse distribution of red material in the image and wonder why it is not more widespread. Also perplexing is that there is only one identified impact crater on Wright Mons itself, telling scientists that the surface (as well as some of the crust underneath) was created relatively recently. This is turn may indicate that Wright Mons was volcanically active late in Pluto’s history.

Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Larger image: http://buff.ly/1OlYcdw
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Five bright planets are about to align in the sky for the first time in more than 10 years

For the first time in more than 10 years, it will be possible to see all five bright planets together in the sky. Around an hour or so before sunrise, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the five planets that have been observed since ancient times, will appear in a line that stretches from high in the north to low in the east.

You can start to look for the lineup from Wednesday, January 20 and it can be seen right through until the end of February.

Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn have been in the morning sky since the beginning of the year. Jupiter is bright in the north, next comes reddish Mars, followed by pale Saturn and lastly brilliant Venus, which shines above the eastern horizon. It is the appearance of Mercury that makes the family complete.

Read more: http://buff.ly/23azftc

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Kepler marks 1,000th exoplanet discovery, uncovers more small worlds in habitable zones

How many stars like our sun host planets like our Earth? NASA's Kepler Space Telescope continuously monitored more than 150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study—the 1,000th of which was recently verified.

Using Kepler data, scientists reached this millenary milestone after validating that eight more candidates spotted by the planet-hunting telescope are, in fact, planets. The Kepler team also has added another 554 candidates to the roll of potential planets, six of which are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of stars similar to our sun.

Three of the newly-validated planets are located in their distant suns' habitable zone, the range of distances from the host star where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet. Of the three, two are likely made of rock, like Earth.

Image credit: NASA

Read more:http://buff.ly/1JEAeew
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Your immune system partially controls your sleep cycles!! A resolution to exercise can help you sleep better; it wears you out, but there is more. Exercise manipulates the temperature of the body by messing with your brain and modulates immune cytokine levels. And cytokines modulate REM sleep length.
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