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10 April 2014 11:44 am ,
Vol. 344 ,
Tight budgets are forcing NASA to consider turning off one or more planetary science projects that have completed their...
Ebola is not a stranger to West Africa—an outbreak in the 1990s killed chimpanzees and sickened one researcher. But the...
In an as-yet-unpublished report, an international panel of geoscientists has concluded that a pair of deadly...
Tropical disease experts tried and failed before to eradicate yaws, a rare disfiguring disease of poor countries. Now,...
Since 2002, researchers have reported that agricultural communities in the hot and humid Pacific Coast of Central...
Balkan endemic kidney disease surfaced in the 1950s and for decades defied attempts to finger the cause. It occurred...
The Pyrenean ibex, an impressive mountain goat that lived in the central Pyrenees in Spain, went extinct in 2000. But a...
- 10 April 2014 11:44 am , Vol. 344 , #6180
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ScienceShot: Water Vapor Detected Around Solar System's Largest Asteroid
22 January 2014 1:00 pm
It's not much—just 6 kilograms per second—but there's water vapor coming off two regions of Ceres, the solar system's largest asteroid. As astronomers report online today in Nature, the Herschel Space Observatory has discerned a watery spectral line at the far-infrared wavelength of 538 microns. Ceres revolves around the sun between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter every 4.6 years. The asteroid's path is somewhat elliptical, so its distance from the sun varies. Sunlight warms Ceres most when the asteroid comes closest, which was around the time Herschel detected the water vapor (shown with exaggerated clarity in this artist's conception). This suggests the sun does to Ceres what it does to comets: converts water ice into gas. However, there's a small chance the water vapor arises instead from geysers resembling those on Saturn's moon Enceladus. We'll find out more in February 2015, when NASA's Dawn spacecraft goes into orbit and gives us our first close-up look at the first asteroid astronomers ever discovered, back in 1801.