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Astronomers Find Ice and Possibly Methane on Snow White, a Distant Dwarf Planet

Marcus Woo

Astronomers at Caltech have discovered that the dwarf planet 2007 OR10—nicknamed Snow White—is an icy world, with about half its surface covered in water ice that once flowed from ancient, slush-spewing volcanoes. The new findings also suggest that the red-tinged dwarf planet may be covered in a thin layer of methane, the remnants of an atmosphere that's slowly being lost into space.


Caltech Researcher Granted Precious Observation Time at NASA's Hubble Space Telescope

Katie Neith

For many astronomers, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope (HST) is considered the crème de la crème of research tools—one of the best observatories available for their studies. This being the case, competition for time with the telescope can be fierce. But Heather A. Knutson, a recent addition to the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at Caltech, will soon get the chance to spend some quality time with the telescope.



New Data Shows El Mayor—Cucapah Earthquake Was Simple on Surface, Complicated at Depth

Katie Neith

Like scars that remain on the skin long after a wound has healed, earthquake fault lines can be traced on Earth's surface long after their initial rupture. Typically, this line of intersection between the area where the fault slips and the ground is more complicated at the surface than at depth. But a new study by Caltech researchers of the April 4, 2010, El Mayor–Cucapah earthquake in Mexico reveals a reversal of this trend.


Curiosity to Explore Gale Crater

Marcus Woo

When Curiosity, the next Mars rover, arrives at the Red Planet next summer, it will be exploring Gale Crater, NASA announced today.


Stolper Elected to Great Britain's Royal Society

Katie Neith

Edward M. Stolper, provost of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and William E. Leonard Professor of Geology, has been named a Foreign Member of Great Britain's Royal Society. He is one of eight scientists elected in 2011. Stolper’s election brings to six the number of foreign members of the Royal Society currently on the Caltech faculty.


Rover Landing Site Narrowed Down

Marcus Woo

The landing site for Curiosity, the next Mars rover, has been narrowed down to two choices. Curiosity will either explore Eberswalde crater, an ancient river delta, or Gale crater, the home of a three-mile high mountain. 


Genesis samples reveal new clues about sun's chemical makeup

Katie Neith

Ever since a crash landing on Earth grounded NASA's Genesis mission in 2004, scientists have been gathering, cleaning, and analyzing solar wind particles collected by the spacecraft. Now, two new studies published in Science reveal that Earth's chemistry is less like the sun's than previously thought. 


New Study of Moon's Roughness Offers Insight into Its History

Kathy Svitil

Like the faces of veterans comparing war wounds, the surface of our moon is scarred by a lifetime of damage—impact craters pockmarked with even more craters, sprayed ejecta, discolored regions laid down by volcanic flows. Studying these characteristics can reveal much about the processes that formed them, say Caltech graduate student Meg Rosenburg and her advisor Oded Aharonson, who have created the first comprehensive sets of maps revealing the roughness of the moon's surface.


Caltech-led Researchers Measure Body Temperatures of Dinosaurs for the First Time

Marcus Woo

Were dinosaurs slow and lumbering, or quick and agile? It depends largely on whether they were cold or warm blooded. Now, a team of researchers led by Caltech has developed a new approach to take body temperatures of dinosaurs for the first time, providing new insights into whether dinosaurs were cold or warm blooded.


Going with the Flow: Caltech Researchers Find Compaction Bands in Sandstone are Permeable

Katie Neith

When geologists survey an area of land for the potential that gas or petroleum deposits could exist there, they must take into account the composition of rocks that lie below the surface. Previous research had suggested that compaction bands might act as barriers to the flow of oil or gas. Now, researchers led by José Andrade have analyzed X-ray images of Aztec sandstone and revealed that compaction bands are actually more permeable than earlier models indicated.