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Caltech Mineral Physicists Find New Scenery at Earth's Core-Mantle Boundary
08/31/2010

Caltech Mineral Physicists Find New Scenery at Earth's Core-Mantle Boundary

Kathy Svitil

Using a diamond-anvil cell to recreate the high pressures deep within the earth, researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have found unusual properties in an iron-rich magnesium- and iron-oxide mineral that may explain the existence of several ultra-low velocity zones (ULVZs) at the core-mantle boundary. A paper about their findings was published in a recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters (GRL).

New View of Tectonic Plates
08/25/2010

New View of Tectonic Plates

Kathy Svitil

Computational scientists and geophysicists at the University of Texas at Austin and Caltech have developed new computer algorithms that for the first time allow for the simultaneous modeling of the earth's mantle flow, large-scale tectonic plate motions, and the behavior of individual fault zones, to produce an unprecedented view of plate tectonics and the forces that drive it.

NRC Recommends Three Astronomy/Astrophysics Projects with Potential Major Caltech Roles
08/15/2010

NRC Recommends Three Astronomy/Astrophysics Projects with Potential Major Caltech Roles

Kathy Svitil

In an announcement August 13, the National Research Council recommended three space- and ground-based astronomy and astrophysics projects with potential major roles for researchers at Caltech: CCAT, a giant submillimeter telescope that will help unravel the origins of stars, planets, and galaxies; LISA, designed to detect gravitational waves; and the development of a Giant Segmented Mirrored Telescope—the Thirty Meter Telescope being one of two such telescopes under development.

Caltech, Canadian Space Agency Awarded NASA Project to Develop Spectrometer Headed to Mars
08/01/2010

Caltech, Canadian Space Agency Awarded NASA Project to Develop Spectrometer Headed to Mars

Lori Oliwenstein

Caltech and the Canadian Space Agency announced today that they will be partnering on the development of the Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer (MATMOS) instrument to be flown aboard the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter when it launches in 2016.

Caltech Astronomer Finds Planets in Unusually Intimate Dance around Dying Star
07/27/2010

Caltech Astronomer Finds Planets in Unusually Intimate Dance around Dying Star

Kathy Svitil

Hundreds of extrasolar planets have been found, most solitary worlds orbiting their parent star in seeming isolation. Further observation has revealed that planets come in bunches. Most systems contain planets orbiting too far from one another to feel each other's gravity. In a handful of cases, planets have been found near enough to one another to interact gravitationally. Now, however, Caltech's John A. Johnson and his colleagues have found two systems with pairs of gas giant planets locked in an intimate orbital embrace.

Caltech Team Finds Evidence of Water in Moon Minerals
07/21/2010

Caltech Team Finds Evidence of Water in Moon Minerals

Lori Oliwenstein

That dry, dusty moon overhead? Seems it isn't quite as dry as it's long been thought to be. Although you won't find oceans, lakes, or even a shallow puddle on its surface, a team of geologists has found structurally bound hydroxyl groups (i.e., water) in a mineral in a lunar rock returned to Earth by the Apollo program.

Caltech Scientists Measure Changing Lake Depths on Titan
07/14/2010

Caltech Scientists Measure Changing Lake Depths on Titan

Kathy Svitil

On Earth, lake levels rise and fall with the seasons and with longer-term climate changes, as precipitation, evaporation, and runoff add and remove liquid. Now, for the first time, scientists have found compelling evidence for similar lake-level changes on Saturn's largest moon, Titan—the only other place in the solar system seen to have a hydrological cycle with standing liquid on the surface.

Caltech Geologist Investigates Canyon Carved in Just Three Days in Texas Flood
06/20/2010

Caltech Geologist Investigates Canyon Carved in Just Three Days in Texas Flood

Kathy Svitil

In the summer of 2002, a week of heavy rains in Central Texas caused Canyon Lake—the reservoir of the Canyon Dam—to flood over its spillway and down the Guadalupe River Valley in a planned diversion to save the dam from catastrophic failure. The flood excavated a 2.2-kilometer-long, 7-meter-deep canyon in the bedrock. According to a new analysis by Caltech assistant professor of geology Michael Lamb, the canyon formed in just three days. 

Edwin S. Munger, 88
06/18/2010

Edwin S. Munger, 88

Jon Weiner

Edwin S. Munger, professor of geography, emeritus, at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), passed away peacefully June 15 at his home in Pasadena, California. He was 88 years old.

East African Human Ancestors Lived in Hot Environments, Says Caltech-led Team
06/07/2010

East African Human Ancestors Lived in Hot Environments, Says Caltech-led Team

Lori Oliwenstein

East Africa's Turkana Basin has been a hot savanna region for at least the past 4 million years—including the period of time during which early hominids evolved in this area—says a team of researchers led by scientists at Caltech. These findings may shed light on the evolutionary pressures that led humans to walk upright, lose most of our body hair, develop a more slender physique, and sweat more copiously than other animals.