What’s the News: For the first time, astronomers have found molecular oxygen, which makes up about 20 percent of our air on Earth, in space. Using the large telescope aboard the Herschel Space Observatory, a team of researchers from the European Space Agency and NASA detected the simple molecule in a star-forming region of the Orion Nebula, located about 1,500 light-years from Earth. This takes astronomers one step closer to discovering where all of the oxygen in space is hiding.
Our own moon, the thinking goes, formed when a huge rock slammed into the Earth billions of years ago. Is the same true of one of Mars’ dual moons?
The Martian moon Phobos hides an unknown history. One idea has been that the 12-mile by 17-mile rock came from the nearby asteroid belt, and Mars’ gravity captured it. However, new evidence from the European Space Agency’s explorer Mars Express suggests that the stuff of Phobos is more Mars-like than asteroid-like, and therefore its origin goes back to a violent collision that knocked material from Mars into its own orbit. That material would have eventually coalesced into Phobos.