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NASA’s WISE spacecraft reveals nearly five times more comets have passed the Sun then previously predicted

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the Sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many “long-period comets” will never approach the Sun in a person’s lifetime.

In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud — a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 186 billion miles (300 billion kilometers) away from the Sun — can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.

NASA’s WISE spacecraft, scanning the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, has delivered new insights about these distant wanderers.

This illustration shows how scientists used data from NASA's WISE spacecraft to determine the nucleus sizes of comets. They subtracted a model of how dust and gas behave in comets in order to obtain the core size. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows how scientists used data from NASA’s WISE spacecraft to determine the nucleus sizes of comets. They subtracted a model of how dust and gas behave in comets in order to obtain the core size. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports ESA’s LISA Pathfinder Spacecraft powered down

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With the push of a button, final commands for the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder mission were beamed to space on July 18th, 2017, a final goodbye before the spacecraft was powered down.

LISA Pathfinder had been directed into a parking orbit in April, keeping it out of Earth’s way. The final action this week switches it off completely after a successful 16 months of science measurements.

While some spacecraft are flashy, never sitting still as they zip across the solar system, LISA Pathfinder was as steady as they come — literally.

An artist's concept of the European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board.

An artist’s concept of the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board.

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft continues dives between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding — so far — that the planet’s magnetic field has no discernible tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn’s day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini’s mission, known as the Grand Finale.

Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere.

Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Recent images of features in Saturn’s C ring called “plateaus” reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA Invites You to Become a Citizen Scientist During US Total Solar Eclipse

 

Written by Rani Gran and Kelsey Wright
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA invites eclipse viewers around the country to participate in a nationwide science experiment by collecting cloud and air temperature data and reporting it via their phones.

The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, or GLOBE, Program is a NASA-supported research and education program that encourages students and citizen scientists to collect and analyze environmental observations. GLOBE Observer is a free, easy-to-use app that guides citizen scientists through data collection.

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NASA says the Moon is Front and Center During a Total Solar Eclipse

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – In the lead-up to a total solar eclipse, most of the attention is on the sun, but Earth’s moon also has a starring role.

“A total eclipse is a dance with three partners: the moon, the sun and Earth,” said Richard Vondrak, a lunar scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It can only happen when there is an exquisite alignment of the moon and the sun in our sky.”

During this type of eclipse, the moon completely hides the face of the sun for a few minutes, offering a rare opportunity to glimpse the pearly white halo of the solar corona, or faint outer atmosphere.

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NASA gives Safety Tips for viewing Total Solar Eclipse in August

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – More than 300 million people in the United States potentially could directly view the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, and NASA wants everyone who will witness this celestial phenomenon to do so safely.

That Monday, a partial eclipse will be visible in every state. A total solar eclipse, which is when the Moon completely covers the Sun, will occur across 14 states in the continental U.S. along a 70-mile-wide (112-kilometer-wide) swath of the country.

A total solar eclipse, which is when the Moon completely covers the Sun, will occur across 14 states in the continental U.S. on Aug 21, 2017. (NASA)

A total solar eclipse, which is when the Moon completely covers the Sun, will occur across 14 states in the continental U.S. on Aug 21, 2017. (NASA)

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NASA says Digital Holographic Microscopy may aid in detecting Life on another Planet

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If a space probe detected microbial life on another planet, would scientists know it when they saw it?

Identifying bacteria by sight is challenging enough on Earth, even for experts. To the naked eye, bacteria look like featureless blobs — not unlike the mineral grains that might surround them in a sample.

A form of holographic imaging could help.

A new paper by JPL and Caltech researchers looks at how holographic imaging might be used to detect microbes -- including those on other planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A new paper by JPL and Caltech researchers looks at how holographic imaging might be used to detect microbes — including those on other planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity takes panoramic photo from Perseverance Valley

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded a panoramic view before entering the upper end of a fluid-carved valley that descends the inner slope of a large crater’s rim.

The scene includes a broad notch in the crest of the crater’s rim, which may have been a spillway where water or ice or wind flowed over the rim and into the crater. Wheel tracks visible in the area of the notch were left by Opportunity as the rover studied the ground there and took images into the valley below for use in planning its route.

This June 2017 view from the Pancam on NASA's Opportunity Mars rover shows the area just above "Perseverance Valley" on a large crater's rim. A broad notch in the crest of the rim, at right, might have been a spillway for a fluid that carved the valley, out of sight on the other side of the rim. (NASA)

This June 2017 view from the Pancam on NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover shows the area just above “Perseverance Valley” on a large crater’s rim. A broad notch in the crest of the rim, at right, might have been a spillway for a fluid that carved the valley, out of sight on the other side of the rim. (NASA)

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NASA’s New Horizons Team catches glimpse of primitive solar system object

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A primitive solar system object that’s more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) away passed in front of a distant star as seen from Earth. Just before midnight Eastern Time Sunday (12:50am local time July 17th), several telescopes deployed by the New Horizons team in a remote part of Argentina were in precisely the right place at the right time to catch its fleeting shadow — an event that’s known as an occultation.

In a matter of seconds, NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. Weary but excited team members succeeded in detecting the spacecraft’s next destination, in what’s being called the most ambitious and challenging ground occultation observation campaign in history.

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

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NASA reports Gamma-ray Telescopes discover concentration of Energy in Center of Milky Way

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A combined analysis of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.), a ground-based observatory in Namibia, suggests the center of our Milky Way contains a “trap” that concentrates some of the highest-energy cosmic rays, among the fastest particles in the galaxy.

“Our results suggest that most of the cosmic rays populating the innermost region of our galaxy, and especially the most energetic ones, are produced in active regions beyond the galactic center and later slowed there through interactions with gas clouds,” said lead author Daniele Gaggero at the University of Amsterdam. “Those interactions produce much of the gamma-ray emission observed by Fermi and H.E.S.S.”  

An illustration of NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbiting Earth. ( NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)

An illustration of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbiting Earth. ( NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)

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