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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers Methane Ice Cloud in Stratosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA scientists have identified an unexpected high-altitude methane ice cloud on Saturn’s moon Titan that is similar to exotic clouds found far above Earth’s poles.

This lofty cloud, imaged by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, was part of the winter cap of condensation over Titan’s north pole. Now, eight years after spotting this mysterious bit of atmospheric fluff, researchers have determined that it contains methane ice, which produces a much denser cloud than the ethane ice previously identified there.

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth's polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth’s polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes image revealing that the Nucleus of Comet Siding Spring is Small

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured views of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring while that visitor sped past Mars on Sunday (October 19th), yielding information about its nucleus.

The images are the highest-resolution views ever acquired of a comet coming from the Oort Cloud at the fringes of the solar system.

These images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet's close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

These images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet’s close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captures image of distant Ringed Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It might look like a spoked wheel or even a “Chakram” weapon wielded by warriors like “Xena,” from the fictional TV show, but this ringed galaxy is actually a vast place of stellar life. A newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the galaxy NGC 1291.

Though the galaxy is quite old, roughly 12 billion years, it is marked by an unusual ring where newborn stars are igniting.

“The rest of the galaxy is done maturing,” said Kartik Sheth of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory of Charlottesville, Virginia. “But the outer ring is just now starting to light up with stars.”

A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, taken in infrared light, shows where the action is taking place in galaxy NGC 1291. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A new image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, taken in infrared light, shows where the action is taking place in galaxy NGC 1291. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini mission images suggests Saturn’s moon Mimas has a frozen core or a liquid ocean

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new study focused on the interior of Saturn’s icy moon Mimas suggests its cratered surface hides one of two intriguing possibilities: Either the moon’s frozen core is shaped something like a football, or the satellite contains a liquid water ocean.

Researchers used numerous images of Mimas taken by NASA’s Cassini mission to determine how much the moon wobbles as it orbits Saturn. They then evaluated several possible models for how its interior might be arranged, finding two possibilities that fit their data.The study is published in the October 17th issue of the journal Science.

This mosaic of Saturn's moon Mimas was created from images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its closest flyby of the moon on Feb. 13, 2010. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This mosaic of Saturn’s moon Mimas was created from images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its closest flyby of the moon on Feb. 13, 2010. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter observes Comet Siding Spring as it passes Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars from possible comet dust.

NASA’s Mars Odyssey was out of communications with Earth, as planned, while conducting observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Sunday, October 19th, as the comet flew near Mars.

Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA reports Partial Solar Eclipse to occur on October 23rd

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Sunsets are always pretty.  One sunset this month could be out of this world. On Thursday, October 23rd, the setting sun across eastern parts of the USA will be red, beautiful and … crescent-shaped.

“It’s a partial solar eclipse,” explains longtime NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak. In other words, the New Moon is going to ‘take a bite’ out of the sun.

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NASA announces 2014 Orionid Meteor Shower to begin Tuesday morning, October 21st

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Waking up before sunrise is a good way to get a head start on the day. On October 21st, waking up before sunrise could stop you in your tracks.

Blame Halley’s Comet. Every year in mid-to-late October, Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from Comet Halley, and the pre-dawn sky can light up with a pretty display of shooting stars.

“We expect to see about 20 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Tuesday morning, October 21st,” says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “With no Moon to spoil the show, observing conditions should be ideal.”

Orionid meteors fly out of a radiant near the shoulder of Orion, the Hunter.  In this sky map, the radiant is denoted by a red dot. Although the meteors emerge from a single point, they can appear anywhere in the sky. (Dr. Tony Phillips)

Orionid meteors fly out of a radiant near the shoulder of Orion, the Hunter. In this sky map, the radiant is denoted by a red dot. Although the meteors emerge from a single point, they can appear anywhere in the sky. (Dr. Tony Phillips)

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NASA’s Opportunity Rover takes picture of ‘Wdowiak Ridge’ on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The latest fieldwork site for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which has been examining a series of Martian craters since 2004, is on the slope of a prominent hill jutting out of the rim of a large crater and bearing its own much smaller crater. It’s called “Wdowiak Ridge.”

“Wdowiak Ridge sticks out like a sore thumb. We want to understand why this ridge is located off the primary rim of Endeavour Crater and how it fits into the geologic story of this region,” said Opportunity science-team member Jim Rice of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.

This vista from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows "Wdowiak Ridge," from left foreground to center, as part of a northward look with the rover's tracks visible at right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ)

This vista from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows “Wdowiak Ridge,” from left foreground to center, as part of a northward look with the rover’s tracks visible at right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft was bathed in beam of electrons during flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Static electricity is known to play an important role on Earth’s airless, dusty moon, but evidence of static charge building up on other objects in the solar system has been elusive until now.

A new analysis of data from NASA’s Cassini mission has revealed that, during a 2005 flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion, the spacecraft was briefly bathed in a beam of electrons coming from the moon’s electrostatically charged surface.

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn's chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon's surface, a first for any body other than Earth's moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn’s chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon’s surface, a first for any body other than Earth’s moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA Earth Scientists to study Arctic Sea Ice losses effects on Clouds, Weather, Global Warming

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Climate change is a global phenomenon, yet Earth scientists are keeping a wary eye on one place in particular–the Arctic.

“Polar regions are important for us to study right now,” explains Tom Wagner of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington DC. “They are changing rapidly.”

One of the most visible of signs of warming is the retreat of Arctic sea ice. Every year, sea ice waxes and wanes in a normal response to the changing of seasons; the annual sea ice minimum occurs near the end of northern summer. Since the 1970s, researchers carefully watched to see if the rhythm of Arctic sea ice would respond to global warming.

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