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NASA examines the Suns gravitational effects on Mercury’s Orbit

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD –  Like the waistband of a couch potato in midlife, the orbits of planets in our solar system are expanding. It happens because the Sun’s gravitational grip gradually weakens as our star ages and loses mass. Now, a team of NASA and MIT scientists has indirectly measured this mass loss and other solar parameters by looking at changes in Mercury’s orbit.

The new values improve upon earlier predictions by reducing the amount of uncertainty. That’s especially important for the rate of solar mass loss, because it’s related to the stability of G, the gravitational constant. Although G is considered a fixed number, whether it’s really constant is still a fundamental question in physics.

NASA and MIT scientists analyzed subtle changes in Mercury’s motion to learn about the Sun and how its dynamics influence the planet’s orbit. The position of Mercury over time was determined from radio tracking data obtained while NASA’s MESSENGER mission was active. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

NASA and MIT scientists analyzed subtle changes in Mercury’s motion to learn about the Sun and how its dynamics influence the planet’s orbit. The position of Mercury over time was determined from radio tracking data obtained while NASA’s MESSENGER mission was active. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft data reveals Saturn’s moon Titan has Sea Level elevation

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA –  Saturn’s moon Titan may be nearly a billion miles away from Earth, but a recently published paper based on data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveals a new way this distant world and our own are eerily similar. Just as the surface of oceans on Earth lies at an average elevation that we call “sea level,” Titan’s seas also lie at an average elevation.

This is the latest finding that shows remarkable similarities between Earth and Titan, the only other world we know of in our solar system that has stable liquid on its surface.

Ligeia Mare, shown in here in data obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, is the second largest known body of liquid on Saturn's moon Titan. It is filled with liquid hydrocarbons, such as ethane and methane, and is one of the many seas and lakes that bejewel Titan's north polar region. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

Ligeia Mare, shown in here in data obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, is the second largest known body of liquid on Saturn’s moon Titan. It is filled with liquid hydrocarbons, such as ethane and methane, and is one of the many seas and lakes that bejewel Titan’s north polar region. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory 2018 Missions and Activities

 

Written by Elyssia Widjaja
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Newsroom

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The year 2017 marked several milestones in science, technology and flight projects for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Voyager 1 returned data from interstellar space as it surpassed 40 years in flight.

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft ended its 13-year tour of Saturn. JPL celebrated the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Earth-orbiting Topex/Poseidon satellite.

As JPL turns 82 in 2018, its missions and activities will continue to inspire. Here is a preview of events planned for JPL (some dates subject to change):

The solar arrays on NASA's InSight lander are deployed in this test inside a clean room at Lockheed Martin Space, Denver. This configuration is how the spacecraft will look on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin)

The solar arrays on NASA’s InSight lander are deployed in this test inside a clean room at Lockheed Martin Space, Denver. This configuration is how the spacecraft will look on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin)

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NASA’s SOFIA Telescope used to examine Star Formation in Tarantula Nebula

 

NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – To have a full picture of the lives of massive stars, researchers need to study them in all stages – from when they’re a mass of unformed gas and dust, to their often dynamic end-of-life explosions.

NASA’s flying telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is particularly well-suited for studying the pre-natal stage of stellar development in star-forming regions, such as the Tarantula Nebula, a giant mass of gas and dust located within the Large Magellanic Cloud, or LMC.  

The Tarantula Nebula as seen on SOFIA’s visible light guide camera during observations from Christchurch, New Zealand. (NASA/SOFIA/Nicholas A. Veronico)

The Tarantula Nebula as seen on SOFIA’s visible light guide camera during observations from Christchurch, New Zealand. (NASA/SOFIA/Nicholas A. Veronico)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers eroding slopes with exposed Ice

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Researchers using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have found eight sites where thick deposits of ice beneath Mars’ surface are exposed in faces of eroding slopes.

These eight scarps, with slopes as steep as 55 degrees, reveal new information about the internal layered structure of previously detected underground ice sheets in Mars’ middle latitudes.

The ice was likely deposited as snow long ago.

A cross-section of underground ice is exposed at the steep slope that appears bright blue in this enhanced-color view from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The scene is about 550 yards wide. The scarp drops about 140 yards from the level ground in the upper third of the image. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/USGS)

A cross-section of underground ice is exposed at the steep slope that appears bright blue in this enhanced-color view from the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The scene is about 550 yards wide. The scarp drops about 140 yards from the level ground in the upper third of the image. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/USGS)

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NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes discover farthest Galaxy seen to date using Gravitational Lensing

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – An intensive survey deep into the universe by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes has yielded the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack: the farthest galaxy yet seen in an image that has been stretched and amplified by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.

The embryonic galaxy named SPT0615-JD existed when the universe was just 500 million years old. Though a few other primitive galaxies have been seen at this early epoch, they have essentially all looked like red dots, given their small size and tremendous distances. However, in this case, the gravitational field of a massive foreground galaxy cluster not only amplified the light from the background galaxy but also smeared the image of it into an arc (about 2 arcseconds long).

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the farthest galaxy yet seen in an image that has been stretched and amplified by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. (NASA , ESA, and B. Salmon (STScI))

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the farthest galaxy yet seen in an image that has been stretched and amplified by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. (NASA , ESA, and B. Salmon (STScI))

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NASA’s Universe of Learning program uses Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes to create 3-D fly through of Orion Nebula

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers and visualization specialists from NASA’s Universe of Learning program have combined visible and infrared vision of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to create an unprecedented, three-dimensional, fly-through view of the picturesque Orion Nebula, a nearby star-forming region.

Viewers experience this nearby stellar nursery “up close and personal” as the new digital visualization ferries them among newborn stars, glowing clouds heated by intense radiation, and tadpole-shaped gaseous envelopes surrounding protoplanetary disks.

This image showcases both the visible and infrared visualizations of the Orion Nebula. (NASA, ESA, F. Summers, G. Bacon, Z. Levay, J. DePasquale, L. Frattare, M. Robberto and M. Gennaro (STScI), and R. Hurt (Caltech/IPAC) )

This image showcases both the visible and infrared visualizations of the Orion Nebula. (NASA, ESA, F. Summers, G. Bacon, Z. Levay, J. DePasquale, L. Frattare, M. Robberto and M. Gennaro (STScI), and R. Hurt (Caltech/IPAC) )

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data used to discover Multi-Planet System

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A system of at least five exoplanets has been discovered by citizen scientists through a project called Exoplanet Explorers, part of the online platform Zooniverse, using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

This is the first multi-planet system discovered entirely through crowdsourcing.

A study describing the system has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

This artist concept shows K2-138, the first multi-planet system discovered by citizen scientists. The central star is slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun. The five known planets are all between the size of Earth and Neptune. Planet b may potentially be rocky, but planets c, d, e, and f likely contain large amounts of ice and gas. All five planets have orbital periods shorter than 13 days and are all incredibly hot, ranging from 800 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

This artist concept shows K2-138, the first multi-planet system discovered by citizen scientists. The central star is slightly smaller and cooler than our Sun. The five known planets are all between the size of Earth and Neptune. Planet b may potentially be rocky, but planets c, d, e, and f likely contain large amounts of ice and gas. All five planets have orbital periods shorter than 13 days and are all incredibly hot, ranging from 800 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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NASA uses CubeSat Class to encourage STEM Education in Tennessee

 

Written by Shannon Ridinger
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – NASA is on a mission to inspire young minds to become the next generation of critical thinkers. By engaging students in space exploration at the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA encourages learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in a way that fosters hands-on learning and discovery.

“As more states incorporate STEM-focused education into their standards, we assist teachers by developing curriculum support materials that help them meet the standards while making learning fun for their students,” said Susan Currie, education specialist at Marshall.

Students at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, design a 1U CubeSat as part of an elective course developed by Robertsville Middle School teachers and NASA's Educator Professional Development Collaborative. (NASA/Oak Ridge City Schools)

Students at Robertsville Middle School in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, design a 1U CubeSat as part of an elective course developed by Robertsville Middle School teachers and NASA’s Educator Professional Development Collaborative. (NASA/Oak Ridge City Schools)

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NASA’s Space Communications Networks turns 20

 

Written by Ashley Hume
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD –  NASA’s Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) don’t just enable data from spacecraft to reach Earth – they provide internet and even telemedicine to researchers at the South Pole. The South Pole TDRS Relay (SPTR) system turns 20 years old on January 9th, 2018.

In the 1990s, the National Science Foundation (NSF) faced a communications challenge with more than a hundred scientists working at their Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica per year to study everything from meteorology to astrophysics to climate.

The South Pole TDRS Relay (SPTR) ground terminal was installed at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in December 1997 to help connect NSF researchers and their scientific data to the rest of the world. This image shows the original SPTR system, which became operational on Jan. 9, 1998. (NASA)

The South Pole TDRS Relay (SPTR) ground terminal was installed at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in December 1997 to help connect NSF researchers and their scientific data to the rest of the world. This image shows the original SPTR system, which became operational on Jan. 9, 1998. (NASA)

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