Written by Kate Ramsayer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Washington, D.C. – Earth’s oceans and land cover are doing us a favor. As people burn fossil fuels and clear forests, only half of the carbon dioxide released stays in the atmosphere, warming and altering Earth’s climate. The other half is removed from the air by the planet’s vegetation ecosystems and oceans.
As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue their rapid, human-made rise past levels not seen for hundreds of thousands of years, NASA scientists and others are confronted with an important question for the future of our planet: How long can this balancing act continue? And if forests, other vegetation and the ocean cannot continue to absorb as much or more of our carbon emissions, what does that mean for the pace of climate change in the coming century?
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Scientists now have a better understanding about a site with the most chemically diverse mineral veins NASA’s Curiosity rover has examined on Mars, thanks in part to a valuable new resource scientists used in analyzing data from the rover.
Curiosity examined bright and dark mineral veins in March 2015 at a site called “Garden City,” where some veins protrude as high as two finger widths above the eroding bedrock in which they formed.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft continues hunting asteroids long past its planned lifetime
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – The NEOWISE mission hunts for near-Earth objects (NEOs) using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. Funded by NASA’s NEO Observations Program, the NEOWISE mission uses images taken by the spacecraft to look for asteroids and comets, providing a rich source of measurements of solar system objects at infrared wavelengths.
These measurements include wavelengths that are difficult or impossible to detect directly from the ground.
NEOWISE is one of 54 ongoing projects supported by the NEO Observations Program in fiscal year 2015. NASA-funded survey projects have found 98 percent of the known catalogue of more than 13,000 NEOs. NASA-funded surveys are currently finding NEOs at a rate of about 1,500 per year.
Written by Mark Bailey and Apostolos Christou
Northern Ireland – The planet Mercury is being pelted regularly by bits of dust from an ancient comet, a new study has concluded. This has a discernible effect in the planet’s tenuous atmosphere and may lead to a new paradigm on how these airless bodies maintain their ethereal envelopes.
The findings are to be presented at the annual Meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society at National Harbor, Maryland, this week, by Apostolos Christou at the Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, Rosemary Killen at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Matthew Burger of Morgan State University in Baltimore, working at Goddard.
Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
Greenbelt, MD – The long, shallow grooves lining the surface of Phobos are likely early signs of the structural failure that will ultimately destroy this moon of Mars.
Orbiting a mere 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) above the surface of Mars, Phobos is closer to its planet than any other moon in the solar system. Mars’ gravity is drawing in Phobos, the larger of its two moons, by about 6.6 feet (2 meters) every hundred years. Scientists expect the moon to be pulled apart in 30 to 50 million years.
Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – From possible ice volcanoes to twirling moons, NASA’s New Horizons science team is discussing more than 50 exciting discoveries about Pluto at this week’s 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in National Harbor, Maryland.
“The New Horizons mission has taken what we thought we knew about Pluto and turned it upside down,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It’s why we explore — to satisfy our innate curiosity and answer deeper questions about how we got here and what lies beyond the next horizon.”
Written by Carol Rasmussen
Washington, D.C. – A team of NASA and university scientists has developed a new way to use satellite measurements to track changes in Atlantic Ocean currents, which are a driving force in global climate. The finding opens a path to better monitoring and understanding of how ocean circulation is changing and what the changes may mean for future climate.
In the Atlantic, currents at the ocean surface, such as the Gulf Stream, carry sun-warmed water from the tropics northeastward. As the water moves through colder regions, it sheds its heat. By the time it gets to Greenland, it’s so cold and dense that it sinks a couple of miles down into the ocean depths.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Where do predictions for regional weather patterns come from? For one source, look to the ocean. About 70 percent of Earth’s surface is covered in oceans, and changes in ocean winds are good predictors of many weather phenomena on small and large scales.
NASA’s ISS-RapidScat instrument, which last month celebrated its one-year anniversary, helps make these ocean wind measurements to enhance weather forecasting and understanding of climate. The instrument was first activated on the International Space Station on October 1st, 2014.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting its latest images of Saturn’s icy, geologically active moon Enceladus, acquired during the dramatic October 28th flyby in which the probe passed about 30 miles (49 kilometers) above the moon’s south polar region.
The spacecraft will continue transmitting its data from the encounter for the next several days.
Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission has identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today.
MAVEN data have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind. The findings reveal that the erosion of Mars’ atmosphere increases significantly during solar storms. The scientific results from the mission appear in the November 5th issues of the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters.
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