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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity finishes work at Marathon Valley on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – “Marathon Valley,” slicing through a large crater’s rim on Mars, has provided fruitful research targets for NASA’s Opportunity rover since July 2015, but the rover may soon move on.

Opportunity recently collected a sweeping panorama from near the western end of this east-west valley. The vista shows an area where the mission investigated evidence about how water altered the ancient rocks and, beyond that, the wide floor of Endeavour Crater and the crater’s eastern rim about 14 miles (22 kilometers) away.

"Marathon Valley" on Mars opens to a view across Endeavour Crater in this scene from the Pancam of NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. The scene merges many exposures taken during April and May 2016. The view spans from north (left) to west-southwest. Its foreground shows the valley's fractured texture. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

“Marathon Valley” on Mars opens to a view across Endeavour Crater in this scene from the Pancam of NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity. The scene merges many exposures taken during April and May 2016. The view spans from north (left) to west-southwest. Its foreground shows the valley’s fractured texture. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA discovers Small Asteroid that orbits the Sun and Earth

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A small asteroid has been discovered in an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth, and it will remain so for centuries to come.

As it orbits the sun, this new asteroid, designated 2016 HO3, appears to circle around Earth as well. It is too distant to be considered a true satellite of our planet, but it is the best and most stable example to date of a near-Earth companion, or “quasi-satellite.”

Asteroid 2016 HO3 has an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Asteroid 2016 HO3 has an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Earth Observing-1 spacecraft discovers Methane Leak from Earth Orbit

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – For the first time, an instrument onboard an orbiting spacecraft has measured the methane emissions from a single, specific leaking facility on Earth’s surface.

The observation — by the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) — is an important breakthrough in our ability to eventually measure and monitor emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from space.

In a new paper accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a research team with scientist David R. Thompson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, detailed the observation, which occurred over Aliso Canyon, near Porter Ranch, California.

Comparison of detected methane plumes over Aliso Canyon, California, acquired 11 days apart in Jan. 2016 by: (left) NASA's AVIRIS instrument on a NASA ER-2 aircraft at 4.1 miles (6.6 kilometers) altitude and (right) by the Hyperion instrument on NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite in low-Earth orbit. (NASA-JPL/Caltech/GSFC)

Comparison of detected methane plumes over Aliso Canyon, California, acquired 11 days apart in Jan. 2016 by: (left) NASA’s AVIRIS instrument on a NASA ER-2 aircraft at 4.1 miles (6.6 kilometers) altitude and (right) by the Hyperion instrument on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite in low-Earth orbit. (NASA-JPL/Caltech/GSFC)

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NASA Telescopes reveal star FU Orionis continues to devour gas around it

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In 1936, the young star FU Orionis began gobbling material from its surrounding disk of gas and dust with a sudden voraciousness. During a three-month binge, as matter turned into energy, the star became 100 times brighter, heating the disk around it to temperatures of up to 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit (7,000 Kelvin). FU Orionis is still devouring gas to this day, although not as quickly.

This brightening is the most extreme event of its kind that has been confirmed around a star the size of the sun, and may have implications for how stars and planets form. The intense baking of the star’s surrounding disk likely changed its chemistry, permanently altering material that could one day turn into planets.

The brightness of outbursting star FU Orionis has been slowly fading since its initial flare-up in 1936. Researchers found that it has dimmed by about 13 percent in short infrared wavelengths from 2004 (left) to 2016 (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The brightness of outbursting star FU Orionis has been slowly fading since its initial flare-up in 1936. Researchers found that it has dimmed by about 13 percent in short infrared wavelengths from 2004 (left) to 2016 (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover prepares to climb Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has analyzed its 12th drilled sample of Mars. This sample came from mudstone bedrock, which the rover resumed climbing in late May after six months studying other features.

Since the previous time Curiosity drilled into this “Murray formation” layer of lower Mount Sharp, the mission has examined active sand dunes along the rover’s route, then crossed a remnant plateau of fractured sandstone that once more extensively covered the Murray formation.

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the "Okoruso" drilling site on lower Mount Sharp's "Naukluft Plateau." The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 11, 2016, self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the “Okoruso” drilling site on lower Mount Sharp’s “Naukluft Plateau.” The scene is a mosaic of multiple images taken with the arm-mounted Mars Hands Lens Imager (MAHLI). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Space Launch System Booster is being prepared for next Qualification Test

 

Written by Kim Henry
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPromontory, UT – The Old Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a hotter-than-normal summer for Utah, but at Orbital ATK’s test facility in Promontory, crews are bundling up to chill down the booster for the world’s most powerful rocket, NASA’s Space Launch System.

The booster is being cooled to approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit ahead of its second qualification ground test June 28th. Testing at the thermal extremes experienced by the booster on the launch pad is important to understanding the effects of temperature on the performance of how the propellant burns.

An Orbital ATK technician inspects hardware and instrumentation on a full-scale, test version booster for NASA's new rocket, the Space Launch System. The booster is being cooled to approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit ahead of its second qualification ground test June 28 at Orbital ATK's test facilities in Promontory, Utah. (Orbital ATK)

An Orbital ATK technician inspects hardware and instrumentation on a full-scale, test version booster for NASA’s new rocket, the Space Launch System. The booster is being cooled to approximately 40 degrees Fahrenheit ahead of its second qualification ground test June 28 at Orbital ATK’s test facilities in Promontory, Utah. (Orbital ATK)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data shows Dust Storm Pattern on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After decades of research to discern seasonal patterns in Martian dust storms from images showing the dust, but the clearest pattern appears to be captured by measuring the temperature of the Red Planet’s atmosphere.

For six recent Martian years, temperature records from NASA Mars orbiters reveal a pattern of three types of large regional dust storms occurring in sequence at about the same times each year during the southern hemisphere spring and summer. Each Martian year lasts about two Earth years.

“When we look at the temperature structure instead of the visible dust, we finally see some regularity in the large dust storms,” said David Kass of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

This graphic presents Martian atmospheric temperature data as curtains over an image of Mars taken during a regional dust storm. The temperature profiles extend from the surface to about 50 miles up. Temperatures are color coded, from minus 243 degrees Fahrenheit (purple) to minus 9 F (red).

This graphic presents Martian atmospheric temperature data as curtains over an image of Mars taken during a regional dust storm. The temperature profiles extend from the surface to about 50 miles up. Temperatures are color coded, from minus 243 degrees Fahrenheit (purple) to minus 9 F (red).

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 26 Days

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission is now 26 days and 11.1 million miles (17.8 million kilometers) away from the largest planetary inhabitant in our solar system — Jupiter. On the evening of July 4th, Juno will fire its main engine for 35 minutes, placing it into a polar orbit around the gas giant.

It will be a daring planetary encounter: Giant Jupiter lies in the harshest radiation environment known, and Juno has been specially designed to safely navigate the brand new territory.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope data shows Hot Jupiters may have Water in their Atmospheres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Water is a hot topic in the study of exoplanets, including “hot Jupiters,” whose masses are similar to that of Jupiter, but which are much closer to their parent star than Jupiter is to the sun. They can reach a scorching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 degrees Celsius), meaning any water they host would take the form of water vapor.

Astronomers have found many hot Jupiters with water in their atmospheres, but others appear to have none. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, wanted to find out what the atmospheres of these giant worlds have in common.

Hot Jupiters, exoplanets around the same size as Jupiter that orbit very closely to their stars, often have cloud or haze layers in their atmospheres. This may prevent space telescopes from detecting atmospheric water that lies beneath the clouds, according to a study in the Astrophysical Journal. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Hot Jupiters, exoplanets around the same size as Jupiter that orbit very closely to their stars, often have cloud or haze layers in their atmospheres. This may prevent space telescopes from detecting atmospheric water that lies beneath the clouds, according to a study in the Astrophysical Journal. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports LISA Pathfinder Mission tests technology for detecting Gravitional Waves

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MDLISA Pathfinder, a mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA) with contributions from NASA, has successfully tested a key technology needed to build a space-based observatory for detecting gravitational waves.

These tiny ripples in the fabric of space, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, were first seen last year by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

Seismic, thermal and other noise sources limit LIGO to higher-frequency gravitational waves around 100 cycles per second (hertz).

The LISA Pathfinder spacecraft will help pave the way for a mission to detect gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system onboard. (ESA)

The LISA Pathfinder spacecraft will help pave the way for a mission to detect gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system onboard. (ESA)

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