NASA reports International Space Station uses OPALS instrument to further laser communications research
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Ever wonder why stars seem to twinkle? This effect is caused by variations in the density of our atmosphere that cause blurring in light coming from space. It’s pretty for stargazing, but a challenge for space-to-ground communications.
A key technology called adaptive optics corrects such distortions. By combining adaptive optics with a laser communications technology aboard the International Space Station, NASA is working toward advances in space communications that could have major benefits for our data transmission needs here on Earth as well.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside our solar system on May 12th, 2009. From the trove of data collected, we have learned that planets are common, that most sun-like stars have at least one planet and that nature makes planets with unimaginable diversity.
Kepler launched on March 6th, 2009. Its mission was to survey a portion of our galaxy to determine what fraction of stars might harbor potentially habitable, Earth-sized exoplanets, or planets that orbit other stars.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – On Earth, the fastest runners can finish a marathon in hours. On Mars it takes about 11 years.
On Tuesday, March 24th 2015, NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon– 26.219 miles – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.
“This mission isn’t about setting distance records; it’s about making scientific discoveries,” says Steve Squyres, Opportunity principal investigator at Cornell University. “Still, running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool.”
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA laboratory experiments suggest the dark material coating some geological features of Jupiter’s moon Europa is likely sea salt from a subsurface ocean, discolored by exposure to radiation.
The presence of sea salt on Europa’s surface suggests the ocean is interacting with its rocky seafloor — an important consideration in determining whether the icy moon could support life.
The study is accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and is available online.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – An asteroid, designated 1999 FN53, will safely pass more than 26 times the distance of Earth to the moon on May 14th. To put it another way, at its closest point, the asteroid will get no closer than 6.3 million miles away (10 million kilometers).
It will not get closer than that for well over 100 years. And even then, (119 years from now) it will be so far away it will not affect our planet in any way, shape or form. 1999 FN53 is approximately 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) across.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – One day, when humans go to Mars, they might find that, occasionally, the Red Planet has green skies.
In late December 2014, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft detected evidence of widespread auroras in Mars’s northern hemisphere. The “Christmas Lights,” as researchers called them, circled the globe and descended so close to the Martian equator that, if the lights had occurred on Earth, they would have been over places like Florida and Texas.
“It really is amazing,” says Nick Schneider who leads MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument team at the University of Colorado. “Auroras on Mars appear to be more wide ranging than we ever imagined.”
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – The mysterious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres are better resolved in a new sequence of images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 3rd and 4th, 2015. The images were taken from a distance of 8,400 miles (13,600 kilometers).
In this closest-yet view, the brightest spots within a crater in the northern hemisphere are revealed to be composed of many smaller spots. However, their exact nature remains unknown.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – The sun dips to a Martian horizon in a blue-tinged sky in images sent home to Earth this week from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.
Curiosity used its Mast Camera (Mastcam) to record the sunset during an evening of skywatching on April 15th, 2015.
The imaging was done between dust storms, but some dust remained suspended high in the atmosphere. The sunset observations help researchers assess the vertical distribution of dust in the atmosphere.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Researchers slightly detoured NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from the mission’s planned path in recent days for a closer look at a hillside site where an ancient valley had been carved out and refilled.
The rover made observations and measurements there to address questions about how the channel formed and filled. Then it resumed driving up Mount Sharp, where the mission is studying the rock layers. The layers reveal chapters in how environmental conditions and the potential to support microbial life changed in Mars’ early history.
Written by Rob Gutro
Greenbelt, MD – Scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that the immense halo of gas enveloping the Andromeda galaxy, our nearest massive galactic neighbor, is about six times larger and 1,000 times more massive than previously measured.
The dark, nearly invisible halo stretches about a million light-years from its host galaxy, halfway to our own Milky Way galaxy. This finding promises to tell astronomers more about the evolution and structure of majestic giant spirals, one of the most common types of galaxies in the universe.
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