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Topic: Asteroids

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft data used to discover what happened to Craters on Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ceres is covered in countless small, young craters, but none are larger than 175 miles (280 kilometers) in diameter. To scientists, this is a huge mystery, given that the dwarf planet must have been hit by numerous large asteroids during its 4.5 billion-year lifetime. Where did all the large craters go?

A new study in the journal Nature Communications explores this puzzle of Ceres’ missing large craters, using data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres since March 2015.

Scientists with NASA's Dawn mission were surprised to find that Ceres has no clear signs of truly giant impact basins. This image shows both visible (left) and topographic (right) mapping data from Dawn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

Scientists with NASA’s Dawn mission were surprised to find that Ceres has no clear signs of truly giant impact basins. This image shows both visible (left) and topographic (right) mapping data from Dawn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

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NASA takes it’s next steps towards on the Journey to Mars

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – July is always a good time to assess where U.S. human space exploration has been and where it’s going. This year, July 20th marks the 40th anniversary of Viking, which in 1976 became the first spacecraft to land on Mars.

And just seven years — to the day — before Viking’s amazing feat, humans first set foot on another world, when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set the Apollo 11 lunar module Eagle down in the moon’s Sea of Tranquility on July 20th, 1969.

The second and final qualification motor (QM-2) test for the Space Launch System’s booster is seen, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Orbital ATK Propulsion System's (SLS) test facilities in Promontory, Utah. During the SLS flight the boosters will provide more than 75 percent of the thrust needed to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth, the first step on NASA’s Journey to Mars. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The second and final qualification motor (QM-2) test for the Space Launch System’s booster is seen, Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at Orbital ATK Propulsion System’s (SLS) test facilities in Promontory, Utah. During the SLS flight the boosters will provide more than 75 percent of the thrust needed to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth, the first step on NASA’s Journey to Mars. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft observes how Pluto’s atmosphere interacts with the Solar Wind

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Pluto behaves less like a comet than expected and somewhat more like a planet like Mars or Venus in the way it interacts with the solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles from the sun.

This is according to the first analysis of Pluto’s interaction with the solar wind, funded by NASA’s New Horizons mission and published today in the Journal of Geophysical Research – Space Physics by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this global view of Pluto. The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away from Pluto, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers). (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Four images from New Horizons’ Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were combined with color data from the Ralph instrument to create this global view of Pluto. The images, taken when the spacecraft was 280,000 miles (450,000 kilometers) away from Pluto, show features as small as 1.4 miles (2.2 kilometers). (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s NEOWISE spacecraft continues to identify potentially hazardous near-Earth objects

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its second year of survey data. The spacecraft has now characterized a total of 439 NEOs since the mission was re-started in December 2013. Of these, 72 were new discoveries.

Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of the giant planets in our solar system into orbits that allow them to enter Earth’s neighborhood. Eight of the objects discovered in the past year have been classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), based on their size and how closely their orbits approach Earth.

This graphic shows asteroids and comets observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/JHU)

This graphic shows asteroids and comets observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/JHU)

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NASA studies Comet P/2016 BA14 as it passes by Earth

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers were watching when comet P/2016 BA14 flew past Earth on March 22nd. At the time of its closest approach, the comet was about 2.2 million miles (3.5 million kilometers) away, making it the third closest comet flyby in recorded history (see “A ‘Tail’ of Two Comets”). Radar images from the flyby indicate that the comet is about 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) in diameter.

The scientists used the Goldstone Solar System Radar in California’s Mojave Desert to track the comet.

These radar images of comet P/2016 BA14 were taken on March 23, 2016, by scientists using an antenna of NASA's Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California. At the time, the comet was about 2.2 million miles (3.6 million kilometers) from Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR)

These radar images of comet P/2016 BA14 were taken on March 23, 2016, by scientists using an antenna of NASA’s Deep Space Network at Goldstone, California. At the time, the comet was about 2.2 million miles (3.6 million kilometers) from Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR)

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NASA says Caltech’s CHIMERA instrument to examine Objects in Kuiper Belt

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – At the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, astronomers are busy tinkering with a high-tech instrument that could discover a variety of objects both far from Earth and closer to home.

The Caltech HIgh-speed Multi-color camERA (CHIMERA) system is looking for objects in the Kuiper Belt, the band of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune that includes Pluto. It can also detect near-Earth asteroids and exotic forms of stars. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, both in Pasadena, are collaborating on this instrument.

The CHIMERA instrument is located at the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California. (Gregg Hallinan)

The CHIMERA instrument is located at the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California. (Gregg Hallinan)

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NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) begins fourth year of studying objects in Space

 

Written by Nicholas A. Veronico
SOFIA Science Center, NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA’s “flying” telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aboard a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner, began its fourth series of science flights on February 3rd, 2016.

This operational period, known as “Cycle 4,” is a one-year-long observing period in which SOFIA is scheduled for 106 flights between now and the end of January 2017.

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

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NASA discovers Star orbited by Comets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A star called KIC 8462852 has been in the news recently for unexplained and bizarre behavior. NASA’s Kepler mission had monitored the star for four years, observing two unusual incidents, in 2011 and 2013, when the star’s light dimmed in dramatic, never-before-seen ways. Something had passed in front of the star and blocked its light, but what?

Scientists first reported the findings in September, suggesting a family of comets as the most likely explanation. Other cited causes included fragments of planets and asteroids.

This illustration shows a star behind a shattered comet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows a star behind a shattered comet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft continues hunting asteroids long past its planned lifetime

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

This artist's concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE spacecraft, in its orbit around Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Comet Lovejoy releasing Alcohol into Space

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space, according to new observations by an international team. The discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet.

The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.

Picture of the comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on 12 February 2015 from 50km south of Paris. (Fabrice Noel)

Picture of the comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on 12 February 2015 from 50km south of Paris. (Fabrice Noel)

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