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Topic: Asteroids

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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NASA’s CubeSat spacecraft in orbit and ready to test Miniature Laser Communications

 

Written by Joshua Buck
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA and The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, California, have received confirmation the Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) CubeSat spacecraft is in orbit and operational. OCSD launched aboard an Atlas V rocket Thursday from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

OCSD is the first in a new series of six NASA-managed technology demonstration missions set to launch during the coming months using CubeSats to test technologies that can enable new uses for these miniature satellites, which measure 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm (about 4 inches per side).

Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) Spacecraft Configuration. OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space. (NASA/Ames)

Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) Spacecraft Configuration. OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space. (NASA/Ames)

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NASA picks Five Science Projects to be considered for Future Missions

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected five science investigations for refinement during the next year as a first step in choosing one or two missions for flight opportunities as early as 2020. Three of those chosen have ties to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The submitted proposals would study Venus, near-Earth objects and a variety of asteroids.

Each investigation team will receive $3 million to conduct concept design studies and analyses. After a detailed review and evaluation of the concept studies, NASA will make the final selections by September 2016 for continued development leading up to launch.

Artist's concept of the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy (Veritas) spacecraft, a proposed mission for NASA's Discovery program. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of the Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy (Veritas) spacecraft, a proposed mission for NASA’s Discovery program. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA conceives Comet Hitchhiker spacecraft for exploring Asteroids and Comets

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Catching a ride from one solar system body to another isn’t easy. You have to figure out how to land your spacecraft safely and then get it on its way to the next destination. The landing part is especially tricky for asteroids and comets, which have low gravitational pull.

A concept called Comet Hitchhiker, developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, puts forth a new way to get into orbit and land on comets and asteroids, using the kinetic energy — the energy of motion — of these small bodies. Masahiro Ono, the principal investigator based at JPL, had “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in mind when dreaming up the idea.

This artist concept shows Comet Hitchhiker, an idea for traveling between asteroids and comets using a harpoon and tether system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornelius Dammrich)

This artist concept shows Comet Hitchhiker, an idea for traveling between asteroids and comets using a harpoon and tether system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornelius Dammrich)

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