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Topic: Atmosphere

NASA and European Space Agency look back at the landing on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ten years ago, an explorer from Earth parachuted into the haze of an alien moon toward an uncertain fate. After a gentle descent lasting more than two hours, it landed with a thud on a frigid floodplain, surrounded by icy cobblestones.

With this feat, the Huygens probe accomplished humanity’s first landing on a moon in the outer solar system. Huygens was safely on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

The hardy probe not only survived the descent and landing, but continued to transmit data for more than an hour on the frigid surface of Titan, until its batteries were drained.

An artist's interpretation of the area surrounding the Huygens landing site based on images and data returned by the probe on Jan. 14, 2005. (ESA - C. Carreau)

An artist’s interpretation of the area surrounding the Huygens landing site based on images and data returned by the probe on Jan. 14, 2005. (ESA – C. Carreau)

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NASA study shows Tropical Forests may remove more Carbon Dioxide from Atmosphere than expected

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA-led study shows that tropical forests may be absorbing far more carbon dioxide than many scientists thought, in response to rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas.

The study estimates that tropical forests absorb 1.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide out of a total global absorption of 2.5 billion — more than is absorbed by forests in Canada, Siberia and other northern regions, called boreal forests.

A new NASA study suggests that tropical forests, like this one in Malaysia, absorb more atmospheric carbon dioxide than is absorbed by forests in Alaska, Canada and Siberia. (Wikimedia Commons)

A new NASA study suggests that tropical forests, like this one in Malaysia, absorb more atmospheric carbon dioxide than is absorbed by forests in Alaska, Canada and Siberia. (Wikimedia Commons)

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NASA takes a look back at 2014

 

Written by David Weaver
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In 2014, NASA took significant steps on the agency’s journey to Mars — testing cutting-edge technologies and making scientific discoveries while studying our changing Earth and the infinite universe as the agency made progress on the next generation of air travel.

“We continued to make great progress on our journey to Mars this year, awarding contracts to American companies who will return human space flight launches to U.S. soil, advancing space technology development; and successfully completing the first flight of Orion, the next deep space spacecraft in which our astronauts will travel,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We moved forward on our work to create quieter, greener airplanes and develop technologies to make air travel more efficient; and we advanced our study of our changing home planet, Earth, while increasing our understanding of others in our solar system and beyond.”

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) takes High-Energy X-Ray of our Sun

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – For the first time, a mission designed to set its eyes on black holes and other objects far from our solar system has turned its gaze back closer to home, capturing images of our sun.

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has taken its first picture of the sun, producing the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.

“NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere,” said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft data reveals Jupiter’s moon Europa has thinner atmosphere than expected

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A fresh look at data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its 2001 flyby of Jupiter shows that Europa’s tenuous atmosphere is even thinner than previously thought and also suggests that the thin, hot gas around the moon does not show evidence of plume activity occurring at the time of the flyby.

The new research provides a snapshot of Europa’s state of activity at that time, and suggests that if there is plume activity, it is likely intermittent.

Jupiter's icy moon Europa displays many signs of activity, including its fractured crust and a dearth of impact craters. Scientists continue to hunt for confirmation of plume activity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

Jupiter’s icy moon Europa displays many signs of activity, including its fractured crust and a dearth of impact craters. Scientists continue to hunt for confirmation of plume activity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover detects organic chemical in atmosphere and organic molecules in rock powder on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.

“This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

This illustration portrays possible ways methane might be added to Mars' atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan)

This illustration portrays possible ways methane might be added to Mars’ atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan)

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NASA’s Orion Spacecraft test flight next step for Human Mission to Mars

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In the not-too-distant future, astronauts destined to be the first people to walk on Mars will leave Earth aboard an Orion spacecraft.

Carried aloft by the tremendous power of a Space Launch System rocket, our explorers will begin their Journey to Mars from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying the spirit of humanity with them to the Red Planet.

The first future human mission to Mars and those that follow will require the ingenuity and dedication of an entire generation. It’s a journey worth the risks.

The first future human mission to Mars and those that follow will require the ingenuity and dedication of an entire generation. We take the next step on that journey with the uncrewed, first flight test of Orion. (NASA)

The first future human mission to Mars and those that follow will require the ingenuity and dedication of an entire generation. We take the next step on that journey with the uncrewed, first flight test of Orion. (NASA)

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NASA’s Near Earth Object Program has released map showing small asteroids entering Earth’s atmosphere

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA - A map released by NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Program reveals that small asteroids frequently enter and disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere with random distribution around the globe.

Released to the scientific community, the map visualizes data gathered by U.S. government sensors from 1994 to 2013. The data indicate that Earth’s atmosphere was impacted by small asteroids, resulting in a bolide (or fireball), on 556 separate occasions in a 20-year period.

This diagram maps the data gathered from 1994-2013 on small asteroids impacting Earth's atmosphere to create very bright meteors, technically called "bolides" and commonly referred to as "fireballs".  Sizes of red dots (daytime impacts) and blue dots (nighttime impacts) are proportional to the optical radiated energy of impacts measured in billions of Joules (GJ) of energy, and show the location of impacts from objects about 1 meter (3 feet) to almost 20 meters (60 feet) in size. (Planetary Science)

This diagram maps the data gathered from 1994-2013 on small asteroids impacting Earth’s atmosphere to create very bright meteors, technically called “bolides” and commonly referred to as “fireballs”. Sizes of red dots (daytime impacts) and blue dots (nighttime impacts) are proportional to the optical radiated energy of impacts measured in billions of Joules (GJ) of energy, and show the location of impacts from objects about 1 meter (3 feet) to almost 20 meters (60 feet) in size. (Planetary Science)

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NASA airborne data reveals Methane not being released in high rates in Alaska

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Despite large temperature increases in Alaska in recent decades, a new analysis of NASA airborne data finds that methane is not being released from Alaskan soils into the atmosphere at unusually high rates, as recent modeling and experimental studies have suggested.

The new result shows that the changes in this part of the Arctic have not yet had enough impact to affect the global methane budget.

This photo taken during the CARVE experiment shows polygonal lakes created by melting permafrost on Alaska's North Slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This photo taken during the CARVE experiment shows polygonal lakes created by melting permafrost on Alaska’s North Slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Spacecraft analyzes effects of Comet Flyby on Mar’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Two NASA and one European spacecraft that obtained the first up-close observations of a comet flyby of Mars on October 19th, have gathered new information about the basic properties of the comet’s nucleus and directly detected the effects on the Martian atmosphere.

Data from observations carried out by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and a radar instrument on the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Mars Express spacecraft have revealed that debris from the comet added a temporary and very strong layer of ions to the ionosphere, the electrically charged layer high above Mars.

This artist's concept depicts the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) on NASA's MAVEN spacecraft scanning the upper atmosphere of Mars. IUVS uses limb scans to map the chemical makeup and vertical structure across Mars' upper atmosphere. (NASA/Univ. of Colorado)

This artist’s concept depicts the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) on NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft scanning the upper atmosphere of Mars. IUVS uses limb scans to map the chemical makeup and vertical structure across Mars’ upper atmosphere. (NASA/Univ. of Colorado)

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