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Topic: Atmosphere

NASA continues to explore our Solar System

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Juno is now poised to shine a spotlight on the origins and interior structure of the largest planet in our solar system.

As we wait for Juno’s first close-up images of Jupiter (to be taken August 27th during the spacecraft’s next pass by the planet), NASA continues to explore our solar system to help answer fundamental questions about how we came to be, where we are going and whether we are alone in the universe.

Montage of planets. (NASA/JPL)

Montage of planets. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observes Carbon Dioxide Frost Agitate the Soil on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Some dusty parts of Mars get as cold at night year-round as the planet’s poles do in winter, even regions near the equator in summer, according to new NASA findings based on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observations.

The surface in these regions becomes so frigid overnight that an extremely thin layer of carbon dioxide frost appears to form. The frost then vaporizes in the morning. Enough dust covers these regions that their heat-holding capacity is low and so the daily temperature swing is large. Daily volatilization of frost crystals that form among the dust grains may help keep the dust fluffy and so sustain this deep overnight chill.

This map shows the frequency of carbon dioxide frost's presence at sunrise on Mars, as a percentage of days year-round. Carbon dioxide ice more often covers the ground at night in some mid-latitude regions than in polar regions, where it is generally absent for much of summer and fall. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This map shows the frequency of carbon dioxide frost’s presence at sunrise on Mars, as a percentage of days year-round. Carbon dioxide ice more often covers the ground at night in some mid-latitude regions than in polar regions, where it is generally absent for much of summer and fall. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA studies Mars Canyons for signs of liquid water

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Puzzles persist about possible water at seasonally dark streaks on Martian slopes, according to a new study of thousands of such features in the Red Planet’s largest canyon system.

The study published today investigated thousands of these warm-season features in the Valles Marineris region near Mars’ equator. Some of the sites displaying the seasonal flows are canyon ridges and isolated peaks, ground shapes that make it hard to explain the streaks as resulting from underground water directly reaching the surface.

Blue dots on this map indicate sites of recurring slope lineae (RSL) in part of the Valles Marineris canyon network on Mars. RSL are seasonal dark streaks that may be indicators of liquid water. The area mapped here has the highest density of known RSL on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Blue dots on this map indicate sites of recurring slope lineae (RSL) in part of the Valles Marineris canyon network on Mars. RSL are seasonal dark streaks that may be indicators of liquid water. The area mapped here has the highest density of known RSL on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover finds differences between Earth and Mars’ Sand Dunes

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Some of the wind-sculpted sand ripples on Mars are a type not seen on Earth, and their relationship to the thin Martian atmosphere today provides new clues about the atmosphere’s history.

The determination that these mid-size ripples are a distinct type resulted from observations by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Six months ago, Curiosity made the first up-close study of active sand dunes anywhere other than Earth, at the “Bagnold Dunes” on the northwestern flank of Mars’ Mount Sharp.

Two sizes of ripples are evident in this December 13th, 2015, view of a top of a Martian sand dune, from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth.

Two sizes of ripples are evident in this December 13th, 2015, view of a top of a Martian sand dune, from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Sand dunes and the smaller type of ripples also exist on Earth.

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NASA study shows during winter months Carbon Emissions in Arctic may go Unobserved

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA-led study has found that in at least part of the Arctic, scientists are not doing as good a job of detecting changes in carbon dioxide during the long, dark winter months as they are at monitoring changes during the short summer.

That’s a concern, because growing Arctic plants can act as a brake on global warming rates by removing carbon from the atmosphere, but increasing cold-season emissions could overwhelm the braking effect and accelerate global warming.

Even after the ground surface freezes in the fall, Alaskan soils can continue to emit carbon. (NOAA/Mandy Lindeberg)

Even after the ground surface freezes in the fall, Alaskan soils can continue to emit carbon. (NOAA/Mandy Lindeberg)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope photos find Dark vortex in Neptune’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Donna Weaver / Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – New images obtained on May 16th, 2016, by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope confirm the presence of a dark vortex in the atmosphere of Neptune. Though similar features were seen during the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune in 1989 and by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1994, this vortex is the first one observed on Neptune in the 21st century.

The discovery was announced on May 17th, 2016, in a Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) electronic telegram by University of California at Berkeley research astronomer Mike Wong, who led the team that analyzed the Hubble data.

This new Hubble Space Telescope image confirms the presence of a dark vortex in the atmosphere of Neptune. The full visible-light image at left shows that the dark feature resides near and below a patch of bright clouds in the planet's southern hemisphere. The full-color image at top right is a close-up of the complex feature. The vortex is a high-pressure system. The image at bottom right shows that the vortex is best seen at blue wavelengths. (NASA, ESA, and M.H. Wong and J. Tollefson (UC Berkeley))

This new Hubble Space Telescope image confirms the presence of a dark vortex in the atmosphere of Neptune. The full visible-light image at left shows that the dark feature resides near and below a patch of bright clouds in the planet’s southern hemisphere. The full-color image at top right is a close-up of the complex feature. The vortex is a high-pressure system. The image at bottom right shows that the vortex is best seen at blue wavelengths. (NASA, ESA, and M.H. Wong and J. Tollefson (UC Berkeley))

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to enter orbit around Jupiter July 4th

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On July 4th, NASA will fly a solar-powered spacecraft the size of a basketball court within 2,900 miles (4,667 kilometers) of the cloud tops of our solar system’s largest planet.

As of Thursday, Juno is 18 days and 8.6 million miles (13.8 million kilometers) from 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.

During the flybys, Juno will probe beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and study its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.

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 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 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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Austin Peay State University student Dominic Critchlow sends high altitude balloon into the stars

 

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Give Austin Peay State University student Dominic Critchlow a balloon and a camera and he can quite literally show you the world.

A senior in APSU’s Department of Physics and Astronomy and a 2015-16 Presidential Research Scholar, Critchlow has spent quite a bit of time researching a simple solution for the complex problem of computer assisted image remote sensing through high altitude balloons.

Austin Peay student, Dominic Critchlow shows off his air balloon research.

Austin Peay student, Dominic Critchlow shows off his air balloon research.

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