Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully executed a maneuver to adjust its flight path, February 3rd, 2016. The maneuver refined the spacecraft’s trajectory, helping set the stage for Juno’s arrival at the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant five months and a day from now.
“This is the first of two trajectory adjustments that fine tune Juno’s orbit around the sun, perfecting our rendezvous with Jupiter on July 4th at 8:18pm PDT [11:18pm EDT],” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – A small asteroid that two years ago flew past Earth at a comfortable distance of about 1.3 million miles (2 million kilometers) will safely fly by our planet again in a few weeks, though this time it may be much closer.
During the upcoming March 5th flyby, asteroid 2013 TX68 could fly past Earth as far out as 9 million miles (14 million kilometers) or as close as 11,000 miles (17,000 kilometers). The variation in possible closest approach distances is due to the wide range of possible trajectories for this object, since it was tracked for only a short time after discovery.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – At its current location for inspecting an active sand dune, NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is adding some sample-processing moves not previously used on Mars.
Sand from the second and third samples the rover is scooping from “Namib Dune” will be sorted by grain size with two sieves. The coarser sieve is making its debut, and using it also changes the way the treated sample is dropped into an inlet port for laboratory analysis inside the rover.
Positioning of the rover to grab a bite of the dune posed a challenge, too. Curiosity reached this sampling site, called “Gobabeb,” on January 12th.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – The amount of methane gas escaping from the ground during the long cold period in the Arctic each year and entering Earth’s atmosphere is likely much higher than estimated by current carbon cycle models, concludes a major new study led by San Diego State University and including scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
On November 12th, 2015, NASA’s Carbon in Arctic Reservoirs Vulnerability Experiment (CARVE) completed its final aircraft flight.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – NASA technology is all around us, turning trash into oil, saving women from a deadly complication of childbirth, and putting the bubbles in beer.
These technologies and more, including seven connected with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, are featured in the 2016 edition of NASA’s annual Spinoff publication, highlighting the many places NASA shows up in daily life and the aeronautics and space programs where the innovations got their start.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – The fantasy creations of the “Star Wars” universe are strikingly similar to real planets in our own Milky Way galaxy. A super Earth in deep freeze? Think ice-planet “Hoth.” And that distant world with double sunsets can’t help but summon thoughts of sandy “Tatooine.”
No indications of life have yet been detected on any of the nearly 2,000 scientifically confirmed exoplanets, so we don’t know if any of them are inhabited by Wookiees or mynocks, or play host to exotic alien bar scenes (or even bacteria, for that matter).
Still, a quick spin around the real exoplanet universe offers tantalizing similarities to several Star Wars counterparts.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – A survey of 10 hot, Jupiter-sized exoplanets conducted with NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes has led a team to solve a long-standing mystery — why some of these worlds seem to have less water than expected. The findings offer new insights into the wide range of planetary atmospheres in our galaxy and how planets are assembled.
Of the nearly 2,000 planets confirmed to be orbiting other stars, a subset of them are gaseous planets with characteristics similar to those of Jupiter. However, they orbit very close to their stars, making them blistering hot.
NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes discover star with storm cloud similar to Jupiter’s Red Spot
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered what appears to be a tiny star with a giant, cloudy storm, using data from NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes. The dark storm is akin to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot: a persistent, raging storm larger than Earth.
“The star is the size of Jupiter, and its storm is the size of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said John Gizis of the University of Delaware, Newark. “We know this newfound storm has lasted at least two years, and probably longer.” Gizis is the lead author of a new study appearing in The Astrophysical Journal.
Washington, D.C. – NASA is hard at work building the Orion spacecraft, Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and the ground systems needed to send astronauts into deep space. The agency is developing the core capabilities needed to enable the journey to Mars.
Orion’s first flight atop the SLS will not have humans aboard, but it paves the way for future missions with astronauts. Ultimately, it will help NASA prepare for missions to the Red Planet. During this flight, currently designated Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the spacecraft will travel thousands of miles beyond the moon over the course of about a three-week mission.
Pasadena, CA – Mars is blanketed by a thin, mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere — one that is far too thin to keep water from freezing or quickly evaporating. However, geological evidence has led scientists to conclude that ancient Mars was once a warmer, wetter place than it is today.
To produce a more temperate climate, several researchers have suggested that the planet was once shrouded in a much thicker carbon dioxide atmosphere. For decades that left the question, “Where did all the carbon go?”
The solar wind stripped away much of Mars’ ancient atmosphere and is still removing tons of it every day. But scientists have been puzzled by why they haven’t found more carbon — in the form of carbonate — captured into Martian rocks. They have also sought to explain the ratio of heavier and lighter carbons in the modern Martian atmosphere.
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