Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – New scenes from a frigid alien landscape are coming to light in recent radar images of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
Cassini obtained the views during a close flyby of Titan on July 25th, when the spacecraft came as close as 607 miles (976 kilometers) from the giant moon. The spacecraft’s radar instrument is able to penetrate the dense, global haze that surrounds Titan, to reveal fine details on the surface.
Written by Lina Tran
Greenbelt, MD – Early in the morning of September 1st, 2016, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, caught both Earth and the moon crossing in front of the sun. SDO keeps a constant eye on the sun, but during SDO’s semiannual eclipse seasons, Earth briefly blocks SDO’s line of sight each day – a consequence of SDO’s geosynchronous orbit.
On September 1st, Earth completely eclipsed the sun from SDO’s perspective just as the moon began its journey across the face of the sun. The end of the Earth eclipse happened just in time for SDO to catch the final stages of the lunar transit.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – A lonely 3-mile-high (5-kilometer-high) mountain on Ceres is likely volcanic in origin, and the dwarf planet may have a weak, temporary atmosphere. These are just two of many new insights about Ceres from NASA’s Dawn mission published this week in six papers in the journal Science.
“Dawn has revealed that Ceres is a diverse world that clearly had geological activity in its recent past,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – Each year, NASA funds a handful of futuristic concepts to push forward the boundaries of space exploration. These early-stage proposals are selected with the hope of developing new ideas into realistic proofs-of-concept.
From August 23rd to 25th, the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) symposium will host presentations on 28 proposals, including five from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
Written by Jay Levine, X-Press editor
Edwards, CA – Some interns get coffee. Others might make copies. Not at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, where a group of students successfully flew a prototype of an aircraft that could one day fly in the Martian atmosphere and send its findings back to Earth.
Called the Preliminary Research Aerodynamic Design to Land on Mars, or Prandtl-M, the small, remotely piloted glider aircraft flew August 11th at Armstrong. It continues an effort that began last year with a mostly different group of students.
Washington, D.C. – Jupiter’s volcanic moon Io has a thin atmosphere that collapses in the shadow of Jupiter, condensing as ice, according to a new study by NASA-funded researchers. The study reveals the freezing effects of Jupiter’s shadow during daily eclipses on the moon’s volcanic gases.
“This research is the first time scientists have observed this remarkable phenomenon directly, improving our understanding of this geologically active moon,” said Constantine Tsang, a scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. The study was published August 2nd in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
Written by Felicia Chou
Washington, 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.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, 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.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, 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.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, 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.
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