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Topic: Atmosphere

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Spacecraft launches carrying NASA Cargo to International Space Station

 

Written by Kathryn Hambleton
NASA’s Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The crew of the International Space Station soon will be equipped to perform dozens of new scientific investigations with cargo launched Monday aboard NASA’s latest commercial resupply services mission from the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft lifted off at 7:45pm EDT from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A on the company’s upgraded Antares 230 rocket carrying more than 5,100 pounds of cargo. Cygnus is scheduled to arrive at the space station Sunday, October 23rd. Expedition 49 astronauts Takuya Onishi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Kate Rubins of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Cygnus, about 6:00am.

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, launches from Pad-0A, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station is delivering over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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NASA identifies alternate way to collect data from Aura spacecraft’s TES instrument

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, are evaluating an alternate way to collect and process science data from the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) instrument on NASA’s Aura spacecraft following the age-related failure of a critical instrument component.

TES is an infrared sensor designed to study Earth’s troposphere, the lowermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere, which is where we live. Launched in July 2004 and designed to fly for two years, the TES mission is currently in an extended operations phase.

NASA's Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) instrument, one of four instruments on NASA's Aura spacecraft. (Northrop Grumman)

NASA’s Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) instrument, one of four instruments on NASA’s Aura spacecraft. (Northrop Grumman)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovers evidence that Mars Surface Material contributes to Atmosphere

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found evidence that chemistry in the surface material on Mars contributed dynamically to the makeup of its atmosphere over time. It’s another clue that the history of the Red Planet’s atmosphere is more complex and interesting than a simple legacy of loss.

The findings come from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument suite, which studied the gases xenon and krypton in Mars’ atmosphere. The two gases can be used as tracers to help scientists investigate the evolution and erosion of the Martian atmosphere.

Processes in Mars' surface material can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected, as measured by NASA's Curiosity rover. Cosmic rays striking barium (Ba) or bromine (Br) atoms can alter isotopic ratios of xenon and krypton. (NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech)

Processes in Mars’ surface material can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected, as measured by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Cosmic rays striking barium (Ba) or bromine (Br) atoms can alter isotopic ratios of xenon and krypton. (NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spots what may be water vapor plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have imaged what may be water vapor plumes erupting off the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. This finding bolsters other Hubble observations suggesting the icy moon erupts with high altitude water vapor plumes.

The observation increases the possibility that missions to Europa may be able to sample Europa’s ocean without having to drill through miles of ice.

“Europa’s ocean is considered to be one of the most promising places that could potentially harbor life in the solar system,” said Geoff Yoder, acting associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These plumes, if they do indeed exist, may provide another way to sample Europa’s subsurface.”

This composite image shows suspected plumes of water vapor erupting at the 7 o'clock position off the limb of Jupiter's moon Europa. The plumes, photographed by NASA's Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, were seen in silhouette as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. (NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center)

This composite image shows suspected plumes of water vapor erupting at the 7 o’clock position off the limb of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The plumes, photographed by NASA’s Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, were seen in silhouette as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. (NASA/ESA/W. Sparks (STScI)/USGS Astrogeology Science Center)

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Future NASA Mars Rover to examine Habitat, Weather using MAHRS instruments

 

Written by Nancy Smith Kilkenny, ATS
NASA Glenn Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationCleveland, OH – When human explorers embark on the journey to Mars, they need to know the natural conditions of the red planet before they arrive.  That’s why NASA sends rovers to the surface of Mars to photograph the landscape and operate scientific experiments to understand the habitat for humans or other kinds of life.

One of those future rover missions may host the Martian Aqueous Habitat Reconnaissance Suite (MAHRS), a set of five instruments that can take surface measurements in the search for habitable environments.

NASA Glenn engineer Norman Prokop refines microscope that could study Martian soil. (NASA)

NASA Glenn engineer Norman Prokop refines microscope that could study Martian soil. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft observes Mystery Cloud on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The puzzling appearance of an ice cloud seemingly out of thin air has prompted NASA scientists to suggest that a different process than previously thought — possibly similar to one seen over Earth’s poles — could be forming clouds on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Located in Titan’s stratosphere, the cloud is made of a compound of carbon and nitrogen known as dicyanoacetylene (C4N2), an ingredient in the chemical cocktail that colors the giant moon’s hazy, brownish-orange atmosphere.

The hazy globe of Titan hangs in front of Saturn and its rings in this natural color view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

The hazy globe of Titan hangs in front of Saturn and its rings in this natural color view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft starts final year studying Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After more than 12 years studying Saturn, its rings and moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has entered the final year of its epic voyage. The conclusion of the historic scientific odyssey is planned for September 2017, but not before the spacecraft completes a daring two-part endgame.

Beginning on November 30th, Cassini’s orbit will send the spacecraft just past the outer edge of the main rings. These orbits, a series of 20, are called the F-ring orbits. During these weekly orbits, Cassini will approach to within 4,850 miles (7,800 kilometers) of the center of the narrow F ring, with its peculiar kinked and braided structure.

Since NASA's Cassini spacecraft arrived at Saturn, the planet's appearance has changed greatly. This view shows Saturn's northern hemisphere in 2016, as that part of the planet nears its northern hemisphere summer solstice in May 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Since NASA’s Cassini spacecraft arrived at Saturn, the planet’s appearance has changed greatly. This view shows Saturn’s northern hemisphere in 2016, as that part of the planet nears its northern hemisphere summer solstice in May 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory detects first X-Rays from Pluto

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. These observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system’s outermost regions.

While NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was speeding toward and beyond Pluto, Chandra was aimed several times on the dwarf planet and its moons, gathering data on Pluto that the missions could compare after the flyby. Each time Chandra pointed at Pluto – four times in all, from February 2014 through August 2015 – it detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet.

The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in conjunction with observations from NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL/R.McNutt et al; Optical: NASA/JHUAPL)

The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in conjunction with observations from NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft.
(X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL/R.McNutt et al; Optical: NASA/JHUAPL)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft images reveals Dunes on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

This synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) image was obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on July 25, 2016, during its "T-121" pass over Titan's southern latitudes. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Université Paris-Diderot)

This synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) image was obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft on July 25, 2016, during its “T-121” pass over Titan’s southern latitudes. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Université Paris-Diderot)

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NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory sees Earth and Moon in Double Eclipse

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

You can tell Earth and the moon’s shadows apart by their edges: Earth’s is fuzzy, while the moon’s is sharp and distinct. This is because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs some of the sun’s light, creating an ill-defined edge. On the other hand, the moon has no atmosphere, producing a crisp horizon. (NASA/SDO)

You can tell Earth and the moon’s shadows apart by their edges: Earth’s is fuzzy, while the moon’s is sharp and distinct. This is because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs some of the sun’s light, creating an ill-defined edge. On the other hand, the moon has no atmosphere, producing a crisp horizon.
(NASA/SDO)

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