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Topic: Atmosphere

NASA’s MESSENGER Spacecraft ends mission, crashes into Mercury

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, have confirmed that MESSENGER slammed into the surface of Mercury on April 30th at 3:26pm EDT.

It had used the last of its propellant on April 24th and could no longer maintain a stable orbit. Traveling some 8,750 mph, the plummeting spacecraft made an unseen crater on the side of the planet facing away from Earth.

The colors of the solar system's innermost planet are enhanced in this tantalizing view, based on global image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. (NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington)

The colors of the solar system’s innermost planet are enhanced in this tantalizing view, based on global image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. (NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington)

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NASA’s CALIPSO satellite helps scientists study link between Sahara Desert dust and Amazon Rainforest

 

Written by Rachel Molina
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The Sahara Desert is one of the least hospitable climates on Earth. Its barren plateaus, rocky peaks, and shifting sands envelop the northern third of Africa, which sees very little rain, vegetation, and life.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean thrives the world’s largest rainforest. The lush, vibrant Amazon basin, located in northeast South America, supports a vast network of unparalleled ecological diversity.

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NASA developing Deep Space Atomic Clock to aid Space Exploration

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As the saying goes, timing is everything. More so in 21st-century space exploration where navigating spacecraft precisely to far-flung destinations — say, to Mars or even more distant Europa, a moon of Jupiter — is critical.

NASA is making great strides to develop the Deep Space Atomic Clock, or DSAC for short.

The clock is being readied to fly and validate a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock that is orders of magnitude more stable than today’s best navigational clocks.

Work is progressing on the Deep Space Atomic Clock, a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock that is far more stable than today's best navigation clocks. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Work is progressing on the Deep Space Atomic Clock, a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock that is far more stable than today’s best navigation clocks. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover measurements of Weather, Soil reveals possibility of Liquid Brine on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Martian weather and soil conditions that NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured, together with a type of salt found in Martian soil, could put liquid brine in the soil at night.

Perchlorate identified in Martian soil by the Curiosity mission, and previously by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission, has properties of absorbing water vapor from the atmosphere and lowering the freezing temperature of water. This has been proposed for years as a mechanism for possible existence of transient liquid brines at higher latitudes on modern Mars, despite the Red Planet’s cold and dry conditions.

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover's mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover’s mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft data helps Scientists solve mystery behind Saturn’s Storms

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The long-standing mystery of why Saturn seethes with enormous storms every 30 years may have been solved by scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission. The tempests, which can grow into bright bands that encircle the entire planet, are on a natural timer that is reset by each subsequent storm, the researchers report.

In 140 years of telescope observations, great storms have erupted on Saturn six times. Cassini and observers on Earth tracked the most recent of these storms from December 2010 to August 2011. During that time, the storm exploded through the clouds, eventually winding its way around Saturn.

This series of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the development of a huge storm of the type that erupts about every 30 years on Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

This series of images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the development of a huge storm of the type that erupts about every 30 years on Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

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NASA missions have discovered an abundance of Water in our Solar System

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA missions explore our solar system and search for new worlds, they are finding water in surprising places. Water is but one piece of our search for habitable planets and life beyond Earth, yet it links many seemingly unrelated worlds in surprising ways.

“NASA science activities have provided a wave of amazing findings related to water in recent years that inspire us to continue investigating our origins and the fascinating possibilities for other worlds, and life, in the universe,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for the agency. “In our lifetime, we may very well finally answer whether we are alone in the solar system and beyond.”

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the workings of the universe, searching for water and life among the stars. (NASA)

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the workings of the universe, searching for water and life among the stars. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover examines Martian Atmosphere to learn about it’s past

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover is using a new experiment to better understand the history of the Martian atmosphere by analyzing xenon.

While NASA’s Curiosity rover concluded its detailed examination of the rock layers of the “Pahrump Hills” in Gale Crater on Mars this winter, some members of the rover team were busy analyzing the Martian atmosphere for xenon, a heavy noble gas.

Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) experiment analyzed xenon in the planet’s atmosphere. Since noble gases are chemically inert and do not react with other substances in the air or on the ground, they are excellent tracers of the history of the atmosphere.

A Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team member at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland prepares the SAM testbed for an experiment. This test copy of SAM is inside a chamber that can model the pressure and temperature environment that SAM sees inside NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars. (NASA/GSFC)

A Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team member at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland prepares the SAM testbed for an experiment. This test copy of SAM is inside a chamber that can model the pressure and temperature environment that SAM sees inside NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA looks into the mystery of the Sun’s Nanoflares

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – When you attach the prefix “nano” to something, it usually means “very small.” Solar flares appear to be the exception.

Researchers are studying a type of explosion on the sun called a ‘nanoflare.’  A billion times less energetic than ordinary flares, nanoflares have a power that belies their name.

“A typical ‘nanoflare’ has the same energy as 240 megatons of TNT,” says physicist David Smith of UC Santa Cruz. “That would be something like 10,000 atomic fission bombs.”

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NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft discovers Dust Cloud and Aurora in Mars’ Atmosphere

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.

The presence of the dust at orbital altitudes from about 93 miles (150 kilometers) to 190 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface was not predicted. Although the source and composition of the dust are unknown, there is no hazard to MAVEN and other spacecraft orbiting Mars.

Artist’s conception of MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) observing the “Christmas Lights Aurora" on Mars. MAVEN observations show that aurora on Mars is similar to Earth’s "Northern Lights" but has a different origin. (University of Colorado)

Artist’s conception of MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) observing the “Christmas Lights Aurora” on Mars. MAVEN observations show that aurora on Mars is similar to Earth’s “Northern Lights” but has a different origin. (University of Colorado)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) gets ready to monitor soil’s freeze, thaw cycles

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Those who feel as though they’ve been living in the never-ending winter of the movie “Frozen” this year may be glad to hear that the spring thaw is now typically arriving up to two weeks earlier in the Northern Hemisphere than it did 20 to 30 years ago.

But the changing date of the spring thaw has consequences far beyond reducing the number of mornings when you have to scrape off your windshield.

One ecosystem where scientists would most like to understand the effects of changing freeze/thaw cycles is boreal forests, the great ring of green covering the land nearest the North Pole.

SMAP will monitor the frozen or thawed state of the global landscape north of 45 degrees north latitude. (UCAR/Carlye Calvin)

SMAP will monitor the frozen or thawed state of the global landscape north of 45 degrees north latitude. (UCAR/Carlye Calvin)

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