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NASA reports Kepler Spacecraft now stable after entering emergency safe mode

 

Written by Charlie Sobeck​, Kepler and K2 mission manager

NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA mission operations engineers have successfully recovered the Kepler spacecraft from Emergency Mode (EM). On Sunday morning, the spacecraft reached a stable state with the communication antenna pointed toward Earth, enabling telemetry and historical event data to be downloaded to the ground. The spacecraft is operating in its lowest fuel-burn mode.

The mission has cancelled the spacecraft emergency, returning the Deep Space Network ground communications to normal scheduling.

Artist's concept of NASA's Kepler space telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft discovers former Lake of Frozen Nitrogen on Pluto

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft spied several features on Pluto that offer evidence of a time millions or billions of years ago when – thanks to much higher pressure in Pluto’s atmosphere and warmer conditions on the surface – liquids might have flowed across and pooled on the surface of the distant world.

“In addition to this possible former lake, we also see evidence of channels that may also have carried liquids in Pluto’s past,” said Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado—principal investigator of New Horizons and lead author of the scientific paper.

Former frozen lake of nitrogen found near mountain range on Pluto. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Former frozen lake of nitrogen found near mountain range on Pluto. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons scientists have released papers that shed new light on the Pluto System

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A year ago, Pluto was just a bright speck in the cameras of NASA’s approaching New Horizons spacecraft, not much different than its appearances in telescopes since Clyde Tombaugh discovered the then-ninth planet in 1930.

But this week, in the journal Science, New Horizons scientists have authored the first comprehensive set of papers describing results from last summer’s Pluto system flyby.

This image of haze layers above Pluto’s limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Gladstone et al./Science (2016))

This image of haze layers above Pluto’s limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Gladstone et al./Science (2016))

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NASA picks Researchers to take part in Curiosity Mars Rover mission

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected 28 researchers as participating scientists for the Curiosity Mars rover mission, including six newcomers to the rover’s science team.

The six new additions work in Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Tennessee. Eighty-nine scientists around the world submitted research proposals for using data from Curiosity and becoming participating scientists on the Mars Science Laboratory Project, which built and operates the rover.

Patches of Martian sandstone visible in the lower-left and upper portions of this March 9, 2016, view from the Mast Camera of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover have a knobbly texture due to nodules apparently more resistant to erosion than the host rock in which some are still embedded. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Patches of Martian sandstone visible in the lower-left and upper portions of this March 9, 2016, view from the Mast Camera of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover have a knobbly texture due to nodules apparently more resistant to erosion than the host rock in which some are still embedded. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Kepler space telescope continues new discoveries after major malfunction

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The engineers huddled around a telemetry screen, and the mood was tense. They were watching streams of data from a crippled spacecraft more than 50 million miles away — so far that even at the speed of light, it took nearly nine minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back.

It was late August 2013, and the group of about five employees at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, was waiting for NASA’s Kepler space telescope to reveal whether it would live or die. A severe malfunction had robbed the planet-hunting Kepler of its ability to stay pointed at a target without drifting off course.

In this artist's conception, a tiny rocky object vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star. Astronomers have detected the first planetary object transiting a white dwarf using data from the K2 mission. Slowly the object will disintegrate, leaving a dusting of metals on the surface of the star. (CfA/Mark A. Garlick)

In this artist’s conception, a tiny rocky object vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star. Astronomers have detected the first planetary object transiting a white dwarf using data from the K2 mission. Slowly the object will disintegrate, leaving a dusting of metals on the surface of the star. (CfA/Mark A. Garlick)

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NASA Study reveals Sierra Snow can be reduced by Atmospheric River Storms

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new study by NASA and several partners has found that in California’s Sierra Nevada, atmospheric river storms are two-and-a-half times more likely than other types of winter storms to result in destructive “rain-on-snow” events, where rain falls on existing snowpack, causing it to melt. Those events increase flood risks in winter and reduce water availability the following summer.

The study, based on NASA satellite and ground-based data from 1998 through 2014, is the first to establish a climatological connection between atmospheric river storms and rain-on-snow events. Partnering with NASA on the study were UCLA; Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego; and the Earth System Research Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado.

Rain falling on snow. (Flickr user Malcolm Peacey, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Rain falling on snow. (Flickr user Malcolm Peacey, CC BY-NC 2.0)

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NASA reports new studies looks at the “Love” between Particles

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Here’s a love story at the smallest scales imaginable: particles of light. It is possible to have particles that are so intimately linked that a change to one affects the other, even when they are separated at a distance.

This idea, called “entanglement,” is part of the branch of physics called quantum mechanics, a description of the way the world works at the level of atoms and particles that are even smaller. Quantum mechanics says that at these very tiny scales, some properties of particles are based entirely on probability. In other words, nothing is certain until it happens.

This cartoon helps explain the idea of "entangled particles." Alice and Bob represent photon detectors, which NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Institute of Standards and Technology developed. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This cartoon helps explain the idea of “entangled particles.” Alice and Bob represent photon detectors, which NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the National Institute of Standards and Technology developed. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Arctic emits more Methane in Winter than previously thought

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

Half of Alaska's methane emissions occur in winter -- mostly during times when soil temperatures are poised near freezing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Half of Alaska’s methane emissions occur in winter — mostly during times when soil temperatures are poised near freezing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Planetary Discoveries honored by U.S. Postal Service with 2016 Commemorative Stamps

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The U.S. Postal Service has previewed the New Year’s series of stamps highlighting NASA’s Planetary Science program, including a do-over of a famous Pluto stamp commemorating the NASA New Horizons’ historic 2015 flyby.

The Postal Service on Wednesday released a preview of its new 2016 stamps, which include an image of Pluto and the New Horizons spacecraft, eight new colorful Forever stamps of NASA images of solar system planets, a Global Forever stamp dedicated to Earth’s moon as well as another postal treat for space fans: a tribute to 50 years of Star Trek.

Pluto Explored! In 2006, NASA placed a 29-cent 1991 ‘Pluto: Not Yet Explored’ stamp in the New Horizons spacecraft. In 2015 the spacecraft carried the stamp on its history-making mission to Pluto and beyond. With this stamp, the Postal Service recognizes the first reconnaissance of Pluto in 2015 by NASA’s New Horizon mission. The souvenir sheet of four stamps contains two new stamps appearing twice. The first stamp shows an artists’ rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft and the second shows the spacecraft’s enhanced color image of Pluto taken near closest approach. (USPS/Antonio Alcalá © 2016 USPS)

Pluto Explored! In 2006, NASA placed a 29-cent 1991 ‘Pluto: Not Yet Explored’ stamp in the New Horizons spacecraft. In 2015 the spacecraft carried the stamp on its history-making mission to Pluto and beyond. With this stamp, the Postal Service recognizes the first reconnaissance of Pluto in 2015 by NASA’s New Horizon mission. The souvenir sheet of four stamps contains two new stamps appearing twice. The first stamp shows an artists’ rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft and the second shows the spacecraft’s enhanced color image of Pluto taken near closest approach. (USPS/Antonio Alcalá © 2016 USPS)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finishes last close Flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting data and images from the mission’s final close flyby of Saturn’s active moon Enceladus. Cassini passed Enceladus at a distance of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers) on Saturday, December 19th, at 9:49am PST (11:49am CST).

“This final Enceladus flyby elicits feelings of both sadness and triumph,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL. “While we’re sad to have the close flybys behind us, we’ve placed the capstone on an incredible decade of investigating one of the most intriguing bodies in the solar system.”

NASA's Cassini spacecraft peered out over the northern territory on Saturn's moon Enceladus, during its final close flyby of Enceladus, on Dec. 19, 2015. (NASA)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft peered out over the northern territory on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, during its final close flyby of Enceladus, on Dec. 19, 2015. (NASA)

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