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NASA to chase Total Solar Eclipse from WB-57F Jets

 

Written by Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – For most viewers, the Monday, August 21st, 2017, total solar eclipse will last less than two and half minutes. But for one team of NASA-funded scientists, the eclipse will last over seven minutes. Their secret? Following the shadow of the Moon in two retrofitted WB-57F jet planes.

Amir Caspi of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and his team will use two of NASA’s WB-57F research jets to chase the darkness across America on August 21st. Taking observations from twin telescopes mounted on the noses of the planes, Caspi will ­­­­­capture the clearest images of the Sun’s outer atmosphere — the corona — to date and the first-ever thermal images of Mercury, revealing how temperature varies across the planet’s surface.

(Photo illustration) During the upcoming total solar eclipse, a team of NASA-funded scientists will observe the solar corona using stabilized telescopes aboard two of NASA’s WB-57F research aircraft. This vantage point provides distinct advantages over ground-based observations, as illustrated by this composite photo of the aircraft and the 2015 total solar eclipse at the Faroe Islands. (NASA/Faroe Islands/SwRI)

(Photo illustration) During the upcoming total solar eclipse, a team of NASA-funded scientists will observe the solar corona using stabilized telescopes aboard two of NASA’s WB-57F research aircraft. This vantage point provides distinct advantages over ground-based observations, as illustrated by this composite photo of the aircraft and the 2015 total solar eclipse at the Faroe Islands. (NASA/Faroe Islands/SwRI)

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NASA to study Earth’s Ionosphere during Total Solar Eclipse

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On August 21st, 2017, the Moon will slide in front of the Sun and for a brief moment, day will melt into a dusky night. Moving across the country, the Moon’s shadow will block the Sun’s light, and weather permitting, those within the path of totality will be treated to a view of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona.

But the total solar eclipse will also have imperceptible effects, such as the sudden loss of extreme ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which generates the ionized layer of Earth’s atmosphere, called the ionosphere. This ever-changing region grows and shrinks based on solar conditions, and is the focus of several NASA-funded science teams that will use the eclipse as a ready-made experiment, courtesy of nature.

The Moon’s shadow will dramatically affect insolation — the amount of sunlight reaching the ground — during the total solar eclipse. (NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio)

The Moon’s shadow will dramatically affect insolation — the amount of sunlight reaching the ground — during the total solar eclipse. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

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NASA’s New Horizons Team catches glimpse of primitive solar system object

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A primitive solar system object that’s more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) away passed in front of a distant star as seen from Earth. Just before midnight Eastern Time Sunday (12:50am local time July 17th), several telescopes deployed by the New Horizons team in a remote part of Argentina were in precisely the right place at the right time to catch its fleeting shadow — an event that’s known as an occultation.

In a matter of seconds, NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. Weary but excited team members succeeded in detecting the spacecraft’s next destination, in what’s being called the most ambitious and challenging ground occultation observation campaign in history.

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft’s next target already revealing surprises

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft doesn’t zoom past its next science target until New Year’s Day 2019, but the Kuiper Belt object, known as 2014 MU69, is already revealing surprises.

Scientists have been sifting through data gathered from observing the object’s quick pass in front of a star – an astronomical event known as an occultation – on June 3rd.

More than 50 mission team members and collaborators set up telescopes across South Africa and Argentina, along a predicted track of the narrow shadow of MU69 that the occultation would create on Earth’s surface, aiming to catch a two-second glimpse of the object’s shadow as it raced across the Earth.

Four members of the New Horizons’ South African observation team scan the sky while waiting for the start of the 2014 MU69 occultation, early on the morning of June 3rd, 2017. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Henry Throop)

Four members of the New Horizons’ South African observation team scan the sky while waiting for the start of the 2014 MU69 occultation, early on the morning of June 3rd, 2017. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Henry Throop)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope identifies details of TRAPPIST-1h orbits

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Scientists using NASA’s Kepler space telescope identified a regular pattern in the orbits of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system that confirmed suspected details about the orbit of its outermost and least understood planet, TRAPPIST-1h.

TRAPPIST-1 is only eight percent the mass of our sun, making it a cooler and less luminous star. It’s home to seven Earth-size planets, three of which orbit in their star’s habitable zone — the range of distances from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet. The system is located about 40 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius. The star is estimated to be between 3 billion and 8 billion years old.

This artist's concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA's Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes discover human made Barrier around the Earth

 

Written by Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Humans have long been shaping Earth’s landscape, but now scientists know we can shape our near-space environment as well. A certain type of communications — very low frequency, or VLF, radio communications — have been found to interact with particles in space, affecting how and where they move.

At times, these interactions can create a barrier around Earth against natural high energy particle radiation in space. These results, part of a comprehensive paper on human-induced space weather, were recently published in Space Science Reviews.

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NASA releases Video showing Cassini Spacecraft’s trip across Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new movie sequence of images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the view as the spacecraft swooped over Saturn during the first of its Grand Finale dives between the planet and its rings on April 26th.

The movie comprises one hour of observations as the spacecraft moved southward over Saturn. It begins with a view of the swirling vortex at the planet’s north pole, then heads past the outer boundary of the hexagon-shaped jet stream and beyond.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes photos of Saturn’s moon Atlas

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – These raw, unprocessed images of Saturn’s moon, Atlas, were taken on April 12th, 2017, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The flyby had a close-approach distance of about 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers).

These images are the closest ever taken of Atlas and will help to characterize its shape and geology. Atlas (19 miles, or 30 kilometers across) orbits Saturn just outside the A ring — the outermost of the planet’s bright, main rings.

This unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Atlas was taken on April 12, 2017, by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This unprocessed image of Saturn’s moon Atlas was taken on April 12, 2017, by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches midpoint between Pluto and next destination, Kuiper Belt

 

NASA Headquarters

How time and our spacecraft fly – especially when you’re making history at 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour.

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Continuing on its path through the outer regions of the solar system, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto – its storied first target – to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) it will fly past on January 1st, 2019.

The spacecraft reached that milestone at midnight (UTC) on April 3rd – or 7:00pm CT on April 2nd – when it was 486.19 million miles (782.45 million kilometers) beyond Pluto and the same distance from MU69.

A KBO among the Stars: In preparation for the New Horizons flyby of 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took a series of 10-second exposures of the background star field near the location of its target Kuiper Belt object (KBO). (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

A KBO among the Stars: In preparation for the New Horizons flyby of 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took a series of 10-second exposures of the background star field near the location of its target Kuiper Belt object (KBO). (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope provides additional data on system with 7 Earth Size Planets

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On February 22nd, astronomers announced that the ultra-cool dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, hosts a total of seven Earth-size planets that are likely rocky, a discovery made by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in combination with ground-based telescopes.

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also has been observing this star since December 2016. Today these additional data about TRAPPIST-1 from Kepler are available to the scientific community.

This illustration shows the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets as they might look as viewed from Earth using a fictional, incredibly powerful telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets as they might look as viewed from Earth using a fictional, incredibly powerful telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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