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NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory starts three year mission

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed has begun science operations.

Launched January 31st on a minimum three-year mission, SMAP will help scientists understand links among Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles; reduce uncertainties in predicting climate; and enhance our ability to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts. SMAP data have additional practical applications, including improved weather forecasting and crop yield predictions.

High-resolution global soil moisture map from SMAP's combined radar and radiometer instruments, acquired between May 4 and May 11, 2015 during SMAP's commissioning phase. The map has a resolution of 5.6 miles (9 kilometers). The data gap is due to turning the instruments on and off during testing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

High-resolution global soil moisture map from SMAP’s combined radar and radiometer instruments, acquired between May 4 and May 11, 2015 during SMAP’s commissioning phase. The map has a resolution of 5.6 miles (9 kilometers). The data gap is due to turning the instruments on and off during testing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

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NASA measurements show Ethanol Refineries Emissions may be higher than Estimated

 

Written by Patrick Lynch
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Ethanol fuel refineries could be releasing much larger amounts of ozone-forming compounds into the atmosphere than current assessments suggest, according to a new study based on a field campaign that included a NASA sensor.

Airborne measurements made downwind from an ethanol fuel refinery in Decatur, Illinois, in 2013 found ethanol emissions 30 times higher than government estimates.

The measurements also showed emissions of all volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which include ethanol, were five times higher than government numbers, which estimate emissions based on manufacturing information.

Air-quality readings over the Midwest were made from an aircraft in 2013 at three different distances downwind from an ethanol refining plant in Decatur, Illinois. The measurements were used to calculate emissions of various gases, including VOCs, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. (Joost de Gouw)

Air-quality readings over the Midwest were made from an aircraft in 2013 at three different distances downwind from an ethanol refining plant in Decatur, Illinois. The measurements were used to calculate emissions of various gases, including VOCs, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. (Joost de Gouw)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots Curiosity Rover on the slope of Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A view from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on April 8th, 2015, catches sight of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover passing through a valley called “Artist’s Drive” on the lower slope of Mount Sharp.

The image from the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera shows the rover’s position after a drive of about 75 feet (23 meters) during the 949th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars.

Mars image from the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Mars image from the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft images reveals Tendril Structures coming from Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Long, sinuous, tendril-like structures seen in the vicinity of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus originate directly from geysers erupting from its surface, according to scientists studying images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

This result is published online today in a study in the Astronomical Journal, along with additional insights into the nature of the structures.

“We’ve been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon’s surface,” said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the paper.

This collage, consisting of two Cassini images of long, sinuous, tendril-like features from Saturn's moon Enceladus and two corresponding computer simulations of the same, illustrates how well the structures, and the sizes of the particles composing them, can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from Enceladus' south polar geysers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This collage, consisting of two Cassini images of long, sinuous, tendril-like features from Saturn’s moon Enceladus and two corresponding computer simulations of the same, illustrates how well the structures, and the sizes of the particles composing them, can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from Enceladus’ south polar geysers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA and U.S. Forest Service maps used to help recovery from California Megafires

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – New maps of two recent California megafires that combine unique data sets from the U.S. Forest Service and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are answering some of the urgent questions that follow a huge wildfire: In all the acres of blackened landscape, where are the live trees to provide seed and regrow the forest? Which dead trees could endanger workers rebuilding roads and trails? What habitats have been created for fire-dependent wildlife species?

The maps, so detailed that they show individual trees, cover the areas of two California megafires — the 2013 Rim fire, which burned more than 250,000 acres (1,000 square kilometers) near and in Yosemite National Park, and 2014’s very intense King fire near Lake Tahoe — before, during and after the active burns.

The 2013 Rim fire in and near Yosemite National Park, California, was the third largest in the state's history, burning more than 250,000 acres. Almost two years later, forest restoration efforts are still ongoing. (USFS/Mike McMillan)

The 2013 Rim fire in and near Yosemite National Park, California, was the third largest in the state’s history, burning more than 250,000 acres. Almost two years later, forest restoration efforts are still ongoing. (USFS/Mike McMillan)

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NASA reports Researchers looking into United States Methane “Hot Spot”

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers from several institutions are in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest with a suite of airborne and ground-based instruments, aiming to uncover reasons for a mysterious methane “hot spot” detected from space.

“With all the ground-based and airborne resources that the different groups are bringing to the region, we have the unique chance to unequivocally solve the Four Corners mystery,” said Christian Frankenberg, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who is heading NASA’s part of the effort.

Shiprock, New Mexico, is in the Four Corners region where an atmospheric methane "hot spot" can be seen from space. Researchers are currently in the area, trying to uncover the reasons for the hot spot. (Wikimedia Commons)

Shiprock, New Mexico, is in the Four Corners region where an atmospheric methane “hot spot” can be seen from space. Researchers are currently in the area, trying to uncover the reasons for the hot spot. (Wikimedia Commons)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s new orbit to bring it closer to Saturn’s moons

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A dual view of Saturn’s icy moon Rhea marks the return of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to the realm of the planet’s icy satellites. This follows nearly two years during which the spacecraft’s orbits carried it high above the planet’s poles. Those paths limited the mission’s ability to encounter the moons, apart from regular flybys of Titan.

Cassini’s orbit will remain nearly equatorial for the remainder of 2015, during which the spacecraft will have four close encounters with Titan, two with Dione and three with the geyser-moon, Enceladus.

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn’s moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn’s equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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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 New Horizons spacecraft takes images of small Moons Orbiting Pluto

 

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Exactly 85 years after Clyde Tombaugh’s historic discovery of Pluto, the NASA spacecraft set to encounter the icy dwarf planet this summer is providing its first views of the small moons orbiting Pluto.

The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft from January 27th-February 8th, at distances ranging from about 125 million to 115 million miles (201 million to 186 million kilometers). The long-exposure images offer New Horizons’ best view yet of these two small moons circling Pluto which Tombaugh discovered at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, on February 18th, 1930.

The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute)

The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft observes moon Charon orbiting Pluto

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. The movie was made over about a week, from January 25th-31st, 2015.

It was taken as part of the mission’s second optical navigation (“OpNav”) campaign to better refine the locations of Pluto and Charon in preparation for the spacecraft’s close encounter with the small planet and its five moons on July 14th, 2015.

This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/APL/Southwest Research Institute)

This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/APL/Southwest Research Institute)

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