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Topic: California Institute of Technology in Pasadena

NASA captures image of Cosmic Fireworks

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – While fireworks only last a short time here on Earth, a bundle of cosmic sparklers in a nearby cluster of stars will be going off for a very long time. NGC 1333 is a star cluster populated with many young stars that are less than 2 million years old — a blink of an eye in astronomical terms for stars like these expected to burn for billions of years.

This new composite image combines X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (shown in pink) with infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (shown in red) as well as optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey and the National Optical Astronomical Observatories’ Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak (red, green, blue).

This new composite image of stellar cluster NGC 1333 combines X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (pink); infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (red); and optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey and the National Optical Astronomical Observatories' Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak near Tucson, Arizona. (NASA/CXC/JPL-Caltech/NOAO/DSS)

This new composite image of stellar cluster NGC 1333 combines X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (pink); infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (red); and optical data from the Digitized Sky Survey and the National Optical Astronomical Observatories’ Mayall 4-meter telescope on Kitt Peak near Tucson, Arizona. (NASA/CXC/JPL-Caltech/NOAO/DSS)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover examines two types of Bedrock on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is examining a valley where at least two types of bedrock meet, for clues about changes in ancient environmental conditions recorded by the rock.

In addition to two rock types for which this site was chosen, the rover has found a sandstone with grains of differing shapes and color.

Curiosity’s international team has resumed full operations of the car-size mobile laboratory after a period of limited activity during most of June.

This May 25, 2015, view from the Curiosity rover's Mastcam shows a site where two different types of bedrock meet near "Marias Pass" on Mount Sharp. Pale mudstone in the foreground is like bedrock the rover studied at "Pahrump Hills." The darker sandstone above it is called the Stimson unit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 25, 2015, view from the Curiosity rover’s Mastcam shows a site where two different types of bedrock meet near “Marias Pass” on Mount Sharp. Pale mudstone in the foreground is like bedrock the rover studied at “Pahrump Hills.” The darker sandstone above it is called the Stimson unit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft to complete 60,000th trip around Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft will reach a major milestone June 23rd, when it completes its 60,000th orbit since arriving at the Red Planet in 2001.

Named after the bestselling novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke, Odyssey began orbiting Mars almost 14 years ago, on October 23rd, 2001. On December 15th, 2010, it became the longest-operating spacecraft ever sent to Mars, and continues to hold that record today.

Odyssey, which discovered widespread water ice just beneath the surface of the Red Planet, is still going strong today, serving as a key communications relay for NASA’s Mars rovers and making continued contributions to planetary science.

Gale Crater, home to NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, shows a new face in this image made using data from the THEMIS camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. The colors come from an image processing method that identifies mineral differences in surface materials and displays them in false colors. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University)

Gale Crater, home to NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, shows a new face in this image made using data from the THEMIS camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. The colors come from an image processing method that identifies mineral differences in surface materials and displays them in false colors. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has close flyby of Saturn’s Moon Dione

 

Written by Preston Dyches / DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a close flyby of Saturn’s moon Dione on June 16th, coming within 321 miles (516 kilometers) of the moon’s surface. The spacecraft made its closest approach to Dione at 1:12pm PDT (4:12pm EDT) on June 16th.

During the flyby, Cassini’s cameras and spectrometers observed terrain that includes “Eurotas Chasmata,” a region first observed 35 years ago by NASA’s Voyager mission as bright, wispy streaks. After the Voyager encounter, scientists considered the possibility that the streaks were bright material extruded onto the surface by geologic activity, such as ice volcanoes.

Cassini's penultimate encounter with Saturn's moon Dione is slated for June 16th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini’s penultimate encounter with Saturn’s moon Dione is slated for June 16th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovers Planets with Clouds of Helium

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – They wouldn’t float like balloons or give you the chance to talk in high, squeaky voices, but planets with helium skies may constitute an exotic planetary class in our Milky Way galaxy.

Researchers using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope propose that warm Neptune-size planets with clouds of helium may be strewn about the galaxy by the thousands.

“We don’t have any planets like this in our own solar system,” said Renyu Hu, NASA Hubble Fellow at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and lead author of a new study on the findings accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “But we think planets with helium atmospheres could be common around other stars.”

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers Glass in Impact Craters on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has detected deposits of glass within impact craters on Mars. Though formed in the searing heat of a violent impact, such deposits might provide a delicate window into the possibility of past life on the Red Planet.

During the past few years, research has shown evidence about past life has been preserved in impact glass here on Earth. A 2014 study led by scientist Peter Schultz of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, found organic molecules and plant matter entombed in glass formed by an impact that occurred millions of years ago in Argentina.

Researchers have found deposits of impact glass preserved in Martian craters, including Alga Crater, shown here. The detection is based on data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona)

Researchers have found deposits of impact glass preserved in Martian craters, including Alga Crater, shown here. The detection is based on data from the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA to suspend Communications to Mars Missions in June due to Mars Solar Conjunction

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In June 2015, Mars will swing almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective, and this celestial geometry will lead to diminished communications with spacecraft at Mars.

The arrangement of the sun between Earth and Mars is called Mars solar conjunction. It occurs about every 26 months as the two planets travel in their sun-centered orbits. The sun disrupts radio communications between the planets during the conjunction period.

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth's perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes final close up photos of Saturn’s moon Hyperion

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has returned images from its final close approach to Saturn’s oddball moon Hyperion, upholding the moon’s reputation as one of the most bizarre objects in the solar system. The views show Hyperion’s deeply impact-scarred surface, with many craters displaying dark material on their floors.

During this flyby, Cassini passed Hyperion at a distance of about 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) at closest approach. Cassini’s closest-ever Hyperion flyby took place on September 26th, 2005, at a distance of 314 miles (505 kilometers).

NASA's Cassini imaging scientists processed this view of Saturn's moon Hyperion, taken during a close flyby on May 31st, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

NASA’s Cassini imaging scientists processed this view of Saturn’s moon Hyperion, taken during a close flyby on May 31st, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make final closeup pass of Saturn’s moon Hyperion

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will make its final close approach to Saturn’s large, irregularly shaped moon Hyperion on Sunday, May 31st.

The Saturn-orbiting spacecraft will pass Hyperion at a distance of about 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) at approximately 6:36am PDT (9:36am EDT). Mission controllers expect images from the encounter to arrive on Earth within 24 to 48 hours.

This false-color view of Hyperion was obtained during Cassini's closest flyby of Saturn's odd, tumbling moon on Sept. 26, 2005. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

This false-color view of Hyperion was obtained during Cassini’s closest flyby of Saturn’s odd, tumbling moon on Sept. 26, 2005. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover has to change course on Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover climbed a hill Thursday to approach an alternative site for investigating a geological boundary, after a comparable site proved hard to reach.

The drive of about 72 feet (22 meters) up slopes as steep as 21 degrees brought Curiosity close to a target area where two distinctive types of bedrock meet. The rover science team wants to examine an outcrop that contains the contact between the pale rock unit the mission analyzed lower on Mount Sharp and a darker, bedded rock unit that the mission has not yet examined up close.

This May 10, 2015, view from Curiosity's Mastcam shows terrain judged difficult for traversing between the rover and an outcrop in the middle distance where a pale rock unit meets a darker rock unit above it. The rover team decided not to approach this outcrop and identified an alternative. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 10, 2015, view from Curiosity’s Mastcam shows terrain judged difficult for traversing between the rover and an outcrop in the middle distance where a pale rock unit meets a darker rock unit above it. The rover team decided not to approach this outcrop and identified an alternative. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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