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Topic: California Institute of Technology in Pasadena

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft finds giant Cloud circling south pole of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have discovered that a giant, toxic cloud is hovering over the south pole of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, after the atmosphere there cooled dramatically.

The scientists found that this giant polar vortex contains frozen particles of the toxic compound hydrogen cyanide, or HCN.

“The discovery suggests that the atmosphere of Titan’s southern hemisphere is cooling much faster than we expected,” said Remco de Kok of Leiden Observatory and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, lead author of the study published today in the journal Nature.

These two views of Saturn's moon Titan show the southern polar vortex, a huge, swirling cloud that was first observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Arizona/SSI/Leiden Observatory and SRON)

These two views of Saturn’s moon Titan show the southern polar vortex, a huge, swirling cloud that was first observed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Arizona/SSI/Leiden Observatory and SRON)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft observes strange feature in sea on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is monitoring the evolution of a mysterious feature in a large hydrocarbon sea on Saturn’s moon Titan. The feature covers an area of about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers) in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest seas on Titan.

It has now been observed twice by Cassini’s radar experiment, but its appearance changed between the two apparitions.

These three images, created from Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, show the appearance and evolution of a mysterious feature in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest hydrocarbon seas on Saturn's moon Titan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

These three images, created from Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data, show the appearance and evolution of a mysterious feature in Ligeia Mare, one of the largest hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

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NASA reports Rosetta Spacecraft to release Philae Lander to Comet’s surface November 12th

 

Written by DC Agle/Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will deploy its lander, Philae, to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12th.

Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.

Philae’s landing site, currently known as Site J, is located on the smaller of the comet’s two “lobes,” with a backup site on the larger lobe. The sites were selected just six weeks after Rosetta’s August 6th arrival at the comet, following the spacecraft’s 10-year journey through the solar system.

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler Telescopes discovers water vapor on Exoplanet outside our solar system

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from three of NASA’s space telescopes — Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler — have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.

“This discovery is a significant milepost on the road to eventually analyzing the atmospheric composition of smaller, rocky planets more like Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Such achievements are only possible today with the combined capabilities of these unique and powerful observatories.”

A Neptune-size planet with a clear atmosphere is shown crossing in front of its star in this artist's depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A Neptune-size planet with a clear atmosphere is shown crossing in front of its star in this artist’s depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports landing site for Rosetta Spacecraft’s Philae lander on comet set

 

Written by DC Agle and Dwayne Brown
NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta’s lander, Philae, will target Site J, an intriguing region on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that offers unique scientific potential, with hints of activity nearby, and minimum risk to the lander compared to the other candidate sites.

The 220-pound (100-kilogram) lander is scheduled to reach the surface on November 11th, where it will perform in-depth measurements to characterize the nucleus. Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover reaches Mount Sharp inside Gale Crater

 

Written by Guy Webster / DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has reached the Red Planet’s Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission’s long-term prime destination.

“Curiosity now will begin a new chapter from an already outstanding introduction to the world,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “After a historic and innovative landing along with its successful science discoveries, the scientific sequel is upon us.”

This image from NASA's Mars Curiosity rover shows the "Amargosa Valley," on the slopes leading up to Mount Sharp on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This image from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover shows the “Amargosa Valley,” on the slopes leading up to Mount Sharp on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to look for Galaxies in the far reaches of the Cosmos

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new survey of galaxies by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope is taking a plunge into the deep and uncharted waters of our cosmos.

In one of the longest surveys the telescope will have ever performed, astronomers have begun a three-month expedition trawling for faint galaxies billions of light-years away.

The results are already yielding surprises.

Scientists "fish" for galaxies in this playful, digitally altered photo. The researchers are part of a program called SPLASH, which is using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to dive deep into the cosmic sea and find some of the most remote galaxies known. Early results are turning up surprisingly big "fish" -- massive galaxies -- in the darkest reaches of the universe, dating back to a time when our universe was less than one billion years old. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Scientists “fish” for galaxies in this playful, digitally altered photo. The researchers are part of a program called SPLASH, which is using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to dive deep into the cosmic sea and find some of the most remote galaxies known. Early results are turning up surprisingly big “fish” — massive galaxies — in the darkest reaches of the universe, dating back to a time when our universe was less than one billion years old. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini Mission has found that Methane Rainfall on Saturn’s moon Titan is being transformed underground lakes

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The NASA and European Space Agency Cassini mission has revealed hundreds of lakes and seas spread across the north polar region of Saturn’s moon Titan. These lakes are filled not with water but with hydrocarbons, a form of organic compound that is also found naturally on Earth and includes methane.

The vast majority of liquid in Titan’s lakes is thought to be replenished by rainfall from clouds in the moon’s atmosphere. But how liquids move and cycle through Titan’s crust and atmosphere is still relatively unknown.

Hundreds of lakes and seas are spread across the surface of Saturn's moon Titan -- its northern polar region in particular. (ESA/ATG medialab)

Hundreds of lakes and seas are spread across the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan — its northern polar region in particular. (ESA/ATG medialab)

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NASA Telescopes reveal Giant Galaxy in the early stages of creation

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have for the first time caught a glimpse of the earliest stages of massive galaxy construction. The building site, dubbed “Sparky,” is a dense galactic core blazing with the light of millions of newborn stars that are forming at a ferocious rate.

The discovery was made possible through combined observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, the W.M. Keck Observatory in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the European Space Agency’s Herschel space observatory, in which NASA plays an important role.

Artist's impression of a firestorm of star birth deep inside core of young, growing elliptical galaxy. (NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute)

Artist’s impression of a firestorm of star birth deep inside core of young, growing elliptical galaxy. (NASA, Space Telescope Science Institute)

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NASA reports Mars Opportunity Rover to perform flash memory reformat

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover’s flash memory.

The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover’s planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses.

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity captured this view southward just after completing a 338-foot (103-meter) southward drive, in reverse, on Aug. 10, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity captured this view southward just after completing a 338-foot (103-meter) southward drive, in reverse, on Aug. 10, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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