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Topic: California Institute of Technology in Pasadena

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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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope observes Asteroids circling a Young Star collide

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the formation of planets.

Scientists had been regularly tracking the star, called NGC 2547-ID8, when it surged with a huge amount of fresh dust between August 2012 and January 2013.

“We think two big asteroids crashed into each other, creating a huge cloud of grains the size of very fine sand, which are now smashing themselves into smithereens and slowly leaking away from the star,” said lead author and graduate student Huan Meng of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

This artist's concept shows the immediate aftermath of a large asteroid impact around NGC 2547-ID8, a 35-million-year-old sun-like star thought to be forming rocky planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows the immediate aftermath of a large asteroid impact around NGC 2547-ID8, a 35-million-year-old sun-like star thought to be forming rocky planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA says Rosetta Mission has selected Comet Landing Sites for Philae Lander

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission has chosen five candidate landing sites on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for its Philae lander. Philae’s descent to the comet’s nucleus, scheduled for this November, will be the first such landing ever attempted.

“This is the first time landing sites on a comet have been considered,” said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the German Aerospace Center, Cologne, Germany. “The candidate sites that we want to follow up for further analysis are thought to be technically feasible on the basis of a preliminary analysis of flight dynamics and other key issues – for example, they all provide at least six hours of daylight per comet rotation and offer some flat terrain. Of course, every site has the potential for unique scientific discoveries.”

This annotated image depicts four of the five potential landing sites for Rosetta's Philae lander. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM)

This annotated image depicts four of the five potential landing sites for Rosetta’s Philae lander. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft passes Neptune’s Orbit on it’s way to Pluto

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune. This is its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14th, 2015.

The sophisticated piano-sized spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, reached Neptune’s orbit — nearly 2.75 billion miles from Earth — in a record eight years and eight months. New Horizons’ milestone matches precisely the 25th anniversary of the historic encounter of NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft with Neptune on August 25th, 1989.

NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft captured this view of the giant planet Neptune and its large moon Triton on July 10, 2014, from a distance of about 2.45 billion miles (3.96 billion kilometers) - more than 26 times the distance between the Earth and sun. The 967-millisecond exposure was taken with the New Horizons telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.)

NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft captured this view of the giant planet Neptune and its large moon Triton on July 10, 2014, from a distance of about 2.45 billion miles (3.96 billion kilometers) – more than 26 times the distance between the Earth and sun. The 967-millisecond exposure was taken with the New Horizons telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.)

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