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Topic: Caltech

NASA Telescopes used to study unusual Flash of Light nicknamed “The Cow”

 

Written by Jeanette Kazmierczak
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A brief and unusual flash spotted in the night sky on June 16th, 2018, puzzled astronomers and astrophysicists across the globe. The event – called AT2018cow and nicknamed “the Cow” after the coincidental final letters in its official name – is unlike any celestial outburst ever seen before, prompting multiple theories about its source.

Over three days, the Cow produced a sudden explosion of light at least 10 times brighter than a typical supernova, and then it faded over the next few months.

AT2018cow erupted in or near a galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, which is located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. This zoomed-in image shows the location of the "Cow" in the galaxy. (Sloan Digital Sky Survey)

AT2018cow erupted in or near a galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, which is located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. This zoomed-in image shows the location of the “Cow” in the galaxy. (Sloan Digital Sky Survey)

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Invention Challenge

 

Written by Taylor Hill and Arielle Samuelson
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Whether via bungee cord, half-inch chain, servo motors, torsion springs, electronics or just plain gravity, 20 middle- and high-school student teams used a range of equipment to compete in this year’s JPL Invention Challenge at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The teams – mainly from Southern California but including ones from as far away as Ethiopia and Guam – took part in the “Upright Pipe Contest” on Friday, December 14th. The objective was to get a 24-inch length of two-inch PVC pipe from a horizontal position to an upright position on a platform using whatever device they could come up with, instructions not included.

Students from the Los Angeles High School's Wild Cats team compete with the invention they built for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's Annual Invention Challenge. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Students from the Los Angeles High School’s Wild Cats team compete with the invention they built for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Annual Invention Challenge. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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Two NASA Space Telescopes observe rapid growth of Young Star

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An adolescent star in the midst of a dramatic growth phase has been observed with the help of two NASA space telescopes. The youngster belongs to a class of stars that gain mass when matter swirling around the star falls onto its surface.

The in-falling matter causes the star to appear about 100 times brighter. Astronomers have found only 25 stars in this class, and only about half of those have been observed during an outburst.

This illustration shows a young star undergoing a type of growth spurt. Left: Material from the dusty and gas-rich disk (orange) plus hot gas (blue) mildly flows onto the star, creating a hot spot. Middle: The outburst begins - the inner disk is heated, more material flows to the star, and the disk creeps inward. Right: The outburst is in full throttle, with the inner disk merging into the star and gas flowing outward (green). (Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC))

This illustration shows a young star undergoing a type of growth spurt. Left: Material from the dusty and gas-rich disk (orange) plus hot gas (blue) mildly flows onto the star, creating a hot spot. Middle: The outburst begins – the inner disk is heated, more material flows to the star, and the disk creeps inward. Right: The outburst is in full throttle, with the inner disk merging into the star and gas flowing outward (green). (Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC))

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes pictures of InSight Lander from Space

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On November 26th, 2018 NASA’s InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight’s exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful camera onboard another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The InSight lander, its heat shield and parachute were spotted by HiRISE (which stands for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), which is onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, in one set of images last week on December 6th, and again on Tuesday, December 11th.

NASA's InSight lander on the surface of Mars imaged by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

NASA’s InSight lander on the surface of Mars imaged by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

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NASA study reveals new information about Interstellar Visitor Oumuamua

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In November 2017, scientists pointed NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope toward the object known as ‘Oumuamua – the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system. The infrared Spitzer was one of many telescopes pointed at ‘Oumuamua in the weeks after its discovery that October.

‘Oumuamua was too faint for Spitzer to detect when it looked more than two months after the object’s closest aproach to Earth in early September. However, the “non-detection” puts a new limit on how large the strange object can be. The results are reported in a new study published today in the Astronomical Journal and coauthored by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

An artist's concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 ('Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. Observations of 'Oumuamua indicate that it must be very elongated because of its dramatic variations in brightness as it tumbled through space. (European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser)

An artist’s concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. Observations of ‘Oumuamua indicate that it must be very elongated because of its dramatic variations in brightness as it tumbled through space. (European Southern Observatory / M. Kornmesser)

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NASA’s Juno Mission discovers Waves in Jupiter’s Atmosphere

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Massive structures of moving air that appear like waves in Jupiter’s atmosphere were first detected by NASA’s Voyager missions during their flybys of the gas-giant world in 1979. The JunoCam camera aboard NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter has also imaged the atmosphere.

JunoCam data has detected atmospheric wave trains, towering atmospheric structures that trail one after the other as they roam the planet, with most concentrated near Jupiter’s equator.

Three waves can be seen in this excerpt of a JunoCam image taken on Feb. 2, 2017, during Juno's fourth flyby of Jupiter. The region imaged in this picture is part of the visibly dark band just north of Jupiter's equator known as the North Equatorial Belt. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/JunoCam)

Three waves can be seen in this excerpt of a JunoCam image taken on Feb. 2, 2017, during Juno’s fourth flyby of Jupiter. The region imaged in this picture is part of the visibly dark band just north of Jupiter’s equator known as the North Equatorial Belt. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/JunoCam)

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NASA’s InSight lander to use Robotic Arm to study Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If you’ve ever played the claw machine at an arcade, you know how hard it can be to maneuver the metal “hand” to pick up a prize. Imagine trying to play that game when the claw is on Mars, the objects you’re trying to grasp are far more fragile than a stuffed bear and all you have is a stitched-together panorama of the environment you’re working in. Oh, and there might be a dust storm.

NASA’s InSight lander, slated to arrive on Mars November 26th, 2018, will be the first mission to use a robotic arm to grasp instruments from the spacecraft and release them into place on another planet. These instruments will help scientists study the deep interior of Mars for the first time.

NASA's InSight mission tests an engineering version of the spacecraft's robotic arm in a Mars-like environment at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The five-fingered grapple on the end of the robotic arm is lifting up the Wind and Thermal Shield, a protective covering for InSight's seismometer. The test is being conducted under reddish "Mars lighting" to simulate activities on the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s InSight mission tests an engineering version of the spacecraft’s robotic arm in a Mars-like environment at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The five-fingered grapple on the end of the robotic arm is lifting up the Wind and Thermal Shield, a protective covering for InSight’s seismometer. The test is being conducted under reddish “Mars lighting” to simulate activities on the Red Planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA instruments keep eye on Hurricane Michael from Space

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA –  Hurricane Michael plowed into the Florida panhandle Wednesday, October 10th, 2018 as a major Category 4 storm — the strongest hurricane ever to hit that region. Many NASA instruments are keeping tabs on Michael from space, including the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) and the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR).

The first image, taken by AIRS, shows Hurricane Michael just off the west coast of Florida on October 10th in the early morning hours local time. The large purple area indicates very cold clouds at about -90°F (-68°C) carried high into the atmosphere by deep thunderstorms.

This AIRs image shows the temperature of clouds or the surface in and around Hurricane Michael. Purple represents very cold clouds, the much warmer eye is shown in green, and the red areas are warmer and mostly cloud-free. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This AIRs image shows the temperature of clouds or the surface in and around Hurricane Michael. Purple represents very cold clouds, the much warmer eye is shown in green, and the red areas are warmer and mostly cloud-free. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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Final orbits of NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft produces new understanding of Saturn

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New research emerging from the final orbits of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft represents a huge leap forward in our understanding of the Saturn system — especially the mysterious, never-before-explored region between the planet and its rings. Some preconceived ideas are turning out to be wrong while new questions are being raised.

Six teams of researchers are publishing their work October 5th in the journal Science, based on findings from Cassini’s Grand Finale. That’s when, as the spacecraft was running out of fuel, the mission team steered Cassini spectacularly close to Saturn in 22 orbits before deliberately vaporizing it in a final plunge into the atmosphere in September 2017.

Illustration: NASA's Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Illustration: NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in orbit around Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Voyager 2 probe maybe about to enter Interstellar Space

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Voyager 2 probe, currently on a journey toward interstellar space, has detected an increase in cosmic rays that originate outside our solar system. Launched in 1977, Voyager 2 is a little less than 11 billion miles (about 17.7 billion kilometers) from Earth, or more than 118 times the distance from Earth to the Sun.

Since 2007 the probe has been traveling through the outermost layer of the heliosphere — the vast bubble around the Sun and the planets dominated by solar material and magnetic fields. Voyager scientists have been watching for the spacecraft to reach the outer boundary of the heliosphere, known as the heliopause. Once Voyager 2 exits the heliosphere, it will become the second human-made object, after Voyager 1, to enter interstellar space.

This graphic shows the position of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes relative to the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto. Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause, or the edge of the heliosphere, in 2012. Voyager 2 is still in the heliosheath, or the outermost part of the heliosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic shows the position of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes relative to the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto. Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause, or the edge of the heliosphere, in 2012. Voyager 2 is still in the heliosheath, or the outermost part of the heliosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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