Topic: Cornell University
Written by Gay Hill
Pasadena, CA – Ten years ago, we knew Titan as a fuzzy orange ball about the size of Mercury. We knew it had a nitrogen atmosphere — the only known world with a thick nitrogen atmosphere besides Earth. But what might lie beneath the hazy air was still just a guess.
On March 6th, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will swoop down within 933 miles (1,500 kilometers) of Titan to conduct its 100th flyby of the Saturn moon. Each flyby gives us a little more knowledge of Titan and its striking similarities to our world.
Written by Dwayne Brown
Washington, D.C. – New findings from rock samples collected and examined by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity have confirmed an ancient wet environment that was milder and older than the acidic and oxidizing conditions told by rocks the rover examined previously.
In the January 24th edition of the journal Science, Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, writes in detail about the discoveries made by the rover and how these discoveries have shaped our knowledge of the planet. According to Arvidson and others on the team, the latest evidence from Opportunity is landmark.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Eighth graders didn’t have Facebook or Twitter to share news back then, in January 2004. Bekah Sosland, 14 at the time, learned about a NASA rover landing on Mars when the bouncing-ball video on the next morning’s Channel One news in her Fredericksburg, Texas, classroom caught her eye.
“I wasn’t particularly interested in space at the time,” she recalled last week inside the spacecraft operations facility where she now works at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. “I remember I was talking with friends, and out of the corner of my eye I noticed this thing bouncing and rolling on a red surface. I watched as it stopped and opened up, and it had this rover inside.”
Pasadena, CA – Features on Mars important to the missions of NASA’s two active Mars rovers are now called “Murray Ridge” and “Murray Buttes,” in honor of influential planetary scientist Bruce Murray (1931-2013).
The rover Opportunity, which has been roaming Mars for nearly a decade, is currently climbing Murray Ridge, part of an uplifted crater rim. NASA’s newer rover, Curiosity, is headed toward Murray Buttes as the entryway to that mission’s main destination.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Planets rich in carbon, including so-called diamond planets, may lack oceans, according to NASA-funded theoretical research.
Our sun is a carbon-poor star, and as result, our planet Earth is made up largely of silicates, not carbon. Stars with much more carbon than the sun, on the other hand, are predicted to make planets chock full of carbon, and perhaps even layers of diamond.
By modeling the ingredients in these carbon-based planetary systems, the scientists determined they lack icy water reservoirs thought to supply planets with oceans.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover has begun climbing “Solander Point,” the northern tip of the tallest hill it has encountered in the mission’s nearly 10 Earth years on Mars.
Guided by mineral mapping from orbit, the rover is exploring outcrops on the northwestern slopes of Solander Point, making its way up the hill much as a field geologist would do. The outcrops are exposed from several feet (about 2 meters) to about 20 feet (6 meters) above the surrounding plains, on slopes as steep as 15 to 20 degrees. The rover may later drive south and ascend farther up the hill, which peaks at about 130 feet (40 meters) above the plains.
Written by Jia-Rui Cook
Pasadena, CA – The gauzy rings of Saturn and the dark side of the planet glow in newly released infrared images obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
“Looking at the Saturn system when it is backlit by the sun gives scientists a kind of inside-out view of Saturn that we don’t normally see,” said Matt Hedman, a participating scientist based at the University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho. “The parts of Saturn’s rings that are bright when you look at them from backyard telescopes on Earth are dark, and other parts that are typically dark glow brightly in this view.”
Pasadena, CA – The intensity of the jets of water ice and organic particles that shoot out from Saturn’s moon Enceladus depends on the moon’s proximity to the ringed planet, according to data obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
The finding adds to evidence that a liquid water reservoir or ocean lurks under the icy surface of the moon. This is the first clear observation the bright plume emanating from Enceladus’ south pole varies predictably. The findings are detailed in a scientific paper in this week’s edition of Nature.
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is trekking to a new study area still many weeks away. Soon the rover will celebrate its 10th Anniversary of leaving Earth.
The destination, called “Solander Point,” offers Opportunity access to a much taller stack of geological layering than the area where the rover has worked for the past 20 months, called “Cape York.” Both areas are raised segments of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, which is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.
Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
Pasadena, CA – Saturn’s moon Titan might be in for some wild weather as it heads into its spring and summer, if two new models are correct. Scientists think that as the seasons change in Titan’s northern hemisphere, waves could ripple across the moon’s hydrocarbon seas, and hurricanes could begin to swirl over these areas, too.
The model predicting waves tries to explain data from the moon obtained so far by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Both models help mission team members plan when and where to look for unusual atmospheric disturbances as Titan summer approaches.
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