Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – One of the fastest spacecraft ever built — NASA’s New Horizons — is hurtling through the void at nearly one million miles per day. Launched in 2006, it has been in flight longer than some missions last, and it is nearing its destination: Pluto.
“The encounter begins next January,” says Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute and the mission’s principal investigator. “We’re less than a year away.”
Pasadena, CA – An atlas of the giant asteroid Vesta, created from images taken as NASA’s Dawn mission flew around the object (also known as a protoplanet), is now accessible for the public to explore online. The set of maps was created from mosaics of 10,000 images taken by Dawn’s framing camera instrument at a low altitude of about 130 miles (210 kilometers).
The maps are mostly at a scale about that of regional road-touring maps, where every inch of map is equivalent to a little more than 3 miles of asteroid (1 centimeter equals 2 kilometers).
Pasadena, CA – The origin of massive invisible regions that make the moon’s gravity uneven, a phenomenon that affects the operations of lunar-orbiting spacecraft has been uncovered by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission.
Because of GRAIL’s findings, future spacecraft on missions to other celestial bodies can navigate with greater precision.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) discovers additional Asteroids between Jupiter and Mars
Pasadena, CA - A new and improved family tree for asteroids in the main belt between Mars and Jupiter has been created using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE)
Astronomers used millions of infrared snapshots from the asteroid-hunting portion of the WISE all-sky survey, called NEOWISE, to identify 28 new asteroid families. The snapshots also helped place thousands of previously hidden and uncategorized asteroids into families for the first time. The findings are a critical step in understanding the origins of asteroid families, and the collisions thought to have created these rocky clans.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Scientists using images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have estimated that the planet is bombarded by more than 200 small asteroids or bits of comets per year forming craters at least 12.8 feet (3.9 meters) across.
Researchers have identified 248 new impact sites on parts of the Martian surface in the past decade, using images from the spacecraft to determine when the craters appeared. The 200-per-year planetwide estimate is a calculation based on the number found in a systematic survey of a portion of the planet.
Written by Nancy Neal-Jones / Bill Steigerwald
Greenbelt, MD – Electrically charged lunar dust near shadowed craters can get lofted above the surface and jump over the shadowed region, bouncing back and forth between sunlit areas on opposite sides, according to new calculations by NASA scientists.
The research is being led by Michael Collier at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, as part of the Dynamic Response of the Environment At the Moon (DREAM) team in partnership with the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), managed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.
Written by Jia-Rui Cook
Pasadena, CA – Titan’s siblings must be jealous. While most of Saturn’s moons display their ancient faces pockmarked by thousands of craters, Titan – Saturn’s largest moon – may look much younger than it really is because its craters are getting erased.
Dunes of exotic, hydrocarbon sand are slowly but steadily filling in its craters, according to new research using observations from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Just when you thought Christmas was over: At the end of the day on December 25th, a pair of holiday lights will pop out of the deepening twilight. Jupiter and the Moon are having a Christmas conjunction.
It’s a beautiful apparition, visible all around the globe. Even city dwellers, who often miss astronomical events because of light pollution, can see the show. Separated by less than 2 degrees, the bright pair will beam right through urban lights.
Written by D.C. Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA has named the site where twin agency spacecraft impacted the moon Monday in honor of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America’s first woman in space and a member of the probes’ mission team.
Last Friday, Ebb and Flow, the two spacecraft comprising NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, were commanded to descend into a lower orbit that would result in an impact Monday on a mountain near the moon’s north pole.
Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook and D.C. Agle
Pasadena, CA – In a preliminary analysis of images from NASA’s Dawn mission, scientists have spotted intriguing gullies that sculpt the walls of geologically young craters on the giant asteroid Vesta.
Led by Jennifer Scully, a Dawn team member at the University of California, Los Angeles, these scientists have found narrow channels of two types in images from Dawn’s framing camera – some that look like straight chutes and others that carve more sinuous trails and end in lobe-shaped deposits. The mystery, however, is what is creating them?
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