Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is set to make its first dive through the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings on April 26th, 2017.
Because that gap is a region no spacecraft has ever explored, Cassini will use its dish-shaped high-gain antenna (13 feet or 4 meters across) as a protective shield while passing through the ring plane. No particles larger than smoke particles are expected, but the precautionary measure is being taken on the first dive.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – Few places are as hostile to life as Chile’s Atacama Desert. It’s the driest non-polar desert on Earth, and only the hardiest microbes survive there. Its rocky landscape has lain undisturbed for eons, exposed to extreme temperatures and radiation from the sun.
If you can find life here, you might be able to find it in an even harsher environment — like the surface of Mars. That’s why a team of researchers from NASA and several universities visited the Atacama in February. They spent 10 days testing devices that could one day be used to search for signs of life on other worlds. That group included a team from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, working on a portable chemistry lab called the Chemical Laptop.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Radar images of asteroid 2014 JO25 were obtained in the early morning hours on Tuesday, with NASA’s 70-meter (230-foot) antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Complex in California.
The images reveal a peanut-shaped asteroid that rotates about once every five hours. The images have resolutions as fine as 25 feet (7.5 meters) per pixel.
Asteroid 2014 JO25 was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona — a project of NASA’s Near-Earth Objects Observations Program in collaboration with the University of Arizona.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – A new NASA- and the U.S. Department of Energy-funded study finds that recent increases in global methane levels observed since 2007 are not necessarily due to increasing emissions, but instead may be due to changes in how long methane remains in the atmosphere after it is emitted.
The second most important human-produced greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, methane is colorless, odorless and can be hard to track. The gas has a wide range of sources, from decomposing biological material to leaks in natural gas pipelines.
Washington,D.C. – NASA’s partnership in a future European Space Agency (ESA) mission to Jupiter and its moons has cleared a key milestone, moving from preliminary instrument design to implementation phase.
Designed to investigate the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants, the JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is scheduled to launch in five years, arriving at Jupiter in October 2029. JUICE will spend almost four years studying Jupiter’s giant magnetosphere, turbulent atmosphere, and its icy Galilean moons—Callisto, Ganymede and Europa.
NASA’s Cassini mission and Hubble Space Telescope provides new details about moons Enceladus and Europa
Written by Felicia Chou
Washington, D.C. – Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other “ocean worlds” in our solar system and beyond. The findings are presented in papers published Thursday by researchers with NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Hubble Space Telescope.
In the papers, Cassini scientists announce that a form of chemical energy that life can feed on appears to exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – With two suns in its sky, Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine in “Star Wars” looks like a parched, sandy desert world. In real life, thanks to observatories such as NASA’s Kepler space telescope, we know that two-star systems can indeed support planets, although planets discovered so far around double-star systems are large and gaseous. Scientists wondered: If an Earth-size planet were orbiting two suns, could it support life?
It turns out, such a planet could be quite hospitable if located at the right distance from its two stars, and wouldn’t necessarily even have deserts.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – New research on solar storms finds that they not only can cause regions of excessive electrical charge in the upper atmosphere above Earth’s poles, they also can do the exact opposite: cause regions that are nearly depleted of electrically charged particles.
The finding adds to our knowledge of how solar storms affect Earth and could possibly lead to improved radio communication and navigation systems for the Arctic.
A team of researchers from Denmark, the United States and Canada made the discovery while studying a solar storm that reached Earth on February 19th, 2014.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – A relatively large near-Earth asteroid discovered nearly three years ago will fly safely past Earth on April 19th at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.
The asteroid, known as 2014 JO25, was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona — a project of NASA’s NEO Observations Program in collaboration with the University of Arizona. (An NEO is a near-Earth object).
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Last November’s magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand was so complex and unusual, it is likely to change how scientists think about earthquake hazards in plate boundary zones around the world, finds a new international study.
The study, led by GNS Science, Avalon, New Zealand, with NASA participation, is published this week in the journal Science. The team found that the November 14th, 2016, earthquake was the most complex earthquake in modern history. The quake ruptured at least 12 major crustal faults, and there was also evidence of slip along the southern end of the Hikurangi subduction zone plate boundary, which lies about 12 miles (20 kilometers) below the North Canterbury and Marlborough coastlines.
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