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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers evidence of Ancient Volcanoes on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Volcanoes erupted beneath an ice sheet on Mars billions of years ago, far from any ice sheet on the Red Planet today, new evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests.

The research about these volcanoes helps show there was extensive ice on ancient Mars. It also adds information about an environment combining heat and moisture, which could have provided favorable conditions for microbial life.

Sheridan Ackiss of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, and collaborators used the orbiter’s mineral-mapping spectrometer to investigate surface composition in an oddly textured region of southern Mars called “Sisyphi Montes.”

This graphic illustrates where Mars mineral-mapping from orbit has detected minerals that can indicate where a volcano erupted beneath an ice sheet. The site is far from any ice sheet on modern Mars, in an area where unusual shapes have been interpreted as a possible result of volcanism under ice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/ASU)

This graphic illustrates where Mars mineral-mapping from orbit has detected minerals that can indicate where a volcano erupted beneath an ice sheet. The site is far from any ice sheet on modern Mars, in an area where unusual shapes have been interpreted as a possible result of volcanism under ice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/ASU)

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NASA reports three planets similar to Venus and Earth found orbiting Dwarf Star

 

NASA’s Johnson Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHouston, TX – Astronomers using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory have discovered three planets with sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth, orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

Michaël Gillon of the University of Liège in Belgium, leading a team of astronomers including Susan M. Lederer of NASA Johnson Space Center, have used the TRAPPIST telescope to observe the star 2MASS J23062928-0502285, now also known as TRAPPIST-1.

They found that this dim and cool star faded slightly at regular intervals, indicating that several objects were passing between the star and the Earth.

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view of the three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. In this view, one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star. (ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org))

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view of the three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. In this view, one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star. (ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org))

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NASA Researchers are developing new technologies to discover Earth-like Planets beyond our Solar System

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – We humans might not be the only ones to ponder our place in the universe. If intelligent aliens do roam the cosmos, they too might ask a question that has gripped humans for centuries: Are we alone?

These aliens might even have giant space telescopes dedicated to studying distant planets and searching for life. Should one of those telescopes capture an image of our blue marble of a planet, evidence of forests and plentiful creatures would jump out as simple chemicals: oxygen, ozone, water and methane.

The vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used for testing WFIRST and other coronagraphs. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The vacuum chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used for testing WFIRST and other coronagraphs. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA scientists research ways to discover habitable planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists are getting closer to finding worlds that resemble our own “blue marble” of a planet. NASA’s Kepler mission alone has confirmed more than 1,000 planets outside our solar system — a handful of which are a bit bigger than Earth and orbit in the habitable zones of their stars, where liquid water might exist.

Some astronomers think the discovery of Earth’s true analogs may be around the corner. What are the next steps to search for life on these potentially habitable worlds?

This illustration shows the prototype starshade, a giant structure designed to block the glare of stars so that future space telescopes can take pictures of planets.

This illustration shows the prototype starshade, a giant structure designed to block the glare of stars so that future space telescopes can take pictures of planets.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft examines Methane Sea on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Of the hundreds of moons in our solar system, Titan is the only one with a dense atmosphere and large liquid reservoirs on its surface, making it in some ways more like a terrestrial planet.

Both Earth and Titan have nitrogen-dominated atmospheres — over 95 percent nitrogen in Titan’s case. However, unlike Earth, Titan has very little oxygen; the rest of the atmosphere is mostly methane and trace amounts of other gases, including ethane. And at the frigid temperatures found at Saturn’s great distance from the sun, the methane and ethane can exist on the surface in liquid form.

Sunlight glints off of Titan's northern seas this near-infrared, color mosaic from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho)

Sunlight glints off of Titan’s northern seas this near-infrared, color mosaic from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope used to determine distance between Young Stars and their Protoplanetary Disks

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Imagine you want to measure the size of a room, but it’s completely dark. If you shout, you can tell if the space you’re in is relatively big or small, depending on how long it takes to hear the echo after it bounces off the wall.

Astronomers use this principle to study objects so distant they can’t be seen as more than points. In particular, researchers are interested in calculating how far young stars are from the inner edge of their surrounding protoplanetary disks. These disks of gas and dust are sites where planets form over the course of millions of years.

This illustration shows a star surrounded by a protoplanetary disk. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows a star surrounded by a protoplanetary disk. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA to use Spacecraft Orbiting Earth to track Air Pollution

 

Written by Steve Cole
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – For more than three decades NASA has focused its space-faring skills and science chops CSI-like on an elusive global killer. Later this month, that pursuit takes us to East Asia. In a few years, part way to the moon.

We are getting close.

Air pollution causes an estimated 152,000 deaths a year across the Americas and more than 2 million deaths in the Western Pacific, according to the United Nations. Some parts of the world have a detailed view of local air quality from ground sensor networks and forecast models that generate public alerts. But for much of the world this type of information and warning are not available.

Satellites have documented that human-produced and natural air pollution can travel a long way. This 2014 NASA satellite image shows a long river of dust from western Africa (bottom of image) push across the Atlantic Ocean. (NASA)

Satellites have documented that human-produced and natural air pollution can travel a long way. This 2014 NASA satellite image shows a long river of dust from western Africa (bottom of image) push across the Atlantic Ocean. (NASA)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft captures images of Luminous Craters on dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Craters with bright material on dwarf planet Ceres shine in new images from NASA’s Dawn mission.

In its lowest-altitude mapping orbit, at a distance of 240 miles (385 kilometers) from Ceres, Dawn has provided scientists with spectacular views of the dwarf planet.

Haulani Crater, with a diameter of 21 miles (34 kilometers), shows evidence of landslides from its crater rim. Smooth material and a central ridge stand out on its floor.

Ceres' Haulani Crater, with a diameter of 21 miles (34 kilometers), shows evidence of landslides from its crater rim. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Ceres’ Haulani Crater, with a diameter of 21 miles (34 kilometers), shows evidence of landslides from its crater rim. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory studies Comet ISON and Comet PanSTARRS

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – For millennia, people on Earth have watched comets in the sky. Many ancient cultures saw comets as the harbingers of doom, but today scientists know that comets are really frozen balls of dust, gas, and rock and may have been responsible for delivering water to planets like Earth billions of years ago.

While comets are inherently interesting, they can also provide information about other aspects of our Solar System. More specifically, comets can be used as laboratories to study the behavior of the stream of particles flowing away from the Sun, known as the solar wind.

Recently, astronomers announced the results of a study using data collected with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory of two comets — C/2012 S1 (also known as “Comet ISON”) and C/2011 S4 (“Comet PanSTARRS”).

The Comets ISON and PanSTARRS in optical images taken by an astrophotographer, with insets showing the X-ray images from Chandra. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ . of CT/B.Snios et al, Optical: DSS, Damian Peach ( damianpeach.com ))

The Comets ISON and PanSTARRS in optical images taken by an astrophotographer, with insets showing the X-ray images from Chandra. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ . of CT/B.Snios et al, Optical: DSS, Damian Peach ( damianpeach.com ))

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft examines the layers of Pluto’s atmosphere

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Scientists on NASA’s New Horizons mission team are learning more about the structure and behavior of Pluto’s complex atmosphere by discovering new attributes of its extensive haze layers. The hazes were first discovered by New Horizons in July, as the spacecraft swept past Pluto and made its historic first exploration of the mysterious world.

Mission scientists have discovered that the layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere vary in brightness depending on illumination and viewpoint, yet the haze itself maintains its overall vertical structure.

NASA scientists have discovered that the layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere vary in brightness depending on illumination and viewpoint, yet the haze itself maintains its overall vertical structure. (NASA)

NASA scientists have discovered that the layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere vary in brightness depending on illumination and viewpoint, yet the haze itself maintains its overall vertical structure. (NASA)

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