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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers Methane Ice Cloud in Stratosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA scientists have identified an unexpected high-altitude methane ice cloud on Saturn’s moon Titan that is similar to exotic clouds found far above Earth’s poles.

This lofty cloud, imaged by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, was part of the winter cap of condensation over Titan’s north pole. Now, eight years after spotting this mysterious bit of atmospheric fluff, researchers have determined that it contains methane ice, which produces a much denser cloud than the ethane ice previously identified there.

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth's polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth’s polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

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NASA’s Cassini mission images suggests Saturn’s moon Mimas has a frozen core or a liquid ocean

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new study focused on the interior of Saturn’s icy moon Mimas suggests its cratered surface hides one of two intriguing possibilities: Either the moon’s frozen core is shaped something like a football, or the satellite contains a liquid water ocean.

Researchers used numerous images of Mimas taken by NASA’s Cassini mission to determine how much the moon wobbles as it orbits Saturn. They then evaluated several possible models for how its interior might be arranged, finding two possibilities that fit their data.The study is published in the October 17th issue of the journal Science.

This mosaic of Saturn's moon Mimas was created from images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its closest flyby of the moon on Feb. 13, 2010. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This mosaic of Saturn’s moon Mimas was created from images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its closest flyby of the moon on Feb. 13, 2010. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter observes Comet Siding Spring as it passes Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars from possible comet dust.

NASA’s Mars Odyssey was out of communications with Earth, as planned, while conducting observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Sunday, October 19th, as the comet flew near Mars.

Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA announces 2014 Orionid Meteor Shower to begin Tuesday morning, October 21st

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Waking up before sunrise is a good way to get a head start on the day. On October 21st, waking up before sunrise could stop you in your tracks.

Blame Halley’s Comet. Every year in mid-to-late October, Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from Comet Halley, and the pre-dawn sky can light up with a pretty display of shooting stars.

“We expect to see about 20 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Tuesday morning, October 21st,” says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “With no Moon to spoil the show, observing conditions should be ideal.”

Orionid meteors fly out of a radiant near the shoulder of Orion, the Hunter.  In this sky map, the radiant is denoted by a red dot. Although the meteors emerge from a single point, they can appear anywhere in the sky. (Dr. Tony Phillips)

Orionid meteors fly out of a radiant near the shoulder of Orion, the Hunter. In this sky map, the radiant is denoted by a red dot. Although the meteors emerge from a single point, they can appear anywhere in the sky. (Dr. Tony Phillips)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft was bathed in beam of electrons during flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Static electricity is known to play an important role on Earth’s airless, dusty moon, but evidence of static charge building up on other objects in the solar system has been elusive until now.

A new analysis of data from NASA’s Cassini mission has revealed that, during a 2005 flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion, the spacecraft was briefly bathed in a beam of electrons coming from the moon’s electrostatically charged surface.

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn's chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon's surface, a first for any body other than Earth's moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn’s chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon’s surface, a first for any body other than Earth’s moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA Earth Scientists to study Arctic Sea Ice losses effects on Clouds, Weather, Global Warming

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Climate change is a global phenomenon, yet Earth scientists are keeping a wary eye on one place in particular–the Arctic.

“Polar regions are important for us to study right now,” explains Tom Wagner of NASA’s Earth Science Division in Washington DC. “They are changing rapidly.”

One of the most visible of signs of warming is the retreat of Arctic sea ice. Every year, sea ice waxes and wanes in a normal response to the changing of seasons; the annual sea ice minimum occurs near the end of northern summer. Since the 1970s, researchers carefully watched to see if the rhythm of Arctic sea ice would respond to global warming.

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NASA reports Rosetta Spacecraft takes Selfie with Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A camera aboard the European Space Agency’s Philae lander snapped this “selfie” of one of the Rosetta spacecraft’s 52-foot-long (16-meter) solar arrays, with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko hovering in the background some 10 miles (16 kilometers) away.

The image, taken by the Comet Infrared and Visible Analyser (CIVA), was taken on October 7th. Philae, which is connected to the Rosetta orbiter at this time, will make its descent to the surface of the comet on November 12th.

A composite image from a camera on the Rosetta mission's Philae comet lander shows a solar array, with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the background. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

A composite image from a camera on the Rosetta mission’s Philae comet lander shows a solar array, with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the background. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

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NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers younger than expected Volcanic Activity on the Moon

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has provided researchers strong evidence the moon’s volcanic activity slowed gradually instead of stopping abruptly a billion years ago. Scores of distinctive rock deposits observed by LRO are estimated to be less than 100 million years old.

This time period corresponds to Earth’s Cretaceous period, the heyday of dinosaurs. Some areas may be less than 50 million years old.

“This finding is the kind of science that is literally going to make geologists rewrite the textbooks about the moon,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The feature called Maskelyne is one of many newly discovered young volcanic deposits on the Moon. Called irregular mare patches, these areas are thought to be remnants of small basaltic eruptions that occurred much later than the commonly accepted end of lunar volcanism, 1 to 1.5 billion years ago. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

The feature called Maskelyne is one of many newly discovered young volcanic deposits on the Moon. Called irregular mare patches, these areas are thought to be remnants of small basaltic eruptions that occurred much later than the commonly accepted end of lunar volcanism, 1 to 1.5 billion years ago. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

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NASA Scientists use satellite data to find Methane Hot Spot in United States

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – One small “hot spot” in the U.S. Southwest is responsible for producing the largest concentration of the greenhouse gas methane seen over the United States – more than triple the standard ground-based estimate — according to a new study of satellite data by scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan.

Methane is very efficient at trapping heat in the atmosphere and, like carbon dioxide, it contributes to global warming. The hot spot, near the Four Corners intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, covers only about 2,500 square miles (6,500 square kilometers), or half the size of Connecticut.

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan)

The Four Corners area (red) is the major U.S. hot spot for methane emissions in this map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003-2009 (dark colors are lower than average; lighter colors are higher). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan)

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NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft to investigate disappearance of Mars’ atmosphere

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After 10-month voyage across more than 400 million miles of empty space, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft reached Mars on September 21st 2014. Less than 8 hours later, the data started to flow.

“Our Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) obtained these false-color images of Mars on September 22nd,” says Nick Schneider who leads the instrument team at the University of Colorado. “They trace the distribution of hydrogen and oxygen in the Martian atmosphere.”

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