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NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) discovers Neon in Moon’s Atmosphere

 

Written by William Steigerwald
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The moon’s thin atmosphere contains neon, a gas commonly used in electric signs on Earth because of its intense glow. While scientists have speculated on the presence of neon in the lunar atmosphere for decades, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft has confirmed its existence for the first time.

“The presence of neon in the exosphere of the moon has been a subject of speculation since the Apollo missions, but no credible detections were made,” said Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “We were very pleased to not only finally confirm its presence, but to show that it is relatively abundant.”

Artist’s concept of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft in orbit above the moon. (NASA Ames / Dana Berry)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft in orbit above the moon. (NASA Ames / Dana Berry)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make final pass of Saturn’s moon Dione

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will zip past Saturn’s moon Dione on Monday, August 17th — the final close flyby of this icy satellite during the spacecraft’s long mission.

Cassini’s closest approach, within 295 miles (474 kilometers) of Dione’s surface, will occur at 11:33am PDT (2:33pm EDT). Mission controllers expect fresh images to begin arriving on Earth within a couple of days following the encounter.

Cassini scientists have a bevy of investigations planned for Dione. Gravity-science data from the flyby will improve scientists’ knowledge of the moon’s internal structure and allow comparisons to Saturn’s other moons.

A view of Saturn's moon Dione captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby on June 16, 2015. The diagonal line near upper left is the rings of Saturn, in the distance. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

A view of Saturn’s moon Dione captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby on June 16, 2015. The diagonal line near upper left is the rings of Saturn, in the distance. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA uses Cubesats to advance Radio Science

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Next time you tune in to public radio or the hottest Top 40 radio station, you’ll be using some of the same tools NASA uses to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

Courtney Duncan, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says studying radio waves coming from a known source in space can reveal a great deal about objects in our solar system.

Of course, there is nothing new in that. NASA scientists have been turning the transmissions of their spacecraft’s radio into scientific gold since almost the beginning of the space age. And ground-based astronomers have not been left outside of the radio spectrum looking in.

The Low Mass Radio Science Transponder-Satellite (LMRST-Sat) is about 4 by 4 by 12 inches (10 by 10 by 30 centimeters) in size and weighs as much as a kid's bowling ball (8 pounds or, 4 kilograms). The CubeSat is a collaboration between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Stanford University's Space and Systems Development Laboratory, Stanford, California. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Low Mass Radio Science Transponder-Satellite (LMRST-Sat) is about 4 by 4 by 12 inches (10 by 10 by 30 centimeters) in size and weighs as much as a kid’s bowling ball (8 pounds or, 4 kilograms). The CubeSat is a collaboration between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Stanford University’s Space and Systems Development Laboratory, Stanford, California. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Rosetta spacecraft witnessed outburst from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has been witnessing growing activity from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as the comet approaches perihelion (its closest point to the sun during its orbit). On July 29th, while the spacecraft orbited at a distance of 116 miles (186 kilometers) from the comet, it observed the most dramatic outburst to date.

Early science results collected during the outburst came from several instruments aboard Rosetta, including the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer (DFMS), which uses NASA-built electronics. The DFMS is part of the spacecraft’s Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument.

A short-lived outburst from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was captured by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2015. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

A short-lived outburst from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2015. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter still working hard after 10 years of service

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ten years after launch, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has revealed the Red Planet’s diversity and activity, returning more data about Mars every week than all six other missions currently active there. And its work is far from over.

The workhorse orbiter now plays a key role in NASA’s Journey to Mars planning. Images from the orbiter, revealing details as small as a desk, aid the analysis of potential landing sites for the 2016 InSight lander and Mars 2020 rover. Data from the orbiter will also be used as part of NASA’s newly announced process to examine and select candidate sites where humans will first explore the Martian surface in the 2030s.

Among the many discoveries by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since the mission was launched on Aug. 12, 2005, are seasonal flows on some steep slopes, possibly shallow seeps of salty water. This July 21, 2015, image from the orbiter's HiRISE camera shows examples within Mars' Valles Marineris. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Among the many discoveries by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since the mission was launched on Aug. 12, 2005, are seasonal flows on some steep slopes, possibly shallow seeps of salty water. This July 21, 2015, image from the orbiter’s HiRISE camera shows examples within Mars’ Valles Marineris. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA experiments with growing Crops in Space has provided benefits on Earth

 

NASA Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationKennedy Space Center, FL – The six astronauts currently living on the International Space Station (ISS) have become the first people to eat food grown in space. The fresh red romaine lettuce that accompanied the crew’s usual freeze-dried fare, however, is far from the first crop grown on a space station.

For decades, NASA and other agencies have experimented with plants in space, but the results were always sent to Earth for examination, rather than eaten.

A number of technologies NASA has explored for these space-farming experiments also have returned to Earth over the years and found their way onto the market.

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NASA says researchers have used Seafloor chimneys to turn on a Light Bulb

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One of the key necessities for life on our planet is electricity. That’s not to say that life requires a plug and socket, but everything from shrubs to ants to people harnesses energy via the transfer of electrons — the basis of electricity.

Some experts think that the very first cell-like organisms on Earth channeled electricity from the seafloor using bubbling, chimney-shaped structures, also known as chemical gardens.

Researchers created "chemical gardens" -- chimney-like structures normally found at bubbling vents on the seafloor -- in the laboratory. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Researchers created “chemical gardens” — chimney-like structures normally found at bubbling vents on the seafloor — in the laboratory. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA astronauts to eat Fresh Food grown on International Space Station

 

Written by Linda Herridge
NASA Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationKennedy Space Center, FL – Fresh food grown in the microgravity environment of space officially is on the menu for the first time for NASA astronauts on the International Space Station. Expedition 44 crew members, including NASA’s one-year astronaut Scott Kelly, are ready to sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce Monday, August 10th, from the Veggie plant growth system on the nation’s orbiting laboratory.

The astronauts will clean the leafy greens with citric acid-based, food safe sanitizing wipes before consuming them. They will eat half of the space bounty, setting aside the other half to be packaged and frozen on the station until it can be returned to Earth for scientific analysis.

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NASA looks at the Mystery of Jupiter’s Red Spot

 

Written by Roberto Molar Candanosa
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The largest and most powerful hurricanes ever recorded on Earth spanned over 1,000 miles across with winds gusting up to around 200 mph. That’s wide enough to stretch across nearly all U.S. states east of Texas. But even that kind of storm is dwarfed by the Great Red Spot, a gigantic storm in Jupiter. There, gigantic means twice as wide as Earth.

With tumultuous winds peaking at about 400 mph, the Great Red Spot has been swirling wildly over Jupiter’s skies for the past 150 years—maybe even much longer than that.

Trapped between two jet streams, the Great Red Spot is an anticyclone swirling around a center of high atmospheric pressure that makes it rotate in the opposite sense of hurricanes on Earth. (NASA)

Trapped between two jet streams, the Great Red Spot is an anticyclone swirling around a center of high atmospheric pressure that makes it rotate in the opposite sense of hurricanes on Earth. (NASA)

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NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) telescope studies Odd group of Asteroids

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – High above the plane of our solar system, near the asteroid-rich abyss between Mars and Jupiter, scientists have found a unique family of space rocks.

These interplanetary oddballs are the Euphrosyne (pronounced you-FROH-seh-nee) asteroids, and by any measure they have been distant, dark and mysterious — until now.

Distributed at the outer edge of the asteroid belt, the Euphrosynes have an unusual orbital path that juts well above the ecliptic, the equator of the solar system. The asteroid after which they are named, Euphrosyne — for an ancient Greek goddess of mirth — is about 156 miles (260 kilometers) across and is one of the 10 largest asteroids in the main belt.

The asteroid Euphrosyne glides across a field of background stars in this time-lapse view from NASA's WISE spacecraft. (NASA)

The asteroid Euphrosyne glides across a field of background stars in this time-lapse view from NASA’s WISE spacecraft. (NASA)

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