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NASA reports Rosetta spacecraft arrives at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Today, after a decade-long journey chasing its target, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe, carrying three NASA instruments, became the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

“After 10 years, five months and four days travelling towards our destination, looping around the sun five times and clocking up 6.4 billion kilometers, we are delighted to announce finally we are here,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, ESA’s director General.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 3, 2014, from a distance of 177 miles (285 kilometers). (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 3, 2014, from a distance of 177 miles (285 kilometers). (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover finishes second year on the Red Planet

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s most advanced roving laboratory on Mars celebrates its second anniversary since landing inside the Red Planet’s Gale Crater on August 5th, 2012, PDT (August 6th, 2012, EDT).

During its first year of operations, the Curiosity rover fulfilled its major science goal of determining whether Mars ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

Clay-bearing sedimentary rocks on the crater floor in an area called Yellowknife Bay yielded evidence of a lake bed environment billions of years ago that offered fresh water, all of the key elemental ingredients for life, and a chemical source of energy for microbes, if any existed there.

This image from the Navigation Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows wheel tracks printed by the rover as it drove on the sandy floor of a lowland called "Hidden Valley" on the route toward Mount Sharp. The image was taken on Aug. 4, 2014.

This image from the Navigation Camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows wheel tracks printed by the rover as it drove on the sandy floor of a lowland called “Hidden Valley” on the route toward Mount Sharp. The image was taken on Aug. 4, 2014.

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NASA observes Three Large Volcanic Eruptions on Jupiter’s Moon Io

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Three massive volcanic eruptions occurred on Jupiter’s moon Io within a two-week period in August of last year. This led astronomers to speculate that such “outbursts,” which can send material hundreds of miles above the surface, might be much more common than they thought.

“We typically expect one huge outburst every one or two years, and they’re usually not this bright,” said Imke de Pater, professor and chair of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of one of two papers describing the eruptions. “Here we had three extremely bright outbursts, which suggest that if we looked more frequently we might see many more of them on Io.”

Jupiter's moon Io saw three massive volcanic eruptions within a two-week period last August. (Katherine de Kleer/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory)

Jupiter’s moon Io saw three massive volcanic eruptions within a two-week period last August. (Katherine de Kleer/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has found 101 distinct Geysers on Saturn’s Icy Moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists using mission data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have identified 101 distinct geysers erupting on Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus. Their analysis suggests it is possible for liquid water to reach from the moon’s underground sea all the way to its surface.

These findings, and clues to what powers the geyser eruptions, are presented in two articles published in the current online edition of the Astronomical Journal.

This view looks across the geyser basin of Saturn's moon Enceladus, along fractures spewing water vapor and ice particles into space. Cassini scientists have pinpointed the source locations of about 100 geysers and gained new insights into what powers them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

This view looks across the geyser basin of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, along fractures spewing water vapor and ice particles into space. Cassini scientists have pinpointed the source locations of about 100 geysers and gained new insights into what powers them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

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NASA says this years Perseid Meteor Shower will occur during a Supermoon

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Every year, sky watchers and summertime campers circle on their calendars a few key August nights—the 11th, 12th and 13th. These are the dates of the annual Perseid meteor shower, which rarely fails to please those who see it.

This year they’re adding a note: “supermoon.”

During the second week of August, the biggest and brightest full Moon of the year will face off against everyone’s favorite meteor shower—and the outcome could be beautiful.

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NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover sets Off World Driving Distance Record

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover, which landed on the Red Planet in 2004, now holds the off-Earth roving distance record after accruing 25 miles (40 kilometers) of driving, and is not far from completing the first extraterrestrial marathon. The previous record was held by the Soviet Union’s Lunokhod 2 rover.

“Opportunity has driven farther than any other wheeled vehicle on another world,” said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This is so remarkable considering Opportunity was intended to drive about one kilometer and was never designed for distance.”

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, working on Mars since January 2004, passed 25 miles of total driving on July 27, 2014. The gold line on this map shows Opportunity's route from the landing site inside Eagle Crater (upper left) to its location after the July 27 (Sol 3735) drive. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS)

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, working on Mars since January 2004, passed 25 miles of total driving on July 27, 2014. The gold line on this map shows Opportunity’s route from the landing site inside Eagle Crater (upper left) to its location after the July 27 (Sol 3735) drive. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Odyssey Orbiter, MAVEN spacecraft ready for Comet C/2013 A1 flyby

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on October 19th.

The comet’s nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers), shedding material hurtling at about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per second, relative to Mars and Mars-orbiting spacecraft. At that velocity, even the smallest particle — estimated to be about one-fiftieth of an inch (half a millimeter) across — could cause significant damage to a spacecraft.

This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers). The comet's trail of dust particles shed by the nucleus might be wide enough to reach Mars or might also miss it.

This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers). The comet’s trail of dust particles shed by the nucleus might be wide enough to reach Mars or might also miss it.

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory discovers a mystery in Perseus Cluster

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The Universe is a big place, full of unknowns. Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have just catalogued a new one.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” says Esra Bulbul of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. “What we found, at first glance, could not be explained by known physics.”

Together with a team of more than a half-dozen colleagues, Bulbul has been using Chandra to explore the Perseus Cluster, a swarm of galaxies approximately 250 million light years from Earth.

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NASA looks back at the July 2012 Solar Superstorm that just missed Earth

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – If an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century appeared out of deep space and buzzed the Earth-Moon system, the near-miss would be instant worldwide headline news.

Two years ago, Earth experienced a close shave just as perilous, but most newspapers didn’t mention it. The “impactor” was an extreme solar storm, the most powerful in as much as 150+ years.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” says Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado.

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NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope sees Pulsar Transformation

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – In late June 2013, an exceptional binary containing a rapidly spinning neutron star underwent a dramatic change in behavior never before observed.

The pulsar’s radio beacon vanished, while at the same time the system brightened fivefold in gamma rays, the most powerful form of light, according to measurements by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

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