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NASA Spacecraft analyzes effects of Comet Flyby on Mar’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Two NASA and one European spacecraft that obtained the first up-close observations of a comet flyby of Mars on October 19th, have gathered new information about the basic properties of the comet’s nucleus and directly detected the effects on the Martian atmosphere.

Data from observations carried out by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and a radar instrument on the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Mars Express spacecraft have revealed that debris from the comet added a temporary and very strong layer of ions to the ionosphere, the electrically charged layer high above Mars.

This artist's concept depicts the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) on NASA's MAVEN spacecraft scanning the upper atmosphere of Mars. IUVS uses limb scans to map the chemical makeup and vertical structure across Mars' upper atmosphere. (NASA/Univ. of Colorado)

This artist’s concept depicts the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) on NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft scanning the upper atmosphere of Mars. IUVS uses limb scans to map the chemical makeup and vertical structure across Mars’ upper atmosphere. (NASA/Univ. of Colorado)

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NASA reports Rosetta spacecraft speeding to Comet

 

Written by DC Agle and Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After sailing through space for more than 10 years, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is now less than a week shy of landing a robotic probe on a comet.

The mission’s Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, November 12th at 7:35amPST/10:35am EST. A signal confirming the landing is expected about 8:02am PST/11:02am EST.

If all goes as planned with this complex engineering feat, it will be the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

This is a rare glance at the dark side of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Light backscattered from dust particles in the comet's coma reveals a hint of surface structures. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

This is a rare glance at the dark side of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Light backscattered from dust particles in the comet’s coma reveals a hint of surface structures. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA Sounding Rocket discovers more light than expected in Space between Galaxies

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A NASA sounding rocket experiment has detected a surprising surplus of infrared light in the dark space between galaxies, a diffuse cosmic glow as bright as all known galaxies combined. The glow is thought to be from orphaned stars flung out of galaxies.

The findings redefine what scientists think of as galaxies. Galaxies may not have a set boundary of stars, but instead stretch out to great distances, forming a vast, interconnected sea of stars.

This artist's concept shows a view of a number of galaxies sitting in huge halos of stars. The stars are too distant to be seen individually and instead are seen as a diffuse glow, colored yellow in this illustration. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows a view of a number of galaxies sitting in huge halos of stars. The stars are too distant to be seen individually and instead are seen as a diffuse glow, colored yellow in this illustration. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA keeps an eye on Largest Sunspot in 24 years

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – An active region on the sun – an area of intense and complex magnetic fields – rotated into view on October 18th, 2014. Labeled AR 12192, it soon grew into the largest such region in 24 years, and fired off 10 sizable solar flares as it traversed across the face of the sun.

The region was so large it could be seen without a telescope for those looking at the sun with eclipse glasses, as many did during a partial eclipse of the sun on October 23rd.

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NASA looks at future exploration of our Solar System

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The new Paramount film “Interstellar” imagines a future where astronauts must find a new planet suitable for human life after climate change destroys the Earth’s ability to sustain us.

Multiple NASA missions are helping avoid this dystopian future by providing critical data necessary to protect Earth. Yet the cosmos beckons us to explore farther from home, expanding human presence deeper into the solar system and beyond.

This enormous mosaic of the Milky Way galaxy from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows dozens of dense clouds, called nebulae. Many nebulae seen here are places where new stars are forming, creating bubble like structures that can be dozens to hundreds of light-years in size. (NASA)

This enormous mosaic of the Milky Way galaxy from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows dozens of dense clouds, called nebulae. Many nebulae seen here are places where new stars are forming, creating bubble like structures that can be dozens to hundreds of light-years in size. (NASA)

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NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory sees Giant Sunspot erupting more Solar Flares from the Sun

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, an M6.6-class, peaking at 11:32pm EDT on October 28th, 2014 – the latest in a series of substantial flares from a giant active region on the sun that first erupted with a significant solar flare on October 19th.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which constantly observes the sun, captured images of the event.

To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov , the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

A large active region erupts with a mid-level flare, an M6.6-class, in this image from NASA's SDO on the night of Oct. 27, 2014. The region will soon rotate over the right horizon of the sun and will no longer be facing Earth. (NASA/SDO)

A large active region erupts with a mid-level flare, an M6.6-class, in this image from NASA’s SDO on the night of Oct. 27, 2014. The region will soon rotate over the right horizon of the sun and will no longer be facing Earth. (NASA/SDO)

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NASA developing ECOSTRESS instrument to analyze plant reactions to heat and water stress

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new space-based instrument to study how effectively plants use water is being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. The instrument, called the ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS), will monitor one of the most basic processes in living plants: the loss of water through the tiny pores in leaves.

When people lose water through their pores, the process is called sweating. The related process in plants is known as transpiration. Because water that evaporates from soil around plants also affects the amount of water that plants can use, ECOSTRESS will measure combined evaporation and transpiration, known as evapotranspiration.

NASA's ECOSTRESS will monitor how plants react to heat and water stress. (Wikimedia Commons)

NASA’s ECOSTRESS will monitor how plants react to heat and water stress. (Wikimedia Commons)

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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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