Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – A relatively large near-Earth asteroid discovered nearly three years ago will fly safely past Earth on April 19th at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.
The asteroid, known as 2014 JO25, was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona — a project of NASA’s NEO Observations Program in collaboration with the University of Arizona. (An NEO is a near-Earth object).
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Last November’s magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand was so complex and unusual, it is likely to change how scientists think about earthquake hazards in plate boundary zones around the world, finds a new international study.
The study, led by GNS Science, Avalon, New Zealand, with NASA participation, is published this week in the journal Science. The team found that the November 14th, 2016, earthquake was the most complex earthquake in modern history. The quake ruptured at least 12 major crustal faults, and there was also evidence of slip along the southern end of the Hikurangi subduction zone plate boundary, which lies about 12 miles (20 kilometers) below the North Canterbury and Marlborough coastlines.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn since 2004, is about to begin the final chapter of its remarkable story. On Wednesday, April 26th, the spacecraft will make the first in a series of dives through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) gap between Saturn and its rings as part of the mission’s grand finale.
“No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we’ll attempt to boldly cross 22 times,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “What we learn from Cassini’s daring final orbits will further our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve. This is truly discovery in action to the very end.”
How time and our spacecraft fly – especially when you’re making history at 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour.
Washington, D.C. – Continuing on its path through the outer regions of the solar system, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto – its storied first target – to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) it will fly past on January 1st, 2019.
The spacecraft reached that milestone at midnight (UTC) on April 3rd – or 7:00pm CT on April 2nd – when it was 486.19 million miles (782.45 million kilometers) beyond Pluto and the same distance from MU69.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – Want to go ice fishing on Jupiter’s moon Europa? There’s no promising you’ll catch anything, but a new set of robotic prototypes could help.
Since 2015, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been developing new technologies for use on future missions to ocean worlds. That includes a subsurface probe that could burrow through miles of ice, taking samples along the way; robotic arms that unfold to reach faraway objects; and a projectile launcher for even more distant samples.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – The most data-productive spacecraft yet at Mars swept past its 50,000th orbit this week, continuing to compile the most sharp-eyed global coverage ever accomplished by a camera at the Red Planet.
In addition, the spacecraft — NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) — recently aided preparations for NASA’s next mission to Mars, the InSight lander. Insight will launch next year on a mission to study the planet’s deep interior. Meanwhile, the orbiter continues diverse science observations of Mars and communications-relay service for two active Mars rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity.
Written by Felicia Chou
Washington, D.C. – NASA has selected a science mission that will measure emissions from the interstellar medium, which is the cosmic material found between stars. This data will help scientists determine the life cycle of interstellar gas in our Milky Way galaxy, witness the formation and destruction of star-forming clouds, and understand the dynamics and gas flow in the vicinity of the center of our galaxy.
The Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (GUSTO) mission, led by principal investigator of the University of Arizona, Christopher Walker, will fly an Ultralong-Duration Balloon (ULDB) carrying a telescope with carbon, oxygen and nitrogen emission line detectors.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – NASA has selected 10 studies under the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) program to develop mission concepts using small satellites to investigate Venus, Earth’s moon, asteroids, Mars and the outer planets.
For these studies, small satellites are defined as less than 180 kilograms in mass (about 400 pounds). CubeSats are built to standard specifications of 1 unit (U), which is equal to about 4x4x4 inches (10x10x10 centimeters). They often are launched into orbit as auxiliary payloads, significantly reducing costs.
Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – One of our planet’s few exposed lava lakes is changing, and artificial intelligence is helping NASA understand how.
On January 21st, a fissure opened at the top of Ethiopia’s Erta Ale volcano — one of the few in the world with an active lava lake in its caldera. Volcanologists sent out requests for NASA’s Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) spacecraft to image the eruption, which was large enough to begin reshaping the volcano’s summit.
As it turned out, that spacecraft was already busy collecting data of the lava lake.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Dwarf planet Ceres may be hundreds of millions of miles from Jupiter, and even farther from Saturn, but the tremendous influence of gravity from these gas giants has an appreciable effect on Ceres’ orientation.
In a new study, researchers from NASA’s Dawn mission calculate that the axial tilt of Ceres — the angle at which it spins as it journeys around the sun — varies widely over the course of about 24,500 years. Astronomers consider this to be a surprisingly short period of time for such dramatic deviations.
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