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Topic: European Space Agency

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft data helps Scientists solve mystery behind Saturn’s Storms

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The long-standing mystery of why Saturn seethes with enormous storms every 30 years may have been solved by scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission. The tempests, which can grow into bright bands that encircle the entire planet, are on a natural timer that is reset by each subsequent storm, the researchers report.

In 140 years of telescope observations, great storms have erupted on Saturn six times. Cassini and observers on Earth tracked the most recent of these storms from December 2010 to August 2011. During that time, the storm exploded through the clouds, eventually winding its way around Saturn.

This series of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the development of a huge storm of the type that erupts about every 30 years on Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

This series of images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the development of a huge storm of the type that erupts about every 30 years on Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

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NASA reports Researchers looking into United States Methane “Hot Spot”

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers from several institutions are in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest with a suite of airborne and ground-based instruments, aiming to uncover reasons for a mysterious methane “hot spot” detected from space.

“With all the ground-based and airborne resources that the different groups are bringing to the region, we have the unique chance to unequivocally solve the Four Corners mystery,” said Christian Frankenberg, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who is heading NASA’s part of the effort.

Shiprock, New Mexico, is in the Four Corners region where an atmospheric methane "hot spot" can be seen from space. Researchers are currently in the area, trying to uncover the reasons for the hot spot. (Wikimedia Commons)

Shiprock, New Mexico, is in the Four Corners region where an atmospheric methane “hot spot” can be seen from space. Researchers are currently in the area, trying to uncover the reasons for the hot spot. (Wikimedia Commons)

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NASA reports Planck and Herschel Space Telescopes used to find Galaxy Clusters

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One telescope finds the treasure chest, and the other narrows in on the gold coins. Data from two European Space Telescope missions, Planck and Herschel, have together identified some of the oldest and rarest clusters of galaxies in the distant cosmos.

Planck’s all-sky images revealed the clumps of bright galaxies, while Herschel data allowed researchers to inspect the galactic gems more closely and confirm the discovery.

This map of the entire sky was captured by the European Space Agency's Planck mission. The band running through the middle corresponds to dust in our Milky Way galaxy. The black dots indicate the location of galaxy cluster candidates identified by Planck and subsequently observed by the European Space Agency's Herschel mission. (ESA and the Planck Collaboration/ H. Dole, D. Guéry & G. Hurier, IAS/University Paris-Sud/CNRS/CNES)

This map of the entire sky was captured by the European Space Agency’s Planck mission. The band running through the middle corresponds to dust in our Milky Way galaxy. The black dots indicate the location of galaxy cluster candidates identified by Planck and subsequently observed by the European Space Agency’s Herschel mission. (ESA and the Planck Collaboration/ H. Dole, D. Guéry & G. Hurier, IAS/University Paris-Sud/CNRS/CNES)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s new orbit to bring it closer to Saturn’s moons

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A dual view of Saturn’s icy moon Rhea marks the return of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to the realm of the planet’s icy satellites. This follows nearly two years during which the spacecraft’s orbits carried it high above the planet’s poles. Those paths limited the mission’s ability to encounter the moons, apart from regular flybys of Titan.

Cassini’s orbit will remain nearly equatorial for the remainder of 2015, during which the spacecraft will have four close encounters with Titan, two with Dione and three with the geyser-moon, Enceladus.

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn’s moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn’s equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveals Ocean on Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have Hydrothermal Activity

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first clear evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus exhibits signs of present-day hydrothermal activity which may resemble that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. The implications of such activity on a world other than our planet open up unprecedented scientific possibilities.

“These findings add to the possibility that Enceladus, which contains a subsurface ocean and displays remarkable geologic activity, could contain environments suitable for living organisms,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life might exist may bring us closer to answering the question: are we alone in the universe.”

This cutaway view of Saturn's moon Enceladus is an artist's rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon's subsurface ocean, based on recently published results from NASA's Cassini mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This cutaway view of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is an artist’s rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon’s subsurface ocean, based on recently published results from NASA’s Cassini mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Orion spacecraft test flight data used to prepare for future missions

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Orion spacecraft continues on the agency’s journey to Mars as engineers analyze data from the spacecraft’s December flight test and make progress developing and building the spacecraft for its first mission atop NASA Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket. On future missions, Orion will send astronauts to an asteroid and onward toward the Red Planet.

At machine houses across the country, elements of the primary structure for the next Orion to fly in space are coming together. Avionics components are being built and simulators for the ESA (European Space Agency)-built service module that will house the spacecraft’s propulsion and solar arrays are being delivered.

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 37 at at 7:05am EST, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Florida. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

The United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket with NASA’s Orion spacecraft mounted atop, lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 37 at at 7:05am EST, Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Florida. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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NASA reports Space Telescopes reveal fierce winds coming from Black Hole

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton telescope are showing that fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all directions — a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now.

This discovery has given astronomers their first opportunity to measure the strength of these ultra-fast winds and prove they are powerful enough to inhibit the host galaxy’s ability to make new stars.

Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies blast radiation and ultra-fast winds outward, as illustrated in this artist's conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies blast radiation and ultra-fast winds outward, as illustrated in this artist’s conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s radar pictures of Saturn’s moon Titan made clearer by new Despeckling process

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – During 10 years of discovery, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has pulled back the smoggy veil that obscures the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.

Cassini’s radar instrument has mapped almost half of the giant moon’s surface; revealed vast, desert-like expanses of sand dunes; and plumbed the depths of expansive hydrocarbon seas. What could make that scientific bounty even more amazing? Well, what if the radar images could look even better?

Thanks to a recently developed technique for handling noise in Cassini’s radar images, these views now have a whole new look.

Presented here are side-by-side comparisons of a traditional Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) view and one made using a new technique for handling electronic noise that results in clearer views of Titan's surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

Presented here are side-by-side comparisons of a traditional Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) view and one made using a new technique for handling electronic noise that results in clearer views of Titan’s surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

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NASA researchers may have discovered why Comets have a hard outer crust

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers tinkering with ice and organics in the lab may have discovered why comets are encased in a hard, outer crust.

Using an icebox-like instrument nicknamed Himalaya, the researchers show that fluffy ice on the surface of a comet would crystalize and harden as the comet heads toward the sun and warms up. As the water-ice crystals form, becoming denser and more ordered, other molecules containing carbon would be expelled to the comet’s surface. The result is a crunchy comet crust sprinkled with organic dust.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is seen here in an image captured by the Rosetta spacecraft. The mission's Philae lander hit the surface with a big bounce, demonstrating the comet's surface is hard. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is seen here in an image captured by the Rosetta spacecraft. The mission’s Philae lander hit the surface with a big bounce, demonstrating the comet’s surface is hard. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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NASA reports Planck Space Telescope helps Scientists look at the Universe’s Past

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Hot gas, dust and magnetic fields mingle in a colorful swirl in this new map of our Milky Way galaxy. The image is part of a new and improved data set from Planck, a European Space Agency mission in which NASA played a key role.

Planck spent more than four years observing relic radiation left over from the birth of our universe, called the cosmic microwave background. The space telescope is helping scientists better understand the history and fabric of our universe, as well as our own Milky Way.

A festive portrait of our Milky Way galaxy shows a mishmash of gas, charged particles and several types of dust. The composite image comes from the European Space Agency's Planck mission, in which NASA plays an important role. It is constructed from observations made at microwave and millimeter wavelengths of light, which are longer than what we see with our eyes.

A festive portrait of our Milky Way galaxy shows a mishmash of gas, charged particles and several types of dust. The composite image comes from the European Space Agency’s Planck mission, in which NASA plays an important role. It is constructed from observations made at microwave and millimeter wavelengths of light, which are longer than what we see with our eyes.

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