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Topic: European Space Agency

NASA studies possible missions to Uranus and Neptune

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A NASA-led and NASA-sponsored study of potential future missions to the mysterious “ice giant” planets Uranus and Neptune has been released — the first in a series of mission studies NASA will conduct in support of the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

The results of this and future studies will be used as the Decadal Survey deliberates on NASA’s planetary science priorities from 2022-2032. The study identifies the scientific questions an ice giant mission should address, and discusses various instruments, spacecraft, flight-paths and technologies that could be used.

Left: Arriving at Uranus in 1986, Voyager 2 observed a bluish orb with subtle features. A haze layer hid most of the planet's cloud features from view. Right: This image of Neptune was produced from Voyager 2 and shows the Great Dark Spot and its companion bright smudge. (Left: NASA/JPL-Caltech - Right: NASA)

Left: Arriving at Uranus in 1986, Voyager 2 observed a bluish orb with subtle features. A haze layer hid most of the planet’s cloud features from view. Right: This image of Neptune was produced from Voyager 2 and shows the Great Dark Spot and its companion bright smudge. (Left: NASA/JPL-Caltech – Right: NASA)

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NASA instruments approved for ESA JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington,D.C. – NASA’s partnership in a future European Space Agency (ESA) mission to Jupiter and its moons has cleared a key milestone, moving from preliminary instrument design to implementation phase. 

Designed to investigate the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants, the JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) is scheduled to launch in five years, arriving at Jupiter in October 2029. JUICE will spend almost four years studying Jupiter’s giant magnetosphere, turbulent atmosphere, and its icy Galilean moons—Callisto, Ganymede and Europa.  

ESA JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission set to launch in 2022. (NASA)

ESA JUpiter ICy Moons Explorer (JUICE) mission set to launch in 2022. (NASA)

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NASA study suggests Dwarf Planet Ceres’ Atmosphere linked to Sun’s Behavior

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have long thought that Ceres may have a very weak, transient atmosphere, but mysteries lingered about its origin and why it’s not always present. Now, researchers suggest that this temporary atmosphere appears to be related to the behavior of the sun, rather than Ceres’ proximity to the sun.

The study was conducted by scientists from NASA’s Dawn mission and others who previously identified water vapor at Ceres using other observatories.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres' surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres’ surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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NASA says Rosetta images show active surface on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images returned from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission indicate that during its most recent trip through the inner solar system, the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was a very active place – full of growing fractures, collapsing cliffs and massive rolling boulders.

Moving material buried some features on the comet’s surface while exhuming others. A study on 67P’s changing surface was released Tuesday, March 21st, in the journal Science.

A 100 foot-wide (30 meter), 28-million-pound (12.8-million-kilogram) boulder, was found to have moved 460 feet (140 meters) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the lead up to perihelion in August 2015, when the comet's activity was at its highest. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

A 100 foot-wide (30 meter), 28-million-pound (12.8-million-kilogram) boulder, was found to have moved 460 feet (140 meters) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the lead up to perihelion in August 2015, when the comet’s activity was at its highest. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA looks back at Huygens probe’s descent to the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After a two-and-a-half-hour descent, the metallic, saucer-shaped spacecraft came to rest with a thud on a dark floodplain covered in cobbles of water ice, in temperatures hundreds of degrees below freezing.

The alien probe worked frantically to collect and transmit images and data about its environs — in mere minutes its mothership would drop below the local horizon, cutting off its link to the home world and silencing its voice forever.

Although it may seem the stuff of science fiction, this scene played out 12 years ago on the surface of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. The “aliens” who built the probe were us. This was the triumphant landing of ESA’s Huygens probe.

Images taken by Huygens were used to create this view, which shows the probe's perspective from an altitude of about 6 miles (10 kilometers). (ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Images taken by Huygens were used to create this view, which shows the probe’s perspective from an altitude of about 6 miles (10 kilometers). (ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

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NASA’s Radio on Europe’s Trace Gas Orbiter completes first test

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Data from each of the two rovers active on Mars reached Earth last week in the successful first relay test of a NASA radio aboard Europe’s new Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO).

The transmissions from NASA rovers Opportunity and Curiosity, received by one of the twin Electra radios on the orbiter on November 22nd, mark a strengthening of the international telecommunications network supporting Mars exploration. The orbiter’s main radio for communications with Earth subsequently relayed onward to Earth the data received by Electra.

A NASA radio on Europe's Trace Gas Orbiter, which reached Mars in October 2016, has succeeded in its first test of receiving data from NASA Mars rovers, both Opportunity and Curiosity. This graphic depicts the geometry of the relay from Opportunity to the orbiter, which then sent the data to Earth.

A NASA radio on Europe’s Trace Gas Orbiter, which reached Mars in October 2016, has succeeded in its first test of receiving data from NASA Mars rovers, both Opportunity and Curiosity. This graphic depicts the geometry of the relay from Opportunity to the orbiter, which then sent the data to Earth.

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter finds area where Schiaparelli Lander crashed on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The most powerful telescope orbiting Mars is providing new details of the scene near the Martian equator where Europe’s Schiaparelli test lander hit the surface last week.

An October 25th observation using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows three impact locations within about 0.9 mile (1.5 kilometers) of each other.

The scene shown by HiRISE includes three locations where hardware reached the ground. A dark, roughly circular feature is interpreted as where the lander itself struck.

This Oct. 25, 2016, image from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the area where the Europe's Schiaparelli test lander struck Mars, with magnified insets of three sites where spacecraft components hit the ground. It adds detail not seen in earlier imaging of the site. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This Oct. 25, 2016, image from the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the area where the Europe’s Schiaparelli test lander struck Mars, with magnified insets of three sites where spacecraft components hit the ground. It adds detail not seen in earlier imaging of the site. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA reports Herschel Space Observatory data reveals Ultraviolet Light plays role in creating Life Molecules

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Life exists in a myriad of wondrous forms, but if you break any organism down to its most basic parts, it’s all the same stuff: carbon atoms connected to hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and other elements. But how these fundamental substances are created in space has been a longstanding mystery.

Now, astronomers better understand how molecules form that are necessary for building other chemicals essential for life. Thanks to data from the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, scientists have found that ultraviolet light from stars plays a key role in creating these molecules, rather than “shock” events that create turbulence, as was previously thought.

The dusty side of the Sword of Orion is illuminated in this striking infrared image from ESA's Hershel Space Observatory. Within the inset image, the emission from ionized carbon atoms (C+) is overlaid in yellow. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The dusty side of the Sword of Orion is illuminated in this striking infrared image from ESA’s Hershel Space Observatory. Within the inset image, the emission from ionized carbon atoms (C+) is overlaid in yellow. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope provides unique view of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On September 30th, the European Space Agency concluded its Rosetta mission and the study of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

During the final month of the mission, NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft had a unique opportunity to provide a “big picture” view of the comet as it was unobservable from Earth. Ground-based telescopes could not see comet 67P, because the comet’s orbit placed it in the sky during daylight hours.

From September 7th through September 20th, the Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, fixed its gaze on comet 67P. From the distant vantage point of Kepler, the spacecraft could observe the comet’s core and tail. The long-range global view of Kepler complements the close-in view of the Rosetta spacecraft, providing context for the high-resolution investigation Rosetta performed as it descended closer and closer to the comet.

This animation shows a series of 15 images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by NASA's Kepler space telescope from Sept. 17 through Sept. 18. (The Open University/C. Snodgrass and SETI Institute/E. Ryan)

This animation shows a series of 15 images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by NASA’s Kepler space telescope from Sept. 17 through Sept. 18. (The Open University/C. Snodgrass and SETI Institute/E. Ryan)

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NASA reports European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft impact into comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft shortly before its controlled impact into the comet’s surface on September 30th, 2016. Confirmation of the end of the mission arrived at ESA’s European Space Operations Center in Darmstadt, Germany, at 4:19am PDT (7:19am EDT / 1:19pm CEST) with the loss of signal upon impact.

The final descent gave Rosetta the opportunity to study the comet’s gas, dust and plasma environment very close to its surface, as well as take very high-resolution images.

The OSIRIS narrow-angle camera aboard the Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft captured this image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on September 30, 2016, from an altitude of about 10 miles (16 kilometers) above the surface during the spacecraft's controlled descent. The image scale is about 12 inches (30 centimeters) per pixel and the image itself measures about 2,000 feet (614 meters) across.

The OSIRIS narrow-angle camera aboard the Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft captured this image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on September 30, 2016, from an altitude of about 10 miles (16 kilometers) above the surface during the spacecraft’s controlled descent. The image scale is about 12 inches (30 centimeters) per pixel and the image itself measures about 2,000 feet (614 meters) across.

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