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NASA Survey produces Carbon Map of Congo’s Forest

 

Written by Ellen Gray
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The equivalent of 85 billion tons of carbon dioxide — a huge amount equal to three-quarters of the carbon stored in forests across the contiguous United States — is locked in the living vegetation of one African country that holds much of the second largest tropical rainforest in the world, according to new research.

The study conducted by NASA, UCLA and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Germany produced the first high-resolution map of the amount and distribution of carbon stored in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Sabinyo volcano and thick forest in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo, habitat of the endangered mountain gorilla. (Martin Harvey/WWF)

Sabinyo volcano and thick forest in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo, habitat of the endangered mountain gorilla. (Martin Harvey/WWF)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission and FIREBIRD II CubeSat discover Whistling Space Electrons’ Origins

 

Written by Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Scientists have long known that solar-energized particles trapped around the planet are sometimes scattered into Earth’s upper atmosphere where they can contribute to beautiful auroral displays.

Yet for decades, no one has known exactly what is responsible for hurling these energetic electrons on their way. Recently, two spacecraft found themselves at just the right places at the right time to witness first hand both the impulsive electron loss and its cause.

The Van Allen Belts, shown in green in this illustration, are concentric doughnut-shaped belts filled with charged particles, trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. (Tony Phillips/NASA)

The Van Allen Belts, shown in green in this illustration, are concentric doughnut-shaped belts filled with charged particles, trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. (Tony Phillips/NASA)

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NASA detects Gravitational Waves from Two merging Neutron Stars

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – For the first time, NASA scientists have detected light tied to a gravitational-wave event, thanks to two merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993, located about 130 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra.

Shortly after 5:41am PDT (8:41am EDT) on August 17th, 2017, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a pulse of high-energy light from a powerful explosion, which was immediately reported to astronomers around the globe as a short gamma-ray burst. The scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves dubbed GW170817 from a pair of smashing stars tied to the gamma-ray burst, encouraging astronomers to look for the aftermath of the explosion.

An artist's impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. (R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

An artist’s impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. (R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

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NASA Sounding Rocket finds signatures of Tiny Solar Flares

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Like most solar sounding rockets, the second flight of the FOXSI instrument – short for Focusing Optics X-ray Solar Imager – lasted 15 minutes, with just six minutes of data collection. But in that short time, the cutting-edge instrument found the best evidence to date of a phenomenon scientists have been seeking for years: signatures of tiny solar flares that could help explain the mysterious extreme heating of the Sun’s outer atmosphere. 

FOXSI detected a type of light called hard X-rays – whose wavelengths are much shorter than the light humans can see – which is a signature of extremely hot solar material, around 18 million degrees Fahrenheit.

The NASA-funded FOXSI instrument captured new evidence of small solar flares, called nanoflares, during its December 2014 flight on a suborbital sounding rocket. Nanoflares could help explain why the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, is so much hotter than the surface. Here, FOXSI’s observations of hard X-rays are shown in blue, superimposed over a soft X-ray image of the Sun from JAXA and NASA’s Hinode solar-observing satellite. (JAXA/NASA/Hinode/FOXSI)

The NASA-funded FOXSI instrument captured new evidence of small solar flares, called nanoflares, during its December 2014 flight on a suborbital sounding rocket. Nanoflares could help explain why the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, is so much hotter than the surface. Here, FOXSI’s observations of hard X-rays are shown in blue, superimposed over a soft X-ray image of the Sun from JAXA and NASA’s Hinode solar-observing satellite. (JAXA/NASA/Hinode/FOXSI)

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NASA and NOAA Satellites observe Hurricane Nate make Landfall

 

Written by Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s Aqua satellite and NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite analyzed the temperatures in Hurricane Nate’s cloud tops and determined that the most powerful thunderstorms and heaviest rain areas were around the center of the tropical cyclone after it made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River.

At 8:00pm EDT/7:00pm CDT on October 7th, 2017 Hurricane Nate’s eye was at the mouth of the Mississippi River. National Weather Service radar data and surface observations indicated that Hurricane Nate made landfall near Biloxi, Mississippi, around 12:30am CDT/1:30am EDT on October 8th, with maximum winds of 85 mph (140 kph).

On October 8th at 4:20am EDT (0820 UTC) the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite analyzed Nate's cloud top temperatures in infrared light and found strongest storms (yellow) around the center of circulation. (NASA/NRL)

On October 8th at 4:20am EDT (0820 UTC) the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite analyzed Nate’s cloud top temperatures in infrared light and found strongest storms (yellow) around the center of circulation. (NASA/NRL)

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NASA to launch James Webb Space Telescope in Spring 2019

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope now is planning to launch between March and June 2019 from French Guiana, following a schedule assessment of the remaining integration and test activities. Previously Webb was targeted to launch in October 2018.

“The change in launch timing is not indicative of hardware or technical performance concerns,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at Headquarters in Washington. “Rather, the integration of the various spacecraft elements is taking longer than expected.”

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope

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NASA’s MESSENGER Spacecraft data shows how Micrometeoroids effect Mercury’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Kathryn DuFresne
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft — short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging, a mission that observed Mercury from 2011 to 2015 — has shed new light on how certain types of comets influence the lopsided bombardment of Mercury’s surface by tiny dust particles called micrometeoroids. This study also gave new insight into how these micrometeoroid showers can shape Mercury’s very thin atmosphere, called an exosphere. 

Scientists used models along with earlier findings from the MESSENGER mission to shed light on how certain types of comets influence the micrometeoroids that preferentially impact Mercury on the dawn side of the planet. Here, data from the Mercury Atmosphere and Surface Composition Spectrometer, or MASCS, instrument is overlain on the mosaic from the Mercury Dual Imaging System, or MDIS. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

Scientists used models along with earlier findings from the MESSENGER mission to shed light on how certain types of comets influence the micrometeoroids that preferentially impact Mercury on the dawn side of the planet. Here, data from the Mercury Atmosphere and Surface Composition Spectrometer, or MASCS, instrument is overlain on the mosaic from the Mercury Dual Imaging System, or MDIS. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

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NASA’S OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft uses Earth’s Gravity to Slingshot toward Asteroid Bennu

 

Written by Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s asteroid sample return spacecraft successfully used Earth’s gravity on Friday to slingshot itself on a path toward the asteroid Bennu, for a rendezvous next August.

At 12:52pm EDT on September 22nd, 2017 the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer) spacecraft came within 10,711 miles (17,237 km) of Antarctica, just south of Cape Horn, Chile, before following a route north over the Pacific Ocean.

This artist's concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope spots Unusual Object in Asteroid Belt

 

Written by Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope helped an international team of astronomers find that an unusual object in the asteroid belt is, in fact, two asteroids orbiting each other that have comet-like features. These include a bright halo of material, called a coma, and a long tail of dust.

Hubble was used to image the asteroid, designated 300163 (2006 VW139), in September 2016 just before the asteroid made its closest approach to the Sun. Hubble’s crisp images revealed that it was actually not one, but two asteroids of almost the same mass and size, orbiting each other at a distance of 60 miles.

Hubble Space Telescope photo reveals two asteroids orbiting each other that have comet-like features. The asteroid pair, called 2006 VW139/288P, was observed in September 2016, just before the asteroid made its closest approach to the Sun. The photos revealed ongoing activity in the binary system. (NASA, ESA, and J. DePasquale and Z. Levay (STScI))

Hubble Space Telescope photo reveals two asteroids orbiting each other that have comet-like features. The asteroid pair, called 2006 VW139/288P, was observed in September 2016, just before the asteroid made its closest approach to the Sun. The photos revealed ongoing activity in the binary system. (NASA, ESA, and J. DePasquale and Z. Levay (STScI))

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NASA observes Hurricane Maria before it makes Landfall

 

Written by Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Satellite data is enabling forecasters to look inside and outside of powerful Hurricane Maria. A NASA animation of satellite imagery shows Hurricane Maria’s first landfall on the island of Dominica.

NASA’s GPM satellite provided a 3-D look at the storms within that gave forecasters a clue to Maria strengthening into a Category 5 storm, and NASA’s Aqua satellite gathered temperature data on the frigid cloud tops of the storm.

This image of Category 5 Hurricane Maria moving through the eastern Caribbean Sea was taken on Sept. 19 at 11 a.m. EDT from NOAA's GOES East satellite. (NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

This image of Category 5 Hurricane Maria moving through the eastern Caribbean Sea was taken on Sept. 19 at 11 a.m. EDT from NOAA’s GOES East satellite. (NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

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