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NASA’s NuSTAR Spacecraft pinpoints source of intense X-Rays from Andromeda Galaxy

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Milky Way’s close neighbor, Andromeda, features a dominant source of high-energy X-ray emission, but its identity was mysterious until now. As reported in a new study, NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission has pinpointed an object responsible for this high-energy radiation.

The object, called Swift J0042.6+4112, is a possible pulsar, the dense remnant of a dead star that is highly magnetized and spinning, researchers say. This interpretation is based on its emission in high-energy X-rays, which NuSTAR is uniquely capable of measuring. The object’s spectrum is very similar to known pulsars in the Milky Way.

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscope Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has identified a candidate pulsar in Andromeda -- the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way. This likely pulsar is brighter at high energies than the Andromeda galaxy's entire black hole population. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/JHU)

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscope Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has identified a candidate pulsar in Andromeda — the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way. This likely pulsar is brighter at high energies than the Andromeda galaxy’s entire black hole population. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/JHU)

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NASA’s Earth Observing 1 spacecraft’s A.I system orders Volcano data collection

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

Artificial intelligence onboard NASA's Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) spacecraft assisted in imaging an eruption at Erta'Ale volcano, Ethiopia, from an altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers). The observation was scheduled autonomously via the Volcano Sensor Web, which was alerted to this new activity by data from another spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/EO-1 Mission/GSFC/Ashley Davies)

Artificial intelligence onboard NASA’s Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) spacecraft assisted in imaging an eruption at Erta’Ale volcano, Ethiopia, from an altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers). The observation was scheduled autonomously via the Volcano Sensor Web, which was alerted to this new activity by data from another spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/EO-1 Mission/GSFC/Ashley Davies)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observations reveal age of Volcano on Mars

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – New NASA research reveals that the giant Martian volcano Arsia Mons produced one new lava flow at its summit every 1 to 3 million years during the final peak of activity.

The last volcanic activity there ceased about 50 million years ago — around the time of Earth’s Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, when large numbers of our planet’s plant and animal species (including dinosaurs) went extinct.

New research using observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicates that Arsia Mons, one of the largest volcanos on Mars, actively produced lava flows until about 50 million years ago. This wide view of the volcano is from the Viking 1 Orbiter. (NASA/JPL/USGS)

New research using observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter indicates that Arsia Mons, one of the largest volcanos on Mars, actively produced lava flows until about 50 million years ago. This wide view of the volcano is from the Viking 1 Orbiter. (NASA/JPL/USGS)

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NASA prepares Satellites for alignment of Planets and Stars

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The movements of the stars and the planets have almost no impact on life on Earth, but a few times per year, the alignment of celestial bodies has a visible effect.

One of these geometric events — the spring equinox — is just around the corner, and another major alignment — a total solar eclipse — will be visible across America on August 21st, with a fleet of NASA satellites viewing it from space and providing images of the event.

To understand the basics of celestial alignments, here is information on equinoxes, solstices, full moons, eclipses and transits:

During a transit, a planet passes in between us and the star it orbits. This method is commonly used to find new exoplanets in our galaxy. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein)

During a transit, a planet passes in between us and the star it orbits. This method is commonly used to find new exoplanets in our galaxy. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein)

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NASA’s Aqua Satellite discovers Ammonia Hotspots around the World

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The first global, long-term satellite study of airborne ammonia gas has revealed “hotspots” of the pollutant over four of the world’s most productive agricultural regions.

The results of the study, conducted using data from NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite, could inform the development of strategies to control pollution from ammonia and ammonia byproducts in Earth’s agricultural areas.

A University of Maryland-led team discovered steadily increasing ammonia concentrations from 2002 to 2016 over agricultural centers in the United States, Europe, China and India. Increased concentrations of atmospheric ammonia are linked to poor air and water quality.

Global atmospheric ammonia trends measured from space from 2002 to 2016. Hot colors represent increases from a combination of increased fertilizer application, reduced scavenging by acid aerosols and climate warming. Cool colors show decreases due to reduced agricultural burning or fewer wildfires. (Juying Warner/GRL)

Global atmospheric ammonia trends measured from space from 2002 to 2016. Hot colors represent increases from a combination of increased fertilizer application, reduced scavenging by acid aerosols and climate warming. Cool colors show decreases due to reduced agricultural burning or fewer wildfires. (Juying Warner/GRL)

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to examine Seven Earth Sized Planets

 

Written by Laura Betz
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – With the discovery of seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star 40 light years away, astronomers are looking to the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to help us find out if any of these planets could possibly support life.

“If these planets have atmospheres, the James Webb Space Telescope will be the key to unlocking their secrets,” said Doug Hudgins, Exoplanet Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “In the meantime, NASA’s missions like Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler are following up on these planets.”

Rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. (Northrop Grumman)

Rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope. (Northrop Grumman)

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NASA launches Three Sounding Rockets to study Alaska Auroras

 

Written by Keith Koehler
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWallops Island, VA – Three NASA rockets carrying instruments into active auroras over Alaska to aid scientists studying the northern lights and the interactions of the solar wind with Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere were launched within a nearly two-hour period March 2nd, 2017.

The instruments were successfully carried on Black IX sounding rockets from the Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks. The first two rockets were launched nearly simultaneously at 12:41am and 12:42:30am EST as part of the Neutral Jets in Auroral Arcs mission. 

Two NASA sounding rockets are launched 90-seconds apart into an active aurora from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. (NASA/Terry Zaperach)

Two NASA sounding rockets are launched 90-seconds apart into an active aurora from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. (NASA/Terry Zaperach)

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NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft makes adjustment to avoid Mars Moon Phobos

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft performed a previously unscheduled maneuver this week to avoid a collision in the near future with Mars’ moon Phobos.

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft has been orbiting Mars for just over two years, studying the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. On Tuesday, February 28th, the spacecraft carried out a rocket motor burn that boosted its velocity by 0.4 meters per second (less than 1 mile per hour).

This artist's sketch shows NASA's MAVEN spacecraft above Mars. (NASA)

This artist’s sketch shows NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft above Mars. (NASA)

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NASA takes a look back at Supernova 1987a

 

Written by Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Three decades ago, astronomers spotted one of the brightest exploding stars in more than 400 years. The titanic supernova, called Supernova 1987A (SN 1987A), blazed with the power of 100 million suns for several months following its discovery on February 23rd, 1987.

Since that first sighting, SN 1987A has continued to fascinate astronomers with its spectacular light show. Located in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, it is the nearest supernova explosion observed in hundreds of years and the best opportunity yet for astronomers to study the phases before, during, and after the death of a star.

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows Supernova 1987A within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way. (NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation), and M. Mutchler and R. Avila (STScI))

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows Supernova 1987A within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way. (NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation), and M. Mutchler and R. Avila (STScI))

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NASA finds Red Dwarf Star with several Earth Size Planets in Orbit

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A bumper crop of Earth-size planets huddled around an ultra-cool, red dwarf star could be little more than chunks of rock blasted by radiation, or cloud-covered worlds as broiling hot as Venus.

Or they could harbor exotic lifeforms, thriving under skies of ruddy twilight.

Scientists are pondering the possibilities after this week’s announcement: the discovery of seven worlds orbiting a small, cool star some 40 light-years away, all of them in the ballpark of our home planet in terms of their heft (mass) and size (diameter). Three of the planets reside in the “habitable zone” around their star, TRAPPIST-1, where calculations suggest that conditions might be right for liquid water to exist on their surfaces—though follow-up observations are needed to be sure.

This illustration shows the seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, and ultra-cool dwarf star, as they might look as viewed from Earth using a fictional, incredibly powerful telescope. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

This illustration shows the seven planets orbiting TRAPPIST-1, and ultra-cool dwarf star, as they might look as viewed from Earth using a fictional, incredibly powerful telescope. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

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