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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover detects organic chemical in atmosphere and organic molecules in rock powder on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.

“This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

This illustration portrays possible ways methane might be added to Mars' atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan)

This illustration portrays possible ways methane might be added to Mars’ atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity’s Flash Data Storage malfunctions

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Pasadena, CA – Persistent computer resets and “amnesia” events on NASA’s Mars Exploration rover Opportunity that have occurred after reformatting the robot’s flash memory have prompted a shift to a working mode that avoids use of the flash data-storage system.

The most recent reformatting of Opportunity’s flash memory was last week. Following that, performance of the flash memory remained intermittent, and difficulty in placing data into the memory led to computer resets during the weekend.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is continuing its traverse southward on the western rim of Endeavour Crater during the fall of 2014, stopping to investigate targets of scientific interest along way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is continuing its traverse southward on the western rim of Endeavour Crater during the fall of 2014, stopping to investigate targets of scientific interest along way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images reveals new map showing ancient lakes and quakes on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Long ago, in the largest canyon system in our solar system, vibrations from “marsquakes” shook soft sediments that had accumulated in Martian lakes.

The shaken sediments formed features that now appear as a series of low hills apparent in a geological map based on NASA images. The map was released today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Details of hilly terrain within a large Martian canyon are shown on a geological map based on observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. Notations are explained in the legend with the full map, at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3309/. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/USGS)

Details of hilly terrain within a large Martian canyon are shown on a geological map based on observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. Notations are explained in the legend with the full map, at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3309/. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/USGS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover discovers sediment deposits in Martian Lake Bed

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Observations by NASA’s Curiosity Rover indicate Mars’ Mount Sharp was built by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years.

This interpretation of Curiosity’s finds in Gale Crater suggests ancient Mars maintained a climate that could have produced long-lasting lakes at many locations on the Red Planet.

“If our hypothesis for Mount Sharp holds up, it challenges the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local, or only underground on Mars,” said Ashwin Vasavada, Curiosity deputy project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “A more radical explanation is that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but so far we don’t know how the atmosphere did that.”

This evenly layered rock photographed by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover on Aug. 7, 2014, shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit not far from where flowing water entered a lake. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This evenly layered rock photographed by the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover on Aug. 7, 2014, shows a pattern typical of a lake-floor sedimentary deposit not far from where flowing water entered a lake. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover to analysis select rocks at Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has completed a reconnaissance “walkabout” of the first outcrop it reached at the base of the mission’s destination mountain and has begun a second pass examining selected rocks in the outcrop in more detail.

Exposed layers on the lower portion of Mount Sharp are expected to hold evidence about dramatic changes in the environmental evolution of Mars. That was a major reason NASA chose this area of Mars for this mission.

The lowermost of these slices of time ascending the mountain includes a pale outcrop called “Pahrump Hills.”

This small ridge, about 3 feet (1 meter) long, appears to resist wind erosion more than the flatter plates around it. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This small ridge, about 3 feet (1 meter) long, appears to resist wind erosion more than the flatter plates around it. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA announces Rosetta Spacecraft’s Philae Lander has made historic touch down on a Comet

 

Written by DC Agle/Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After more than a decade traveling through space, a robotic lander built by the European Space Agency has made the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

Mission controllers at ESA’s mission operations center in Darmstadt, Germany, received a signal confirming that the Philae lander had touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, November 12th, just after 8:00am PST/11:00am EST.

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by the Philae lander of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission during Philae's descent toward the comet on Nov. 12, 2014. Philae's ROLIS camera took the image from a distance of approximately two miles (three kilometers) from the surface. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/DLR)

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by the Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission during Philae’s descent toward the comet on Nov. 12, 2014. Philae’s ROLIS camera took the image from a distance of approximately two miles (three kilometers) from the surface. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/DLR)

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NASA Spacecraft analyzes effects of Comet Flyby on Mar’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Two NASA and one European spacecraft that obtained the first up-close observations of a comet flyby of Mars on October 19th, have gathered new information about the basic properties of the comet’s nucleus and directly detected the effects on the Martian atmosphere.

Data from observations carried out by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), and a radar instrument on the European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) Mars Express spacecraft have revealed that debris from the comet added a temporary and very strong layer of ions to the ionosphere, the electrically charged layer high above Mars.

This artist's concept depicts the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) on NASA's MAVEN spacecraft scanning the upper atmosphere of Mars. IUVS uses limb scans to map the chemical makeup and vertical structure across Mars' upper atmosphere. (NASA/Univ. of Colorado)

This artist’s concept depicts the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) on NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft scanning the upper atmosphere of Mars. IUVS uses limb scans to map the chemical makeup and vertical structure across Mars’ upper atmosphere. (NASA/Univ. of Colorado)

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NASA reports Rosetta spacecraft speeding to Comet

 

Written by DC Agle and Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After sailing through space for more than 10 years, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft is now less than a week shy of landing a robotic probe on a comet.

The mission’s Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, November 12th at 7:35amPST/10:35am EST. A signal confirming the landing is expected about 8:02am PST/11:02am EST.

If all goes as planned with this complex engineering feat, it will be the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

This is a rare glance at the dark side of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Light backscattered from dust particles in the comet's coma reveals a hint of surface structures. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

This is a rare glance at the dark side of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Light backscattered from dust particles in the comet’s coma reveals a hint of surface structures. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover confirms first Mineral Mapped from Space

 

Written by Preston Dyches and Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Reddish rock powder from the first hole drilled into a Martian mountain by NASA’s Curiosity rover has yielded the mission’s first confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit.

“This connects us with the mineral identifications from orbit, which can now help guide our investigations as we climb the slope and test hypotheses derived from the orbital mapping,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

This image shows the first holes drilled by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity at Mount Sharp. The loose material near the drill holes is drill tailings and an accumulation of dust that slid down the rock during drilling. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This image shows the first holes drilled by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity at Mount Sharp. The loose material near the drill holes is drill tailings and an accumulation of dust that slid down the rock during drilling. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes image revealing that the Nucleus of Comet Siding Spring is Small

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured views of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring while that visitor sped past Mars on Sunday (October 19th), yielding information about its nucleus.

The images are the highest-resolution views ever acquired of a comet coming from the Oort Cloud at the fringes of the solar system.

These images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet's close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

These images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet’s close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

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