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NASA’s International Space Station Rapid Scatterometer instrument ends operations

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s International Space Station Rapid Scatterometer (ISS-RapidScat) Earth science instrument has ended operations following a successful two-year mission aboard the space station. The mission launched September 21st, 2014, and had recently passed its original decommissioning date.

ISS-RapidScat used the unique vantage point of the space station to provide near-real-time monitoring of ocean winds, which are critical in determining regional weather patterns. Its measurements of wind speed and direction over the ocean surface have been used by agencies worldwide for weather and marine forecasting and tropical cyclone monitoring.

Artist's rendering of NASA's ISS-RapidScat instrument (inset). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johnson Space Center)

Artist’s rendering of NASA’s ISS-RapidScat instrument (inset). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Johnson Space Center)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array observes new Star being born

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – A snapshot of the stellar life cycle has been captured in a new portrait from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Smithsonian’s Submillimeter Array (SMA).  

A cloud that is giving birth to stars has been observed to reflect X-rays from Cygnus X-3, a source of X-rays produced by a system where a massive star is slowly being eaten by its companion black hole or neutron star. This discovery provides a new way to study how stars form. 

A small cloud of dust and gas containing a new star being formed about 20,000 light years from Earth. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.McCollough et al, Radio: ASIAA/SAO/SMA)

A small cloud of dust and gas containing a new star being formed about 20,000 light years from Earth. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/M.McCollough et al, Radio: ASIAA/SAO/SMA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft snaps new image of Occator Crater on dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The brightest area on Ceres stands out amid shadowy, cratered terrain in a dramatic new view from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, taken as it looked off to the side of the dwarf planet.

Dawn snapped this image on October 16th, from its fifth science orbit, in which the angle of the sun was different from that in previous orbits. Dawn was about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers) above Ceres when this image was taken — an altitude the spacecraft had reached in early October.

Occator Crater, home of Ceres' intriguing brightest areas, is prominently featured in this image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Occator Crater, home of Ceres’ intriguing brightest areas, is prominently featured in this image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory reveals new information about Impact Craters on Earth’s Moon

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New results from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission are providing insights into the huge impacts that dominated the early history of Earth’s moon and other solid worlds, like Earth, Mars, and the satellites of the outer solar system.

In two papers, published this week in the journal Science, researchers examine the origins of the moon’s giant Orientale impact basin. The research helps clarify how the formation of Orientale, approximately 3.8 billion years ago, affected the moon’s geology.

Orientale basin is about 580 miles (930 kilometers) wide and has three distinct rings, which form a bullseye-like pattern. This view is a mosaic of images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

Orientale basin is about 580 miles (930 kilometers) wide and has three distinct rings, which form a bullseye-like pattern. This view is a mosaic of images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft enters Safe Mode after last Flyby of Jupiter

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno spacecraft entered safe mode Tuesday, October 18th at about 10:47pm PDT (October 19th at 1:47am EDT). Early indications are a software performance monitor induced a reboot of the spacecraft’s onboard computer. The spacecraft acted as expected during the transition into safe mode, restarted successfully and is healthy.

High-rate data has been restored, and the spacecraft is conducting flight software diagnostics. All instruments are off, and the planned science data collection for today’s close flyby of Jupiter (perijove 2), did not occur.

This artist's concept depicts the Juno spacecraft above Jupiter. The spacecraft will next fly by the planet on Aug. 27th, in the mission's first up-close science pass. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept depicts the Juno spacecraft above Jupiter. The spacecraft will next fly by the planet on Aug. 27th, in the mission’s first up-close science pass. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft sees what could be Clouds on Pluto

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The next target for NASA’s New Horizons mission — which made a historic flight past Pluto in July 2015 — apparently bears a colorful resemblance to its famous, main destination.

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope data suggests that 2014 MU69, a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) about a billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, is as red, if not redder, than Pluto. This is the first hint at the surface properties of the far-flung object that New Horizons will survey on January 1st, 2019.

Pluto's present, hazy atmosphere is almost entirely free of clouds. However, scientists from NASA's New Horizons mission have identified some cloud candidates -- suggestive of possible, rare condensation clouds -- in images taken during the spacecraft's July 2015 flight through the Pluto system. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Center)

Pluto’s present, hazy atmosphere is almost entirely free of clouds. However, scientists from NASA’s New Horizons mission have identified some cloud candidates — suggestive of possible, rare condensation clouds — in images taken during the spacecraft’s July 2015 flight through the Pluto system. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Center)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft set to make another pass over Jupiter

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mission managers for NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter have decided to postpone the upcoming burn of its main rocket motor originally scheduled for October 19th. This burn, called the period reduction maneuver (PRM), was to reduce Juno’s orbital period around Jupiter from 53.4 to 14 days.

The decision was made in order to further study the performance of a set of valves that are part of the spacecraft’s fuel pressurization system. The period reduction maneuver was the final scheduled burn of Juno’s main engine.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft completes Instrument Check

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Its science instruments have been powered on, and NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft continues on its journey to an asteroid. The spacecraft has passed its initial instrument check with flying colors as it speeds toward a 2018 rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu.

Last week NASA’s spacecraft designed to collect a sample of an asteroid ran the first check of its onboard instruments. Starting on September 19th, engineers controlling the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft powered on and operated the mission’s five science instruments and one of its navigational instruments.

On Sept. 19, the OCAMS MapCam camera recorded a star field in Taurus, north of the constellation Orion as part of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s post-launch instrument check. MapCam's first color image is a composite of three of its four color filters, roughly corresponding to blue, green, and red wavelengths. The three images are processed to remove noise, co-registered, and enhanced to emphasize dimmer stars. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

On Sept. 19, the OCAMS MapCam camera recorded a star field in Taurus, north of the constellation Orion as part of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s post-launch instrument check. MapCam’s first color image is a composite of three of its four color filters, roughly corresponding to blue, green, and red wavelengths. The three images are processed to remove noise, co-registered, and enhanced to emphasize dimmer stars. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

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NASA Building Space Launch System’s Core Stage Piece by Piece

 

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – The largest rocket stage in the world is coming together piece by piece at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, LA. Large elements for NASA’s Space Launch System are in production and will be joined together to create the rocket’s 212-foot-tall core stage, the backbone of the SLS rocket.

Why is NASA building the world’s most powerful rocket? Because SLS is ready to support both near-term missions in the proving ground around the moon starting in 2018, while at the same time being capable of carrying the very large hardware like landers, habitats and other supplies and equipment needed to explore Mars and other deep space destinations in the 2030s and beyond.

Engineers just completed welding the liquid hydrogen tank that will provide fuel for the first SLS flight in 2018. The tank measures more than 130 feet tall, comprises almost two-thirds of the core stage and holds 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen -- which is cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. (NASA/Michoud/Steven Seipel)

Engineers just completed welding the liquid hydrogen tank that will provide fuel for the first SLS flight in 2018. The tank measures more than 130 feet tall, comprises almost two-thirds of the core stage and holds 537,000 gallons of liquid hydrogen — which is cooled to minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit. (NASA/Michoud/Steven Seipel)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory detects first X-Rays from Pluto

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. These observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system’s outermost regions.

While NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was speeding toward and beyond Pluto, Chandra was aimed several times on the dwarf planet and its moons, gathering data on Pluto that the missions could compare after the flyby. Each time Chandra pointed at Pluto – four times in all, from February 2014 through August 2015 – it detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet.

The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in conjunction with observations from NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL/R.McNutt et al; Optical: NASA/JHUAPL)

The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in conjunction with observations from NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft.
(X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL/R.McNutt et al; Optical: NASA/JHUAPL)

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