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Topic: Jupiter

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft nears Mission’s End

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn mission is drawing to a close after 11 years of breaking new ground in planetary science, gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering.

Dawn’s mission was extended several times, outperforming scientists’ expectations in its exploration of two planet-like bodies, Ceres and Vesta, that make up 45 percent of the mass of the main asteroid belt. Now the spacecraft is about to run out of a key fuel, hydrazine. When that happens, most likely between mid-September and mid-October, Dawn will lose its ability to communicate with Earth. It will remain in a silent orbit around Ceres for decades.

Artist's concept of NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA looks for Water deep in Jupiter’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – For centuries, scientists have worked to understand the makeup of Jupiter. It’s no wonder: this mysterious planet is the biggest one in our solar system by far, and chemically, the closest relative to the Sun. Understanding Jupiter is key to learning more about how our solar system formed, and even about how other solar systems develop.

But one critical question has bedeviled astronomers for generations: Is there water deep in Jupiter’s atmosphere, and if so, how much?

This visualization was created from images captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been studying Jupiter since it arrived there July 4th, 2016. (NASA/JPL/SwRI)

This visualization was created from images captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been studying Jupiter since it arrived there July 4th, 2016. (NASA/JPL/SwRI)

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NASA states Subsurface Lake may exist at Mar’s South Pole

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA reports that a new paper published in Science this week suggests that liquid water may be sitting under a layer of ice at Mars’ south pole.

The finding is based on data from the European Mars Express spacecraft, obtained by a radar instrument called MARSIS (Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding). The Italian Space Agency (ASI) led the development of the MARSIS radar. NASA provided half of the instrument, with management of the U.S. portion led by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The view of Mars shown here was assembled from MOC daily global images obtained on May 12th, 2003. (NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems)

The view of Mars shown here was assembled from MOC daily global images obtained on May 12th, 2003. (NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems)

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NASA creates Radiation Maps of Jupiter’s Moon Europa

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New NASA study creates comprehensive mapping of the radiation pummeling Jupiter’s icy moon Europa which reveals where scientists should look — and how deep they’ll have to go — when searching for signs of habitability and biosignatures.

Since NASA’s Galileo mission yielded strong evidence of a global ocean underneath Europa’s icy shell in the 1990s, scientists have considered that moon one of the most promising places in our solar system to look for ingredients to support life. There’s even evidence that the salty water sloshing around the moon’s interior makes its way to the surface.

Radiation from Jupiter can destroy molecules on Europa's surface. Material from Europa's ocean that ends up on the surface will be bombarded by radiation, possibly destroying any biosignatures, or chemical signs that could imply the presence of life. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Radiation from Jupiter can destroy molecules on Europa’s surface. Material from Europa’s ocean that ends up on the surface will be bombarded by radiation, possibly destroying any biosignatures, or chemical signs that could imply the presence of life. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft set to end 11-year Mission

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft prepares to wrap up its groundbreaking 11-year mission, which has included two successful extended missions at Ceres, it will continue to explore — collecting images and other data.

Within a few months, Dawn is expected to run out of a key fuel, hydrazine, which feeds thrusters that control its orientation and keeps it communicating with Earth. When that happens, sometime between August and October, the spacecraft will stop operating, but it will remain in orbit around dwarf planet Ceres.

Dawn is the only spacecraft to orbit two deep-space destinations. It has given us new, up-close views of Ceres and Vesta, the largest bodies between Mars and Jupiter.

This mosaic of Cerealia Facula in Occator Crater is based on images obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft in its second extended mission, from an altitude as low as about 21 miles (34 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This mosaic of Cerealia Facula in Occator Crater is based on images obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in its second extended mission, from an altitude as low as about 21 miles (34 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft data reveals heat source on Jupiter’s moon Io that could be a Volcano

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft using its Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument point to a new heat source close to the south pole of Io that could indicate a previously undiscovered volcano on the small moon of Jupiter. The infrared data were collected on December 16th, 2017, when Juno was about 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers) away from the moon.

“The new Io hotspot JIRAM picked up is about 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the nearest previously mapped hotspot,” said Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome. “We are not ruling out movement or modification of a previously discovered hot spot, but it is difficult to imagine one could travel such a distance and still be considered the same feature.”

This annotated image highlights the location of the new heat source in the southern hemisphere of the Jupiter moon Io. The image was generated from data collected on Dec. 16, 2017, by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard NASA's Juno mission when the spacecraft was about 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers) from the Jovian moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)

This annotated image highlights the location of the new heat source in the southern hemisphere of the Jupiter moon Io. The image was generated from data collected on Dec. 16, 2017, by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard NASA’s Juno mission when the spacecraft was about 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers) from the Jovian moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to study Great Red Spot on Jupiter

 

Written by Eric Villard / Laura Betz
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, the most ambitious and complex space observatory ever built, will use its unparalleled infrared capabilities to study Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, shedding new light on the enigmatic storm and building upon data returned from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories.

Jupiter’s iconic storm is on the Webb telescope’s list of targets chosen by guaranteed time observers, scientists who helped develop the incredibly complex telescope and  among the first to use it to observe the universe. One of the telescope’s science goals is to study planets, including the mysteries still held by the planets in our own solar system from Mars and beyond.

This photo of Jupiter, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, was snapped when the planet was comparatively close to Earth, at a distance of 415 million miles. (NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (NASA Goddard))

This photo of Jupiter, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, was snapped when the planet was comparatively close to Earth, at a distance of 415 million miles. (NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (NASA Goddard))

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft’s mission is extended

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has approved an update to Juno’s science operations until July 2021. This provides for an additional 41 months in orbit around Jupiter and will enable Juno to achieve its primary science objectives. Juno is in 53-day orbits rather than 14-day orbits as initially planned because of a concern about valves on the spacecraft’s fuel system. This longer orbit means that it will take more time to collect the needed science data.

An independent panel of experts confirmed in April that Juno is on track to achieve its science objectives and is already returning spectacular results.The Juno spacecraft and all instruments are healthy and operating nominally.

During its continued mission, NASA's Juno spacecraft will maintain its 53-day polar orbit around Jupiter. At its closest, Juno passes within 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) of Jupiter's cloud tops once during each 53-day orbit. At the high end of each orbit, Juno is about 5 million miles (8-million kilometers) from the planet - which is just beyond the orbit of the Jovian moon Themisto. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

During its continued mission, NASA’s Juno spacecraft will maintain its 53-day polar orbit around Jupiter. At its closest, Juno passes within 3,000 miles (5,000 kilometers) of Jupiter’s cloud tops once during each 53-day orbit. At the high end of each orbit, Juno is about 5 million miles (8-million kilometers) from the planet – which is just beyond the orbit of the Jovian moon Themisto. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Juno Spacecraft discovers origin of Jupiter’s Lightning

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ever since NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft flew past Jupiter in March, 1979, scientists have wondered about the origin of Jupiter’s lightning. That encounter confirmed the existence of Jovian lightning, which had been theorized for centuries.

But when the venerable explorer hurtled by, the data showed that the lightning-associated radio signals didn’t match the details of the radio signals produced by lightning here at Earth.

In a new paper published in Nature today, scientists from NASA’s Juno mission describe the ways in which lightning on Jupiter is actually analogous to Earth’s lightning. Although, in some ways, the two types of lightning are polar opposites.

This artist's concept of lightning distribution in Jupiter's northern hemisphere incorporates a JunoCam image with artistic embellishments. Data from NASA's Juno mission indicates that most of the lightning activity on Jupiter is near its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/JunoCam)

This artist’s concept of lightning distribution in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere incorporates a JunoCam image with artistic embellishments. Data from NASA’s Juno mission indicates that most of the lightning activity on Jupiter is near its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/JunoCam)

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NASA Takes a Deep Dive into the Search for Life

 

Written by Abby Tabor
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationSilicon Valley, CA – Deep space and the deep sea are not as different as you might think. In 2018 and 2019, NASA’s search for life beyond Earth will dive beneath the waves here at home to explore hydrothermal systems of underwater volcanoes.

These special locations could look a lot like what we’ll find on the other ocean worlds in our solar system – prime candidates to potentially support life.

Many projects at NASA study places on Earth that could be analogous to extraterrestrial locations. The project pulling together ocean and space is called SUBSEA, which stands for Systematic Underwater Biogeochemical Science and Exploration Analog.

Saturn's moon Enceladus hides an ocean beneath its icy crust. Water interacting with rock on the sea floor could potentially yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible. (NASA)

Saturn’s moon Enceladus hides an ocean beneath its icy crust. Water interacting with rock on the sea floor could potentially yield chemical reactions that would make microbial metabolism possible. (NASA)

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