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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe receives revolutionary Heat Shield

 

Written by Justyna Surowiec
NASA’s Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationLaurel, MD – The launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, the mission that will get closer to the Sun than any human-made object has ever gone, is quickly approaching, and on June 27th, 2018, Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield — called the Thermal Protection System, or TPS — was installed on the spacecraft.

A mission 60 years in the making, Parker Solar Probe will make a historic journey to the Sun’s corona, a region of the solar atmosphere. With the help of its revolutionary heat shield, now permanently attached to the spacecraft in preparation for its August 2018 launch, the spacecraft’s orbit will carry it to within 4 million miles of the Sun’s fiercely hot surface, where it will collect unprecedented data about the inner workings of the corona.

The Thermal Protection System connects to the custom-welded truss on the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft at six points to minimize heat conduction. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman)

The Thermal Protection System connects to the custom-welded truss on the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft at six points to minimize heat conduction. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Ed Whitman)

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NASA Satellite observations used to make 3-D models of Coronal Mass Ejections from the Sun

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The more solar observatories, the merrier: Scientists have developed new models to see how shocks associated with coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, propagate from the Sun — an effort made possible only by combining data from three NASA satellites to produce a much more robust mapping of a CME than any one could do alone.

Much the way ships form bow waves as they move through water, CMEs set off interplanetary shocks when they erupt from the Sun at extreme speeds, propelling a wave of high-energy particles. These particles can spark space weather events around Earth, endangering spacecraft and astronauts.

Using data from three different satellites, scientists have developed new models that recreate, in 3-D, CMEs and shocks, separately. This movie illustrates the recreation of a CME and shock that erupted from the Sun on March 7, 2011. The pink lines show the CME structure and the yellow lines show the structure of the shock - a side effect of the CME that can spark space weather events around Earth. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/GMU/APL/Joy Ng)

Using data from three different satellites, scientists have developed new models that recreate, in 3-D, CMEs and shocks, separately. This movie illustrates the recreation of a CME and shock that erupted from the Sun on March 7, 2011. The pink lines show the CME structure and the yellow lines show the structure of the shock – a side effect of the CME that can spark space weather events around Earth. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/GMU/APL/Joy Ng)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft takes farthest image ever made from Earth

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently turned its telescopic camera toward a field of stars, snapped an image – and made history.

The routine calibration frame of the “Wishing Well” galactic open star cluster, made by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on December 5th, was taken when New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers, or 40.9 astronomical units) from Earth – making it, for a time, the farthest image ever made from Earth.

With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. They're also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. They’re also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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Celebrate 2019 New Year’s Eve with NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The New Year’s celebration to usher in 2019 will include an event like no other – more than four billion miles from Earth.

In just under a year – shortly after midnight Eastern Time on January 1st, 2019 – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will buzz by the most primitive and most distant object ever explored. New Horizons’ encounter with Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, which orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto, will offer the first close-up look at such a pristine building block of the solar system – and will be performed in a region of deep space that was practically unknown just a generation ago.

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that orbits one billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Steve Gribben)

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that orbits one billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Steve Gribben)

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NASA looks to fund concepts for missions to Saturn’s Moon Titan and a Comet

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has selected two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

The agency announced the concepts Wednesday, following an extensive and competitive peer review process. The concepts were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in April under a New Frontiers program announcement of opportunity.

NASA selects two mission concepts for further exploration of our solar system. (NASA)

NASA selects two mission concepts for further exploration of our solar system. (NASA)

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A Last Look at Saturn from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and its splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series of images that has been assembled into a new mosaic. 

Cassini’s wide-angle camera acquired 42 red, green and blue images, covering the planet and its main rings from one end to the other, on September 13th, 2017. Imaging scientists stitched these frames together to make a natural color view. The scene also includes the moons Prometheus, Pandora, Janus, Epimetheus, Mimas and Enceladus.

After more than 13 years at Saturn, and with its fate sealed, NASA's Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the Saturnian system by firing the shutters of its wide-angle camera and capturing this last, full mosaic of Saturn and its rings two days before the spacecraft's dramatic plunge into the planet's atmosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

After more than 13 years at Saturn, and with its fate sealed, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the Saturnian system by firing the shutters of its wide-angle camera and capturing this last, full mosaic of Saturn and its rings two days before the spacecraft’s dramatic plunge into the planet’s atmosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover uses Mast Camera to Scout Terrain on Mars

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Color-discerning capabilities that NASA’s Curiosity rover has been using on Mars since 2012 are proving particularly helpful on a mountainside ridge the rover is now climbing.

These capabilities go beyond the thousands of full-color images Curiosity takes every year: The rover can look at Mars with special filters helpful for identifying some minerals, and also with a spectrometer that sorts light into thousands of wavelengths, extending beyond visible-light colors into infrared and ultraviolet. These observations aid decisions about where to drive and investigations of chosen targets.

This pair of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity rover illustrates how special filters are used to scout terrain ahead for variations in the local bedrock. (NASA)

This pair of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity rover illustrates how special filters are used to scout terrain ahead for variations in the local bedrock. (NASA)

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NASA releases new findings from Cassini Spacecraft’s observations of Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ended its journey on September 15th, 2017 with an intentional plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, but analysis continues on the mountain of data the spacecraft sent during its long life.

Some of the Cassini team’s freshest insights were presented during a news conference today at the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Science meeting in Provo, Utah.

Cassini obtained this panoramic view of Saturn's rings on Sept. 9, 2017, just minutes after it passed through the ring plane. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini obtained this panoramic view of Saturn’s rings on Sept. 9, 2017, just minutes after it passed through the ring plane. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey Spacecraft data provides new information about Mars Equator

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Scientists taking a new look at older data from NASA’s longest-operating Mars orbiter have discovered evidence of significant hydration near the Martian equator — a mysterious signature in a region of the Red Planet where planetary scientists figure ice shouldn’t exist.

Jack Wilson, a post-doctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, led a team that reprocessed data collected from 2002 to 2009 by the neutron spectrometer instrument on NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. In bringing the lower-resolution compositional data into sharper focus, the scientists spotted unexpectedly high amounts of hydrogen — which at high latitudes is a sign of buried water ice — around sections of the Martian equator.

A new paper suggests hydrogen-possibly water ice-in the Medusa Fossae area of Mars, which is in an equatorial region of the planet to the lower left in this view. (Steve Lee (University of Colorado), Jim Bell (Cornell University), Mike Wolff (Space Science Institute), and NASA)

A new paper suggests hydrogen-possibly water ice-in the Medusa Fossae area of Mars, which is in an equatorial region of the planet to the lower left in this view. (Steve Lee (University of Colorado), Jim Bell (Cornell University), Mike Wolff (Space Science Institute), and NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data reveals Hydrothermal Conditions for Life may have existed on Mars

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The discovery of evidence for ancient sea-floor hydrothermal deposits on Mars identifies an area on the planet that may offer clues about the origin of life on Earth.

A recent international report examines observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of massive deposits in a basin on southern Mars. The authors interpret the data as evidence that these deposits were formed by heated water from a volcanically active part of the planet’s crust entering the bottom of a large sea long ago.

This view of a portion of the Eridania region of Mars shows blocks of deep-basin deposits that have been surrounded and partially buried by younger volcanic deposits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This view of a portion of the Eridania region of Mars shows blocks of deep-basin deposits that have been surrounded and partially buried by younger volcanic deposits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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