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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft now in Jupiter’s Magnetosphere

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft has entered the planet’s magnetosphere, where the movement of particles in space is controlled by what’s going on inside Jupiter.

“We’ve just crossed the boundary into Jupiter’s home turf,” said Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton of Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. “We’re closing in fast on the planet itself and already gaining valuable data.”

NASA's Juno spacecraft obtained this color view on June 28, 2016, at a distance of 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) from Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

NASA’s Juno spacecraft obtained this color view on June 28, 2016, at a distance of 3.9 million miles (6.2 million kilometers) from Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes discovers new information about Earth’s Ring Current

 

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – New findings based on a year’s worth of observations from NASA’s Van Allen Probes have revealed that the ring current – an electrical current carried by energetic ions that encircles our planet – behaves in a much different way than previously understood.

The ring current has long been thought to wax and wane over time, but the new observations show that this is true of only some of the particles, while other particles are present consistently.

Using data gathered by the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Ion Composition Experiment, or RBSPICE, on one of the Van Allen Probes, researchers have determined that the high-energy protons in the ring current change in a completely different way from the current’s low-energy protons.

During periods when there are no geomagnetic storms affecting the area around Earth (left image), high-energy protons (with energy of hundreds of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in orange) carry a substantial electrical current that encircles the planet, also known as the ring current. During periods when geomagnetic storms affect Earth (right), new low-energy protons (with energy of tens of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in magenta) enter the near-Earth region, enhancing the pre-existing ring current. (Johns Hopkins APL)

During periods when there are no geomagnetic storms affecting the area around Earth (left image), high-energy protons (with energy of hundreds of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in orange) carry a substantial electrical current that encircles the planet, also known as the ring current. During periods when geomagnetic storms affect Earth (right), new low-energy protons (with energy of tens of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in magenta) enter the near-Earth region, enhancing the pre-existing ring current. (Johns Hopkins APL)

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NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft data used to create Global Topographic Model of Mercury

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s MESSENGER mission has unveiled the first global digital elevation model (DEM) of Mercury, revealing in stunning detail the topography across the entire innermost planet and paving the way for scientists to fully characterize Mercury’s geologic history.

The global topographic model is among three new products from the Planetary Data System (PDS), a NASA-funded organization that archives and distributes all of NASA’s planetary mission data to the public.

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers evidence of Ancient Volcanoes on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Volcanoes erupted beneath an ice sheet on Mars billions of years ago, far from any ice sheet on the Red Planet today, new evidence from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggests.

The research about these volcanoes helps show there was extensive ice on ancient Mars. It also adds information about an environment combining heat and moisture, which could have provided favorable conditions for microbial life.

Sheridan Ackiss of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, and collaborators used the orbiter’s mineral-mapping spectrometer to investigate surface composition in an oddly textured region of southern Mars called “Sisyphi Montes.”

This graphic illustrates where Mars mineral-mapping from orbit has detected minerals that can indicate where a volcano erupted beneath an ice sheet. The site is far from any ice sheet on modern Mars, in an area where unusual shapes have been interpreted as a possible result of volcanism under ice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/ASU)

This graphic illustrates where Mars mineral-mapping from orbit has detected minerals that can indicate where a volcano erupted beneath an ice sheet. The site is far from any ice sheet on modern Mars, in an area where unusual shapes have been interpreted as a possible result of volcanism under ice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHUAPL/ASU)

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NASA’s New Horizons scientists have released papers that shed new light on the Pluto System

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A year ago, Pluto was just a bright speck in the cameras of NASA’s approaching New Horizons spacecraft, not much different than its appearances in telescopes since Clyde Tombaugh discovered the then-ninth planet in 1930.

But this week, in the journal Science, New Horizons scientists have authored the first comprehensive set of papers describing results from last summer’s Pluto system flyby.

This image of haze layers above Pluto’s limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Gladstone et al./Science (2016))

This image of haze layers above Pluto’s limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Gladstone et al./Science (2016))

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NASA Mission Operations works to Reestablish Communications with it’s STEREO-B Spacecraft

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On October 1st, 2014, NASA mission operations lost communication with one of the two spacecraft of the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, mission, just as the spacecraft was about to orbit around the other side of the sun.

Though they haven’t heard from the Behind spacecraft, also known as STEREO-B, in over a year, the spacecraft has finally emerged into a region where it can once again receive radio signals. Scientists have a plan to get it back—and their chances only get better with time.

NASA lost communications with it's STEREO-B Spacecraft on October 1st, 2014 as it began to orbit the other side of the sun. It has now emerged from behind the sun and NASA mission operations hopes that communications cab be reestablish with the spacecraft. (NASA)

NASA lost communications with it’s STEREO-B Spacecraft on October 1st, 2014 as it began to orbit the other side of the sun. It has now emerged from behind the sun and NASA mission operations hopes that communications cab be reestablish with the spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft nabs photo of Pluto’s Smallest Moon Styx

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Styx – also the faintest of Pluto’s five moons – was discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2012, when New Horizons was more than two-thirds into its voyage to Pluto.

The Styx images downlinked on October 5th, 2015, were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 13th, approximately 12.5 hours before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto.

This Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) composite image of Pluto’s smallest moon, Styx, was taken July 14, 2015, when the New Horizons spacecraft was 391,000 miles (631,000 kilometers) from the tiny moon. The image reveals a highly-elongated satellite, roughly 4.5 miles [7 kilometers] across in its longest dimension and 3 miles [5 kilometers] in its shortest dimension. For context, the orbits of Pluto’s moons are shown above. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

This Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) composite image of Pluto’s smallest moon, Styx, was taken July 14, 2015, when the New Horizons spacecraft was 391,000 miles (631,000 kilometers) from the tiny moon. The image reveals a highly-elongated satellite, roughly 4.5 miles [7 kilometers] across in its longest dimension and 3 miles [5 kilometers] in its shortest dimension. For context, the orbits of Pluto’s moons are shown above. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft images show complex history of Pluto’s Moon Charon

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has returned the best color and the highest resolution images yet of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon – and these pictures show a surprisingly complex and violent history.

At half the diameter of Pluto, Charon is the largest satellite relative to its planet in the solar system. Many New Horizons scientists expected Charon to be a monotonous, crater-battered world; instead, they’re finding a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-color variations and more.

Charon in Enhanced Color NASA's New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Charon in Enhanced Color NASA’s New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA says Scientists are moving closer to answering the question, What happened to Mars’ Atmosphere

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists may be closer to solving the mystery of how Mars changed from a world with surface water billions of years ago to the arid Red Planet of today.

A new analysis of the largest known deposit of carbonate minerals on Mars suggests that the original Martian atmosphere may have already lost most of its carbon dioxide by the era of valley network formation.

“The biggest carbonate deposit on Mars has, at most, twice as much carbon in it as the current Mars atmosphere,” said Bethany Ehlmann of the California Institute of Technology and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, both in Pasadena.

Researchers estimating the amount of carbon held in the ground at the largest known carbonate deposit on Mars used data from five instruments on three NASA Mars orbiters, including physical properties from THEMIS (left) and mineral information from CRISM (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/JHUAPL)

Researchers estimating the amount of carbon held in the ground at the largest known carbonate deposit on Mars used data from five instruments on three NASA Mars orbiters, including physical properties from THEMIS (left) and mineral information from CRISM (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/JHUAPL)

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NASA’s New Horizons Team eyes new target for flyby in Kuiper Belt

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14th flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

This remote KBO was one of two identified as potential destinations and the one recommended to NASA by the New Horizons team.  Although NASA has selected 2014 MU69 as the target, as part of its normal review process the agency will conduct a detailed assessment before officially approving the mission extension to conduct additional science.

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

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