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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reaches midpoint between Pluto and next destination, Kuiper Belt

 

NASA Headquarters

How time and our spacecraft fly – especially when you’re making history at 32,000 miles (51,500 kilometers) per hour.

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Continuing on its path through the outer regions of the solar system, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has now traveled half the distance from Pluto – its storied first target – to 2014 MU69, the Kuiper Belt object (KBO) it will fly past on January 1st, 2019.

The spacecraft reached that milestone at midnight (UTC) on April 3rd – or 7:00pm CT on April 2nd – when it was 486.19 million miles (782.45 million kilometers) beyond Pluto and the same distance from MU69.

A KBO among the Stars: In preparation for the New Horizons flyby of 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took a series of 10-second exposures of the background star field near the location of its target Kuiper Belt object (KBO). (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

A KBO among the Stars: In preparation for the New Horizons flyby of 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took a series of 10-second exposures of the background star field near the location of its target Kuiper Belt object (KBO). (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

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NASA GUSTO mission to examine the Cosmic Material between Stars

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has selected a science mission that will measure emissions from the interstellar medium, which is the cosmic material found between stars. This data will help scientists determine the life cycle of interstellar gas in our Milky Way galaxy, witness the formation and destruction of star-forming clouds, and understand the dynamics and gas flow in the vicinity of the center of our galaxy.

The Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory (GUSTO) mission, led by principal investigator of the University of Arizona, Christopher Walker, will fly an Ultralong-Duration Balloon (ULDB) carrying a telescope with carbon, oxygen and nitrogen emission line detectors.

NASA has selected a science mission that will untangle the complexities of the interstellar medium, and map out large sections of the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and the Large Magellanic Cloud. (NASA, ESA, and Hubble Heritage Team)

NASA has selected a science mission that will untangle the complexities of the interstellar medium, and map out large sections of the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and the Large Magellanic Cloud. (NASA, ESA, and Hubble Heritage Team)

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NASA picks 10 Studies for future CubeSat missions

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected 10 studies under the Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies (PSDS3) program to develop mission concepts using small satellites to investigate Venus, Earth’s moon, asteroids, Mars and the outer planets.

For these studies, small satellites are defined as less than 180 kilograms in mass (about 400 pounds). CubeSats are built to standard specifications of 1 unit (U), which is equal to about 4x4x4 inches (10x10x10 centimeters). They often are launched into orbit as auxiliary payloads, significantly reducing costs.

A global view of Venus created from Magellan data and a computer-simulated globe. A JPL-led mission concept study was recently selected to study Venus using a Cubesat. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A global view of Venus created from Magellan data and a computer-simulated globe. A JPL-led mission concept study was recently selected to study Venus using a Cubesat. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover’s observes Dust Devils on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On Mars, wind rules. Wind has been shaping the Red Planet’s landscapes for billions of years and continues to do so today. Studies using both a NASA orbiter and a rover reveal its effects on scales grand to tiny on the strangely structured landscapes within Gale Crater.

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, on the lower slope of Mount Sharp — a layered mountain inside the crater — has begun a second campaign of investigating active sand dunes on the mountain’s northwestern flank. The rover also has been observing whirlwinds carrying dust and checking how far the wind moves grains of sand in a single day’s time.

This image shows a dust-carrying whirlwind, called a dust devil, scooting across ground inside Gale Crater, as observed on the local summer afternoon of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover's 1,597th Martian day, or sol (Feb. 1, 2017). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU)

This image shows a dust-carrying whirlwind, called a dust devil, scooting across ground inside Gale Crater, as observed on the local summer afternoon of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover’s 1,597th Martian day, or sol (Feb. 1, 2017). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU)

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NASA to launch Six Small Satellites in new approach to studying Earth

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Beginning this month, NASA is launching a suite of six next-generation, Earth-observing small satellite missions to demonstrate innovative new approaches for studying our changing planet.

These small satellites range in size from a loaf of bread to a small washing machine and weigh from a few to 400 pounds (180 kilograms). Their small size keeps development and launch costs down as they often hitch a ride to space as a “secondary payload” on another mission’s rocket — providing an economical avenue for testing new technologies and conducting science.

Artist's concept of the TROPICS mission, which will study hurricanes with a constellation of 12 CubeSats flying in formation. (MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

Artist’s concept of the TROPICS mission, which will study hurricanes with a constellation of 12 CubeSats flying in formation. (MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

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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 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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Dunbar Cave’s Hummingbird and Butterfly Festival Fun for All

 

Dunbar Cave State Park - Clarksville TNClarksville, TN – Dunbar Cave State Park at 401 Old Dunbar Cave Road held its Hummingbird and Butterfly Festival on Saturday with numerous events for the family.

From 9:00am to 11:00am and again from 1:00pm to 3:00pm, hummingbirds were banded by Cyndi Routledge, a master bander who has completed the five-year course taught by the Department of the Interior.

Information gathered at the banding is sent to Laurel, Maryland where a huge data base on hummingbirds is located under the auspices of the United States Geological Survey.

Hummingbird and Butterfly Festival was held Saturday at Dunbar Cave State Natural Area.

Hummingbird and Butterfly Festival was held Saturday at Dunbar Cave State Natural Area.

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data shows Gullies on Mars probably not created by Water

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New findings using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that gullies on modern Mars are likely not being formed by flowing liquid water. This new evidence will allow researchers to further narrow theories about how Martian gullies form, and reveal more details about Mars’ recent geologic processes.

Scientists use the term “gully” for features on Mars that share three characteristics in their shape: an alcove at the top, a channel, and an apron of deposited material at the bottom.

Martian gullies as seen in the top image from HiRISE on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter resemble gullies on Earth that are carved by liquid water. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/JHUAPL)

Martian gullies as seen in the top image from HiRISE on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter resemble gullies on Earth that are carved by liquid water. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/JHUAPL)

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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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