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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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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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