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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe uses Venus gravity assist to get closer to the Sun

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On October 3rd, 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe performed the first significant celestial maneuver of its seven-year mission. As the orbits of the spacecraft and Venus converged toward the same point, Parker Solar Probe slipped in front of the planet, allowing Venus’ gravity — relatively small by celestial standards — to twist its path and change its speed.

This maneuver, called a gravity assist, reduced Parker’s speed relative to the Sun by 10 percent — amounting to 7,000 miles per hour — drawing the closest point of its orbit, called perihelion, nearer to the star by 4 million miles.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe completed its first flyby of Venus on Oct. 3, 2018, during a Venus gravity assist, where the spacecraft used the planet's gravity to alter its trajectory and bring it closer to the Sun. (NASA/JHUAPL)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its first flyby of Venus on Oct. 3, 2018, during a Venus gravity assist, where the spacecraft used the planet’s gravity to alter its trajectory and bring it closer to the Sun. (NASA/JHUAPL)

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Three NASA Missions to explore our Solar System capture first images

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s continued quest to explore our solar system and beyond received a boost of new information this week with three key missions proving not only that they are up and running, but that their science potential is exceptional.

On September 17th, 2018, TESS — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — shared its first science observations. Later in the week, the latest two missions to join NASA’s heliophysics fleet returned first light data: Parker Solar Probe, humanity’s first mission to “touch” the Sun, and GOLD, a mission that studies the dynamic boundary between Earth and space.

Download high-resolution versions of this and other TESS “first light” images from the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

Download high-resolution versions of this and other TESS “first light” images from the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft sees its next target Ultima Thule

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has made its first detection of its next flyby target, the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule, more than four months ahead of its New Year’s 2019 close encounter.

Mission team members were thrilled – if not a little surprised – that New Horizons’ telescopic Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) was able to see the small, dim object while still more than 100 million miles away, and against a dense background of stars. Taken August 16th, 2018 and transmitted home through NASA’s Deep Space Network over the following days, the set of 48 images marked the team’s first attempt to find Ultima with the spacecraft’s own cameras. 

The figure on the left is a composite image produced by adding 48 different exposures from the News Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), each with an exposure time of 29.967 seconds, taken on Aug. 16, 2018. The predicted position of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule is at the center of the yellow box, and is indicated by the yellow crosshairs, just above and left of a nearby star that is approximately 17 times brighter than Ultima. At right is a magnified view of the region in the yellow box. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

The figure on the left is a composite image produced by adding 48 different exposures from the News Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), each with an exposure time of 29.967 seconds, taken on Aug. 16, 2018. The predicted position of the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule is at the center of the yellow box, and is indicated by the yellow crosshairs, just above and left of a nearby star that is approximately 17 times brighter than Ultima. At right is a magnified view of the region in the yellow box. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe navigation controlled by Jet Propulsion Laboratory

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The navigation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is led by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which also has a role in two of the spacecraft’s four onboard instrument suites. Parker Solar Probe will fly closer to the Sun than any previous spacecraft and through the solar corona itself.

One instrument, called the Energetic Particle Instrument-Hi (EPI-Hi), will investigate the mysteries of high-speed solar particles that hurtle toward Earth at close to the speed of light. Observations by the Parker Solar Probe will lead to better predictions of space weather and address fundamental mysteries about the Sun’s dynamic corona. EPI-Hi is part of the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun, led by Principal Investigator David McComas of Princeton University in New Jersey.

Illustration of NASA's Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

Illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

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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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