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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft arrives at Pluto

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles —the farthest any space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation on December 6th for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.

Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, confirmed at 9:53pm (EST) that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed computer commands, had switched from hibernation to “active” mode. Moving at light speed, the radio signal from New Horizons – currently more than 2.9 billion miles from Earth, and just over 162 million miles from Pluto – needed four hours and 26 minutes to reach NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia.

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NASA’s Galileo spacecraft images give scientists evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter’s moon Europa

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This indicates the first sign of this type of surface-shifting geological activity on a world other than Earth.

Researchers have clear visual evidence of Europa’s icy crust expanding. However, they could not find areas where the old crust was destroyed to make room for the new.

Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter's moon Europa. This conceptual illustration of the subduction process (where one plate is forced under another) shows how a cold, brittle, outer portion of Europa's 20-30 kilometer-thick (roughly 10-20 mile) ice shell moved into the warmer shell interior and was ultimately subsumed. A low-relief subsumption band was created at the surface in the overriding plate, alongside which cryolavas may have erupted. (Noah Kroese, I.NK)

Scientists have found evidence of plate tectonics on Jupiter’s moon Europa. This conceptual illustration of the subduction process (where one plate is forced under another) shows how a cold, brittle, outer portion of Europa’s 20-30 kilometer-thick (roughly 10-20 mile) ice shell moved into the warmer shell interior and was ultimately subsumed. A low-relief subsumption band was created at the surface in the overriding plate, alongside which cryolavas may have erupted. (Noah Kroese, I.NK)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft passes Neptune’s Orbit on it’s way to Pluto

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune. This is its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14th, 2015.

The sophisticated piano-sized spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, reached Neptune’s orbit — nearly 2.75 billion miles from Earth — in a record eight years and eight months. New Horizons’ milestone matches precisely the 25th anniversary of the historic encounter of NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft with Neptune on August 25th, 1989.

NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft captured this view of the giant planet Neptune and its large moon Triton on July 10, 2014, from a distance of about 2.45 billion miles (3.96 billion kilometers) - more than 26 times the distance between the Earth and sun. The 967-millisecond exposure was taken with the New Horizons telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.)

NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft captured this view of the giant planet Neptune and its large moon Triton on July 10, 2014, from a distance of about 2.45 billion miles (3.96 billion kilometers) – more than 26 times the distance between the Earth and sun. The 967-millisecond exposure was taken with the New Horizons telescopic Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI). (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute.)

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NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft’s restored footage gives Detailed Map of Nepture’s Moon Triton

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau/Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first close-up look at Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Like an old film, Voyager’s historic footage of Triton has been “restored” and used to construct the best-ever global color map of that strange moon.

The map, produced by Paul Schenk, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, has also been used to make a movie recreating that historic Voyager encounter, which took place 25 years ago, on August 25th, 1989.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Triton, a moon of Neptune, in the summer of 1989. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lunar & Planetary Institute)

The Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Triton, a moon of Neptune, in the summer of 1989. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lunar & Planetary Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft gets images of Clouds moving over a Sea on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft recently captured images of clouds moving across the northern hydrocarbon seas of Saturn’s moon Titan. This renewed weather activity, considered overdue by researchers, could finally signal the onset of summer storms that atmospheric models have long predicted.

The Cassini spacecraft obtained the new views in late July, as it receded from Titan after a close flyby. Cassini tracked the system of clouds developing and dissipating over the large methane sea known as Ligeia Mare for more than two days. Measurements of cloud motions indicate wind speeds of around 7 to 10 mph (3 to 4.5 meters per second).

As NASA's Cassini spacecraft sped away from Titan following a relatively close flyby, its cameras monitored the moon's northern polar region, capturing signs of renewed cloud activity.

As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sped away from Titan following a relatively close flyby, its cameras monitored the moon’s northern polar region, capturing signs of renewed cloud activity.

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NASA selects experiments to accompany Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Flight

 

Written by Rachel Hoover
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA has selected 12 technology experiments to fly on the first commercial research flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

Through NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program within the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, officials have been working with commercial companies, universities and government organizations to coordinate testing of innovative space technologies on research flights through the use of commercial suborbital flight platforms.

Telescopic image of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo during a supersonic test flight in 2013. (Mars Scientific/Clay Center Observatory)

Telescopic image of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo during a supersonic test flight in 2013. (Mars Scientific/Clay Center Observatory)

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NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes spacecraft discover stripe pattern in one radiation belt around Earth

 

Written by Geoff Brown / Karen C. Fox
APL / NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Scientists have discovered a new, persistent structure in one of two radiation belts surrounding Earth. NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes spacecraft have shown that high-energy electrons in the inner radiation belt display a persistent pattern that resembles slanted zebra stripes.

Surprisingly, this structure is produced by the slow rotation of Earth, previously considered incapable of affecting the motion of radiation belt particles, which have velocities approaching the speed of light.

Two giant belts of radiation surround Earth. The inner belt is dominated by electrons and the outer one by protons.  (NASA)

Two giant belts of radiation surround Earth. The inner belt is dominated by electrons and the outer one by protons.
(NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance, Odyssey orbiters discover Martian Slopes where Water possibly flowed

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars have returned clues for understanding seasonal features that are the strongest indication of possible liquid water that may exist today on the Red Planet.

The features are dark, finger-like markings that advance down some Martian slopes when temperatures rise. The new clues include corresponding seasonal changes in iron minerals on the same slopes and a survey of ground temperatures and other traits at active sites.

This image combines a photograph of seasonal dark flows on a Martian slope with a grid of colors based on data collected by a mineral-mapping spectrometer observing the same area. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/JHU-APL)

This image combines a photograph of seasonal dark flows on a Martian slope with a grid of colors based on data collected by a mineral-mapping spectrometer observing the same area. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/JHU-APL)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft gets images of Lakes on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With the sun now shining down over the north pole of Saturn’s moon Titan, a little luck with the weather, and trajectories that put the spacecraft into optimal viewing positions, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has obtained new pictures of the liquid methane and ethane seas and lakes that reside near Titan’s north pole.

The images reveal new clues about how the lakes formed and about Titan’s Earth-like “hydrologic” cycle, which involves hydrocarbons rather than water.

This false-color mosaic, made from infrared data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, reveals the differences in the composition of surface materials around hydrocarbon lakes at Titan, Saturn's largest moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho)

This false-color mosaic, made from infrared data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, reveals the differences in the composition of surface materials around hydrocarbon lakes at Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho)

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Lunar Research funded by NASA detects Water on Moon’s Surface and possible Water underneath

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA-funded lunar research has yielded evidence of water locked in mineral grains on the surface of the moon from an unknown source deep beneath the surface.

Using data from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists remotely detected magmatic water, or water that originates from deep within the moon’s interior, on the surface of the moon.

This image of the moon was generated by data collected by NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper on the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 mission. It is a three-color composite of reflected near-infrared radiation from the sun, and illustrates the extent to which different materials are mapped across the side of the moon that faces Earth. (Image credit: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Brown Univ./USGS)

This image of the moon was generated by data collected by NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper on the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 mission. It is a three-color composite of reflected near-infrared radiation from the sun, and illustrates the extent to which different materials are mapped across the side of the moon that faces Earth. (Image credit: ISRO/NASA/JPL-Caltech/Brown Univ./USGS)

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