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Topic: Magnetic Field

NASA’s Van Allen Probes data reveals new insights into Earth’s Radiation Belts

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – About 600 miles from Earth’s surface is the first of two donut-shaped electron swarms, known as the Van Allen Belts, or the radiation belts. Understanding the shape and size of the belts, which can shrink and swell in response to incoming radiation from the sun, is crucial for protecting our technology in space.

The harsh radiation isn’t good for satellites’ health, so scientists wish to know just which orbits could be jeopardized in different situations.

NASA’s Van Allen Probes artist concept. (NASA)

NASA’s Van Allen Probes artist concept. (NASA)

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NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft data reveals clues to Interstellar Space Mystery

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft made history in 2012 by entering interstellar space, leaving the planets and the solar wind behind. But observations from the pioneering probe were puzzling with regard to the magnetic field around it, as they differed from what scientists derived from observations by other spacecraft.

A new study offers fresh insights into this mystery. Writing in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Nathan Schwadron of the University of New Hampshire, Durham, and colleagues reanalyzed magnetic field data from Voyager 1 and found that the direction of the magnetic field has been slowly turning ever since the spacecraft crossed into interstellar space.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Voyager spacecraft against a backdrop of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Voyager spacecraft against a backdrop of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to sample Saturn’s moon Enceladus’s ocean by flying through it’s icy plume

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will sample the ocean of Saturn’s moon Enceladus on Wednesday, October 28th, when it flies through the moon’s plume of icy spray.

Cassini launched in 1997 and entered orbit around Saturn in 2004. Since then, it has been studying the huge planet, its rings and its magnetic field. Here are some things to know about the mission’s upcoming close flyby of Enceladus:

This daring flyby will bring the Cassini spacecraft within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of Enceladus' south pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This daring flyby will bring the Cassini spacecraft within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of Enceladus’ south pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA discovers low-energy electrons play role in Pulsating Auroras

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Thanks to a lucky conjunction of two satellites, a ground-based array of all-sky cameras, and some spectacular aurora borealis, researchers have uncovered evidence for an unexpected role that electrons have in creating the dancing auroras. Though humans have been seeing auroras for thousands of years, we have only recently begun to understand what causes them.

In this study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists compared ground-based videos of pulsating auroras—a certain type of aurora that appears as patches of brightness regularly flickering on and off—with satellite measurements of the numbers and energies of electrons raining down towards the surface from inside Earth’s magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere.

This image of a colorful aurora was taken in Delta Junction, Alaska, on April 10, 2015. All auroras are created by energetic electrons, which rain down from Earth’s magnetic bubble and interact with particles in the upper atmosphere to create glowing lights that stretch across the sky. (Image courtesy of Sebastian Saarloos)

This image of a colorful aurora was taken in Delta Junction, Alaska, on April 10, 2015. All auroras are created by energetic electrons, which rain down from Earth’s magnetic bubble and interact with particles in the upper atmosphere to create glowing lights that stretch across the sky. (Image courtesy of Sebastian Saarloos)

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NASA study discovers Brown Dwarfs have strong Auroras around them

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mysterious objects called brown dwarfs are sometimes called “failed stars.” They are too small to fuse hydrogen in their cores, the way most stars do, but also too large to be classified as planets.

But a new study in the journal Nature suggests they succeed in creating powerful auroral displays, similar to the kind seen around the magnetic poles on Earth.

“This is a whole new manifestation of magnetic activity for that kind of object,” said Leon Harding, a technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and co-author on the study.

This artist's concept shows an auroral display on a brown dwarf. If you could see an aurora on a brown dwarf, it would be a million times brighter than an aurora on Earth. (Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows an auroral display on a brown dwarf. If you could see an aurora on a brown dwarf, it would be a million times brighter than an aurora on Earth. (Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory watches as Pulsar Punches Hole in Disk of Gas

 

Written by Janet Anderson
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – A fast-moving pulsar appears to have punched a hole in a disk of gas around its companion star and launched a fragment of the disk outward at a speed of about 4 million miles per hour. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is tracking this cosmic clump, which appears to be picking up speed as it moves out.

The double star system PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – contains a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun and a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion.

This trio of images contains evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory that a clump of stellar material has been jettisoned away from a double star system at incredibly high speeds. This system, known as PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – is comprised of two objects in orbit around one another. The first is a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun that has a disk of material swirling around it. The other is a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion. (NASA/CXC/PSU/G.Pavlov et al)

This trio of images contains evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory that a clump of stellar material has been jettisoned away from a double star system at incredibly high speeds. This system, known as PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – is comprised of two objects in orbit around one another. The first is a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun that has a disk of material swirling around it. The other is a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion. (NASA/CXC/PSU/G.Pavlov et al)

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NASA study shows Twisting Whip like Wave emitting from Black Hole

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Fast-moving magnetic waves emanating from a distant supermassive black hole undulate like a whip whose handle is being shaken by a giant hand, according to a new study using data from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Long Baseline Array.

Scientists used this instrument to explore the galaxy/black hole system known as BL Lacertae (BL Lac) in high resolution.

“The waves are excited by a shaking motion of the jet at its base,” said David Meier, a now-retired astrophysicist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, both in Pasadena.

This cartoon shows how magnetic waves, called Alfven S-waves, propagate outward from the base of black hole jets. (Caltech)

This cartoon shows how magnetic waves, called Alfven S-waves, propagate outward from the base of black hole jets. (Caltech)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft has one year remaining on flight to Jupiter

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With just one year remaining in a five-year trek to Jupiter, the team of NASA’s Juno mission is hard at work preparing for the spacecraft’s expedition to the solar system’s largest planet.

The mission aims to reveal the story of Jupiter’s formation and details of its interior structure. Data from Juno will provide insights about our solar system’s beginnings, and what we learn from the mission will also enrich scientists’ understanding of giant planets around other stars.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa to include Magnetic Field and Chemistry tests

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Two powerful science investigations will help unravel the mystery of whether Jupiter’s icy moon Europa might have the right conditions for life, when a new NASA mission heads there sometime in the 2020s. Led by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the instruments include an infrared imaging spectrometer and a magnetometer.

NASA announced selection of ICEMAG, MISE and seven other investigations for the Europa mission’s science payload on May 26th, 2015. The space agency received 33 proposals for science instruments to fly onboard its planned Europa mission, which would orbit Jupiter and conduct repeated close flybys of the small moon during a three-year period.

NASA announced the selection of nine instruments for a future Europa mission on May 27, including two led by JPL researchers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR)

NASA announced the selection of nine instruments for a future Europa mission on May 27, including two led by JPL researchers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/DLR)

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NASA selects Instruments for mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected nine science instruments for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, to investigate whether the mysterious icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.

NASA’s Galileo mission yielded strong evidence that Europa, about the size of Earth’s moon, has an ocean beneath a frozen crust of unknown thickness. If proven to exist, this global ocean could have more than twice as much water as Earth.

With abundant salt water, a rocky sea floor, and the energy and chemistry provided by tidal heating, Europa could be the best place in the solar system to look for present day life beyond our home planet.

This artist's rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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