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Topic: Magnetic Field

NASA’s Van Allen Probes celebrates 5 years of studying Van Allen Radiation Belts

 

Written by Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Most satellites, not designed to withstand high levels of particle radiation, wouldn’t last a day in the Van Allen Radiation belts. Trapped by Earth’s magnetic field into two giant belts around the planet, high-energy particles in the region can batter the spacecraft and even interfere with onboard electronics.

But NASA’s Van Allen Probes have been traveling through this hazardous area since August 30th 2012 – they are now celebrating their fifth year in space studying this dynamic region.

The two Van Allen Probes work as a team, following one behind the other to uniquely observe changes in the belts. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/JHUAPL)

The two Van Allen Probes work as a team, following one behind the other to uniquely observe changes in the belts. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/JHUAPL)

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NASA to chase Total Solar Eclipse from WB-57F Jets

 

Written by Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – For most viewers, the Monday, August 21st, 2017, total solar eclipse will last less than two and half minutes. But for one team of NASA-funded scientists, the eclipse will last over seven minutes. Their secret? Following the shadow of the Moon in two retrofitted WB-57F jet planes.

Amir Caspi of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and his team will use two of NASA’s WB-57F research jets to chase the darkness across America on August 21st. Taking observations from twin telescopes mounted on the noses of the planes, Caspi will ­­­­­capture the clearest images of the Sun’s outer atmosphere — the corona — to date and the first-ever thermal images of Mercury, revealing how temperature varies across the planet’s surface.

(Photo illustration) During the upcoming total solar eclipse, a team of NASA-funded scientists will observe the solar corona using stabilized telescopes aboard two of NASA’s WB-57F research aircraft. This vantage point provides distinct advantages over ground-based observations, as illustrated by this composite photo of the aircraft and the 2015 total solar eclipse at the Faroe Islands. (NASA/Faroe Islands/SwRI)

(Photo illustration) During the upcoming total solar eclipse, a team of NASA-funded scientists will observe the solar corona using stabilized telescopes aboard two of NASA’s WB-57F research aircraft. This vantage point provides distinct advantages over ground-based observations, as illustrated by this composite photo of the aircraft and the 2015 total solar eclipse at the Faroe Islands. (NASA/Faroe Islands/SwRI)

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NASA along with European Space Agency observe how Solar Storms move through Space

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Our Sun is active: Not only does it release a constant stream of material, called the solar wind, but it also lets out occasional bursts of faster-moving material, known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs.

NASA researchers wish to improve our understanding of CMEs and how they move through space because they can interact with the magnetic field around Earth, affecting satellites, interfering with GPS signals, triggering auroras, and — in extreme cases — straining power grids.

While we track CMEs with a number of instruments, the sheer size of the solar system means that our observations are limited, and usually taken from a distance.

ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory observed a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun on Oct. 14, 2014. Scientists went on to track this coronal mass ejection through the solar system using 10 NASA and ESA spacecraft. (The bright light appearing at roughly 2 o'clock is the planet Mercury.) (ESA/NASA/SOHO)

ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory observed a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun on Oct. 14, 2014. Scientists went on to track this coronal mass ejection through the solar system using 10 NASA and ESA spacecraft. (The bright light appearing at roughly 2 o’clock is the planet Mercury.) (ESA/NASA/SOHO)

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NASA to study Earth’s Ionosphere during Total Solar Eclipse

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On August 21st, 2017, the Moon will slide in front of the Sun and for a brief moment, day will melt into a dusky night. Moving across the country, the Moon’s shadow will block the Sun’s light, and weather permitting, those within the path of totality will be treated to a view of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona.

But the total solar eclipse will also have imperceptible effects, such as the sudden loss of extreme ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which generates the ionized layer of Earth’s atmosphere, called the ionosphere. This ever-changing region grows and shrinks based on solar conditions, and is the focus of several NASA-funded science teams that will use the eclipse as a ready-made experiment, courtesy of nature.

The Moon’s shadow will dramatically affect insolation — the amount of sunlight reaching the ground — during the total solar eclipse. (NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio)

The Moon’s shadow will dramatically affect insolation — the amount of sunlight reaching the ground — during the total solar eclipse. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

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NASA looks into Tethering Two CubeSats to study Swirl Patterns on the Moon

 

Written by Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A novel mission concept involving two CubeSats connected by a thin, miles-long tether could help scientists understand how the Moon got its mysterious “tattoos” — swirling patterns of light and dark found at more than 100 locations across the lunar surface.

NASA’s Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies, or PSDS3, program recently selected a team at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to further develop a mission concept called the Bi-sat Observations of the Lunar Atmosphere above Swirls, or BOLAS. The study, led by Goddard Principal Investigator Timothy Stubbs, could lead to the first tethered planetary CubeSat mission, Stubbs said.

This artist’s drawing shows how two CubeSats, connected by a miles-long tether, would gather measurements on the moon. (NASA)

This artist’s drawing shows how two CubeSats, connected by a miles-long tether, would gather measurements on the moon. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft continues dives between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding — so far — that the planet’s magnetic field has no discernible tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn’s day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini’s mission, known as the Grand Finale.

Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere.

Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Recent images of features in Saturn’s C ring called “plateaus” reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft celebrates 1,000 Days in Orbit

 

Written by Nancy Jones
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On June 17th, NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) will celebrate 1,000 Earth days in orbit around the Red Planet. Since its launch in November 2013 and its orbit insertion in September 2014, MAVEN has been exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars.

MAVEN is bringing insight to how the sun stripped Mars of most of its atmosphere, turning a planet once possibly habitable to microbial life into a barren desert world.

This artist concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft and the limb of Mars. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

This artist concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft and the limb of Mars. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft provides fascinating discoveries about Jupiter

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Early science results from NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter portray the largest planet in our solar system as a complex, gigantic, turbulent world, with Earth-sized polar cyclones, plunging storm systems that travel deep into the heart of the gas giant, and a mammoth, lumpy magnetic field that may indicate it was generated closer to the planet’s surface than previously thought.

“We are excited to share these early discoveries, which help us better understand what makes Jupiter so fascinating,” said Diane Brown, Juno program executive at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It was a long trip to get to Jupiter, but these first results already demonstrate it was well worth the journey.”

NASA's Juno spacecraft carries an instrument called the Microwave Radiometer, which examines Jupiter's atmosphere beneath the planet's cloud tops. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

NASA’s Juno spacecraft carries an instrument called the Microwave Radiometer, which examines Jupiter’s atmosphere beneath the planet’s cloud tops. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

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NASA reports Solar Storms can drain Electrical Charge from Earth’s Upper Atmosphere

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New research on solar storms finds that they not only can cause regions of excessive electrical charge in the upper atmosphere above Earth’s poles, they also can do the exact opposite: cause regions that are nearly depleted of electrically charged particles.

The finding adds to our knowledge of how solar storms affect Earth and could possibly lead to improved radio communication and navigation systems for the Arctic.

A team of researchers from Denmark, the United States and Canada made the discovery while studying a solar storm that reached Earth on February 19th, 2014.

A solar eruption on Sept. 26, 2014, seen by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. If erupted solar material reaches Earth, it can deplete the electrons in the upper atmosphere in some locations while adding electrons in others, disrupting communications either way. (NASA)

A solar eruption on Sept. 26, 2014, seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. If erupted solar material reaches Earth, it can deplete the electrons in the upper atmosphere in some locations while adding electrons in others, disrupting communications either way. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft examines ice moon with a salty ocean, Saturn’s Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On February 17th, 2005, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was making the first-ever close pass over Saturn’s moon Enceladus as it worked through its detailed survey of the planet’s icy satellites. Exciting, to be sure, just for the thrill of exploration. But then Cassini’s magnetometer instrument noticed something odd.

Since NASA’s two Voyager spacecraft made their distant flybys of Enceladus about 20 years prior, scientists had anticipated the little moon would be an interesting place to visit with Cassini. Enceladus is bright white — the most reflective object in the solar system, in fact — and it orbits in the middle of a faint ring of dust-sized ice particles known as Saturn’s E ring.

A dramatic plume sprays water ice and vapor from the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus. Cassini's first hint of this plume came during the spacecraft's first close flyby of the icy moon on February 17, 2005. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

A dramatic plume sprays water ice and vapor from the south polar region of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Cassini’s first hint of this plume came during the spacecraft’s first close flyby of the icy moon on February 17, 2005. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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