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Topic: Mercury

NASA’s MAVEN mission insights about Mars helps with understanding Distant Planets Habitability

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – How long might a rocky, Mars-like planet be habitable if it were orbiting a red dwarf star? It’s a complex question but one that NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission can help answer.

“The MAVEN mission tells us that Mars lost substantial amounts of its atmosphere over time, changing the planet’s habitability,” said David Brain, a MAVEN co-investigator and a professor at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We can use Mars, a planet that we know a lot about, as a laboratory for studying rocky planets outside our solar system, which we don’t know much about yet.”

This illustration depicts charged particles from a solar storm stripping away charged particles of Mars' atmosphere, one of the processes of Martian atmosphere loss studied by NASA's MAVEN mission, beginning in 2014. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field that could deflect charged particles emanating from the Sun. (NASA/GSFC)

This illustration depicts charged particles from a solar storm stripping away charged particles of Mars’ atmosphere, one of the processes of Martian atmosphere loss studied by NASA’s MAVEN mission, beginning in 2014. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field that could deflect charged particles emanating from the Sun. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope data shows Super Earth 55 Cancri e could have an Atmosphere similar to Earth’s

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA –  Twice as big as Earth, the super-Earth 55 Cancri e was thought to have lava flows on its surface. The planet is so close to its star, the same side of the planet always faces the star, such that the planet has permanent day and night sides.

Based on a 2016 study using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists speculated that lava would flow freely in lakes on the starlit side and become hardened on the face of perpetual darkness. The lava on the dayside would reflect radiation from the star, contributing to the overall observed temperature of the planet.

The super-Earth exoplanet 55 Cancri e, depicted with its star in this artist's concept, likely has an atmosphere thicker than Earth's but with ingredients that could be similar to those of Earth's atmosphere. (NASA)

The super-Earth exoplanet 55 Cancri e, depicted with its star in this artist’s concept, likely has an atmosphere thicker than Earth’s but with ingredients that could be similar to those of Earth’s atmosphere. (NASA)

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NASA tracks Asteroid/Comet that recently appeared in our Solar System

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A small, recently discovered asteroid — or perhaps a comet — appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy. If so, it would be the first “interstellar object” to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.

This unusual object – for now designated A/2017 U1 – is less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and is moving remarkably fast. Astronomers are urgently working to point telescopes around the world and in space at this notable object. Once these data are obtained and analyzed, astronomers may know more about the origin and possibly composition of the object.

This photon shows the path of A/2017 U1, which is an asteroid -- or perhaps a comet -- as it passed through our inner solar system in September and October 2017. From analysis of its motion, scientists calculate that it probably originated from outside of our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This photon shows the path of A/2017 U1, which is an asteroid — or perhaps a comet — as it passed through our inner solar system in September and October 2017. From analysis of its motion, scientists calculate that it probably originated from outside of our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s MESSENGER Spacecraft data shows how Micrometeoroids effect Mercury’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Kathryn DuFresne
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft — short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging, a mission that observed Mercury from 2011 to 2015 — has shed new light on how certain types of comets influence the lopsided bombardment of Mercury’s surface by tiny dust particles called micrometeoroids. This study also gave new insight into how these micrometeoroid showers can shape Mercury’s very thin atmosphere, called an exosphere. 

Scientists used models along with earlier findings from the MESSENGER mission to shed light on how certain types of comets influence the micrometeoroids that preferentially impact Mercury on the dawn side of the planet. Here, data from the Mercury Atmosphere and Surface Composition Spectrometer, or MASCS, instrument is overlain on the mosaic from the Mercury Dual Imaging System, or MDIS. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

Scientists used models along with earlier findings from the MESSENGER mission to shed light on how certain types of comets influence the micrometeoroids that preferentially impact Mercury on the dawn side of the planet. Here, data from the Mercury Atmosphere and Surface Composition Spectrometer, or MASCS, instrument is overlain on the mosaic from the Mercury Dual Imaging System, or MDIS. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

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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’s Dawn mission reveals Ceres’ Ice in Shadowed Craters related to dwarf planet’s tilt

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Dwarf planet Ceres may be hundreds of millions of miles from Jupiter, and even farther from Saturn, but the tremendous influence of gravity from these gas giants has an appreciable effect on Ceres’ orientation.

In a new study, researchers from NASA’s Dawn mission calculate that the axial tilt of Ceres — the angle at which it spins as it journeys around the sun — varies widely over the course of about 24,500 years. Astronomers consider this to be a surprisingly short period of time for such dramatic deviations.

This animation shows how the illumination of Ceres' northern hemisphere varies with the dwarf planet's axial tilt, or obliquity. Shadowed regions are highlighted for tilts of 2 degrees, 12 degrees and 20 degrees. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This animation shows how the illumination of Ceres’ northern hemisphere varies with the dwarf planet’s axial tilt, or obliquity. Shadowed regions are highlighted for tilts of 2 degrees, 12 degrees and 20 degrees. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA researchers say Mars may have had Rings

 

Written by Brian Wallheimer
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – As children, we learned about our solar system’s planets by certain characteristics — Jupiter is the largest, Saturn has rings, Mercury is closest to the sun. Mars is red, but it’s possible that one of our closest neighbors also had rings at one point and may have them again someday.

That’s the theory put forth by NASA-funded scientists at Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, whose findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience. David Minton and Andrew Hesselbrock developed a model that suggests that debris that was pushed into space from an asteroid or other body slamming into Mars around 4.3 billion years ago alternates between becoming a planetary ring and clumping together to form a moon.

This sequence of images from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows one of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passing directly in front of the other, Deimos, in 2013. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.)

This sequence of images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows one of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, passing directly in front of the other, Deimos, in 2013. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.)

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NASA prepares Satellites for alignment of Planets and Stars

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The movements of the stars and the planets have almost no impact on life on Earth, but a few times per year, the alignment of celestial bodies has a visible effect.

One of these geometric events — the spring equinox — is just around the corner, and another major alignment — a total solar eclipse — will be visible across America on August 21st, with a fleet of NASA satellites viewing it from space and providing images of the event.

To understand the basics of celestial alignments, here is information on equinoxes, solstices, full moons, eclipses and transits:

During a transit, a planet passes in between us and the star it orbits. This method is commonly used to find new exoplanets in our galaxy. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein)

During a transit, a planet passes in between us and the star it orbits. This method is commonly used to find new exoplanets in our galaxy. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft reveals new areas where Ice may hide on Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – At first glance, Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, may not look icy. Images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have revealed a dark, heavily cratered world whose brightest area is made of highly reflective salts — not ice.

But newly published studies from Dawn scientists show two distinct lines of evidence for ice at or near the surface of the dwarf planet. Researchers are presenting these findings at the 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

This graphic shows a theoretical path of a water molecule on Ceres. Some water molecules fall into cold, dark craters called "cold traps," where very little of the ice turns into vapor, even over the course of a billion years. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This graphic shows a theoretical path of a water molecule on Ceres. Some water molecules fall into cold, dark craters called “cold traps,” where very little of the ice turns into vapor, even over the course of a billion years. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft finds Great Valley on Mercury

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A newly discovered “great valley” in the southern hemisphere of Mercury provides more evidence that the small planet closest to the sun is shrinking.

Scientists used stereo images from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft to create a high-resolution topo map that revealed the broad valley — more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) long — extending into the Rembrandt basin, one of the largest and youngest impact basins on Mercury. About 250 miles (400 kilometers) wide and 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep, Mercury’s great valley is smaller than Mars’ Valles Marineris, but larger than North America’s Grand Canyon and wider and deeper than the Great Rift Valley in East Africa.

Using colorized topography, Mercury’s “great valley” (dark blue) and Rembrandt impact basin (purple, upper right) are revealed in this high-resolution digital elevation model merged with an image mosaic obtained by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft.(NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington/DLR/Smithsonian Institution)

Using colorized topography, Mercury’s “great valley” (dark blue) and Rembrandt impact basin (purple, upper right) are revealed in this high-resolution digital elevation model merged with an image mosaic obtained by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft.(NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington/DLR/Smithsonian Institution)

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