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Topic: Meteorites

NASA’s Cassini mission and Hubble Space Telescope provides new details about moons Enceladus and Europa

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other “ocean worlds” in our solar system and beyond. The findings are presented in papers published Thursday by researchers with NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Hubble Space Telescope.

In the papers, Cassini scientists announce that a form of chemical energy that life can feed on appears to exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.

This artist's rendering shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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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 Mars Curiosity Rover discovers evidence that Mars Surface Material contributes to Atmosphere

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover has found evidence that chemistry in the surface material on Mars contributed dynamically to the makeup of its atmosphere over time. It’s another clue that the history of the Red Planet’s atmosphere is more complex and interesting than a simple legacy of loss.

The findings come from the rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, instrument suite, which studied the gases xenon and krypton in Mars’ atmosphere. The two gases can be used as tracers to help scientists investigate the evolution and erosion of the Martian atmosphere.

Processes in Mars' surface material can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected, as measured by NASA's Curiosity rover. Cosmic rays striking barium (Ba) or bromine (Br) atoms can alter isotopic ratios of xenon and krypton. (NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech)

Processes in Mars’ surface material can explain why particular xenon (Xe) and krypton (Kr) isotopes are more abundant in the Martian atmosphere than expected, as measured by NASA’s Curiosity rover. Cosmic rays striking barium (Ba) or bromine (Br) atoms can alter isotopic ratios of xenon and krypton. (NASA/GSFC/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft on it’s way to asteroid Bennu

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05pm EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.

“Ee celebrate a huge milestone for this remarkable mission, and for this mission team,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’re very excited about what this mission can tell us about the origin of our solar system, and we celebrate the bigger picture of science that is helping us make discoveries and accomplish milestones that might have been science fiction yesterday, but are science facts today.”

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft was launched into space at 7:05pm EDT Thursday, September 8th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (NASA)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft was launched into space at 7:05pm EDT Thursday, September 8th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (NASA)

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NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers clues to swirling patterns on the Moon

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A powerful combination of observations and computer simulations is giving new clues to how the moon got its mysterious “tattoos” — swirling patterns of light and dark found at over a hundred locations across the lunar surface.

“These patterns, called ‘lunar swirls,’ appear almost painted on the surface of the moon,” said John Keller of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “They are unique; we’ve only seen these features on the moon, and their origin has remained a mystery since their discovery.” Keller is project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, which made the observations.

This is an image of the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA LRO WAC science team)

This is an image of the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA LRO WAC science team)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover examines Martian Atmosphere to learn about it’s past

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity rover is using a new experiment to better understand the history of the Martian atmosphere by analyzing xenon.

While NASA’s Curiosity rover concluded its detailed examination of the rock layers of the “Pahrump Hills” in Gale Crater on Mars this winter, some members of the rover team were busy analyzing the Martian atmosphere for xenon, a heavy noble gas.

Curiosity’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) experiment analyzed xenon in the planet’s atmosphere. Since noble gases are chemically inert and do not react with other substances in the air or on the ground, they are excellent tracers of the history of the atmosphere.

A Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team member at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland prepares the SAM testbed for an experiment. This test copy of SAM is inside a chamber that can model the pressure and temperature environment that SAM sees inside NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars. (NASA/GSFC)

A Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) team member at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland prepares the SAM testbed for an experiment. This test copy of SAM is inside a chamber that can model the pressure and temperature environment that SAM sees inside NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA Scientists recreate Building Blocks of Life by simulating Outer Space Environment

 

Written by Ruth Marlaire
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces these essential ingredients of life.

Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the central structure for uracil, cytosine, and thymine, which are all three part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). RNA and DNA are central to protein synthesis, but also have many other roles.

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. (NASA/ Dominic Hart)

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. (NASA/ Dominic Hart)

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NASA reports scientists discover evidence of Water Reservoir near Mar’s Surface from Meteorites on Earth

 

Written by William Jeffs
NASA’s Johnson Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHouston, TX – NASA and an international team of planetary scientists have found evidence in meteorites on Earth that indicates Mars has a distinct and global reservoir of water or ice near its surface.

Though controversy still surrounds the origin, abundance and history of water on Mars, this discovery helps resolve the question of where the “missing Martian water” may have gone. Scientists continue to study the planet’s historical record, trying to understand the apparent shift from an early wet and warm climate to today’s dry and cool surface conditions.

This illustration depicts Martian water reservoirs. Recent research provides evidence for the existence of a third reservoir that is intermediate in isotopic composition between the Red Planet’s mantle and its current atmosphere. These results support the hypothesis that a buried cryosphere accounts for a large part of the initial water budget of Mars. (NASA)

This illustration depicts Martian water reservoirs. Recent research provides evidence for the existence of a third reservoir that is intermediate in isotopic composition between the Red Planet’s mantle and its current atmosphere. These results support the hypothesis that a buried cryosphere accounts for a large part of the initial water budget of Mars. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover detects organic chemical in atmosphere and organic molecules in rock powder on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory’s drill.

“This temporary increase in methane — sharply up and then back down — tells us there must be some relatively localized source,” said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. “There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock.”

This illustration portrays possible ways methane might be added to Mars' atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan)

This illustration portrays possible ways methane might be added to Mars’ atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SAM-GSFC/Univ. of Michigan)

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NASA’s Dawn Mission creates Geological Maps of Asteroid Vesta

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images from NASA’s Dawn Mission have been used to create a series of high-resolution geological maps of the large asteroid Vesta, revealing the variety of surface features in unprecedented detail. These maps are included with a series of 11 scientific papers published this week in a special issue of the journal Icarus.

Geological mapping is a technique used to derive the geologic history of a planetary object from detailed analysis of surface morphology, topography, color and brightness information.

This high-resolution geological map of Vesta is derived from Dawn spacecraft data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

This high-resolution geological map of Vesta is derived from Dawn spacecraft data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

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