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NASA lists Milky Way Galaxy planets that are remarkably similar to those in the Star Wars universe

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The fantasy creations of the “Star Wars” universe are strikingly similar to real planets in our own Milky Way galaxy. A super Earth in deep freeze? Think ice-planet “Hoth.” And that distant world with double sunsets can’t help but summon thoughts of sandy “Tatooine.”

No indications of life have yet been detected on any of the nearly 2,000 scientifically confirmed exoplanets, so we don’t know if any of them are inhabited by Wookiees or mynocks, or play host to exotic alien bar scenes (or even bacteria, for that matter).

Still, a quick spin around the real exoplanet universe offers tantalizing similarities to several Star Wars counterparts.

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes discover star with storm cloud similar to Jupiter’s Red Spot

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered what appears to be a tiny star with a giant, cloudy storm, using data from NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes. The dark storm is akin to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot: a persistent, raging storm larger than Earth.

“The star is the size of Jupiter, and its storm is the size of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said John Gizis of the University of Delaware, Newark. “We know this newfound storm has lasted at least two years, and probably longer.” Gizis is the lead author of a new study appearing in The Astrophysical Journal.

This illustration shows a cool star, called W1906+40, marked by a raging storm near one of its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows a cool star, called W1906+40, marked by a raging storm near one of its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA to use two CubeSats to test multiple Satellite Networking and Communications

 

Written by Julianna Fishman
NASA’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s two Nodes small satellites hitched a ride to the International Space Station on the fourth Orbital ATK cargo mission, which launched on December 6th. Once aboard the station, the satellites will settle in for a two-to-three month stay until deployed into low-Earth orbit in early 2016.

The Nodes mission, which consists of two CubeSats weighing just 4.5 pounds each and measuring 4 inches by 4 inches by 6.5 inches, will test new network capabilities for operating swarms of spacecraft in the future.

NASA Small Satellites to Demonstrate Swarm Communications and Autonomy. (NASA)

NASA Small Satellites to Demonstrate Swarm Communications and Autonomy. (NASA)

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NASA researches develop Chemical Laptop that could look for life on other Planets

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If you were looking for the signatures of life on another world, you would want to take something small and portable with you. That’s the philosophy behind the “Chemical Laptop” being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California: a miniaturized laboratory that analyzes samples for materials associated with life.

“If this instrument were to be sent to space, it would be the most sensitive device of its kind to leave Earth, and the first to be able to look for both amino acids and fatty acids,” said Jessica Creamer, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at JPL.

Researchers took the Chemical Laptop to JPL's Mars Yard, where they placed the device on a test rover. This image shows the size comparison between the Chemical Laptop and a regular laptop. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Researchers took the Chemical Laptop to JPL’s Mars Yard, where they placed the device on a test rover. This image shows the size comparison between the Chemical Laptop and a regular laptop. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft continues to make fascinating discoveries about Pluto

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – From possible ice volcanoes to twirling moons, NASA’s New Horizons science team is discussing more than 50 exciting discoveries about Pluto at this week’s 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in National Harbor, Maryland.

“The New Horizons mission has taken what we thought we knew about Pluto and turned it upside down,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It’s why we explore — to satisfy our innate curiosity and answer deeper questions about how we got here and what lies beyond the next horizon.”

Locations of more than 1,000 craters mapped on Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons mission indicate a wide range of surface ages, which likely means Pluto has been geologically active throughout its history. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Locations of more than 1,000 craters mapped on Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons mission indicate a wide range of surface ages, which likely means Pluto has been geologically active throughout its history. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s Kepler space telescope (K2) discovers Planet being ripped apart by White Dwarf Star

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists using NASA’s repurposed Kepler space telescope, known as the K2 mission, have uncovered strong evidence of a tiny, rocky object being torn apart as it spirals around a white dwarf star. This discovery validates a long-held theory that white dwarfs are capable of cannibalizing possible remnant planets that have survived within its solar system.

“We are for the first time witnessing a miniature “planet” ripped apart by intense gravity, being vaporized by starlight and raining rocky material onto its star,” said Andrew Vanderburg, graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lead author of the paper published in Nature.

In this artist's conception, a tiny rocky object vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star. Astronomers have detected the first planetary object transiting a white dwarf using data from the K2 mission. Slowly the object will disintegrate, leaving a dusting of metals on the surface of the star. (CfA/Mark A. Garlick)

In this artist’s conception, a tiny rocky object vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star. Astronomers have detected the first planetary object transiting a white dwarf using data from the K2 mission. Slowly the object will disintegrate, leaving a dusting of metals on the surface of the star. (CfA/Mark A. Garlick)

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NASA’s CubeSat spacecraft in orbit and ready to test Miniature Laser Communications

 

Written by Joshua Buck
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA and The Aerospace Corporation of El Segundo, California, have received confirmation the Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) CubeSat spacecraft is in orbit and operational. OCSD launched aboard an Atlas V rocket Thursday from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

OCSD is the first in a new series of six NASA-managed technology demonstration missions set to launch during the coming months using CubeSats to test technologies that can enable new uses for these miniature satellites, which measure 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm (about 4 inches per side).

Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) Spacecraft Configuration. OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space. (NASA/Ames)

Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) Spacecraft Configuration. OCSD differs from other space-based laser communication systems because the laser is hard-mounted to the spacecraft body, and the orientation of the CubeSat controls the direction of the beam. This makes the laser system more compact than anything previously flown in space. (NASA/Ames)

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NASA to make announcement regarding Solving Major Mars Mystery

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA will detail a major science finding from the agency’s ongoing exploration of Mars during a news briefing at 8:30am PDT (11:30am EDT) on Monday, September 28th.

The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Mars true-color globe showing Terra Meridiani. (NASA/Greg Shirah)

Mars true-color globe showing Terra Meridiani. (NASA/Greg Shirah)

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NASA’s Gemini Planet Imager discovers young Jupiter like planet

 

NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – One of the best ways to learn how our solar system evolved is to look at younger star systems in the early stages of development. Recently, a team of astronomers including NASA scientists discovered a Jupiter-like planet within a young system that could serve as a decoder ring for understanding how planets formed around our sun.

The new planet, called 51 Eridani (Eri) b, is the first exoplanet discovered by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), a new instrument operated by an international collaboration, and installed on the 8-meter Gemini South Telescope in Chile.

Artistic conception of the Jupiter-like exoplanet 51 Eridani b, with the hot layers deep in its atmosphere glowing through the clouds. Because of its young age, this cousin of our own Jupiter is still hot and carries information on the way it was formed 20 million years ago. (Danielle Futselaar and Franck Marchis, SETI Institute)

Artistic conception of the Jupiter-like exoplanet 51 Eridani b, with the hot layers deep in its atmosphere glowing through the clouds. Because of its young age, this cousin of our own Jupiter is still hot and carries information on the way it was formed 20 million years ago. (Danielle Futselaar and Franck Marchis, SETI Institute)

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NASA says researchers have used Seafloor chimneys to turn on a Light Bulb

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One of the key necessities for life on our planet is electricity. That’s not to say that life requires a plug and socket, but everything from shrubs to ants to people harnesses energy via the transfer of electrons — the basis of electricity.

Some experts think that the very first cell-like organisms on Earth channeled electricity from the seafloor using bubbling, chimney-shaped structures, also known as chemical gardens.

Researchers created "chemical gardens" -- chimney-like structures normally found at bubbling vents on the seafloor -- in the laboratory. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Researchers created “chemical gardens” — chimney-like structures normally found at bubbling vents on the seafloor — in the laboratory. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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