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Topic: Moons

NASA studies possible missions to Uranus and Neptune

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A NASA-led and NASA-sponsored study of potential future missions to the mysterious “ice giant” planets Uranus and Neptune has been released — the first in a series of mission studies NASA will conduct in support of the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

The results of this and future studies will be used as the Decadal Survey deliberates on NASA’s planetary science priorities from 2022-2032. The study identifies the scientific questions an ice giant mission should address, and discusses various instruments, spacecraft, flight-paths and technologies that could be used.

Left: Arriving at Uranus in 1986, Voyager 2 observed a bluish orb with subtle features. A haze layer hid most of the planet's cloud features from view. Right: This image of Neptune was produced from Voyager 2 and shows the Great Dark Spot and its companion bright smudge. (Left: NASA/JPL-Caltech - Right: NASA)

Left: Arriving at Uranus in 1986, Voyager 2 observed a bluish orb with subtle features. A haze layer hid most of the planet’s cloud features from view. Right: This image of Neptune was produced from Voyager 2 and shows the Great Dark Spot and its companion bright smudge. (Left: NASA/JPL-Caltech – Right: NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft observes Saturn’s Solstice

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft still has a few months to go before it completes its mission in September, but the veteran Saturn explorer reaches a new milestone today. Saturn’s solstice — that is, the longest day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of winter in the southern hemisphere — arrives today for the planet and its moons.

The Saturnian solstice occurs about every 15 Earth years as the planet and its entourage slowly orbit the sun, with the north and south hemispheres alternating their roles as the summer and winter poles.

These natural color views from Cassini show how the color of Saturn's north-polar region changed between June 2013 and April 2017, as the northern hemisphere headed toward summer solstice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton Univ.)

These natural color views from Cassini show how the color of Saturn’s north-polar region changed between June 2013 and April 2017, as the northern hemisphere headed toward summer solstice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton Univ.)

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NASA Laser Communications research may lead to faster data transfer in Space

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Thought your Internet speeds were slow? Try being a space scientist for a day.

The vast distances involved will throttle data rates to a trickle. You’re lucky if a spacecraft can send more than a few megabits per second (Mbps).

But we might be on the cusp of a change. Just as going from dial-up to broadband revolutionized the Internet and made high-resolution photos and streaming video a given, NASA may be ready to undergo a similar “broadband” moment in coming years.

Several upcoming NASA missions will use lasers to increase data transmission from space. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Amber Jacobson, producer)

Several upcoming NASA missions will use lasers to increase data transmission from space. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Amber Jacobson, producer)

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NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn inspires people of Earth

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Although the motivation behind NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn was scientific, part of the planet’s allure has long been in its undeniable physical beauty.

Since Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004, dramatic views from the spacecraft’s imaging cameras — and other sensors that observe in infrared, ultraviolet and radio frequencies — have revealed the ringed planet and its moons in unprecedented detail for scientists to study.

Saturn Mosaic by Ian Regan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Ian Regan)

Saturn Mosaic by Ian Regan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Ian Regan)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes first look at Saturn’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturn’s atmosphere since beginning the latest phase of its mission. The new images show scenes from high above Saturn’s northern hemisphere, including the planet’s intriguing hexagon-shaped jet stream.

Cassini began its new mission phase, called its Ring-Grazing Orbits, on November 30th. Each of these weeklong orbits — 20 in all — carries the spacecraft high above Saturn’s northern hemisphere before sending it skimming past the outer edges of the planet’s main rings.

This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft was obtained about half a day before its first close pass by the outer edges of Saturn's main rings during its penultimate mission phase. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft was obtained about half a day before its first close pass by the outer edges of Saturn’s main rings during its penultimate mission phase. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA continues to explore our Solar System

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Juno is now poised to shine a spotlight on the origins and interior structure of the largest planet in our solar system.

As we wait for Juno’s first close-up images of Jupiter (to be taken August 27th during the spacecraft’s next pass by the planet), NASA continues to explore our solar system to help answer fundamental questions about how we came to be, where we are going and whether we are alone in the universe.

Montage of planets. (NASA/JPL)

Montage of planets. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Kepler space telescope data reveals insights into Planet Migration

 

Written by Steve Koppes
University of Chicago

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationChicago, IL – The four planets of the Kepler-223 star system appeared to have little in common with the planets of our own solar system today. But a new study using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope suggests a possible commonality in the distant past.

The Kepler-223 planets orbit their star in the same configuration that Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune may have had in the early history of our solar system, before migrating to their current locations.

Sean Mills (left) and Daniel Fabrycky (right), researchers at the University of Chicago, describe the complex orbital structure of the Kepler-223 system in a new study. (Nancy Wong/University of Chicago)

Sean Mills (left) and Daniel Fabrycky (right), researchers at the University of Chicago, describe the complex orbital structure of the Kepler-223 system in a new study. (Nancy Wong/University of Chicago)

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NASA reports three planets similar to Venus and Earth found orbiting Dwarf Star

 

NASA’s Johnson Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHouston, TX – Astronomers using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory have discovered three planets with sizes and temperatures similar to those of Venus and Earth, orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth.

Michaël Gillon of the University of Liège in Belgium, leading a team of astronomers including Susan M. Lederer of NASA Johnson Space Center, have used the TRAPPIST telescope to observe the star 2MASS J23062928-0502285, now also known as TRAPPIST-1.

They found that this dim and cool star faded slightly at regular intervals, indicating that several objects were passing between the star and the Earth.

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view of the three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. In this view, one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star. (ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org))

This artist’s impression shows an imagined view of the three planets orbiting an ultra-cool dwarf star just 40 light-years from Earth that were discovered using the TRAPPIST telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory. In this view, one of the inner planets is seen in transit across the disc of its tiny and dim parent star. (ESO/M. Kornmesser/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org))

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NASA’s New Horizons scientists have released papers that shed new light on the Pluto System

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A year ago, Pluto was just a bright speck in the cameras of NASA’s approaching New Horizons spacecraft, not much different than its appearances in telescopes since Clyde Tombaugh discovered the then-ninth planet in 1930.

But this week, in the journal Science, New Horizons scientists have authored the first comprehensive set of papers describing results from last summer’s Pluto system flyby.

This image of haze layers above Pluto’s limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Gladstone et al./Science (2016))

This image of haze layers above Pluto’s limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Gladstone et al./Science (2016))

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NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) begins fourth year of studying objects in Space

 

Written by Nicholas A. Veronico
SOFIA Science Center, NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA’s “flying” telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aboard a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner, began its fourth series of science flights on February 3rd, 2016.

This operational period, known as “Cycle 4,” is a one-year-long observing period in which SOFIA is scheduled for 106 flights between now and the end of January 2017.

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

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