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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft images show complex history of Pluto’s Moon Charon

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has returned the best color and the highest resolution images yet of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon – and these pictures show a surprisingly complex and violent history.

At half the diameter of Pluto, Charon is the largest satellite relative to its planet in the solar system. Many New Horizons scientists expected Charon to be a monotonous, crater-battered world; instead, they’re finding a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-color variations and more.

Charon in Enhanced Color NASA's New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Charon in Enhanced Color NASA’s New Horizons captured this high-resolution enhanced color view of Charon just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers Saturn’s Moon Enceladus has a global ocean under it’s icy surface

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission.

Researchers found the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.

The finding implies the fine spray of water vapor, icy particles and simple organic molecules Cassini has observed coming from fractures near the moon’s south pole is being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir. The research is presented in a paper published online this week in the journal Icarus.

Illustration of the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus showing a global liquid water ocean between its rocky core and icy crust. Thickness of layers shown here is not to scale. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Illustration of the interior of Saturn’s moon Enceladus showing a global liquid water ocean between its rocky core and icy crust. Thickness of layers shown here is not to scale. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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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’s Kepler Space Telescope finds Earth size planet around a star like our sun in the Habitable Zone

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable-zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.”

The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet — of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030.

This artist's concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun. ( NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun. ( NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA to announce new discoveries by it’s planet seeking Kepler Space Telescope Thursday, July 23rd

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA will host a news teleconference at 9:00am PDT (noon EDT) Thursday, July 23rd, to announce new discoveries made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope.

The first exoplanet orbiting another star like our sun was discovered in 1995. Exoplanets, especially small Earth-size worlds, belonged within the realm of science fiction just 21 years ago. Today, and thousands of discoveries later, astronomers are on the cusp of finding something people have dreamed about for thousands of years — another Earth.

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2's first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2’s first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveals chaotic wobbling dance of Pluto’s Moons Nix and Hydra

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – If you lived on one of Pluto’s moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Comprehensive analysis of data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows that two of Pluto’s moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.

“Hubble has provided a new view of Pluto and its moons revealing a cosmic dance with a chaotic rhythm,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “When the New Horizons spacecraft flies through the Pluto system in July we’ll get a chance to see what these moons look like up close and personal.”

This illustration shows the scale and comparative brightness of Pluto’s small satellites. The surface craters are for illustration only and do not represent real imaging data. (NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI))

This illustration shows the scale and comparative brightness of Pluto’s small satellites. The surface craters are for illustration only and do not represent real imaging data. (NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI))

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NASA to investigate Climate change with Airborne Campaigns

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Five new NASA airborne field campaigns, including one managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, will take to the skies starting in 2015 to investigate how long-range air pollution, warming ocean waters and fires in Africa affect our climate.

These studies into several incompletely understood Earth system processes were competitively selected as part of NASA’s Earth Venture-class projects. Each project is funded at a total cost of no more than $30 million over five years. This funding includes initial development, field campaigns and analysis of data.

The tide coming in over ice in Greenland. (National Snow and Ice Data Center/Andy Mahoney)

The tide coming in over ice in Greenland. (National Snow and Ice Data Center/Andy Mahoney)

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NASA study looks into reduction of Bright Clumps in Saturn’s Ring

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Compared to the age of the solar system — about four-and-a-half billion years — a couple of decades are next to nothing. Some planetary locales change little over many millions of years, so for scientists who study the planets, any object that evolves on such a short interval makes for a tempting target for study. And so it is with the ever-changing rings of Saturn.

Case in point: Saturn’s narrow, chaotic and clumpy F ring. A recent NASA-funded study compared the F ring’s appearance in six years of observations by the Cassini mission to its appearance during the Saturn flybys of NASA’s Voyager mission, 30 years earlier.

Cassini spied just as many regular, faint clumps in Saturn's narrow F ring, like those pictured here, as Voyager did, but it saw hardly any of the long, bright clumps that were common in Voyager images. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

Cassini spied just as many regular, faint clumps in Saturn’s narrow F ring, like those pictured here, as Voyager did, but it saw hardly any of the long, bright clumps that were common in Voyager images. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

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NASA’s Global Hawk research aircraft finishes Climate Change study

 

Written by Rachel Hoover
NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMountain View, CA – NASA’s Global Hawk research aircraft returned to its base at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, CA, early Friday morning March 14th, marking the completion of flights in support of this year’s Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX), a multi-year NASA airborne science campaign.

On February 13th, the autonomously operated aircraft began conducting science flights from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam in the western Pacific region on a mission to track changes in the upper atmosphere and help researchers understand how these changes affect Earth’s climate.

NASA's Global Hawk No. 872 flares for landing at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to begin the 2014 ATTREX climate-change mission Jan. 17th. The two-month-long airborne science flight campaign wrapped up with the aircraft's return to NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center March 14th. (U.S. Air Force)

NASA’s Global Hawk No. 872 flares for landing at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam to begin the 2014 ATTREX climate-change mission Jan. 17th. The two-month-long airborne science flight campaign wrapped up with the aircraft’s return to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center March 14th. (U.S. Air Force)

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Over 700 new planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler Mission

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.

The artist concept depicts "multiple-transiting planet systems," which are stars with more than one planet. (NASA)

The artist concept depicts “multiple-transiting planet systems,” which are stars with more than one planet. (NASA)

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