Washington, D.C. – Exactly 85 years after Clyde Tombaugh’s historic discovery of Pluto, the NASA spacecraft set to encounter the icy dwarf planet this summer is providing its first views of the small moons orbiting Pluto.
The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft from January 27th-February 8th, at distances ranging from about 125 million to 115 million miles (201 million to 186 million kilometers). The long-exposure images offer New Horizons’ best view yet of these two small moons circling Pluto which Tombaugh discovered at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, on February 18th, 1930.
NASA scientists say United States could be in for Megadroughts if current rate of Greenhouse Gas Emissions continues
Written by Steve Cole
Washington, D.C. – Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years, according to a new NASA study.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Science Advances, is based on projections from several climate models, including one sponsored by NASA. The research found continued increases in human-produced greenhouse gas emissions drives up the risk of severe droughts in these regions.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Valentine’s Day is special for NASA’s Voyager mission. It was on February 14th, 1990, that the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back at our solar system and snapped the first-ever pictures of the planets from its perch at that time beyond Neptune.
This “family portrait” captures Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus from Voyager 1’s unique vantage point. A few key members did not make it in: Mars had little sunlight, Mercury was too close to the sun, and dwarf planet Pluto turned out too dim.
Written by Rob Gutro
Greenbelt, MD – Some of the coldest air of the 2014-2015 winter season was settling over the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. on February 13th, 2015. That Arctic air mass brought wind chills from below zero to the single numbers from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic.
Despite the cold on the surface, infrared NASA satellite imagery revealed even colder temperatures in cloud tops associated with the air mass.
NOAA’s GOES-East satellite provided a visible and infrared picture of the clouds associated with the Arctic air mass, as they stretched from the eastern Dakotas to the Mid-Atlantic region.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s radar pictures of Saturn’s moon Titan made clearer by new Despeckling process
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – During 10 years of discovery, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has pulled back the smoggy veil that obscures the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon.
Cassini’s radar instrument has mapped almost half of the giant moon’s surface; revealed vast, desert-like expanses of sand dunes; and plumbed the depths of expansive hydrocarbon seas. What could make that scientific bounty even more amazing? Well, what if the radar images could look even better?
Thanks to a recently developed technique for handling noise in Cassini’s radar images, these views now have a whole new look.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers tinkering with ice and organics in the lab may have discovered why comets are encased in a hard, outer crust.
Using an icebox-like instrument nicknamed Himalaya, the researchers show that fluffy ice on the surface of a comet would crystalize and harden as the comet heads toward the sun and warms up. As the water-ice crystals form, becoming denser and more ordered, other molecules containing carbon would be expelled to the comet’s surface. The result is a crunchy comet crust sprinkled with organic dust.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is nearing a location on Mars at which its driving distance will surpass the length of a marathon race.
A drive on February 8th, 2015, put the rover within 220 yards (200 meters) of this marathon accomplishment. An Olympic marathon is 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers).
Opportunity is headed for a portion of the western rim of Endeavour Crater where observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have detected multiple types of clay minerals. These minerals are indicative of an ancient wet environment where water was more neutral rather than harshly acidic.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed a mission milestone of 40,000 orbits on February 7th, 2015, in its ninth year of returning information about the atmosphere, surface and subsurface of Mars, from equatorial to polar latitudes.
The mission’s potent science instruments and extended lifespan have revealed that Mars is a world more dynamic and diverse than was previously realized. Now in its fourth mission extension after a two-year prime mission, the orbiter is investigating seasonal and longer-term changes, including some warm-season flows that are the strongest evidence so far for liquid water on Mars today.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Hot gas, dust and magnetic fields mingle in a colorful swirl in this new map of our Milky Way galaxy. The image is part of a new and improved data set from Planck, a European Space Agency mission in which NASA played a key role.
Planck spent more than four years observing relic radiation left over from the birth of our universe, called the cosmic microwave background. The space telescope is helping scientists better understand the history and fabric of our universe, as well as our own Milky Way.
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – There’s a fascinating spot some 932,000 miles away from Earth where the gravity between the sun and Earth is perfectly balanced. This spot captures the attention of orbital engineers because a satellite can orbit this spot, called Lagrange 1 just as they can orbit a planet.
But the spot tantalizes scientists as well: Lagrange 1 lies outside Earth’s magnetic environment, a perfect place to measure the constant stream of particles from the sun, known as the solar wind, as they pass by.
In early February, the United States Air Force will launch a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite called Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, into orbit around this spot.
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