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Topic: NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft observes Saturn’s moon Titan in the Solar Wind

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers studying data from NASA’s Cassini mission have observed that Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, behaves much like Venus, Mars or a comet when exposed to the raw power of the solar wind. The observations suggest that unmagnetized bodies like Titan might interact with the solar wind in the same basic ways, regardless of their nature or distance from the sun.

Titan is large enough that it could be considered a planet if it orbited the sun on its own, and a flyby of the giant moon in December 2013 simulated that scenario, from Cassini’s vantage point.

This diagram depicts conditions observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a flyby in Dec. 2013, when Saturn's magnetosphere was highly compressed, exposing Titan to the full force of the solar wind. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram depicts conditions observed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during a flyby in Dec. 2013, when Saturn’s magnetosphere was highly compressed, exposing Titan to the full force of the solar wind. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA and European Space Agency look back at the landing on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ten years ago, an explorer from Earth parachuted into the haze of an alien moon toward an uncertain fate. After a gentle descent lasting more than two hours, it landed with a thud on a frigid floodplain, surrounded by icy cobblestones.

With this feat, the Huygens probe accomplished humanity’s first landing on a moon in the outer solar system. Huygens was safely on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

The hardy probe not only survived the descent and landing, but continued to transmit data for more than an hour on the frigid surface of Titan, until its batteries were drained.

An artist's interpretation of the area surrounding the Huygens landing site based on images and data returned by the probe on Jan. 14, 2005. (ESA - C. Carreau)

An artist’s interpretation of the area surrounding the Huygens landing site based on images and data returned by the probe on Jan. 14, 2005. (ESA – C. Carreau)

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NASA reports Saturn and it’s system of Moons mapped with high accuracy

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have paired NASA’s Cassini spacecraft with the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio-telescope system to pinpoint the position of Saturn and its family of moons to within about 2 miles (4 kilometers).

The measurement is some 50 times more precise than those provided by ground-based optical telescopes. The feat improves astronomers’ knowledge of Saturn’s orbit and benefits spacecraft navigation and basic physics research.

Researchers have determined the location of the Saturn system's center of mass to within just a couple of miles (or kilometers), a factor of 50 improvement over previous knowledge. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Researchers have determined the location of the Saturn system’s center of mass to within just a couple of miles (or kilometers), a factor of 50 improvement over previous knowledge. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft data reveals Jupiter’s moon Europa has thinner atmosphere than expected

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A fresh look at data collected by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its 2001 flyby of Jupiter shows that Europa’s tenuous atmosphere is even thinner than previously thought and also suggests that the thin, hot gas around the moon does not show evidence of plume activity occurring at the time of the flyby.

The new research provides a snapshot of Europa’s state of activity at that time, and suggests that if there is plume activity, it is likely intermittent.

Jupiter's icy moon Europa displays many signs of activity, including its fractured crust and a dearth of impact craters. Scientists continue to hunt for confirmation of plume activity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

Jupiter’s icy moon Europa displays many signs of activity, including its fractured crust and a dearth of impact craters. Scientists continue to hunt for confirmation of plume activity. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finds two new features about Saturn’s moon Titan’s Hydrocarbon Seas

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini mission continues its adventures in extraterrestrial oceanography with new findings about the hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan.

During a flyby in August, the spacecraft sounded the depths near the mouth of a flooded river valley and observed new, bright features in the seas that might be related to the mysterious feature that researchers dubbed the “magic island.”

The findings are being presented this week at the Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in Tucson, Arizona.

Cassini radar data reveal the depth of a liquid methane/ethane sea on Saturn's moon Titan near the mouth of a large, flooded river valley. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

Cassini radar data reveal the depth of a liquid methane/ethane sea on Saturn’s moon Titan near the mouth of a large, flooded river valley. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

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NASA to launch Sounding Rocket that will take 1,500 pictures in 5 minutes of the Sun

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – When Galileo first observed Venus displaying a crescent phase, he excitedly wrote to Kepler (in anagram) of Venus mimicking the moon-goddess. He would have been delirious with joy to see Saturn and Titan, seen in this image, doing the same thing.

More than just pretty pictures, high-phase observations — taken looking generally toward the Sun, as in this image — are very powerful scientifically since the way atmospheres and rings transmit sunlight is often diagnostic of compositions and physical states.

The Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment is seen peeking out of a clean room during the weeks of testing before its scheduled November 2014 launch. (NASA/RAISE)

The Rapid Acquisition Imaging Spectrograph Experiment is seen peeking out of a clean room during the weeks of testing before its scheduled November 2014 launch. (NASA/RAISE)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes photo of sunlight reflecting off the seas on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As it soared past Saturn’s large moon Titan recently, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

In the past, Cassini had captured, separately, views of the polar seas and the sun glinting off them, but this is the first time both have been seen together in the same view.

This near-infrared, color view from Cassini shows the sun glinting off of Titan's north polar seas. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho)

This near-infrared, color view from Cassini shows the sun glinting off of Titan’s north polar seas. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers Methane Ice Cloud in Stratosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA scientists have identified an unexpected high-altitude methane ice cloud on Saturn’s moon Titan that is similar to exotic clouds found far above Earth’s poles.

This lofty cloud, imaged by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, was part of the winter cap of condensation over Titan’s north pole. Now, eight years after spotting this mysterious bit of atmospheric fluff, researchers have determined that it contains methane ice, which produces a much denser cloud than the ethane ice previously identified there.

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth's polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth’s polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft was bathed in beam of electrons during flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Static electricity is known to play an important role on Earth’s airless, dusty moon, but evidence of static charge building up on other objects in the solar system has been elusive until now.

A new analysis of data from NASA’s Cassini mission has revealed that, during a 2005 flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion, the spacecraft was briefly bathed in a beam of electrons coming from the moon’s electrostatically charged surface.

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn's chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon's surface, a first for any body other than Earth's moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn’s chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon’s surface, a first for any body other than Earth’s moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft finds giant Cloud circling south pole of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have discovered that a giant, toxic cloud is hovering over the south pole of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, after the atmosphere there cooled dramatically.

The scientists found that this giant polar vortex contains frozen particles of the toxic compound hydrogen cyanide, or HCN.

“The discovery suggests that the atmosphere of Titan’s southern hemisphere is cooling much faster than we expected,” said Remco de Kok of Leiden Observatory and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, lead author of the study published today in the journal Nature.

These two views of Saturn's moon Titan show the southern polar vortex, a huge, swirling cloud that was first observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Arizona/SSI/Leiden Observatory and SRON)

These two views of Saturn’s moon Titan show the southern polar vortex, a huge, swirling cloud that was first observed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Arizona/SSI/Leiden Observatory and SRON)

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