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Topic: NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft data used to analyze Lakes and Seas on Saturn’s Moon Titan

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau / Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Saturn’s moon Titan is home to seas and lakes filled with liquid hydrocarbons, but what forms the depressions on the surface? A new study using data from the joint NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) Cassini mission suggests the moon’s surface dissolves in a process that’s similar to the creation of sinkholes on Earth.

Apart from Earth, Titan is the only body in the solar system known to possess surface lakes and seas, which have been observed by the Cassini spacecraft. But at Titan’s frigid surface temperatures — roughly minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 180 degrees Celsius) — liquid methane and ethane, rather than water, dominate Titan’s hydrocarbon equivalent of Earth’s water.

Radar images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft reveal many lakes on Titan's surface, some filled with liquid, and some appearing as empty depressions. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS)

Radar images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveal many lakes on Titan’s surface, some filled with liquid, and some appearing as empty depressions. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has close flyby of Saturn’s Moon Dione

 

Written by Preston Dyches / DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a close flyby of Saturn’s moon Dione on June 16th, coming within 321 miles (516 kilometers) of the moon’s surface. The spacecraft made its closest approach to Dione at 1:12pm PDT (4:12pm EDT) on June 16th.

During the flyby, Cassini’s cameras and spectrometers observed terrain that includes “Eurotas Chasmata,” a region first observed 35 years ago by NASA’s Voyager mission as bright, wispy streaks. After the Voyager encounter, scientists considered the possibility that the streaks were bright material extruded onto the surface by geologic activity, such as ice volcanoes.

Cassini's penultimate encounter with Saturn's moon Dione is slated for June 16th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini’s penultimate encounter with Saturn’s moon Dione is slated for June 16th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft takes final close up photos of Saturn’s moon Hyperion

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has returned images from its final close approach to Saturn’s oddball moon Hyperion, upholding the moon’s reputation as one of the most bizarre objects in the solar system. The views show Hyperion’s deeply impact-scarred surface, with many craters displaying dark material on their floors.

During this flyby, Cassini passed Hyperion at a distance of about 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) at closest approach. Cassini’s closest-ever Hyperion flyby took place on September 26th, 2005, at a distance of 314 miles (505 kilometers).

NASA's Cassini imaging scientists processed this view of Saturn's moon Hyperion, taken during a close flyby on May 31st, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

NASA’s Cassini imaging scientists processed this view of Saturn’s moon Hyperion, taken during a close flyby on May 31st, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make final closeup pass of Saturn’s moon Hyperion

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will make its final close approach to Saturn’s large, irregularly shaped moon Hyperion on Sunday, May 31st.

The Saturn-orbiting spacecraft will pass Hyperion at a distance of about 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) at approximately 6:36am PDT (9:36am EDT). Mission controllers expect images from the encounter to arrive on Earth within 24 to 48 hours.

This false-color view of Hyperion was obtained during Cassini's closest flyby of Saturn's odd, tumbling moon on Sept. 26, 2005. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

This false-color view of Hyperion was obtained during Cassini’s closest flyby of Saturn’s odd, tumbling moon on Sept. 26, 2005. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

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NASA’s Cassini data shows eruptions on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus’ could be curtain like eruptions instead of discrete jets

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission suggests most of the eruptions from Saturn’s moon Enceladus might be diffuse curtains rather than discrete jets.

Many features that appear to be individual jets of material erupting along the length of prominent fractures in the moon’s south polar region might be phantoms created by an optical illusion, according to the new study.

The research is being published on Thursday, May 7th, in the journal Nature.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft images reveals Tendril Structures coming from Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Long, sinuous, tendril-like structures seen in the vicinity of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus originate directly from geysers erupting from its surface, according to scientists studying images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

This result is published online today in a study in the Astronomical Journal, along with additional insights into the nature of the structures.

“We’ve been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon’s surface,” said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the paper.

This collage, consisting of two Cassini images of long, sinuous, tendril-like features from Saturn's moon Enceladus and two corresponding computer simulations of the same, illustrates how well the structures, and the sizes of the particles composing them, can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from Enceladus' south polar geysers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This collage, consisting of two Cassini images of long, sinuous, tendril-like features from Saturn’s moon Enceladus and two corresponding computer simulations of the same, illustrates how well the structures, and the sizes of the particles composing them, can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from Enceladus’ south polar geysers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s new orbit to bring it closer to Saturn’s moons

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A dual view of Saturn’s icy moon Rhea marks the return of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to the realm of the planet’s icy satellites. This follows nearly two years during which the spacecraft’s orbits carried it high above the planet’s poles. Those paths limited the mission’s ability to encounter the moons, apart from regular flybys of Titan.

Cassini’s orbit will remain nearly equatorial for the remainder of 2015, during which the spacecraft will have four close encounters with Titan, two with Dione and three with the geyser-moon, Enceladus.

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn's moons, NASA's Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn's equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

After a couple of years in high-inclination orbits that limited its ability to encounter Saturn’s moons, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft returned to Saturn’s equatorial plane in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveals Ocean on Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have Hydrothermal Activity

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first clear evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus exhibits signs of present-day hydrothermal activity which may resemble that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. The implications of such activity on a world other than our planet open up unprecedented scientific possibilities.

“These findings add to the possibility that Enceladus, which contains a subsurface ocean and displays remarkable geologic activity, could contain environments suitable for living organisms,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life might exist may bring us closer to answering the question: are we alone in the universe.”

This cutaway view of Saturn's moon Enceladus is an artist's rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon's subsurface ocean, based on recently published results from NASA's Cassini mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This cutaway view of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is an artist’s rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon’s subsurface ocean, based on recently published results from NASA’s Cassini mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s radar pictures of Saturn’s moon Titan made clearer by new Despeckling process

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

Presented here are side-by-side comparisons of a traditional Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) view and one made using a new technique for handling electronic noise that results in clearer views of Titan's surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

Presented here are side-by-side comparisons of a traditional Cassini Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) view and one made using a new technique for handling electronic noise that results in clearer views of Titan’s surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

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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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