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Topic: NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft data used to weigh Saturn’s biggest ring

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It seems intuitive that an opaque material should contain more stuff than a more translucent substance. For example, muddier water has more suspended particles of dirt in it than clearer water. Likewise, you might think that, in the rings of Saturn, more opaque areas contain a greater concentration of material than places where the rings seem more transparent.

But this intuition does not always apply, according to a recent study of the rings using data from NASA’s Cassini mission. In their analysis, scientists found surprisingly little correlation between how dense a ring might appear to be — in terms of its opacity and reflectiveness — and the amount of material it contains.

The B ring is the brightest of Saturn's rings when viewed in reflected sunlight. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

The B ring is the brightest of Saturn’s rings when viewed in reflected sunlight. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft to move into higher orbit around Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini mission is entering its next chapter with an orbital choreography meant to tilt the spacecraft’s orbit out of Saturn’s ringplane.

The second of five large propulsive maneuvers in this campaign took place on Saturday, January 23rd. Each maneuver in the series sets up a subsequent gravity-assist flyby of Saturn’s massive moon Titan, which reshapes the spacecraft’s orbit, sending it to increasingly higher inclination with respect to Saturn’s equator.

This is an artists concept of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) maneuver, just after the main engine has begun firing. (NASA/JPL)

This is an artists concept of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) maneuver, just after the main engine has begun firing. (NASA/JPL)

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U.S. Department of Energy produces fuel to power NASA’s Deep Space Missions

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The first U.S. production in nearly 30 years of a specialized fuel to power future deep space missions has been completed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee.

The production of 50 grams of plutonium-238 -roughly the mass of a golf ball – marks the first demonstration in the United States since the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina ceased production in the late 1980s.

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. (NASA)

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finishes last close Flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting data and images from the mission’s final close flyby of Saturn’s active moon Enceladus. Cassini passed Enceladus at a distance of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers) on Saturday, December 19th, at 9:49am PST (11:49am CST).

“This final Enceladus flyby elicits feelings of both sadness and triumph,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL. “While we’re sad to have the close flybys behind us, we’ve placed the capstone on an incredible decade of investigating one of the most intriguing bodies in the solar system.”

NASA's Cassini spacecraft peered out over the northern territory on Saturn's moon Enceladus, during its final close flyby of Enceladus, on Dec. 19, 2015. (NASA)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft peered out over the northern territory on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, during its final close flyby of Enceladus, on Dec. 19, 2015. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Saturday

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A thrilling chapter in the exploration of the solar system will soon conclude, as NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of the ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. Cassini is scheduled to fly past Enceladus at a distance of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers) on Saturday, December 19th, at 9:49am PST (11:49am CST).

Although the spacecraft will continue to observe Enceladus during the remainder of its mission (through September 2017), it will be from much greater distances — at closest, more than four times farther away than the December 19th encounter.

An exciting chapter of space exploration history will come to a close as NASA's Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of Saturn's active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. (NASA/JPL-CalTech)

An exciting chapter of space exploration history will come to a close as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. (NASA/JPL-CalTech)

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NASA lists Milky Way Galaxy planets that are remarkably similar to those in the Star Wars universe

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The fantasy creations of the “Star Wars” universe are strikingly similar to real planets in our own Milky Way galaxy. A super Earth in deep freeze? Think ice-planet “Hoth.” And that distant world with double sunsets can’t help but summon thoughts of sandy “Tatooine.”

No indications of life have yet been detected on any of the nearly 2,000 scientifically confirmed exoplanets, so we don’t know if any of them are inhabited by Wookiees or mynocks, or play host to exotic alien bar scenes (or even bacteria, for that matter).

Still, a quick spin around the real exoplanet universe offers tantalizing similarities to several Star Wars counterparts.

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captures data and images of Saturn’s moon Enceladus during close flyby

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting its latest images of Saturn’s icy, geologically active moon Enceladus, acquired during the dramatic October 28th flyby in which the probe passed about 30 miles (49 kilometers) above the moon’s south polar region.

The spacecraft will continue transmitting its data from the encounter for the next several days.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this view as it neared icy Enceladus for its closest-ever dive past the moon's active south polar region. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this view as it neared icy Enceladus for its closest-ever dive past the moon’s active south polar region. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to sample Saturn’s moon Enceladus’s ocean by flying through it’s icy plume

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will sample the ocean of Saturn’s moon Enceladus on Wednesday, October 28th, when it flies through the moon’s plume of icy spray.

Cassini launched in 1997 and entered orbit around Saturn in 2004. Since then, it has been studying the huge planet, its rings and its magnetic field. Here are some things to know about the mission’s upcoming close flyby of Enceladus:

This daring flyby will bring the Cassini spacecraft within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of Enceladus' south pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This daring flyby will bring the Cassini spacecraft within 30 miles (48 kilometers) of Enceladus’ south pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make close up flybys of Saturn’s Moon Eceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will wrap up its time in the region of Saturn’s large, icy moons with a series of three close encounters with Enceladus starting Wednesday, October 14th. Images are expected to begin arriving one to two days after the flyby, which will provide the first opportunity for a close-up look at the north polar region of Enceladus.

Wednesday’s flyby is considered a moderately close approach for Cassini, which will pass at an altitude of 1,142 miles (1,839 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. Closest approach to Enceladus will occur at 3:41am PDT (6:41am EDT). The spacecraft’s final two approaches will take place in late October and mid-December.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft will get its best-ever look at the northernmost reaches of the Saturnian moon Enceladus on October 14th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will get its best-ever look at the northernmost reaches of the Saturnian moon Enceladus on October 14th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory works to make “The Martian” a Reality

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – When fictional astronaut Mark Watney becomes stranded alone on the Red Planet in the novel and film “The Martian,” people and technology from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, play important roles in his castaway adventure.

Acclaimed for its attention to scientific and technical detail, “The Martian” is steeped in decades of real-life Mars exploration that JPL has led for NASA.

(There are mild spoilers in the next section — if you haven’t read or seen “The Martian,” you might want to skip to the following section.)

Producers of "The Martian" turned to JPL for inspiration in bringing the story to life on screen. (20th Century Fox)

Producers of “The Martian” turned to JPL for inspiration in bringing the story to life on screen. (20th Century Fox)

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