Topic: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Written by Sarah Frazier
Greenbelt, MD – Thanks to a lucky conjunction of two satellites, a ground-based array of all-sky cameras, and some spectacular aurora borealis, researchers have uncovered evidence for an unexpected role that electrons have in creating the dancing auroras. Though humans have been seeing auroras for thousands of years, we have only recently begun to understand what causes them.
In this study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists compared ground-based videos of pulsating auroras—a certain type of aurora that appears as patches of brightness regularly flickering on and off—with satellite measurements of the numbers and energies of electrons raining down towards the surface from inside Earth’s magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA has selected five science investigations for refinement during the next year as a first step in choosing one or two missions for flight opportunities as early as 2020. Three of those chosen have ties to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The submitted proposals would study Venus, near-Earth objects and a variety of asteroids.
Each investigation team will receive $3 million to conduct concept design studies and analyses. After a detailed review and evaluation of the concept studies, NASA will make the final selections by September 2016 for continued development leading up to launch.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Levels of “background ozone” — ozone pollution present in a region but not originating from local, human-produced sources — are high enough in Northern California and Nevada that they leave little room for local ozone production under proposed stricter U.S. ground-level ozone standards, finds a new NASA-led study.
The researchers, led by Min Huang of George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, used a novel technique that combined data acquired from two instruments on NASA’s Aura spacecraft in the summer of 2008.
Written by Ashley Morrow
Greenbelt, MD – On the evening of September 27th, 2015, into the early morning of September 28th EDT, operators of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will wait as Earth blots out the sun and the moon goes dark.
The flight operations team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, have seen LRO safely through three lunar eclipses in about a year and a half. Although it is certainly not an ordinary night, science operations planner Dawn Myers at Goddard said the team knows the routine.
“We have a method and it works well,” she said. “It’s always stressful during the approach of the eclipse, but we follow the same procedures every time and we haven’t had any trouble.”
Science at NASA
Washington, D.C. – As any back country hiker knows, Global Positioning System, or GPS, trackers are crucial for navigation. But they can also be a little finicky. Units sometimes lose lock when you walk into the shadow of a canyon wall, when you point the units at the ground, or even when you make a sharp turn.
Now imagine a GPS system flying through the vacuum of space at 22,000 mph, rapidly spinning 43,000 miles above the surface of the blue planet below. Would it work?
Turns out, the answer is yes. NASA has developed a GPS navigation system for the newly-launched MMS satellites that operates under these incredible conditions.
Written by Kathryn Mersmann
Greenbelt, MD – For years, science fiction writers from Edgar Rice Burroughs to C. S. Lewis have imagined what it would be like for humans to walk on Mars. As mankind comes closer to taking its first steps on the Red Planet, authors’ depictions of the experience have become more realistic.
Andy Weir’s “The Martian” begins with a massive dust storm that strands fictional astronaut Mark Watney on Mars. In the scene, powerful wind rips an antenna out of a piece of equipment and destroys parts of the astronauts’ camp.
Mars is infamous for intense dust storms, which sometimes kick up enough dust to be seen by telescopes on Earth.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Entangled by gravity and destined to merge, two candidate black holes in a distant galaxy appear to be locked in an intricate dance.
Researchers using data from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have come up with the most compelling confirmation yet for the existence of these merging black holes and have found new details about their odd, cyclical light signal.
The candidate black hole duo, called PG 1302-102, was first identified earlier this year using ground-based telescopes.
Written by Ashley Morrow
Greenbelt, MD – Coming soon for the first time in more than 30 years: you’ll be able to witness a supermoon in combination with a lunar eclipse.
Late on September 27th, 2015, in the U.S. and much of the world, a total lunar eclipse will mask the moon’s larger-than-life face for more than an hour.
But what is this behemoth of the night sky? Not a bird, not a plane, it’s a supermoon! Although this incarnation of the moon comes around only once every year, it’s not as mysterious as you might think.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Mission managers for NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory have determined that its radar, one of the satellite’s two science instruments, can no longer return data.
However, the mission, which was launched in January to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed, continues to produce high-quality science measurements supporting SMAP’s objectives with its radiometer instrument.
The SMAP mission is designed to help scientists understand the links between Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles and enhance our ability to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – As part of a broad effort to study the environmental and societal effects of climate change, NASA has begun a multi-year field campaign to investigate ecological impacts of the rapidly changing climate in Alaska and northwestern Canada, such as the thawing of permafrost, wildfires and changes to wildlife habitats.
The Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) will bring together on-the-ground research in Alaska and northwestern Canada with data collected by NASA airborne instruments, satellites and other agency programs, including the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP), Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2), and upcoming Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) and NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) missions.
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