Topic: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Written by Francis Reddy
Greenbelt, MD – Astronomers have discovered a vast cloud of high-energy particles called a wind nebula around a rare ultra-magnetic neutron star, or magnetar, for the first time. The find offers a unique window into the properties, environment and outburst history of magnetars, which are the strongest magnets in the universe.
A neutron star is the crushed core of a massive star that ran out of fuel, collapsed under its own weight, and exploded as a supernova. Each one compresses the equivalent mass of half a million Earths into a ball just 12 miles (20 kilometers) across, or about the length of New York’s Manhattan Island.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – For the first time, an instrument onboard an orbiting spacecraft has measured the methane emissions from a single, specific leaking facility on Earth’s surface.
The observation — by the Hyperion spectrometer on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) — is an important breakthrough in our ability to eventually measure and monitor emissions of this potent greenhouse gas from space.
In a new paper accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a research team with scientist David R. Thompson of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, detailed the observation, which occurred over Aliso Canyon, near Porter Ranch, California.
Written by Francis Reddy
Greenbelt, MD – LISA Pathfinder, a mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA) with contributions from NASA, has successfully tested a key technology needed to build a space-based observatory for detecting gravitational waves.
These tiny ripples in the fabric of space, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, were first seen last year by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
Seismic, thermal and other noise sources limit LIGO to higher-frequency gravitational waves around 100 cycles per second (hertz).
Written by Maria-Jose Viñas
Greenbelt, MD – Operation IceBridge, NASA’s airborne survey of polar ice, ended its eighth spring Arctic campaign on May 21st. During their five weeks of operations, mission scientists carried out six research flights over sea ice and ten over land ice.
“We collected data over key portions of the Greenland Ice Sheet, like the fast-changing Zachariae Isstrom Glacier, and we got the broad geographic coverage of Arctic sea ice we needed,” said Nathan Kurtz, IceBridge’s project scientist and a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
Greenbelt, MD – On September 8th, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled to launch for terra incognita: the unknown surface of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu. Like expeditions of old, OSIRIS-REx’s mission includes mapping the exotic terrain it explores.
Bennu is part of the debris left over from the formation of the solar system and is pristine enough to hold clues to that very early history. OSIRIS-REx – which stands for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer – will study Bennu in detail and collect a sample to send to Earth for in-depth analysis. The mission also will investigate how pressure from sunlight influences the path of this traveling asteroid.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – Using data from NASA’s Great Observatories, astronomers have found the best evidence yet for cosmic seeds in the early universe that should grow into supermassive black holes.
Researchers combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and Spitzer Space Telescope to identify these possible black hole seeds. They discuss their findings in a paper that will appear in an upcoming issue of the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Written by Nancy Neal Jones
Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s first spacecraft designed to return a piece of an asteroid to Earth arrived Friday, May 20th, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and has begun final preparations in advance of its September launch.
The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security – Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft will undergo final testing and fueling prior to being moved to its launch pad. The mission has a 34-day launch period beginning on September 8th.
After launch, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to the near-Earth asteroid Bennu and retrieve at least 60 grams (2.1 ounces) of pristine surface material and return it to Earth for study.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD – New findings based on a year’s worth of observations from NASA’s Van Allen Probes have revealed that the ring current – an electrical current carried by energetic ions that encircles our planet – behaves in a much different way than previously understood.
The ring current has long been thought to wax and wane over time, but the new observations show that this is true of only some of the particles, while other particles are present consistently.
Using data gathered by the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Ion Composition Experiment, or RBSPICE, on one of the Van Allen Probes, researchers have determined that the high-energy protons in the ring current change in a completely different way from the current’s low-energy protons.
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – Like sending sensors up into a hurricane, NASA has flown four spacecraft through an invisible maelstrom in space, called magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection is one of the prime drivers of space radiation and so it is a key factor in the quest to learn more about our space environment and protect our spacecraft and astronauts as we explore farther and farther from our home planet.
Space is a better vacuum than any we can create on Earth, but it does contain some particles — and it’s bustling with activity. It overflows with energy and a complex system of magnetic fields.
Written by Audrey Haar
Greenbelt, MD – A volcano erupting and spewing ash into the sky can cover nearby areas under a thick coating of ash and can also have consequences for aviation safety. Airline traffic changes due to a recent volcanic eruption can rack up unanticipated expenses to flight cancellations, lengthy diversions and additional fuel costs from rerouting.
Airlines are prudently cautious, because volcanic ash is especially dangerous to airplanes, as ash can melt within an operating aircraft engine, resulting in possible engine failure.
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