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Topic: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to map asteroid Bennu before collecting sample

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

The mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu is one of the science goals of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, and an integral part of spacecraft operations. The spacecraft will spend a year surveying Bennu before collecting a sample that will be returned to Earth for analysis. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

The mapping of the near-Earth asteroid Bennu is one of the science goals of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, and an integral part of spacecraft operations. The spacecraft will spend a year surveying Bennu before collecting a sample that will be returned to Earth for analysis. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

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Data from NASA Telescopes shows how Supermassive Black Holes may have formed

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

This illustration depicts a possible "seed" for the formation of a supermassive black hole. The inset boxes at right contain Chandra (top) and Hubble (bottom) images of one of two candidate seeds, where the properties in the data matched those predicted by sophisticated models. (Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss)

This illustration depicts a possible “seed” for the formation of a supermassive black hole. The inset boxes at right contain Chandra (top) and Hubble (bottom) images of one of two candidate seeds, where the properties in the data matched those predicted by sophisticated models. (Illustration: NASA/CXC/M. Weiss)

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NASA readies OSIRIS-REx spacecraft for September Launch

 

Written by Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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 OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is revealed after its protective cover is removed inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft traveled from Lockheed Martin's facility near Denver, Colorado to Kennedy to begin processing for its upcoming launch, targeted for Sept. 8 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is revealed after its protective cover is removed inside the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The spacecraft traveled from Lockheed Martin’s facility near Denver, Colorado to Kennedy to begin processing for its upcoming launch, targeted for Sept. 8 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes discovers new information about Earth’s Ring Current

 

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

During periods when there are no geomagnetic storms affecting the area around Earth (left image), high-energy protons (with energy of hundreds of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in orange) carry a substantial electrical current that encircles the planet, also known as the ring current. During periods when geomagnetic storms affect Earth (right), new low-energy protons (with energy of tens of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in magenta) enter the near-Earth region, enhancing the pre-existing ring current. (Johns Hopkins APL)

During periods when there are no geomagnetic storms affecting the area around Earth (left image), high-energy protons (with energy of hundreds of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in orange) carry a substantial electrical current that encircles the planet, also known as the ring current. During periods when geomagnetic storms affect Earth (right), new low-energy protons (with energy of tens of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in magenta) enter the near-Earth region, enhancing the pre-existing ring current. (Johns Hopkins APL)

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NASA Satellites witness a never before seen Magnetic Reconnection Event

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

The four Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, spacecraft (shown here in an artist's concept) have now made more than 4,000 trips through the boundaries of Earth's magnetic field, gathering observations of our dynamic space environment. (NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab)

The four Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, spacecraft (shown here in an artist’s concept) have now made more than 4,000 trips through the boundaries of Earth’s magnetic field, gathering observations of our dynamic space environment. (NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab)

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NASA Satellites to help Airlines avoid delays caused by Volcanic Ash

 

Written by Audrey Haar
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

Volcano eruptions can wreak havoc on airplanes that fly through the clouds of ash and sulfur dioxide.

Volcano eruptions can wreak havoc on airplanes that fly through the clouds of ash and sulfur dioxide.

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NASA Satellite Data shows High Altitude Clouds shifting to Earth’s Poles

 

Written by Ellen Gray
NASA’s Earth Science News Team
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, D.C. – A new NASA analysis of 30-years of satellite data suggests that a previously observed trend of high altitude clouds in the mid-latitudes shifting toward the poles is caused primarily by the expansion of the tropics.

Clouds are among the most important mediators of heat reaching Earth’s surface. Where clouds are absent, darker surfaces like the ocean or vegetated land absorb heat, but where clouds occur their white tops reflect incoming sunlight away, which can cause a cooling effect on Earth’s surface.

The Hadley cells describe how air moves through the tropics on either side of the equator. They are two of six major air circulation cells on Earth. (NASA)

The Hadley cells describe how air moves through the tropics on either side of the equator. They are two of six major air circulation cells on Earth. (NASA)

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NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter discovers clues to swirling patterns on the Moon

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A powerful combination of observations and computer simulations is giving new clues to how the moon got its mysterious “tattoos” — swirling patterns of light and dark found at over a hundred locations across the lunar surface.

“These patterns, called ‘lunar swirls,’ appear almost painted on the surface of the moon,” said John Keller of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “They are unique; we’ve only seen these features on the moon, and their origin has remained a mystery since their discovery.” Keller is project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, which made the observations.

This is an image of the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA LRO WAC science team)

This is an image of the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA LRO WAC science team)

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NASA Researchers are developing new technologies to discover Earth-like Planets beyond our Solar System

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – We humans might not be the only ones to ponder our place in the universe. If intelligent aliens do roam the cosmos, they too might ask a question that has gripped humans for centuries: Are we alone?

These aliens might even have giant space telescopes dedicated to studying distant planets and searching for life. Should one of those telescopes capture an image of our blue marble of a planet, evidence of forests and plentiful creatures would jump out as simple chemicals: oxygen, ozone, water and methane.

The vacuum chamber at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used for testing WFIRST and other coronagraphs. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The vacuum chamber at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, used for testing WFIRST and other coronagraphs. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA scientists research ways to discover habitable planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists are getting closer to finding worlds that resemble our own “blue marble” of a planet. NASA’s Kepler mission alone has confirmed more than 1,000 planets outside our solar system — a handful of which are a bit bigger than Earth and orbit in the habitable zones of their stars, where liquid water might exist.

Some astronomers think the discovery of Earth’s true analogs may be around the corner. What are the next steps to search for life on these potentially habitable worlds?

This illustration shows the prototype starshade, a giant structure designed to block the glare of stars so that future space telescopes can take pictures of planets.

This illustration shows the prototype starshade, a giant structure designed to block the glare of stars so that future space telescopes can take pictures of planets.

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