Topic: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Written by Nancy Neal-Jones / William Steigerwald
Greenbelt, MD – A team using the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover has made the first detection of nitrogen on the surface of Mars from release during heating of Martian sediments.
The nitrogen was detected in the form of nitric oxide, and could be released from the breakdown of nitrates during heating. Nitrates are a class of molecules that contain nitrogen in a form that can be used by living organisms. The discovery adds to the evidence that ancient Mars was habitable for life.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Magnetic reconnection could be the Universe’s favorite way to make things explode.
It operates anywhere magnetic fields pervade space–which is to say almost everywhere. In the cores of galaxies, magnetic reconnection sparks explosions visible billions of light-years away. On the sun, it causes solar flares as powerful as a million atomic bombs. At Earth, it powers magnetic storms and auroras. It’s ubiquitous.
The problem is, researchers can’t explain it.
Written by Dwayne Brown
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.
The presence of the dust at orbital altitudes from about 93 miles (150 kilometers) to 190 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface was not predicted. Although the source and composition of the dust are unknown, there is no hazard to MAVEN and other spacecraft orbiting Mars.
Written by Nancy Neal Jones
Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) acquired images of the lunar surface before and after the largest recorded explosion occurred on the surface.
On March 17th, 2013, an object the size of a small boulder hit the surface in Mare Imbrium and exploded in a flash of light nearly 10 times as bright as anything ever recorded before.
This bright flash was recorded by researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL with coordinates 20.6°N, 336.1°E.
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – The Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, mission is scheduled to launch into space on March 12th, 2015. The mission consists of four spacecraft to observe a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection — which doesn’t happen naturally on Earth all that often, but is a regular occurrence in space.
At the heart of magnetic reconnection is a fundamental physics process in which magnetic field lines come together and explosively realign, often sending the particles in the area flying off near the speed of light.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Fresh off the recent successful deployment of its 20-foot (6-meter) reflector antenna and associated boom arm, NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory has successfully completed a two-day test of its science instruments.
The observatory’s radar and radiometer instruments were successfully operated for the first time with SMAP’s antenna in a non-spinning mode on February 27th and 28th.
The test was a key step in preparation for the planned spin-up of SMAP’s antenna to approximately 15 revolutions per minute in late March.
Written by Ruth Marlaire
Moffett Field, CA – NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces these essential ingredients of life.
Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the central structure for uracil, cytosine, and thymine, which are all three part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). RNA and DNA are central to protein synthesis, but also have many other roles.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) discovers stars at the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, have found a cluster of stars forming at the very edge of our Milky Way galaxy.
“A stellar nursery in what seems to be the middle of nowhere is quite surprising,” said Peter Eisenhardt, the project scientist for the WISE mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “But surprises turn up when you look everywhere, as the WISE survey did.”
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its drill on Tuesday, February 24th to collect sample powder from inside a rock target called “Telegraph Peak.” The target sits in the upper portion of “Pahrump Hills,” an outcrop the mission has been investigating for five months.
The Pahrump Hills campaign previously drilled at two other sites. The outcrop is an exposure of bedrock that forms the basal layer of Mount Sharp. Curiosity’s extended mission, which began last year after a two-year prime mission, is examining layers of this mountain that are expected to hold records of how ancient wet environments on Mars evolved into drier environments.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Over the past 12 months NASA has added five missions to its orbiting Earth-observing fleet – the biggest one-year increase in more than a decade. NASA scientists will discuss early observations from the new missions and their current status during a media teleconference at 11:00am PST (2:00pm EST) Thursday, February 26th.
New views of global carbon dioxide, rain and snowfall, ocean winds, and aerosol particles in the atmosphere will be presented during the briefing.
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