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Topic: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA’s MAVEN mission insights about Mars helps with understanding Distant Planets Habitability

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – How long might a rocky, Mars-like planet be habitable if it were orbiting a red dwarf star? It’s a complex question but one that NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission can help answer.

“The MAVEN mission tells us that Mars lost substantial amounts of its atmosphere over time, changing the planet’s habitability,” said David Brain, a MAVEN co-investigator and a professor at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We can use Mars, a planet that we know a lot about, as a laboratory for studying rocky planets outside our solar system, which we don’t know much about yet.”

This illustration depicts charged particles from a solar storm stripping away charged particles of Mars' atmosphere, one of the processes of Martian atmosphere loss studied by NASA's MAVEN mission, beginning in 2014. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field that could deflect charged particles emanating from the Sun. (NASA/GSFC)

This illustration depicts charged particles from a solar storm stripping away charged particles of Mars’ atmosphere, one of the processes of Martian atmosphere loss studied by NASA’s MAVEN mission, beginning in 2014. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field that could deflect charged particles emanating from the Sun. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA research shows Gravitational Pull of Moons could preserve Liquid Water Oceans on Frigid Worlds

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald / Nancy Jones
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Heat generated by the gravitational pull of moons formed from massive collisions could extend the lifetimes of liquid water oceans beneath the surface of large icy worlds in our outer solar system, according to new NASA research.

This greatly expands the number of locations where extraterrestrial life might be found, since liquid water is necessary to support known forms of life and astronomers estimate there are dozens of these worlds.

“These objects need to be considered as potential reservoirs of water and life,” said Prabal Saxena of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the research published in Icarus November 24th.

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes observe Exoplanet with Hot Stratosphere devoid of Water

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A NASA-led team has found evidence that the oversized exoplanet WASP-18b is wrapped in a smothering stratosphere loaded with carbon monoxide and devoid of water. The findings come from a new analysis of observations made by the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes.

The formation of a stratosphere layer in a planet’s atmosphere is attributed to “sunscreen”-like molecules, which absorb ultraviolet (UV) and visible radiation coming from the star and then release that energy as heat.

A NASA-led team of scientists determined that WASP-18b, a "hot Jupiter" located 325 light-years from Earth, has a stratosphere that's loaded with carbon monoxide, but has no signs of water. (NASA)

A NASA-led team of scientists determined that WASP-18b, a “hot Jupiter” located 325 light-years from Earth, has a stratosphere that’s loaded with carbon monoxide, but has no signs of water. (NASA)

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NASA Satellites observe Plant Life on Earth’s Land and Oceans

 

Written by Lacey Young
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Life. It’s the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets we’ve discovered. Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean.

During the week of November 13th-17th, NASA is sharing stories and videos about how this view of life from space is furthering knowledge of our home planet and the search for life on other worlds.

New NASA missions will study terrestrial vegetation, such as these trees along the Kuskokwim River near McGrath, Alaska. (NASA/Peter Griffith)

New NASA missions will study terrestrial vegetation, such as these trees along the Kuskokwim River near McGrath, Alaska. (NASA/Peter Griffith)

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NASA’s TSIS-1 instrument to monitor Earth’s Ozone Layer

 

Written by Rani Gran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – High in the atmosphere, above weather systems, is a layer of ozone gas. Ozone is Earth’s natural sunscreen, absorbing the Sun’s most harmful ultraviolet radiation and protecting living things below. But ozone is vulnerable to certain gases made by humans that reach the upper atmosphere. Once there, they react in the presence of sunlight to destroy ozone molecules.

Currently, several NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites track the amount of ozone in the upper atmosphere and the solar energy that drives the photochemistry that creates and destroys ozone.

TSIS-1 will be affixed to the International Space Station in December 2017 TSIS-1 operates like a sun flower: it follows the Sun, from the ISS sunrise to its sunset, which happens every 90 minutes. At sunset, it rewinds, recalibrates and waits for the next sunset. (NASA/LASP)

TSIS-1 will be affixed to the International Space Station in December 2017 TSIS-1 operates like a sun flower: it follows the Sun, from the ISS sunrise to its sunset, which happens every 90 minutes. At sunset, it rewinds, recalibrates and waits for the next sunset. (NASA/LASP)

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NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility observes fast moving Comet 45P

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai’i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial details about ices in Jupiter-family comets and reveal that quirky 45P doesn’t quite match any comet studied so far.

Like a doctor recording vital signs, the team measured the levels of nine gases released from the icy nucleus into the comet’s thin atmosphere, or coma. Several of these gases supply building blocks for amino acids, sugars and other biologically relevant molecules.

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is captured using a telescope on December 22 from Farm Tivoli in Namibia, Africa. (Gerald Rhemann)

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is captured using a telescope on December 22 from Farm Tivoli in Namibia, Africa. (Gerald Rhemann)

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NASA Survey produces Carbon Map of Congo’s Forest

 

Written by Ellen Gray
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The equivalent of 85 billion tons of carbon dioxide — a huge amount equal to three-quarters of the carbon stored in forests across the contiguous United States — is locked in the living vegetation of one African country that holds much of the second largest tropical rainforest in the world, according to new research.

The study conducted by NASA, UCLA and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Germany produced the first high-resolution map of the amount and distribution of carbon stored in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Sabinyo volcano and thick forest in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo, habitat of the endangered mountain gorilla. (Martin Harvey/WWF)

Sabinyo volcano and thick forest in Virunga National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo, habitat of the endangered mountain gorilla. (Martin Harvey/WWF)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission and FIREBIRD II CubeSat discover Whistling Space Electrons’ Origins

 

Written by Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Scientists have long known that solar-energized particles trapped around the planet are sometimes scattered into Earth’s upper atmosphere where they can contribute to beautiful auroral displays.

Yet for decades, no one has known exactly what is responsible for hurling these energetic electrons on their way. Recently, two spacecraft found themselves at just the right places at the right time to witness first hand both the impulsive electron loss and its cause.

The Van Allen Belts, shown in green in this illustration, are concentric doughnut-shaped belts filled with charged particles, trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. (Tony Phillips/NASA)

The Van Allen Belts, shown in green in this illustration, are concentric doughnut-shaped belts filled with charged particles, trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. (Tony Phillips/NASA)

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NASA’s 2020 Mars Rover Mission tests Parachute Opening at Supersonic Speed

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Landing on Mars is difficult and not always successful. Well-designed advance testing helps. An ambitious NASA Mars rover mission set to launch in 2020 will rely on a special parachute to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere at over 12,000 mph (5.4 kilometers per second).

Preparations for this mission have provided, for the first time, dramatic video of the parachute opening at supersonic speed.

The Mars 2020 mission will seek signs of ancient Martian life by investigating evidence in place and by caching drilled samples of Martian rocks for potential future return to Earth.

A 58-foot-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket launches from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Oct. 4. This was the first test of the Mars 2020 mission's parachute-testing series, the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment, or ASPIRE. (NASA/Wallops)

A 58-foot-tall Black Brant IX sounding rocket launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Oct. 4. This was the first test of the Mars 2020 mission’s parachute-testing series, the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment, or ASPIRE. (NASA/Wallops)

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NASA detects Gravitational Waves from Two merging Neutron Stars

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – For the first time, NASA scientists have detected light tied to a gravitational-wave event, thanks to two merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993, located about 130 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra.

Shortly after 5:41am PDT (8:41am EDT) on August 17th, 2017, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a pulse of high-energy light from a powerful explosion, which was immediately reported to astronomers around the globe as a short gamma-ray burst. The scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves dubbed GW170817 from a pair of smashing stars tied to the gamma-ray burst, encouraging astronomers to look for the aftermath of the explosion.

An artist's impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. (R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

An artist’s impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. (R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

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