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Topic: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA’s WISE spacecraft reveals nearly five times more comets have passed the Sun then previously predicted

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the Sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many “long-period comets” will never approach the Sun in a person’s lifetime.

In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud — a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 186 billion miles (300 billion kilometers) away from the Sun — can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.

NASA’s WISE spacecraft, scanning the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, has delivered new insights about these distant wanderers.

This illustration shows how scientists used data from NASA's WISE spacecraft to determine the nucleus sizes of comets. They subtracted a model of how dust and gas behave in comets in order to obtain the core size. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows how scientists used data from NASA’s WISE spacecraft to determine the nucleus sizes of comets. They subtracted a model of how dust and gas behave in comets in order to obtain the core size. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports ESA’s LISA Pathfinder Spacecraft powered down

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With the push of a button, final commands for the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder mission were beamed to space on July 18th, 2017, a final goodbye before the spacecraft was powered down.

LISA Pathfinder had been directed into a parking orbit in April, keeping it out of Earth’s way. The final action this week switches it off completely after a successful 16 months of science measurements.

While some spacecraft are flashy, never sitting still as they zip across the solar system, LISA Pathfinder was as steady as they come — literally.

An artist's concept of the European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board.

An artist’s concept of the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board.

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft continues dives between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding — so far — that the planet’s magnetic field has no discernible tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn’s day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini’s mission, known as the Grand Finale.

Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere.

Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Recent images of features in Saturn’s C ring called “plateaus” reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA says Digital Holographic Microscopy may aid in detecting Life on another Planet

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If a space probe detected microbial life on another planet, would scientists know it when they saw it?

Identifying bacteria by sight is challenging enough on Earth, even for experts. To the naked eye, bacteria look like featureless blobs — not unlike the mineral grains that might surround them in a sample.

A form of holographic imaging could help.

A new paper by JPL and Caltech researchers looks at how holographic imaging might be used to detect microbes -- including those on other planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A new paper by JPL and Caltech researchers looks at how holographic imaging might be used to detect microbes — including those on other planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer shows Amazon triggers it’s own Rainy Season

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new study gives the first observational evidence that the southern Amazon rainforest triggers its own rainy season using water vapor from plant leaves. The finding helps explain why deforestation in this region is linked with reduced rainfall.

The study analyzed water vapor data from NASA’s Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer (TES) on the Aura satellite, along with other satellite measurements, to show that at the end of the dry season, clouds that build over the southern Amazon are formed from water rising from the forest itself. The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The Amazon rainforest. (Center for International Forestry Research)

The Amazon rainforest. (Center for International Forestry Research)

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NASA announces Jason-2 Satellite to undertake new Science Mission

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A venerable U.S./European oceanography satellite mission with NASA participation that has expanded our knowledge of global sea level change, ocean currents and climate phenomena like El Niño and La Niña will take on an additional role next month: improving maps of Earth’s sea floor.

The Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite, a partnership among NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the French Space Agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), marked its ninth year in orbit on June 20th, 2017.

Illustration of the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite in orbit. OSTM/Jason-2 will soon take on an additional role to help improve maps of Earth's sea floor. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

Illustration of the U.S./European Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 satellite in orbit. OSTM/Jason-2 will soon take on an additional role to help improve maps of Earth’s sea floor. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

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NASA reports Limited Communications between Earth and Mars due to Sun this month

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – This month, movements of the planets will put Mars almost directly behind the sun, from Earth’s perspective, causing curtailed communications between Earth and Mars.

NASA will refrain from sending commands to America’s three Mars orbiters and two Mars rovers during the period from July 22nd to August 1st, 2017.

“Out of caution, we won’t talk to our Mars assets during that period because we expect significant degradation in the communication link, and we don’t want to take a chance that one of our spacecraft would act on a corrupted command,” said Chad Edwards, manager of the Mars Relay Network Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth's perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover starts investigating Mars Ridge containing Hematite

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The car-size NASA rover on a Martian mountain, Curiosity, has begun its long-anticipated study of an iron-bearing ridge forming a distinctive layer on the mountain’s slope.

Since before Curiosity’s landing five years ago next month, this feature has been recognized as one of four unique terrains on lower Mount Sharp and therefore a key mission destination. Curiosity’s science team informally named it “Vera Rubin Ridge” this year, commemorating astronomer Vera Cooper Rubin (1928-2016).

“Our Vera Rubin Ridge campaign has begun,” said Curiosity Project Scientist Ashwin Vasavada of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “Curiosity is driving parallel to the ridge, below it, observing it from different angles as we work our way toward a safe route to the top of the ridge.”

This early 2017 look ahead from the Mastcam of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes four geological layers to be examined by the mission, and higher reaches of Mount Sharp beyond the planned study area. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This early 2017 look ahead from the Mastcam of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes four geological layers to be examined by the mission, and higher reaches of Mount Sharp beyond the planned study area. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft gets close up look at Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot reveal a tangle of dark, veinous clouds weaving their way through a massive crimson oval. The JunoCam imager aboard NASA’s Juno mission snapped pics of the most iconic feature of the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant during its Monday (July 10th) flyby.

The images of the Great Red Spot were downlinked from the spacecraft’s memory on Tuesday and placed on the mission’s JunoCam website Wednesday morning.

This enhanced-color image of Jupiter's Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA's Juno spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major)

This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Jason Major using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Jason Major)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Completes Flyby over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission completed a close flyby of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot on July 10th, during its sixth science orbit.

All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that are now being returned to Earth. Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on September 1st, 2017.

Raw images from the spacecraft’s latest flyby will be posted in coming days.

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft in orbit above Jupiter's Great Red Spot. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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