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Topic: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite to help Farmers manage Drought conditions

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – About 60 percent of California is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most dire classification. The agency issued the same warning to Texas and the southeastern United States in 2012. California’s last two winters have been among the driest since records began in 1879. Without enough water in the soil, seeds can’t sprout roots, leaves can’t perform photosynthesis, and agriculture can’t be sustained.

Currently, there is no ground- or satellite-based global network monitoring soil moisture at a local level. Farmers, scientists and resource managers can place sensors in the ground, but these only provide spot measurements and are rare across some critical agricultural areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For several months, California has been in a state of "exceptional drought." The state's usually verdant Central Valley produces one-sixth of the U.S.'s crops. (White House via Wikimedia Commons)

For several months, California has been in a state of “exceptional drought.” The state’s usually verdant Central Valley produces one-sixth of the U.S.’s crops. (White House via Wikimedia Commons)

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NASA’s Stardust spacecraft may have discovered first samples of Interstellar Dust

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Seven rare, microscopic interstellar dust particles that date to the beginnings of the solar system are among the samples collected by scientists who have been studying the payload from NASA’s Stardust spacecraft since its return to Earth in 2006.

If confirmed, these particles would be the first samples of contemporary interstellar dust.

A team of scientists has been combing through the spacecraft’s aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors since Stardust returned in 2006.

The largest interstellar dust track found in the Stardust aerogel collectors was this 35 micron-long hole produced by a 3 picogram mote that was probably traveling so fast that it vaporized upon impact. The other two likely interstellar dust grains were traveling more slowly and remained intact after a soft landing in the aerogel. (Andrew Westphal, UC Berkeley)

The largest interstellar dust track found in the Stardust aerogel collectors was this 35 micron-long hole produced by a 3 picogram mote that was probably traveling so fast that it vaporized upon impact. The other two likely interstellar dust grains were traveling more slowly and remained intact after a soft landing in the aerogel. (Andrew Westphal, UC Berkeley)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover gets ready to drill it’s fourth rock on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has chosen a rock that looks like a pale paving stone as the mission’s fourth drilling target, if it passes engineers’ evaluation.

They call it “Bonanza King.”

It is not at the “Pahrump Hills” site the team anticipated the rover might reach by mid-August. Unexpected challenges while driving in sand prompted the mission to reverse course last week after entering a valley where ripples of sand fill the floor and extend onto sloping margins.

In this image from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover looking up the ramp at the northeastern end of "Hidden Valley," a pale outcrop including drilling target "Bonanza King" is at the center of the scene. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In this image from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover looking up the ramp at the northeastern end of “Hidden Valley,” a pale outcrop including drilling target “Bonanza King” is at the center of the scene. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft gets images of Clouds moving over a Sea on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft recently captured images of clouds moving across the northern hydrocarbon seas of Saturn’s moon Titan. This renewed weather activity, considered overdue by researchers, could finally signal the onset of summer storms that atmospheric models have long predicted.

The Cassini spacecraft obtained the new views in late July, as it receded from Titan after a close flyby. Cassini tracked the system of clouds developing and dissipating over the large methane sea known as Ligeia Mare for more than two days. Measurements of cloud motions indicate wind speeds of around 7 to 10 mph (3 to 4.5 meters per second).

As NASA's Cassini spacecraft sped away from Titan following a relatively close flyby, its cameras monitored the moon's northern polar region, capturing signs of renewed cloud activity.

As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sped away from Titan following a relatively close flyby, its cameras monitored the moon’s northern polar region, capturing signs of renewed cloud activity.

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) observes Black Hole’s center lit up by nearby Corona

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA -  NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has captured an extreme and rare event in the regions immediately surrounding a supermassive black hole. A compact source of X-rays that sits near the black hole, called the corona, has moved closer to the black hole over a period of just days.

“The corona recently collapsed in toward the black hole, with the result that the black hole’s intense gravity pulled all the light down onto its surrounding disk, where material is spiraling inward,” said Michael Parker of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, United Kingdom, lead author of a new paper on the findings appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The regions around supermassive black holes shine brightly in X-rays. Some of this radiation comes from a surrounding disk, and most comes from the corona, pictured here in this artist's concept as the white light at the base of a jet. This is one possible configuration for a corona -- its actual shape is unclear. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The regions around supermassive black holes shine brightly in X-rays. Some of this radiation comes from a surrounding disk, and most comes from the corona, pictured here in this artist’s concept as the white light at the base of a jet. This is one possible configuration for a corona — its actual shape is unclear. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 achieves final orbit and begins sending data

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Just over a month after launch, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) — NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide — has maneuvered into its final operating orbit and produced its first science data, confirming the health of its science instrument.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas responsible for warming our world.

Artist's rendering of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, one of five new NASA Earth science missions set to launch in 2014, and one of three managed by JPL. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s rendering of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, one of five new NASA Earth science missions set to launch in 2014, and one of three managed by JPL. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s AcrimSat spacecraft has quit responding after 14 years of service

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After 14 years of monitoring Earth’s main energy source, radiation from the sun, NASA’s Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor satellite has lost contact with its ground operations team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and its mission has been declared completed.

AcrimSat’s ACRIM 3 instrument was the third in a series of satellite experiments that have contributed to a critical data set for understanding Earth’s climate: the 36-year, continuous satellite record of variations in total solar radiation reaching Earth, or total solar irradiance.

Artist's rendering of the AcrimSat spacecraft. (NASA)

Artist’s rendering of the AcrimSat spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) flew near Space in it’s June Test Flight

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.

The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped, design could reach the altitudes and airspeeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ready to execute burn to target Saturn’s moon, Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will execute the largest planned maneuver of the spacecraft’s remaining mission on Saturday, August 9th. The maneuver will target Cassini toward an August 21st encounter with Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

The main engine firing will last about a minute and will provide a change in velocity of 41 feet per second (12.5 meters per second). This is the largest maneuver by Cassini in five years.

This is an artists concept of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) maneuver, just after the main engine has begun firing. (NASA/JPL)

This is an artists concept of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) maneuver, just after the main engine has begun firing. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft adjusts orbit in lieu of Comet Siding Spring Flyby

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has successfully adjusted the timing of its orbit around Mars as a defensive precaution for a comet’s close flyby of Mars on October 19th, 2014.

The orbiter fired thrusters for five and a half seconds on Tuesday, August 5th. The maneuver was calculated to place the orbiter behind Mars during the half hour on the flyby date when dust particles released from comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring are most likely to reach Mars.

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept illustration. (NASA/JPL)

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars’ south pole in this artist’s concept illustration. (NASA/JPL)

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