Topic: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission has released its second year of survey data. The spacecraft has now characterized a total of 439 NEOs since the mission was re-started in December 2013. Of these, 72 were new discoveries.
Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) are comets and asteroids that have been nudged by the gravitational attraction of the giant planets in our solar system into orbits that allow them to enter Earth’s neighborhood. Eight of the objects discovered in the past year have been classified as potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs), based on their size and how closely their orbits approach Earth.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – From its perch high on a ridge, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this image of a Martian dust devil twisting through the valley below. The view looks back at the rover’s tracks leading up the north-facing slope of “Knudsen Ridge,” which forms part of the southern edge of “Marathon Valley.”
Opportunity took the image using its navigation camera (Navcam) on March 31st, 2016, during the 4,332nd Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars.
Written by Carol Rasmussen
Pasadena, CA – A NASA-led team of scientists has developed the first-ever method for detecting the presence of different types of underground forest fungi from space, information that may help researchers predict how climate change will alter forest habitats.
Hidden beneath every forest is a network of fungi living in mutually beneficial relationships with the trees. Called mycorrhizal fungi, these organisms spread underground for miles, scavenging for nutrients that they trade with trees for sugars the trees make during photosynthesis. “Nearly all tree species associate with only one of two types of mycorrhizal fungi,” explained coauthor Richard Phillips of Indiana University, Bloomington.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s long-lived Mars rover Opportunity is driving to an alternative hillside target after a climb on the steepest slope ever tackled by any Mars rover. Opportunity could not quite get within reach of a target researchers hoped the rover could touch earlier this month.
A new image shows the view overlooking the valley below and catches the rover’s own shadow and wheel tracks as Opportunity heads toward its next target.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have led to the first temperature map of a super-Earth planet — a rocky planet nearly two times as big as ours. The map reveals extreme temperature swings from one side of the planet to the other, and hints that a possible reason for this is the presence of lava flows.
“Our view of this planet keeps evolving,” said Brice Olivier Demory of the University of Cambridge, England, lead author of a new report appearing in the March 30 issue of the journal Nature. “The latest findings tell us the planet has hot nights and significantly hotter days. This indicates the planet inefficiently transports heat around the planet. We propose this could be explained by an atmosphere that would exist only on the day side of the planet, or by lava flows at the planet surface.”
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – What might it look like if you were walking around on Mars? A group of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, has been working on methods to take this question from the realm of imagination to the mind-bending domain of mixed reality.
As a result, NASA and Microsoft have teamed up to offer the public a guided tour of an area of Mars with astronaut Buzz Aldrin this summer in “Destination: Mars,” an interactive exhibit using the Microsoft HoloLens mixed reality headset. “Mixed reality” means that virtual elements are merged with the user’s actual environment, creating a world in which real and virtual objects can interact.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – The last decade has seen a bonanza of exoplanet discoveries. Nearly 2,000 exoplanets — planets outside our solar system — have been confirmed so far, and more than 5,000 candidate exoplanets have been identified. Many of these exotic worlds belong to a class known as “hot Jupiters.” These are gas giants like Jupiter but much hotter, with orbits that take them feverishly close to their stars.
At first, hot Jupiters were considered oddballs, since we don’t have anything like them in our own solar system. But as more were found, in addition to many other smaller planets that orbit very closely to their stars, our solar system started to seem like the real misfit.
NASA’s Earth Science Division launches new projects to advance our knowledge on how planet Earth works
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – NASA is sending scientists around the world in 2016 – from the edge of the Greenland ice sheet to the coral reefs of the South Pacific – to delve into challenging questions about how our planet is changing and what impacts humans are having on it.
While Earth science field experiments are nothing new for NASA, the next six months will be a particularly active period with eight major new campaigns taking researchers around the world on a wide range of science investigations.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers were watching when comet P/2016 BA14 flew past Earth on March 22nd. At the time of its closest approach, the comet was about 2.2 million miles (3.5 million kilometers) away, making it the third closest comet flyby in recorded history (see “A ‘Tail’ of Two Comets”). Radar images from the flyby indicate that the comet is about 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) in diameter.
The scientists used the Goldstone Solar System Radar in California’s Mojave Desert to track the comet.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – In a nod to extraterrestrial mountaineers of the future, scientists working on NASA’s Cassini mission have identified the highest point on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.
Titan’s tallest peak is 10,948 feet (3,337 meters) high and is found within a trio of mountainous ridges called the Mithrim Montes. The researchers found that all of Titan’s highest peaks are about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) in elevation. The study used images and other data from Cassini’s radar instrument, which can peer through the obscuring smog of Titan’s atmosphere to reveal the surface in detail.
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