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Topic: NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft snaps new image of Occator Crater on dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The brightest area on Ceres stands out amid shadowy, cratered terrain in a dramatic new view from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, taken as it looked off to the side of the dwarf planet.

Dawn snapped this image on October 16th, from its fifth science orbit, in which the angle of the sun was different from that in previous orbits. Dawn was about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers) above Ceres when this image was taken — an altitude the spacecraft had reached in early October.

Occator Crater, home of Ceres' intriguing brightest areas, is prominently featured in this image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Occator Crater, home of Ceres’ intriguing brightest areas, is prominently featured in this image from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s first GRACE Satellite finishes Construction, Launch set for December

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Construction is now complete on the first of the two satellites for NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission, planned for launch in the December 2017/January 2018 timeframe.

The satellite, built by Airbus Defence and Space at its manufacturing facility in Friedrichshafen, Germany, will spend the next several months undergoing testing at the IABG test center in Ottobrunn, near Munich. The second GRACE-FO satellite will be ready for testing in the near future.

Artist's rendering of the twin satellites that will compose NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s rendering of the twin satellites that will compose NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System satellites to help with hurricane forecasts

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA is set to launch its first Earth science small satellite constellation, which will help improve hurricane intensity, track and storm surge forecasts, on December 12th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) hurricane mission will measure previously unknown details crucial to accurately understanding the formation and intensity of tropical cyclones and hurricanes. Derek Posselt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is the deputy principal investigator.

Artist's concept of one of the eight Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System satellites deployed in space above a hurricane. (NASA)

Artist’s concept of one of the eight Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System satellites deployed in space above a hurricane. (NASA)

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NASA’s Spitzer and Swift Space Telescopes use Microlensing to discover Brown Dwarf

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, NASA’s Spitzer and Swift space telescopes joined forces to observe a microlensing event, when a distant star brightens due to the gravitational field of at least one foreground cosmic object. This technique is useful for finding low-mass bodies orbiting stars, such as planets. In this case, the observations revealed a brown dwarf.

Brown dwarfs are thought to be the missing link between planets and stars, with masses up to 80 times that of Jupiter. But their centers are not hot or dense enough to generate energy through nuclear fusion the way stars do.

This illustration depicts a newly discovered brown dwarf, an object that weighs in somewhere between our solar system's most massive planet (Jupiter) and the least-massive known star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts a newly discovered brown dwarf, an object that weighs in somewhere between our solar system’s most massive planet (Jupiter) and the least-massive known star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA designs Compact Antenna for CubeSat Missions

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Black magic.

That’s what radiofrequency engineers call the mysterious forces guiding communications over the air. These forces involve complex physics and are difficult enough to master on Earth. They only get more baffling when you’re beaming signals into space.

Until now, the shape of choice for casting this “magic” has been the parabolic dish. The bigger the antenna dish, the better it is at “catching” or transmitting signals from far away.

RainCube, due to fly in 2017, forced JPL's engineers to get creative in order to squeeze an antenna into a CubeSat. (Tyvak/Jonathan Sauder/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

RainCube, due to fly in 2017, forced JPL’s engineers to get creative in order to squeeze an antenna into a CubeSat. (Tyvak/Jonathan Sauder/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA to launch Six Small Satellites in new approach to studying Earth

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Beginning this month, NASA is launching a suite of six next-generation, Earth-observing small satellite missions to demonstrate innovative new approaches for studying our changing planet.

These small satellites range in size from a loaf of bread to a small washing machine and weigh from a few to 400 pounds (180 kilograms). Their small size keeps development and launch costs down as they often hitch a ride to space as a “secondary payload” on another mission’s rocket — providing an economical avenue for testing new technologies and conducting science.

Artist's concept of the TROPICS mission, which will study hurricanes with a constellation of 12 CubeSats flying in formation. (MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

Artist’s concept of the TROPICS mission, which will study hurricanes with a constellation of 12 CubeSats flying in formation. (MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft observes Methane Clouds moving across Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft watched clouds of methane moving across the far northern regions of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, on October 29­­­­th and 30th, 2016.

Several sets of clouds develop, move over the surface and fade during the course of this movie sequence, which spans 11 hours, with one frame taken every 20 minutes. Most prominent are long cloud streaks that lie between 49 and 55 degrees north latitude.

New video shows bright clouds of methane drifting across Saturn's largest moon, Titan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

New video shows bright clouds of methane drifting across Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA and FEMA conducts Asteroid Impacting Earth Simulation Exercise

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – What would we do if we discovered a large asteroid on course to impact Earth? While highly unlikely, that was the high-consequence scenario discussed by attendees at an October 25th NASA-FEMA tabletop exercise in El Segundo, California.

The third in a series of exercises hosted jointly by NASA and FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the simulation was designed to strengthen the collaboration between the two agencies, which have Administration direction to lead the U.S. response.

Artist's concept of a near-Earth object. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of a near-Earth object. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The baffling and strange behaviors of black holes have become somewhat less mysterious recently, with new observations from NASA’s Explorer missions Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR.

The two space telescopes caught a supermassive black hole in the midst of a giant eruption of X-ray light, helping astronomers address an ongoing puzzle: How do supermassive black holes flare?

The results suggest that supermassive black holes send out beams of X-rays when their surrounding coronas — sources of extremely energetic particles — shoot, or launch, away from the black holes.

NASA's Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

NASA’s Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover discovers smooth Iron-Nickel Meteorite on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Laser-zapping of a globular, golf-ball-size object on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover confirms that it is an iron-nickel meteorite fallen from the Red Planet’s sky.

Iron-nickel meteorites are a common class of space rocks found on Earth, and previous examples have been seen on Mars, but this one, called “Egg Rock,” is the first on Mars examined with a laser-firing spectrometer. To do so, the rover team used Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument.

The dark, smooth-surfaced rock at the center of this Oct. 30, 2016, image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite. It is about the size of a golf ball. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The dark, smooth-surfaced rock at the center of this Oct. 30, 2016, image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite. It is about the size of a golf ball. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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