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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft data used to discover what happened to Craters on Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ceres is covered in countless small, young craters, but none are larger than 175 miles (280 kilometers) in diameter. To scientists, this is a huge mystery, given that the dwarf planet must have been hit by numerous large asteroids during its 4.5 billion-year lifetime. Where did all the large craters go?

A new study in the journal Nature Communications explores this puzzle of Ceres’ missing large craters, using data from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres since March 2015.

Scientists with NASA's Dawn mission were surprised to find that Ceres has no clear signs of truly giant impact basins. This image shows both visible (left) and topographic (right) mapping data from Dawn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

Scientists with NASA’s Dawn mission were surprised to find that Ceres has no clear signs of truly giant impact basins. This image shows both visible (left) and topographic (right) mapping data from Dawn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI)

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft set for September Launch

 

Written by Sarah Schlieder
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will launch September 2016 and travel to a near-Earth asteroid known as Bennu to harvest a sample of surface material and return it to Earth for study. The science team will be looking for something special. Ideally, the sample will come from a region in which the building blocks of life may be found.

To identify these regions on Bennu, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) team equipped the spacecraft with an instrument that will measure the spectral signatures of Bennu’s mineralogical and molecular components.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to Map the Surface of an Asteroid. (NASA)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to Map the Surface of an Asteroid. (NASA)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer data shows bulge of Stars in Milky Way’s center form “X” Shape

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new understanding of our galaxy’s structure began in an unlikely way: on Twitter. A research effort sparked by tweets led scientists to confirm that the Milky Way’s central bulge of stars forms an “X” shape. The newly published study uses data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.

The unconventional collaboration started in May 2015 when Dustin Lang, an astronomer at the Dunlap Institute of the University of Toronto, posted galaxy maps to Twitter, using data from WISE’s two infrared surveys of the entire sky in 2010.

Researchers used data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission to highlight the X-shaped structure in the bulge of the Milky Way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/D.Lang)

Researchers used data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission to highlight the X-shaped structure in the bulge of the Milky Way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/D.Lang)

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NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft discovers 104 Planets outside our Solar System

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An international team of astronomers has discovered and confirmed a treasure trove of new worlds using NASA’s Kepler spacecraft on its K2 mission. Out of 197 initial planet candidates, scientists have confirmed 104 planets outside our solar system. Among the confirmed is a planetary system comprising four promising planets that could be rocky.

These four planets, all between 20 and 50 percent larger than Earth by diameter, are orbiting the M dwarf star K2-72, found 181 light-years away in the direction of the Aquarius constellation. The host star is less than half the size of the sun and less bright.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Kepler Space Telescope on its K2 mission. In July 2016, an international team of astronomers announced they had discovered more than 100 new planets using this telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope on its K2 mission. In July 2016, an international team of astronomers announced they had discovered more than 100 new planets using this telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Exploration Program picks Five Orbiter Concepts for Study

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected five U.S. aerospace companies to conduct concept studies for a potential future Mars orbiter mission. Such a mission would continue key capabilities including telecommunications and global high-resolution imaging in support of the agency’s Journey to Mars.

The companies contracted for these four-month studies are: The Boeing Company in Huntington Beach, California; Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver; Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California; Orbital ATK in Dulles, Virginia; and Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, California.

NASA's Mars Exploration Program includes two active rovers and three active orbiters. Concept studies have begun for a potential future Mars orbiter mission. (NASA/JPL/USGS)

NASA’s Mars Exploration Program includes two active rovers and three active orbiters. Concept studies have begun for a potential future Mars orbiter mission. (NASA/JPL/USGS)

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NASA to begin final design and construction of Mars 2020 rover

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After an extensive review process and passing a major development milestone, NASA is ready to proceed with final design and construction of its next Mars rover, currently targeted to launch in summer of 2020 and arrive on the Red Planet in February 2021.

The Mars 2020 rover will investigate a region of Mars where the ancient environment may have been favorable for microbial life, probing the Martian rocks for evidence of past life. Throughout its investigation, it will collect samples of soil and rock, and cache them on the surface for potential return to Earth by a future mission.

This 2016 image comes from computer-assisted-design work on NASA's 2020 Mars rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This 2016 image comes from computer-assisted-design work on NASA’s 2020 Mars rover. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft takes first pictures from Jupiter Orbit

 

Written by DC Agle / Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The JunoCam camera aboard NASA’s Juno mission is operational and sending down data after the spacecraft’s July 4th arrival at Jupiter. Juno’s visible-light camera was turned on six days after Juno fired its main engine and placed itself into orbit around the largest planetary inhabitant of our solar system. The first high-resolution images of the gas giant Jupiter are still a few weeks away.

“This scene from JunoCam indicates it survived its first pass through Jupiter’s extreme radiation environment without any degradation and is ready to take on Jupiter,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “We can’t wait to see the first view of Jupiter’s poles.”

This color view from NASA's Juno spacecraft is made from some of the first images taken by JunoCam after the spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 5th (UTC). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

This color view from NASA’s Juno spacecraft is made from some of the first images taken by JunoCam after the spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 5th (UTC). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS)

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NASA reports discovery of a Gravitational Vortex around a Black Hole

 

Written by Karen O’Flaherty
European Space Agency

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s orbiting X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton, has proved the existence of a “gravitational vortex” around a black hole. The discovery, aided by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission, solves a mystery that has eluded astronomers for more than 30 years, and will allow them to map the behavior of matter very close to black holes. It could also open the door to future investigations of Albert Einstein’s general relativity.

Matter falling into a black hole heats up as it plunges to its doom. Before it passes into the black hole and is lost from view forever, it can reach millions of degrees. At that temperature it shines X-rays into space.

This artist's impression depicts the accretion disc surrounding a black hole, in which the inner region of the disc precesses.

This artist’s impression depicts the accretion disc surrounding a black hole, in which the inner region of the disc precesses.

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NASA’s Dawn Mission identifies Craters on Ceres where Ice could be trapped

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Scientists with NASA’s Dawn mission have identified permanently shadowed regions on the dwarf planet Ceres. Most of these areas likely have been cold enough to trap water ice for a billion years, suggesting that ice deposits could exist there now.

“The conditions on Ceres are right for accumulating deposits of water ice,” said Norbert Schorghofer, a Dawn guest investigator at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Ceres has just enough mass to hold on to water molecules, and the permanently shadowed regions we identified are extremely cold — colder than most that exist on the moon or Mercury.”

At the poles of Ceres, scientists have found craters that are permanently in shadow (indicated by blue markings). Such craters are called "cold traps" if they remain below about minus 240 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 151 degrees Celsius). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

At the poles of Ceres, scientists have found craters that are permanently in shadow (indicated by blue markings). Such craters are called “cold traps” if they remain below about minus 240 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 151 degrees Celsius). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA prepares Juno Spacecraft for operations around Jupiter

 

Written Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The engineers and scientists working on NASA’s Juno mission have been busying themselves, getting their newly arrived Jupiter orbiter ready for operations around the largest planetary inhabitant in the solar system.

Juno successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit during a 35-minute engine burn on Monday, July 4th. Confirmation that the burn had completed was received on Earth at 8:53pm. PDT (11:53pm EDT) that evening.

Animation of Juno 14-day Orbits Starting in Late 2016. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Animation of Juno 14-day Orbits Starting in Late 2016. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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