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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Terra Satellite captured images of Blue Cut Fire in California

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On August 16th, 2016, at around 10:30am, a brush fire ignited in the Cajon Pass east of Los Angeles, just to the west of Interstate 15. Within a matter of hours, extreme temperatures, high winds and low humidity allowed the fire to spread rapidly, burning through brush left tinder-dry by years of drought.

By August 17th, the fire had expanded dramatically, and firefighters continue to battle to save homes and evacuate residents.

The MISR instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft captured this image of the destructive Blue Cut wildfire east of Los Angeles midday on Aug. 17. (NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL-Caltech, MISR Team)

The MISR instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft captured this image of the destructive Blue Cut wildfire east of Los Angeles midday on Aug. 17. (NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL-Caltech, MISR Team)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope sees stars spinning like Dancers in Pleiades Cluster

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning. But these celestial dancers are all twirling at different speeds. Astronomers have long wondered what determines the rotation rates of these stars.

By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope during its K2 mission has helped amass the most complete catalog of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can help astronomers gain insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.

This image shows the famous Pleiades cluster of stars as seen through the eyes of WISE, or NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

This image shows the famous Pleiades cluster of stars as seen through the eyes of WISE, or NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers deep canyons on Saturn’s moon Titan filled with Hydrocarbons

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has found deep, steep-sided canyons on Saturn’s moon Titan that are flooded with liquid hydrocarbons. The finding represents the first direct evidence of the presence of liquid-filled channels on Titan, as well as the first observation of canyons hundreds of meters deep.

A new paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters describes how scientists analyzed Cassini data from a close pass the spacecraft made over Titan in May 2013. During the flyby, Cassini’s radar instrument focused on channels that branch out from the large, northern sea Ligeia Mare.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft pinged the surface of Titan with microwaves, finding that some channels are deep, steep-sided canyons filled with liquid hydrocarbons. One such feature is Vid Flumina, the branching network of narrow lines in the upper-left quadrant of the image. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft pinged the surface of Titan with microwaves, finding that some channels are deep, steep-sided canyons filled with liquid hydrocarbons. One such feature is Vid Flumina, the branching network of narrow lines in the upper-left quadrant of the image. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data used to create list of Planets that may be similar to Earth

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Using public data collected by NASA’s Kepler mission, astronomers have catalogued the planet candidates that may be similar to our third rock from the sun. The tabulation of candidates will help astronomers focus their research efforts in the search for life.

The analysis, led by Stephen Kane, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at San Francisco State University in California, highlights 20 candidates in the Kepler trove that are less than twice the size of Earth and orbit their star in the conservative habitable zone — the range of distances where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet.

The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to imagine the appearance of these distant worlds. (NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to imagine the appearance of these distant worlds. (NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft ready for first close pass of Jupiter

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Five years after departing Earth, and a month after slipping into orbit around Jupiter, NASA’s Juno spacecraft is nearing a turning point. On July 31st at 12:41pm PDT (3:41pm EDT), Juno will reach the farthest point in its orbit of Jupiter for the first time, known as “apojove,” 5 million miles (8.1 million kilometers) from the giant planet.

After that point, Jupiter’s gravitational grip on Juno will cause the spacecraft to begin falling back toward the planet for another pass, this time with its scientific eyes wide open.

This artist's concept depicts the Juno spacecraft above Jupiter. The spacecraft will next fly by the planet on Aug. 27th, in the mission's first up-close science pass. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept depicts the Juno spacecraft above Jupiter. The spacecraft will next fly by the planet on Aug. 27th, in the mission’s first up-close science pass. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data shows Gullies on Mars probably not created by Water

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New findings using data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that gullies on modern Mars are likely not being formed by flowing liquid water. This new evidence will allow researchers to further narrow theories about how Martian gullies form, and reveal more details about Mars’ recent geologic processes.

Scientists use the term “gully” for features on Mars that share three characteristics in their shape: an alcove at the top, a channel, and an apron of deposited material at the bottom.

Martian gullies as seen in the top image from HiRISE on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter resemble gullies on Earth that are carved by liquid water. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/JHUAPL)

Martian gullies as seen in the top image from HiRISE on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter resemble gullies on Earth that are carved by liquid water. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UA/JHUAPL)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) distinquishes high energy X-Rays of Black Holes

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Supermassive black holes in the universe are like a raucous choir singing in the language of X-rays. When black holes pull in surrounding matter, they let out powerful X-ray bursts. This song of X-rays, coming from a chorus of millions of black holes, fills the entire sky — a phenomenon astronomers call the cosmic X-ray background.

NASA’s Chandra mission has managed to pinpoint many of the so-called active black holes contributing to this X-ray background, but the ones that let out high-energy X-rays — those with the highest-pitched “voices” — have remained elusive.

The blue dots in this field of galaxies, known as the COSMOS field, show galaxies that contain supermassive black holes emitting high-energy X-rays. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The blue dots in this field of galaxies, known as the COSMOS field, show galaxies that contain supermassive black holes emitting high-energy X-rays. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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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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