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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA to increase search for Life on other Planets with NExSS Project

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA is bringing together experts spanning a variety of scientific fields for an unprecedented initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside our solar system.

The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or “NExSS”, hopes to better understand the various components of an exoplanet, as well as how the planet’s stars and neighbor planets interact to support life.

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA's NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right). (NASA)

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA’s NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right). (NASA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes new images of Bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The two brightest spots on dwarf planet Ceres, which have fascinated scientists for months, are back in view in the newest images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images on April 14th and 15th from a vantage point 14,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) above Ceres’ north pole.

The images show the brightest spot and its companion clearly standing out against their darker surroundings, but their composition and sources are still un-known. Scientists also see other interesting features, including heavy cratering. As Dawn gets closer to Ceres, surface features will continue to emerge at in-creasingly better resolution.

This image shows the northern terrain on the sunlit side of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on April 14th and 15th, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This image shows the northern terrain on the sunlit side of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on April 14th and 15th, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover heads towards next observation point on Mars, Logan Pass

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is continuing science observations while on the move this month. On April 16th, the mission passed 10 kilometers (6.214 miles) of total driving since its 2012 landing, including about a fifth of a mile (310 meters) so far this month.

The rover is trekking through a series of shallow valleys between the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop, which it investigated for six months, and the next science destination, “Logan Pass,” which is still about 200 yards, or meters, ahead toward the southwest.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover used its Navigation Camera (Navcam) to capture this scene toward the west just after completing a drive that took the mission's total driving distance on Mars past 10 kilometers (6.214 miles). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Navigation Camera (Navcam) to capture this scene toward the west just after completing a drive that took the mission’s total driving distance on Mars past 10 kilometers (6.214 miles). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes images of dwarf planet Ceres’ North Pole

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world. These images were taken on April 10th from a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers), and they represent the highest-resolution views of Ceres to date.

Subsequent images of Ceres will show surface features at increasingly better resolution.

This animation shows the north pole of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by the Dawn spacecraft on April 10, 2015. Dawn was at a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) when its framing camera took these images. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This animation shows the north pole of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by the Dawn spacecraft on April 10, 2015. Dawn was at a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) when its framing camera took these images. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft images reveals Tendril Structures coming from Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Long, sinuous, tendril-like structures seen in the vicinity of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus originate directly from geysers erupting from its surface, according to scientists studying images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

This result is published online today in a study in the Astronomical Journal, along with additional insights into the nature of the structures.

“We’ve been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon’s surface,” said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the paper.

This collage, consisting of two Cassini images of long, sinuous, tendril-like features from Saturn's moon Enceladus and two corresponding computer simulations of the same, illustrates how well the structures, and the sizes of the particles composing them, can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from Enceladus' south polar geysers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This collage, consisting of two Cassini images of long, sinuous, tendril-like features from Saturn’s moon Enceladus and two corresponding computer simulations of the same, illustrates how well the structures, and the sizes of the particles composing them, can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from Enceladus’ south polar geysers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovers gas planet in the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known.

The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer — from its unique perch in space — can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs?

This artist's map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover measurements of Weather, Soil reveals possibility of Liquid Brine on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Martian weather and soil conditions that NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured, together with a type of salt found in Martian soil, could put liquid brine in the soil at night.

Perchlorate identified in Martian soil by the Curiosity mission, and previously by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission, has properties of absorbing water vapor from the atmosphere and lowering the freezing temperature of water. This has been proposed for years as a mechanism for possible existence of transient liquid brines at higher latitudes on modern Mars, despite the Red Planet’s cold and dry conditions.

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover's mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover’s mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft data helps Scientists solve mystery behind Saturn’s Storms

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The long-standing mystery of why Saturn seethes with enormous storms every 30 years may have been solved by scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission. The tempests, which can grow into bright bands that encircle the entire planet, are on a natural timer that is reset by each subsequent storm, the researchers report.

In 140 years of telescope observations, great storms have erupted on Saturn six times. Cassini and observers on Earth tracked the most recent of these storms from December 2010 to August 2011. During that time, the storm exploded through the clouds, eventually winding its way around Saturn.

This series of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the development of a huge storm of the type that erupts about every 30 years on Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

This series of images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the development of a huge storm of the type that erupts about every 30 years on Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft creates Color Map of dwarf planet Ceres revealing a surface full of variety

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new color map of dwarf planet Ceres, which NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has been orbiting since March, reveals the diversity of the surface of this planetary body. Differences in morphology and color across the surface suggest Ceres was once an active body, Dawn researchers said today at the 2015 General Assembly of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna.

“This dwarf planet was not just an inert rock throughout its history. It was active, with processes that resulted in different materials in different regions. We are beginning to capture that diversity in our color images,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

This map-projected view of Ceres was created from images taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft during its initial approach to the dwarf planet, prior to being captured into orbit in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This map-projected view of Ceres was created from images taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft during its initial approach to the dwarf planet, prior to being captured into orbit in March 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft ready to collect photos, data of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Since its capture by the gravity of dwarf planet Ceres on March 6th, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has performed flawlessly, continuing to thrust with its ion engine as planned.

The thrust, combined with Ceres’ gravity, is gradually guiding the spacecraft into a circular orbit around the dwarf planet. All of the spacecraft’s systems and instruments are in excellent health.

Dawn has been following its planned trajectory on the dark side of Ceres — the side facing away from the sun — since early March.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres (lower right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres (lower right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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