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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA Telescopes used to study unusual Flash of Light nicknamed “The Cow”

 

Written by Jeanette Kazmierczak
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A brief and unusual flash spotted in the night sky on June 16th, 2018, puzzled astronomers and astrophysicists across the globe. The event – called AT2018cow and nicknamed “the Cow” after the coincidental final letters in its official name – is unlike any celestial outburst ever seen before, prompting multiple theories about its source.

Over three days, the Cow produced a sudden explosion of light at least 10 times brighter than a typical supernova, and then it faded over the next few months.

AT2018cow erupted in or near a galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, which is located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. This zoomed-in image shows the location of the "Cow" in the galaxy. (Sloan Digital Sky Survey)

AT2018cow erupted in or near a galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, which is located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. This zoomed-in image shows the location of the “Cow” in the galaxy. (Sloan Digital Sky Survey)

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Citizen Scientists use NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data to discover New World

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Using data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, citizen scientists have discovered a planet roughly twice the size of Earth located within its star’s habitable zone, the range of orbital distances where liquid water may exist on the planet’s surface. The new world, known as K2-288Bb, could be rocky or could be a gas-rich planet similar to Neptune. Its size is rare among exoplanets – planets beyond our solar system.

“It’s a very exciting discovery due to how it was found, its temperate orbit and because planets of this size seem to be relatively uncommon,” said Adina Feinstein, a University of Chicago graduate student who discussed the discovery on Monday, January 7th, at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Seattle.

The newfound planet K2-288Bb, illustrated here, is slightly smaller than Neptune. Located about 226 light-years away, it orbits the fainter member of a pair of cool M-type stars every 31.3 days. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Francis Reddy)

The newfound planet K2-288Bb, illustrated here, is slightly smaller than Neptune. Located about 226 light-years away, it orbits the fainter member of a pair of cool M-type stars every 31.3 days. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Francis Reddy)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft takes detailed photos of Ultima Thule

 

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – Scientists from NASA’s New Horizons mission released the first detailed images of the most distant object ever explored — the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. Its remarkable appearance, unlike anything we’ve seen before, illuminates the processes that built the planets four and a half billion years ago.

“This flyby is a historic achievement,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Never before has any spacecraft team tracked down such a small body at such high speed so far away in the abyss of space. New Horizons has set a new bar for state-of-the-art spacecraft navigation.”

This image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is the most detailed of Ultima Thule returned so far by the New Horizons spacecraft. It was taken at 5:01 Universal Time on January 1, 2019, just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers), with an original scale of 459 feet (140 meters) per pixel. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

This image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is the most detailed of Ultima Thule returned so far by the New Horizons spacecraft. It was taken at 5:01 Universal Time on January 1, 2019, just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers), with an original scale of 459 feet (140 meters) per pixel. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Reaches Most Distant Target in History, Ultima Thule

 

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule in the early hours of New Year’s Day, ushering in the era of exploration from the enigmatic Kuiper Belt, a region of primordial objects that holds keys to understanding the origins of the solar system.

“Congratulations to NASA’s New Horizons team, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute for making history yet again,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons' high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule's size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist's impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima's spin axis is indicated by the arrows. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane)

At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons’ high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule’s size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist’s impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima’s spin axis is indicated by the arrows. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane)

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NASA Insight Lander places Seismometer on Surface of Mars

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s InSight lander has deployed its first instrument onto the surface of Mars, completing a major mission milestone. New images from the lander show the seismometer on the ground, its copper-colored covering faintly illuminated in the Martian dusk. It looks as if all is calm and all is bright for InSight, heading into the end of the year.

“InSight’s timetable of activities on Mars has gone better than we hoped,” said InSight Project Manager Tom Hoffman, who is based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Getting the seismometer safely on the ground is an awesome Christmas present.”

NASA's InSight lander placed its seismometer on Mars on December 19th, 2018. This was the first time a seismometer had ever been placed onto the surface of another planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s InSight lander placed its seismometer on Mars on December 19th, 2018. This was the first time a seismometer had ever been placed onto the surface of another planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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Two NASA Space Telescopes observe rapid growth of Young Star

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An adolescent star in the midst of a dramatic growth phase has been observed with the help of two NASA space telescopes. The youngster belongs to a class of stars that gain mass when matter swirling around the star falls onto its surface.

The in-falling matter causes the star to appear about 100 times brighter. Astronomers have found only 25 stars in this class, and only about half of those have been observed during an outburst.

This illustration shows a young star undergoing a type of growth spurt. Left: Material from the dusty and gas-rich disk (orange) plus hot gas (blue) mildly flows onto the star, creating a hot spot. Middle: The outburst begins - the inner disk is heated, more material flows to the star, and the disk creeps inward. Right: The outburst is in full throttle, with the inner disk merging into the star and gas flowing outward (green). (Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC))

This illustration shows a young star undergoing a type of growth spurt. Left: Material from the dusty and gas-rich disk (orange) plus hot gas (blue) mildly flows onto the star, creating a hot spot. Middle: The outburst begins – the inner disk is heated, more material flows to the star, and the disk creeps inward. Right: The outburst is in full throttle, with the inner disk merging into the star and gas flowing outward (green). (Caltech/T. Pyle (IPAC))

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NASA Engineers setup area to mimic terrain around Mars Insight Lander

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s InSight lander is due to set its first science instrument on Mars in the coming days. But engineers here on Earth already saw it happen – last week.

Like NASA’s Curiosity rover, InSight has a full-scale working model at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. This sister lander, aptly named ForeSight, lets the team test all operations before they happen on Mars.

To practice how InSight will place its instruments, JPL engineers built a Martian rock garden modeled on images from the spacecraft’s cameras.

Engineers in Pasadena, California, sculpt a gravel-like material to mimic the terrain in front of NASA's InSight lander on Mars. Recreating the exact conditions will allow them to practice setting down the lander's instruments here on Earth before it's done on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPGP)

Engineers in Pasadena, California, sculpt a gravel-like material to mimic the terrain in front of NASA’s InSight lander on Mars. Recreating the exact conditions will allow them to practice setting down the lander’s instruments here on Earth before it’s done on Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPGP)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes pictures of InSight Lander from Space

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On November 26th, 2018 NASA’s InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight’s exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful camera onboard another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

The InSight lander, its heat shield and parachute were spotted by HiRISE (which stands for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment), which is onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, in one set of images last week on December 6th, and again on Tuesday, December 11th.

NASA's InSight lander on the surface of Mars imaged by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

NASA’s InSight lander on the surface of Mars imaged by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona)

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft reaches halfway point in Jupiter mission

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On December 21st, at 8:49:48am PST (10:49:48am CST) NASA’s Juno spacecraft will be 3,140 miles (5,053 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloud tops and hurtling by at a healthy clip of 128,802 mph (207,287 kilometers per hour). This will be the 16th science pass of the gas giant and will mark the solar-powered spacecraft’s halfway point in data collection during its prime mission.

Juno is in a highly-elliptical 53-day orbit around Jupiter. Each orbit includes a close passage over the planet’s cloud deck, where it flies a ground track that extends from Jupiter’s north pole to its south pole.

A south tropical disturbance has just passed Jupiter's iconic Great Red Spot, and is captured stealing threads of orange haze from the Great Red Spot in this series of color-enhanced images from NASA's Juno spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran)

A south tropical disturbance has just passed Jupiter’s iconic Great Red Spot, and is captured stealing threads of orange haze from the Great Red Spot in this series of color-enhanced images from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Sean Doran)

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NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft finds water on Asteroid Bennu

 

NASA Headquarters 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Recently analyzed data from NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission has revealed water locked inside the clays that make up its scientific target, the asteroid Bennu.

During the mission’s approach phase, between mid-August and early December, the spacecraft traveled 1.4 million miles (2.2 million km) on its journey from Earth to arrive at a location 12 miles (19 km) from Bennu on December 3rd, 2018.

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 PolyCam images collected on Dec. 2 by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from a range of 15 miles (24 km). (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

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