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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Mars 2020 Spacecraft nears completion

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Prior to a test in the Space Simulator Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, an engineer inspects the completed spacecraft that will carry NASA’s next Mars rover to the Red Planet.

From the top down, and suspended by cables, is the complete cruise stage, which will power and guide the Mars 2020 spacecraft on its seven-month voyage to the Red Planet. Directly below that is the aeroshell (white back shell and barely visible black heat shield), which will protect the vehicle during cruise as well as during its fiery descent into the Martian atmosphere.

NASA's Mars 2020 Spacecraft undergoes inspection. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars 2020 Spacecraft undergoes inspection. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter finishes 60,000 trips around Mars

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter completed 60,000 loops around the Red Planet at 10:39am PDT (12:39 pm CDT) on Wednesday morning, May 15th, 2019. On average, MRO takes 112 minutes to circle Mars, whipping around at about 2 miles per second (3.4 kilometers per second).

Since entering orbit on March 10th, 2006, the spacecraft has been collecting daily science about the planet’s surface and atmosphere, including detailed views with its High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera (HiRISE). HiRISE is powerful enough to see surface features the size of a dining room table from 186 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface.

This still from an animation shows NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter soaring over Mars. The spacecraft has been in Mars orbit for 13 years, and just completed 60,000 trips around the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This still from an animation shows NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter soaring over Mars. The spacecraft has been in Mars orbit for 13 years, and just completed 60,000 trips around the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA study reveals Earth’s Moon has active, changing surface

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA says the Earth’s Moon formed vast basins called “mare” (pronounced MAR-ay) over a billions of years ago. Scientists have long assumed these basins were dead, still places where the last geologic activity occurred long before dinosaurs roamed Earth.

But a survey of more than 12,000 images reveals that at least one lunar mare has been cracking and shifting as much as other parts of the Moon – and may even be doing so today. The study adds to a growing understanding that the Moon is an actively changing world.

New surface features of the Moon have been discovered in a region called Mare Frigoris, outlined here in teal. This image is a mosaic composed of many images taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). (NASA)

New surface features of the Moon have been discovered in a region called Mare Frigoris, outlined here in teal. This image is a mosaic composed of many images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). (NASA)

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NASA’s Grace satellites data reveals how Water moves on Earth

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA says when you hear news about an aquifer in California that is getting depleted, ice loss from Greenland or Antarctica,  or a new explanation for a wobble in Earth’s rotation, you might not realize that all these findings may rely on data from one single mission: the U.S.-German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE).

GRACE data, collected from 2002 to 2017 while the mission was active, are still being used to improve our understanding of water in motion and its sometimes surprising effects on our planet.

Illustration of the twin GRACE satellites. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Illustration of the twin GRACE satellites. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter takes photos of Mars’ moon Phobos at full moon

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter has captured Mar’s moon Phobos during a full moon phase for the first time. Each color in this new image represents a temperature range detected by Odyssey’s infrared camera, which has been studying the Martian moon since September of 2017.

Looking like a rainbow-colored jawbreaker, these latest observations could help scientists understand what materials make up Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two moons.

These three views of the Martian moon Phobos were taken by NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter using its infrared camera, THEMIS. Each color represents a different temperature range. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/SSI)

These three views of the Martian moon Phobos were taken by NASA’s 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter using its infrared camera, THEMIS. Each color represents a different temperature range. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/SSI)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope reveals oldest Galaxies brighter than expected

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The universe’s earliest galaxies were brighter than expected according to NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope data. The excess light is a byproduct of the galaxies releasing incredibly high amounts of ionizing radiation.

The finding offers clues to the cause of the Epoch of Reionization, a major cosmic event that transformed the universe from being mostly opaque to the brilliant starscape seen today.

In a new study, researchers report on observations of some of the first galaxies to form in the universe, less than 1 billion years after the big bang (or a little more than 13 billion years ago).

This deep-field view of the sky (center) taken by NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes is dominated by galaxies - including some very faint, very distant ones - circled in red. The bottom right inset shows the light collected from one of those galaxies during a long-duration observation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Spitzer/P. Oesch/S. De Barros/I.Labbe)

This deep-field view of the sky (center) taken by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes is dominated by galaxies – including some very faint, very distant ones – circled in red. The bottom right inset shows the light collected from one of those galaxies during a long-duration observation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Spitzer/P. Oesch/S. De Barros/I.Labbe)

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NASA’s Mars InSight Lander to learn from Dust Cleanings

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CACatastrophic dust storms have the potential to end a mission like NASA’ Insight Lander as it did with NASA’s Opportunity rover. The same winds that blanket Mars with dust can also blow that dust away. Far more often, passing winds cleared off the rover’s solar panels and gave it an energy boost. Those dust clearings allowed Opportunity and its sister rover, Spirit, to survive for years beyond their 90-day expiration dates.

Dust clearings are also expected for Mars’ newest inhabitant, the InSight lander. Because of the spacecraft’s weather sensors, each clearing can provide crucial science data on these events, as well – and the mission already has a glimpse at that.

This is NASA InSight's second full selfie on Mars. Since taking its first selfie, the lander has removed its heat probe and seismometer from its deck, placing them on the Martian surface; a thin coating of dust now covers the spacecraft as well. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This is NASA InSight’s second full selfie on Mars. Since taking its first selfie, the lander has removed its heat probe and seismometer from its deck, placing them on the Martian surface; a thin coating of dust now covers the spacecraft as well. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s InSight Lander takes images of Sunrise, Sunset on Mars

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s InSight lander takes several photos of the sunrise and sunset on Mars.

A camera on the spacecraft’s robotic arm snapped the photos on April 24th and 25th, the 145th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. In local Mars time, the shots were taken starting around 5:30am and then again starting around 6:30pm.

As a bonus, a camera under the lander’s deck also caught clouds drifting across the Martian sky at sunset.

NASA's InSight lander used its Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) on the spacecraft's robotic arm to image this sunrise on Mars on April 24, 2019, the 145th Martian day (or sol) of the mission. This was taken around 5:30am Mars local time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s InSight lander used its Instrument Deployment Camera (IDC) on the spacecraft’s robotic arm to image this sunrise on Mars on April 24, 2019, the 145th Martian day (or sol) of the mission. This was taken around 5:30am Mars local time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Event Horizon Telescope captures first image of a Black Hole’s Event Horizon

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On April 10th, 2019, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) unveiled the first-ever image of a black hole’s event horizon, the area beyond which light cannot escape the immense gravity of the black hole. That giant black hole, with a mass of 6.5 billion Suns, is located in the elliptical galaxy Messier 87 (M87). EHT is an international collaboration whose support in the U.S. includes the National Science Foundation.

This image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the entire M87 galaxy in infrared light. The EHT image, by contrast, relied on light in radio wavelengths and showed the black hole’s shadow against the backdrop of high-energy material around it.

The galaxy M87, imaged here by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, is home to a supermassive black hole that spews two jets of material out into space at nearly the speed of light. The inset shows a close-up view of the shockwaves created by the two jets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPAC)

The galaxy M87, imaged here by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, is home to a supermassive black hole that spews two jets of material out into space at nearly the speed of light. The inset shows a close-up view of the shockwaves created by the two jets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPAC)

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NASA’s Mars InSight Lander records first ever likely Marsquake

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars InSight lander has measured and recorded for the first time ever a likely “marsquake.”

The faint seismic signal, detected by the lander’s Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, was recorded on April 6th, 2019 the lander’s 128th Martian day, or sol. This is the first recorded trembling that appears to have come from inside the planet, as opposed to being caused by forces above the surface, such as wind. Scientists still are examining the data to determine the exact cause of the signal.

This image of InSight's seismometer was taken on the 110th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The seismometer is called Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image of InSight’s seismometer was taken on the 110th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. The seismometer is called Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure, or SEIS. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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