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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s New Horizons Team eyes new target for flyby in Kuiper Belt

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14th flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

This remote KBO was one of two identified as potential destinations and the one recommended to NASA by the New Horizons team.  Although NASA has selected 2014 MU69 as the target, as part of its normal review process the agency will conduct a detailed assessment before officially approving the mission extension to conduct additional science.

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures clearest photos yet of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The closest-yet views of Ceres, delivered by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, show the small world’s features in unprecedented detail, including Ceres’ tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures.

“Dawn is performing flawlessly in this new orbit as it conducts its ambitious exploration. The spacecraft’s view is now three times as sharp as in its previous mapping orbit, revealing exciting new details of this intriguing dwarf planet,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft takes one last close flyby of Saturn’s moon Dione

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A pockmarked, icy landscape looms beneath NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in new images of Saturn’s moon Dione taken during the mission’s last close approach to the small, icy world. Two of the new images show the surface of Dione at the best resolution ever.

Cassini passed 295 miles (474 kilometers) above Dione’s surface at 11:33am PDT (2:33pm EDT) on August 17th. This was the fifth close encounter with Dione during Cassini’s long tour at Saturn. The mission’s closest-ever flyby of Dione was in December 2011, at a distance of 60 miles (100 kilometers).

This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft looks toward Saturn's icy moon Dione, with giant Saturn and its rings in the background, just prior to the mission's final close approach to the moon on August 17, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft looks toward Saturn’s icy moon Dione, with giant Saturn and its rings in the background, just prior to the mission’s final close approach to the moon on August 17, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover leaves Marias Pass heading Southwest on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is driving toward the southwest after departing a region where for several weeks it investigated a geological contact zone and rocks that are unexpectedly high in silica and hydrogen content. The hydrogen indicates water bound to minerals in the ground.

In this “Marias Pass” region, Curiosity successfully used its drill to sample a rock target called “Buckskin” and then used the camera on its robotic arm for multiple images to be stitched into a self-portrait at the drilling site.

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This low-angle self-portrait of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called “Buckskin.” (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA debunks internet rumors claiming an Asteroid will Impact Earth

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Numerous recent blogs and web postings are erroneously claiming that an asteroid will impact Earth, sometime between September 15th and 28th, 2015.

On one of those dates, as rumors go, there will be an impact — “evidently” near Puerto Rico — causing wanton destruction to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America.

That’s the rumor that has gone viral — now here are the facts.

NASA states there is NO Asteroid Threatening Earth. This view of Earth comes from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Terra satellite. (NASA)

NASA states there is NO Asteroid Threatening Earth. This view of Earth comes from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Terra satellite. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make final pass of Saturn’s moon Dione

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will zip past Saturn’s moon Dione on Monday, August 17th — the final close flyby of this icy satellite during the spacecraft’s long mission.

Cassini’s closest approach, within 295 miles (474 kilometers) of Dione’s surface, will occur at 11:33am PDT (2:33pm EDT). Mission controllers expect fresh images to begin arriving on Earth within a couple of days following the encounter.

Cassini scientists have a bevy of investigations planned for Dione. Gravity-science data from the flyby will improve scientists’ knowledge of the moon’s internal structure and allow comparisons to Saturn’s other moons.

A view of Saturn's moon Dione captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby on June 16, 2015. The diagonal line near upper left is the rings of Saturn, in the distance. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

A view of Saturn’s moon Dione captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby on June 16, 2015. The diagonal line near upper left is the rings of Saturn, in the distance. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA reports Rosetta spacecraft witnessed outburst from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has been witnessing growing activity from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as the comet approaches perihelion (its closest point to the sun during its orbit). On July 29th, while the spacecraft orbited at a distance of 116 miles (186 kilometers) from the comet, it observed the most dramatic outburst to date.

Early science results collected during the outburst came from several instruments aboard Rosetta, including the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer (DFMS), which uses NASA-built electronics. The DFMS is part of the spacecraft’s Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument.

A short-lived outburst from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was captured by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2015. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

A short-lived outburst from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2015. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter still working hard after 10 years of service

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ten years after launch, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has revealed the Red Planet’s diversity and activity, returning more data about Mars every week than all six other missions currently active there. And its work is far from over.

The workhorse orbiter now plays a key role in NASA’s Journey to Mars planning. Images from the orbiter, revealing details as small as a desk, aid the analysis of potential landing sites for the 2016 InSight lander and Mars 2020 rover. Data from the orbiter will also be used as part of NASA’s newly announced process to examine and select candidate sites where humans will first explore the Martian surface in the 2030s.

Among the many discoveries by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since the mission was launched on Aug. 12, 2005, are seasonal flows on some steep slopes, possibly shallow seeps of salty water. This July 21, 2015, image from the orbiter's HiRISE camera shows examples within Mars' Valles Marineris. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Among the many discoveries by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since the mission was launched on Aug. 12, 2005, are seasonal flows on some steep slopes, possibly shallow seeps of salty water. This July 21, 2015, image from the orbiter’s HiRISE camera shows examples within Mars’ Valles Marineris. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Dawn mission releases video that gives flyover perspective of dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Striking 3-D detail highlights a towering mountain, the brightest spots and other features on dwarf planet Ceres in a new video from NASA’s Dawn mission.

A prominent mountain with bright streaks on its steep slopes is especially fascinating to scientists. The peak’s shape has been likened to a cone or a pyramid. It appears to be about 4 miles (6 kilometers) high, with respect to the surface around it, according to the latest estimates. This means the mountain has about the same elevation as Mount McKinley in Denali National Park, Alaska, the highest point in North America.

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NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) telescope studies Odd group of Asteroids

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – High above the plane of our solar system, near the asteroid-rich abyss between Mars and Jupiter, scientists have found a unique family of space rocks.

These interplanetary oddballs are the Euphrosyne (pronounced you-FROH-seh-nee) asteroids, and by any measure they have been distant, dark and mysterious — until now.

Distributed at the outer edge of the asteroid belt, the Euphrosynes have an unusual orbital path that juts well above the ecliptic, the equator of the solar system. The asteroid after which they are named, Euphrosyne — for an ancient Greek goddess of mirth — is about 156 miles (260 kilometers) across and is one of the 10 largest asteroids in the main belt.

The asteroid Euphrosyne glides across a field of background stars in this time-lapse view from NASA's WISE spacecraft. (NASA)

The asteroid Euphrosyne glides across a field of background stars in this time-lapse view from NASA’s WISE spacecraft. (NASA)

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