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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers Methane Ice Cloud in Stratosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA scientists have identified an unexpected high-altitude methane ice cloud on Saturn’s moon Titan that is similar to exotic clouds found far above Earth’s poles.

This lofty cloud, imaged by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, was part of the winter cap of condensation over Titan’s north pole. Now, eight years after spotting this mysterious bit of atmospheric fluff, researchers have determined that it contains methane ice, which produces a much denser cloud than the ethane ice previously identified there.

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth's polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

This cloud in the stratosphere over the north pole of Titan is similar to Earth’s polar stratospheric clouds. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona/LPGNantes)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captures image of distant Ringed Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It might look like a spoked wheel or even a “Chakram” weapon wielded by warriors like “Xena,” from the fictional TV show, but this ringed galaxy is actually a vast place of stellar life. A newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows the galaxy NGC 1291.

Though the galaxy is quite old, roughly 12 billion years, it is marked by an unusual ring where newborn stars are igniting.

“The rest of the galaxy is done maturing,” said Kartik Sheth of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory of Charlottesville, Virginia. “But the outer ring is just now starting to light up with stars.”

A new image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, taken in infrared light, shows where the action is taking place in galaxy NGC 1291. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A new image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, taken in infrared light, shows where the action is taking place in galaxy NGC 1291. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini mission images suggests Saturn’s moon Mimas has a frozen core or a liquid ocean

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new study focused on the interior of Saturn’s icy moon Mimas suggests its cratered surface hides one of two intriguing possibilities: Either the moon’s frozen core is shaped something like a football, or the satellite contains a liquid water ocean.

Researchers used numerous images of Mimas taken by NASA’s Cassini mission to determine how much the moon wobbles as it orbits Saturn. They then evaluated several possible models for how its interior might be arranged, finding two possibilities that fit their data.The study is published in the October 17th issue of the journal Science.

This mosaic of Saturn's moon Mimas was created from images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its closest flyby of the moon on Feb. 13, 2010. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This mosaic of Saturn’s moon Mimas was created from images taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its closest flyby of the moon on Feb. 13, 2010. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter observes Comet Siding Spring as it passes Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars from possible comet dust.

NASA’s Mars Odyssey was out of communications with Earth, as planned, while conducting observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Sunday, October 19th, as the comet flew near Mars.

Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Opportunity Rover takes picture of ‘Wdowiak Ridge’ on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The latest fieldwork site for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which has been examining a series of Martian craters since 2004, is on the slope of a prominent hill jutting out of the rim of a large crater and bearing its own much smaller crater. It’s called “Wdowiak Ridge.”

“Wdowiak Ridge sticks out like a sore thumb. We want to understand why this ridge is located off the primary rim of Endeavour Crater and how it fits into the geologic story of this region,” said Opportunity science-team member Jim Rice of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.

This vista from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows "Wdowiak Ridge," from left foreground to center, as part of a northward look with the rover's tracks visible at right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ)

This vista from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows “Wdowiak Ridge,” from left foreground to center, as part of a northward look with the rover’s tracks visible at right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft was bathed in beam of electrons during flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Static electricity is known to play an important role on Earth’s airless, dusty moon, but evidence of static charge building up on other objects in the solar system has been elusive until now.

A new analysis of data from NASA’s Cassini mission has revealed that, during a 2005 flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion, the spacecraft was briefly bathed in a beam of electrons coming from the moon’s electrostatically charged surface.

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn's chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon's surface, a first for any body other than Earth's moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn’s chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon’s surface, a first for any body other than Earth’s moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA reports Rosetta Spacecraft takes Selfie with Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A camera aboard the European Space Agency’s Philae lander snapped this “selfie” of one of the Rosetta spacecraft’s 52-foot-long (16-meter) solar arrays, with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko hovering in the background some 10 miles (16 kilometers) away.

The image, taken by the Comet Infrared and Visible Analyser (CIVA), was taken on October 7th. Philae, which is connected to the Rosetta orbiter at this time, will make its descent to the surface of the comet on November 12th.

A composite image from a camera on the Rosetta mission's Philae comet lander shows a solar array, with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the background. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

A composite image from a camera on the Rosetta mission’s Philae comet lander shows a solar array, with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the background. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

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NASA Satellites, Telescopes ready for Comet Siding Spring’s flyby of Mars

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s extensive fleet of science assets, particularly those orbiting and roving Mars, have front row seats to image and study a once-in-a-lifetime comet flyby on Sunday, October 19th.

Comet C/2013 A1, also known as comet Siding Spring, will pass within about 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of the Red Planet — less than half the distance between Earth and our moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.

NASA Science Fleet Prepares for Mars Comet. (NASA)

NASA Science Fleet Prepares for Mars Comet. (NASA)

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NASA reports Rosetta Spacecraft’s target Comet begins Jet Activity

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The four images that make up a new montage of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko were taken on September 26th, 2014 by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft. At the time, Rosetta was about 16 miles (26 kilometers) from the center of the comet.

In the montage, a region of jet activity can be seen at the neck of the comet. These jets, originating from several discrete locations, are a product of ices sublimating and gases escaping from inside the nucleus.

An image taken by the ESA Rosetta spacecraft shows jets of dust and gas escaping from the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

An image taken by the ESA Rosetta spacecraft shows jets of dust and gas escaping from the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft finds giant Cloud circling south pole of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have discovered that a giant, toxic cloud is hovering over the south pole of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, after the atmosphere there cooled dramatically.

The scientists found that this giant polar vortex contains frozen particles of the toxic compound hydrogen cyanide, or HCN.

“The discovery suggests that the atmosphere of Titan’s southern hemisphere is cooling much faster than we expected,” said Remco de Kok of Leiden Observatory and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, lead author of the study published today in the journal Nature.

These two views of Saturn's moon Titan show the southern polar vortex, a huge, swirling cloud that was first observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Arizona/SSI/Leiden Observatory and SRON)

These two views of Saturn’s moon Titan show the southern polar vortex, a huge, swirling cloud that was first observed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Arizona/SSI/Leiden Observatory and SRON)

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