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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA creates animated view of Dwarf Planet Ceres using Dawn Spacecraft images

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A colorful new animation shows a simulated flight over the surface of dwarf planet Ceres, based on images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft.

The movie shows Ceres in enhanced color, which helps to highlight subtle differences in the appearance of surface materials. Scientists believe areas with shades of blue contain younger, fresher material, including flows, pits and cracks.

Simulated view of Dwarf planet Ceres using images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Simulated view of Dwarf planet Ceres using images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft adjusts course to Jupiter

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully executed a maneuver to adjust its flight path, February 3rd, 2016. The maneuver refined the spacecraft’s trajectory, helping set the stage for Juno’s arrival at the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant five months and a day from now.

“This is the first of two trajectory adjustments that fine tune Juno’s orbit around the sun, perfecting our rendezvous with Jupiter on July 4th at 8:18pm PDT [11:18pm EDT],” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

Launched from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Launched from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft data used to weigh Saturn’s biggest ring

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It seems intuitive that an opaque material should contain more stuff than a more translucent substance. For example, muddier water has more suspended particles of dirt in it than clearer water. Likewise, you might think that, in the rings of Saturn, more opaque areas contain a greater concentration of material than places where the rings seem more transparent.

But this intuition does not always apply, according to a recent study of the rings using data from NASA’s Cassini mission. In their analysis, scientists found surprisingly little correlation between how dense a ring might appear to be — in terms of its opacity and reflectiveness — and the amount of material it contains.

The B ring is the brightest of Saturn's rings when viewed in reflected sunlight. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

The B ring is the brightest of Saturn’s rings when viewed in reflected sunlight. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft to move into higher orbit around Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini mission is entering its next chapter with an orbital choreography meant to tilt the spacecraft’s orbit out of Saturn’s ringplane.

The second of five large propulsive maneuvers in this campaign took place on Saturday, January 23rd. Each maneuver in the series sets up a subsequent gravity-assist flyby of Saturn’s massive moon Titan, which reshapes the spacecraft’s orbit, sending it to increasingly higher inclination with respect to Saturn’s equator.

This is an artists concept of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) maneuver, just after the main engine has begun firing. (NASA/JPL)

This is an artists concept of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) maneuver, just after the main engine has begun firing. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes data reveals new insights into Earth’s Radiation Belts

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – About 600 miles from Earth’s surface is the first of two donut-shaped electron swarms, known as the Van Allen Belts, or the radiation belts. Understanding the shape and size of the belts, which can shrink and swell in response to incoming radiation from the sun, is crucial for protecting our technology in space.

The harsh radiation isn’t good for satellites’ health, so scientists wish to know just which orbits could be jeopardized in different situations.

NASA’s Van Allen Probes artist concept. (NASA)

NASA’s Van Allen Probes artist concept. (NASA)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) observes one of the Brightest Galaxies destroying itself

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a far-off galaxy, 12.4 billion light-years from Earth, a ravenous black hole is devouring galactic grub. Its feeding frenzy produces so much energy, it stirs up gas across its entire galaxy.

“It is like a pot of boiling water being heated up by a nuclear reactor in the center,” said Tanio Diaz-Santos of the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, lead author of a new study about this galaxy.

This artist's rendering shows a galaxy called W2246-0526, the most luminous galaxy known. New research suggests there is turbulent gas across its entirety, the first example of its kind. (NRAO/AUI/NSF; Dana Berry / SkyWorks; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

This artist’s rendering shows a galaxy called W2246-0526, the most luminous galaxy known. New research suggests there is turbulent gas across its entirety, the first example of its kind. (NRAO/AUI/NSF; Dana Berry / SkyWorks; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO))

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NASA Space Telescopes and Observatories study Young Galaxy Cluster in detail

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have used data from three of NASA’s Great Observatories to make the most detailed study yet of an extremely massive young galaxy cluster. This rare cluster, which is located 10 billion light-years from Earth, weighs as much as 500 trillion suns. This object has important implications for understanding how these megastructures formed and evolved early in the universe.

The galaxy cluster, called IDCS J1426.5+3508 (IDCS 1426 for short), is so far away that the light detected is from when the universe was roughly a quarter of its current age. It is the most massive galaxy cluster detected at such an early age.

Astronomers have made the most detailed study yet of an extremely massive young galaxy cluster using three of NASA's Great Observatories. (NASA/CXC/Univ of Missouri/M.Brodwin et al; NASA/STScI; JPL/CalTech)

Astronomers have made the most detailed study yet of an extremely massive young galaxy cluster using three of NASA’s Great Observatories. (NASA/CXC/Univ of Missouri/M.Brodwin et al; NASA/STScI; JPL/CalTech)

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U.S. Department of Energy produces fuel to power NASA’s Deep Space Missions

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The first U.S. production in nearly 30 years of a specialized fuel to power future deep space missions has been completed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee.

The production of 50 grams of plutonium-238 -roughly the mass of a golf ball – marks the first demonstration in the United States since the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina ceased production in the late 1980s.

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. (NASA)

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. (NASA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft delivers photos from it’s lowest orbit of dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau / Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, cruising in its lowest and final orbit at dwarf planet Ceres, has delivered the first images from its best-ever viewpoint. The new images showcase details of the cratered and fractured surface. 3-D versions of two of these views are also available.

Dawn took these images of the southern hemisphere of Ceres on December 10th, at an approximate altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers), which is its lowest-ever orbital altitude. Dawn will remain at this altitude for the rest of its mission, and indefinitely afterward. The resolution of the new images is about 120 feet (35 meters) per pixel.

This image of Ceres was taken in Dawn's low-altitude mapping orbit around a crater chain called Gerber Catena. A 3-D view is also available. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This image of Ceres was taken in Dawn’s low-altitude mapping orbit around a crater chain called Gerber Catena. A 3-D view is also available. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA reports Christmas Day Full Moon

 

Written by Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Not since 1977 has a full moon dawned in the skies on Christmas. But this year, a bright full moon will be an added gift for the holidays.

December’s full moon, the last of the year, is called the Full Cold Moon because it occurs during the beginning of winter. The moon’s peak this year will occur at 5:11am CST.

This rare event won’t happen again until 2034. That’s a long time to wait, so make sure to look up to the skies on Christmas Day.

How the moon will appear on Christmas, 2015. (NASA/Goddard/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

How the moon will appear on Christmas, 2015. (NASA/Goddard/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

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