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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) takes High-Energy X-Ray of our Sun

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – For the first time, a mission designed to set its eyes on black holes and other objects far from our solar system has turned its gaze back closer to home, capturing images of our sun.

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has taken its first picture of the sun, producing the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.

“NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere,” said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captures image of Horsehead Nebula

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Sometimes a horse of a different color hardly seems to be a horse at all, as, for example, in this newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The famous Horsehead nebula makes a ghostly appearance on the far right side of the image, but is almost unrecognizable in this infrared view.

In visible-light images, the nebula has a distinctively dark and dusty horse-shaped silhouette, but when viewed in infrared light, dust becomes transparent and the nebula appears as a wispy arc.

The famous Horsehead nebula of visible-light images (inset) looks quite different when viewed in infrared light, as seen in this newly released image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO)

The famous Horsehead nebula of visible-light images (inset) looks quite different when viewed in infrared light, as seen in this newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO)

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NASA reports Rosetta Orbiter to do close Flyby of Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s orbiting Rosetta spacecraft is expected to come within four miles (six kilometers) of the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in February of next year. The flyby will be the closest the comet explorer will come during its prime mission.

“It is the earliest we could carry it out without impacting the vitally important bound orbits that are currently being flown,” said Matt Taylor, the Rosetta project scientist from the European Space Research and Technology Center, Noordwijk, the Netherlands. “As the comet becomes more and more active, it will not be possible to get so close to the comet. So this opportunity is very unique.”

From the location where it came to rest after bounces, the Philae lander of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission captured this view of a cliff on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

From the location where it came to rest after bounces, the Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission captured this view of a cliff on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

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NASA’s Voyager 1 still feels “Tsunami Wave” as it travels in Interstellar Space

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced three shock waves.

The most recent shock wave, first observed in February 2014, still appears to be going on.

One wave, previously reported, helped researchers determine that Voyager 1 had entered interstellar space.

The “tsunami wave” that NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft began experiencing earlier this year is still propagating outward, according to new results. It is the longest-lasting shock wave that researchers have seen in interstellar space.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Voyager spacecraft against a backdrop of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Voyager spacecraft against a backdrop of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity’s Flash Data Storage malfunctions

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Pasadena, CA – Persistent computer resets and “amnesia” events on NASA’s Mars Exploration rover Opportunity that have occurred after reformatting the robot’s flash memory have prompted a shift to a working mode that avoids use of the flash data-storage system.

The most recent reformatting of Opportunity’s flash memory was last week. Following that, performance of the flash memory remained intermittent, and difficulty in placing data into the memory led to computer resets during the weekend.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is continuing its traverse southward on the western rim of Endeavour Crater during the fall of 2014, stopping to investigate targets of scientific interest along way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is continuing its traverse southward on the western rim of Endeavour Crater during the fall of 2014, stopping to investigate targets of scientific interest along way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images reveals new map showing ancient lakes and quakes on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Long ago, in the largest canyon system in our solar system, vibrations from “marsquakes” shook soft sediments that had accumulated in Martian lakes.

The shaken sediments formed features that now appear as a series of low hills apparent in a geological map based on NASA images. The map was released today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Details of hilly terrain within a large Martian canyon are shown on a geological map based on observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. Notations are explained in the legend with the full map, at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3309/. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/USGS)

Details of hilly terrain within a large Martian canyon are shown on a geological map based on observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. Notations are explained in the legend with the full map, at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3309/. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/USGS)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft arrives at Pluto

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles —the farthest any space mission has ever traveled to reach its primary target – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation on December 6th for its long-awaited 2015 encounter with the Pluto system.

Operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, MD, confirmed at 9:53pm (EST) that New Horizons, operating on pre-programmed computer commands, had switched from hibernation to “active” mode. Moving at light speed, the radio signal from New Horizons – currently more than 2.9 billion miles from Earth, and just over 162 million miles from Pluto – needed four hours and 26 minutes to reach NASA’s Deep Space Network station in Canberra, Australia.

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures new image of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Dawn spacecraft has delivered a glimpse of Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, in a new image taken 740,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from the dwarf planet. This is Dawn’s best image yet of Ceres as the spacecraft makes its way toward this unexplored world.

“Now, finally, we have a spacecraft on the verge of unveiling this mysterious, alien world. Soon it will reveal myriad secrets Ceres has held since the dawn of the solar system,” said Marc Rayman, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, chief engineer and mission director of the Dawn mission.

From about three times the distance from Earth to the moon, NASA's Dawn spacecraft spies its final destination -- the dwarf planet Ceres. This uncropped, unmagnified view of Ceres was taken by Dawn on Dec. 1, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

From about three times the distance from Earth to the moon, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spies its final destination — the dwarf planet Ceres. This uncropped, unmagnified view of Ceres was taken by Dawn on Dec. 1, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes discover Impenetrable Barrier in Radiation Belts

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Two donuts of seething radiation that surround Earth, called the Van Allen radiation belts, have been found to contain a nearly impenetrable barrier that prevents the fastest, most energetic electrons from reaching Earth.

The Van Allen belts are a collection of charged particles, gathered in place by Earth’s magnetic field. They can wax and wane in response to incoming energy from the sun, sometimes swelling up enough to expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation.

A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth's radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet. (NASA/Goddard)

A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth’s radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet. (NASA/Goddard)

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NASA researchers discover dusty star system similar to our solar system

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers studying what appears to be a beefed-up version of our solar system have discovered that it is encased in a halo of fine dust. The findings are based on infrared data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory, in which NASA is a partner.

The dusty star system, called HD 95086, is located 295 light-years from Earth in the constellation Carina. It is thought to include two belts of dust, which lie within the newfound outer dust halo.

This artist's concept depicts giant planets circling between belts of dust. Scientists think the star system HD 95068 may have a planetary architecture similar to this. While the star system's two dust belts are known, along with one massive planet, more giant planets may lurk unseen. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept depicts giant planets circling between belts of dust. Scientists think the star system HD 95068 may have a planetary architecture similar to this. While the star system’s two dust belts are known, along with one massive planet, more giant planets may lurk unseen. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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