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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity explores aluminum mineral rich area on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With its solar panels their cleanest in years, NASA’s decade-old Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is inspecting a section of crater-rim ridgeline chosen as a priority target due to evidence of a water-related mineral.

Orbital observations of the site by another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, found a spectrum with the signature of aluminum bound to oxygen and hydrogen. Researchers regard that signature as a marker for a mineral called montmorillonite, which is in a class of clay minerals called smectites.

This scene from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity catches "Pillinger Point," on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, in the foreground. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

This scene from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity catches “Pillinger Point,” on the western rim of Endeavour Crater, in the foreground. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA study reveals the moon Titan may have formed earlier than it’s host, Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches and Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A combined NASA and European Space Agency (ESA)-funded study has found firm evidence that nitrogen in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan originated in conditions similar to the cold birthplace of the most ancient comets from the Oort cloud.

The finding rules out the possibility that Titan’s building blocks formed within the warm disk of material thought to have surrounded the infant planet Saturn during its formation.

New research on the nitrogen in Titan's atmosphere indicates that the moon's raw materials might have been locked up in ices that condensed before Saturn began its formation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

New research on the nitrogen in Titan’s atmosphere indicates that the moon’s raw materials might have been locked up in ices that condensed before Saturn began its formation. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover completes first Martian Year on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover will complete a Martian year — 687 Earth days — on June 24th, having accomplished the mission’s main goal of determining whether Mars once offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

One of Curiosity’s first major findings after landing on the Red Planet in August 2012 was an ancient riverbed at its landing site. Nearby, at an area known as Yellowknife Bay, the mission met its main goal of determining whether the Martian Gale Crater ever was habitable for simple life forms.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into this self-portrait where the rover drilled into a sandstone target called "Windjana." (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into this self-portrait where the rover drilled into a sandstone target called “Windjana.” (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope finds Asteroid candidate for Redirect Mission

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have measured the size of an asteroid candidate for NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), a proposed spacecraft concept to capture either a small asteroid, or a boulder from an asteroid.

The near-Earth asteroid, called 2011 MD, was found to be roughly 20 feet (6 meters) in size, and its structure appears to contain a lot of empty space, perhaps resembling a pile of rubble. Spitzer’s infrared vision was key to sizing up the asteroid.

The Spitzer Space Telescope whizzes in front of a brilliant, infrared view of the Milky Way galaxy's plane in this artistic depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Spitzer Space Telescope whizzes in front of a brilliant, infrared view of the Milky Way galaxy’s plane in this artistic depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Rosetta spacecraft speeding toward target Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Less than half the distance between Earth and moon separates Rosetta from its destination, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The European Space Agency’s (ESA) spacecraft will become the first to orbit a comet and land a probe on its nucleus. It is beginning observations and sending science data back to Earth.

Recent images from Rosetta’s Onboard Scientific Imaging System (OSIRIS) indicate that the comet is currently at rest — no longer showing signs of an extended dust coma surrounding its nucleus.

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by the Onboard Scientific Imaging System (OSIRIS) on the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft on June 4, 2014. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by the Onboard Scientific Imaging System (OSIRIS) on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft on June 4, 2014. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make a flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft zooms toward Saturn’s smoggy moon Titan for a targeted flyby on June 18th, mission scientists are excitedly hoping to repeat a scientific tour de force that will provide valuable new insights into the nature of the moon’s surface and atmosphere.

For Cassini’s radio science team, the last flyby of Titan, on May 17th, was one of the most scientifically valuable encounters of the spacecraft’s current extended mission.

Cassini will attempt to bounce signals off of Saturn's moon Titan once more during a flyby on June 18, 2014, revealing important details about the moon's surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini will attempt to bounce signals off of Saturn’s moon Titan once more during a flyby on June 18, 2014, revealing important details about the moon’s surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover captures images of the planet Mercury passing in front of the Sun

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has imaged the planet Mercury passing in front of the sun, visible as a faint darkening that moves across the face of the sun.

This is the first transit of the sun by a planet observed from any planet other than Earth, and also the first imaging of Mercury from Mars.

Mercury fills only about one-sixth of one pixel as seen from such great distance, so the darkening does not have a distinct shape, but its position follows Mercury’s expected path based on orbital calculations.

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NASA’s newly found Asteroid will Safely Pass Earth

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A newfound asteroid will safely pass Earth on June 8th from a distance of about 777,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers), more than three times farther away than our moon.

Designated 2014 HQ124, the asteroid was discovered April 23rd, 2014, by NASA’s NEOWISE mission, a space telescope adapted for scouting the skies for asteroids and comets. The telescope sees infrared light, which allows it to pick up the infrared glow of asteroids and obtain better estimates of their true sizes. The NEOWISE data estimate asteroid 2014 HQ124 to be between 800 and 1,300 feet (250 and 400 meters).

This diagram shows the orbit of asteroid 2014 HQ124, and its location relative to Earth on June 8th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram shows the orbit of asteroid 2014 HQ124, and its location relative to Earth on June 8th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope reveals triggering events behind some Supernova Explosions

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Supernovas are often thought of as the tremendous explosions that mark the ends of massive stars’ lives. While this is true, not all supernovas occur in this fashion. A common supernova class, called Type Ia, involves the detonation of white dwarfs — small, dense stars that are already dead.

New results from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have revealed a rare example of Type Ia explosion, in which a dead star “fed” off an aging star like a cosmic zombie, triggering a blast. The results help researchers piece together how these powerful and diverse events occur.

This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows N103B -- all that remains from a supernova that exploded a millennium ago in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy 160,000 light-years away from our own Milky Way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Goddard)

This infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope shows N103B — all that remains from a supernova that exploded a millennium ago in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy 160,000 light-years away from our own Milky Way. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Goddard)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captures image of New Stars forming in Serpens Cloud Core

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Stars that are just beginning to coalesce out of cool swaths of dust and gas are showcased in this image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS).

Infrared light has been assigned colors we see with our eyes, revealing young stars in orange and yellow, and a central parcel of gas in blue. This area is hidden in visible-light views, but infrared light can travel through the dust, offering a peek inside the stellar hatchery.

Within the swaddling dust of the Serpens Cloud Core, astronomers are studying one of the youngest collections of stars ever seen in our galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/2MASS)

Within the swaddling dust of the Serpens Cloud Core, astronomers are studying one of the youngest collections of stars ever seen in our galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/2MASS)

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