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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover reaches highest point of it’s career on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After completing two drives this week, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has paused to photograph the panoramic vista from the highest point the rover has reached during its 40 months of exploring the western rim of Mars’ Endeavour Crater.

The view is one of the grandest in Opportunity’s Martian career of nearly 11 years and more than 25.8 miles (41.6 kilometers).

The rover has been having trouble with a section of its flash memory, the type of memory that can store data even when power is switched off.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this view of the summit of "Cape Tribulation," on the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the day before the rover drove to the top. This crest is about 440 feet higher in elevation than the plain surrounding the crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this view of the summit of “Cape Tribulation,” on the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the day before the rover drove to the top. This crest is about 440 feet higher in elevation than the plain surrounding the crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) data analyzed by Volunteer Disk Detectives finds possible Planetary Habitats

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A NASA-sponsored website designed to crowdsource analysis of data from the agency’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has reached an impressive milestone.

In less than a year, citizen scientists using DiskDetective.org have logged 1 million classifications of potential debris disks and disks surrounding young stellar objects (YSO). This data will help provide a crucial set of targets for future planet-hunting missions.

The marked asymmetry of the debris disk around the star HD 181327 suggests it may have formed as a result of the collision of two small bodies. The Disk Detective project aims to discover many other stellar disks using volunteer classifications of data from NASA's WISE mission. (NASA/ESA/Univ. of Arizona/HST/GO 12228 Team)

The marked asymmetry of the debris disk around the star HD 181327 suggests it may have formed as a result of the collision of two small bodies. The Disk Detective project aims to discover many other stellar disks using volunteer classifications of data from NASA’s WISE mission. (NASA/ESA/Univ. of Arizona/HST/GO 12228 Team)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers it’s 1,000th Exoplanet

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – How many stars like our sun host planets like our Earth? NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope continuously monitored more than 150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study — the 1,000th of which was recently verified.

Using Kepler data, scientists reached this millenary milestone after validating that eight more candidates spotted by the planet-hunting telescope are, in fact, planets. The Kepler team also has added another 554 candidates to the roll of potential planets, six of which are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of stars similar to our sun.

Of the more than 1,000 verified planets found by NASA's Kepler, eight are less than twice Earth-size and in their stars' habitable zone. All eight orbit stars cooler and smaller than our sun. The search continues for Earth-size habitable zone worlds around sun-like stars. (NASA Ames/W Stenzel)

Of the more than 1,000 verified planets found by NASA’s Kepler, eight are less than twice Earth-size and in their stars’ habitable zone. All eight orbit stars cooler and smaller than our sun. The search continues for Earth-size habitable zone worlds around sun-like stars. (NASA Ames/W Stenzel)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory sees Milky Way’s Black Hole emit Record-Breaking X-ray flare

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Astronomers have observed the largest X-ray flare ever detected from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. This event, detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, raises questions about the behavior of this giant black hole and its surrounding environment.

The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A*, is estimated to contain about 4.5 million times the mass of our sun.

Astronomers have detected the largest X-ray flare ever from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This event was 400 times brighter than the usual X-ray output from the black hole. (NASA/CXC/Northwestern Univ/D.Haggard et al. NASA/CXC/Stanford/I. Zhuravleva et al.)

Astronomers have detected the largest X-ray flare ever from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This event was 400 times brighter than the usual X-ray output from the black hole. (NASA/CXC/Northwestern Univ/D.Haggard et al.
NASA/CXC/Stanford/I. Zhuravleva et al.)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft closes in on Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has entered an approach phase in which it will continue to close in on Ceres, a Texas-sized dwarf planet never before visited by a spacecraft. Dawn launched in 2007 and is scheduled to enter Ceres orbit in March 2015.

Dawn recently emerged from solar conjunction, in which the spacecraft is on the opposite side of the sun, limiting communication with antennas on Earth. Now that Dawn can reliably communicate with Earth again, mission controllers have programmed the maneuvers necessary for the next stage of the rendezvous, which they label the Ceres approach phase. Dawn is currently 400,000 miles (640,000 kilometers) from Ceres, approaching it at around 450 miles per hour (725 kilometers per hour).

This artist's concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft heading toward the dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft heading toward the dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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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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