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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover spots Dust Devil on Mars

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – From its perch high on a ridge, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this image of a Martian dust devil twisting through the valley below. The view looks back at the rover’s tracks leading up the north-facing slope of “Knudsen Ridge,” which forms part of the southern edge of “Marathon Valley.”

Opportunity took the image using its navigation camera (Navcam) on March 31st, 2016, during the 4,332nd Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars.

From its perch high on a ridge, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this image of a Martian dust devil twisting through the valley below. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

From its perch high on a ridge, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this image of a Martian dust devil twisting through the valley below. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope helps create Temperature Map of a Super Earth

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope have led to the first temperature map of a super-Earth planet — a rocky planet nearly two times as big as ours. The map reveals extreme temperature swings from one side of the planet to the other, and hints that a possible reason for this is the presence of lava flows.

“Our view of this planet keeps evolving,” said Brice Olivier Demory of the University of Cambridge, England, lead author of a new report appearing in the March 30 issue of the journal Nature. “The latest findings tell us the planet has hot nights and significantly hotter days. This indicates the planet inefficiently transports heat around the planet. We propose this could be explained by an atmosphere that would exist only on the day side of the planet, or by lava flows at the planet surface.”

This illustration shows one possible scenario for the hot, rocky exoplanet called 55 Cancri e, which is nearly two times as wide as Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows one possible scenario for the hot, rocky exoplanet called 55 Cancri e, which is nearly two times as wide as Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope being used to answer questions about Hot Jupiters

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The last decade has seen a bonanza of exoplanet discoveries. Nearly 2,000 exoplanets — planets outside our solar system — have been confirmed so far, and more than 5,000 candidate exoplanets have been identified. Many of these exotic worlds belong to a class known as “hot Jupiters.” These are gas giants like Jupiter but much hotter, with orbits that take them feverishly close to their stars.

At first, hot Jupiters were considered oddballs, since we don’t have anything like them in our own solar system. But as more were found, in addition to many other smaller planets that orbit very closely to their stars, our solar system started to seem like the real misfit.

The turbulent atmosphere of a hot, gaseous planet known as HD 80606b is shown in this simulation based on data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The turbulent atmosphere of a hot, gaseous planet known as HD 80606b is shown in this simulation based on data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft examines highest mountain on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’a Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a nod to extraterrestrial mountaineers of the future, scientists working on NASA’s Cassini mission have identified the highest point on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

Titan’s tallest peak is 10,948 feet (3,337 meters) high and is found within a trio of mountainous ridges called the Mithrim Montes. The researchers found that all of Titan’s highest peaks are about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) in elevation. The study used images and other data from Cassini’s radar instrument, which can peer through the obscuring smog of Titan’s atmosphere to reveal the surface in detail.

The trio of ridges on Titan known as Mithrim Montes is home to the hazy Saturnian moon's tallest peak. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

The trio of ridges on Titan known as Mithrim Montes is home to the hazy Saturnian moon’s tallest peak. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope observes a Supernova Shockwave as it reached the surface of a Star

 

Written by H. Pat Brennan of JPL and Michele Johnson of Ames

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The brilliant flash of an exploding star’s shockwave — what astronomers call the “shock breakout” — has been captured for the first time in visible light by NASA’s planet-hunter, the Kepler space telescope.

An international science team led by Peter Garnavich, an astrophysics professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, analyzed light captured by Kepler every 30 minutes over a three-year period from 500 distant galaxies, searching some 50 trillion stars. They were hunting for signs of massive stellar death explosions known as supernovae.

The brilliant flash of an exploding star's shockwave -- what astronomers call the "shock breakout" -- is illustrated in artist's concept. (NASA Ames, STScI/G. Bacon)

The brilliant flash of an exploding star’s shockwave — what astronomers call the “shock breakout” — is illustrated in artist’s concept. (NASA Ames, STScI/G. Bacon)

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NASA Data reveals Behemoth Super Spiral Galaxies

 

Written by Adam Hadhazy
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A strange new kind of galactic beast has been spotted in the cosmic wilderness. Dubbed “super spirals,” these unprecedented galaxies dwarf our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, and compete in size and brightness with the largest galaxies in the universe.

Super spirals have long hidden in plain sight by mimicking the appearance of typical spiral galaxies. A new study using archived NASA data reveals these seemingly nearby objects are in fact distant, behemoth versions of everyday spirals. Rare, super spiral galaxies present researchers with the major mystery of how such giants could have arisen.

In archived NASA data, researchers have discovered "super spiral" galaxies that dwarf our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, and compete in size and brightness with the largest galaxies in the universe. (SDSS)

In archived NASA data, researchers have discovered “super spiral” galaxies that dwarf our own spiral galaxy, the Milky Way, and compete in size and brightness with the largest galaxies in the universe. (SDSS)

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NASA’s Kepler space telescope continues new discoveries after major malfunction

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The engineers huddled around a telemetry screen, and the mood was tense. They were watching streams of data from a crippled spacecraft more than 50 million miles away — so far that even at the speed of light, it took nearly nine minutes for a signal to travel to the spacecraft and back.

It was late August 2013, and the group of about five employees at Ball Aerospace in Boulder, Colorado, was waiting for NASA’s Kepler space telescope to reveal whether it would live or die. A severe malfunction had robbed the planet-hunting Kepler of its ability to stay pointed at a target without drifting off course.

In this artist's conception, a tiny rocky object vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star. Astronomers have detected the first planetary object transiting a white dwarf using data from the K2 mission. Slowly the object will disintegrate, leaving a dusting of metals on the surface of the star. (CfA/Mark A. Garlick)

In this artist’s conception, a tiny rocky object vaporizes as it orbits a white dwarf star. Astronomers have detected the first planetary object transiting a white dwarf using data from the K2 mission. Slowly the object will disintegrate, leaving a dusting of metals on the surface of the star. (CfA/Mark A. Garlick)

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NASA’s InSight Spacecraft set to launch in May 2018 for Mars

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission to study the deep interior of Mars is targeting a new launch window that begins May 5th, 2018, with a Mars landing scheduled for November 26th, 2018.

InSight’s primary goal is to help us understand how rocky planets — including Earth — formed and evolved. The spacecraft had been on track to launch this month until a vacuum leak in its prime science instrument prompted NASA in December to suspend preparations for launch.

This artist's concept from August 2015 depicts NASA's InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept from August 2015 depicts NASA’s InSight Mars lander fully deployed for studying the deep interior of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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A look at NASA’s Dawn spacecraft year of Orbiting dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One year ago, on March 6th, 2015, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft slid gently into orbit around Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.  Since then, the spacecraft has delivered a wealth of images and other data that open an exciting new window to the previously unexplored dwarf planet.

“Ceres has defied our expectations and surprised us in many ways, thanks to a year’s worth of data from Dawn. We are hard at work on the mysteries the spacecraft has presented to us,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for the mission, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

The mysterious mountain Ahuna Mons is seen in this mosaic of images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images from its lowest-altitude orbit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

The mysterious mountain Ahuna Mons is seen in this mosaic of images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images from its lowest-altitude orbit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) to help unravel Secrets of the Universe

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After years of preparatory studies, NASA is formally starting an astrophysics mission designed to help unlock the secrets of the universe — the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

With a view 100 times bigger than that of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, WFIRST will aid researchers in their efforts to unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, and explore the evolution of the cosmos. It also will discover new worlds outside our solar system and advance the search for worlds that could be suitable for life.

WFIRST, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, is shown here in an artist's rendering. It will carry a Wide Field Instrument to provide astronomers with Hubble-quality images covering large swaths of the sky, and enabling several studies of cosmic evolution. (NASA)

WFIRST, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, is shown here in an artist’s rendering. It will carry a Wide Field Instrument to provide astronomers with Hubble-quality images covering large swaths of the sky, and enabling several studies of cosmic evolution. (NASA)

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