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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover to analysis select rocks at Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has completed a reconnaissance “walkabout” of the first outcrop it reached at the base of the mission’s destination mountain and has begun a second pass examining selected rocks in the outcrop in more detail.

Exposed layers on the lower portion of Mount Sharp are expected to hold evidence about dramatic changes in the environmental evolution of Mars. That was a major reason NASA chose this area of Mars for this mission.

The lowermost of these slices of time ascending the mountain includes a pale outcrop called “Pahrump Hills.”

This small ridge, about 3 feet (1 meter) long, appears to resist wind erosion more than the flatter plates around it. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This small ridge, about 3 feet (1 meter) long, appears to resist wind erosion more than the flatter plates around it. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA releases images of Rosetta Spacecraft’s Philae Lander as it bounced/landed on Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images taken by the Rosetta spacecraft’s OSIRIS imaging system show the portions of the journey its Philae comet lander undertook on November 12th, as it approached and then rebounded off the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

The mosaic comprises a series of images captured by OSIRIS’s narrow-angle camera over a 30-minute period spanning the first touchdown. The images were taken with Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera when the Rosetta spacecraft was orbiting the comet at about 9.6 miles (15.5 kilometers) from the surface.

The descent of its comet lander Philae was captured by the Rosetta spacecraft's main camera as the lander approached - and then rebounded off - the comet's surface. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

The descent of its comet lander Philae was captured by the Rosetta spacecraft’s main camera as the lander approached – and then rebounded off – the comet’s surface. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn Mission creates Geological Maps of Asteroid Vesta

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images from NASA’s Dawn Mission have been used to create a series of high-resolution geological maps of the large asteroid Vesta, revealing the variety of surface features in unprecedented detail. These maps are included with a series of 11 scientific papers published this week in a special issue of the journal Icarus.

Geological mapping is a technique used to derive the geologic history of a planetary object from detailed analysis of surface morphology, topography, color and brightness information.

This high-resolution geological map of Vesta is derived from Dawn spacecraft data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

This high-resolution geological map of Vesta is derived from Dawn spacecraft data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

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NASA’s Near Earth Object Program has released map showing small asteroids entering Earth’s atmosphere

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA - A map released by NASA’s Near Earth Object (NEO) Program reveals that small asteroids frequently enter and disintegrate in the Earth’s atmosphere with random distribution around the globe.

Released to the scientific community, the map visualizes data gathered by U.S. government sensors from 1994 to 2013. The data indicate that Earth’s atmosphere was impacted by small asteroids, resulting in a bolide (or fireball), on 556 separate occasions in a 20-year period.

This diagram maps the data gathered from 1994-2013 on small asteroids impacting Earth's atmosphere to create very bright meteors, technically called "bolides" and commonly referred to as "fireballs".  Sizes of red dots (daytime impacts) and blue dots (nighttime impacts) are proportional to the optical radiated energy of impacts measured in billions of Joules (GJ) of energy, and show the location of impacts from objects about 1 meter (3 feet) to almost 20 meters (60 feet) in size. (Planetary Science)

This diagram maps the data gathered from 1994-2013 on small asteroids impacting Earth’s atmosphere to create very bright meteors, technically called “bolides” and commonly referred to as “fireballs”. Sizes of red dots (daytime impacts) and blue dots (nighttime impacts) are proportional to the optical radiated energy of impacts measured in billions of Joules (GJ) of energy, and show the location of impacts from objects about 1 meter (3 feet) to almost 20 meters (60 feet) in size. (Planetary Science)

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NASA reports Rosetta’s Philae Lander touches down on Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On Wednesday, November 12th, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission successfully landed on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Descending at a speed of about 2 mph (3.2 kilometers per hour) the lander, called “Philae,” first touched down and its signal was received at 8:03am PST (11:03am EST).

Partially due to anchoring harpoons not firing, and the comet’s low gravity (a hundred-thousand times less than that of Earth), Philae bounced off the surface and flew up to about six-tenths of a mile (1 kilometer) both above the comet’s surface as well as downrange.

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko marks the first touchdown point of the Philae lander of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. The image was taken by the Onboard Scientific Imaging System (OSIRIS) on the Rosetta orbiter from a distance of about 19 miles (30 kilometers) on Sept. 14, 2104, nearly two months before Philae's Nov. 12 landing.

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko marks the first touchdown point of the Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. The image was taken by the Onboard Scientific Imaging System (OSIRIS) on the Rosetta orbiter from a distance of about 19 miles (30 kilometers) on Sept. 14, 2104, nearly two months before Philae’s Nov. 12 landing.

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NASA’s Cassini Mission data reveals Jupiter’s Red Spot probably created by Chemical reaction to Sunlight

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The ruddy color of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is likely a product of simple chemicals being broken apart by sunlight in the planet’s upper atmosphere, according to a new analysis of data from NASA’s Cassini mission. The results contradict the other leading theory for the origin of the spot’s striking color — that the reddish chemicals come from beneath Jupiter’s clouds.

The results are being presented this week by Kevin Baines, a Cassini team scientist based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Science Meeting in Tucson, Arizona.

Research suggests effects of sunlight produce the color of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The feature's clouds are much higher than those elsewhere on the planet, and its vortex nature confines the reddish particles once they form. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ Space Science Institute)

Research suggests effects of sunlight produce the color of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. The feature’s clouds are much higher than those elsewhere on the planet, and its vortex nature confines the reddish particles once they form. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ Space Science Institute)

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NASA announces Rosetta Spacecraft’s Philae Lander has made historic touch down on a Comet

 

Written by DC Agle/Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After more than a decade traveling through space, a robotic lander built by the European Space Agency has made the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

Mission controllers at ESA’s mission operations center in Darmstadt, Germany, received a signal confirming that the Philae lander had touched down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, November 12th, just after 8:00am PST/11:00am EST.

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by the Philae lander of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission during Philae's descent toward the comet on Nov. 12, 2014. Philae's ROLIS camera took the image from a distance of approximately two miles (three kilometers) from the surface. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/DLR)

This image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by the Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission during Philae’s descent toward the comet on Nov. 12, 2014. Philae’s ROLIS camera took the image from a distance of approximately two miles (three kilometers) from the surface. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/DLR)

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NASA announces Rosetta spacecraft’s lander “Philae” to make historic rendezvous with Comet today

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Early Tuesday morning, the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft will deploy its comet lander, “Philae.” A little over seven hours later (8:00am PST/11:00am EST), the experiment-laden, harpoon-firing Philae is scheduled to touch down on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

It will be the first time in history that a spacecraft has attempted a soft landing on a comet. Rosetta is an international mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA), with instruments provided by its member states, and additional support and instruments provided by NASA.

Some relatively rough terrain on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko appears in this image taken by the navigation camera on the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft during the second half of October 2014. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

Some relatively rough terrain on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko appears in this image taken by the navigation camera on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft during the second half of October 2014. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finds two new features about Saturn’s moon Titan’s Hydrocarbon Seas

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini mission continues its adventures in extraterrestrial oceanography with new findings about the hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan.

During a flyby in August, the spacecraft sounded the depths near the mouth of a flooded river valley and observed new, bright features in the seas that might be related to the mysterious feature that researchers dubbed the “magic island.”

The findings are being presented this week at the Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting of the American Astronomical Society held in Tucson, Arizona.

Cassini radar data reveal the depth of a liquid methane/ethane sea on Saturn's moon Titan near the mouth of a large, flooded river valley. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

Cassini radar data reveal the depth of a liquid methane/ethane sea on Saturn’s moon Titan near the mouth of a large, flooded river valley. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover confirms first Mineral Mapped from Space

 

Written by Preston Dyches and Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Reddish rock powder from the first hole drilled into a Martian mountain by NASA’s Curiosity rover has yielded the mission’s first confirmation of a mineral mapped from orbit.

“This connects us with the mineral identifications from orbit, which can now help guide our investigations as we climb the slope and test hypotheses derived from the orbital mapping,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger, of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

This image shows the first holes drilled by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity at Mount Sharp. The loose material near the drill holes is drill tailings and an accumulation of dust that slid down the rock during drilling. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This image shows the first holes drilled by NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity at Mount Sharp. The loose material near the drill holes is drill tailings and an accumulation of dust that slid down the rock during drilling. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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