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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA says Astronomers may have solved mystery behind Planet forming Disks

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers say that magnetic storms in the gas orbiting young stars may explain a mystery that has persisted since before 2006.

Researchers using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to study developing stars have had a hard time figuring out why the stars give off more infrared light than expected. The planet-forming disks that circle the young stars are heated by starlight and glow with infrared light, but Spitzer detected additional infrared light coming from an unknown source.

Magnetic loops carry gas and dust above disks of planet-forming material circling stars, as shown in this artist's conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Magnetic loops carry gas and dust above disks of planet-forming material circling stars, as shown in this artist’s conception. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) scans the sky for Planet X, but comes up empty

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After searching hundreds of millions of objects across our sky, NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has turned up no evidence of the hypothesized celestial body in our solar system commonly dubbed “Planet X.”

Researchers previously had theorized about the existence of this large, but unseen celestial body, suspected to lie somewhere beyond the orbit of Pluto. In addition to “Planet X,” the body had garnered other nicknames, including “Nemesis” and “Tyche.”

Data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has found no evidence for a hypothesized body sometimes referred to as "Planet X." (Penn State University)

Data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has found no evidence for a hypothesized body sometimes referred to as “Planet X.” (Penn State University)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to begin 100th trip around Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Gay Hill
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ten years ago, we knew Titan as a fuzzy orange ball about the size of Mercury. We knew it had a nitrogen atmosphere — the only known world with a thick nitrogen atmosphere besides Earth. But what might lie beneath the hazy air was still just a guess.

On March 6th, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will swoop down within 933 miles (1,500 kilometers) of Titan to conduct its 100th flyby of the Saturn moon. Each flyby gives us a little more knowledge of Titan and its striking similarities to our world.

This artist's concept shows a possible model of Titan's internal structure that incorporates data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (A. D. Fortes/UCL/STFC)

This artist’s concept shows a possible model of Titan’s internal structure that incorporates data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (A. D. Fortes/UCL/STFC)

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NASA reports Asteroid will pass by Earth safely Wednesday

 

Written Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As happens about 20 times a year with current detection capabilities, a known asteroid will safely pass Earth Wednesday closer than the distance from Earth to the moon.

This asteroid, 2014 DX110, is estimated to be about 100 feet (30 meters) across. Its closest approach to Earth will be at about 217,000 miles (about 350,000 kilometers) from Earth at about 1:00pm PST (4:00pm EST) on March 5th. The average distance between Earth and its moon is about 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers).

This image shows the relative locations of asteroid 2014 DX110 and Earth on March 4, 2014. The asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth on March 5 at about 1 p.m. PST (4 p.m. EST). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image shows the relative locations of asteroid 2014 DX110 and Earth on March 4, 2014. The asteroid will make its closest approach to Earth on March 5 at about 1 p.m. PST (4 p.m. EST). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s NEOWISE spacecraft spots it’s first Comet since being reactivated

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft has spotted a never-before-seen comet — its first such discovery since coming out of hibernation late last year.

“We are so pleased to have discovered this frozen visitor from the outermost reaches of our solar system,” said Amy Mainzer, the mission’s principal investigator from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. “This comet is a weirdo – it is in a retrograde orbit, meaning that it orbits the sun in the opposite sense from Earth and the other planets.”

Comet NEOWISE was first observed by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft on Valentine's Day, 2014.

Comet NEOWISE was first observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft on Valentine’s Day, 2014.

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Over 700 new planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler Mission

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system.

The artist concept depicts "multiple-transiting planet systems," which are stars with more than one planet. (NASA)

The artist concept depicts “multiple-transiting planet systems,” which are stars with more than one planet. (NASA)

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NASA’s Deep Space Network releases images of Near Earth Asteroid 2006 DP14

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A collage of radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2006 DP14 was generated by NASA scientists using the 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, CA, on the night of February 11th, 2014.

Delay-Doppler radar imaging revealed that the asteroid is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) long, 660 feet (200 meters) wide, and shaped somewhat like a big peanut. The asteroid’s period of rotation is about six hours.

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots Opportunity Rover on Mars Ridge

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new image from a telescopic camera orbiting Mars shows NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity at work on “Murray Ridge,” without any new impact craters nearby.

The February 14th view from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is available online at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17941.

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught this view of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity on Feb. 14, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught this view of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity on Feb. 14, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captures image of rogue star speeding it’s way through Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Roguish runaway stars can have a big impact on their surroundings as they plunge through the Milky Way galaxy. Their high-speed encounters shock the galaxy, creating arcs, as seen in this newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

In this case, the speedster star is known as Kappa Cassiopeiae, or HD 2905 to astronomers. It is a massive, hot supergiant moving at around 2.5 million mph relative to its neighbors (1,100 kilometers per second).

The red arc in this infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope is a giant shock wave, created by a speeding star known as Kappa Cassiopeiae. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The red arc in this infrared image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope is a giant shock wave, created by a speeding star known as Kappa Cassiopeiae. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover drives backwards to help preserve it’s aluminum wheels

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Terrain that NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is now crossing is as smooth as team members had anticipated based on earlier images from orbit.

On Tuesday, February 18th, the rover covered 329 feet (100.3 meters), the mission’s first long trek that used reverse driving and its farthest one-day advance of any kind in more than three months.

The reverse drive validated feasibility of a technique developed with testing on Earth to lessen damage to Curiosity’s wheels when driving over terrain studded with sharp rocks. However, Tuesday’s drive took the rover over more benign ground.

This map shows the route driven and route planned for NASA's Curiosity Mars rover from before reaching "Dingo Gap" -- in upper right -- to the mission's next science waypoint, "Kimberley" (formerly referred to as "KMS-9") -- in lower left. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This map shows the route driven and route planned for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from before reaching “Dingo Gap” — in upper right — to the mission’s next science waypoint, “Kimberley” (formerly referred to as “KMS-9″) — in lower left. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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