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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System satellites to help with hurricane forecasts

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA is set to launch its first Earth science small satellite constellation, which will help improve hurricane intensity, track and storm surge forecasts, on December 12th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) hurricane mission will measure previously unknown details crucial to accurately understanding the formation and intensity of tropical cyclones and hurricanes. Derek Posselt of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, is the deputy principal investigator.

Artist's concept of one of the eight Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System satellites deployed in space above a hurricane. (NASA)

Artist’s concept of one of the eight Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System satellites deployed in space above a hurricane. (NASA)

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NASA’s Spitzer and Swift Space Telescopes use Microlensing to discover Brown Dwarf

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, NASA’s Spitzer and Swift space telescopes joined forces to observe a microlensing event, when a distant star brightens due to the gravitational field of at least one foreground cosmic object. This technique is useful for finding low-mass bodies orbiting stars, such as planets. In this case, the observations revealed a brown dwarf.

Brown dwarfs are thought to be the missing link between planets and stars, with masses up to 80 times that of Jupiter. But their centers are not hot or dense enough to generate energy through nuclear fusion the way stars do.

This illustration depicts a newly discovered brown dwarf, an object that weighs in somewhere between our solar system's most massive planet (Jupiter) and the least-massive known star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts a newly discovered brown dwarf, an object that weighs in somewhere between our solar system’s most massive planet (Jupiter) and the least-massive known star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA to launch Six Small Satellites in new approach to studying Earth

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Beginning this month, NASA is launching a suite of six next-generation, Earth-observing small satellite missions to demonstrate innovative new approaches for studying our changing planet.

These small satellites range in size from a loaf of bread to a small washing machine and weigh from a few to 400 pounds (180 kilograms). Their small size keeps development and launch costs down as they often hitch a ride to space as a “secondary payload” on another mission’s rocket — providing an economical avenue for testing new technologies and conducting science.

Artist's concept of the TROPICS mission, which will study hurricanes with a constellation of 12 CubeSats flying in formation. (MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

Artist’s concept of the TROPICS mission, which will study hurricanes with a constellation of 12 CubeSats flying in formation. (MIT Lincoln Laboratory)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft observes Methane Clouds moving across Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft watched clouds of methane moving across the far northern regions of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, on October 29­­­­th and 30th, 2016.

Several sets of clouds develop, move over the surface and fade during the course of this movie sequence, which spans 11 hours, with one frame taken every 20 minutes. Most prominent are long cloud streaks that lie between 49 and 55 degrees north latitude.

New video shows bright clouds of methane drifting across Saturn's largest moon, Titan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

New video shows bright clouds of methane drifting across Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA and FEMA conducts Asteroid Impacting Earth Simulation Exercise

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – What would we do if we discovered a large asteroid on course to impact Earth? While highly unlikely, that was the high-consequence scenario discussed by attendees at an October 25th NASA-FEMA tabletop exercise in El Segundo, California.

The third in a series of exercises hosted jointly by NASA and FEMA — the Federal Emergency Management Agency — the simulation was designed to strengthen the collaboration between the two agencies, which have Administration direction to lead the U.S. response.

Artist's concept of a near-Earth object. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of a near-Earth object. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The baffling and strange behaviors of black holes have become somewhat less mysterious recently, with new observations from NASA’s Explorer missions Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR.

The two space telescopes caught a supermassive black hole in the midst of a giant eruption of X-ray light, helping astronomers address an ongoing puzzle: How do supermassive black holes flare?

The results suggest that supermassive black holes send out beams of X-rays when their surrounding coronas — sources of extremely energetic particles — shoot, or launch, away from the black holes.

NASA's Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

NASA’s Swift and NuSTAR Space Telescopes observes huge Flare erupt from Supermassive Black Hole

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover discovers smooth Iron-Nickel Meteorite on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Laser-zapping of a globular, golf-ball-size object on Mars by NASA’s Curiosity rover confirms that it is an iron-nickel meteorite fallen from the Red Planet’s sky.

Iron-nickel meteorites are a common class of space rocks found on Earth, and previous examples have been seen on Mars, but this one, called “Egg Rock,” is the first on Mars examined with a laser-firing spectrometer. To do so, the rover team used Curiosity’s Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument.

The dark, smooth-surfaced rock at the center of this Oct. 30, 2016, image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite. It is about the size of a golf ball. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The dark, smooth-surfaced rock at the center of this Oct. 30, 2016, image from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite. It is about the size of a golf ball. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter finds area where Schiaparelli Lander crashed on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The most powerful telescope orbiting Mars is providing new details of the scene near the Martian equator where Europe’s Schiaparelli test lander hit the surface last week.

An October 25th observation using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows three impact locations within about 0.9 mile (1.5 kilometers) of each other.

The scene shown by HiRISE includes three locations where hardware reached the ground. A dark, roughly circular feature is interpreted as where the lander itself struck.

This Oct. 25, 2016, image from the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the area where the Europe's Schiaparelli test lander struck Mars, with magnified insets of three sites where spacecraft components hit the ground. It adds detail not seen in earlier imaging of the site. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This Oct. 25, 2016, image from the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the area where the Europe’s Schiaparelli test lander struck Mars, with magnified insets of three sites where spacecraft components hit the ground. It adds detail not seen in earlier imaging of the site. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory reveals new information about Impact Craters on Earth’s Moon

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New results from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission are providing insights into the huge impacts that dominated the early history of Earth’s moon and other solid worlds, like Earth, Mars, and the satellites of the outer solar system.

In two papers, published this week in the journal Science, researchers examine the origins of the moon’s giant Orientale impact basin. The research helps clarify how the formation of Orientale, approximately 3.8 billion years ago, affected the moon’s geology.

Orientale basin is about 580 miles (930 kilometers) wide and has three distinct rings, which form a bullseye-like pattern. This view is a mosaic of images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

Orientale basin is about 580 miles (930 kilometers) wide and has three distinct rings, which form a bullseye-like pattern. This view is a mosaic of images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope helps scientists study Heartbeat Stars

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Matters of the heart can be puzzling and mysterious — so too with unusual astronomical objects called heartbeat stars.

Heartbeat stars, discovered in large numbers by NASA’s Kepler space telescope, are binary stars (systems of two stars orbiting each other) that got their name because if you were to map out their brightness over time, the result would look like an electrocardiogram, a graph of the electrical activity of the heart.

Scientists are interested in them because they are binary systems in elongated elliptical orbits. This makes them natural laboratories for studying the gravitational effects of stars on each other.

This artist's concept depicts "heartbeat stars," which have been detected by NASA's Kepler Space Telescope and others. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept depicts “heartbeat stars,” which have been detected by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and others. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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