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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA reports Asteroid to safely fly by Earth on Christmas Eve

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Asteroid 2003 SD220 will safely fly past Earth on December 24th at a distance of 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers). Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have generated the highest-resolution images to date of this asteroid using the Deep Space Network’s 230-foot (70-meter) antenna at Goldstone, California.

The radar images were acquired between December 17th and December 22nd, when the distance to this near-Earth object (NEO) was narrowing from 7.3 million miles (12 million kilometers) to almost the flyby distance.

These images of an asteroid 3,600 feet (1,100 meters) long were taken on Dec. 17 (left) and Dec. 22 by scientists using NASA's giant Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California. This asteroid will safely fly past Earth on Dec. 24, at a distance of 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR)

These images of an asteroid 3,600 feet (1,100 meters) long were taken on Dec. 17 (left) and Dec. 22 by scientists using NASA’s giant Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California. This asteroid will safely fly past Earth on Dec. 24, at a distance of 6.8 million miles (11 million kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR)

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NASA scubs InSight Spacecraft launch planned for March 2016

 

Written by Dwayne Brown and Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After thorough examination, NASA managers have decided to suspend the planned March 2016 launch of the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission. The decision follows unsuccessful attempts to repair a leak in a section of the prime instrument in the science payload.

“Learning about the interior structure of Mars has been a high priority objective for planetary scientists since the Viking era,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “We push the boundaries of space technology with our missions to enable science, but space exploration is unforgiving, and the bottom line is that we’re not ready to launch in the 2016 window. A decision on a path forward will be made in the coming months, but one thing is clear: NASA remains fully committed to the scientific discovery and exploration of Mars.”

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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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Saturday

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A thrilling chapter in the exploration of the solar system will soon conclude, as NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of the ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. Cassini is scheduled to fly past Enceladus at a distance of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers) on Saturday, December 19th, at 9:49am PST (11:49am CST).

Although the spacecraft will continue to observe Enceladus during the remainder of its mission (through September 2017), it will be from much greater distances — at closest, more than four times farther away than the December 19th encounter.

An exciting chapter of space exploration history will come to a close as NASA's Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of Saturn's active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. (NASA/JPL-CalTech)

An exciting chapter of space exploration history will come to a close as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. (NASA/JPL-CalTech)

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NASA lists Milky Way Galaxy planets that are remarkably similar to those in the Star Wars universe

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The fantasy creations of the “Star Wars” universe are strikingly similar to real planets in our own Milky Way galaxy. A super Earth in deep freeze? Think ice-planet “Hoth.” And that distant world with double sunsets can’t help but summon thoughts of sandy “Tatooine.”

No indications of life have yet been detected on any of the nearly 2,000 scientifically confirmed exoplanets, so we don’t know if any of them are inhabited by Wookiees or mynocks, or play host to exotic alien bar scenes (or even bacteria, for that matter).

Still, a quick spin around the real exoplanet universe offers tantalizing similarities to several Star Wars counterparts.

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Mission Operations works to Reestablish Communications with it’s STEREO-B Spacecraft

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On October 1st, 2014, NASA mission operations lost communication with one of the two spacecraft of the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, mission, just as the spacecraft was about to orbit around the other side of the sun.

Though they haven’t heard from the Behind spacecraft, also known as STEREO-B, in over a year, the spacecraft has finally emerged into a region where it can once again receive radio signals. Scientists have a plan to get it back—and their chances only get better with time.

NASA lost communications with it's STEREO-B Spacecraft on October 1st, 2014 as it began to orbit the other side of the sun. It has now emerged from behind the sun and NASA mission operations hopes that communications cab be reestablish with the spacecraft. (NASA)

NASA lost communications with it’s STEREO-B Spacecraft on October 1st, 2014 as it began to orbit the other side of the sun. It has now emerged from behind the sun and NASA mission operations hopes that communications cab be reestablish with the spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes discover star with storm cloud similar to Jupiter’s Red Spot

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered what appears to be a tiny star with a giant, cloudy storm, using data from NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes. The dark storm is akin to Jupiter’s Great Red Spot: a persistent, raging storm larger than Earth.

“The star is the size of Jupiter, and its storm is the size of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot,” said John Gizis of the University of Delaware, Newark. “We know this newfound storm has lasted at least two years, and probably longer.” Gizis is the lead author of a new study appearing in The Astrophysical Journal.

This illustration shows a cool star, called W1906+40, marked by a raging storm near one of its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows a cool star, called W1906+40, marked by a raging storm near one of its poles. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft takes sharpest photos yet of planet Pluto

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first in a series of the sharpest views of Pluto it obtained during its July flyby – and the best close-ups of Pluto that humans may see for decades.

Each week the piano-sized New Horizons spacecraft transmits data stored on its digital recorders from its flight through the Pluto system on July 14th.

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NASA discovers Star orbited by Comets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A star called KIC 8462852 has been in the news recently for unexplained and bizarre behavior. NASA’s Kepler mission had monitored the star for four years, observing two unusual incidents, in 2011 and 2013, when the star’s light dimmed in dramatic, never-before-seen ways. Something had passed in front of the star and blocked its light, but what?

Scientists first reported the findings in September, suggesting a family of comets as the most likely explanation. Other cited causes included fragments of planets and asteroids.

This illustration shows a star behind a shattered comet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows a star behind a shattered comet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA scientists explain the Carbon loss in Mars’ Atmosphere

 

Deborah Williams-Hedges
California Institute of Technology

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mars is blanketed by a thin, mostly carbon dioxide atmosphere — one that is far too thin to keep water from freezing or quickly evaporating. However, geological evidence has led scientists to conclude that ancient Mars was once a warmer, wetter place than it is today.

To produce a more temperate climate, several researchers have suggested that the planet was once shrouded in a much thicker carbon dioxide atmosphere. For decades that left the question, “Where did all the carbon go?”

The solar wind stripped away much of Mars’ ancient atmosphere and is still removing tons of it every day. But scientists have been puzzled by why they haven’t found more carbon — in the form of carbonate — captured into Martian rocks. They have also sought to explain the ratio of heavier and lighter carbons in the modern Martian atmosphere.

This graphic depicts paths by which carbon has been exchanged among Martian interior, surface rocks, polar caps, waters and atmosphere, and also depicts a mechanism by which it is lost from the atmosphere with a strong effect on isotope ratio. (Lance Hayashida/Caltech)

This graphic depicts paths by which carbon has been exchanged among Martian interior, surface rocks, polar caps, waters and atmosphere, and also depicts a mechanism by which it is lost from the atmosphere with a strong effect on isotope ratio. (Lance Hayashida/Caltech)

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NASA researches develop Chemical Laptop that could look for life on other Planets

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If you were looking for the signatures of life on another world, you would want to take something small and portable with you. That’s the philosophy behind the “Chemical Laptop” being developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California: a miniaturized laboratory that analyzes samples for materials associated with life.

“If this instrument were to be sent to space, it would be the most sensitive device of its kind to leave Earth, and the first to be able to look for both amino acids and fatty acids,” said Jessica Creamer, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at JPL.

Researchers took the Chemical Laptop to JPL's Mars Yard, where they placed the device on a test rover. This image shows the size comparison between the Chemical Laptop and a regular laptop. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Researchers took the Chemical Laptop to JPL’s Mars Yard, where they placed the device on a test rover. This image shows the size comparison between the Chemical Laptop and a regular laptop. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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