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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s MESSENGER Spacecraft ends mission, crashes into Mercury

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, have confirmed that MESSENGER slammed into the surface of Mercury on April 30th at 3:26pm EDT.

It had used the last of its propellant on April 24th and could no longer maintain a stable orbit. Traveling some 8,750 mph, the plummeting spacecraft made an unseen crater on the side of the planet facing away from Earth.

The colors of the solar system's innermost planet are enhanced in this tantalizing view, based on global image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. (NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington)

The colors of the solar system’s innermost planet are enhanced in this tantalizing view, based on global image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. (NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) hears the possible sounds of Dead Stars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Peering into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has spotted a mysterious glow of high-energy X-rays that, according to scientists, could be the “howls” of dead stars as they feed on stellar companions.

“We can see a completely new component of the center of our galaxy with NuSTAR’s images,” said Kerstin Perez of Columbia University in New York, lead author of a new report on the findings in the journal Nature. “We can’t definitively explain the X-ray signal yet — it’s a mystery. More work needs to be done.”

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots Curiosity Rover on the slope of Mount Sharp

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A view from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on April 8th, 2015, catches sight of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover passing through a valley called “Artist’s Drive” on the lower slope of Mount Sharp.

The image from the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera shows the rover’s position after a drive of about 75 feet (23 meters) during the 949th Martian day, or sol, of the rover’s work on Mars.

Mars image from the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

Mars image from the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA to increase search for Life on other Planets with NExSS Project

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA is bringing together experts spanning a variety of scientific fields for an unprecedented initiative dedicated to the search for life on planets outside our solar system.

The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, or “NExSS”, hopes to better understand the various components of an exoplanet, as well as how the planet’s stars and neighbor planets interact to support life.

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA's NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right). (NASA)

The search for life beyond our solar system requires unprecedented cooperation across scientific disciplines. NASA’s NExSS collaboration includes those who study Earth as a life-bearing planet (lower right), those researching the diversity of solar system planets (left), and those on the new frontier, discovering worlds orbiting other stars in the galaxy (upper right). (NASA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes new images of Bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The two brightest spots on dwarf planet Ceres, which have fascinated scientists for months, are back in view in the newest images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images on April 14th and 15th from a vantage point 14,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) above Ceres’ north pole.

The images show the brightest spot and its companion clearly standing out against their darker surroundings, but their composition and sources are still un-known. Scientists also see other interesting features, including heavy cratering. As Dawn gets closer to Ceres, surface features will continue to emerge at in-creasingly better resolution.

This image shows the northern terrain on the sunlit side of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on April 14th and 15th, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This image shows the northern terrain on the sunlit side of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on April 14th and 15th, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover heads towards next observation point on Mars, Logan Pass

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is continuing science observations while on the move this month. On April 16th, the mission passed 10 kilometers (6.214 miles) of total driving since its 2012 landing, including about a fifth of a mile (310 meters) so far this month.

The rover is trekking through a series of shallow valleys between the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop, which it investigated for six months, and the next science destination, “Logan Pass,” which is still about 200 yards, or meters, ahead toward the southwest.

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover used its Navigation Camera (Navcam) to capture this scene toward the west just after completing a drive that took the mission's total driving distance on Mars past 10 kilometers (6.214 miles). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its Navigation Camera (Navcam) to capture this scene toward the west just after completing a drive that took the mission’s total driving distance on Mars past 10 kilometers (6.214 miles). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes images of dwarf planet Ceres’ North Pole

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world. These images were taken on April 10th from a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers), and they represent the highest-resolution views of Ceres to date.

Subsequent images of Ceres will show surface features at increasingly better resolution.

This animation shows the north pole of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by the Dawn spacecraft on April 10, 2015. Dawn was at a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) when its framing camera took these images. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This animation shows the north pole of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by the Dawn spacecraft on April 10, 2015. Dawn was at a distance of 21,000 miles (33,000 kilometers) when its framing camera took these images. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft images reveals Tendril Structures coming from Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Long, sinuous, tendril-like structures seen in the vicinity of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus originate directly from geysers erupting from its surface, according to scientists studying images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

This result is published online today in a study in the Astronomical Journal, along with additional insights into the nature of the structures.

“We’ve been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon’s surface,” said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, and lead author of the paper.

This collage, consisting of two Cassini images of long, sinuous, tendril-like features from Saturn's moon Enceladus and two corresponding computer simulations of the same, illustrates how well the structures, and the sizes of the particles composing them, can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from Enceladus' south polar geysers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This collage, consisting of two Cassini images of long, sinuous, tendril-like features from Saturn’s moon Enceladus and two corresponding computer simulations of the same, illustrates how well the structures, and the sizes of the particles composing them, can be modeled by tracing the trajectories of tiny, icy grains ejected from Enceladus’ south polar geysers. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovers gas planet in the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known.

The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer — from its unique perch in space — can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs?

This artist's map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover measurements of Weather, Soil reveals possibility of Liquid Brine on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Martian weather and soil conditions that NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured, together with a type of salt found in Martian soil, could put liquid brine in the soil at night.

Perchlorate identified in Martian soil by the Curiosity mission, and previously by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission, has properties of absorbing water vapor from the atmosphere and lowering the freezing temperature of water. This has been proposed for years as a mechanism for possible existence of transient liquid brines at higher latitudes on modern Mars, despite the Red Planet’s cold and dry conditions.

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover's mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover’s mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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