Topic: NASA’s Voyager
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Valentine’s Day is special for NASA’s Voyager mission. It was on February 14th, 1990, that the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back at our solar system and snapped the first-ever pictures of the planets from its perch at that time beyond Neptune.
This “family portrait” captures Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus from Voyager 1’s unique vantage point. A few key members did not make it in: Mars had little sunlight, Mercury was too close to the sun, and dwarf planet Pluto turned out too dim.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – Compared to the age of the solar system — about four-and-a-half billion years — a couple of decades are next to nothing. Some planetary locales change little over many millions of years, so for scientists who study the planets, any object that evolves on such a short interval makes for a tempting target for study. And so it is with the ever-changing rings of Saturn.
Case in point: Saturn’s narrow, chaotic and clumpy F ring. A recent NASA-funded study compared the F ring’s appearance in six years of observations by the Cassini mission to its appearance during the Saturn flybys of NASA’s Voyager mission, 30 years earlier.
Written by David Israel
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Deep Space Network, the world’s largest and most powerful communications system for “talking to” spacecraft, will reach a milestone on December 24th: the 50th anniversary of its official creation.
Over the past 50 years, antennas of the Deep Space Network (DSN) have communicated with just about every mission that has gone to the moon or beyond. The historic communiqués include “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind”; numerous encounters with the outer planets of our solar system; images taken by rovers exploring Mars; and the data confirming that NASA’s Voyager spacecraft had finally entered interstellar space.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Planets rich in carbon, including so-called diamond planets, may lack oceans, according to NASA-funded theoretical research.
Our sun is a carbon-poor star, and as result, our planet Earth is made up largely of silicates, not carbon. Stars with much more carbon than the sun, on the other hand, are predicted to make planets chock full of carbon, and perhaps even layers of diamond.
By modeling the ingredients in these carbon-based planetary systems, the scientists determined they lack icy water reservoirs thought to supply planets with oceans.
Written by Jia-Rui Cook
Pasadena, CA – A new study tracks the “rain” of charged water particles into the atmosphere of Saturn and finds there is more of it and it falls across larger areas of the planet than previously thought.
The study, whose observations were funded by NASA and whose analysis was led by the University of Leicester, England, reveals that the rain influences the composition and temperature structure of parts of Saturn’s upper atmosphere. The paper appears in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.
Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
Pasadena, CA – A laboratory experiment at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, simulating the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan suggests complex organic chemistry that could eventually lead to the building blocks of life extends lower in the atmosphere than previously thought.
The results now point out another region on the moon that could brew up prebiotic materials. The paper was published in Nature Communications this week.
Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
Pasadena, CA – If you could lick the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, you would actually be sampling a bit of the ocean beneath.
A new paper by Mike Brown, an astronomer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA, and Kevin Hand from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, also in Pasadena, details the strongest evidence yet that salty water from the vast liquid ocean beneath Europa’s frozen exterior actually makes its way to the surface.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Just when you thought Christmas was over: At the end of the day on December 25th, a pair of holiday lights will pop out of the deepening twilight. Jupiter and the Moon are having a Christmas conjunction.
It’s a beautiful apparition, visible all around the globe. Even city dwellers, who often miss astronomical events because of light pollution, can see the show. Separated by less than 2 degrees, the bright pair will beam right through urban lights.
Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
Pasadena, CA – Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft tie a shift in seasonal sunlight to a wholesale reversal, at unexpected altitudes, in the circulation of the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan. At the south pole, the data show definitive evidence for sinking air where it was upwelling earlier in the mission.
So the key to circulation in the atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan turned out to be a certain slant of light. The paper was published today in the journal Nature.
Written by Priscilla Vega and Jia-Rui C. Cook
Pasadena, CA – A new study finds that the pattern of heat coming from volcanoes on Io’s surface disposes of the generally-accepted model of internal heating. The heat pouring out of Io’s hundreds of erupting volcanoes indicates a complex, multi-layer source.
These results come from data collected by NASA spacecraft and ground-based telescopes and appear in the June issue of the journal Icarus.
A map of hot spots, classified by the amount of heat being emitted, shows the global distribution and wide range of volcanic activity on Io. Most of Io’s eruptions dwarf their contemporaries on Earth.
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