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Topic: NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope

NASA’s Starshade technology to aid observations of far off Planets

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA says the feat of staying highly synchronized while airborne can be appreciated by anyone who’s ever seen aircraft engaged in formation flying. In work sponsored by NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program (ExEP), engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are taking formation flying to a new extreme.

Their work marks an important milestone within a larger program to test the feasibility of a technology called a starshade. Although starshades have never flown in space, they hold the potential to enable groundbreaking observations of planets beyond our solar system, including pictures of planets as small as Earth.

This artist's concept shows the geometry of a space telescope aligned with a starshade, a technology used to block starlight in order to reveal the presence of planets orbiting that star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows the geometry of a space telescope aligned with a starshade, a technology used to block starlight in order to reveal the presence of planets orbiting that star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s SPHEREx mission to look into History of the Universe

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has selected a new space mission that will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems.

The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is a planned two-year mission funded at $242 million (not including launch costs) and targeted to launch in 2023.

NASA's Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is targeted to launch in 2023. SPHEREx will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy's planetary systems. (Caltech)

NASA’s Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is targeted to launch in 2023. SPHEREx will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems. (Caltech)

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Origami inspires NASA Engineers to unique spacecraft designs

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An ancient art form has taken on new shape at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Origami, the Japanese tradition of paper-folding, has inspired a number of unique spacecraft designs here. It’s little wonder that it fascinates NASA engineers: origami can seem deceptively simple, hiding complex math within its creases.

Besides aesthetic beauty, it addresses a persistent problem faced by JPL engineers: how do you pack the greatest amount of spacecraft into the smallest volume possible?

Some examples of origami designs at JPL. Engineers are exploring this ancient art form to create folding spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Some examples of origami designs at JPL. Engineers are exploring this ancient art form to create folding spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA says Dark Energy Survey helps us understand structure of the Universe

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – What is our universe made of, and has its composition changed over time? Scientists have new insights about these fundamental questions, thanks to an international collaboration of more than 400 scientists called the Dark Energy Survey (DES).

Three scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are part of this group that is helping to further our understanding of the structure of the universe.

The advances in astrophysics from DES are crucial to preparations for two upcoming space missions that will probe similar questions about the nature of the universe: ESA’s Euclid mission (which has significant NASA participation) and NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope mission, both expected to launch in the 2020s.

Map of dark matter made from gravitational lensing measurements of 26 million galaxies in the Dark Energy Survey. The map covers about 1/30th of the entire sky and spans several billion light years in extent. Red regions have more dark matter than average, blue regions less dark matter. (Chihway Chang/Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago/DES Collaboration)

Map of dark matter made from gravitational lensing measurements of 26 million galaxies in the Dark Energy Survey. The map covers about 1/30th of the entire sky and spans several billion light years in extent. Red regions have more dark matter than average, blue regions less dark matter. (Chihway Chang/Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago/DES Collaboration)

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NASA reviews plans for Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST)

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA is initiating an independent, external review over the next several months on the scope of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) project to help ensure it would provide compelling scientific capability with an appropriate, affordable cost and a reliable schedule.
 
“Developing large space missions is difficult,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is the right time for us to pause for an independent look at our plans to make sure we understand how long it will take, and how much it will cost, to build WFIRST.”

NASA's next generation telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). (NASA)

NASA’s next generation telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). (NASA)

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NASA advances Exploration Objectives in 2016

 

Written by Bob Jacobs / Allard Beutel
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In 2016, NASA drove advances in technology, science, aeronautics and space exploration that enhanced the world’s knowledge, innovation, and stewardship of Earth.

“This past year marked record-breaking progress in our exploration objectives,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We advanced the capabilities we’ll need to travel farther into the solar system while increasing observations of our home and the universe, learning more about how to continuously live and work in space, and, of course, inspiring the next generation of leaders to take up our Journey to Mars and make their own discoveries.”

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter, with its solar arrays and main antenna pointed toward the distant sun and Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovers universe expanding faster than expected

 

Written by Donna Weaver / Ray Villard
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered that the universe is expanding 5 percent to 9 percent faster than expected.

“This surprising finding may be an important clue to understanding those mysterious parts of the universe that make up 95 percent of everything and don’t emit light, such as dark energy, dark matter and dark radiation,” said study leader and Nobel Laureate Adam Riess of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Johns Hopkins University, both in Baltimore, Maryland.

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows one of the galaxies in the survey to refine the measurement for how fast the universe expands with time, called the Hubble constant. (NASA, ESA and A. Riess (STScI/JHU))

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows one of the galaxies in the survey to refine the measurement for how fast the universe expands with time, called the Hubble constant.
(NASA, ESA and A. Riess (STScI/JHU))

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NASA scientists research ways to discover habitable planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists are getting closer to finding worlds that resemble our own “blue marble” of a planet. NASA’s Kepler mission alone has confirmed more than 1,000 planets outside our solar system — a handful of which are a bit bigger than Earth and orbit in the habitable zones of their stars, where liquid water might exist.

Some astronomers think the discovery of Earth’s true analogs may be around the corner. What are the next steps to search for life on these potentially habitable worlds?

This illustration shows the prototype starshade, a giant structure designed to block the glare of stars so that future space telescopes can take pictures of planets.

This illustration shows the prototype starshade, a giant structure designed to block the glare of stars so that future space telescopes can take pictures of planets.

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope given new mission to discover exoplanets in the center of Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have made great strides in discovering planets outside of our solar system, termed “exoplanets.” In fact, over the past 20 years more than 5,000 exoplanets have been detected beyond the eight planets that call our solar system home.

The majority of these exoplanets have been found snuggled up to their host star completing an orbit (or year) in hours, days or weeks, while some have been found orbiting as far as Earth is to the sun, taking one Earth year to circle.

As an exoplanet passes in front of a more distant star, its gravity causes the trajectory of the starlight to bend, and in some cases, results in a brief brightening of the background star as seen by a telescope. The artistic animation illustrates this effect. This phenomenon of gravitational microlensing enables scientists to search for exoplanets that are too distant and dark to detect any other way. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

As an exoplanet passes in front of a more distant star, its gravity causes the trajectory of the starlight to bend, and in some cases, results in a brief brightening of the background star as seen by a telescope. The artistic animation illustrates this effect. This phenomenon of gravitational microlensing enables scientists to search for exoplanets that are too distant and dark to detect any other way. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

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NASA’s Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) to help unravel Secrets of the Universe

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After years of preparatory studies, NASA is formally starting an astrophysics mission designed to help unlock the secrets of the universe — the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).

With a view 100 times bigger than that of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, WFIRST will aid researchers in their efforts to unravel the secrets of dark energy and dark matter, and explore the evolution of the cosmos. It also will discover new worlds outside our solar system and advance the search for worlds that could be suitable for life.

WFIRST, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, is shown here in an artist's rendering. It will carry a Wide Field Instrument to provide astronomers with Hubble-quality images covering large swaths of the sky, and enabling several studies of cosmic evolution. (NASA)

WFIRST, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, is shown here in an artist’s rendering. It will carry a Wide Field Instrument to provide astronomers with Hubble-quality images covering large swaths of the sky, and enabling several studies of cosmic evolution. (NASA)

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