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Topic: Orbit

NASA along with European Space Agency observe how Solar Storms move through Space

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Our Sun is active: Not only does it release a constant stream of material, called the solar wind, but it also lets out occasional bursts of faster-moving material, known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs.

NASA researchers wish to improve our understanding of CMEs and how they move through space because they can interact with the magnetic field around Earth, affecting satellites, interfering with GPS signals, triggering auroras, and — in extreme cases — straining power grids.

While we track CMEs with a number of instruments, the sheer size of the solar system means that our observations are limited, and usually taken from a distance.

ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory observed a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun on Oct. 14, 2014. Scientists went on to track this coronal mass ejection through the solar system using 10 NASA and ESA spacecraft. (The bright light appearing at roughly 2 o'clock is the planet Mercury.) (ESA/NASA/SOHO)

ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory observed a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun on Oct. 14, 2014. Scientists went on to track this coronal mass ejection through the solar system using 10 NASA and ESA spacecraft. (The bright light appearing at roughly 2 o’clock is the planet Mercury.) (ESA/NASA/SOHO)

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NASA looks at studying Venus using CubeSats

 

Written by Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Venus looks bland and featureless in visible light, but change the filter to ultraviolet, and Earth’s twin suddenly looks like a different planet. Dark and light areas stripe the sphere, indicating that something is absorbing ultraviolet wavelengths in the planet’s cloud tops.

A team of scientists and engineers working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has received funding from the agency’s Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies, or PSDS3, program to advance a CubeSat mission concept revealing the nature of this mysterious absorber situated within the planet’s uppermost cloud layer.

As seen in the ultraviolet, Venus is striped by light and dark areas indicating that an unknown absorber is operating in the planet’s top cloud layer. The image was taken by NASA’s Pioneer-Venus Orbiter in 1979. (NASA)

As seen in the ultraviolet, Venus is striped by light and dark areas indicating that an unknown absorber is operating in the planet’s top cloud layer. The image was taken by NASA’s Pioneer-Venus Orbiter in 1979. (NASA)

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NASA looks into Tethering Two CubeSats to study Swirl Patterns on the Moon

 

Written by Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A novel mission concept involving two CubeSats connected by a thin, miles-long tether could help scientists understand how the Moon got its mysterious “tattoos” — swirling patterns of light and dark found at more than 100 locations across the lunar surface.

NASA’s Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies, or PSDS3, program recently selected a team at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to further develop a mission concept called the Bi-sat Observations of the Lunar Atmosphere above Swirls, or BOLAS. The study, led by Goddard Principal Investigator Timothy Stubbs, could lead to the first tethered planetary CubeSat mission, Stubbs said.

This artist’s drawing shows how two CubeSats, connected by a miles-long tether, would gather measurements on the moon. (NASA)

This artist’s drawing shows how two CubeSats, connected by a miles-long tether, would gather measurements on the moon. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft to start last five orbits around Saturn

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will enter new territory in its final mission phase, the Grand Finale, as it prepares to embark on a set of ultra-close passes through Saturn’s upper atmosphere with its final five orbits around the planet.

Cassini will make the first of these five passes over Saturn at 9:22pm PDT Sunday, August 13th (12:22am EDT Monday, August 14th). The spacecraft’s point of closest approach to Saturn during these passes will be between about 1,010 and 1,060 miles (1,630 and 1,710 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops.

This artist's rendering shows Cassini as the spacecraft makes one of its final five dives through Saturn's upper atmosphere in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows Cassini as the spacecraft makes one of its final five dives through Saturn’s upper atmosphere in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Voyager Spacecrafts continue exploration after 40 Years

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau / Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and September. Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.

Their story has not only impacted generations of current and future scientists and engineers, but also Earth’s culture, including film, art and music. Each spacecraft carries a Golden Record of Earth sounds, pictures and messages. Since the spacecraft could last billions of years, these circular time capsules could one day be the only traces of human civilization.

An artist concept depicting one of the twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist concept depicting one of the twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA to use Asteroid Flyby to test Planetary Defense Network

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA scientists are excited about the upcoming close flyby of a small asteroid and plan to use its upcoming October close approach to Earth as an opportunity not only for science, but to test NASA’s network of observatories and scientists who work with planetary defense.

The target of all this attention is asteroid 2012 TC4 — a small asteroid estimated to be between 30 and 100 feet (10 and 30 meters) in size. On October 12th, TC4 will safely fly past Earth. Even though scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from the surface of Earth. The asteroid has been out of range of telescopes since 2012.

This animation depicts the safe flyby of asteroid 2012 TC4 as it passes under Earth on Oct. 12, 2017. While scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth's surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This animation depicts the safe flyby of asteroid 2012 TC4 as it passes under Earth on Oct. 12, 2017. While scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth’s surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports ESA’s LISA Pathfinder Spacecraft powered down

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With the push of a button, final commands for the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder mission were beamed to space on July 18th, 2017, a final goodbye before the spacecraft was powered down.

LISA Pathfinder had been directed into a parking orbit in April, keeping it out of Earth’s way. The final action this week switches it off completely after a successful 16 months of science measurements.

While some spacecraft are flashy, never sitting still as they zip across the solar system, LISA Pathfinder was as steady as they come — literally.

An artist's concept of the European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board.

An artist’s concept of the European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder spacecraft, designed to pave the way for a mission detecting gravitational waves. NASA/JPL developed a thruster system on board.

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft continues dives between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding — so far — that the planet’s magnetic field has no discernible tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn’s day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini’s mission, known as the Grand Finale.

Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere.

Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Recent images of features in Saturn’s C ring called “plateaus” reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA says second Star in System can make Planets look smaller

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In the search for planets similar to our own, an important point of comparison is the planet’s density. A low density tells scientists a planet is more likely to be gaseous like Jupiter, and a high density is associated with rocky planets like Earth. But a new study suggests some are less dense than previously thought because of a second, hidden star in their systems.

As telescopes stare at particular patches of sky, they can’t always differentiate between one star and two. A system of two closely orbiting stars may appear in images as a single point of light, even from sophisticated observatories such as NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

This cartoon explains why the reported sizes of some exoplanets may need to be revised in cases where there is a second star in the system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This cartoon explains why the reported sizes of some exoplanets may need to be revised in cases where there is a second star in the system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Completes Flyby over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission completed a close flyby of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot on July 10th, during its sixth science orbit.

All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that are now being returned to Earth. Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on September 1st, 2017.

Raw images from the spacecraft’s latest flyby will be posted in coming days.

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft in orbit above Jupiter's Great Red Spot. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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