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Topic: Orbit

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft’s latest photo reveals bright spot on dwarf planet Ceres has second bright area nearby

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Dwarf planet Ceres continues to puzzle scientists as NASA’s Dawn spacecraft gets closer to being captured into orbit around the object. The latest images from Dawn, taken nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers) from Ceres, reveal that a bright spot that stands out in previous images lies close to yet another bright area.

“Ceres’ bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin. This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

This image was taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft of dwarf planet Ceres on Feb. 19 from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). It shows that the brightest spot on Ceres has a dimmer companion, which apparently lies in the same basin. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This image was taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft of dwarf planet Ceres on Feb. 19 from a distance of nearly 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers). It shows that the brightest spot on Ceres has a dimmer companion, which apparently lies in the same basin. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory unfurled it’s Reflector Antenna today

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, today sent commands to unfurl the massive 20-foot-wide (6-meter) reflector antenna on NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, launched January 31st.

The deployment of the mesh reflector antenna, which supports the collection of SMAP’s radar and radiometer instrument measurements in space, marks a key milestone in commissioning the satellite. SMAP will soon begin its three-year science mission to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed.

NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will produce high-resolution global maps of soil moisture to track water availability around our planet and guide policy decisions. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will produce high-resolution global maps of soil moisture to track water availability around our planet and guide policy decisions. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA has launched Five Earth Missions in the last year

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Over the past 12 months NASA has added five missions to its orbiting Earth-observing fleet – the biggest one-year increase in more than a decade. NASA scientists will discuss early observations from the new missions and their current status during a media teleconference at 11:00am PST (2:00pm EST) Thursday, February 26th.

New views of global carbon dioxide, rain and snowfall, ocean winds, and aerosol particles in the atmosphere will be presented during the briefing.

Five new Earth science missions have joined NASA's orbiting fleet since the launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement mission one year ago. (NASA)

Five new Earth science missions have joined NASA’s orbiting fleet since the launch of the Global Precipitation Measurement mission one year ago. (NASA)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft takes images of small Moons Orbiting Pluto

 

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Exactly 85 years after Clyde Tombaugh’s historic discovery of Pluto, the NASA spacecraft set to encounter the icy dwarf planet this summer is providing its first views of the small moons orbiting Pluto.

The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft from January 27th-February 8th, at distances ranging from about 125 million to 115 million miles (201 million to 186 million kilometers). The long-exposure images offer New Horizons’ best view yet of these two small moons circling Pluto which Tombaugh discovered at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, on February 18th, 1930.

The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute)

The moons Nix and Hydra are visible in a series of images taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft observes moon Charon orbiting Pluto

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. The movie was made over about a week, from January 25th-31st, 2015.

It was taken as part of the mission’s second optical navigation (“OpNav”) campaign to better refine the locations of Pluto and Charon in preparation for the spacecraft’s close encounter with the small planet and its five moons on July 14th, 2015.

This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/APL/Southwest Research Institute)

This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA/APL/Southwest Research Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has made 40,000 trips around Mars since 2006

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed a mission milestone of 40,000 orbits on February 7th, 2015, in its ninth year of returning information about the atmosphere, surface and subsurface of Mars, from equatorial to polar latitudes.

The mission’s potent science instruments and extended lifespan have revealed that Mars is a world more dynamic and diverse than was previously realized. Now in its fourth mission extension after a two-year prime mission, the orbiter is investigating seasonal and longer-term changes, including some warm-season flows that are the strongest evidence so far for liquid water on Mars today.

This view of Martian surface features shaped by effects of winds was captured by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 4, 2015. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since March 2006. On Feb. 7, 2015, it completed its 40,000th orbit around Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This view of Martian surface features shaped by effects of winds was captured by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 4, 2015. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since March 2006. On Feb. 7, 2015, it completed its 40,000th orbit around Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA reports NOAA to launch Deep Space Climate Observatory to measure the Sun’s Solar Wind

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – There’s a fascinating spot some 932,000 miles away from Earth where the gravity between the sun and Earth is perfectly balanced. This spot captures the attention of orbital engineers because a satellite can orbit this spot, called Lagrange 1 just as they can orbit a planet.

But the spot tantalizes scientists as well: Lagrange 1 lies outside Earth’s magnetic environment, a perfect place to measure the constant stream of particles from the sun, known as the solar wind, as they pass by.

In early February, the United States Air Force will launch a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite called Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, into orbit around this spot.

The solar arrays on NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft, or DSCOVR, are unfurled in the Building 1 high bay at the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near Kennedy Space Center. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

The solar arrays on NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft, or DSCOVR, are unfurled in the Building 1 high bay at the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near Kennedy Space Center. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft takes new photos of Pluto and it’s moon Charon

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft returned its first new images of Pluto on Wednesday, as the probe closes in on the dwarf planet. Although still just a dot along with its largest moon, Charon, the images come on the 109th birthday of Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the distant icy world in 1930.

“My dad would be thrilled with New Horizons,” said Clyde Tombaugh’s daughter Annette Tombaugh, of Las Cruces, New Mexico. “To actually see the planet that he had discovered, and find out more about it — to get to see the moons of Pluto– he would have been astounded. I’m sure it would have meant so much to him if he were still alive today.”

The image of Pluto and its moon Charon, taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, was magnified four times to make the objects more visible. Over the next several months, the apparent sizes of Pluto and Charon, as well as the separation between them, will continue to expand in the images. (NASA/JHU APL/SwRI)

The image of Pluto and its moon Charon, taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, was magnified four times to make the objects more visible. Over the next several months, the apparent sizes of Pluto and Charon, as well as the separation between them, will continue to expand in the images. (NASA/JHU APL/SwRI)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data helps astronomers find old Planetary System with Five Small Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler mission have discovered a planetary system of five small planets dating back to when the Milky Way galaxy was a youthful two billion years old.

The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five planets that range in size, with the smallest comparable to the size of Mercury and the largest to Venus. All five planets orbit their sun-like star in less than 10 days, which makes their orbits much closer than Mercury’s sweltering 88-day orbit around the sun.

The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five small planets in very compact orbits. The planets were detected from the dimming that occurs when they transit the disk of their parent star, as shown in this artist's conception. (Tiago Campante/Peter Devine)

The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five small planets in very compact orbits. The planets were detected from the dimming that occurs when they transit the disk of their parent star, as shown in this artist’s conception. (Tiago Campante/Peter Devine)

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NASA launches Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory into orbit around Earth

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA successfully launched its first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of the vital soil moisture hidden just beneath our feet.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off at 6:22am PST (9:22am EST) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory lifts off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, beginning a three-year mission to map Earth's vital moisture hidden in the soils beneath our feet. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory lifts off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, beginning a three-year mission to map Earth’s vital moisture hidden in the soils beneath our feet. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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