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Topic: Orbit

NASA Scientists find Iceball Planet using Microlensing

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have discovered a new planet with the mass of Earth, orbiting its star at the same distance that we orbit our sun. The planet is likely far too cold to be habitable for life as we know it, however, because its star is so faint. But the discovery adds to scientists’ understanding of the types of planetary systems that exist beyond our own.

“This ‘iceball’ planet is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing,” said Yossi Shvartzvald, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This artist's concept shows OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, a planet discovered through a technique called microlensing. (NASA)

This artist’s concept shows OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, a planet discovered through a technique called microlensing. (NASA)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft loses third reaction wheel to failure

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is preparing to observe Ceres on April 29th from an “opposition” position, directly between the dwarf planet’s mysterious Occator Crater and the sun. This unique geometry may yield new insights about the bright material in the center of the crater.

While preparing for this observation, one of Dawn’s two remaining reaction wheels stopped functioning on April 23rd. By electrically changing the speed at which these gyroscope-like devices spin, Dawn controls its orientation in the zero-gravity, frictionless conditions of space.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finishes last close orbit of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has had its last close brush with Saturn’s hazy moon Titan and is now beginning its final set of 22 orbits around the ringed planet.

The spacecraft made its 127th and final close approach to Titan on April 21st at 11:08pm PDT (1:08am CDT on April 22nd), passing at an altitude of about 608 miles (979 kilometers) above the moon’s surface.

Cassini transmitted its images and other data to Earth following the encounter.

This unprocessed image of Saturn's moon Titan was captured by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

This unprocessed image of Saturn’s moon Titan was captured by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its final close flyby of the hazy, planet-sized moon on April 21, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft begins last close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will make its final close flyby of Saturn’s haze-enshrouded moon Titan this weekend.

The flyby marks the mission’s final opportunity for up-close observations of the lakes and seas of liquid hydrocarbons that spread across the moon’s northern polar region, and the last chance to use its powerful radar to pierce the haze and make detailed images of the surface.

Closest approach to Titan is planned for 11:08pm PDT on April 21st (2:08am EDT April 22nd). During the encounter, Cassini will pass as close as 608 miles (979 kilometers) above Titan’s surface at a speed of about 13,000 mph (21,000 kph).

Cassini will make its final close flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on April 21st (PDT), using its radar to reveal the moon's surface lakes and seas one last time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini will make its final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on April 21st (PDT), using its radar to reveal the moon’s surface lakes and seas one last time. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA says Habitable “Tatooine” type planets could be possible

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With two suns in its sky, Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine in “Star Wars” looks like a parched, sandy desert world. In real life, thanks to observatories such as NASA’s Kepler space telescope, we know that two-star systems can indeed support planets, although planets discovered so far around double-star systems are large and gaseous. Scientists wondered: If an Earth-size planet were orbiting two suns, could it support life?

It turns out, such a planet could be quite hospitable if located at the right distance from its two stars, and wouldn’t necessarily even have deserts.

This artist's concept shows a hypothetical planet covered in water around the binary star system of Kepler-35A and B. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows a hypothetical planet covered in water around the binary star system of Kepler-35A and B. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to begin final orbits around Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, in orbit around Saturn since 2004, is about to begin the final chapter of its remarkable story. On Wednesday, April 26th, the spacecraft will make the first in a series of dives through the 1,500-mile-wide (2,400-kilometer) gap between Saturn and its rings as part of the mission’s grand finale.

“No spacecraft has ever gone through the unique region that we’ll attempt to boldly cross 22 times,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “What we learn from Cassini’s daring final orbits will further our understanding of how giant planets, and planetary systems everywhere, form and evolve. This is truly discovery in action to the very end.”

This illustration shows Cassini above Saturn's northern hemisphere prior to one of its 22 Grand Finale dives. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows Cassini above Saturn’s northern hemisphere prior to one of its 22 Grand Finale dives. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter accomplished it’s 50,000th Orbit of Mars this week

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The most data-productive spacecraft yet at Mars swept past its 50,000th orbit this week, continuing to compile the most sharp-eyed global coverage ever accomplished by a camera at the Red Planet.

In addition, the spacecraft — NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) — recently aided preparations for NASA’s next mission to Mars, the InSight lander. Insight will launch next year on a mission to study the planet’s deep interior. Meanwhile, the orbiter continues diverse science observations of Mars and communications-relay service for two active Mars rovers, Curiosity and Opportunity.

In early 2017, after more than a decade of observing Mars, the Context Camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) surpassed 99 percent coverage of the entire planet. This mosaic shows that global coverage. (NASA)

In early 2017, after more than a decade of observing Mars, the Context Camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) surpassed 99 percent coverage of the entire planet. This mosaic shows that global coverage. (NASA)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft makes Fifth Flyby of Jupiter

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission accomplished a close flyby of Jupiter on Monday, March 27th, successfully completing its fourth science orbit.

All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that is now being returned to Earth. Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on May 19th, 2017.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft made its fifth flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops on Monday, March 27th, at 1:52am PDT (4:52am EDT, 8:52 UTC).

This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian "galaxy" of swirling storms. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko)

This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian “galaxy” of swirling storms. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko)

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NASA says Rosetta images show active surface on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Images returned from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission indicate that during its most recent trip through the inner solar system, the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was a very active place – full of growing fractures, collapsing cliffs and massive rolling boulders.

Moving material buried some features on the comet’s surface while exhuming others. A study on 67P’s changing surface was released Tuesday, March 21st, in the journal Science.

A 100 foot-wide (30 meter), 28-million-pound (12.8-million-kilogram) boulder, was found to have moved 460 feet (140 meters) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the lead up to perihelion in August 2015, when the comet's activity was at its highest. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

A 100 foot-wide (30 meter), 28-million-pound (12.8-million-kilogram) boulder, was found to have moved 460 feet (140 meters) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the lead up to perihelion in August 2015, when the comet’s activity was at its highest. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA researchers say Mars may have had Rings

 

Written by Brian Wallheimer
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – As children, we learned about our solar system’s planets by certain characteristics — Jupiter is the largest, Saturn has rings, Mercury is closest to the sun. Mars is red, but it’s possible that one of our closest neighbors also had rings at one point and may have them again someday.

That’s the theory put forth by NASA-funded scientists at Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, whose findings were published in the journal Nature Geoscience. David Minton and Andrew Hesselbrock developed a model that suggests that debris that was pushed into space from an asteroid or other body slamming into Mars around 4.3 billion years ago alternates between becoming a planetary ring and clumping together to form a moon.

This sequence of images from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows one of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passing directly in front of the other, Deimos, in 2013. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.)

This sequence of images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows one of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, passing directly in front of the other, Deimos, in 2013. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.)

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