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Topic: Orbit

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers a difference in one of Saturn’s rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – When the sun set on Saturn’s rings in August 2009, scientists on NASA’s Cassini mission were watching closely. It was the equinox — one of two times in the Saturnian year when the sun illuminates the planet’s enormous ring system edge-on.

The event provided an extraordinary opportunity for the orbiting Cassini spacecraft to observe short-lived changes in the rings that reveal details about their nature.

Like Earth, Saturn is tilted on its axis. Over the course of its 29-year-long orbit, the sun’s rays move from north to south over the planet and its rings, and back again.

The planet Saturn, viewed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during its 2009 equinox. Data on how the rings cooled during this time provide insights about the nature of the ring particles. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

The planet Saturn, viewed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft during its 2009 equinox. Data on how the rings cooled during this time provide insights about the nature of the ring particles. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA conceives Comet Hitchhiker spacecraft for exploring Asteroids and Comets

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Catching a ride from one solar system body to another isn’t easy. You have to figure out how to land your spacecraft safely and then get it on its way to the next destination. The landing part is especially tricky for asteroids and comets, which have low gravitational pull.

A concept called Comet Hitchhiker, developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, puts forth a new way to get into orbit and land on comets and asteroids, using the kinetic energy — the energy of motion — of these small bodies. Masahiro Ono, the principal investigator based at JPL, had “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” in mind when dreaming up the idea.

This artist concept shows Comet Hitchhiker, an idea for traveling between asteroids and comets using a harpoon and tether system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornelius Dammrich)

This artist concept shows Comet Hitchhiker, an idea for traveling between asteroids and comets using a harpoon and tether system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornelius Dammrich)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovers two Black Holes powering nearby Quasar

 

Written by Robert Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have found that Markarian 231 (Mrk 231), the nearest galaxy to Earth that hosts a quasar, is powered by two central black holes furiously whirling about each other.

The finding suggests that quasars—the brilliant cores of active galaxies – may commonly host two central supermassive black holes, which fall into orbit about one another as a result of the merger between two galaxies.

This artistic illustration is of a binary black hole found in the center of the nearest quasar to Earth, Markarian 231. (NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI))

This artistic illustration is of a binary black hole found in the center of the nearest quasar to Earth, Markarian 231.
(NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI))

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures clearest photos yet of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The closest-yet views of Ceres, delivered by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, show the small world’s features in unprecedented detail, including Ceres’ tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures.

“Dawn is performing flawlessly in this new orbit as it conducts its ambitious exploration. The spacecraft’s view is now three times as sharp as in its previous mapping orbit, revealing exciting new details of this intriguing dwarf planet,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA uses Cubesats to advance Radio Science

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Next time you tune in to public radio or the hottest Top 40 radio station, you’ll be using some of the same tools NASA uses to unravel the mysteries of the universe.

Courtney Duncan, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says studying radio waves coming from a known source in space can reveal a great deal about objects in our solar system.

Of course, there is nothing new in that. NASA scientists have been turning the transmissions of their spacecraft’s radio into scientific gold since almost the beginning of the space age. And ground-based astronomers have not been left outside of the radio spectrum looking in.

The Low Mass Radio Science Transponder-Satellite (LMRST-Sat) is about 4 by 4 by 12 inches (10 by 10 by 30 centimeters) in size and weighs as much as a kid's bowling ball (8 pounds or, 4 kilograms). The CubeSat is a collaboration between NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Stanford University's Space and Systems Development Laboratory, Stanford, California. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The Low Mass Radio Science Transponder-Satellite (LMRST-Sat) is about 4 by 4 by 12 inches (10 by 10 by 30 centimeters) in size and weighs as much as a kid’s bowling ball (8 pounds or, 4 kilograms). The CubeSat is a collaboration between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and Stanford University’s Space and Systems Development Laboratory, Stanford, California. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Rosetta spacecraft witnessed outburst from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has been witnessing growing activity from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as the comet approaches perihelion (its closest point to the sun during its orbit). On July 29th, while the spacecraft orbited at a distance of 116 miles (186 kilometers) from the comet, it observed the most dramatic outburst to date.

Early science results collected during the outburst came from several instruments aboard Rosetta, including the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer (DFMS), which uses NASA-built electronics. The DFMS is part of the spacecraft’s Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument.

A short-lived outburst from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was captured by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2015. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

A short-lived outburst from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2015. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

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NASA astronauts to eat Fresh Food grown on International Space Station

 

Written by Linda Herridge
NASA Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationKennedy Space Center, FL – Fresh food grown in the microgravity environment of space officially is on the menu for the first time for NASA astronauts on the International Space Station. Expedition 44 crew members, including NASA’s one-year astronaut Scott Kelly, are ready to sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce Monday, August 10th, from the Veggie plant growth system on the nation’s orbiting laboratory.

The astronauts will clean the leafy greens with citric acid-based, food safe sanitizing wipes before consuming them. They will eat half of the space bounty, setting aside the other half to be packaged and frozen on the station until it can be returned to Earth for scientific analysis.

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NASA’s Dawn mission releases video that gives flyover perspective of dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Striking 3-D detail highlights a towering mountain, the brightest spots and other features on dwarf planet Ceres in a new video from NASA’s Dawn mission.

A prominent mountain with bright streaks on its steep slopes is especially fascinating to scientists. The peak’s shape has been likened to a cone or a pyramid. It appears to be about 4 miles (6 kilometers) high, with respect to the surface around it, according to the latest estimates. This means the mountain has about the same elevation as Mount McKinley in Denali National Park, Alaska, the highest point in North America.

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NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) telescope studies Odd group of Asteroids

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – High above the plane of our solar system, near the asteroid-rich abyss between Mars and Jupiter, scientists have found a unique family of space rocks.

These interplanetary oddballs are the Euphrosyne (pronounced you-FROH-seh-nee) asteroids, and by any measure they have been distant, dark and mysterious — until now.

Distributed at the outer edge of the asteroid belt, the Euphrosynes have an unusual orbital path that juts well above the ecliptic, the equator of the solar system. The asteroid after which they are named, Euphrosyne — for an ancient Greek goddess of mirth — is about 156 miles (260 kilometers) across and is one of the 10 largest asteroids in the main belt.

The asteroid Euphrosyne glides across a field of background stars in this time-lapse view from NASA's WISE spacecraft. (NASA)

The asteroid Euphrosyne glides across a field of background stars in this time-lapse view from NASA’s WISE spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope verifies nearest Planet outside our Solar System

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the discovery of the nearest rocky planet outside our solar system, larger than Earth and a potential gold mine of science data.

Dubbed HD 219134b, this exoplanet, which orbits too close to its star to sustain life, is a mere 21 light-years away. While the planet itself can’t be seen directly, even by telescopes, the star it orbits is visible to the naked eye in dark skies in the Cassiopeia constellation, near the North Star.

This artist's rendition shows one possible appearance for the planet HD 219134b, the nearest confirmed rocky exoplanet found to date outside our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendition shows one possible appearance for the planet HD 219134b, the nearest confirmed rocky exoplanet found to date outside our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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