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Topic: Orbit

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft begins Campaign 18 observing Clusters of Stars

 

NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationSilicon Valley, CA – NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft began the 18th observing campaign of its extended mission, K2, on May 12th, 2018. For the next 82 days, Kepler will stare at clusters of stars, faraway galaxies, and a handful of solar system objects, including comets, objects beyond Neptune, and an asteroid. The Kepler spacecraft is expected to run out of fuel within several months.

Campaign 18 is a familiar patch of space, as it’s approximately the same region of sky that Kepler observed during Campaign 5 in 2015. One of the advantages of observing a field over again is that planets outside the solar system, called exoplanets, may be found orbiting farther from their stars. Astronomers hope to not only discover new exoplanets during this campaign, but also to confirm candidates that were previously identified.

NASA's Kepler spacecraft campaign. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Ann Marie Cody)

NASA’s Kepler spacecraft campaign. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Ann Marie Cody)

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NASA discovers X-ray Pulsar with fastest Orbit ever recorded

 

Written by Jeanette Kazmierczak
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Scientists analyzing the first data from the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) mission have found two stars that revolve around each other every 38 minutes — about the time it takes to stream a TV drama.

One of the stars in the system, called IGR J17062–6143 (J17062 for short), is a rapidly spinning, superdense star called a pulsar. The discovery bestows the stellar pair with the record for the shortest-known orbital period for a certain class of pulsar binary system.

The data from NICER also show J17062’s stars are only about 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) apart, less than the distance between Earth and the Moon.

The stars of IGR J17062–6143, illustrated here, circle each other every 38 minutes, the fastest-known orbit for a binary system containing an accreting millisecond X-ray pulsar. As they revolve, a superdense pulsar pulls gas from a lightweight white dwarf. The two stars are so close they would fit between Earth and the Moon. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

The stars of IGR J17062–6143, illustrated here, circle each other every 38 minutes, the fastest-known orbit for a binary system containing an accreting millisecond X-ray pulsar. As they revolve, a superdense pulsar pulls gas from a lightweight white dwarf. The two stars are so close they would fit between Earth and the Moon. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA answers the question, “What is an ‘Exoplanet?”

 

Written by Calla Cofield
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Step outside on a clear night, and you can be sure of something our ancestors could only imagine: Every star you see likely plays host to at least one planet.

The worlds orbiting other stars are called “exoplanets,” and they come in a wide variety of sizes, from gas giants larger than Jupiter to small, rocky planets about as big around as Earth or Mars. They can be hot enough to boil metal or locked in deep freeze. They can orbit their stars so tightly that a “year” lasts only a few days; they can orbit two suns at once. Some exoplanets are sunless rogues, wandering through the galaxy in permanent darkness.

The Milky Way, our own galaxy, stretches across the sky above the La Silla telescope in Chile. Hidden inside our own galaxy are trillions of planets, most waiting to be found. (ESO/S. Brunier)

The Milky Way, our own galaxy, stretches across the sky above the La Silla telescope in Chile. Hidden inside our own galaxy are trillions of planets, most waiting to be found. (ESO/S. Brunier)

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NASA’s ASTERIA CubeSat delivers Big

 

Written by Calla Cofield
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The ASTERIA satellite, which was deployed into low-Earth orbit in November, is only slightly larger than a box of cereal, but it could be used to help astrophysicists study planets orbiting other stars.

Mission managers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, recently announced that ASTERIA has accomplished all of its primary mission objectives, demonstrating that the miniaturized technologies on board can operate in space as expected.

ASTERIA was deployed from the International Space Station on November 20th, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

ASTERIA was deployed from the International Space Station on November 20th, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite to look for undiscovered Planets

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is undergoing final preparations in Florida for its April 16th launch to find undiscovered worlds around nearby stars, providing targets where future studies will assess their capacity to harbor life.

“One of the biggest questions in exoplanet exploration is: If an astronomer finds a planet in a star’s habitable zone, will it be interesting from a biologist’s point of view?” said George Ricker, TESS principal investigator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research in Cambridge, which is leading the mission. “We expect TESS will discover a number of planets whose atmospheric compositions, which hold potential clues to the presence of life, could be precisely measured by future observers.”

Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. TESS will identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation. (NASA/GSFC)

Illustration of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) in front of a lava planet orbiting its host star. TESS will identify thousands of potential new planets for further study and observation. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA’s Kepler Mission to end when Spacecraft runs out of Fuel

 

Written by Charlie Sobeck
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope mission

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationSilicon Valley, CA – Trailing Earth’s orbit at 94 million miles away, the Kepler space telescope has survived many potential knock-outs during its nine years in flight, from mechanical failures to being blasted by cosmic rays.

At this rate, the hardy spacecraft may reach its finish line in a manner we will consider a wonderful success. With nary a gas station to be found in deep space, the spacecraft is going to run out of fuel. We expect to reach that moment within several months.

In 2013, Kepler’s primary mission ended when a second reaction wheel broke, rendering it unable to hold its gaze steady at the original field of view.

NASA's Kepler Spacecraft

NASA’s Kepler Spacecraft

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter puts itself into Standby Mode

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission Status Report

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), at Mars since 2006, put itself into a precautionary standby mode on February 15th in response to sensing an unexpectedly low battery voltage.

The orbiter is solar-powered but relies on a pair of nickel-hydrogen batteries during periods when it is in the shadow of Mars for a portion of each orbit. The two are used together, maintaining almost identical charge during normal operations.

Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s mission extended

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has begun extra stargazing to help the space agency accomplish advances in Mars exploration over the next decade.

The spacecraft already has worked more than double its planned mission life since launch in 2005. NASA plans to keep using it past the mid-2020s. Increased reliance on a star tracker, and less on aging gyroscopes, is one way the mission is adapting to extend its longevity. Another step is wringing more useful life from batteries. The mission’s extended service provides data relay from assets on Mars’ surface and observations with its science instruments, despite some degradation in capabilities.

Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

Artist concept of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover closely examines Tiny Crystal Bumps in bedrock on Mars

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Star-shaped and swallowtail-shaped tiny, dark bumps in fine-layered bright bedrock of a Martian ridge are drawing close inspection by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover.

This set of shapes looks familiar to geologists who have studied gypsum crystals formed in drying lakes on Earth, but Curiosity’s science team is considering multiple possibilities for the origin of these features on “Vera Rubin Ridge” on Mars.

One uncertainty the rover’s inspection may resolve is the timing of when the crystal-shaped features formed, relative to when layers of sediment accumulated around them.

This exposure of finely laminated bedrock on Mars includes tiny crystal-shaped bumps, plus mineral veins with both bright and dark material. This rock target, called "Jura," was imaged by the MAHLI camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Jan. 4, 2018, during Sol 1925 of the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This exposure of finely laminated bedrock on Mars includes tiny crystal-shaped bumps, plus mineral veins with both bright and dark material. This rock target, called “Jura,” was imaged by the MAHLI camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover on Jan. 4, 2018, during Sol 1925 of the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA looks back at 60 Years of Space Science

 

Written by Samson Reiny
​NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On the evening of Friday, January 31st, 1958, Americans eagerly waited for news as the rocket carrying the Explorer 1 satellite was prepped for launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The stakes were high.

Just months earlier, the Soviet Union successfully launched two Sputnik satellites, in October and November 1957. That December, news media were invited to witness the launch of a U.S. satellite on a Navy Vanguard rocket, but it exploded seconds after liftoff. The pressure was on the Army Ballistic Missile Agency’s Jupiter-C rocket, the satellite built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the science instruments developed at the University of Iowa to succeed.

After two days of weather delays, on Jan. 31st, 1958, at 9:48pm CST, the Jupiter-C rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, successfully into orbit. University of Iowa physicist James Van Allen’s instrument for measuring cosmic rays, a Geiger counter, helped make the first major scientific find of the Space Age: a belt of radiation around Earth that would later be named in his honor. (NASA)

After two days of weather delays, on Jan. 31st, 1958, at 9:48pm CST, the Jupiter-C rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying Explorer 1, the first U.S. satellite, successfully into orbit. University of Iowa physicist James Van Allen’s instrument for measuring cosmic rays, a Geiger counter, helped make the first major scientific find of the Space Age: a belt of radiation around Earth that would later be named in his honor. (NASA)

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