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Topic: Orbit

NASA gives explanation for extra second on June 30th, 2015

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The day was officially a bit longer than usual on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015, because an extra second, or “leap” second, was added.

“Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down a bit, so leap seconds are a way to account for that,” said Daniel MacMillan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Strictly speaking, a day lasts 86,400 seconds. That is the case, according to the time standard that people use in their daily lives – Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. UTC is “atomic time” – the duration of one second is based on extremely predictable electromagnetic transitions in atoms of cesium. These transitions are so reliable that the cesium clock is accurate to one second in 1,400,000 years.

A flower clock is seen in the Jardin Anglais, Geneva, Switzerland. (Claude Meisch/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License)

A flower clock is seen in the Jardin Anglais, Geneva, Switzerland. (Claude Meisch/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope finds Cloud of Hydrogen created by Exoplanet’s evaporating Atmosphere

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered an immense cloud of hydrogen dubbed “The Behemoth” bleeding from a planet orbiting a nearby star. The enormous, comet-like feature is about 50 times the size of the parent star. The hydrogen is evaporating from a warm, Neptune-sized planet, due to extreme radiation from the star.

This phenomenon has never been seen around an exoplanet so small. It may offer clues to how other planets with hydrogen-enveloped atmospheres could have their outer layers evaporated by their parent star, leaving behind solid, rocky cores. Hot, rocky planets such as these that roughly the size of Earth are known as Hot-Super Earths.

This artist's concept shows "The Behemoth," an enormous comet-like cloud of hydrogen bleeding off of a warm, Neptune-sized planet just 30 light-years from Earth. Also depicted is the parent star, which is a faint red dwarf named GJ 436. The hydrogen is evaporating from the planet due to extreme radiation from the star. A phenomenon this large has never before been seen around any exoplanet. (NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI))

This artist’s concept shows “The Behemoth,” an enormous comet-like cloud of hydrogen bleeding off of a warm, Neptune-sized planet just 30 light-years from Earth. Also depicted is the parent star, which is a faint red dwarf named GJ 436. The hydrogen is evaporating from the planet due to extreme radiation from the star. A phenomenon this large has never before been seen around any exoplanet. (NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI))

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft’s latest images of Dwarf Planet Ceres continue to Bewilder

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The closer we get to Ceres, the more intriguing the distant dwarf planet becomes. New images of Ceres from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft provide more clues about its mysterious bright spots, and also reveal a pyramid-shaped peak towering over a relatively flat landscape.

“The surface of Ceres has revealed many interesting and unique features. For example, icy moons in the outer solar system have craters with central pits, but on Ceres central pits in large craters are much more common. These and other features will allow us to understand the inner structure of Ceres that we cannot sense directly,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

A cluster of mysterious bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres can be seen in this image, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on June 9, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

A cluster of mysterious bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres can be seen in this image, taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on June 9, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Microwave Instrument on Rosetta Orbiter creates maps of Comet Water

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Since last September, scientists using NASA’s Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft have generated maps of the distribution of water in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as the comet’s orbit brings it closer to the sun.

MIRO is able to detect water in the coma by measuring the direct emission from water vapor in the coma and by observing absorption of radiation from the nucleus at water-specific frequencies as the radiation passed through the coma.

This image, by the Rosetta navigation camera, was taken from a distance of about 53 miles (86 kilometers) from the center of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on March 14th, 2015. The image has a resolution of 24 feet (7 meters) per pixel and is cropped and processed to bring out the details of the comet's activity. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

This image, by the Rosetta navigation camera, was taken from a distance of about 53 miles (86 kilometers) from the center of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on March 14th, 2015. The image has a resolution of 24 feet (7 meters) per pixel and is cropped and processed to bring out the details of the comet’s activity. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft to complete 60,000th trip around Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft will reach a major milestone June 23rd, when it completes its 60,000th orbit since arriving at the Red Planet in 2001.

Named after the bestselling novel “2001: A Space Odyssey” by Arthur C. Clarke, Odyssey began orbiting Mars almost 14 years ago, on October 23rd, 2001. On December 15th, 2010, it became the longest-operating spacecraft ever sent to Mars, and continues to hold that record today.

Odyssey, which discovered widespread water ice just beneath the surface of the Red Planet, is still going strong today, serving as a key communications relay for NASA’s Mars rovers and making continued contributions to planetary science.

Gale Crater, home to NASA's Curiosity Mars rover, shows a new face in this image made using data from the THEMIS camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter. The colors come from an image processing method that identifies mineral differences in surface materials and displays them in false colors. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University)

Gale Crater, home to NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, shows a new face in this image made using data from the THEMIS camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter. The colors come from an image processing method that identifies mineral differences in surface materials and displays them in false colors. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University)

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NASA’s Mission to Jupiter Moon Europa gets green light

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Beyond Earth, Jupiter’s moon Europa is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for signs of present-day life, and a new NASA mission to explore this potential is moving forward from concept review to development.

NASA’s mission concept — to conduct a detailed survey of Europa and investigate its habitability — has successfully completed its first major review by the agency and now is entering the development phase known as formulation.

Artist concept of NASA's Europa mission spacecraft approaching its target for one of many flybys. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist concept of NASA’s Europa mission spacecraft approaching its target for one of many flybys. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovers Planets with Clouds of Helium

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – They wouldn’t float like balloons or give you the chance to talk in high, squeaky voices, but planets with helium skies may constitute an exotic planetary class in our Milky Way galaxy.

Researchers using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope propose that warm Neptune-size planets with clouds of helium may be strewn about the galaxy by the thousands.

“We don’t have any planets like this in our own solar system,” said Renyu Hu, NASA Hubble Fellow at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and lead author of a new study on the findings accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “But we think planets with helium atmospheres could be common around other stars.”

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures new images of Bright Spots on dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New images of dwarf planet Ceres, taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, show the cratered surface of this mysterious world in sharper detail than ever before. These are among the first snapshots from Dawn’s second mapping orbit, which is 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) above Ceres.

The region with the brightest spots is in a crater about 55 miles (90 kilometers) across. The spots consist of many individual bright points of differing sizes, with a central cluster. So far, scientists have found no obvious explanation for their observed locations or brightness levels.

The brightest spots on dwarf planet Ceres are seen in this image taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on June 6, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

The brightest spots on dwarf planet Ceres are seen in this image taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on June 6, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) completes second test flight, Briefing Tuesday

 

Written by Joshua Buck
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project completed its second flight test when the saucer-shaped craft splashed down safely Monday in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

A post-flight media teleconference will be held at 10:00am PDT (1:00pm EDT / 7:00am HST), Tuesday, June 9th to review the test.

NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle attached to launch tower just prior to take off. (NASA)

NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test vehicle attached to launch tower just prior to take off. (NASA)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveals chaotic wobbling dance of Pluto’s Moons Nix and Hydra

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – If you lived on one of Pluto’s moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Comprehensive analysis of data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows that two of Pluto’s moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.

“Hubble has provided a new view of Pluto and its moons revealing a cosmic dance with a chaotic rhythm,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “When the New Horizons spacecraft flies through the Pluto system in July we’ll get a chance to see what these moons look like up close and personal.”

This illustration shows the scale and comparative brightness of Pluto’s small satellites. The surface craters are for illustration only and do not represent real imaging data. (NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI))

This illustration shows the scale and comparative brightness of Pluto’s small satellites. The surface craters are for illustration only and do not represent real imaging data. (NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI))

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