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Topic: Orbit

NASA extends Dawn Spacecraft’s mission at Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before at the dwarf planet, which it has been orbiting since March 2015.

The spacecraft will continue at Ceres for the remainder of its science investigation and will remain in a stable orbit indefinitely after its hydrazine fuel runs out.

This artist concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA says there is evidence of Planet Nine in our Solar System

 

Written by Pat Brennan
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It might be lingering bashfully on the icy outer edges of our solar system, hiding in the dark, but subtly pulling strings behind the scenes: stretching out the orbits of distant bodies, perhaps even tilting the entire solar system to one side.

If a planet is there, it’s extremely distant and will stay that way (with no chance — in case you’re wondering — of ever colliding with Earth, or bringing “days of darkness”). It is a possible “Planet Nine” — a world perhaps 10 times the mass of Earth and 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune. The signs so far are indirect, mainly its gravitational footprints, but that adds up to a compelling case nonetheless.

An artist's illustration of a possible ninth planet in our solar system, hovering at the edge of our solar system. Neptune's orbit is shown as a bright ring around the Sun. (ESO/Tom Ruen/nagualdesign)

An artist’s illustration of a possible ninth planet in our solar system, hovering at the edge of our solar system. Neptune’s orbit is shown as a bright ring around the Sun. (ESO/Tom Ruen/nagualdesign)

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NASA’S OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft uses Earth’s Gravity to Slingshot toward Asteroid Bennu

 

Written by Nancy Neal Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s asteroid sample return spacecraft successfully used Earth’s gravity on Friday to slingshot itself on a path toward the asteroid Bennu, for a rendezvous next August.

At 12:52pm EDT on September 22nd, 2017 the OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security – Regolith Explorer) spacecraft came within 10,711 miles (17,237 km) of Antarctica, just south of Cape Horn, Chile, before following a route north over the Pacific Ocean.

This artist's concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft passing by Earth. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/University of Arizona)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft to make Seventh Pass over Jupiter

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno spacecraft will make its seventh science flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops on Friday, September 1st, at 2:49pm PDT (5:49pm EDT and 21:49 UTC).

At the time of perijove (defined as the point in Juno’s orbit when it is closest to the planet’s center), the spacecraft will be about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops.

Juno launched on August 5th, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and arrived in orbit around Jupiter on July 4th, 2016. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops — as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers).

Citizen scientist David Englund created this avant-garde Jovian artwork using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA's Juno spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/David Englund)

Citizen scientist David Englund created this avant-garde Jovian artwork using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/David Englund)

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NASA along with European Space Agency observe how Solar Storms move through Space

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Our Sun is active: Not only does it release a constant stream of material, called the solar wind, but it also lets out occasional bursts of faster-moving material, known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs.

NASA researchers wish to improve our understanding of CMEs and how they move through space because they can interact with the magnetic field around Earth, affecting satellites, interfering with GPS signals, triggering auroras, and — in extreme cases — straining power grids.

While we track CMEs with a number of instruments, the sheer size of the solar system means that our observations are limited, and usually taken from a distance.

ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory observed a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun on Oct. 14, 2014. Scientists went on to track this coronal mass ejection through the solar system using 10 NASA and ESA spacecraft. (The bright light appearing at roughly 2 o'clock is the planet Mercury.) (ESA/NASA/SOHO)

ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory observed a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun on Oct. 14, 2014. Scientists went on to track this coronal mass ejection through the solar system using 10 NASA and ESA spacecraft. (The bright light appearing at roughly 2 o’clock is the planet Mercury.) (ESA/NASA/SOHO)

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NASA looks at studying Venus using CubeSats

 

Written by Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Venus looks bland and featureless in visible light, but change the filter to ultraviolet, and Earth’s twin suddenly looks like a different planet. Dark and light areas stripe the sphere, indicating that something is absorbing ultraviolet wavelengths in the planet’s cloud tops.

A team of scientists and engineers working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has received funding from the agency’s Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies, or PSDS3, program to advance a CubeSat mission concept revealing the nature of this mysterious absorber situated within the planet’s uppermost cloud layer.

As seen in the ultraviolet, Venus is striped by light and dark areas indicating that an unknown absorber is operating in the planet’s top cloud layer. The image was taken by NASA’s Pioneer-Venus Orbiter in 1979. (NASA)

As seen in the ultraviolet, Venus is striped by light and dark areas indicating that an unknown absorber is operating in the planet’s top cloud layer. The image was taken by NASA’s Pioneer-Venus Orbiter in 1979. (NASA)

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NASA looks into Tethering Two CubeSats to study Swirl Patterns on the Moon

 

Written by Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A novel mission concept involving two CubeSats connected by a thin, miles-long tether could help scientists understand how the Moon got its mysterious “tattoos” — swirling patterns of light and dark found at more than 100 locations across the lunar surface.

NASA’s Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies, or PSDS3, program recently selected a team at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, to further develop a mission concept called the Bi-sat Observations of the Lunar Atmosphere above Swirls, or BOLAS. The study, led by Goddard Principal Investigator Timothy Stubbs, could lead to the first tethered planetary CubeSat mission, Stubbs said.

This artist’s drawing shows how two CubeSats, connected by a miles-long tether, would gather measurements on the moon. (NASA)

This artist’s drawing shows how two CubeSats, connected by a miles-long tether, would gather measurements on the moon. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft to start last five orbits around Saturn

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will enter new territory in its final mission phase, the Grand Finale, as it prepares to embark on a set of ultra-close passes through Saturn’s upper atmosphere with its final five orbits around the planet.

Cassini will make the first of these five passes over Saturn at 9:22pm PDT Sunday, August 13th (12:22am EDT Monday, August 14th). The spacecraft’s point of closest approach to Saturn during these passes will be between about 1,010 and 1,060 miles (1,630 and 1,710 kilometers) above Saturn’s cloud tops.

This artist's rendering shows Cassini as the spacecraft makes one of its final five dives through Saturn's upper atmosphere in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows Cassini as the spacecraft makes one of its final five dives through Saturn’s upper atmosphere in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Voyager Spacecrafts continue exploration after 40 Years

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau / Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and September. Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.

Their story has not only impacted generations of current and future scientists and engineers, but also Earth’s culture, including film, art and music. Each spacecraft carries a Golden Record of Earth sounds, pictures and messages. Since the spacecraft could last billions of years, these circular time capsules could one day be the only traces of human civilization.

An artist concept depicting one of the twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist concept depicting one of the twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA to use Asteroid Flyby to test Planetary Defense Network

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA scientists are excited about the upcoming close flyby of a small asteroid and plan to use its upcoming October close approach to Earth as an opportunity not only for science, but to test NASA’s network of observatories and scientists who work with planetary defense.

The target of all this attention is asteroid 2012 TC4 — a small asteroid estimated to be between 30 and 100 feet (10 and 30 meters) in size. On October 12th, TC4 will safely fly past Earth. Even though scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from the surface of Earth. The asteroid has been out of range of telescopes since 2012.

This animation depicts the safe flyby of asteroid 2012 TC4 as it passes under Earth on Oct. 12, 2017. While scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth's surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This animation depicts the safe flyby of asteroid 2012 TC4 as it passes under Earth on Oct. 12, 2017. While scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close it will approach, they are certain it will come no closer than 4,200 miles (6,800 kilometers) from Earth’s surface. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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