Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, 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.
Written by Brian Wallheimer
Washington, 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.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Finding derelict spacecraft and space debris in Earth’s orbit can be a technological challenge. Detecting these objects in orbit around Earth’s moon is even more difficult. Optical telescopes are unable to search for small objects hidden in the bright glare of the moon.
However, a new technological application of interplanetary radar pioneered by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has successfully located spacecraft orbiting the moon — one active, and one dormant. This new technique could assist planners of future moon missions.
Written by Michele Johnson
Washington, D.C. – On February 22nd, astronomers announced that the ultra-cool dwarf star, TRAPPIST-1, hosts a total of seven Earth-size planets that are likely rocky, a discovery made by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope in combination with ground-based telescopes.
NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope also has been observing this star since December 2016. Today these additional data about TRAPPIST-1 from Kepler are available to the scientific community.
Written by Laura Betz
Greenbelt, MD – With the discovery of seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star 40 light years away, astronomers are looking to the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to help us find out if any of these planets could possibly support life.
“If these planets have atmospheres, the James Webb Space Telescope will be the key to unlocking their secrets,” said Doug Hudgins, Exoplanet Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “In the meantime, NASA’s missions like Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler are following up on these planets.”
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – A bumper crop of Earth-size planets huddled around an ultra-cool, red dwarf star could be little more than chunks of rock blasted by radiation, or cloud-covered worlds as broiling hot as Venus.
Or they could harbor exotic lifeforms, thriving under skies of ruddy twilight.
Scientists are pondering the possibilities after this week’s announcement: the discovery of seven worlds orbiting a small, cool star some 40 light-years away, all of them in the ballpark of our home planet in terms of their heft (mass) and size (diameter). Three of the planets reside in the “habitable zone” around their star, TRAPPIST-1, where calculations suggest that conditions might be right for liquid water to exist on their surfaces—though follow-up observations are needed to be sure.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – A mission to examine the habitability of Jupiter’s ocean-bearing moon Europa is taking one step closer to the launchpad, with the recent completion of a major NASA review.
On February 15th, NASA’s Europa multiple-flyby mission successfully completed its Key Decision Point-B review. This NASA decision permits the mission to move forward into its preliminary design phase, known as “Phase B,” beginning on February 27th.
A highlight of Phase A was the selection and accommodation of 10 instruments being developed to study the scientific mysteries of Europa.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, which has been in orbit around the gas giant since July 4, 2016, will remain in its current 53-day orbit for the remainder of the mission. This will allow Juno to accomplish its science goals, while avoiding the risk of a previously-planned engine firing that would have reduced the spacecraft’s orbital period to 14 days.
“Juno is healthy, its science instruments are fully operational, and the data and images we’ve received are nothing short of amazing,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The decision to forego the burn is the right thing to do — preserving a valuable asset so that Juno can continue its exciting journey of discovery.”
Washington, D.C. – As Super Bowl LI in Houston Texas approaches and players, coaches and a host of personnel behind the scenes prepare for the big game in Space City, NASA remains on the cutting edge of human space exploration, setting its sights on the journey to Mars.
A football player’s journey to the end zone, though, has a lot more in common to space exploration than one might think.
Here are five similarities.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno spacecraft will make its fourth flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops on Thursday, February 2nd, at 4:57am PST (7:57am EST, 12:57 UTC).
At the time of closest approach (called perijove), Juno will be about 2,670 miles (4,300 kilometers) above the planet’s cloud tops and traveling at a speed of about 129,000 mph (57.8 kilometers per second) relative to the gas giant. All of Juno’s eight science instruments, including the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument, will be on and collecting data during the flyby.
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