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Topic: Orbit

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes closest images yet of Bright Spots on Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn mission captured a sequence of images, taken for navigation purposes, of dwarf planet Ceres on May 16th, 2015. The image showcases the group of the brightest spots on Ceres, which continue to mystify scientists. It was taken from a distance of 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) and has a resolution of 2,250 feet (700 meters) per pixel.

“Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,” Christopher Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission from the University of California, Los Angeles, said recently.

This image of Ceres is part of a sequence taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on May 16, 2015, from a distance of 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This image of Ceres is part of a sequence taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 16, 2015, from a distance of 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA reports International Space Station uses OPALS instrument to further laser communications research

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ever wonder why stars seem to twinkle? This effect is caused by variations in the density of our atmosphere that cause blurring in light coming from space. It’s pretty for stargazing, but a challenge for space-to-ground communications.

A key technology called adaptive optics corrects such distortions. By combining adaptive optics with a laser communications technology aboard the International Space Station, NASA is working toward advances in space communications that could have major benefits for our data transmission needs here on Earth as well.

This artist's rendition shows OPALS operating from the International Space Station. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendition shows OPALS operating from the International Space Station. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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After 6 years, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found over 1,000 planets and counting

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside our solar system on May 12th, 2009. From the trove of data collected, we have learned that planets are common, that most sun-like stars have at least one planet and that nature makes planets with unimaginable diversity.

Kepler launched on March 6th, 2009. Its mission was to survey a portion of our galaxy to determine what fraction of stars might harbor potentially habitable, Earth-sized exoplanets, or planets that orbit other stars.

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2's first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2’s first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA reports Asteroid to pass by Earth at a distance Thursday, May 14th

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An asteroid, designated 1999 FN53, will safely pass more than 26 times the distance of Earth to the moon on May 14th. To put it another way, at its closest point, the asteroid will get no closer than 6.3 million miles away (10 million kilometers).

It will not get closer than that for well over 100 years. And even then, (119 years from now) it will be so far away it will not affect our planet in any way, shape or form. 1999 FN53 is approximately 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) across.

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 1999 FN53, which will come no closer than 26 times the distance from Earth to the moon on May 14, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 1999 FN53, which will come no closer than 26 times the distance from Earth to the moon on May 14, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA monitors increased Traffic orbiting Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has beefed up a process of traffic monitoring, communication and maneuver planning to ensure that Mars orbiters do not approach each other too closely.

Last year’s addition of two new spacecraft orbiting Mars brought the census of active Mars orbiters to five, the most ever. NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) and India’s Mars Orbiter Mission joined the 2003 Mars Express from ESA (the European Space Agency) and two from NASA: the 2001 Mars Odyssey and the 2006 Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

This graphic depicts the relative shapes and distances from Mars for five active orbiter missions plus the planet's two natural satellites. It illustrates the potential for intersections of the spacecraft orbits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic depicts the relative shapes and distances from Mars for five active orbiter missions plus the planet’s two natural satellites. It illustrates the potential for intersections of the spacecraft orbits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s MESSENGER Spacecraft ends mission, crashes into Mercury

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, have confirmed that MESSENGER slammed into the surface of Mercury on April 30th at 3:26pm EDT.

It had used the last of its propellant on April 24th and could no longer maintain a stable orbit. Traveling some 8,750 mph, the plummeting spacecraft made an unseen crater on the side of the planet facing away from Earth.

The colors of the solar system's innermost planet are enhanced in this tantalizing view, based on global image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. (NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington)

The colors of the solar system’s innermost planet are enhanced in this tantalizing view, based on global image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. (NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington)

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NASA developing Deep Space Atomic Clock to aid Space Exploration

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As the saying goes, timing is everything. More so in 21st-century space exploration where navigating spacecraft precisely to far-flung destinations — say, to Mars or even more distant Europa, a moon of Jupiter — is critical.

NASA is making great strides to develop the Deep Space Atomic Clock, or DSAC for short.

The clock is being readied to fly and validate a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock that is orders of magnitude more stable than today’s best navigational clocks.

Work is progressing on the Deep Space Atomic Clock, a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock that is far more stable than today's best navigation clocks. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Work is progressing on the Deep Space Atomic Clock, a miniaturized, ultra-precise mercury-ion atomic clock that is far more stable than today’s best navigation clocks. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s RapidScat on International Space Station gathering data on Tropical Cyclones

 

Written by Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The ISS-RapidScat instrument has been in orbit seven months, and forecasters are already finding this new eye-in-the-sky helpful as they keep watch on major storms around the globe.

RapidScat measures Earth’s ocean surface wind speed and direction over open waters. The instrument’s data on ocean winds provide essential measurements for researchers and scientists to use in weather predictions, including hurricane monitoring.

On Jan. 28, 2015 from 2:41 to 4:14 UTC, ISS-RapidScat saw the nor'easter's strongest sustained winds (red) between 56 and 67 mph (25 to 30 mps/90 to 108 kph) just off-shore from eastern Cape Cod. (NASA JPL/Doug Tyler)

On Jan. 28, 2015 from 2:41 to 4:14 UTC, ISS-RapidScat saw the nor’easter’s strongest sustained winds (red) between 56 and 67 mph (25 to 30 mps/90 to 108 kph) just off-shore from eastern Cape Cod. (NASA JPL/Doug Tyler)

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NASA says Space Telescopes may use Glitter Clouds to find new Worlds in the future

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – What does glitter have to do with finding stars and planets outside our solar system? Space telescopes may one day make use of glitter-like materials to help take images of new worlds, according to researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Standard telescopes use solid mirrors to image far-away objects. But the large, complex mirrors needed for astronomy can be quite expensive and difficult to construct. Their size and weight also add to the challenges of launching a space telescope in the first place.

This image shows white light reflected off of a glitter mirror onto a camera sensor. Researchers tested this in a laboratory as part of the concept of "Orbiting Rainbows," a low-cost solution for space telescope mirrors. (G. Swartzlander/Rochester Institute of Technology)

This image shows white light reflected off of a glitter mirror onto a camera sensor. Researchers tested this in a laboratory as part of the concept of “Orbiting Rainbows,” a low-cost solution for space telescope mirrors. (G. Swartzlander/Rochester Institute of Technology)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft takes 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 – The two brightest spots on dwarf planet Ceres, which have fascinated scientists for months, are back in view in the newest images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. Dawn took these images on April 14th and 15th from a vantage point 14,000 miles (22,000 kilometers) above Ceres’ north pole.

The images show the brightest spot and its companion clearly standing out against their darker surroundings, but their composition and sources are still un-known. Scientists also see other interesting features, including heavy cratering. As Dawn gets closer to Ceres, surface features will continue to emerge at in-creasingly better resolution.

This image shows the northern terrain on the sunlit side of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on April 14th and 15th, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This image shows the northern terrain on the sunlit side of dwarf planet Ceres as seen by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on April 14th and 15th, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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