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NASA reports Mars Opportunity Rover to perform flash memory reformat

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover’s flash memory.

The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover’s planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses.

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity captured this view southward just after completing a 338-foot (103-meter) southward drive, in reverse, on Aug. 10, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity captured this view southward just after completing a 338-foot (103-meter) southward drive, in reverse, on Aug. 10, 2014. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope observes Asteroids circling a Young Star collide

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has spotted an eruption of dust around a young star, possibly the result of a smashup between large asteroids. This type of collision can eventually lead to the formation of planets.

Scientists had been regularly tracking the star, called NGC 2547-ID8, when it surged with a huge amount of fresh dust between August 2012 and January 2013.

“We think two big asteroids crashed into each other, creating a huge cloud of grains the size of very fine sand, which are now smashing themselves into smithereens and slowly leaking away from the star,” said lead author and graduate student Huan Meng of the University of Arizona, Tucson.

This artist's concept shows the immediate aftermath of a large asteroid impact around NGC 2547-ID8, a 35-million-year-old sun-like star thought to be forming rocky planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows the immediate aftermath of a large asteroid impact around NGC 2547-ID8, a 35-million-year-old sun-like star thought to be forming rocky planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA says Rosetta Mission has selected Comet Landing Sites for Philae Lander

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission has chosen five candidate landing sites on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for its Philae lander. Philae’s descent to the comet’s nucleus, scheduled for this November, will be the first such landing ever attempted.

“This is the first time landing sites on a comet have been considered,” said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the German Aerospace Center, Cologne, Germany. “The candidate sites that we want to follow up for further analysis are thought to be technically feasible on the basis of a preliminary analysis of flight dynamics and other key issues – for example, they all provide at least six hours of daylight per comet rotation and offer some flat terrain. Of course, every site has the potential for unique scientific discoveries.”

This annotated image depicts four of the five potential landing sites for Rosetta's Philae lander. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM)

This annotated image depicts four of the five potential landing sites for Rosetta’s Philae lander. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM)

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NASA reports Snow Cover on Sea Ice in the Arctic has thinned significantly in last 50 years

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New research led by NASA and the University of Washington, Seattle, confirms that springtime snow on sea ice in the Arctic has thinned significantly in the last 50 years, by about a third in the Western Hemisphere and by half near Alaska.

The new study, published this month in the Journal of Geophysical Research, tracks changes in snow depth over decades. It combines data from NASA’s Bromide, Ozone, and Mercury Experiment (BROMEX) field campaign, NASA’s Operation IceBridge flights, and instrumented buoys and ice floes staffed by Soviet scientists from the 1950s through the 1990s.

Matthew Sturm of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a co-author of this study, takes a snow measurement on sea ice in the Beaufort Sea in March 2012 during the BROMEX field campaign. (U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory)

Matthew Sturm of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a co-author of this study, takes a snow measurement on sea ice in the Beaufort Sea in March 2012 during the BROMEX field campaign. (U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory)

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NASA reports Mars Curiosity rover will not drill rock “Bonanza King” because of instablity

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Evaluation of a pale, flat Martian rock as the potential next drilling target for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover determined that the rock was not stable enough for safe drilling.

The rock, called “Bonanza King,” moved slightly during the mini-drill activity on Wednesday, at an early stage of this test, when the percussion drill impacted the rock a few times to make an indentation.

This image from the front Hazcam on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the rover's drill in place during a test of whether the rock beneath it, "Bonanza King," would be an acceptable target for drilling to collect a sample. Subsequent analysis showed the rock budged during the Aug. 19, 2014, test. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This image from the front Hazcam on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the rover’s drill in place during a test of whether the rock beneath it, “Bonanza King,” would be an acceptable target for drilling to collect a sample. Subsequent analysis showed the rock budged during the Aug. 19, 2014, test. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft’s restored footage gives Detailed Map of Nepture’s Moon Triton

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau/Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first close-up look at Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Like an old film, Voyager’s historic footage of Triton has been “restored” and used to construct the best-ever global color map of that strange moon.

The map, produced by Paul Schenk, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, has also been used to make a movie recreating that historic Voyager encounter, which took place 25 years ago, on August 25th, 1989.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Triton, a moon of Neptune, in the summer of 1989. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lunar & Planetary Institute)

The Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Triton, a moon of Neptune, in the summer of 1989. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lunar & Planetary Institute)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite to help Farmers manage Drought conditions

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – About 60 percent of California is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most dire classification. The agency issued the same warning to Texas and the southeastern United States in 2012. California’s last two winters have been among the driest since records began in 1879. Without enough water in the soil, seeds can’t sprout roots, leaves can’t perform photosynthesis, and agriculture can’t be sustained.

Currently, there is no ground- or satellite-based global network monitoring soil moisture at a local level. Farmers, scientists and resource managers can place sensors in the ground, but these only provide spot measurements and are rare across some critical agricultural areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

For several months, California has been in a state of "exceptional drought." The state's usually verdant Central Valley produces one-sixth of the U.S.'s crops. (White House via Wikimedia Commons)

For several months, California has been in a state of “exceptional drought.” The state’s usually verdant Central Valley produces one-sixth of the U.S.’s crops. (White House via Wikimedia Commons)

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NASA’s Stardust spacecraft may have discovered first samples of Interstellar Dust

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Seven rare, microscopic interstellar dust particles that date to the beginnings of the solar system are among the samples collected by scientists who have been studying the payload from NASA’s Stardust spacecraft since its return to Earth in 2006.

If confirmed, these particles would be the first samples of contemporary interstellar dust.

A team of scientists has been combing through the spacecraft’s aerogel and aluminum foil dust collectors since Stardust returned in 2006.

The largest interstellar dust track found in the Stardust aerogel collectors was this 35 micron-long hole produced by a 3 picogram mote that was probably traveling so fast that it vaporized upon impact. The other two likely interstellar dust grains were traveling more slowly and remained intact after a soft landing in the aerogel. (Andrew Westphal, UC Berkeley)

The largest interstellar dust track found in the Stardust aerogel collectors was this 35 micron-long hole produced by a 3 picogram mote that was probably traveling so fast that it vaporized upon impact. The other two likely interstellar dust grains were traveling more slowly and remained intact after a soft landing in the aerogel. (Andrew Westphal, UC Berkeley)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover gets ready to drill it’s fourth rock on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The team operating NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has chosen a rock that looks like a pale paving stone as the mission’s fourth drilling target, if it passes engineers’ evaluation.

They call it “Bonanza King.”

It is not at the “Pahrump Hills” site the team anticipated the rover might reach by mid-August. Unexpected challenges while driving in sand prompted the mission to reverse course last week after entering a valley where ripples of sand fill the floor and extend onto sloping margins.

In this image from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover looking up the ramp at the northeastern end of "Hidden Valley," a pale outcrop including drilling target "Bonanza King" is at the center of the scene. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In this image from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover looking up the ramp at the northeastern end of “Hidden Valley,” a pale outcrop including drilling target “Bonanza King” is at the center of the scene. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Rosetta Spacecraft takes new image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko showing surface details

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new image of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows the diversity of surface structures on the comet’s nucleus.

It was taken by the Rosetta spacecraft’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on August 7th, 2014. At the time, the spacecraft was 65 miles (104 kilometers) away from the 2.5-mile-wide (4-kilometer) nucleus.

In the image, the comet’s head (in the top half of the image) exhibits parallel linear features that resemble cliffs, and its neck displays scattered boulders on a relatively smooth, slumping surface.

Image of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows the diversity of surface structures on the comet's nucleus. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

Image of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko shows the diversity of surface structures on the comet’s nucleus. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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