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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’s Psyche Mission utilizes Photons to increase Space Communications Performance and Efficiency

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A spacecraft destined to explore a unique asteroid will also test new communication hardware that uses lasers instead of radio waves.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package aboard NASA’s Psyche mission utilizes photons — the fundamental particle of visible light — to transmit more data in a given amount of time. The DSOC goal is to increase spacecraft communications performance and efficiency by 10 to 100 times over conventional means, all without increasing the mission burden in mass, volume, power and/or spectrum.

Artist's concept of the Psyche spacecraft, which will conduct a direct exploration of an asteroid thought to be a stripped planetary core. (SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of the Psyche spacecraft, which will conduct a direct exploration of an asteroid thought to be a stripped planetary core. (SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA releases new findings from Cassini Spacecraft’s observations of Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ended its journey on September 15th, 2017 with an intentional plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, but analysis continues on the mountain of data the spacecraft sent during its long life.

Some of the Cassini team’s freshest insights were presented during a news conference today at the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Science meeting in Provo, Utah.

Cassini obtained this panoramic view of Saturn's rings on Sept. 9, 2017, just minutes after it passed through the ring plane. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini obtained this panoramic view of Saturn’s rings on Sept. 9, 2017, just minutes after it passed through the ring plane. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA detects Gravitational Waves from Two merging Neutron Stars

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – For the first time, NASA scientists have detected light tied to a gravitational-wave event, thanks to two merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993, located about 130 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra.

Shortly after 5:41am PDT (8:41am EDT) on August 17th, 2017, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a pulse of high-energy light from a powerful explosion, which was immediately reported to astronomers around the globe as a short gamma-ray burst. The scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves dubbed GW170817 from a pair of smashing stars tied to the gamma-ray burst, encouraging astronomers to look for the aftermath of the explosion.

An artist's impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. (R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

An artist’s impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. (R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

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NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite data reveals reasons for Earth’s Carbon Dioxide Rise

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A new NASA study provides space-based evidence that Earth’s tropical regions were the cause of the largest annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration seen in at least 2,000 years.

Scientists suspected the 2015-16 El Nino — one of the largest on record — was responsible, but exactly how has been a subject of ongoing research. Analyzing the first 28 months of data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, researchers conclude impacts of El Nino-related heat and drought occurring in tropical regions of South America, Africa and Indonesia were responsible for the record spike in global carbon dioxide.

The last El Nino in 2015-16 impacted the amount of carbon dioxide that Earth's tropical regions released into the atmosphere, leading to Earth's recent record spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The effects of the El Nino were different in each region. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

The last El Nino in 2015-16 impacted the amount of carbon dioxide that Earth’s tropical regions released into the atmosphere, leading to Earth’s recent record spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The effects of the El Nino were different in each region. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

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NASA reports Stars with Disk of Debris are more likely to have Giant Exoplanets

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – There’s no map showing all the billions of exoplanets hiding in our galaxy — they’re so distant and faint compared to their stars, it’s hard to find them. Now, astronomers hunting for new worlds have established a possible signpost for giant exoplanets.

A new study finds that giant exoplanets that orbit far from their stars are more likely to be found around young stars that have a disk of dust and debris than those without disks. The study, published in The Astronomical Journal, focused on planets more than five times the mass of Jupiter. This study is the largest to date of stars with dusty debris disks, and has found the best evidence yet that giant planets are responsible for keeping that material in check.

This artist's rendering shows a large exoplanet causing small bodies to collide in a disk of dust. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows a large exoplanet causing small bodies to collide in a disk of dust. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA looks back at Cassini spacecraft’s dive into Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its fateful dive into the upper atmosphere of Saturn on September 15th, 2017, the spacecraft was live-streaming data from eight of its science instruments, along with readings from a variety of engineering systems.

While analysis of science data from the final plunge will take some time, Cassini engineers already have a pretty clear understanding of how the spacecraft itself behaved as it went in.

The data are useful for evaluating models of Saturn’s atmosphere the team used to predict the spacecraft’s behavior at mission’s end, and they help provide a baseline for planning future missions to Saturn.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown during its Sept. 15, 2017, plunge into Saturn's atmosphere in this artist's depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown during its Sept. 15, 2017, plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere in this artist’s depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports small Asteroid to pass close but safely past Earth

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On October 12th EDT (October 11th PDT), a small asteroid designated 2012 TC4 will safely pass by Earth at a distance of approximately 26,000 miles (42,000 kilometers). This is a little over one tenth the distance to the Moon and just above the orbital altitude of communications satellites.

This encounter with TC4 is being used by asteroid trackers around the world to test their ability to operate as a coordinated international asteroid warning network.

2012 TC4 is estimated to be 50 to 100 feet (15 to 30 meters) in size. Orbit prediction experts say the asteroid poses no risk of impact with Earth.

This image depicts the safe flyby of small asteroid 2012 TC4 as it passes under Earth on Oct. 12, 2017. While scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close the 50 to 100 foot (15 to 30 meter) wide space rock 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 image depicts the safe flyby of small asteroid 2012 TC4 as it passes under Earth on Oct. 12, 2017. While scientists cannot yet predict exactly how close the 50 to 100 foot (15 to 30 meter) wide space rock 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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NASA study shows Boyajian Star’s dimness could be caused by Dust

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One of the most mysterious stellar objects may be revealing some of its secrets at last.

Called KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian’s Star, or Tabby’s Star, the object has experienced unusual dips in brightness — NASA’s Kepler space telescope even observed dimming of up to 20 percent over a matter of days. In addition, the star has had much subtler but longer-term enigmatic dimming trends, with one continuing today. None of this behavior is expected for normal stars slightly more massive than the Sun.

This illustration depicts a hypothetical uneven ring of dust orbiting KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian's Star or Tabby's Star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts a hypothetical uneven ring of dust orbiting KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian’s Star or Tabby’s Star. (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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