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NASA’s NuSTAR Spacecraft pinpoints source of intense X-Rays from Andromeda Galaxy

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Milky Way’s close neighbor, Andromeda, features a dominant source of high-energy X-ray emission, but its identity was mysterious until now. As reported in a new study, NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission has pinpointed an object responsible for this high-energy radiation.

The object, called Swift J0042.6+4112, is a possible pulsar, the dense remnant of a dead star that is highly magnetized and spinning, researchers say. This interpretation is based on its emission in high-energy X-rays, which NuSTAR is uniquely capable of measuring. The object’s spectrum is very similar to known pulsars in the Milky Way.

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscope Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has identified a candidate pulsar in Andromeda -- the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way. This likely pulsar is brighter at high energies than the Andromeda galaxy's entire black hole population. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/JHU)

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscope Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has identified a candidate pulsar in Andromeda — the nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way. This likely pulsar is brighter at high energies than the Andromeda galaxy’s entire black hole population. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC/JHU)

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NASA’s Earth Observing 1 spacecraft’s A.I system orders Volcano data collection

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One of our planet’s few exposed lava lakes is changing, and artificial intelligence is helping NASA understand how.

On January 21st, a fissure opened at the top of Ethiopia’s Erta Ale volcano — one of the few in the world with an active lava lake in its caldera. Volcanologists sent out requests for NASA’s Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) spacecraft to image the eruption, which was large enough to begin reshaping the volcano’s summit.

As it turned out, that spacecraft was already busy collecting data of the lava lake.

Artificial intelligence onboard NASA's Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) spacecraft assisted in imaging an eruption at Erta'Ale volcano, Ethiopia, from an altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers). The observation was scheduled autonomously via the Volcano Sensor Web, which was alerted to this new activity by data from another spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/EO-1 Mission/GSFC/Ashley Davies)

Artificial intelligence onboard NASA’s Earth Observing 1 (EO-1) spacecraft assisted in imaging an eruption at Erta’Ale volcano, Ethiopia, from an altitude of 438 miles (705 kilometers). The observation was scheduled autonomously via the Volcano Sensor Web, which was alerted to this new activity by data from another spacecraft. (NASA/JPL/EO-1 Mission/GSFC/Ashley Davies)

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NASA’s Dawn mission reveals Ceres’ Ice in Shadowed Craters related to dwarf planet’s tilt

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Dwarf planet Ceres may be hundreds of millions of miles from Jupiter, and even farther from Saturn, but the tremendous influence of gravity from these gas giants has an appreciable effect on Ceres’ orientation.

In a new study, researchers from NASA’s Dawn mission calculate that the axial tilt of Ceres — the angle at which it spins as it journeys around the sun — varies widely over the course of about 24,500 years. Astronomers consider this to be a surprisingly short period of time for such dramatic deviations.

This animation shows how the illumination of Ceres' northern hemisphere varies with the dwarf planet's axial tilt, or obliquity. Shadowed regions are highlighted for tilts of 2 degrees, 12 degrees and 20 degrees. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This animation shows how the illumination of Ceres’ northern hemisphere varies with the dwarf planet’s axial tilt, or obliquity. Shadowed regions are highlighted for tilts of 2 degrees, 12 degrees and 20 degrees. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA says Rosetta images show active surface on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

A 100 foot-wide (30 meter), 28-million-pound (12.8-million-kilogram) boulder, was found to have moved 460 feet (140 meters) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the lead up to perihelion in August 2015, when the comet's activity was at its highest. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

A 100 foot-wide (30 meter), 28-million-pound (12.8-million-kilogram) boulder, was found to have moved 460 feet (140 meters) on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in the lead up to perihelion in August 2015, when the comet’s activity was at its highest. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has Wheel with Two Tread Breaks

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A routine check of the aluminum wheels on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has found two small breaks on the rover’s left middle wheel-the latest sign of wear and tear as the rover continues its journey, now approaching the 10-mile (16 kilometer) mark.

The mission’s first and second breaks in raised treads, called grousers, appeared in a March 19th image check of the wheels, documenting that these breaks occurred after the last check, on January 27th.

Two of the raised treads, called grousers, on the left middle wheel of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover broke during the first quarter of 2017, including the one seen partially detached at the top of the wheel in this image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover's arm. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

Two of the raised treads, called grousers, on the left middle wheel of NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover broke during the first quarter of 2017, including the one seen partially detached at the top of the wheel in this image from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera on the rover’s arm. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA researchers say Mars may have had Rings

 

Written by Brian Wallheimer
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, 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.

This sequence of images from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows one of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passing directly in front of the other, Deimos, in 2013. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.)

This sequence of images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows one of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, passing directly in front of the other, Deimos, in 2013. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.)

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NASA’s Aqua Satellite discovers Ammonia Hotspots around the World

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The first global, long-term satellite study of airborne ammonia gas has revealed “hotspots” of the pollutant over four of the world’s most productive agricultural regions.

The results of the study, conducted using data from NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite, could inform the development of strategies to control pollution from ammonia and ammonia byproducts in Earth’s agricultural areas.

A University of Maryland-led team discovered steadily increasing ammonia concentrations from 2002 to 2016 over agricultural centers in the United States, Europe, China and India. Increased concentrations of atmospheric ammonia are linked to poor air and water quality.

Global atmospheric ammonia trends measured from space from 2002 to 2016. Hot colors represent increases from a combination of increased fertilizer application, reduced scavenging by acid aerosols and climate warming. Cool colors show decreases due to reduced agricultural burning or fewer wildfires. (Juying Warner/GRL)

Global atmospheric ammonia trends measured from space from 2002 to 2016. Hot colors represent increases from a combination of increased fertilizer application, reduced scavenging by acid aerosols and climate warming. Cool colors show decreases due to reduced agricultural burning or fewer wildfires. (Juying Warner/GRL)

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NASA study shows hydrocarbon seas on Saturn’s moon Titan could bubble with Nitrogen

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A recent NASA-funded study has shown how the hydrocarbon lakes and seas of Saturn’s moon Titan might occasionally erupt with dramatic patches of bubbles.

For the study, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, simulated the frigid surface conditions on Titan, finding that significant amounts of nitrogen can be dissolved in the extremely cold liquid methane that rains from the skies and collects in rivers, lakes and seas.

Cassini captured this mosaic of images showing the northern lakes and seas of Saturn's moon Titan on Feb. 17, 2017. The mission's final close Titan flyby is planned for April 22. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini captured this mosaic of images showing the northern lakes and seas of Saturn’s moon Titan on Feb. 17, 2017. The mission’s final close Titan flyby is planned for April 22. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA Climate Models show that El Niño event could happen later this year

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Some climate models are suggesting that El Niño may return later this year, but for now, the Pacific Ocean lingers in a neutral “La Nada” state, according to climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

The latest map of sea level height data from the U.S./European Jason-3 satellite mission shows most of the ocean at neutral heights (green), except for a bulge of high sea level (red) centered along 20 degrees north latitude in the central and eastern Northern Hemisphere tropics, around Hawaii. This high sea level is caused by warm water.

Data collected Feb. 28 - March 12, 2017, by the U.S./European Jason-3 satellite show near-normal ocean surface heights in green, warmer areas in red and colder areas in blue. Ocean surface height is related in part to its temperature, and thus is an indicator of how much heat is stored in the upper ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Data collected Feb. 28 – March 12, 2017, by the U.S./European Jason-3 satellite show near-normal ocean surface heights in green, warmer areas in red and colder areas in blue. Ocean surface height is related in part to its temperature, and thus is an indicator of how much heat is stored in the upper ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft detects Heat under Ice of Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new study in the journal Nature Astronomy reports that the south polar region of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus is warmer than expected just a few feet below its icy surface. This suggests that Enceladus’ ocean of liquid water might be only a couple of miles beneath this region — closer to the surface than previously thought.

The excess heat is especially pronounced over three fractures that are not unlike the “tiger stripes” — prominent, actively venting fractures that slice across the pole — except that they don’t appear to be active at the moment.

This enhanced-color Cassini view of southern latitudes on Enceladus features the bluish "tiger stripe" fractures that rip across the south polar region. (NASA)

This enhanced-color Cassini view of southern latitudes on Enceladus features the bluish “tiger stripe” fractures that rip across the south polar region. (NASA)

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