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Topic: Pasadena CA

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures photo of dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft closes in on Ceres, new images show the dwarf planet at 27 pixels across, about three times better than the calibration images taken in early December. These are the first in a series of images that will be taken for navigation purposes during the approach to Ceres.

Over the next several weeks, Dawn will deliver increasingly better and better images of the dwarf planet, leading up to the spacecraft’s capture into orbit around Ceres on March 6th. The images will continue to improve as the spacecraft spirals closer to the surface during its 16-month study of the dwarf planet.

This processed image, taken Jan. 13, 2015, shows the dwarf planet Ceres as seen from the Dawn spacecraft. The image hints at craters on the surface of Ceres. Dawn's framing camera took this image at 238,000 miles (383,000 kilometers) from Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This processed image, taken Jan. 13, 2015, shows the dwarf planet Ceres as seen from the Dawn spacecraft. The image hints at craters on the surface of Ceres. Dawn’s framing camera took this image at 238,000 miles (383,000 kilometers) from Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Observatory set to launch January 29th

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The launch of NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California is scheduled for Thursday, January 29th. Liftoff from Space Launch Complex 2 aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket is targeted for 6:20:42am PST (9:20:42am EST) at the opening of a three-minute launch window.

If needed, a backup launch opportunity is available on the Western Range on January 30th with the same launch window.

SMAP is the first U.S. Earth-observing satellite designed to collect global observations of surface soil moisture and its freeze/thaw state.

NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) instrument to be launched into space in January 29th.

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) instrument to be launched into space in January 29th.

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NASA and European Space Agency look back at the landing on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ten years ago, an explorer from Earth parachuted into the haze of an alien moon toward an uncertain fate. After a gentle descent lasting more than two hours, it landed with a thud on a frigid floodplain, surrounded by icy cobblestones.

With this feat, the Huygens probe accomplished humanity’s first landing on a moon in the outer solar system. Huygens was safely on Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

The hardy probe not only survived the descent and landing, but continued to transmit data for more than an hour on the frigid surface of Titan, until its batteries were drained.

An artist's interpretation of the area surrounding the Huygens landing site based on images and data returned by the probe on Jan. 14, 2005. (ESA - C. Carreau)

An artist’s interpretation of the area surrounding the Huygens landing site based on images and data returned by the probe on Jan. 14, 2005. (ESA – C. Carreau)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spots Beagle 2 Mars Lander that’s been lost on Mars since 2003

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The Beagle 2 Mars Lander, built by the United Kingdom, has been thought lost on Mars since 2003, but has now been found in images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

A set of three observations with the orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera shows Beagle 2 partially deployed on the surface of the planet, ending the mystery of what happened to the mission more than a decade ago. They show that the lander survived its December 25th, 2003, touchdown enough to at least partially deploy its solar arrays.

This annotated image shows where features seen in an observation by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have been interpreted as hardware from the Dec. 25, 2003, arrival at Mars of the United Kingdom's Beagle 2 Lander. The image was taken in 2014 by the orbiter's HiRISE camera.

This annotated image shows where features seen in an observation by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have been interpreted as hardware from the Dec. 25, 2003, arrival at Mars of the United Kingdom’s Beagle 2 Lander. The image was taken in 2014 by the orbiter’s HiRISE camera.

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover set to drill into Mineral Crystal Rock on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A rock target where NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is using its sample-collection drill this week may have a salty story to tell.

This target, called “Mojave,” displays copious slender features, slightly smaller than grains of rice, that appear to be mineral crystals. A chance to learn their composition prompted the Curiosity science team to choose Mojave as the next rock-drilling target for the 29-month-old mission investigating Mars’ Gale Crater. The features might be a salt mineral left behind when lakewater evaporated.

This week, Curiosity is beginning a “mini-drill” test to assess the rock’s suitability for deeper drilling, which collects a sample for onboard laboratory analysis.

This view from the wide-angle Hazard Avoidance Camera on the front of NASA's Curiosity Mars Rover shows the rover's drill in position for a mini-drill test to assess whether a rock target called "Mojave" is appropriate for full-depth drilling to collect a sample. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This view from the wide-angle Hazard Avoidance Camera on the front of NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover shows the rover’s drill in position for a mini-drill test to assess whether a rock target called “Mojave” is appropriate for full-depth drilling to collect a sample. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Near Earth Object Program reports Asteroid to Safely Fly By on January 26th, 2015

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – An asteroid, designated 2004 BL86, will safely pass about three times the distance of Earth to the moon on January 26th. From its reflected brightness, astronomers estimate that the asteroid is about a third of a mile (0.5 kilometers) in size.

The flyby of 2004 BL86 will be the closest by any known space rock this large until asteroid 1999 AN10 flies past Earth in 2027.

At the time of its closest approach on January 26th, the asteroid will be approximately 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers) from Earth.

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2004 BL86, which will come no closer than about three times the distance from Earth to the moon on Jan. 26th, 2015. Due to its orbit around the sun, the asteroid is currently only visible by astronomers with large telescopes who are located in the southern hemisphere. But by Jan. 26th, the space rock's changing position will make it visible to those in the northern hemisphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2004 BL86, which will come no closer than about three times the distance from Earth to the moon on Jan. 26th, 2015. Due to its orbit around the sun, the asteroid is currently only visible by astronomers with large telescopes who are located in the southern hemisphere. But by Jan. 26th, the space rock’s changing position will make it visible to those in the northern hemisphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Astronomers now using Machines to learn about Stars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers are enlisting the help of machines to sort through thousands of stars in our galaxy and learn their sizes, compositions and other basic traits.

The research is part of the growing field of machine learning, in which computers learn from large data sets, finding patterns that humans might not otherwise see. Machine learning is in everything from media-streaming services that predict what you want to watch, to the post office, where computers automatically read handwritten addresses and direct mail to the correct zip codes.

Astronomers have turned to a method called "machine learning" to help them understand the properties of large numbers of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Astronomers have turned to a method called “machine learning” to help them understand the properties of large numbers of stars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s SMAP instrument ready to measure Earth’s Soil Moisture

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new NASA satellite that will peer into the topmost layer of Earth’s soils to measure the hidden waters that influence our weather and climate is in final preparations for a January 29th dawn launch from California.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission will take the pulse of a key measure of our water planet: how freshwater cycles over Earth’s land surfaces in the form of soil moisture.

The mission will produce the most accurate, highest-resolution global maps ever obtained from space of the moisture present in the top 2 inches (5 centimeters) of Earth’s soils.

Artist's rendering of the SMAP instrument. (NASA)

Artist’s rendering of the SMAP instrument. (NASA)

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NASA reports Saturn and it’s system of Moons mapped with high accuracy

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have paired NASA’s Cassini spacecraft with the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio-telescope system to pinpoint the position of Saturn and its family of moons to within about 2 miles (4 kilometers).

The measurement is some 50 times more precise than those provided by ground-based optical telescopes. The feat improves astronomers’ knowledge of Saturn’s orbit and benefits spacecraft navigation and basic physics research.

Researchers have determined the location of the Saturn system's center of mass to within just a couple of miles (or kilometers), a factor of 50 improvement over previous knowledge. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Researchers have determined the location of the Saturn system’s center of mass to within just a couple of miles (or kilometers), a factor of 50 improvement over previous knowledge. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover reaches highest point of it’s career on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After completing two drives this week, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has paused to photograph the panoramic vista from the highest point the rover has reached during its 40 months of exploring the western rim of Mars’ Endeavour Crater.

The view is one of the grandest in Opportunity’s Martian career of nearly 11 years and more than 25.8 miles (41.6 kilometers).

The rover has been having trouble with a section of its flash memory, the type of memory that can store data even when power is switched off.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this view of the summit of "Cape Tribulation," on the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the day before the rover drove to the top. This crest is about 440 feet higher in elevation than the plain surrounding the crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded this view of the summit of “Cape Tribulation,” on the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the day before the rover drove to the top. This crest is about 440 feet higher in elevation than the plain surrounding the crater. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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