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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft gets images of Clouds moving over a Sea on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft recently captured images of clouds moving across the northern hydrocarbon seas of Saturn’s moon Titan. This renewed weather activity, considered overdue by researchers, could finally signal the onset of summer storms that atmospheric models have long predicted.

The Cassini spacecraft obtained the new views in late July, as it receded from Titan after a close flyby. Cassini tracked the system of clouds developing and dissipating over the large methane sea known as Ligeia Mare for more than two days. Measurements of cloud motions indicate wind speeds of around 7 to 10 mph (3 to 4.5 meters per second).

As NASA's Cassini spacecraft sped away from Titan following a relatively close flyby, its cameras monitored the moon's northern polar region, capturing signs of renewed cloud activity.

As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft sped away from Titan following a relatively close flyby, its cameras monitored the moon’s northern polar region, capturing signs of renewed cloud activity.

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) observes Black Hole’s center lit up by nearby Corona

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA -  NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has captured an extreme and rare event in the regions immediately surrounding a supermassive black hole. A compact source of X-rays that sits near the black hole, called the corona, has moved closer to the black hole over a period of just days.

“The corona recently collapsed in toward the black hole, with the result that the black hole’s intense gravity pulled all the light down onto its surrounding disk, where material is spiraling inward,” said Michael Parker of the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge, United Kingdom, lead author of a new paper on the findings appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The regions around supermassive black holes shine brightly in X-rays. Some of this radiation comes from a surrounding disk, and most comes from the corona, pictured here in this artist's concept as the white light at the base of a jet. This is one possible configuration for a corona -- its actual shape is unclear. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The regions around supermassive black holes shine brightly in X-rays. Some of this radiation comes from a surrounding disk, and most comes from the corona, pictured here in this artist’s concept as the white light at the base of a jet. This is one possible configuration for a corona — its actual shape is unclear. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 achieves final orbit and begins sending data

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Just over a month after launch, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) — NASA’s first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide — has maneuvered into its final operating orbit and produced its first science data, confirming the health of its science instrument.

Atmospheric carbon dioxide is the leading human-produced greenhouse gas responsible for warming our world.

Artist's rendering of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, one of five new NASA Earth science missions set to launch in 2014, and one of three managed by JPL. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s rendering of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO)-2, one of five new NASA Earth science missions set to launch in 2014, and one of three managed by JPL. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s AcrimSat spacecraft has quit responding after 14 years of service

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After 14 years of monitoring Earth’s main energy source, radiation from the sun, NASA’s Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor satellite has lost contact with its ground operations team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and its mission has been declared completed.

AcrimSat’s ACRIM 3 instrument was the third in a series of satellite experiments that have contributed to a critical data set for understanding Earth’s climate: the 36-year, continuous satellite record of variations in total solar radiation reaching Earth, or total solar irradiance.

Artist's rendering of the AcrimSat spacecraft. (NASA)

Artist’s rendering of the AcrimSat spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) flew near Space in it’s June Test Flight

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) project successfully flew a rocket-powered, saucer-shaped test vehicle into near-space in late June from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai, Hawaii.

The goal of this experimental flight test, the first of three planned for the project, was to determine if the balloon-launched, rocket-powered, saucer-shaped, design could reach the altitudes and airspeeds needed to test two new breakthrough technologies destined for future Mars missions.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ready to execute burn to target Saturn’s moon, Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will execute the largest planned maneuver of the spacecraft’s remaining mission on Saturday, August 9th. The maneuver will target Cassini toward an August 21st encounter with Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

The main engine firing will last about a minute and will provide a change in velocity of 41 feet per second (12.5 meters per second). This is the largest maneuver by Cassini in five years.

This is an artists concept of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) maneuver, just after the main engine has begun firing. (NASA/JPL)

This is an artists concept of Cassini during the Saturn Orbit Insertion (SOI) maneuver, just after the main engine has begun firing. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft adjusts orbit in lieu of Comet Siding Spring Flyby

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft has successfully adjusted the timing of its orbit around Mars as a defensive precaution for a comet’s close flyby of Mars on October 19th, 2014.

The orbiter fired thrusters for five and a half seconds on Tuesday, August 5th. The maneuver was calculated to place the orbiter behind Mars during the half hour on the flyby date when dust particles released from comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring are most likely to reach Mars.

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars' south pole in this artist's concept illustration. (NASA/JPL)

NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft passes above Mars’ south pole in this artist’s concept illustration. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover finishes second year on the Red Planet

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s most advanced roving laboratory on Mars celebrates its second anniversary since landing inside the Red Planet’s Gale Crater on August 5th, 2012, PDT (August 6th, 2012, EDT).

During its first year of operations, the Curiosity rover fulfilled its major science goal of determining whether Mars ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

Clay-bearing sedimentary rocks on the crater floor in an area called Yellowknife Bay yielded evidence of a lake bed environment billions of years ago that offered fresh water, all of the key elemental ingredients for life, and a chemical source of energy for microbes, if any existed there.

This image from the Navigation Camera on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows wheel tracks printed by the rover as it drove on the sandy floor of a lowland called "Hidden Valley" on the route toward Mount Sharp. The image was taken on Aug. 4, 2014.

This image from the Navigation Camera on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows wheel tracks printed by the rover as it drove on the sandy floor of a lowland called “Hidden Valley” on the route toward Mount Sharp. The image was taken on Aug. 4, 2014.

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NASA observes Three Large Volcanic Eruptions on Jupiter’s Moon Io

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Three massive volcanic eruptions occurred on Jupiter’s moon Io within a two-week period in August of last year. This led astronomers to speculate that such “outbursts,” which can send material hundreds of miles above the surface, might be much more common than they thought.

“We typically expect one huge outburst every one or two years, and they’re usually not this bright,” said Imke de Pater, professor and chair of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of one of two papers describing the eruptions. “Here we had three extremely bright outbursts, which suggest that if we looked more frequently we might see many more of them on Io.”

Jupiter's moon Io saw three massive volcanic eruptions within a two-week period last August. (Katherine de Kleer/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory)

Jupiter’s moon Io saw three massive volcanic eruptions within a two-week period last August. (Katherine de Kleer/UC Berkeley/Gemini Observatory)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) finishes it’s 2nd Year in Space

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, a premier black-hole hunter among other talents, has finished up its two-year prime mission, and will be moving onto its next phase, a two-year extension.

“It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since NuSTAR launched,” said Fiona Harrison, the mission’s principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “We achieved all the mission science objectives and made some amazing discoveries I never would have predicted two years ago.”

Artist's concept of NuSTAR on orbit. NuSTAR has a 10-m (30') mast that deploys after launch to separate the optics modules (right) from the detectors in the focal plane (left). The spacecraft, which controls NuSTAR's pointings, and the solar panels are with the focal plane. NuSTAR has two identical optics modules in order to increase sensitivity. The background is an image of the Galactic center obtained with the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Artist’s concept of NuSTAR on orbit. NuSTAR has a 10-m (30′) mast that deploys after launch to separate the optics modules (right) from the detectors in the focal plane (left). The spacecraft, which controls NuSTAR’s pointings, and the solar panels are with the focal plane. NuSTAR has two identical optics modules in order to increase sensitivity. The background is an image of the Galactic center obtained with the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

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