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Topic: Planet

NASA selects Instruments for mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected nine science instruments for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, to investigate whether the mysterious icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.

NASA’s Galileo mission yielded strong evidence that Europa, about the size of Earth’s moon, has an ocean beneath a frozen crust of unknown thickness. If proven to exist, this global ocean could have more than twice as much water as Earth.

With abundant salt water, a rocky sea floor, and the energy and chemistry provided by tidal heating, Europa could be the best place in the solar system to look for present day life beyond our home planet.

This artist's rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovers gas planet in the far reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has teamed up with a telescope on the ground to find a remote gas planet about 13,000 light-years away, making it one of the most distant planets known.

The discovery demonstrates that Spitzer — from its unique perch in space — can be used to help solve the puzzle of how planets are distributed throughout our flat, spiral-shaped Milky Way galaxy. Are they concentrated heavily in its central hub, or more evenly spread throughout its suburbs?

This artist's map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s map of the Milky Way shows the location of one of the farthest known exoplanets, lying 13,000 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft data helps Scientists solve mystery behind Saturn’s Storms

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The long-standing mystery of why Saturn seethes with enormous storms every 30 years may have been solved by scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission. The tempests, which can grow into bright bands that encircle the entire planet, are on a natural timer that is reset by each subsequent storm, the researchers report.

In 140 years of telescope observations, great storms have erupted on Saturn six times. Cassini and observers on Earth tracked the most recent of these storms from December 2010 to August 2011. During that time, the storm exploded through the clouds, eventually winding its way around Saturn.

This series of images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows the development of a huge storm of the type that erupts about every 30 years on Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

This series of images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the development of a huge storm of the type that erupts about every 30 years on Saturn. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft reveals Ocean on Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have Hydrothermal Activity

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first clear evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus exhibits signs of present-day hydrothermal activity which may resemble that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. The implications of such activity on a world other than our planet open up unprecedented scientific possibilities.

“These findings add to the possibility that Enceladus, which contains a subsurface ocean and displays remarkable geologic activity, could contain environments suitable for living organisms,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life might exist may bring us closer to answering the question: are we alone in the universe.”

This cutaway view of Saturn's moon Enceladus is an artist's rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon's subsurface ocean, based on recently published results from NASA's Cassini mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This cutaway view of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is an artist’s rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon’s subsurface ocean, based on recently published results from NASA’s Cassini mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Astronomers discovers Planet in Multiple Star System

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Growing up as a planet with more than one parent star has its challenges. Though the planets in our solar system circle just one star — our sun — other more distant planets, called exoplanets, can be reared in families with two or more stars.

Researchers wanting to know more about the complex influences of multiple stars on planets have come up with two new case studies: a planet found to have three parents, and another with four.

This artist's conception shows the 30 Ari system, which includes four stars and a planet. The planet, a gas giant, orbits its primary star (yellow) in about a year's time. (Karen Teramura, UH IfA)

This artist’s conception shows the 30 Ari system, which includes four stars and a planet. The planet, a gas giant, orbits its primary star (yellow) in about a year’s time. (Karen Teramura, UH IfA)

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NASA researchers study of Ionosphere may help improve GPS Communications

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – When you don’t know how to get to an unfamiliar place, you probably rely on a smart phone or other device with a Global Positioning System (GPS) module for guidance. You may not realize that, especially at high latitudes on our planet, signals traveling between GPS satellites and your device can get distorted in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, in collaboration with the University of New Brunswick in Canada, are studying irregularities in the ionosphere, a part of the atmosphere centered about 217 miles (350 kilometers) above the ground that defines the boundary between Earth and space.

The Aurora Borealis viewed by the crew of Expedition 30 on board the International Space Station. The sequence of shots was taken on February 7, 2012 from 09:54:04 to 10:03:59 GMT, on a pass from the North Pacific Ocean, west of Canada, to southwestern Illinois. (NASA/JSC)

The Aurora Borealis viewed by the crew of Expedition 30 on board the International Space Station. The sequence of shots was taken on February 7, 2012 from 09:54:04 to 10:03:59 GMT, on a pass from the North Pacific Ocean, west of Canada, to southwestern Illinois. (NASA/JSC)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has made 40,000 trips around Mars since 2006

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed a mission milestone of 40,000 orbits on February 7th, 2015, in its ninth year of returning information about the atmosphere, surface and subsurface of Mars, from equatorial to polar latitudes.

The mission’s potent science instruments and extended lifespan have revealed that Mars is a world more dynamic and diverse than was previously realized. Now in its fourth mission extension after a two-year prime mission, the orbiter is investigating seasonal and longer-term changes, including some warm-season flows that are the strongest evidence so far for liquid water on Mars today.

This view of Martian surface features shaped by effects of winds was captured by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 4, 2015. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since March 2006. On Feb. 7, 2015, it completed its 40,000th orbit around Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

This view of Martian surface features shaped by effects of winds was captured by the HiRISE camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 4, 2015. The spacecraft has been orbiting Mars since March 2006. On Feb. 7, 2015, it completed its 40,000th orbit around Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona)

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NASA reports NOAA to launch Deep Space Climate Observatory to measure the Sun’s Solar Wind

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – There’s a fascinating spot some 932,000 miles away from Earth where the gravity between the sun and Earth is perfectly balanced. This spot captures the attention of orbital engineers because a satellite can orbit this spot, called Lagrange 1 just as they can orbit a planet.

But the spot tantalizes scientists as well: Lagrange 1 lies outside Earth’s magnetic environment, a perfect place to measure the constant stream of particles from the sun, known as the solar wind, as they pass by.

In early February, the United States Air Force will launch a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite called Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, into orbit around this spot.

The solar arrays on NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft, or DSCOVR, are unfurled in the Building 1 high bay at the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near Kennedy Space Center. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

The solar arrays on NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory spacecraft, or DSCOVR, are unfurled in the Building 1 high bay at the Astrotech payload processing facility in Titusville, Florida, near Kennedy Space Center. (NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope takes photo of three moons transiting the face of Jupiter in rare conjunction

 

Written by Rob Gutro
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD -Firing off a string of action snapshots like a sports photographer at a NASCAR race, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured the rare occurrence of three of Jupiter’s largest moons racing across the banded face of the gas-giant planet: Europa, Callisto, and Io.

These so-called Galilean moons, named after the 17th century scientist Galileo Galilei, who discovered them with a telescope, complete orbits around Jupiter with durations ranging from 2 days to 17 days. They can commonly be seen transiting the face of Jupiter and casting shadows onto its cloud tops.

Hubble Captures Rare Triple-Moon Conjunction of Jupiter's largest moons: Europa, Callisto, and Io. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

Hubble Captures Rare Triple-Moon Conjunction of Jupiter’s largest moons: Europa, Callisto, and Io. (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA))

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NASA launches Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory into orbit around Earth

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA successfully launched its first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of the vital soil moisture hidden just beneath our feet.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off at 6:22am PST (9:22am EST) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.

NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory lifts off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, beginning a three-year mission to map Earth's vital moisture hidden in the soils beneath our feet. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory lifts off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, beginning a three-year mission to map Earth’s vital moisture hidden in the soils beneath our feet. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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