Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – The solar system might be a lot hairier than we thought.
A new study publishing this week in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, proposes the existence of long filaments of dark matter, or “hairs.”
Dark matter is an invisible, mysterious substance that makes up about 27 percent of all matter and energy in the universe. The regular matter, which makes up everything we can see around us, is only 5 percent of the universe. The rest is dark energy, a strange phenomenon associated with the acceleration of our expanding universe.
Science at NASA
Washington, D.C. – They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But what about planets?
Take Neptune for example. For many years, especially since 1989 when Voyager 2 flew past Neptune and measured its gravity field, astronomers have known that the blue giant harbors a secret world inside. Hidden deep below the azure cloud tops lies a rocky core not much larger than Earth. Uranus has one, too! These “worlds within worlds” could have exotic properties including scorching hot oceans and diamond rain.
If only researchers could peel back the clouds for a closer look….
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Scientists using NASA’s repurposed Kepler space telescope, known as the K2 mission, have uncovered strong evidence of a tiny, rocky object being torn apart as it spirals around a white dwarf star. This discovery validates a long-held theory that white dwarfs are capable of cannibalizing possible remnant planets that have survived within its solar system.
“We are for the first time witnessing a miniature “planet” ripped apart by intense gravity, being vaporized by starlight and raining rocky material onto its star,” said Andrew Vanderburg, graduate student at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and lead author of the paper published in Nature.
Written by Joshua Buck
Washington, D.C. – It will be the most powerful rocket ever built. More powerful than the mighty Saturn V that took humans to the moon, the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA’s newest rocket currently under development, will have the capability to send astronauts deeper into space than ever before.
With SLS and the Orion capsule, humans will no longer have to dream of walking on Mars: They finally will do it.
Science at NASA
Washington, D.C. – In the days before light bulbs, farmers relied on moonlight to help them harvest their crops. Many crops ripen all at once in late summer and early autumn so farmers found themselves extremely busy at this time of year. They had to work after sundown. Moonlight became an essential part of farming, and thus, the Harvest Moon was born.
According to folklore, the Harvest Moon is the full Moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox, the hectic beginning of northern autumn. In 2015, the Moon is full on September 28th, less than a week after the equinox of September 23rd. The coincidence sets the stage for a nice display of harvest moonlight.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – When the sun set on Saturn’s rings in August 2009, scientists on NASA’s Cassini mission were watching closely. It was the equinox — one of two times in the Saturnian year when the sun illuminates the planet’s enormous ring system edge-on.
The event provided an extraordinary opportunity for the orbiting Cassini spacecraft to observe short-lived changes in the rings that reveal details about their nature.
Like Earth, Saturn is tilted on its axis. Over the course of its 29-year-long orbit, the sun’s rays move from north to south over the planet and its rings, and back again.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Next time you tune in to public radio or the hottest Top 40 radio station, you’ll be using some of the same tools NASA uses to unravel the mysteries of the universe.
Courtney Duncan, an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, says studying radio waves coming from a known source in space can reveal a great deal about objects in our solar system.
Of course, there is nothing new in that. NASA scientists have been turning the transmissions of their spacecraft’s radio into scientific gold since almost the beginning of the space age. And ground-based astronomers have not been left outside of the radio spectrum looking in.
Written by Felicia Chou
Washington, D.C. – Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the discovery of the nearest rocky planet outside our solar system, larger than Earth and a potential gold mine of science data.
Dubbed HD 219134b, this exoplanet, which orbits too close to its star to sustain life, is a mere 21 light-years away. While the planet itself can’t be seen directly, even by telescopes, the star it orbits is visible to the naked eye in dark skies in the Cassiopeia constellation, near the North Star.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – The discovery of a super-Earth-sized planet orbiting a sun-like star brings us closer than ever to finding a twin of our own watery world. But NASA’s Kepler space telescope has captured evidence of other potentially habitable planets amid the sea of stars in the Milky Way galaxy.
To take a brief tour of the more prominent contenders, it helps to zero in on the “habitable zone” around their stars. This is the band of congenial temperatures for planetary orbits — not too close and not too far.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – A new NASA study of ocean temperature measurements shows that in recent years, extra heat from greenhouse gases has been trapped in the waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. Researchers say this shifting pattern of ocean heat accounts for the slowdown in the global surface temperature trend observed during the past decade.
Researchers Veronica Nieves, Josh Willis and Bill Patzert of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, found a specific layer of the Indian and Pacific oceans between 300 and 1,000 feet (100 and 300 meters) below the surface has been accumulating more heat than previously recognized.
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