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Topic: Planets

NASA reports Genes in Space-3 identifies Microbes aboard International Space Station

 

Written by Jenny Howard
NASA’s Johnson Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHouston, TX – Being able to identify microbes in real time aboard the International Space Station, without having to send them back to Earth for identification first, would be revolutionary for the world of microbiology and space exploration. The Genes in Space-3 team turned that possibility into a reality this year, when it completed the first-ever sample-to-sequence process entirely aboard the space station.

The ability to identify microbes in space could aid in the ability to diagnose and treat astronaut ailments in real time, as well as assisting in the identification of DNA-based life on other planets. It could also benefit other experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson performed the Genes in Space-3 investigation aboard the space station using the miniPCR and MinION, developed for previously flown investigations. (NASA)

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson performed the Genes in Space-3 investigation aboard the space station using the miniPCR and MinION, developed for previously flown investigations. (NASA)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data reveals Star with Eighth Planet in Orbit

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Our solar system now is tied for most number of planets around a single star, with the recent discovery of an eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a Sun-like star 2,545 light years from Earth. The planet was discovered in data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

The newly-discovered Kepler-90i – a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days – was found using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence in which computers “learn.” In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded changes in starlight caused by planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets.

With the discovery of an eighth planet, the Kepler-90 system is the first to tie with our solar system in number of planets. Artist's concept. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel)

With the discovery of an eighth planet, the Kepler-90 system is the first to tie with our solar system in number of planets. Artist’s concept. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel)

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NASA’s Voyager probes make their mark in Popular Culture

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Whether you’re traveling across cities, continents or even oceans this holiday season, there is no long-haul flight quite like that of the Voyagers.

This year, we celebrated 40 years since the launch of NASA’s twin Voyager probes — the two farthest, fastest spacecraft currently in operation. Each Voyager has contributed an enormous amount of knowledge about the solar system, including the unexpected diversity of its planets and their moons. Among their many distinctions, Voyager 1 is the only spacecraft to enter interstellar space, and Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to fly by all four giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Each Voyager spacecraft carries a copy of the Golden Record, which has been featured in several works of science fiction. The record's protective cover, with instructions for playing its contents, is shown at left. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Each Voyager spacecraft carries a copy of the Golden Record, which has been featured in several works of science fiction. The record’s protective cover, with instructions for playing its contents, is shown at left. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA research shows Gravitational Pull of Moons could preserve Liquid Water Oceans on Frigid Worlds

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald / Nancy Jones
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Heat generated by the gravitational pull of moons formed from massive collisions could extend the lifetimes of liquid water oceans beneath the surface of large icy worlds in our outer solar system, according to new NASA research.

This greatly expands the number of locations where extraterrestrial life might be found, since liquid water is necessary to support known forms of life and astronomers estimate there are dozens of these worlds.

“These objects need to be considered as potential reservoirs of water and life,” said Prabal Saxena of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the research published in Icarus November 24th.

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA looks back at accomplishments of Herschel Space Observatory

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – To celebrate the legacy of ESA’s Herschel Space Observatory, which had significant NASA contributions, the European Space Agency (ESA) has designated this week as Herschel Week, highlighting some of the mission’s accomplishments.

Herschel is the largest observatory ever launched that explored the universe in infrared wavelengths, a spectrum of light that is invisible to the naked eye.

This view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region by Herschel highlights chaotic networks of dust and gas that point to sites of massive star formation. (ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frederique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu -- CNRS/INSU -- Univ. Paris Diderot, France)

This view of the Cygnus-X star-formation region by Herschel highlights chaotic networks of dust and gas that point to sites of massive star formation. (ESA/PACS/SPIRE/Martin Hennemann & Frederique Motte, Laboratoire AIM Paris-Saclay, CEA/Irfu — CNRS/INSU — Univ. Paris Diderot, France)

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NASA explains What Happens During a Total Solar Eclipse

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It might be the hottest event of the summer: On Monday, the U.S. will see the first solar eclipse visible across both coasts in nearly a century.

The path of totality — where the view of the Sun will be totally blocked by the Moon’s shadow — will cross from Oregon to South Carolina. The event has turned small towns like Twin Falls, Idaho, and Madras, Oregon, into prime vacation destinations. NASA is hosting events in a number of these locations, as well as encouraging teachers to share science with their students.

Jim Lux, a telecommunications specialist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has traveled far and wide to view total eclipses in the past.

Below, he describes what makes them unique experiences.

A total solar eclipse gives scientists a rare opportunity to study the lower regions of the Sun's corona. These observations can help us understand solar activity, as well as the unexpectedly high temperatures in the corona. (S. Habbal, M. Druckmüller and P. Aniol)

A total solar eclipse gives scientists a rare opportunity to study the lower regions of the Sun’s corona. These observations can help us understand solar activity, as well as the unexpectedly high temperatures in the corona. (S. Habbal, M. Druckmüller and P. Aniol)

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NASA reports TRAPPIST-1 is nearly twice as Old as our Solar System

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If we want to know more about whether life could survive on a planet outside our solar system, it’s important to know the age of its star. Young stars have frequent releases of high-energy radiation called flares that can zap their planets’ surfaces.

If the planets are newly formed, their orbits may also be unstable. On the other hand, planets orbiting older stars have survived the spate of youthful flares, but have also been exposed to the ravages of stellar radiation for a longer period of time.

This illustration shows what the TRAPPIST-1 system might look like from a vantage point near planet TRAPPIST-1f (at right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows what the TRAPPIST-1 system might look like from a vantage point near planet TRAPPIST-1f (at right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Voyager Spacecrafts broke new ground during 40 years exploration

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Few missions can match the achievements of NASA’s groundbreaking Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft during their 40 years of exploration. Here’s a short list of their major accomplishments to date. The Voyager spacecrafts made a lot of planetary firsts

Launched in 1977, the Voyagers delivered many surprises and discoveries from their encounters with the gas giants of the outer solar system: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

This montage of images of the planets visited by Voyager 2 was prepared from an assemblage of images taken by the 2 Voyager spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

This montage of images of the planets visited by Voyager 2 was prepared from an assemblage of images taken by the 2 Voyager spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Voyager Spacecrafts continue exploration after 40 Years

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau / Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, achieve 40 years of operation and exploration this August and September. Despite their vast distance, they continue to communicate with NASA daily, still probing the final frontier.

Their story has not only impacted generations of current and future scientists and engineers, but also Earth’s culture, including film, art and music. Each spacecraft carries a Golden Record of Earth sounds, pictures and messages. Since the spacecraft could last billions of years, these circular time capsules could one day be the only traces of human civilization.

An artist concept depicting one of the twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity's farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist concept depicting one of the twin Voyager spacecraft. Humanity’s farthest and longest-lived spacecraft are celebrating 40 years in August and September 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s WISE spacecraft reveals nearly five times more comets have passed the Sun then previously predicted

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the Sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many “long-period comets” will never approach the Sun in a person’s lifetime.

In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud — a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 186 billion miles (300 billion kilometers) away from the Sun — can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.

NASA’s WISE spacecraft, scanning the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, has delivered new insights about these distant wanderers.

This illustration shows how scientists used data from NASA's WISE spacecraft to determine the nucleus sizes of comets. They subtracted a model of how dust and gas behave in comets in order to obtain the core size. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration shows how scientists used data from NASA’s WISE spacecraft to determine the nucleus sizes of comets. They subtracted a model of how dust and gas behave in comets in order to obtain the core size. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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