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New Study using NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft data reveals heat from friction may power Hydrothermal Activity on Saturn’s Moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Heat from friction could power hydrothermal activity on Saturn’s moon Enceladus for billions of years if the moon has a highly porous core, according to a new modeling study by European and U.S. researchers working on NASA’s Cassini mission.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Astronomy, helps resolve a question scientists have grappled with for a decade: Where does the energy to power the extraordinary geologic activity on Enceladus come from?

This graphic from ESA (the European Space Agency) illustrates how water might be heated inside Saturn's moon Enceladus. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPG-CNRS/U. Nantes/U. Angers)

This graphic from ESA (the European Space Agency) illustrates how water might be heated inside Saturn’s moon Enceladus. (ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/LPG-CNRS/U. Nantes/U. Angers)

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NASA releases new findings from Cassini Spacecraft’s observations of Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft ended its journey on September 15th, 2017 with an intentional plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn, but analysis continues on the mountain of data the spacecraft sent during its long life.

Some of the Cassini team’s freshest insights were presented during a news conference today at the American Astronomical Society Division for Planetary Science meeting in Provo, Utah.

Cassini obtained this panoramic view of Saturn's rings on Sept. 9, 2017, just minutes after it passed through the ring plane. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini obtained this panoramic view of Saturn’s rings on Sept. 9, 2017, just minutes after it passed through the ring plane. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA looks back at Cassini spacecraft’s dive into Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its fateful dive into the upper atmosphere of Saturn on September 15th, 2017, the spacecraft was live-streaming data from eight of its science instruments, along with readings from a variety of engineering systems.

While analysis of science data from the final plunge will take some time, Cassini engineers already have a pretty clear understanding of how the spacecraft itself behaved as it went in.

The data are useful for evaluating models of Saturn’s atmosphere the team used to predict the spacecraft’s behavior at mission’s end, and they help provide a baseline for planning future missions to Saturn.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown during its Sept. 15, 2017, plunge into Saturn's atmosphere in this artist's depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown during its Sept. 15, 2017, plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere in this artist’s depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes final flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is headed toward its September 15th, 2017 plunge into Saturn, following a final, distant flyby of the planet’s giant moon Titan.

The spacecraft made its closest approach to Titan today at 12:04pm PDT (3:04pm EDT), at an altitude of 73,974 miles (119,049 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. The spacecraft is scheduled to make contact with Earth on September 12th at about 6:19pm PDT (9:19pm EDT).

Cassini made its final, distant flyby of Saturn's moon Titan on Sept. 11, which set the spacecraft on its final dive toward the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Cassini made its final, distant flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan on Sept. 11, which set the spacecraft on its final dive toward the planet. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make final plunge into Saturn September 15th

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is 18 days from its mission-ending dive into the atmosphere of Saturn. Its fateful plunge on September 15th, 2017 is a foregone conclusion — an April 22nd gravitational kick from Saturn’s moon Titan placed the two-and-a-half ton vehicle on its path for impending destruction.

Yet several mission milestones have to occur over the coming two-plus weeks to prepare the vehicle for one last burst of trailblazing science.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown heading for the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 such dives of the mission's finale in this illustration. The spacecraft will make a final plunge into the planet's atmosphere on September 15th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown heading for the gap between Saturn and its rings during one of 22 such dives of the mission’s finale in this illustration. The spacecraft will make a final plunge into the planet’s atmosphere on September 15th. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft continues dives between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its unprecedented series of weekly dives between Saturn and its rings, scientists are finding — so far — that the planet’s magnetic field has no discernible tilt. This surprising observation, which means the true length of Saturn’s day is still unknown, is just one of several early insights from the final phase of Cassini’s mission, known as the Grand Finale.

Other recent science highlights include promising hints about the structure and composition of the icy rings, along with high-resolution images of the rings and Saturn’s atmosphere.

Recent images of features in Saturn's C ring called "plateaus" reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Recent images of features in Saturn’s C ring called “plateaus” reveal a streaky texture that is very different from the textures of the regions around them. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA studies possible missions to Uranus and Neptune

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A NASA-led and NASA-sponsored study of potential future missions to the mysterious “ice giant” planets Uranus and Neptune has been released — the first in a series of mission studies NASA will conduct in support of the next Planetary Science Decadal Survey.

The results of this and future studies will be used as the Decadal Survey deliberates on NASA’s planetary science priorities from 2022-2032. The study identifies the scientific questions an ice giant mission should address, and discusses various instruments, spacecraft, flight-paths and technologies that could be used.

Left: Arriving at Uranus in 1986, Voyager 2 observed a bluish orb with subtle features. A haze layer hid most of the planet's cloud features from view. Right: This image of Neptune was produced from Voyager 2 and shows the Great Dark Spot and its companion bright smudge. (Left: NASA/JPL-Caltech - Right: NASA)

Left: Arriving at Uranus in 1986, Voyager 2 observed a bluish orb with subtle features. A haze layer hid most of the planet’s cloud features from view. Right: This image of Neptune was produced from Voyager 2 and shows the Great Dark Spot and its companion bright smudge. (Left: NASA/JPL-Caltech – Right: NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft observes Saturn’s Solstice

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft still has a few months to go before it completes its mission in September, but the veteran Saturn explorer reaches a new milestone today. Saturn’s solstice — that is, the longest day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the shortest day of winter in the southern hemisphere — arrives today for the planet and its moons.

The Saturnian solstice occurs about every 15 Earth years as the planet and its entourage slowly orbit the sun, with the north and south hemispheres alternating their roles as the summer and winter poles.

These natural color views from Cassini show how the color of Saturn's north-polar region changed between June 2013 and April 2017, as the northern hemisphere headed toward summer solstice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton Univ.)

These natural color views from Cassini show how the color of Saturn’s north-polar region changed between June 2013 and April 2017, as the northern hemisphere headed toward summer solstice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton Univ.)

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NASA releases Video showing Cassini Spacecraft’s trip across Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new movie sequence of images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the view as the spacecraft swooped over Saturn during the first of its Grand Finale dives between the planet and its rings on April 26th.

The movie comprises one hour of observations as the spacecraft moved southward over Saturn. It begins with a view of the swirling vortex at the planet’s north pole, then heads past the outer boundary of the hexagon-shaped jet stream and beyond.

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft discovers little dust between Saturn and it’s Rings

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft prepares to shoot the narrow gap between Saturn and its rings for the second time in its Grand Finale, Cassini engineers are delighted, while ring scientists are puzzled, that the region appears to be relatively dust-free. This assessment is based on data Cassini collected during its first dive through the region on April 26th.

With this information in hand, the Cassini team will now move forward with its preferred plan of science observations.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown diving through the gap between Saturn and its rings in this artist's depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown diving through the gap between Saturn and its rings in this artist’s depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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