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Topic: Saturn

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft data used to weigh Saturn’s biggest ring

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It seems intuitive that an opaque material should contain more stuff than a more translucent substance. For example, muddier water has more suspended particles of dirt in it than clearer water. Likewise, you might think that, in the rings of Saturn, more opaque areas contain a greater concentration of material than places where the rings seem more transparent.

But this intuition does not always apply, according to a recent study of the rings using data from NASA’s Cassini mission. In their analysis, scientists found surprisingly little correlation between how dense a ring might appear to be — in terms of its opacity and reflectiveness — and the amount of material it contains.

The B ring is the brightest of Saturn's rings when viewed in reflected sunlight. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

The B ring is the brightest of Saturn’s rings when viewed in reflected sunlight. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft to move into higher orbit around Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini mission is entering its next chapter with an orbital choreography meant to tilt the spacecraft’s orbit out of Saturn’s ringplane.

The second of five large propulsive maneuvers in this campaign took place on Saturday, January 23rd. Each maneuver in the series sets up a subsequent gravity-assist flyby of Saturn’s massive moon Titan, which reshapes the spacecraft’s orbit, sending it to increasingly higher inclination with respect to Saturn’s equator.

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 reports Caltech Researchers discover evidence of a new Planet, Planet 9

 

Written by Kimm Fesenmaier
California Institute of Technology

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Caltech researchers have found evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system.

The object, which the researchers have nicknamed Planet Nine, has a mass about 10 times that of Earth and orbits about 20 times farther from the sun on average than does Neptune (which orbits the sun at an average distance of 2.8 billion miles). In fact, it would take this new planet between 10,000 and 20,000 years to make just one full orbit around the sun.

The researchers, Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown, discovered the planet’s existence through mathematical modeling and computer simulations but have not yet observed the object directly.

This artistic rendering shows the distant view from Planet Nine back towards the sun. The planet is thought to be gaseous, similar to Uranus and Neptune. Hypothetical lightning lights up the night side. (Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC))

This artistic rendering shows the distant view from Planet Nine back towards the sun. The planet is thought to be gaseous, similar to Uranus and Neptune. Hypothetical lightning lights up the night side. (Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC))

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NASA reports Five Planets visible in the morning sky from now till February 20th

 

Written by Jane Platt
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – “When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.”

Well, it’s not quite like the song about the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, but our solar system is experiencing an uncommon lineup that should be quite a treat for sky-watchers. The solar system itself hasn’t changed — it’s just that the timing of the planets orbiting the sun puts them into a lineup that makes for good viewing by Earthlings.

Early risers have an opportunity to see five naked-eye planets in pre-dawn skies during late January and continuing through late February. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Early risers have an opportunity to see five naked-eye planets in pre-dawn skies during late January and continuing through late February. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Comet Catalina visible New Year’s Morning

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Did you get a telescope or pair of binoculars under the Christmas tree? If so, you can put them to the test by searching the Eastern sky for a view of a fuzzy comet on or shortly after New Year’s Day.

Comet Catalina, formally known as C/2013 US10, is currently perched in the pre-dawn skies as it returns to the depths of space following a recent visit to the inner part of our solar system. Named for the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the comet was discovered on October 31st, 2013.

This icy, dirty snowball from the outer solar system, known formally as C/2013 US10 (Catalina), rounded the sun last month and is now headed for its closest approach to Earth on Jan. 17. The comet poses no threat to Earth, as it will pass a comfortable 67 million miles (108 million kilometers) at close approach. This image was captured on Dec. 16 at about 6 a.m. EST from Kathleen, Georgia using a Meade ETX80 telescope and Canon 7D camera. (Greg Hogan)

This icy, dirty snowball from the outer solar system, known formally as C/2013 US10 (Catalina), rounded the sun last month and is now headed for its closest approach to Earth on Jan. 17. The comet poses no threat to Earth, as it will pass a comfortable 67 million miles (108 million kilometers) at close approach. This image was captured on Dec. 16 at about 6 a.m. EST from Kathleen, Georgia using a Meade ETX80 telescope and Canon 7D camera. (Greg Hogan)

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U.S. Department of Energy produces fuel to power NASA’s Deep Space Missions

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The first U.S. production in nearly 30 years of a specialized fuel to power future deep space missions has been completed by researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee.

The production of 50 grams of plutonium-238 -roughly the mass of a golf ball – marks the first demonstration in the United States since the Savannah River Plant in South Carolina ceased production in the late 1980s.

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. (NASA)

This self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013), plus three exposures taken during Sol 270 (May 10, 2013) to update the appearance of part of the ground beside the rover. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft finishes last close Flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting data and images from the mission’s final close flyby of Saturn’s active moon Enceladus. Cassini passed Enceladus at a distance of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers) on Saturday, December 19th, at 9:49am PST (11:49am CST).

“This final Enceladus flyby elicits feelings of both sadness and triumph,” said Earl Maize, Cassini project manager at JPL. “While we’re sad to have the close flybys behind us, we’ve placed the capstone on an incredible decade of investigating one of the most intriguing bodies in the solar system.”

NASA's Cassini spacecraft peered out over the northern territory on Saturn's moon Enceladus, during its final close flyby of Enceladus, on Dec. 19, 2015. (NASA)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft peered out over the northern territory on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, during its final close flyby of Enceladus, on Dec. 19, 2015. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to make final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, Saturday

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A thrilling chapter in the exploration of the solar system will soon conclude, as NASA’s Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of the ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. Cassini is scheduled to fly past Enceladus at a distance of 3,106 miles (4,999 kilometers) on Saturday, December 19th, at 9:49am PST (11:49am CST).

Although the spacecraft will continue to observe Enceladus during the remainder of its mission (through September 2017), it will be from much greater distances — at closest, more than four times farther away than the December 19th encounter.

An exciting chapter of space exploration history will come to a close as NASA's Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of Saturn's active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. (NASA/JPL-CalTech)

An exciting chapter of space exploration history will come to a close as NASA’s Cassini spacecraft makes its final close flyby of Saturn’s active, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus. (NASA/JPL-CalTech)

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NASA lists Milky Way Galaxy planets that are remarkably similar to those in the Star Wars universe

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The fantasy creations of the “Star Wars” universe are strikingly similar to real planets in our own Milky Way galaxy. A super Earth in deep freeze? Think ice-planet “Hoth.” And that distant world with double sunsets can’t help but summon thoughts of sandy “Tatooine.”

No indications of life have yet been detected on any of the nearly 2,000 scientifically confirmed exoplanets, so we don’t know if any of them are inhabited by Wookiees or mynocks, or play host to exotic alien bar scenes (or even bacteria, for that matter).

Still, a quick spin around the real exoplanet universe offers tantalizing similarities to several Star Wars counterparts.

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

The glittering city lights of Coruscant, the Star Wars core world, might have evolved on an older, near Earth-size planet like Kepler-452b. This real-life Earth cousin exists in a system 1.5 billion years older than Earth, giving any theoretical life plenty of time to develop an advanced technological civilization. (NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captures data and images of Saturn’s moon Enceladus during close flyby

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting its latest images of Saturn’s icy, geologically active moon Enceladus, acquired during the dramatic October 28th flyby in which the probe passed about 30 miles (49 kilometers) above the moon’s south polar region.

The spacecraft will continue transmitting its data from the encounter for the next several days.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured this view as it neared icy Enceladus for its closest-ever dive past the moon's active south polar region. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft captured this view as it neared icy Enceladus for its closest-ever dive past the moon’s active south polar region. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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