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Topic: Science at NASA

NASA says Roundworms to be used to study Microgravity effects on the Human Body

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Humans have long been fascinated by the cosmos. Ancient cave paintings show that we’ve been thinking about space for much of the history of our species.  The popularity of recent sci-fi movies suggest that the human mind just might be coming to grips with the harsh environment “out there.”

The human body is another matter.

When gravity is greatly reduced—as in spaceflight—we no longer use our muscles to resist the usual pull of a planetary mass, and, without additional exercise astronauts lose both bone and muscle.

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NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity completes Martian Marathon in 11 years

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On Earth, the fastest runners can finish a marathon in hours. On Mars it takes about 11 years.

On Tuesday, March 24th 2015, NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity completed its first Red Planet marathon– 26.219 miles – with a finish time of roughly 11 years and two months.

“This mission isn’t about setting distance records; it’s about making scientific discoveries,” says Steve Squyres, Opportunity principal investigator at Cornell University. “Still, running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool.”

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NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft detects Auroras around Mars

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – One day, when humans go to Mars, they might find that, occasionally, the Red Planet has green skies.

In late December 2014, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft detected evidence of widespread auroras in Mars’s northern hemisphere. The “Christmas Lights,” as researchers called them, circled the globe and descended so close to the Martian equator that, if the lights had occurred on Earth, they would have been over places like Florida and Texas.

“It really is amazing,” says Nick Schneider who leads MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument team at the University of Colorado. “Auroras on Mars appear to be more wide ranging than we ever imagined.”

A map of MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) auroral detections in December 2014 overlaid on Mars’ surface. The map shows that the aurora was widespread in the northern hemisphere, not tied to any geographic location. The aurora was detected in all observations during a 5-day period. (University of Colorado)

A map of MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) auroral detections in December 2014 overlaid on Mars’ surface. The map shows that the aurora was widespread in the northern hemisphere, not tied to any geographic location. The aurora was detected in all observations during a 5-day period. (University of Colorado)

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NASA’s MESSENGER Spacecraft ends mission, crashes into Mercury

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, have confirmed that MESSENGER slammed into the surface of Mercury on April 30th at 3:26pm EDT.

It had used the last of its propellant on April 24th and could no longer maintain a stable orbit. Traveling some 8,750 mph, the plummeting spacecraft made an unseen crater on the side of the planet facing away from Earth.

The colors of the solar system's innermost planet are enhanced in this tantalizing view, based on global image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. (NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington)

The colors of the solar system’s innermost planet are enhanced in this tantalizing view, based on global image data from the Mercury-orbiting MESSENGER spacecraft. (NASA / JHU Applied Physics Lab / Carnegie Inst. Washington)

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NASA’s CALIPSO satellite helps scientists study link between Sahara Desert dust and Amazon Rainforest

 

Written by Rachel Molina
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The Sahara Desert is one of the least hospitable climates on Earth. Its barren plateaus, rocky peaks, and shifting sands envelop the northern third of Africa, which sees very little rain, vegetation, and life.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean thrives the world’s largest rainforest. The lush, vibrant Amazon basin, located in northeast South America, supports a vast network of unparalleled ecological diversity.

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NASA reports Total Eclipse of the Moon to happen April 4th

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. –  It’s déjà vu all over again. For the third time in less than a year, sky watchers in the United States can see a total eclipse of the Moon.

The action begins at 3:16am Pacific Daylight Time on the morning of April 4th when the edge of the Moon first enters the amber core of Earth’s shadow.  For the next hour and 45 minutes, Earth’s shadow will move across the lunar disk, ultimately swallowing the entire Moon at 4:58am PDT.

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NASA looks into the mystery of the Sun’s Nanoflares

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – When you attach the prefix “nano” to something, it usually means “very small.” Solar flares appear to be the exception.

Researchers are studying a type of explosion on the sun called a ‘nanoflare.’  A billion times less energetic than ordinary flares, nanoflares have a power that belies their name.

“A typical ‘nanoflare’ has the same energy as 240 megatons of TNT,” says physicist David Smith of UC Santa Cruz. “That would be something like 10,000 atomic fission bombs.”

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NASA to launch Magnetospheric Multiscale mission to study explosions in Earth’s Magnetic Field

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Magnetic reconnection could be the Universe’s favorite way to make things explode.

It operates anywhere magnetic fields pervade space–which is to say almost everywhere. In the cores of galaxies, magnetic reconnection sparks explosions visible billions of light-years away. On the sun, it causes solar flares as powerful as a million atomic bombs. At Earth, it powers magnetic storms and auroras. It’s ubiquitous.

The problem is, researchers can’t explain it.

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NASA reports Alzheimer’s disease research to be conducted on International Space Station

 

Written by Rachel Molina
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Alzheimer’s disease is a global problem. In the United States alone, more than 5 million people have the disease and a new diagnosis is made every 67 seconds—numbers that are just a fraction of worldwide totals. Among medical researchers, Alzheimer’s is a top priority.

Researchers working with astronauts on the International Space Station are embarking on a mission to discover the origin of Alzheimer’s. Although the details are still a little fuzzy, researchers believe that Alzheimer’s and similar diseases advance when certain proteins in the brain assemble themselves into long fibers that accumulate and ultimately strangle nerve cells in the brain.

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NASA studies how Fluids move in Microgravity aboard International Space Station

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The next time you pour yourself a glass of water, pause before you drink it. First, swirl the clear liquid around the glass.  Gently slosh it back and forth. Tap the glass on the tabletop, and watch the patterns that form on the surface.

Now imagine the same exercise … in zero gravity.  Would the waves and ripples look the same?  Would the liquid slosh more, or less?  Faster, or slower?

NASA engineers spend a surprising amount of time asking themselves these same questions.

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