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Topic: SOFIA

NASA’s New Horizons Team catches glimpse of primitive solar system object

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A primitive solar system object that’s more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) away passed in front of a distant star as seen from Earth. Just before midnight Eastern Time Sunday (12:50am local time July 17th), several telescopes deployed by the New Horizons team in a remote part of Argentina were in precisely the right place at the right time to catch its fleeting shadow — an event that’s known as an occultation.

In a matter of seconds, NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. Weary but excited team members succeeded in detecting the spacecraft’s next destination, in what’s being called the most ambitious and challenging ground occultation observation campaign in history.

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

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NASA’s SOFIA to Study Kuper Belt Object for Next New Horizons Flyby

 

NASA Ames Research Center

SOFIA Science Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – On July 10th, researchers using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, will attempt to study the environment around a distant Kuiper Belt Object, 2014 MU69, which is the next flyby target for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

When New Horizons flies by it, MU69 will be the most distant object ever explored by a spacecraft, over a billion miles farther from our sun than Pluto. This ancient Kuiper Belt object is not well understood because it is faint, small (likely 12-25-mile (20-40-kilometer across, or possibly even smaller according to recent ground-based observations), and very far away (approximately 4.1 billion miles from Earth).

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft’s next target already revealing surprises

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft doesn’t zoom past its next science target until New Year’s Day 2019, but the Kuiper Belt object, known as 2014 MU69, is already revealing surprises.

Scientists have been sifting through data gathered from observing the object’s quick pass in front of a star – an astronomical event known as an occultation – on June 3rd.

More than 50 mission team members and collaborators set up telescopes across South Africa and Argentina, along a predicted track of the narrow shadow of MU69 that the occultation would create on Earth’s surface, aiming to catch a two-second glimpse of the object’s shadow as it raced across the Earth.

Four members of the New Horizons’ South African observation team scan the sky while waiting for the start of the 2014 MU69 occultation, early on the morning of June 3rd, 2017. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Henry Throop)

Four members of the New Horizons’ South African observation team scan the sky while waiting for the start of the 2014 MU69 occultation, early on the morning of June 3rd, 2017. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Henry Throop)

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NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy discovers thick dust surrounding active Black Holes

 

SOFIA Science Center
NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio using observations from NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, found that the dust surrounding active, ravenous black holes is much more compact than previously thought.

Most, if not all, large galaxies contain a supermassive black hole at their centers. Many of these black holes are relatively quiet and inactive, like the one at the center of our Milky Way galaxy. However, some supermassive black holes are currently consuming significant amounts of material that are being drawn into them, resulting in the emission of huge amounts of energy. These active black holes are called active galactic nuclei.

Artist illustration of the thick ring of dust that can obscure the energetic processes that occur near the supermassive black hole of an active galactic nuclei. The SOFIA studies suggest that the dust distribution is about 30 percent smaller than previously thought. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

Artist illustration of the thick ring of dust that can obscure the energetic processes that occur near the supermassive black hole of an active galactic nuclei. The SOFIA studies suggest that the dust distribution is about 30 percent smaller than previously thought. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

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NASA’s SOFIA confirms discovery of Planetary System comparable to ours

 

Written by Nick Veronico
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMountain View, CA – NASA’s flying observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, recently completed a detailed study of a nearby planetary system. The investigations confirmed that this nearby planetary system has an architecture remarkably similar to that of our solar system.

Located 10.5 light-years away in the southern hemisphere of the constellation Eridanus, the star Epsilon Eridani, eps Eri for short, is the closest planetary system around a star similar to the early sun. It is a prime location to research how planets form around stars like our sun, and is also the storied location of the Babylon 5 space station in the science fictional television series of the same name.

Artist's illustration of the Epsilon Eridani system showing Epsilon Eridani b. In the right foreground, a Jupiter-mass planet is shown orbiting its parent star at the outside edge of an asteroid belt. In the background can be seen another narrow asteroid or comet belt plus an outermost belt similar in size to our solar system's Kuiper Belt. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

Artist’s illustration of the Epsilon Eridani system showing Epsilon Eridani b. In the right foreground, a Jupiter-mass planet is shown orbiting its parent star at the outside edge of an asteroid belt. In the background can be seen another narrow asteroid or comet belt plus an outermost belt similar in size to our solar system’s Kuiper Belt. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

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NASA Telescopes reveal star FU Orionis continues to devour gas around it

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In 1936, the young star FU Orionis began gobbling material from its surrounding disk of gas and dust with a sudden voraciousness. During a three-month binge, as matter turned into energy, the star became 100 times brighter, heating the disk around it to temperatures of up to 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit (7,000 Kelvin). FU Orionis is still devouring gas to this day, although not as quickly.

This brightening is the most extreme event of its kind that has been confirmed around a star the size of the sun, and may have implications for how stars and planets form. The intense baking of the star’s surrounding disk likely changed its chemistry, permanently altering material that could one day turn into planets.

The brightness of outbursting star FU Orionis has been slowly fading since its initial flare-up in 1936. Researchers found that it has dimmed by about 13 percent in short infrared wavelengths from 2004 (left) to 2016 (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The brightness of outbursting star FU Orionis has been slowly fading since its initial flare-up in 1936. Researchers found that it has dimmed by about 13 percent in short infrared wavelengths from 2004 (left) to 2016 (right). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s SOFIA flying observatory sees Atomic Oxygen in Atmosphere of Mars

 

Written by Kassandra Bell, SOFIA Science Center
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – An instrument onboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) detected atomic oxygen in the atmosphere of Mars for the first time since the last observation 40 years ago. These atoms were found in the upper layers of the Martian atmosphere known as the mesosphere.

Atomic oxygen affects how other gases escape Mars and therefore has a significant impact on the planet’s atmosphere. Scientists detected only about half the amount of oxygen expected, which may be due to variations in the Martian atmosphere.

SOFIA/GREAT spectrum of oxygen [O I] superimposed on an image of Mars from the MAVEN mission. The amount of atomic oxygen computed from this SOFIA data is about half the amount expected. (SOFIA/GREAT spectrum: NASA/DLR/USRA/DSI/MPIfR/GREAT Consortium/ MPIfS/Rezac et al. 2015. Mars image: NASA/MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission)

SOFIA/GREAT spectrum of oxygen [O I] superimposed on an image of Mars from the MAVEN mission. The amount of atomic oxygen computed from this SOFIA data is about half the amount expected. (SOFIA/GREAT spectrum: NASA/DLR/USRA/DSI/MPIfR/GREAT Consortium/ MPIfS/Rezac et al. 2015. Mars image: NASA/MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission)

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NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) begins fourth year of studying objects in Space

 

Written by Nicholas A. Veronico
SOFIA Science Center, NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA’s “flying” telescope, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) aboard a highly modified Boeing 747SP jetliner, began its fourth series of science flights on February 3rd, 2016.

This operational period, known as “Cycle 4,” is a one-year-long observing period in which SOFIA is scheduled for 106 flights between now and the end of January 2017.

NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) takes off from Palmdale, California at sunset. SOFIA is a partnership of NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR); NASA and DLR have collaborated on a range of activities and signed agreements on June 16 to work together to reduce aircraft noise and advance research into rotorcraft. (NASA / Greg Perryman)

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NASA looks at future exploration of our Solar System

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The new Paramount film “Interstellar” imagines a future where astronauts must find a new planet suitable for human life after climate change destroys the Earth’s ability to sustain us.

Multiple NASA missions are helping avoid this dystopian future by providing critical data necessary to protect Earth. Yet the cosmos beckons us to explore farther from home, expanding human presence deeper into the solar system and beyond.

This enormous mosaic of the Milky Way galaxy from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows dozens of dense clouds, called nebulae. Many nebulae seen here are places where new stars are forming, creating bubble like structures that can be dozens to hundreds of light-years in size. (NASA)

This enormous mosaic of the Milky Way galaxy from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, shows dozens of dense clouds, called nebulae. Many nebulae seen here are places where new stars are forming, creating bubble like structures that can be dozens to hundreds of light-years in size. (NASA)

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NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Captures Image of Dying, Outflowing Star

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have captured an infrared image of the last exhalations of a dying sun-like star.

The object observed by SOFIA, planetary nebula Minkowski 2-9, or M2-9 for short, is seen in this three-color composite image.

NASA's SOFIA telescope and the FORCAST instrument captured this color-composite image of the planetary nebula Minkowski 2-9 (M2-9) showing a dying sun-like star. (NASA/DLR/USRA/DSI/FORCAST team)

NASA's SOFIA telescope and the FORCAST instrument captured this color-composite image of the planetary nebula Minkowski 2-9 (M2-9) showing a dying sun-like star. (NASA/DLR/USRA/DSI/FORCAST team)

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