Topic: Solar System
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned the sharpest images ever seen of the dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on January 25th, and represent a new milestone for a spacecraft that soon will become the first human-made probe to visit a dwarf planet.
“We know so little about our vast solar system, but thanks to economical missions like Dawn, those mysteries are being solved,” said Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Scientists working with NASA’s 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86. The images show the asteroid, which made its closest approach today (January 26th, 2015) at 8:19am PST (10:19am CST) at a distance of about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon), has its own small moon.
The 20 individual images used in the movie were generated from data collected at Goldstone on January 26th, 2015. They show the primary body is approximately 1,100 feet (325 meters) across and has a small moon approximately 230 feet (70 meters) across.
Written by Dwayne Brown
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Deep Space Network Helps With ‘Optical Navigation’
NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently began its long-awaited, historic encounter with Pluto. The spacecraft is entering the first of several approach phases that culminate July 14th with the first close-up flyby of the dwarf planet, 4.67 billion miles (7.5 billion kilometers) from Earth.
“NASA’s first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The New Horizons team worked very hard to prepare for this first phase, and they did it flawlessly.”
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – Scientists have paired NASA’s Cassini spacecraft with the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio-telescope system to pinpoint the position of Saturn and its family of moons to within about 2 miles (4 kilometers).
The measurement is some 50 times more precise than those provided by ground-based optical telescopes. The feat improves astronomers’ knowledge of Saturn’s orbit and benefits spacecraft navigation and basic physics research.
NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) data analyzed by Volunteer Disk Detectives finds possible Planetary Habitats
Written by Francis Reddy
Greenbelt, MD – A NASA-sponsored website designed to crowdsource analysis of data from the agency’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has reached an impressive milestone.
In less than a year, citizen scientists using DiskDetective.org have logged 1 million classifications of potential debris disks and disks surrounding young stellar objects (YSO). This data will help provide a crucial set of targets for future planet-hunting missions.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – How many stars like our sun host planets like our Earth? NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope continuously monitored more than 150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study — the 1,000th of which was recently verified.
Using Kepler data, scientists reached this millenary milestone after validating that eight more candidates spotted by the planet-hunting telescope are, in fact, planets. The Kepler team also has added another 554 candidates to the roll of potential planets, six of which are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of stars similar to our sun.
Written by Felicia Chou
Washington, D.C. – Astronomers have observed the largest X-ray flare ever detected from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. This event, detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, raises questions about the behavior of this giant black hole and its surrounding environment.
The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A*, is estimated to contain about 4.5 million times the mass of our sun.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – For the first time, a mission designed to set its eyes on black holes and other objects far from our solar system has turned its gaze back closer to home, capturing images of our sun.
NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has taken its first picture of the sun, producing the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.
“NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere,” said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s orbiting Rosetta spacecraft is expected to come within four miles (six kilometers) of the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in February of next year. The flyby will be the closest the comet explorer will come during its prime mission.
“It is the earliest we could carry it out without impacting the vitally important bound orbits that are currently being flown,” said Matt Taylor, the Rosetta project scientist from the European Space Research and Technology Center, Noordwijk, the Netherlands. “As the comet becomes more and more active, it will not be possible to get so close to the comet. So this opportunity is very unique.”
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – Long ago, in the largest canyon system in our solar system, vibrations from “marsquakes” shook soft sediments that had accumulated in Martian lakes.
The shaken sediments formed features that now appear as a series of low hills apparent in a geological map based on NASA images. The map was released today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
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