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Topic: Solar System

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft discovers plumes erupting on asteroid Bennu

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid’s surface. Bennu also revealed itself to be more rugged than expected, challenging the mission team to alter its flight and sample collection plans, due to the rough terrain. 

Bennu is the target of NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission, which began orbiting the asteroid on December 31st. Bennu, which is only slightly wider than the height of the Empire State Building, may contain unaltered material from the very beginning of our solar system.

This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on January 19 was created by combining two images taken on board NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Other image processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each image. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin)

This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on January 19 was created by combining two images taken on board NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. Other image processing techniques were also applied, such as cropping and adjusting the brightness and contrast of each image. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin)

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NASA studies Dust in our Solar System

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.

The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets.

In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)

In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)

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NASA Researchers are creating Alien Atmospheres on Earth

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are cooking up an alien atmosphere right here on Earth. In a new study, JPL scientists used a high-temperature “oven” to heat a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 Celsius), about the temperature of molten lava.

The aim was to simulate conditions that might be found in the atmospheres of a special class of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) called “hot Jupiters.”

This artist's concept shows planet KELT-9b, an example of a "hot Jupiter," or a gas giant planet orbiting very close to its parent star. KELT-9b is an extreme example of a hot Jupiter, with dayside temperatures reaching 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (4,300 Celcius). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows planet KELT-9b, an example of a “hot Jupiter,” or a gas giant planet orbiting very close to its parent star. KELT-9b is an extreme example of a hot Jupiter, with dayside temperatures reaching 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (4,300 Celcius). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Goddard Technologists and Scientists Prepare for a New Era of Human Exploration

 

Written by Lori Keesey
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA scientists, engineers, and technologists are preparing for a new era of human exploration at the Moon, which includes a new launch system, capsule, and lunar-orbiting outpost that will serve as the jumping-off point for human spaceflight deeper into the Solar System.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is playing a vital role in these initiatives, particularly in the areas of communications and instrument development as evidenced by the recent award of five proposals under NASA’s Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation (DALI) to advance spacecraft-based instrument for use in lunar-landing missions.

The technologies needed for sustainable exploration at the Moon will have to be powerful, multipurpose, and fast, said Jake Bleacher, Chief Scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.

Goddard will provide laser communications services to NASA’s Orion vehicle, shown in this artist concept. (NASA)

Goddard will provide laser communications services to NASA’s Orion vehicle, shown in this artist concept. (NASA)

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NASA study shows K Stars more likely to host Habitable Planets

 

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA says scientists looking for signs of life beyond our solar system face major challenges, one of which is that there are hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy alone to consider. To narrow the search, they must figure out: What kinds of stars are most likely to host habitable planets?

A new study finds a particular class of stars called K stars, which are dimmer than the Sun but brighter than the faintest stars, may be particularly promising targets for searching for signs of life.

This is an artist's concept of a planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a K star. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyle)

This is an artist’s concept of a planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a K star. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/Tim Pyle)

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NASA looks to advance Nanomaterial-Based Detector Platform

 

Written by Lori Keesey
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A NASA technologist is taking miniaturization to the extreme.

Mahmooda Sultana won funding to advance a potentially revolutionary, nanomaterial-based detector platform. The technology is capable of sensing everything from minute concentrations of gases and vapor, atmospheric pressure and temperature, and then transmitting that data via a wireless antenna — all from the same self-contained platform that measures just two-by-three-inches in size.

Under a $2 million technology development award, Sultana and her team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will spend the next two years advancing the autonomous multifunctional sensor platform.

Technologist Mahmooda Sultana holds an early iteration of an autonomous multifunctional sensor platform, which could benefit all of NASA's major scientific disciplines and efforts to send humans to the Moon and Mars. (NASA/W. Hrybyk)

Technologist Mahmooda Sultana holds an early iteration of an autonomous multifunctional sensor platform, which could benefit all of NASA’s major scientific disciplines and efforts to send humans to the Moon and Mars. (NASA/W. Hrybyk)

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NASA uses Cassini Spacecraft data to determine length of a Day on Saturn

 

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Using new data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, researchers believe they have solved a longstanding mystery of solar system science: the length of a day on Saturn. It’s 10 hours, 33 minutes and 38 seconds.

The figure has eluded planetary scientists for decades, because the gas giant has no solid surface with landmarks to track as it rotates, and it has an unusual magnetic field that hides the planet’s rotation rate.

The answer, it turned out, was hidden in the rings.

A view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn's northern hemisphere in 2016 as that part of the planet nears its northern hemisphere summer solstice. A year on Saturn is 29 Earth years; days only last 10:33:38, according to a new analysis of Cassini data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

A view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows Saturn’s northern hemisphere in 2016 as that part of the planet nears its northern hemisphere summer solstice. A year on Saturn is 29 Earth years; days only last 10:33:38, according to a new analysis of Cassini data. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s TESS Satellite discovers its first Exoplanets

 

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, in its first three months of observations.

The mission’s sensitive cameras also captured 100 short-lived changes — most of them likely stellar outbursts — in the same region of the sky. They include six supernova explosions whose brightening light was recorded by TESS even before the outbursts were discovered by ground-based telescopes.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets in the data from the space telescope’s four cameras. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets in the data from the space telescope’s four cameras. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft takes detailed photos of Ultima Thule

 

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – Scientists from NASA’s New Horizons mission released the first detailed images of the most distant object ever explored — the Kuiper Belt object nicknamed Ultima Thule. Its remarkable appearance, unlike anything we’ve seen before, illuminates the processes that built the planets four and a half billion years ago.

“This flyby is a historic achievement,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Never before has any spacecraft team tracked down such a small body at such high speed so far away in the abyss of space. New Horizons has set a new bar for state-of-the-art spacecraft navigation.”

This image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is the most detailed of Ultima Thule returned so far by the New Horizons spacecraft. It was taken at 5:01 Universal Time on January 1, 2019, just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers), with an original scale of 459 feet (140 meters) per pixel. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

This image taken by the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) is the most detailed of Ultima Thule returned so far by the New Horizons spacecraft. It was taken at 5:01 Universal Time on January 1, 2019, just 30 minutes before closest approach from a range of 18,000 miles (28,000 kilometers), with an original scale of 459 feet (140 meters) per pixel. (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft Reaches Most Distant Target in History, Ultima Thule

 

NASA Marshall Space Flight Center 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule in the early hours of New Year’s Day, ushering in the era of exploration from the enigmatic Kuiper Belt, a region of primordial objects that holds keys to understanding the origins of the solar system.

“Congratulations to NASA’s New Horizons team, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Southwest Research Institute for making history yet again,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons' high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule's size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist's impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima's spin axis is indicated by the arrows. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane)

At left is a composite of two images taken by New Horizons’ high-resolution Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which provides the best indication of Ultima Thule’s size and shape so far. Preliminary measurements of this Kuiper Belt object suggest it is approximately 20 miles long by 10 miles wide (32 kilometers by 16 kilometers). An artist’s impression at right illustrates one possible appearance of Ultima Thule, based on the actual image at left. The direction of Ultima’s spin axis is indicated by the arrows. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI; sketch courtesy of James Tuttle Keane)

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