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Topic: Solar System

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft adjusts course to Jupiter

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s solar-powered Juno spacecraft successfully executed a maneuver to adjust its flight path, February 3rd, 2016. The maneuver refined the spacecraft’s trajectory, helping set the stage for Juno’s arrival at the solar system’s largest planetary inhabitant five months and a day from now.

“This is the first of two trajectory adjustments that fine tune Juno’s orbit around the sun, perfecting our rendezvous with Jupiter on July 4th at 8:18pm PDT [11:18pm EDT],” said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

Launched from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Launched from Earth in 2011, the Juno spacecraft will arrive at Jupiter in 2016 to study the giant planet from an elliptical, polar orbit. Juno will repeatedly dive between the planet and its intense belts of charged particle radiation, coming only 5,000 kilometers (about 3,000 miles) from the cloud tops at closest approach. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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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 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’s Stardust Spacecraft sample gave new insights into Comets and our Solar System

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – It was less than an hour into the new day of January 15th, 2006 (EST), when tens of thousands of miles above our planet, two cable cutters and two retention bolts fired, releasing a spring which pushed a 101-pound (46-kilogram) sample return capsule away from its mother ship.

Later, during its final plunge Earthward, the capsule would become the fastest human-made object to enter our atmosphere, achieving a velocity of about 28,600 mph (12.8 kilometers per second).

The sample return capsule from NASA's Stardust mission successfully landed at the U.S. Air Force's Utah Test and Training Range in Dugway, Utah, at 2:10am Pacific (3:10am Mountain) on January 15, 2006. The capsule carried cometary and interstellar samples gathered by the Stardust spacecraft. (NASA)

The sample return capsule from NASA’s Stardust mission successfully landed at the U.S. Air Force’s Utah Test and Training Range in Dugway, Utah, at 2:10am Pacific (3:10am Mountain) on January 15, 2006. The capsule carried cometary and interstellar samples gathered by the Stardust spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA Planetary Discoveries honored by U.S. Postal Service with 2016 Commemorative Stamps

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The U.S. Postal Service has previewed the New Year’s series of stamps highlighting NASA’s Planetary Science program, including a do-over of a famous Pluto stamp commemorating the NASA New Horizons’ historic 2015 flyby.

The Postal Service on Wednesday released a preview of its new 2016 stamps, which include an image of Pluto and the New Horizons spacecraft, eight new colorful Forever stamps of NASA images of solar system planets, a Global Forever stamp dedicated to Earth’s moon as well as another postal treat for space fans: a tribute to 50 years of Star Trek.

Pluto Explored! In 2006, NASA placed a 29-cent 1991 ‘Pluto: Not Yet Explored’ stamp in the New Horizons spacecraft. In 2015 the spacecraft carried the stamp on its history-making mission to Pluto and beyond. With this stamp, the Postal Service recognizes the first reconnaissance of Pluto in 2015 by NASA’s New Horizon mission. The souvenir sheet of four stamps contains two new stamps appearing twice. The first stamp shows an artists’ rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft and the second shows the spacecraft’s enhanced color image of Pluto taken near closest approach. (USPS/Antonio Alcalá © 2016 USPS)

Pluto Explored! In 2006, NASA placed a 29-cent 1991 ‘Pluto: Not Yet Explored’ stamp in the New Horizons spacecraft. In 2015 the spacecraft carried the stamp on its history-making mission to Pluto and beyond. With this stamp, the Postal Service recognizes the first reconnaissance of Pluto in 2015 by NASA’s New Horizon mission. The souvenir sheet of four stamps contains two new stamps appearing twice. The first stamp shows an artists’ rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft and the second shows the spacecraft’s enhanced color image of Pluto taken near closest approach. (USPS/Antonio Alcalá © 2016 USPS)

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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 Dawn spacecraft delivers photos from it’s lowest orbit of dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau / Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, cruising in its lowest and final orbit at dwarf planet Ceres, has delivered the first images from its best-ever viewpoint. The new images showcase details of the cratered and fractured surface. 3-D versions of two of these views are also available.

Dawn took these images of the southern hemisphere of Ceres on December 10th, at an approximate altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers), which is its lowest-ever orbital altitude. Dawn will remain at this altitude for the rest of its mission, and indefinitely afterward. The resolution of the new images is about 120 feet (35 meters) per pixel.

This image of Ceres was taken in Dawn's low-altitude mapping orbit around a crater chain called Gerber Catena. A 3-D view is also available. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This image of Ceres was taken in Dawn’s low-altitude mapping orbit around a crater chain called Gerber Catena. A 3-D view is also available. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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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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