Topic: Solar System
Written by Francis Reddy
Greenbelt, Maryland – On April 23rd, NASA’s Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a nearby red dwarf star. The initial blast from this record-setting series of explosions was as much as 10,000 times more powerful than the largest solar flare ever recorded.
“We used to think major flaring episodes from red dwarfs lasted no more than a day, but Swift detected at least seven powerful eruptions over a period of about two weeks,” said Stephen Drake, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who gave a presentation on the “superflare” at the August meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s High Energy Astrophysics Division. “This was a very complex event.”
Written by DC Agle/Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will deploy its lander, Philae, to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12th.
Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.
Philae’s landing site, currently known as Site J, is located on the smaller of the comet’s two “lobes,” with a backup site on the larger lobe. The sites were selected just six weeks after Rosetta’s August 6th arrival at the comet, following the spacecraft’s 10-year journey through the solar system.
NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler Telescopes discovers water vapor on Exoplanet outside our solar system
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from three of NASA’s space telescopes — Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler — have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.
“This discovery is a significant milepost on the road to eventually analyzing the atmospheric composition of smaller, rocky planets more like Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Such achievements are only possible today with the combined capabilities of these unique and powerful observatories.”
Written by Izumi Hansen and Elizabeth Zubritsky
Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled September 21st insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).
Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft’s mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 6:50pm PDT (9:50pm EDT).
Written by DC Agle and Dwayne Brown
Pasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta’s lander, Philae, will target Site J, an intriguing region on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko that offers unique scientific potential, with hints of activity nearby, and minimum risk to the lander compared to the other candidate sites.
The 220-pound (100-kilogram) lander is scheduled to reach the surface on November 11th, where it will perform in-depth measurements to characterize the nucleus. Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – Scientists have found that the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko — the target of study for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission — can be divided into several regions, each characterized by different classes of features. High-resolution images of the comet reveal a unique, multifaceted world.
ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its destination about a month ago and is currently accompanying the comet as it progresses on its route toward the inner solar system.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – Compared to the age of the solar system — about four-and-a-half billion years — a couple of decades are next to nothing. Some planetary locales change little over many millions of years, so for scientists who study the planets, any object that evolves on such a short interval makes for a tempting target for study. And so it is with the ever-changing rings of Saturn.
Case in point: Saturn’s narrow, chaotic and clumpy F ring. A recent NASA-funded study compared the F ring’s appearance in six years of observations by the Cassini mission to its appearance during the Saturn flybys of NASA’s Voyager mission, 30 years earlier.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Once every 50 years, more or less, a massive star explodes somewhere in the Milky Way. The resulting blast is terrifyingly powerful, pumping out more energy in a split second than the sun emits in a million years. At its peak, a supernova can outshine the entire Milky Way.
It seems obvious that you wouldn’t want a supernova exploding near Earth. Yet there is growing evidence that one did—actually, more than one. About 10 million years ago, a nearby cluster of supernovas went off like popcorn. We know because the explosions blew an enormous bubble in the interstellar medium, and we’re inside it.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft has traversed the orbit of Neptune. This is its last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14th, 2015.
The sophisticated piano-sized spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, reached Neptune’s orbit — nearly 2.75 billion miles from Earth — in a record eight years and eight months. New Horizons’ milestone matches precisely the 25th anniversary of the historic encounter of NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft with Neptune on August 25th, 1989.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Barely 30 years ago, the only planets astronomers had found were located right here in our own solar system. The Milky Way is chock-full of stars, millions of them similar to our own sun. Yet the tally of known worlds in other star systems was exactly zero.
What a difference a few decades can make.
As 2014 unfolds, astronomers have not only found more than a thousand “exoplanets” circling distant suns, but also they’re beginning to make precise measurements of them.
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