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Topic: Solar System

NASA collects Meteorites in Antarctica

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On rare calm days, the most striking thing you notice at an altitude of more than 8,000 feet on an Antarctic glacier is the silence.

“There was just no sound; no air handling equipment, no leaves rustling, no bugs, no planes or cars. So quiet you just heard your heartbeat,” said Barbara Cohen, planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Most of the time, however, there is a steady howl of bitter cold wind flowing down from the East Antarctic ice plateau. With a summer temperature hovering around zero Fahrenheit, “It’s the wind that makes you cold,” Cohen said.

Camp at Mount Raymond in the Transantarctic Mountains. (Barbara Cohen)

Camp at Mount Raymond in the Transantarctic Mountains. (Barbara Cohen)

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NASA Study of Interstellar Object “Oumuamua” helps us understand Planet Formation

 

Written by Jeanette Kazmierczak
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The first interstellar object ever seen in our solar system, named ‘Oumuamua, is giving scientists a fresh perspective on the development of planetary systems. A new study by a team including astrophysicists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, calculated how this visitor from outside our solar system fits into what we know about how planets, asteroids and comets form. 

On October 19th, 2017, astronomers working with the NASA-funded Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS1) at the University of Hawaii spotted an object zipping through our solar system at a very high speed. Scientists at the Minor Planet Center, funded by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program, confirmed it was the first object of interstellar origin that we’ve seen.

An illustration of ‘Oumuamua, the first object we’ve ever seen pass through our own solar system that has interstellar origins. (European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser)

An illustration of ‘Oumuamua, the first object we’ve ever seen pass through our own solar system that has interstellar origins. (European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser)

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to search Solar System for Water

 

Written by Christine Pulliam
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD –  Water is crucial for life, but how do you make water? Cooking up some H2O takes more than mixing hydrogen and oxygen. It requires the special conditions found deep within frigid molecular clouds, where dust shields against destructive ultraviolet light and aids chemical reactions. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will peer into these cosmic reservoirs to gain new insights into the origin and evolution of water and other key building blocks for habitable planets.

A molecular cloud is an interstellar cloud of dust, gas, and a variety of molecules ranging from molecular hydrogen (H2) to complex, carbon-containing organics. Molecular clouds hold most of the water in the universe, and serve as nurseries for newborn stars and their planets.

Blue light from a newborn star lights up the reflection nebula IC 2631. This nebula is part of the Chamaeleon star-forming region, which Webb will study to learn more about the formation of water and other cosmic ices. (European Southern Observatory (ESO))

Blue light from a newborn star lights up the reflection nebula IC 2631. This nebula is part of the Chamaeleon star-forming region, which Webb will study to learn more about the formation of water and other cosmic ices. (European Southern Observatory (ESO))

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft data shows Jupiter’s atmosphere runs deep

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Data collected by NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter indicate that the atmospheric winds of the gas-giant planet run deep into its atmosphere and last longer than similar atmospheric processes found here on Earth. The findings will improve understanding of Jupiter’s interior structure, core mass and, eventually, its origin.

Other Juno science results released today include that the massive cyclones that surround Jupiter’s north and south poles are enduring atmospheric features and unlike anything else encountered in our solar system. The findings are part of a four-article collection on Juno science results being published in the March 8th edition of the journal Nature.

This computer-generated image is based on an infrared image of Jupiter's north polar region that was acquired on February 2, 2017, by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard Juno during the spacecraft's fourth pass over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)

This computer-generated image is based on an infrared image of Jupiter’s north polar region that was acquired on February 2, 2017, by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard Juno during the spacecraft’s fourth pass over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM)

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NASA invites people to submit their names to be included on First Mission to Travel through the Sun’s Atmosphere

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Want to get the hottest ticket this summer without standing in line?

NASA is inviting people around the world to submit their names online to be placed on a microchip aboard NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission launching in summer 2018. The mission will travel through the Sun’s atmosphere, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and your name will go along for the ride.

“This probe will journey to a region humanity has never explored before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This mission will answer questions scientists have sought to uncover for more than six decades.”

Illustration of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the Sun. (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

Illustration of the Parker Solar Probe spacecraft approaching the Sun. (Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)

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NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes discover Exoplanet with large amount of Water Vapor

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Much like detectives who study fingerprints to identify the culprit, scientists used NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to find the “fingerprints” of water in the atmosphere of a hot, bloated, Saturn-mass exoplanet some 700 light-years away. And, they found a lot of water. In fact, the planet, known as WASP-39b, has three times as much water as Saturn does.

Though no planet like this resides in our solar system, WASP-39b can provide new insights into how and where planets form around a star, say researchers. This exoplanet is so unique, it underscores the fact that the more astronomers learn about the complexity of other worlds, the more there is to learn about their origins. This latest observation is a significant step toward characterizing these worlds.

Using Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, scientists studied the "hot Saturn" called WASP-39b - a hot, bloated, Saturn-mass exoplanet located about 700 light-years from Earth. By dissecting starlight filtering through the planet's atmosphere into its component colors, the team found clear evidence for a large amount of water vapor. (NASA, ESA, G. Bacon and A. Feild (STScI), and H. Wakeford (STScI/Univ. of Exeter))

Using Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, scientists studied the “hot Saturn” called WASP-39b – a hot, bloated, Saturn-mass exoplanet located about 700 light-years from Earth. By dissecting starlight filtering through the planet’s atmosphere into its component colors, the team found clear evidence for a large amount of water vapor. (NASA, ESA, G. Bacon and A. Feild (STScI), and H. Wakeford (STScI/Univ. of Exeter))

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NASA’s Mars InSight Lander will study the Deep Interior of Mars

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars InSight lander team is preparing to ship the spacecraft from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, where it was built and tested, to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where it will become the first interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast. The project is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

NASA has a long and successful track record at Mars. Since 1965, it has flown by, orbited, landed and roved across the surface of the Red Planet. What can InSight — planned for launch in May — do that hasn’t been done before?

An artist's rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist’s rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope to study Mars’ transition from Wet to Dry

 

Written by Christine Pulliam
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD –  The planet Mars has fascinated scientists for over a century. Today, it is a frigid desert world with a carbon dioxide atmosphere 100 times thinner than Earth’s. But evidence suggests that in the early history of our solar system, Mars had an ocean’s worth of water.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will study Mars to learn more about the planet’s transition from wet to dry, and what that means about its past and present habitability.

Hydrogen atoms escape from the Mars upper atmosphere, while water containing heavy hydrogen (deuterium) remains trapped on the planet. The escape of hydrogen helped to turn Mars from a wet planet 4.5 billion years ago into a dry world today. (NASA)

Hydrogen atoms escape from the Mars upper atmosphere, while water containing heavy hydrogen (deuterium) remains trapped on the planet. The escape of hydrogen helped to turn Mars from a wet planet 4.5 billion years ago into a dry world today. (NASA)

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NASA releases new information on Earth Size Planets of TRAPPIST-1

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The seven Earth-size planets of TRAPPIST-1 are all mostly made of rock, with some having the potential to hold more water than Earth, according to a new study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

The planets’ densities, now known much more precisely than before, suggest that some planets could have up to 5 percent of their mass in water — which is 250 times more than the oceans on Earth.

The form that water would take on TRAPPIST-1 planets would depend on the amount of heat they receive from their star, which is a mere 9 percent as massive as our Sun.

This artist's concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets' diameters, masses and distances from the host star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system may look like, based on available data about the planets’ diameters, masses and distances from the host star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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Celebrate 2019 New Year’s Eve with NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The New Year’s celebration to usher in 2019 will include an event like no other – more than four billion miles from Earth.

In just under a year – shortly after midnight Eastern Time on January 1st, 2019 – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft will buzz by the most primitive and most distant object ever explored. New Horizons’ encounter with Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, which orbits a billion miles beyond Pluto, will offer the first close-up look at such a pristine building block of the solar system – and will be performed in a region of deep space that was practically unknown just a generation ago.

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that orbits one billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Steve Gribben)

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object that orbits one billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto, on Jan. 1, 2019. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Steve Gribben)

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