Topic: Solar System
Washington, D.C. – In the last century, humans realized that space is filled with types of light we can’t see – from infrared signals released by hot stars and galaxies, to the cosmic microwave background that comes from every corner of the universe. Some of this invisible light that fills space takes the form of X-rays, the source of which has been hotly contended over the past few decades.
It wasn’t until the flight of the DXL sounding rocket, short for Diffuse X-ray emission from the Local galaxy, that scientists had concrete answers about the X-rays’ sources.
Washington, D.C. – In June 2015, when the cameras on NASA’s approaching New Horizons spacecraft first spotted the large reddish polar region on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, mission scientists knew two things: they’d never seen anything like it elsewhere in our solar system, and they couldn’t wait to get the story behind it.
Over the past year, after analyzing the images and other data that New Horizons has sent back from its historic July 2015 flight through the Pluto system, the scientists think they’ve solved the mystery.
Written by Molly Porter
Huntsville, AL – Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. These observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system’s outermost regions.
While NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was speeding toward and beyond Pluto, Chandra was aimed several times on the dwarf planet and its moons, gathering data on Pluto that the missions could compare after the flyby. Each time Chandra pointed at Pluto – four times in all, from February 2014 through August 2015 – it detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet.
Written by Lina Tran
Greenbelt, MD – The majestic auroras have captivated humans for thousands of years, but their nature – the fact that the lights are electromagnetic and respond to solar activity – was only realized in the last 150 years.
Thanks to coordinated multi-satellite observations and a worldwide network of magnetic sensors and cameras, close study of auroras has become possible over recent decades. Yet, auroras continue to mystify, dancing far above the ground to some, thus far, undetected rhythm.
Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05pm EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.
“Ee celebrate a huge milestone for this remarkable mission, and for this mission team,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’re very excited about what this mission can tell us about the origin of our solar system, and we celebrate the bigger picture of science that is helping us make discoveries and accomplish milestones that might have been science fiction yesterday, but are science facts today.”
Written by Linda Herridge
Florida – The first U.S. mission to travel to an asteroid, retrieve samples and return them to Earth is targeted for a September 8th launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
This groundbreaking mission, several years in the making, is the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer, also known as OSIRIS-REx. It will travel to near-Earth asteroid Bennu, map its surface using 3-D laser imaging, retrieve samples from the surface and return to Earth.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – A lonely 3-mile-high (5-kilometer-high) mountain on Ceres is likely volcanic in origin, and the dwarf planet may have a weak, temporary atmosphere. These are just two of many new insights about Ceres from NASA’s Dawn mission published this week in six papers in the journal Science.
“Dawn has revealed that Ceres is a diverse world that clearly had geological activity in its recent past,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around.
Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.
It turns out the inverse is also true — we can turn our instruments and probes to our own backyard, and view Jupiter as if it were an exoplanet to learn more about those far-off worlds.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Celebrating the spacecraft’s ability to push the boundaries of space science and technology, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope team has dubbed the next phase of its journey “Beyond.”
“Spitzer is operating well beyond the limits that were set for it at the beginning of the mission,” said Michael Werner, the project scientist for Spitzer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We never envisioned operating 13 years after launch, and scientists are making discoveries in areas of science we never imagined exploring with the spacecraft.”
Written by Ashley Morrow
Greenbelt, MD – Launched five years ago on August 5th, 2011, NASA’s Juno mission maneuvered into orbit around Jupiter on July 4th, 2016, joining a long tradition of discovery at the gas giant.
One of the brightest objects in the night sky, Jupiter has enthralled humans since ancient times. Today, scientists believe that learning more about the planet may be the key to discovering our solar system’s origins and formation.
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