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Topic: Solar System

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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NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy observes Magnetic Fields in the Universe

 

Written by Nicholas A. Veronico
NASA Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, is preparing for its 2018 observing campaign, which will include observations of celestial magnetic fields, star-forming regions, comets, Saturn’s giant moon Titan and more.

This will be the fourth year of full operations for SOFIA, with observations planned between February 2018 and January 2019. Research flights will be conducted primarily from SOFIA’s home base at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center.

HAWC+ performed polarization measurements at 89 μm to capture the structure of the magnetic field in the Orion star forming region. Each line segment represents the orientation of the magnetic field at that location, overlaid on an image of the total intensity at the same wavelength. (NASA/SOFIA/Caltech/Darren Dowell)

HAWC+ performed polarization measurements at 89 μm to capture the structure of the magnetic field in the Orion star forming region. Each line segment represents the orientation of the magnetic field at that location, overlaid on an image of the total intensity at the same wavelength. (NASA/SOFIA/Caltech/Darren Dowell)

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NASA 2017 Highlights

 

Written by Jen Rae Wang / Allard Beutel
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The Moon became a key focus point for NASA in 2017, whether it was blocking out the Sun during one of the most-viewed events in U.S. history, or reinvigorating the agency’s human space exploration plans.

One of the numerous NASA-related activities and actions the Trump Administration did in 2017 was to reconstitute the National Space Council. During its first meeting on October 5th, Vice President Mike Pence directed NASA to develop a plan to help extend human exploration across our solar system, and return astronauts to the Moon in preparation for human missions to Mars and other destinations.

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NASA looks to fund concepts for missions to Saturn’s Moon Titan and a Comet

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has selected two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.

The agency announced the concepts Wednesday, following an extensive and competitive peer review process. The concepts were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in April under a New Frontiers program announcement of opportunity.

NASA selects two mission concepts for further exploration of our solar system. (NASA)

NASA selects two mission concepts for further exploration of our solar system. (NASA)

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U.S. President Donald Trump signs New Space Policy Directive Calling for Human Expansion Across Solar System

 

Written by Jen Rae Wang
NASA’s Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – United States President Donald Trump is sending astronauts back to the Moon.

The president Monday signed at the White House Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond.

The policy calls for the NASA administrator to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system and to bring back to Earth new knowledge and opportunities.”

Representatives of Congress and the National Space Council joined President Donald J. Trump, Apollo astronaut Jack Schmitt and current NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, for the president’s signing of Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond. (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

Representatives of Congress and the National Space Council joined President Donald J. Trump, Apollo astronaut Jack Schmitt and current NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, for the president’s signing of Space Policy Directive 1, a change in national space policy that provides for a U.S.-led, integrated program with private sector partners for a human return to the Moon, followed by missions to Mars and beyond. (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data reveals Star with Eighth Planet in Orbit

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Our solar system now is tied for most number of planets around a single star, with the recent discovery of an eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a Sun-like star 2,545 light years from Earth. The planet was discovered in data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.

The newly-discovered Kepler-90i – a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days – was found using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence in which computers “learn.” In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded changes in starlight caused by planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets.

With the discovery of an eighth planet, the Kepler-90 system is the first to tie with our solar system in number of planets. Artist's concept. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel)

With the discovery of an eighth planet, the Kepler-90 system is the first to tie with our solar system in number of planets. Artist’s concept. (NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel)

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NASA says Dwarf Planet Ceres is still evolving

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – If you could fly aboard NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, the surface of dwarf planet Ceres would generally look quite dark, but with notable exceptions.

These exceptions are the hundreds of bright areas that stand out in images Dawn has returned.

Now, scientists have a better sense of how these reflective areas formed and changed over time — processes indicative of an active, evolving world.

The bright areas of Occator Crater -- Cerealia Facula in the center and Vinalia Faculae to the side -- are examples of bright material found on crater floors on Ceres. This is a simulated perspective view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

The bright areas of Occator Crater — Cerealia Facula in the center and Vinalia Faculae to the side — are examples of bright material found on crater floors on Ceres. This is a simulated perspective view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft data reveals deepness of Great Red Spot on Jupiter

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft during its first pass over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot in July 2017 indicate that this iconic feature penetrates well below the clouds. Other revelations from the mission include that Jupiter has two previously uncharted radiation zones. The findings were announced Monday at the annual American Geophysical Union meeting in New Orleans.

“One of the most basic questions about Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is: how deep are the roots?” said Scott Bolton, Juno’s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.

This photo shows the motion of clouds in Jupiter's Great Red Spot. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Justin Cowart)

This photo shows the motion of clouds in Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstadt/Justin Cowart)

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NASA’s Voyager probes make their mark in Popular Culture

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Whether you’re traveling across cities, continents or even oceans this holiday season, there is no long-haul flight quite like that of the Voyagers.

This year, we celebrated 40 years since the launch of NASA’s twin Voyager probes — the two farthest, fastest spacecraft currently in operation. Each Voyager has contributed an enormous amount of knowledge about the solar system, including the unexpected diversity of its planets and their moons. Among their many distinctions, Voyager 1 is the only spacecraft to enter interstellar space, and Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to fly by all four giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Each Voyager spacecraft carries a copy of the Golden Record, which has been featured in several works of science fiction. The record's protective cover, with instructions for playing its contents, is shown at left. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Each Voyager spacecraft carries a copy of the Golden Record, which has been featured in several works of science fiction. The record’s protective cover, with instructions for playing its contents, is shown at left. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA research shows Gravitational Pull of Moons could preserve Liquid Water Oceans on Frigid Worlds

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald / Nancy Jones
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Heat generated by the gravitational pull of moons formed from massive collisions could extend the lifetimes of liquid water oceans beneath the surface of large icy worlds in our outer solar system, according to new NASA research.

This greatly expands the number of locations where extraterrestrial life might be found, since liquid water is necessary to support known forms of life and astronomers estimate there are dozens of these worlds.

“These objects need to be considered as potential reservoirs of water and life,” said Prabal Saxena of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the research published in Icarus November 24th.

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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