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Topic: Solar System

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft makes history as it begins orbit around Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has become the first mission to achieve orbit around a dwarf planet. The spacecraft was approximately 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometers) from Ceres when it was captured by the dwarf planet’s gravity at about 4:39am PST (7:39am EST) Friday.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California received a signal from the spacecraft at 5:36am PST (8:36am EST) that Dawn was healthy and thrusting with its ion engine, the indicator Dawn had entered orbit as planned.

The slim crescent of Ceres smiles back as the dwarf planet awaits the arrival of an emissary from Earth. (NASA)

The slim crescent of Ceres smiles back as the dwarf planet awaits the arrival of an emissary from Earth. (NASA)

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NASA Scientists recreate Building Blocks of Life by simulating Outer Space Environment

 

Written by Ruth Marlaire
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – NASA scientists studying the origin of life have reproduced uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. They discovered that an ice sample containing pyrimidine exposed to ultraviolet radiation under space-like conditions produces these essential ingredients of life.

Pyrimidine is a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen and is the central structure for uracil, cytosine, and thymine, which are all three part of a genetic code found in ribonucleic (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA). RNA and DNA are central to protein synthesis, but also have many other roles.

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. (NASA/ Dominic Hart)

Left to right: Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford reproduce uracil, cytosine, and thymine, three key components of our hereditary material, in the laboratory. (NASA/ Dominic Hart)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft to enter orbit around Dwarf Planet Ceres on March 6th

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned new images captured on approach to its historic orbit insertion at the dwarf planet Ceres. Dawn will be the first mission to successfully visit a dwarf planet when it enters orbit around Ceres on Friday, March 6th.

“Dawn is about to make history,” said Robert Mase, project manager for the Dawn mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Our team is ready and eager to find out what Ceres has in store for us.”

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NASA’s Voyager 1 Spacecraft took famous images of Earth 25 years ago Valentine’s Day

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Valentine’s Day is special for NASA’s Voyager mission. It was on February 14th, 1990, that the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back at our solar system and snapped the first-ever pictures of the planets from its perch at that time beyond Neptune.

This “family portrait” captures Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus from Voyager 1’s unique vantage point. A few key members did not make it in: Mars had little sunlight, Mercury was too close to the sun, and dwarf planet Pluto turned out too dim.

These six narrow-angle color images were made from the first ever "portrait" of the solar system taken by Voyager 1, which was more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

These six narrow-angle color images were made from the first ever “portrait” of the solar system taken by Voyager 1, which was more than 4 billion miles from Earth and about 32 degrees above the ecliptic. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA researchers may have discovered why Comets have a hard outer crust

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers tinkering with ice and organics in the lab may have discovered why comets are encased in a hard, outer crust.

Using an icebox-like instrument nicknamed Himalaya, the researchers show that fluffy ice on the surface of a comet would crystalize and harden as the comet heads toward the sun and warms up. As the water-ice crystals form, becoming denser and more ordered, other molecules containing carbon would be expelled to the comet’s surface. The result is a crunchy comet crust sprinkled with organic dust.

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is seen here in an image captured by the Rosetta spacecraft. The mission's Philae lander hit the surface with a big bounce, demonstrating the comet's surface is hard. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is seen here in an image captured by the Rosetta spacecraft. The mission’s Philae lander hit the surface with a big bounce, demonstrating the comet’s surface is hard. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft takes sharpest picture yet of dwarf planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned the sharpest images ever seen of the dwarf planet Ceres. The images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on January 25th, and represent a new milestone for a spacecraft that soon will become the first human-made probe to visit a dwarf planet.

“We know so little about our vast solar system, but thanks to economical missions like Dawn, those mysteries are being solved,” said Jim Green, Planetary Science Division Director at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

This animation of the dwarf planet Ceres was made by combining images taken by the Dawn spacecraft on January 25th, 2015.

This animation of the dwarf planet Ceres was made by combining images taken by the Dawn spacecraft on January 25th, 2015.

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NASA’s Deep Space Network antenna image shows Asteroid passing Earth today had it’s own Moon

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists working with NASA’s 230-foot-wide (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released the first radar images of asteroid 2004 BL86. The images show the asteroid, which made its closest approach today (January 26th, 2015) at 8:19am PST (10:19am CST) at a distance of about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers, or 3.1 times the distance from Earth to the moon), has its own small moon.

The 20 individual images used in the movie were generated from data collected at Goldstone on January 26th, 2015. They show the primary body is approximately 1,100 feet (325 meters) across and has a small moon approximately 230 feet (70 meters) across.

This GIF shows asteroid 2004 BL86, which safely flew past Earth on Jan. 26, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This GIF shows asteroid 2004 BL86, which safely flew past Earth on Jan. 26, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft prepares to approach Pluto

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Deep Space Network Helps With ‘Optical Navigation’

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently began its long-awaited, historic encounter with Pluto. The spacecraft is entering the first of several approach phases that culminate July 14th with the first close-up flyby of the dwarf planet, 4.67 billion miles (7.5 billion kilometers) from Earth.

“NASA’s first mission to distant Pluto will also be humankind’s first close up view of this cold, unexplored world in our solar system,” said Jim Green, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The New Horizons team worked very hard to prepare for this first phase, and they did it flawlessly.”

Beam Wave Guide antennas at Goldstone, known as the "Beam Waveguide Cluster." Each antenna is 111.5-feet (34-m) in diameter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Beam Wave Guide antennas at Goldstone, known as the “Beam Waveguide Cluster.” Each antenna is 111.5-feet (34-m) in diameter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Saturn and it’s system of Moons mapped with high accuracy

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have paired NASA’s Cassini spacecraft with the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio-telescope system to pinpoint the position of Saturn and its family of moons to within about 2 miles (4 kilometers).

The measurement is some 50 times more precise than those provided by ground-based optical telescopes. The feat improves astronomers’ knowledge of Saturn’s orbit and benefits spacecraft navigation and basic physics research.

Researchers have determined the location of the Saturn system's center of mass to within just a couple of miles (or kilometers), a factor of 50 improvement over previous knowledge. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Researchers have determined the location of the Saturn system’s center of mass to within just a couple of miles (or kilometers), a factor of 50 improvement over previous knowledge. (NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) data analyzed by Volunteer Disk Detectives finds possible Planetary Habitats

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A NASA-sponsored website designed to crowdsource analysis of data from the agency’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has reached an impressive milestone.

In less than a year, citizen scientists using DiskDetective.org have logged 1 million classifications of potential debris disks and disks surrounding young stellar objects (YSO). This data will help provide a crucial set of targets for future planet-hunting missions.

The marked asymmetry of the debris disk around the star HD 181327 suggests it may have formed as a result of the collision of two small bodies. The Disk Detective project aims to discover many other stellar disks using volunteer classifications of data from NASA's WISE mission. (NASA/ESA/Univ. of Arizona/HST/GO 12228 Team)

The marked asymmetry of the debris disk around the star HD 181327 suggests it may have formed as a result of the collision of two small bodies. The Disk Detective project aims to discover many other stellar disks using volunteer classifications of data from NASA’s WISE mission. (NASA/ESA/Univ. of Arizona/HST/GO 12228 Team)

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