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Topic: Solar System

NASA’s New Horizons Team eyes new target for flyby in Kuiper Belt

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14th flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

This remote KBO was one of two identified as potential destinations and the one recommended to NASA by the New Horizons team.  Although NASA has selected 2014 MU69 as the target, as part of its normal review process the agency will conduct a detailed assessment before officially approving the mission extension to conduct additional science.

Artist's impression of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

Artist’s impression of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft encountering a Pluto-like object in the distant Kuiper Belt. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Alex Parker)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft captures clearest photos yet of Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The closest-yet views of Ceres, delivered by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, show the small world’s features in unprecedented detail, including Ceres’ tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures.

“Dawn is performing flawlessly in this new orbit as it conducts its ambitious exploration. The spacecraft’s view is now three times as sharp as in its previous mapping orbit, revealing exciting new details of this intriguing dwarf planet,” said Marc Rayman, Dawn’s chief engineer and mission director, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers). The mountain, located in the southern hemisphere, stands 4 miles (6 kilometers) high. Its perimeter is sharply defined, with almost no accumulated debris at the base of the brightly streaked slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) discovers Neon in Moon’s Atmosphere

 

Written by William Steigerwald
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The moon’s thin atmosphere contains neon, a gas commonly used in electric signs on Earth because of its intense glow. While scientists have speculated on the presence of neon in the lunar atmosphere for decades, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft has confirmed its existence for the first time.

“The presence of neon in the exosphere of the moon has been a subject of speculation since the Apollo missions, but no credible detections were made,” said Mehdi Benna of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “We were very pleased to not only finally confirm its presence, but to show that it is relatively abundant.”

Artist’s concept of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft in orbit above the moon. (NASA Ames / Dana Berry)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft in orbit above the moon. (NASA Ames / Dana Berry)

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NASA’s Gemini Planet Imager discovers young Jupiter like planet

 

NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – One of the best ways to learn how our solar system evolved is to look at younger star systems in the early stages of development. Recently, a team of astronomers including NASA scientists discovered a Jupiter-like planet within a young system that could serve as a decoder ring for understanding how planets formed around our sun.

The new planet, called 51 Eridani (Eri) b, is the first exoplanet discovered by the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), a new instrument operated by an international collaboration, and installed on the 8-meter Gemini South Telescope in Chile.

Artistic conception of the Jupiter-like exoplanet 51 Eridani b, with the hot layers deep in its atmosphere glowing through the clouds. Because of its young age, this cousin of our own Jupiter is still hot and carries information on the way it was formed 20 million years ago. (Danielle Futselaar and Franck Marchis, SETI Institute)

Artistic conception of the Jupiter-like exoplanet 51 Eridani b, with the hot layers deep in its atmosphere glowing through the clouds. Because of its young age, this cousin of our own Jupiter is still hot and carries information on the way it was formed 20 million years ago. (Danielle Futselaar and Franck Marchis, SETI Institute)

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NASA reports Rosetta spacecraft witnessed outburst from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has been witnessing growing activity from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as the comet approaches perihelion (its closest point to the sun during its orbit). On July 29th, while the spacecraft orbited at a distance of 116 miles (186 kilometers) from the comet, it observed the most dramatic outburst to date.

Early science results collected during the outburst came from several instruments aboard Rosetta, including the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer (DFMS), which uses NASA-built electronics. The DFMS is part of the spacecraft’s Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument.

A short-lived outburst from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was captured by Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2015. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

A short-lived outburst from comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was captured by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on July 29, 2015. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

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NASA releases two Online Tools for Exploring Mars to the Public

 

Written by Guy Webster and Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – On the three-year anniversary of the Mars landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover, NASA is unveiling two new online tools that open the mysterious terrain of the Red Planet to a new generation of explorers, inviting the public to help with its journey to Mars.

Mars Trek is a free, Web-based application that provides high-quality, detailed visualizations of the planet using real data from 50 years of NASA exploration and allowing astronomers, citizen scientists and students to study the Red Planet’s features.

A screen capture from NASA's new Experience Curiosity website shows the rover in the process of taking its own self-portrait. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A screen capture from NASA’s new Experience Curiosity website shows the rover in the process of taking its own self-portrait. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) telescope studies Odd group of Asteroids

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – High above the plane of our solar system, near the asteroid-rich abyss between Mars and Jupiter, scientists have found a unique family of space rocks.

These interplanetary oddballs are the Euphrosyne (pronounced you-FROH-seh-nee) asteroids, and by any measure they have been distant, dark and mysterious — until now.

Distributed at the outer edge of the asteroid belt, the Euphrosynes have an unusual orbital path that juts well above the ecliptic, the equator of the solar system. The asteroid after which they are named, Euphrosyne — for an ancient Greek goddess of mirth — is about 156 miles (260 kilometers) across and is one of the 10 largest asteroids in the main belt.

The asteroid Euphrosyne glides across a field of background stars in this time-lapse view from NASA's WISE spacecraft. (NASA)

The asteroid Euphrosyne glides across a field of background stars in this time-lapse view from NASA’s WISE spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA study discovers Brown Dwarfs have strong Auroras around them

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mysterious objects called brown dwarfs are sometimes called “failed stars.” They are too small to fuse hydrogen in their cores, the way most stars do, but also too large to be classified as planets.

But a new study in the journal Nature suggests they succeed in creating powerful auroral displays, similar to the kind seen around the magnetic poles on Earth.

“This is a whole new manifestation of magnetic activity for that kind of object,” said Leon Harding, a technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and co-author on the study.

This artist's concept shows an auroral display on a brown dwarf. If you could see an aurora on a brown dwarf, it would be a million times brighter than an aurora on Earth. (Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows an auroral display on a brown dwarf. If you could see an aurora on a brown dwarf, it would be a million times brighter than an aurora on Earth. (Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope verifies nearest Planet outside our Solar System

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the discovery of the nearest rocky planet outside our solar system, larger than Earth and a potential gold mine of science data.

Dubbed HD 219134b, this exoplanet, which orbits too close to its star to sustain life, is a mere 21 light-years away. While the planet itself can’t be seen directly, even by telescopes, the star it orbits is visible to the naked eye in dark skies in the Cassiopeia constellation, near the North Star.

This artist's rendition shows one possible appearance for the planet HD 219134b, the nearest confirmed rocky exoplanet found to date outside our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendition shows one possible appearance for the planet HD 219134b, the nearest confirmed rocky exoplanet found to date outside our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory watches as Pulsar Punches Hole in Disk of Gas

 

Written by Janet Anderson
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – A fast-moving pulsar appears to have punched a hole in a disk of gas around its companion star and launched a fragment of the disk outward at a speed of about 4 million miles per hour. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is tracking this cosmic clump, which appears to be picking up speed as it moves out.

The double star system PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – contains a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun and a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion.

This trio of images contains evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory that a clump of stellar material has been jettisoned away from a double star system at incredibly high speeds. This system, known as PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – is comprised of two objects in orbit around one another. The first is a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun that has a disk of material swirling around it. The other is a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion. (NASA/CXC/PSU/G.Pavlov et al)

This trio of images contains evidence from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory that a clump of stellar material has been jettisoned away from a double star system at incredibly high speeds. This system, known as PSR B1259-63/LS 2883 – or B1259 for short – is comprised of two objects in orbit around one another. The first is a star about 30 times as massive as the Sun that has a disk of material swirling around it. The other is a pulsar, an ultra-dense neutron star left behind when an even more massive star underwent a supernova explosion. (NASA/CXC/PSU/G.Pavlov et al)

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