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Topic: Solar System

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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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope discovers it’s 1,000th Exoplanet

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – How many stars like our sun host planets like our Earth? NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope continuously monitored more than 150,000 stars beyond our solar system, and to date has offered scientists an assortment of more than 4,000 candidate planets for further study — the 1,000th of which was recently verified.

Using Kepler data, scientists reached this millenary milestone after validating that eight more candidates spotted by the planet-hunting telescope are, in fact, planets. The Kepler team also has added another 554 candidates to the roll of potential planets, six of which are near-Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of stars similar to our sun.

Of the more than 1,000 verified planets found by NASA's Kepler, eight are less than twice Earth-size and in their stars' habitable zone. All eight orbit stars cooler and smaller than our sun. The search continues for Earth-size habitable zone worlds around sun-like stars. (NASA Ames/W Stenzel)

Of the more than 1,000 verified planets found by NASA’s Kepler, eight are less than twice Earth-size and in their stars’ habitable zone. All eight orbit stars cooler and smaller than our sun. The search continues for Earth-size habitable zone worlds around sun-like stars. (NASA Ames/W Stenzel)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory sees Milky Way’s Black Hole emit Record-Breaking X-ray flare

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Astronomers have observed the largest X-ray flare ever detected from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. This event, detected by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, raises questions about the behavior of this giant black hole and its surrounding environment.

The supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, called Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A*, is estimated to contain about 4.5 million times the mass of our sun.

Astronomers have detected the largest X-ray flare ever from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This event was 400 times brighter than the usual X-ray output from the black hole. (NASA/CXC/Northwestern Univ/D.Haggard et al. NASA/CXC/Stanford/I. Zhuravleva et al.)

Astronomers have detected the largest X-ray flare ever from the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This event was 400 times brighter than the usual X-ray output from the black hole. (NASA/CXC/Northwestern Univ/D.Haggard et al.
NASA/CXC/Stanford/I. Zhuravleva et al.)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) takes High-Energy X-Ray of our Sun

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – For the first time, a mission designed to set its eyes on black holes and other objects far from our solar system has turned its gaze back closer to home, capturing images of our sun.

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has taken its first picture of the sun, producing the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.

“NuSTAR will give us a unique look at the sun, from the deepest to the highest parts of its atmosphere,” said David Smith, a solar physicist and member of the NuSTAR team at University of California, Santa Cruz.

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

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NASA reports Rosetta Orbiter to do close Flyby of Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s orbiting Rosetta spacecraft is expected to come within four miles (six kilometers) of the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in February of next year. The flyby will be the closest the comet explorer will come during its prime mission.

“It is the earliest we could carry it out without impacting the vitally important bound orbits that are currently being flown,” said Matt Taylor, the Rosetta project scientist from the European Space Research and Technology Center, Noordwijk, the Netherlands. “As the comet becomes more and more active, it will not be possible to get so close to the comet. So this opportunity is very unique.”

From the location where it came to rest after bounces, the Philae lander of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission captured this view of a cliff on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

From the location where it came to rest after bounces, the Philae lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission captured this view of a cliff on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter images reveals new map showing ancient lakes and quakes on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Long ago, in the largest canyon system in our solar system, vibrations from “marsquakes” shook soft sediments that had accumulated in Martian lakes.

The shaken sediments formed features that now appear as a series of low hills apparent in a geological map based on NASA images. The map was released today by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

Details of hilly terrain within a large Martian canyon are shown on a geological map based on observations from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. Notations are explained in the legend with the full map, at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3309/. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/USGS)

Details of hilly terrain within a large Martian canyon are shown on a geological map based on observations from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and produced by the U.S. Geological Survey. Notations are explained in the legend with the full map, at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sim/3309/. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/USGS)

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