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Topic: Solar System

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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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft sends back first images of Pluto and it’s moon Charon

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. Icy mountains on Pluto and a new, crisp view of its largest moon, Charon, are among the several discoveries announced Wednesday by NASA’s New Horizons team, just one day after the spacecraft’s first ever Pluto flyby.

“Pluto New Horizons is a true mission of exploration showing us why basic scientific research is so important,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The mission has had nine years to build expectations about what we would see during closest approach to Pluto and Charon. Today, we get the first sampling of the scientific treasure collected during those critical moments, and I can tell you it dramatically surpasses those high expectations.”

New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise -- a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. (NASA/JHU APL/SwRI)

New close-up images of a region near Pluto’s equator reveal a giant surprise — a range of youthful mountains rising as high as 11,000 feet (3,500 meters) above the surface of the icy body. (NASA/JHU APL/SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft answers decade old question, What is the Size of Pluto?

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons mission has answered one of the most basic questions about Pluto—its size.

Mission scientists have found Pluto to be 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter, somewhat larger than many prior estimates. Images acquired with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were used to make this determination. This result confirms what was already suspected: Pluto is larger than all other known solar system objects beyond the orbit of Neptune.

A portrait from the final approach. Pluto and Charon display striking color and brightness contrast in this composite image from July 11, showing high-resolution black-and-white LORRI images colorized with Ralph data collected from the last rotation of Pluto. Color data being returned by the spacecraft now will update these images, bringing color contrast into sharper focus. (NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

A portrait from the final approach. Pluto and Charon display striking color and brightness contrast in this composite image from July 11, showing high-resolution black-and-white LORRI images colorized with Ralph data collected from the last rotation of Pluto. Color data being returned by the spacecraft now will update these images, bringing color contrast into sharper focus. (NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft has one year remaining on flight to Jupiter

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With just one year remaining in a five-year trek to Jupiter, the team of NASA’s Juno mission is hard at work preparing for the spacecraft’s expedition to the solar system’s largest planet.

The mission aims to reveal the story of Jupiter’s formation and details of its interior structure. Data from Juno will provide insights about our solar system’s beginnings, and what we learn from the mission will also enrich scientists’ understanding of giant planets around other stars.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Juno spacecraft making one of its close passes over Jupiter. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA tests Under-Ice Exploration rover at California Science Center Aquatic Exhibit

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A school of sardines fluttered by as giant leafy kelp swayed back and forth at the California Science Center in Los Angeles on Monday, June 22nd. At the bottom of this 188,000-gallon aquatic tank, a bright orange garibaldi fish seemed to ignore a new visitor to the aquatic wonderland: the silver body of an under-ice rover.

The rover’s presence 24 feet (7.3 meters) underwater at the science center this week helped researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, test the innovative rover’s systems. On Monday, the visitors’ guide to the rover and the fish around it was Andy Klesh, principal investigator for the rover at JPL and volunteer diver at the science center.

The body of the Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration, developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was tested at the California Science Center, Los Angeles, from June 22 to 24, 2015. Andy Klesh, seen here, is the principal investigator. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The body of the Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration, developed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, was tested at the California Science Center, Los Angeles, from June 22 to 24, 2015. Andy Klesh, seen here, is the principal investigator. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft’s latest images of Dwarf Planet Ceres continue to Bewilder

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The closer we get to Ceres, the more intriguing the distant dwarf planet becomes. New images of Ceres from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft provide more clues about its mysterious bright spots, and also reveal a pyramid-shaped peak towering over a relatively flat landscape.

“The surface of Ceres has revealed many interesting and unique features. For example, icy moons in the outer solar system have craters with central pits, but on Ceres central pits in large craters are much more common. These and other features will allow us to understand the inner structure of Ceres that we cannot sense directly,” said Carol Raymond, deputy principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

A cluster of mysterious bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres can be seen in this image, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft on June 9, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

A cluster of mysterious bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres can be seen in this image, taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on June 9, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Microwave Instrument on Rosetta Orbiter creates maps of Comet Water

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Since last September, scientists using NASA’s Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) on the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft have generated maps of the distribution of water in the coma of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, as the comet’s orbit brings it closer to the sun.

MIRO is able to detect water in the coma by measuring the direct emission from water vapor in the coma and by observing absorption of radiation from the nucleus at water-specific frequencies as the radiation passed through the coma.

This image, by the Rosetta navigation camera, was taken from a distance of about 53 miles (86 kilometers) from the center of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on March 14th, 2015. The image has a resolution of 24 feet (7 meters) per pixel and is cropped and processed to bring out the details of the comet's activity. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

This image, by the Rosetta navigation camera, was taken from a distance of about 53 miles (86 kilometers) from the center of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on March 14th, 2015. The image has a resolution of 24 feet (7 meters) per pixel and is cropped and processed to bring out the details of the comet’s activity. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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NASA’s Mission to Jupiter Moon Europa gets green light

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Beyond Earth, Jupiter’s moon Europa is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for signs of present-day life, and a new NASA mission to explore this potential is moving forward from concept review to development.

NASA’s mission concept — to conduct a detailed survey of Europa and investigate its habitability — has successfully completed its first major review by the agency and now is entering the development phase known as formulation.

Artist concept of NASA's Europa mission spacecraft approaching its target for one of many flybys. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist concept of NASA’s Europa mission spacecraft approaching its target for one of many flybys. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft moves in closer to Dwarf Planet Ceres for new picture

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau/Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new view of Ceres, taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 23rd, shows finer detail is becoming visible on the dwarf planet. The spacecraft snapped the image at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometers) with a resolution of 1,600 feet (480 meters) per pixel. The image is part of a sequence taken for navigational purposes.

After transmitting these images to Earth on May 23rd, Dawn resumed ion-thrusting toward its second mapping orbit.

A new view of Ceres' surface shows finer details coming into view as NASA's Dawn spacecraft spirals down to increasingly lower orbits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

A new view of Ceres’ surface shows finer details coming into view as NASA’s Dawn spacecraft spirals down to increasingly lower orbits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s prepares InSight Mars Lander for journey to Red Planet

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Testing is underway on NASA’s next mission on the journey to Mars, a stationary lander scheduled to launch in March 2016.

The lander is called InSight, an abbreviation for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport. It is about the size of a car and will be the first mission devoted to understanding the interior structure of the Red Planet. Examining the planet’s deep interior could reveal clues about how all rocky planets, including Earth, formed and evolved.

The solar arrays on NASA's InSight lander are deployed in this test inside a clean room at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver. This configuration is how the spacecraft will look on the surface of Mars. The image was taken on April 30, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin)

The solar arrays on NASA’s InSight lander are deployed in this test inside a clean room at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver. This configuration is how the spacecraft will look on the surface of Mars. The image was taken on April 30, 2015. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Lockheed Martin)

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