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Topic: Solar System

NASA’s New Horizons Team catches glimpse of primitive solar system object

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A primitive solar system object that’s more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) away passed in front of a distant star as seen from Earth. Just before midnight Eastern Time Sunday (12:50am local time July 17th), several telescopes deployed by the New Horizons team in a remote part of Argentina were in precisely the right place at the right time to catch its fleeting shadow — an event that’s known as an occultation.

In a matter of seconds, NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. Weary but excited team members succeeded in detecting the spacecraft’s next destination, in what’s being called the most ambitious and challenging ground occultation observation campaign in history.

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

NASA’s New Horizons team captured new data on its elusive target, an ancient Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69. (NASA)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Completes Flyby over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission completed a close flyby of Jupiter and its Great Red Spot on July 10th, during its sixth science orbit.

All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that are now being returned to Earth. Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on September 1st, 2017.

Raw images from the spacecraft’s latest flyby will be posted in coming days.

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft in orbit above Jupiter's Great Red Spot. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft in orbit above Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA gets ready Total Solar Eclipse on August 21st

 

Written by Karen Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – For the first time in 99 years, a total solar eclipse will occur across the entire continental United States, and NASA is preparing to share this experience of a lifetime on August 21st, 2017.

Viewers around the world will be provided a wealth of images captured before, during, and after the eclipse by 11 spacecraft, at least three NASA aircraft, more than 50 high-altitude balloons, and the astronauts aboard the International Space Station – each offering a unique vantage point for the celestial event.

This image of the moon crossing in front of the sun was captured on Jan. 30, 2014, by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory observing an eclipse from its vantage point in space. (NASA)

This image of the moon crossing in front of the sun was captured on Jan. 30, 2014, by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory observing an eclipse from its vantage point in space. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft’s 20 Year Mission to come to a close

 

Written by Steven Siceloff
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationFlorida – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft spends its last few weeks in orbit around Saturn before making a controlled impact with the planet in what NASA dubbed Cassini’s “Grand Finale,” some of those who helped launch the mission 20 years ago are thrilled with the success of the massive probe they helped dispatch to one of the solar system’s most intriguing worlds.

“There’s just a real sense of fulfillment associated with being part of a launch team, particularly something as big as Cassini and as complicated as Cassini is and the whole makeup of the whole Cassini team,” said Ray Lugo, launch director for Cassini. “It was a big community of folks and everybody had to do their part to make sure that mission got off right.”

The planet Saturn as seen from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (NASA)

The planet Saturn as seen from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA studies Artificial Intelligence for Future Robotic Space Missions

 

Written by Andrew Good
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – How do you get a robot to recognize a surprise?

That’s a question artificial intelligence researchers are mulling, especially as A.I. begins to change space research.

A new article in the journal Science: Robotics offers an overview of how A.I. has been used to make discoveries on space missions. The article, co-authored by Steve Chien and Kiri Wagstaff of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, suggests that autonomy will be a key technology for the future exploration of our solar system, where robotic spacecraft will often be out of communication with their human controllers.

In a sense, space scientists are doing field research virtually, with the help of robotic spacecraft.

Artificial intelligence is poised to change the way NASA studies space. A.I. onboard a NASA Earth science satellite detected the eruption of an Icelandic volcano in 2010, helping to produce this colorful image. (NASA/JPL/EO-1 Mission/GSFC/Ashley Davies)

Artificial intelligence is poised to change the way NASA studies space. A.I. onboard a NASA Earth science satellite detected the eruption of an Icelandic volcano in 2010, helping to produce this colorful image. (NASA/JPL/EO-1 Mission/GSFC/Ashley Davies)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope finds 219 new Planet Candidates

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMountain View, CA –  NASA’s Kepler space telescope team has released a mission catalog of planet candidates that introduces 219 new candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and orbiting in their star’s habitable zone, which is the range of distance from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet.

This is the most comprehensive and detailed catalog release of candidate exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system, from Kepler’s first four years of data. It’s also the final catalog from the spacecraft’s view of the patch of sky in the Cygnus constellation.

NASA's Kepler space telescope team has identified 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and in the habitable zone of their star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Kepler space telescope team has identified 219 new planet candidates, 10 of which are near-Earth size and in the habitable zone of their star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovers Moon circling Dwarf Planet

 

Written by John Stansberry
Space Telescope Science Institute

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBaltimore, MD – The combined power of three space observatories, including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, has helped astronomers uncover a moon orbiting the third largest dwarf planet, catalogued as 2007 OR10. The pair resides in the frigid outskirts of our solar system called the Kuiper Belt, a realm of icy debris left over from our solar system’s formation 4.6 billion years ago.

With this discovery, most of the known dwarf planets in the Kuiper Belt larger than 600 miles across have companions. These bodies provide insight into how moons formed in the young solar system.

Hubble spots a moon around the dwarf planet 2007 OR10. These two images, taken a year apart, reveal a moon orbiting the dwarf planet 2007 OR10. Each image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, shows the companion in a different orbital position around its parent body. 2007 OR10 is the third-largest known dwarf planet, behind Pluto and Eris, and the largest unnamed world in the solar system. (NASA, ESA, C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory), and J. Stansberry (STScI)

Hubble spots a moon around the dwarf planet 2007 OR10. These two images, taken a year apart, reveal a moon orbiting the dwarf planet 2007 OR10. Each image, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3, shows the companion in a different orbital position around its parent body. 2007 OR10 is the third-largest known dwarf planet, behind Pluto and Eris, and the largest unnamed world in the solar system. (NASA, ESA, C. Kiss (Konkoly Observatory), and J. Stansberry (STScI)

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NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes discover Planet with Hydrogen, Helium Atmosphere

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD –  A study combining observations from NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes reveals that the distant planet HAT-P-26b has a primitive atmosphere composed almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Located about 437 light-years away, HAT-P-26b orbits a star roughly twice as old as the sun.

The analysis is one of the most detailed studies to date of a “warm Neptune,” or a planet that is Neptune-sized and close to its star. The researchers determined that HAT-P-26b’s atmosphere is relatively clear of clouds and has a strong water signature, although the planet is not a water world. This is the best measurement of water to date on an exoplanet of this size.

The atmosphere of the distant "warm Neptune" HAT-P-26b, illustrated here, is unexpectedly primitive, composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. (NASA/GSFC)

The atmosphere of the distant “warm Neptune” HAT-P-26b, illustrated here, is unexpectedly primitive, composed primarily of hydrogen and helium. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA’s SOFIA confirms discovery of Planetary System comparable to ours

 

Written by Nick Veronico
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMountain View, CA – NASA’s flying observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, recently completed a detailed study of a nearby planetary system. The investigations confirmed that this nearby planetary system has an architecture remarkably similar to that of our solar system.

Located 10.5 light-years away in the southern hemisphere of the constellation Eridanus, the star Epsilon Eridani, eps Eri for short, is the closest planetary system around a star similar to the early sun. It is a prime location to research how planets form around stars like our sun, and is also the storied location of the Babylon 5 space station in the science fictional television series of the same name.

Artist's illustration of the Epsilon Eridani system showing Epsilon Eridani b. In the right foreground, a Jupiter-mass planet is shown orbiting its parent star at the outside edge of an asteroid belt. In the background can be seen another narrow asteroid or comet belt plus an outermost belt similar in size to our solar system's Kuiper Belt. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

Artist’s illustration of the Epsilon Eridani system showing Epsilon Eridani b. In the right foreground, a Jupiter-mass planet is shown orbiting its parent star at the outside edge of an asteroid belt. In the background can be seen another narrow asteroid or comet belt plus an outermost belt similar in size to our solar system’s Kuiper Belt. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

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NASA Scientists find Iceball Planet using Microlensing

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have discovered a new planet with the mass of Earth, orbiting its star at the same distance that we orbit our sun. The planet is likely far too cold to be habitable for life as we know it, however, because its star is so faint. But the discovery adds to scientists’ understanding of the types of planetary systems that exist beyond our own.

“This ‘iceball’ planet is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing,” said Yossi Shvartzvald, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This artist's concept shows OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, a planet discovered through a technique called microlensing. (NASA)

This artist’s concept shows OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, a planet discovered through a technique called microlensing. (NASA)

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