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Topic: Solar System

NASA’s Mars Odyssey Orbiter observes Comet Siding Spring as it passes Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The longest-lived robot ever sent to Mars came through its latest challenge in good health, reporting home on schedule after sheltering behind Mars from possible comet dust.

NASA’s Mars Odyssey was out of communications with Earth, as planned, while conducting observations of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring on Sunday, October 19th, as the comet flew near Mars.

Artist's concept of NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. (NASA/JPL)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft was bathed in beam of electrons during flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Static electricity is known to play an important role on Earth’s airless, dusty moon, but evidence of static charge building up on other objects in the solar system has been elusive until now.

A new analysis of data from NASA’s Cassini mission has revealed that, during a 2005 flyby of Saturn’s moon Hyperion, the spacecraft was briefly bathed in a beam of electrons coming from the moon’s electrostatically charged surface.

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn's chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon's surface, a first for any body other than Earth's moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

Cassini obtained this false-color view of Saturn’s chaotically tumbling moon Hyperion during a flyby on Sept. 26, 2005. The spacecraft detected a strong electrostatic charge on the moon’s surface, a first for any body other than Earth’s moon. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA Satellites, Telescopes ready for Comet Siding Spring’s flyby of Mars

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s extensive fleet of science assets, particularly those orbiting and roving Mars, have front row seats to image and study a once-in-a-lifetime comet flyby on Sunday, October 19th.

Comet C/2013 A1, also known as comet Siding Spring, will pass within about 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of the Red Planet — less than half the distance between Earth and our moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.

NASA Science Fleet Prepares for Mars Comet. (NASA)

NASA Science Fleet Prepares for Mars Comet. (NASA)

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NASA reports Rosetta Spacecraft’s target Comet begins Jet Activity

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The four images that make up a new montage of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko were taken on September 26th, 2014 by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft. At the time, Rosetta was about 16 miles (26 kilometers) from the center of the comet.

In the montage, a region of jet activity can be seen at the neck of the comet. These jets, originating from several discrete locations, are a product of ices sublimating and gases escaping from inside the nucleus.

An image taken by the ESA Rosetta spacecraft shows jets of dust and gas escaping from the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

An image taken by the ESA Rosetta spacecraft shows jets of dust and gas escaping from the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft finds giant Cloud circling south pole of Saturn’s moon Titan

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists analyzing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have discovered that a giant, toxic cloud is hovering over the south pole of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, after the atmosphere there cooled dramatically.

The scientists found that this giant polar vortex contains frozen particles of the toxic compound hydrogen cyanide, or HCN.

“The discovery suggests that the atmosphere of Titan’s southern hemisphere is cooling much faster than we expected,” said Remco de Kok of Leiden Observatory and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research, lead author of the study published today in the journal Nature.

These two views of Saturn's moon Titan show the southern polar vortex, a huge, swirling cloud that was first observed by NASA's Cassini spacecraft in 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Arizona/SSI/Leiden Observatory and SRON)

These two views of Saturn’s moon Titan show the southern polar vortex, a huge, swirling cloud that was first observed by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft in 2012. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/University of Arizona/SSI/Leiden Observatory and SRON)

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NASA’s GRAIL mission data reveals ‘Ocean of Storms’ region of Earth’s Moon formed from ancient rift valleys

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), mission scientists have solved a lunar mystery almost as old as the moon itself.

Early theories suggested the craggy outline of a region of the moon’s surface known as Oceanus Procellarum, or the Ocean of Storms, was caused by an asteroid impact. If this theory had been correct, the basin it formed would be the largest asteroid impact basin on the moon.

A view of Earth's moon looking south across Oceanus Procellarum, representing how the western border structures may have looked while active. (NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC)

A view of Earth’s moon looking south across Oceanus Procellarum, representing how the western border structures may have looked while active. (NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/JPL/GSFC)

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NASA’s Swift satellite detects strong, hot stellar flares from nearby Red Dwarf Star

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, Maryland – On April 23rd, NASA’s Swift satellite detected the strongest, hottest, and longest-lasting sequence of stellar flares ever seen from a nearby red dwarf star. The initial blast from this record-setting series of explosions was as much as 10,000 times more powerful than the largest solar flare ever recorded.

“We used to think major flaring episodes from red dwarfs lasted no more than a day, but Swift detected at least seven powerful eruptions over a period of about two weeks,” said Stephen Drake, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who gave a presentation on the “superflare” at the August meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s High Energy Astrophysics Division. “This was a very complex event.”

DG CVn, a binary consisting of two red dwarf stars shown here in an artist's rendering, unleashed a series of powerful flares seen by NASA's Swift. At its peak, the initial flare was brighter in X-rays than the combined light from both stars at all wavelengths under typical conditions. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger)

DG CVn, a binary consisting of two red dwarf stars shown here in an artist’s rendering, unleashed a series of powerful flares seen by NASA’s Swift. At its peak, the initial flare was brighter in X-rays than the combined light from both stars at all wavelengths under typical conditions. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger)

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NASA reports Rosetta Spacecraft to release Philae Lander to Comet’s surface November 12th

 

Written by DC Agle/Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission will deploy its lander, Philae, to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on November 12th.

Rosetta is an international mission spearheaded by the European Space Agency with support and instruments provided by NASA.

Philae’s landing site, currently known as Site J, is located on the smaller of the comet’s two “lobes,” with a backup site on the larger lobe. The sites were selected just six weeks after Rosetta’s August 6th arrival at the comet, following the spacecraft’s 10-year journey through the solar system.

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

Image depicts the primary landing site on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko chosen for the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler Telescopes discovers water vapor on Exoplanet outside our solar system

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from three of NASA’s space telescopes — Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler — have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.

“This discovery is a significant milepost on the road to eventually analyzing the atmospheric composition of smaller, rocky planets more like Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Such achievements are only possible today with the combined capabilities of these unique and powerful observatories.”

A Neptune-size planet with a clear atmosphere is shown crossing in front of its star in this artist's depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A Neptune-size planet with a clear atmosphere is shown crossing in front of its star in this artist’s depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft ready to enter Mars orbit

 

Written by Izumi Hansen and Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled September 21st insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).

Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft’s mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 6:50pm PDT (9:50pm EDT).

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is quickly approaching Mars on a mission to study its upper atmosphere. When it arrives on September 21, 2014, MAVEN's winding journey from Earth will culminate with a dramatic engine burn, pulling the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit.

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft is quickly approaching Mars on a mission to study its upper atmosphere. When it arrives on September 21, 2014, MAVEN’s winding journey from Earth will culminate with a dramatic engine burn, pulling the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit.

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