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Topic: Solar System

NASA DXL Sounding Rocket data shows where X-Rays come from, discovers new mystery

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In the last century, humans realized that space is filled with types of light we can’t see – from infrared signals released by hot stars and galaxies, to the cosmic microwave background that comes from every corner of the universe. Some of this invisible light that fills space takes the form of X-rays, the source of which has been hotly contended over the past few decades.

It wasn’t until the flight of the DXL sounding rocket, short for Diffuse X-ray emission from the Local galaxy, that scientists had concrete answers about the X-rays’ sources.

The Diffuse X-ray emission from the Local galaxy, or DXL, sounding rocket launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Dec. 13, 2012, to study the source of certain X-rays observed near Earth. (White Sands Missile Range, Visual Information Branch)

The Diffuse X-ray emission from the Local galaxy, or DXL, sounding rocket launched from White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on Dec. 13, 2012, to study the source of certain X-rays observed near Earth. (White Sands Missile Range, Visual Information Branch)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft data solves the mystery of Pluto’s moon Charon’s red region

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In June 2015, when the cameras on NASA’s approaching New Horizons spacecraft first spotted the large reddish polar region on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, mission scientists knew two things: they’d never seen anything like it elsewhere in our solar system, and they couldn’t wait to get the story behind it.

Over the past year, after analyzing the images and other data that New Horizons has sent back from its historic July 2015 flight through the Pluto system, the scientists think they’ve solved the mystery.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution, enhanced color view of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft's Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured this high-resolution, enhanced color view of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, just before closest approach on July 14, 2015. The image combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the spacecraft’s Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC); the colors are processed to best highlight the variation of surface properties across Charon. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory detects first X-Rays from Pluto

 

Written by Molly Porter
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – Scientists using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have made the first detections of X-rays from Pluto. These observations offer new insight into the space environment surrounding the largest and best-known object in the solar system’s outermost regions.

While NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft was speeding toward and beyond Pluto, Chandra was aimed several times on the dwarf planet and its moons, gathering data on Pluto that the missions could compare after the flyby. Each time Chandra pointed at Pluto – four times in all, from February 2014 through August 2015 – it detected low-energy X-rays from the small planet.

The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in conjunction with observations from NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft. (X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL/R.McNutt et al; Optical: NASA/JHUAPL)

The first detection of Pluto in X-rays has been made using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory in conjunction with observations from NASA’s New Horizon spacecraft.
(X-ray: NASA/CXC/JHUAPL/R.McNutt et al; Optical: NASA/JHUAPL)

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NASA’s THEMIS spacecraft observes Earth’s vibrating Magnetic Field

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The majestic auroras have captivated humans for thousands of years, but their nature – the fact that the lights are electromagnetic and respond to solar activity – was only realized in the last 150 years.

Thanks to coordinated multi-satellite observations and a worldwide network of magnetic sensors and cameras, close study of auroras has become possible over recent decades. Yet, auroras continue to mystify, dancing far above the ground to some, thus far, undetected rhythm.

An artist’s rendering (not to scale) of a cross-section of the magnetosphere, with the solar wind on the left in yellow and magnetic field lines emanating from the Earth in blue. The five THEMIS probes were well-positioned to directly observe one particular magnetic field line as it oscillated back and forth roughly every six minutes. In this unstable environment, electrons in near-Earth space, depicted as white dots, stream rapidly down magnetic field lines towards Earth’s poles. There, they interact with oxygen and nitrogen particles in the upper atmosphere, releasing photons and brightening a specific region of the aurora. (Emmanuel Masongsong/UCLA EPSS/NASA)

An artist’s rendering (not to scale) of a cross-section of the magnetosphere, with the solar wind on the left in yellow and magnetic field lines emanating from the Earth in blue. The five THEMIS probes were well-positioned to directly observe one particular magnetic field line as it oscillated back and forth roughly every six minutes. In this unstable environment, electrons in near-Earth space, depicted as white dots, stream rapidly down magnetic field lines towards Earth’s poles. There, they interact with oxygen and nitrogen particles in the upper atmosphere, releasing photons and brightening a specific region of the aurora. (Emmanuel Masongsong/UCLA EPSS/NASA)

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft on it’s way to asteroid Bennu

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission launched into space at 7:05pm EDT Thursday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning a journey that could revolutionize our understanding of the early solar system.

“Ee celebrate a huge milestone for this remarkable mission, and for this mission team,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’re very excited about what this mission can tell us about the origin of our solar system, and we celebrate the bigger picture of science that is helping us make discoveries and accomplish milestones that might have been science fiction yesterday, but are science facts today.”

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft was launched into space at 7:05pm EDT Thursday, September 8th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (NASA)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft was launched into space at 7:05pm EDT Thursday, September 8th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (NASA)

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft ready for Asteroid mission to Bennu

 

Written by Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationFlorida – The first U.S. mission to travel to an asteroid, retrieve samples and return them to Earth is targeted for a September 8th launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

This groundbreaking mission, several years in the making, is the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer, also known as OSIRIS-REx. It will travel to near-Earth asteroid Bennu, map its surface using 3-D laser imaging, retrieve samples from the surface and return to Earth.

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, enclosed in a payload fairing, is lifted Aug. 29 at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that is to lift OSIRIS-REx into space was stacked at SLC-41 so the spacecraft and fairing could be hoisted up and bolted to the rocket. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, enclosed in a payload fairing, is lifted Aug. 29 at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that is to lift OSIRIS-REx into space was stacked at SLC-41 so the spacecraft and fairing could be hoisted up and bolted to the rocket. (NASA/Dimitri Gerondidakis)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft data reveals new insights about the Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A lonely 3-mile-high (5-kilometer-high) mountain on Ceres is likely volcanic in origin, and the dwarf planet may have a weak, temporary atmosphere. These are just two of many new insights about Ceres from NASA’s Dawn mission published this week in six papers in the journal Science.

“Dawn has revealed that Ceres is a diverse world that clearly had geological activity in its recent past,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Ceres' lonely mountain, Ahuna Mons, is seen in this simulated perspective view. The elevation has been exaggerated by a factor of two. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

Ceres’ lonely mountain, Ahuna Mons, is seen in this simulated perspective view. The elevation has been exaggerated by a factor of two. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft examination of Jupiter will help us better understand far off worlds

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around.

Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.

It turns out the inverse is also true — we can turn our instruments and probes to our own backyard, and view Jupiter as if it were an exoplanet to learn more about those far-off worlds.

Comparing Jupiter with Jupiter-like planets that orbit other stars can teach us about those distant worlds, and reveal new insights about our own solar system's formation and evolution. (Illustration) (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Comparing Jupiter with Jupiter-like planets that orbit other stars can teach us about those distant worlds, and reveal new insights about our own solar system’s formation and evolution. (Illustration) (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to begin new mission phase in October

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Celebrating the spacecraft’s ability to push the boundaries of space science and technology, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope team has dubbed the next phase of its journey “Beyond.”

“Spitzer is operating well beyond the limits that were set for it at the beginning of the mission,” said Michael Werner, the project scientist for Spitzer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “We never envisioned operating 13 years after launch, and scientists are making discoveries in areas of science we never imagined exploring with the spacecraft.”

This artist's concept shows NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer begins its "Beyond" mission phase on Oct. 1, 2016. The spacecraft is depicted in the orientation it assumes to establish communications with ground stations. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer begins its “Beyond” mission phase on Oct. 1, 2016. The spacecraft is depicted in the orientation it assumes to establish communications with ground stations. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA looks back at years of Jupiter Observations

 

Written by Ashley Morrow
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Launched five years ago on August 5th, 2011, NASA’s Juno mission maneuvered into orbit around Jupiter on July 4th, 2016, joining a long tradition of discovery at the gas giant.

One of the brightest objects in the night sky, Jupiter has enthralled humans since ancient times. Today, scientists believe that learning more about the planet may be the key to discovering our solar system’s origins and formation.

An artist's concept of the Pioneer 10 spacecraft. (NASA)

An artist’s concept of the Pioneer 10 spacecraft. (NASA)

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