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Topic: Solar Wind

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft to investigate disappearance of Mars’ atmosphere

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After 10-month voyage across more than 400 million miles of empty space, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft reached Mars on September 21st 2014. Less than 8 hours later, the data started to flow.

“Our Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) obtained these false-color images of Mars on September 22nd,” says Nick Schneider who leads the instrument team at the University of Colorado. “They trace the distribution of hydrogen and oxygen in the Martian atmosphere.”

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NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft enters Mars Orbit

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit at 10:24pm EDT Sunday, September 21st, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.

“As the first orbiter dedicated to studying Mars’ upper atmosphere, MAVEN will greatly improve our understanding of the history of the Martian atmosphere, how the climate has changed over time, and how that has influenced the evolution of the surface and the potential habitability of the planet,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “It also will better inform a future mission to send humans to the Red Planet in the 2030s.”

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NASA says Comet Siding Spring and Mars’ Atmospheres may Collide in October

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On October 19th, 2014, Comet Siding Spring will pass by Mars only 132,000 km away–which would be like a comet passing about 1/3 of the distance between Earth and the Moon.

The nucleus of the comet won’t hit Mars, but there could be a different kind of collision.

“We hope to witness two atmospheres colliding,” explains David Brain of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). “This is a once in a lifetime event!”

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NASA’s Messenger Satellite discovers Space Weather Anomaly at the Planet Mercury

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The solar wind of particles streaming off the sun helps drive flows and swirls in space as complicated as any terrestrial weather pattern. Scientists have now spotted at planet Mercury, for the first time, a classic space weather event called a hot flow anomaly, or HFA, which has previously been spotted at Earth, Venus, Saturn and Mars.

“Planets have a bow shock the same way a supersonic jet does,” said Vadim Uritsky at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “These hot flow anomalies are made of very hot solar wind deflected off the bow shock.”

The yellow color shows the standing bow shock in front of Mercury. The signature of material flowing in a vastly different direction than the solar wind -- an HFA – can be seen in red at the lower left. (NASA/Duberstein)

The yellow color shows the standing bow shock in front of Mercury. The signature of material flowing in a vastly different direction than the solar wind — an HFA – can be seen in red at the lower left. (NASA/Duberstein)

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NASA says Rosetta Spacecraft monitors activity of it’s target Comet

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The target of ESA’s Rosetta mission has started to reveal its true personality as a comet, its dusty veil clearly developing over the past six weeks.

A new sequence of images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken between March 24th and May 4th, as the gap between craft and comet closed from around 3.1 million miles (5 million kilometers) to 1.2 million miles (2 million kilometers). By the end of the sequence, the comet’s coma extends about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) into space. By comparison, the nucleus is roughly only 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) across, and cannot yet be ‘resolved.’

This sequence of images shows comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko moving against the background star field. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

This sequence of images shows comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko moving against the background star field. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS)

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NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft to examine Solar Wind’s roll in Mars losing it’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Claire Saravia
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – This past November, NASA launched the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission in the hope of understanding how and why the planet has been losing its atmosphere over billions of years.

One instrument aboard the spacecraft will study a special component of the Martian atmosphere to help solve this mystery. By studying ions, or small electrically charged particles, in and above the Red Planet’s tenuous atmosphere, the Solar Wind Ion Analyzer will help answer why Mars has gradually lost much of its atmosphere, developing into a frozen, barren planet.

This artist's concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft orbiting Mars. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

This artist’s concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft orbiting Mars. (Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes spacecraft discover stripe pattern in one radiation belt around Earth

 

Written by Geoff Brown / Karen C. Fox
APL / NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Scientists have discovered a new, persistent structure in one of two radiation belts surrounding Earth. NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes spacecraft have shown that high-energy electrons in the inner radiation belt display a persistent pattern that resembles slanted zebra stripes.

Surprisingly, this structure is produced by the slow rotation of Earth, previously considered incapable of affecting the motion of radiation belt particles, which have velocities approaching the speed of light.

Two giant belts of radiation surround Earth. The inner belt is dominated by electrons and the outer one by protons.  (NASA)

Two giant belts of radiation surround Earth. The inner belt is dominated by electrons and the outer one by protons.
(NASA)

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NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft sends the Sounds of Interstellar Space

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Scifi movies are sometimes criticized when explosions in the void make noise. As the old saying goes, “in space, no one can hear you scream.” Without air there is no sound.

But if that’s true, what was space physicist Don Gurnett talking about when he stated at a NASA press conference in September 2013 that he had heard “the sounds of interstellar space?”

It turns out that space can make music … if you know how to listen.

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NASA’s Voyager 1 Spacecraft has entered Interstellar Space

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun.

New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars. Voyager is in a transitional region immediately outside the solar bubble, where some effects from our sun are still evident.

A report on the analysis of this new data, an effort led by Don Gurnett and the plasma wave science team at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, is published in Thursday’s edition of the journal Science.

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NASA to launch Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) to study Twilight Rays on the Moon

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Back in the 60s and 70s, Apollo astronauts circling the Moon saw something that still puzzles researchers today. About 10 seconds before lunar sunrise or lunar sunset, pale luminous streamers would pop up over the gray horizon. These “twilight rays” were witnessed by crew members of Apollo 8, 10, 15 and 17.

Back on Earth, we see twilight rays all the time as shafts of sunlight penetrate evening clouds and haze.  The “airless Moon” shouldn’t have such rays, yet the men of Apollo clearly saw them.

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