Topic: Solar Wind
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, 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.
Washington, 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.
NASA to launch Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) to study Twilight Rays on the Moon
Washington, 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.
Greenbelt, MD – Surrounding Earth is a dynamic region called the magnetosphere. The region is governed by magnetic and electric forces, incoming energy and material from the sun, and a vast zoo of waves and processes unlike what is normally experienced in Earth-bound physics.
Nestled inside this constantly changing magnetic bubble lies a donut of charged particles generally aligned with Earth’s equator. Known as the ring current, its waxing and waning is a crucial part of the space weather surrounding our planet, able to induce magnetic fluctuations on the ground as well as to transmit disruptive surface charges onto spacecraft.
Written by Brian Day
Moffett Field, CA – Until recently, most everyone accepted the conventional wisdom that the moon has virtually no atmosphere.
Just as the discovery of water on the moon transformed our textbook knowledge of Earth’s nearest celestial neighbor, recent studies confirm that our moon does indeed have an atmosphere consisting of some unusual gases, including sodium and potassium, which are not found in the atmospheres of Earth, Mars or Venus.
It’s an infinitesimal amount of air when compared to Earth’s atmosphere.
Written by Claire De Saravia
Greenbelt, MD – When the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission begins its journey to the Red Planet in 2013, it will carry a sensitive magnetic-field instrument built and tested by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD.
Scheduled for launch in late 2013, MAVEN will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.
The goal of MAVEN is to determine the history of the loss of atmospheric gases to space through time, providing answers about Mars’ climate evolution.
Written by Nancy Neal-Jones / Bill Steigerwald
Greenbelt, MD – Electrically charged lunar dust near shadowed craters can get lofted above the surface and jump over the shadowed region, bouncing back and forth between sunlit areas on opposite sides, according to new calculations by NASA scientists.
The research is being led by Michael Collier at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD, as part of the Dynamic Response of the Environment At the Moon (DREAM) team in partnership with the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI), managed at NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Using data from an aging NASA spacecraft, researchers have found signs of an energy source in the solar wind that has caught the attention of fusion researchers. NASA will be able to test the theory later this decade when it sends a new probe into the sun for a closer look.
The discovery was made by a group of astronomers trying to solve a decades-old mystery: What heats and accelerates the solar wind?
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center scientist developes Math Equations to help understand the movement of the Solar Wind
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – Many areas of scientific research — Earth’s weather, ocean currents, the outpouring of magnetic energy from the sun — require mapping out the large scale features of a complex system and its intricate details simultaneously.
Describing such systems accurately, relies on numerous kinds of input, beginning with observations of the system, incorporating mathematical equations to approximate those observations, running computer simulations to attempt to replicate observations, and cycling back through all the steps to refine and improve the models until they jibe with what’s seen.
Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
Pasadena, CA – During a chance encounter with what appears to be an unusually strong blast of solar wind at Saturn, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft detected particles being accelerated to ultra-high energies. This is similar to the acceleration that takes place around distant supernovas.
Since we can’t travel out to the far-off stellar explosions right now, the shockwave that forms from the flow of solar wind around Saturn’s magnetic field provides a rare laboratory for scientists with the Cassini mission — a partnership involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — to observe this phenomenon up-close.
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