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Topic: Sun

2017 Total Solar Eclipse will give NASA Unique Opportunity to study the Earth

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The first total solar eclipse in the continental United States in nearly 40 years takes place on August 21st, 2017. Beyond providing a brilliant sight in the daytime sky, total solar eclipses provide a rare chance for scientists to collect data only available during eclipses. NASA is funding 11 scientific studies that will take advantage of this opportunity.  

“When the moon blocks out the sun during a total eclipse, those regions of Earth that are in the direct path of totality become dark as night for almost three minutes,” said Steve Clarke, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. “This will be one of the best-observed eclipses to date, and we plan to take advantage of this unique opportunity to learn as much as we can about the sun and its effects on Earth.”

The total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, stretches across the U.S. from coast to coast, providing scientists with a unique opportunity to study the eclipse from different vantage points. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

The total solar eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017, stretches across the U.S. from coast to coast, providing scientists with a unique opportunity to study the eclipse from different vantage points. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

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NASA reports Vortex Coronagraph takes it’s first Planetary System Images

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new device on the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii has delivered its first images, showing a ring of planet-forming dust around a star, and separately, a cool, star-like body, called a brown dwarf, lying near its companion star.

The device, called a vortex coronagraph, was recently installed inside NIRC2 (Near Infrared Camera 2), the workhorse infrared imaging camera at Keck. It has the potential to image planetary systems and brown dwarfs closer to their host stars than any other instrument in the world.

The vortex mask shown at left is made out of synthetic diamond. Viewed with an scanning electron microscope, right, the "vortex" microstructure of the mask is revealed. (University of Liège/Uppsala University)

The vortex mask shown at left is made out of synthetic diamond. Viewed with an scanning electron microscope, right, the “vortex” microstructure of the mask is revealed. (University of Liège/Uppsala University)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovers shadow moving across Young Star

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Searching for planets around other stars is a tricky business. They’re so small and faint that it’s hard to spot them. But a possible planet in a nearby stellar system may be betraying its presence in a unique way: by a shadow that is sweeping across the face of a vast pancake-shaped gas-and-dust disk surrounding a young star.

The planet itself is not casting the shadow. But it is doing some heavy lifting by gravitationally pulling on material near the star and warping the inner part of the disk. The twisted, misaligned inner disk is casting its shadow across the surface of the outer disk.

These images, taken a year apart by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, reveal a shadow moving counterclockwise around a gas-and-dust disk encircling the young star TW Hydrae. The two images at the top, taken by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, show an uneven brightness across the disk. Through enhanced image processing (images at bottom), the darkening becomes even more apparent. These enhanced images allowed astronomers to determine the reason for the changes in brightness. The dimmer areas of the disk, at top left, are caused by a shadow spreading across the outer disk. (NASA, ESA, and J. Debes (STScI))

These images, taken a year apart by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, reveal a shadow moving counterclockwise around a gas-and-dust disk encircling the young star TW Hydrae. The two images at the top, taken by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, show an uneven brightness across the disk. Through enhanced image processing (images at bottom), the darkening becomes even more apparent. These enhanced images allowed astronomers to determine the reason for the changes in brightness. The dimmer areas of the disk, at top left, are caused by a shadow spreading across the outer disk. (NASA, ESA, and J. Debes (STScI))

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NASA discovers Schizophrenic Neutron Star

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Like anthropologists piecing together the human family tree, astronomers have found that a misfit “skeleton” of a star may link two different kinds of stellar remains. The mysterious object, called PSR J1119-6127, has been caught behaving like two distinct objects — a radio pulsar and a magnetar — and could be important to understanding their evolution.

A radio pulsar is type of a neutron star — the extremely dense remnant of an exploded star — that emits radio waves in predictable pulses due to its fast rotation.

This artist's concept shows a pulsar, which is like a lighthouse, as its light appears in regular pulses as it rotates. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows a pulsar, which is like a lighthouse, as its light appears in regular pulses as it rotates. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Discovery Program to send missions to Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids and Metal Asteroid

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system – a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun. The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

“Lucy will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids, while Psyche will study a unique metal asteroid that’s never been visited before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is what Discovery Program missions are all about – boldly going to places we’ve never been to enable groundbreaking science.”

Artist's concept of the Psyche spacecraft, which will conduct a direct exploration of an asteroid thought to be a stripped planetary core. (SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of the Psyche spacecraft, which will conduct a direct exploration of an asteroid thought to be a stripped planetary core. (SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer discovers one or two Comets

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s NEOWISE mission has recently discovered some celestial objects traveling through our neighborhood, including one on the blurry line between asteroid and comet. Another–definitely a comet–might be seen with binoculars through next week.

An object called 2016 WF9 was detected by the NEOWISE project on November 27th, 2016. It’s in an orbit that takes it on a scenic tour of our solar system. At its farthest distance from the sun, it approaches Jupiter’s orbit.

An artist's rendition of 2016 WF9 as it passes Jupiter's orbit inbound toward the sun. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

An artist’s rendition of 2016 WF9 as it passes Jupiter’s orbit inbound toward the sun. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter recovering from Protective Status

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, which has been in service at Mars since October 2001, put itself into safe mode — a protective standby status — on December 26th, while remaining in communication with Earth.

The Odyssey project team has diagnosed the cause — an uncertainty aboard the spacecraft about its orientation with regard to Earth and the sun — and is restoring the orbiter to full operations.

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

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

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NASA’s Journey to Mars builds ground work for missions beyond our Solar System

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Humanity’s great leap into the space between the stars has, in a sense, already begun. NASA’s Voyager 1 probe broke through the sun’s magnetic bubble to touch the interstellar wind. Voyager 2 isn’t far behind. New Horizons shot past Pluto on its way to encounters with more distant dwarf worlds, the rubble at the solar system’s edge.

Closer to home, we’re working on techniques to help us cross greater distances. Astronauts feast on romaine lettuce grown aboard the International Space Station, perhaps a preview of future banquets en route to Mars, or to deep space.

A selfie taken by Curiosity the Mars rover in the Murray Buttes area. NASA’s Journey to Mars, a plan aimed at building on robotic missions to send humans to the red planet, could be helping lay the groundwork. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

A selfie taken by Curiosity the Mars rover in the Murray Buttes area. NASA’s Journey to Mars, a plan aimed at building on robotic missions to send humans to the red planet, could be helping lay the groundwork. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA’s Space Exploration could discover planets similar to ones in “Star Wars: Rogue One”

 

Written by Arielle Samuelson
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – In the “Star Wars” universe, ice, ocean and desert planets burst from the darkness as your ship drops out of light speed. But these worlds might be more than just science fiction.

Some of the planets discovered around stars in our own galaxy could be very similar to arid Tatooine, watery Scarif and even frozen Hoth, according to NASA scientists.

Stormtroopers in the new Star Wars film "Rogue One" wade through the water of an alien ocean world. NASA scientists believe ocean worlds exist in our own galaxy, along with many other environments. (Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.)

Stormtroopers in the new Star Wars film “Rogue One” wade through the water of an alien ocean world. NASA scientists believe ocean worlds exist in our own galaxy, along with many other environments. (Disney/Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM.)

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NASA to see near-earth asteroid Bennu through Cameras on OSIRIS-REx spacecraft

 

Written by Sarah Schlieder
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Retrieving an asteroid sample is no easy task. Doing the job blindfolded is even more challenging. That’s why scientists equipped the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft with a set of eyes to watch it all unfold.

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) launched September 8th, 2016, and is traveling to a near-Earth asteroid known as Bennu, to harvest a sample of surface material, and return it to Earth for study. A trio of cameras will capture it all.

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