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Topic: Sun

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity moves towards valley with clay outcrops

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Operators of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity plan to drive the rover into a valley this month where Opportunity will be active through the long-lived rover’s seventh Martian winter, examining outcrops that contain clay minerals.

Opportunity resumed driving on June 27th after about three weeks of reduced activity around Mars solar conjuntion, when the sun’s position between Earth and Mars disrupts communication. The rover is operating in a mode that does not store any science data overnight. It transmits the data the same day they’re collected.

Road trip! This compilation of images from hazard-avoidance cameras on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity between January 2004 and April 2015 shows the rover's-eye-view of the Martian marathon covering 26.2 miles(42.2 kilometers) from its landing location. A map of the rover's path is on the right. (NASA)

Road trip! This compilation of images from hazard-avoidance cameras on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity between January 2004 and April 2015 shows the rover’s-eye-view of the Martian marathon covering 26.2 miles(42.2 kilometers) from its landing location. A map of the rover’s path is on the right. (NASA)

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NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover examines two types of Bedrock on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is examining a valley where at least two types of bedrock meet, for clues about changes in ancient environmental conditions recorded by the rock.

In addition to two rock types for which this site was chosen, the rover has found a sandstone with grains of differing shapes and color.

Curiosity’s international team has resumed full operations of the car-size mobile laboratory after a period of limited activity during most of June.

This May 25, 2015, view from the Curiosity rover's Mastcam shows a site where two different types of bedrock meet near "Marias Pass" on Mount Sharp. Pale mudstone in the foreground is like bedrock the rover studied at "Pahrump Hills." The darker sandstone above it is called the Stimson unit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This May 25, 2015, view from the Curiosity rover’s Mastcam shows a site where two different types of bedrock meet near “Marias Pass” on Mount Sharp. Pale mudstone in the foreground is like bedrock the rover studied at “Pahrump Hills.” The darker sandstone above it is called the Stimson unit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA gives explanation for extra second on June 30th, 2015

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The day was officially a bit longer than usual on Tuesday, June 30th, 2015, because an extra second, or “leap” second, was added.

“Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing down a bit, so leap seconds are a way to account for that,” said Daniel MacMillan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Strictly speaking, a day lasts 86,400 seconds. That is the case, according to the time standard that people use in their daily lives – Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. UTC is “atomic time” – the duration of one second is based on extremely predictable electromagnetic transitions in atoms of cesium. These transitions are so reliable that the cesium clock is accurate to one second in 1,400,000 years.

A flower clock is seen in the Jardin Anglais, Geneva, Switzerland. (Claude Meisch/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License)

A flower clock is seen in the Jardin Anglais, Geneva, Switzerland. (Claude Meisch/Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope finds Cloud of Hydrogen created by Exoplanet’s evaporating Atmosphere

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered an immense cloud of hydrogen dubbed “The Behemoth” bleeding from a planet orbiting a nearby star. The enormous, comet-like feature is about 50 times the size of the parent star. The hydrogen is evaporating from a warm, Neptune-sized planet, due to extreme radiation from the star.

This phenomenon has never been seen around an exoplanet so small. It may offer clues to how other planets with hydrogen-enveloped atmospheres could have their outer layers evaporated by their parent star, leaving behind solid, rocky cores. Hot, rocky planets such as these that roughly the size of Earth are known as Hot-Super Earths.

This artist's concept shows "The Behemoth," an enormous comet-like cloud of hydrogen bleeding off of a warm, Neptune-sized planet just 30 light-years from Earth. Also depicted is the parent star, which is a faint red dwarf named GJ 436. The hydrogen is evaporating from the planet due to extreme radiation from the star. A phenomenon this large has never before been seen around any exoplanet. (NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI))

This artist’s concept shows “The Behemoth,” an enormous comet-like cloud of hydrogen bleeding off of a warm, Neptune-sized planet just 30 light-years from Earth. Also depicted is the parent star, which is a faint red dwarf named GJ 436. The hydrogen is evaporating from the planet due to extreme radiation from the star. A phenomenon this large has never before been seen around any exoplanet. (NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI))

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope discovers Planets with Clouds of Helium

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – They wouldn’t float like balloons or give you the chance to talk in high, squeaky voices, but planets with helium skies may constitute an exotic planetary class in our Milky Way galaxy.

Researchers using data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope propose that warm Neptune-size planets with clouds of helium may be strewn about the galaxy by the thousands.

“We don’t have any planets like this in our own solar system,” said Renyu Hu, NASA Hubble Fellow at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and lead author of a new study on the findings accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal. “But we think planets with helium atmospheres could be common around other stars.”

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Planets having atmospheres rich in helium may be common in our galaxy, according to a new theory based on data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveals chaotic wobbling dance of Pluto’s Moons Nix and Hydra

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – If you lived on one of Pluto’s moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Comprehensive analysis of data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows that two of Pluto’s moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.

“Hubble has provided a new view of Pluto and its moons revealing a cosmic dance with a chaotic rhythm,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “When the New Horizons spacecraft flies through the Pluto system in July we’ll get a chance to see what these moons look like up close and personal.”

This illustration shows the scale and comparative brightness of Pluto’s small satellites. The surface craters are for illustration only and do not represent real imaging data. (NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI))

This illustration shows the scale and comparative brightness of Pluto’s small satellites. The surface craters are for illustration only and do not represent real imaging data. (NASA/ESA/A. Feild (STScI))

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NASA to suspend Communications to Mars Missions in June due to Mars Solar Conjunction

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In June 2015, Mars will swing almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective, and this celestial geometry will lead to diminished communications with spacecraft at Mars.

The arrangement of the sun between Earth and Mars is called Mars solar conjunction. It occurs about every 26 months as the two planets travel in their sun-centered orbits. The sun disrupts radio communications between the planets during the conjunction period.

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth's perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Alice instrument aboard Rosetta spacecraft makes discovery on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Data collected by NASA’s Alice instrument aboard the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft reveal that electrons close to the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko — not photons from the sun, as had been believed — cause the rapid breakup of water and carbon dioxide molecules spewing from the comet’s surface.

“The discovery we’re reporting is quite unexpected,” said Alan Stern, principal investigator for the Alice instrument at the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “It shows us the value of going to comets to observe them up close, since this discovery simply could not have been made from Earth or Earth orbit with any existing or planned observatory. And, it is fundamentally transforming our knowledge of comets.”

This composite is a mosaic comprising four individual NAVCAM images taken from 19 miles (31 kilometers) from the center of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Nov. 20, 2014. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

This composite is a mosaic comprising four individual NAVCAM images taken from 19 miles (31 kilometers) from the center of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Nov. 20, 2014. (ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM)

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After 6 years, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found over 1,000 planets and counting

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside our solar system on May 12th, 2009. From the trove of data collected, we have learned that planets are common, that most sun-like stars have at least one planet and that nature makes planets with unimaginable diversity.

Kepler launched on March 6th, 2009. Its mission was to survey a portion of our galaxy to determine what fraction of stars might harbor potentially habitable, Earth-sized exoplanets, or planets that orbit other stars.

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2's first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2’s first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) hears the possible sounds of Dead Stars

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Peering into the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) has spotted a mysterious glow of high-energy X-rays that, according to scientists, could be the “howls” of dead stars as they feed on stellar companions.

“We can see a completely new component of the center of our galaxy with NuSTAR’s images,” said Kerstin Perez of Columbia University in New York, lead author of a new report on the findings in the journal Nature. “We can’t definitively explain the X-ray signal yet — it’s a mystery. More work needs to be done.”

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured a new high-energy X-ray view (magenta) of the bustling center of our Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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