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Topic: Sun

NASA’s MAVEN mission insights about Mars helps with understanding Distant Planets Habitability

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – How long might a rocky, Mars-like planet be habitable if it were orbiting a red dwarf star? It’s a complex question but one that NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission can help answer.

“The MAVEN mission tells us that Mars lost substantial amounts of its atmosphere over time, changing the planet’s habitability,” said David Brain, a MAVEN co-investigator and a professor at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We can use Mars, a planet that we know a lot about, as a laboratory for studying rocky planets outside our solar system, which we don’t know much about yet.”

This illustration depicts charged particles from a solar storm stripping away charged particles of Mars' atmosphere, one of the processes of Martian atmosphere loss studied by NASA's MAVEN mission, beginning in 2014. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field that could deflect charged particles emanating from the Sun. (NASA/GSFC)

This illustration depicts charged particles from a solar storm stripping away charged particles of Mars’ atmosphere, one of the processes of Martian atmosphere loss studied by NASA’s MAVEN mission, beginning in 2014. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field that could deflect charged particles emanating from the Sun. (NASA/GSFC)

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NASA Mars Opportunity Rover makes it through another Martian Winter

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s senior Mars rover, Opportunity, has just passed the shortest-daylight weeks of the long Martian year with its solar panels in encouragingly clean condition for entering a potential dust-storm season in 2018.

Before dust season will come the 14th Earth-year anniversaries of Mars landings by the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity in January 2004. Their missions were scheduled to last 90 Martian days, or sols, equivalent to about three months.

This enhanced-color view of ground sloping downward to the right in "Perseverance Valley" shows textures that may be due to abrasion by wind-driven sand. The Pancam on NASA's Mars rover Opportunity's imaged this scene in October 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

This enhanced-color view of ground sloping downward to the right in “Perseverance Valley” shows textures that may be due to abrasion by wind-driven sand. The Pancam on NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity’s imaged this scene in October 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

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NASA uncovers most distant Supermassive Black Hole ever discovered

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have uncovered a rare relic from the early universe: the farthest known supermassive black hole. This matter-eating beast is 800 million times the mass of our Sun, which is astonishingly large for its young age. Researchers report the find in the journal Nature.

“This black hole grew far larger than we expected in only 690 million years after the Big Bang, which challenges our theories about how black holes form,” said study co-author Daniel Stern of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

This artist's concept shows the most distant supermassive black hole ever discovered. It is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang. (Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science)

This artist’s concept shows the most distant supermassive black hole ever discovered. It is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang. (Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science)

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NASA explains a Supermoon and why it’s so Super

 

Written by Lyle Tavernier
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The term “supermoon” has been popping up a lot in the news and on social media over the past few years. But what are supermoons, why do they occur and how can they be used as an educational tool. Plus, are they really that super?

There’s a good chance you’ll hear even more about supermoons in the coming months. The full moon on December 3rd marked the first and only supermoon of 2017, but it will be followed by two more in January 2018. Three supermoons in a row! Now is a great time to learn about these celestial events and get students exploring more about Earth’s only natural satellite.

An image of the moon taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is shown in two halves to illustrate the difference in the apparent size and brightness of the moon during a supermoon. The left half shows the apparent size of a supermoon (full moon at perigee), while the right half shows the apparent size and brightness of a micromoon (full moon at apogee). (NASA/Goddard/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

An image of the moon taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter is shown in two halves to illustrate the difference in the apparent size and brightness of the moon during a supermoon. The left half shows the apparent size of a supermoon (full moon at perigee), while the right half shows the apparent size and brightness of a micromoon (full moon at apogee). (NASA/Goddard/Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

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NASA’s Voyager probes make their mark in Popular Culture

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Whether you’re traveling across cities, continents or even oceans this holiday season, there is no long-haul flight quite like that of the Voyagers.

This year, we celebrated 40 years since the launch of NASA’s twin Voyager probes — the two farthest, fastest spacecraft currently in operation. Each Voyager has contributed an enormous amount of knowledge about the solar system, including the unexpected diversity of its planets and their moons. Among their many distinctions, Voyager 1 is the only spacecraft to enter interstellar space, and Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft to fly by all four giant planets: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Each Voyager spacecraft carries a copy of the Golden Record, which has been featured in several works of science fiction. The record's protective cover, with instructions for playing its contents, is shown at left. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Each Voyager spacecraft carries a copy of the Golden Record, which has been featured in several works of science fiction. The record’s protective cover, with instructions for playing its contents, is shown at left. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s TSIS-1 instrument to monitor Earth’s Ozone Layer

 

Written by Rani Gran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – High in the atmosphere, above weather systems, is a layer of ozone gas. Ozone is Earth’s natural sunscreen, absorbing the Sun’s most harmful ultraviolet radiation and protecting living things below. But ozone is vulnerable to certain gases made by humans that reach the upper atmosphere. Once there, they react in the presence of sunlight to destroy ozone molecules.

Currently, several NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellites track the amount of ozone in the upper atmosphere and the solar energy that drives the photochemistry that creates and destroys ozone.

TSIS-1 will be affixed to the International Space Station in December 2017 TSIS-1 operates like a sun flower: it follows the Sun, from the ISS sunrise to its sunset, which happens every 90 minutes. At sunset, it rewinds, recalibrates and waits for the next sunset. (NASA/LASP)

TSIS-1 will be affixed to the International Space Station in December 2017 TSIS-1 operates like a sun flower: it follows the Sun, from the ISS sunrise to its sunset, which happens every 90 minutes. At sunset, it rewinds, recalibrates and waits for the next sunset. (NASA/LASP)

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A Last Look at Saturn from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In a fitting farewell to the planet that had been its home for over 13 years, the Cassini spacecraft took one last, lingering look at Saturn and its splendid rings during the final leg of its journey and snapped a series of images that has been assembled into a new mosaic. 

Cassini’s wide-angle camera acquired 42 red, green and blue images, covering the planet and its main rings from one end to the other, on September 13th, 2017. Imaging scientists stitched these frames together to make a natural color view. The scene also includes the moons Prometheus, Pandora, Janus, Epimetheus, Mimas and Enceladus.

After more than 13 years at Saturn, and with its fate sealed, NASA's Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the Saturnian system by firing the shutters of its wide-angle camera and capturing this last, full mosaic of Saturn and its rings two days before the spacecraft's dramatic plunge into the planet's atmosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

After more than 13 years at Saturn, and with its fate sealed, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft bid farewell to the Saturnian system by firing the shutters of its wide-angle camera and capturing this last, full mosaic of Saturn and its rings two days before the spacecraft’s dramatic plunge into the planet’s atmosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility observes fast moving Comet 45P

 

Written by Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – When comet 45P zipped past Earth early in 2017, researchers observing from NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai’i gave the long-time trekker a thorough astronomical checkup. The results help fill in crucial details about ices in Jupiter-family comets and reveal that quirky 45P doesn’t quite match any comet studied so far.

Like a doctor recording vital signs, the team measured the levels of nine gases released from the icy nucleus into the comet’s thin atmosphere, or coma. Several of these gases supply building blocks for amino acids, sugars and other biologically relevant molecules.

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is captured using a telescope on December 22 from Farm Tivoli in Namibia, Africa. (Gerald Rhemann)

Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková is captured using a telescope on December 22 from Farm Tivoli in Namibia, Africa. (Gerald Rhemann)

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NASA’s Juno spacecraft completes eighth flyby over Jupiter’s Clouds

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Data returned Tuesday, October 31st, 2017, indicate that NASA’s Juno spacecraft successfully completed its eighth science flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops on Tuesday, October 24th. The confirmation was delayed by several days due to solar conjunction at Jupiter, which affected communications during the days prior to and after the flyby.

Solar conjunction is the period when the path of communication between Earth and Jupiter comes into close proximity with the Sun. During solar conjunction, no attempts are made to send new instructions or receive information from Juno, as it is impossible to predict what information might be corrupted due to interference from charged particles from the Sun.

This illustration depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft soaring over Jupiter's south pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts NASA’s Juno spacecraft soaring over Jupiter’s south pole. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA tracks Asteroid/Comet that recently appeared in our Solar System

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A small, recently discovered asteroid — or perhaps a comet — appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy. If so, it would be the first “interstellar object” to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.

This unusual object – for now designated A/2017 U1 – is less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and is moving remarkably fast. Astronomers are urgently working to point telescopes around the world and in space at this notable object. Once these data are obtained and analyzed, astronomers may know more about the origin and possibly composition of the object.

This photon shows the path of A/2017 U1, which is an asteroid -- or perhaps a comet -- as it passed through our inner solar system in September and October 2017. From analysis of its motion, scientists calculate that it probably originated from outside of our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This photon shows the path of A/2017 U1, which is an asteroid — or perhaps a comet — as it passed through our inner solar system in September and October 2017. From analysis of its motion, scientists calculate that it probably originated from outside of our solar system. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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