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Topic: Sun

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope observes Young Red Dwarf Stars Superflares

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The word “HAZMAT” describes substances that pose a risk to the environment, or even to life itself. Imagine the term being applied to entire planets, where violent flares from the host star may make worlds uninhabitable by affecting their atmospheres. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is observing such stars through a large program called HAZMAT — Habitable Zones and M dwarf Activity across Time.

“M dwarf” is the astronomical term for a red dwarf star — the smallest, most abundant and longest-lived type of star in our galaxy. The HAZMAT program is an ultraviolet survey of red dwarfs at three different ages: young, intermediate, and old.

Violent outbursts of seething gas from young red dwarf stars may make conditions uninhabitable on fledgling planets. In this artist's rendering, an active, young red dwarf (right) is stripping the atmosphere from an orbiting planet (left). Scientists found that flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — approximately 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. They also detected one of the most intense stellar flares ever observed in ultraviolet light — more energetic than the most powerful flare ever recorded from our Sun.(NASA, ESA and D. Player (STScI))

Violent outbursts of seething gas from young red dwarf stars may make conditions uninhabitable on fledgling planets. In this artist’s rendering, an active, young red dwarf (right) is stripping the atmosphere from an orbiting planet (left). Scientists found that flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — approximately 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. They also detected one of the most intense stellar flares ever observed in ultraviolet light — more energetic than the most powerful flare ever recorded from our Sun.(NASA, ESA and D. Player (STScI))

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe uses Venus gravity assist to get closer to the Sun

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On October 3rd, 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe performed the first significant celestial maneuver of its seven-year mission. As the orbits of the spacecraft and Venus converged toward the same point, Parker Solar Probe slipped in front of the planet, allowing Venus’ gravity — relatively small by celestial standards — to twist its path and change its speed.

This maneuver, called a gravity assist, reduced Parker’s speed relative to the Sun by 10 percent — amounting to 7,000 miles per hour — drawing the closest point of its orbit, called perihelion, nearer to the star by 4 million miles.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe completed its first flyby of Venus on Oct. 3, 2018, during a Venus gravity assist, where the spacecraft used the planet's gravity to alter its trajectory and bring it closer to the Sun. (NASA/JHUAPL)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its first flyby of Venus on Oct. 3, 2018, during a Venus gravity assist, where the spacecraft used the planet’s gravity to alter its trajectory and bring it closer to the Sun. (NASA/JHUAPL)

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NASA’s Voyager 2 probe maybe about to enter Interstellar Space

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Voyager 2 probe, currently on a journey toward interstellar space, has detected an increase in cosmic rays that originate outside our solar system. Launched in 1977, Voyager 2 is a little less than 11 billion miles (about 17.7 billion kilometers) from Earth, or more than 118 times the distance from Earth to the Sun.

Since 2007 the probe has been traveling through the outermost layer of the heliosphere — the vast bubble around the Sun and the planets dominated by solar material and magnetic fields. Voyager scientists have been watching for the spacecraft to reach the outer boundary of the heliosphere, known as the heliopause. Once Voyager 2 exits the heliosphere, it will become the second human-made object, after Voyager 1, to enter interstellar space.

This graphic shows the position of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes relative to the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto. Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause, or the edge of the heliosphere, in 2012. Voyager 2 is still in the heliosheath, or the outermost part of the heliosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This graphic shows the position of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes relative to the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto. Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause, or the edge of the heliosphere, in 2012. Voyager 2 is still in the heliosheath, or the outermost part of the heliosphere. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Model gives new information on Spiraling Supermassive Black Holes

 

Written by Jeanette Kazmierczak
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A new model is bringing scientists a step closer to understanding the kinds of light signals produced when two supermassive black holes, which are millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun, spiral toward a collision. For the first time, a new computer simulation that fully incorporates the physical effects of Einstein’s general theory of relativity shows that gas in such systems will glow predominantly in ultraviolet and X-ray light. 

Just about every galaxy the size of our own Milky Way or larger contains a monster black hole at its center. Observations show galaxy mergers occur frequently in the universe, but so far no one has seen a merger of these giant black holes.

This photo shows a frozen version of the simulation in the plane of the disk. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

This photo shows a frozen version of the simulation in the plane of the disk. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft data reveals Dust Storms on Saturn’s moon Titan

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has revealed what appear to be giant dust storms in equatorial regions of Saturn’s moon Titan. The discovery, described in a paper published on September 24th, 2018 in Nature Geoscience, makes Titan the third Solar System body, in addition to Earth and Mars, where dust storms have been observed.

The observation is helping scientists to better understand the fascinating and dynamic environment of Saturn’s largest moon.

Artist's concept of a dust storm on Titan. (IPGP/Labex UnivEarthS/University Paris Diderot – C. Epitalon & S. Rodriguez)

Artist’s concept of a dust storm on Titan. (IPGP/Labex UnivEarthS/University Paris Diderot – C. Epitalon & S. Rodriguez)

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Three NASA Missions to explore our Solar System capture first images

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s continued quest to explore our solar system and beyond received a boost of new information this week with three key missions proving not only that they are up and running, but that their science potential is exceptional.

On September 17th, 2018, TESS — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — shared its first science observations. Later in the week, the latest two missions to join NASA’s heliophysics fleet returned first light data: Parker Solar Probe, humanity’s first mission to “touch” the Sun, and GOLD, a mission that studies the dynamic boundary between Earth and space.

Download high-resolution versions of this and other TESS “first light” images from the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

Download high-resolution versions of this and other TESS “first light” images from the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

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NASA looks for Water deep in Jupiter’s Atmosphere

 

Written by Lonnie Shekhtman
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – For centuries, scientists have worked to understand the makeup of Jupiter. It’s no wonder: this mysterious planet is the biggest one in our solar system by far, and chemically, the closest relative to the Sun. Understanding Jupiter is key to learning more about how our solar system formed, and even about how other solar systems develop.

But one critical question has bedeviled astronomers for generations: Is there water deep in Jupiter’s atmosphere, and if so, how much?

This visualization was created from images captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been studying Jupiter since it arrived there July 4th, 2016. (NASA/JPL/SwRI)

This visualization was created from images captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, which has been studying Jupiter since it arrived there July 4th, 2016. (NASA/JPL/SwRI)

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Mars Dust Storms begin to dissipate around NASA’s Opportunity Rover

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A planet-encircling dust storm on Mars, which was first detected May 30th, 2018 and halted operations for the Opportunity rover, continues to abate.

With clearing skies over Opportunity’s resting spot in Mars’ Perseverance Valley, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, believe the nearly 15-year-old, solar-powered rover will soon receive enough sunlight to automatically initiate recovery procedures — if the rover is able to do so. To prepare, the Opportunity mission team has developed a two-step plan to provide the highest probability of successfully communicating with the rover and bringing it back online.

About 11 months before the current dust storm enveloped the rover, Opportunity took five images that were turned into a mosaic showing a view from inside the upper end of "Perseverance Valley" on the inner slope of Endeavour Crater's western rim. The images were taken on July 7th, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

About 11 months before the current dust storm enveloped the rover, Opportunity took five images that were turned into a mosaic showing a view from inside the upper end of “Perseverance Valley” on the inner slope of Endeavour Crater’s western rim. The images were taken on July 7th, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe navigation controlled by Jet Propulsion Laboratory

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The navigation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is led by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which also has a role in two of the spacecraft’s four onboard instrument suites. Parker Solar Probe will fly closer to the Sun than any previous spacecraft and through the solar corona itself.

One instrument, called the Energetic Particle Instrument-Hi (EPI-Hi), will investigate the mysteries of high-speed solar particles that hurtle toward Earth at close to the speed of light. Observations by the Parker Solar Probe will lead to better predictions of space weather and address fundamental mysteries about the Sun’s dynamic corona. EPI-Hi is part of the Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun, led by Principal Investigator David McComas of Princeton University in New Jersey.

Illustration of NASA's Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

Illustration of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe approaching the Sun. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope still going after 15 Years in Space

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Initially scheduled for a minimum 2.5-year primary mission, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has gone far beyond its expected lifetime — and is still going strong after 15 years.

Launched into a solar orbit on August 25th, 2003, Spitzer was the final of NASA’s four Great Observatories to reach space. The space telescope has illuminated some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, revealed a new ring around Saturn, and peered through shrouds of dust to study newborn stars and black holes.

This image shows an artist's impression of the Spitzer Space Telescope. The background shows an infrared image from Spitzer of the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL)

This image shows an artist’s impression of the Spitzer Space Telescope. The background shows an infrared image from Spitzer of the plane of the Milky Way galaxy. (NASA/JPL)

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