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Topic: Sun

NASA mission to Asteroid Psyche Launch Date moved up

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Psyche, NASA’s Discovery Mission to a unique metal asteroid, has been moved up one year with launch in the summer of 2022, and with a planned arrival at the main belt asteroid in 2026 — four years earlier than the original timeline.

“We challenged the mission design team to explore if an earlier launch date could provide a more efficient trajectory to the asteroid Psyche, and they came through in a big way,” said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This will enable us to fulfill our science objectives sooner and at a reduced cost.”

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 Kepler Space Telescope identifies details of TRAPPIST-1h orbits

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Scientists using NASA’s Kepler space telescope identified a regular pattern in the orbits of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system that confirmed suspected details about the orbit of its outermost and least understood planet, TRAPPIST-1h.

TRAPPIST-1 is only eight percent the mass of our sun, making it a cooler and less luminous star. It’s home to seven Earth-size planets, three of which orbit in their star’s habitable zone — the range of distances from a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of a rocky planet. The system is located about 40 light-years away in the constellation of Aquarius. The star is estimated to be between 3 billion and 8 billion years old.

This artist's concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA's Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows TRAPPIST-1h, one of seven Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system. NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, operating in its K2 mission, obtained data that allowed scientists to determine that the orbital period of TRAPPIST-1h is 19 days. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA studies changes in Cloud Heights

 

Written by Carol Rasmussen
NASA’s Earth Science News Team

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A new analysis of 15 years of NASA satellite cloud measurements finds that clouds worldwide show no definitive trend during this period toward decreasing or increasing in height. The new study updates an earlier analysis of the first 10 years of the same data that suggested cloud heights might be getting lower.

Clouds are both Earth’s cooling sunshade and its insulating blanket. Currently their cooling effect prevails globally. But as Earth warms, the characteristics of clouds over different global regions — their thickness, brightness and height — are expected to change in ways that scientists don’t fully understand.

Climate change may eventually change global cloud heights, but scientists need a longer data set to know whether that's happening already. (NASA)

Climate change may eventually change global cloud heights, but scientists need a longer data set to know whether that’s happening already. (NASA)

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NASA’s SOFIA confirms discovery of Planetary System comparable to ours

 

Written by Nick Veronico
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMountain View, CA – NASA’s flying observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, recently completed a detailed study of a nearby planetary system. The investigations confirmed that this nearby planetary system has an architecture remarkably similar to that of our solar system.

Located 10.5 light-years away in the southern hemisphere of the constellation Eridanus, the star Epsilon Eridani, eps Eri for short, is the closest planetary system around a star similar to the early sun. It is a prime location to research how planets form around stars like our sun, and is also the storied location of the Babylon 5 space station in the science fictional television series of the same name.

Artist's illustration of the Epsilon Eridani system showing Epsilon Eridani b. In the right foreground, a Jupiter-mass planet is shown orbiting its parent star at the outside edge of an asteroid belt. In the background can be seen another narrow asteroid or comet belt plus an outermost belt similar in size to our solar system's Kuiper Belt. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

Artist’s illustration of the Epsilon Eridani system showing Epsilon Eridani b. In the right foreground, a Jupiter-mass planet is shown orbiting its parent star at the outside edge of an asteroid belt. In the background can be seen another narrow asteroid or comet belt plus an outermost belt similar in size to our solar system’s Kuiper Belt. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

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NASA Scientists find Iceball Planet using Microlensing

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have discovered a new planet with the mass of Earth, orbiting its star at the same distance that we orbit our sun. The planet is likely far too cold to be habitable for life as we know it, however, because its star is so faint. But the discovery adds to scientists’ understanding of the types of planetary systems that exist beyond our own.

“This ‘iceball’ planet is the lowest-mass planet ever found through microlensing,” said Yossi Shvartzvald, a NASA postdoctoral fellow based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and lead author of a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This artist's concept shows OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, a planet discovered through a technique called microlensing. (NASA)

This artist’s concept shows OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, a planet discovered through a technique called microlensing. (NASA)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft loses third reaction wheel to failure

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is preparing to observe Ceres on April 29th from an “opposition” position, directly between the dwarf planet’s mysterious Occator Crater and the sun. This unique geometry may yield new insights about the bright material in the center of the crater.

While preparing for this observation, one of Dawn’s two remaining reaction wheels stopped functioning on April 23rd. By electrically changing the speed at which these gyroscope-like devices spin, Dawn controls its orientation in the zero-gravity, frictionless conditions of space.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

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NASA’s Cassini mission and Hubble Space Telescope provides new details about moons Enceladus and Europa

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Two veteran NASA missions are providing new details about icy, ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn, further heightening the scientific interest of these and other “ocean worlds” in our solar system and beyond. The findings are presented in papers published Thursday by researchers with NASA’s Cassini mission to Saturn and Hubble Space Telescope.

In the papers, Cassini scientists announce that a form of chemical energy that life can feed on appears to exist on Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and Hubble researchers report additional evidence of plumes erupting from Jupiter’s moon Europa.

This artist's rendering shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows Cassini diving through the Enceladus plume in 2015. New ocean world discoveries from Cassini and Hubble will help inform future exploration and the broader search for life beyond Earth. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA says Habitable “Tatooine” type planets could be possible

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With two suns in its sky, Luke Skywalker’s home planet Tatooine in “Star Wars” looks like a parched, sandy desert world. In real life, thanks to observatories such as NASA’s Kepler space telescope, we know that two-star systems can indeed support planets, although planets discovered so far around double-star systems are large and gaseous. Scientists wondered: If an Earth-size planet were orbiting two suns, could it support life?

It turns out, such a planet could be quite hospitable if located at the right distance from its two stars, and wouldn’t necessarily even have deserts.

This artist's concept shows a hypothetical planet covered in water around the binary star system of Kepler-35A and B. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows a hypothetical planet covered in water around the binary star system of Kepler-35A and B. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA reports Solar Storms can drain Electrical Charge from Earth’s Upper Atmosphere

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New research on solar storms finds that they not only can cause regions of excessive electrical charge in the upper atmosphere above Earth’s poles, they also can do the exact opposite: cause regions that are nearly depleted of electrically charged particles.

The finding adds to our knowledge of how solar storms affect Earth and could possibly lead to improved radio communication and navigation systems for the Arctic.

A team of researchers from Denmark, the United States and Canada made the discovery while studying a solar storm that reached Earth on February 19th, 2014.

A solar eruption on Sept. 26, 2014, seen by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. If erupted solar material reaches Earth, it can deplete the electrons in the upper atmosphere in some locations while adding electrons in others, disrupting communications either way. (NASA)

A solar eruption on Sept. 26, 2014, seen by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. If erupted solar material reaches Earth, it can deplete the electrons in the upper atmosphere in some locations while adding electrons in others, disrupting communications either way. (NASA)

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NASA study suggests Dwarf Planet Ceres’ Atmosphere linked to Sun’s Behavior

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists have long thought that Ceres may have a very weak, transient atmosphere, but mysteries lingered about its origin and why it’s not always present. Now, researchers suggest that this temporary atmosphere appears to be related to the behavior of the sun, rather than Ceres’ proximity to the sun.

The study was conducted by scientists from NASA’s Dawn mission and others who previously identified water vapor at Ceres using other observatories.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres' surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft determined the hydrogen content of the upper yard, or meter, of Ceres’ surface. Blue indicates where hydrogen content is higher, near the poles, while red indicates lower content at lower latitudes. Vesta on the left, Ceres on the right. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/PSI)

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