Written by Andrew Good
Pasadena, CA – Each year, NASA funds a handful of futuristic concepts to push forward the boundaries of space exploration. These early-stage proposals are selected with the hope of developing new ideas into realistic proofs-of-concept.
From August 23rd to 25th, the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) symposium will host presentations on 28 proposals, including five from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning. But these celestial dancers are all twirling at different speeds. Astronomers have long wondered what determines the rotation rates of these stars.
By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope during its K2 mission has helped amass the most complete catalog of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can help astronomers gain insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.
Written by Ashley Morrow
Greenbelt, MD – Launched five years ago on August 5th, 2011, NASA’s Juno mission maneuvered into orbit around Jupiter on July 4th, 2016, joining a long tradition of discovery at the gas giant.
One of the brightest objects in the night sky, Jupiter has enthralled humans since ancient times. Today, scientists believe that learning more about the planet may be the key to discovering our solar system’s origins and formation.
Nashville, TN – With temperatures near the 100° mark predicted for parts of the state this week, the Tennessee Department of Health is reminding residents and visitors to “respect the sun’s might” by protecting themselves from excessive heat and intensive sunlight damage.
“When temperatures get as high as they are expected to in the upcoming days, we all need to look out for one another and make sure no one becomes a victim to the heat,” said John Benitez, MD, medical director of the TDH Emergency Preparedness Office.
Washington, D.C. – It takes a little imagination to wish some favorite fictional universes into existence. But, for legions of “Star Trek” fans, they don’t have to wish: one star system really exists in our Milky Way galaxy.
In Star Trek lore, Vulcan is the home of logic, learning and the deeply beloved first officer Mr. Spock. While Vulcan is fictional, the star system it belongs to–40 Eridani–is very real. It’s located only 16.5 light-years away from Earth and its primary star can be spotted with the naked eye.
Written by Lina Tran
Greenbelt, MD – On July 6th, 2016, engineers instructed NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, to roll 360 degrees on one axis. SDO dutifully performed the seven-hour maneuver, while producing some dizzying data:
For this period of time, SDO images – taken every 12 seconds – appeared to show the sun spinning, as if stuck on a pinwheel. The images below were taken by SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths that are typically invisible to our eyes, but was colorized here in gold for easy viewing.
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers have discovered the youngest fully formed exoplanet ever detected. The discovery was made using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and its extended K2 mission, as well as the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Exoplanets are planets that orbit stars beyond our sun.
The newfound planet, K2-33b, is a bit larger than Neptune and whips tightly around its star every five days. It is only 5 to 10 million years old, making it one of a very few newborn planets found to date.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – A small asteroid has been discovered in an orbit around the sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth, and it will remain so for centuries to come.
As it orbits the sun, this new asteroid, designated 2016 HO3, appears to circle around Earth as well. It is too distant to be considered a true satellite of our planet, but it is the best and most stable example to date of a near-Earth companion, or “quasi-satellite.”
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Water is a hot topic in the study of exoplanets, including “hot Jupiters,” whose masses are similar to that of Jupiter, but which are much closer to their parent star than Jupiter is to the sun. They can reach a scorching 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 degrees Celsius), meaning any water they host would take the form of water vapor.
Astronomers have found many hot Jupiters with water in their atmospheres, but others appear to have none. Scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, wanted to find out what the atmospheres of these giant worlds have in common.
Written by Francis Reddy
Greenbelt, MD – LISA Pathfinder, a mission led by the European Space Agency (ESA) with contributions from NASA, has successfully tested a key technology needed to build a space-based observatory for detecting gravitational waves.
These tiny ripples in the fabric of space, predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, were first seen last year by the ground-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).
Seismic, thermal and other noise sources limit LIGO to higher-frequency gravitational waves around 100 cycles per second (hertz).
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