Topic: University of Colorado
Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission has identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today.
MAVEN data have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind. The findings reveal that the erosion of Mars’ atmosphere increases significantly during solar storms. The scientific results from the mission appear in the November 5th issues of the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters.
Written by Joshua Buck
Washington, D.C. – Imagine a world with extreme temperatures that can wreak havoc on unprotected spacecraft and habitat components; a world where water is so scarce that plants are outfitted with sensors so farmers can avoid overwatering them; a world where precious water supplies are found in underground oases by satellites in orbit; a world where systems filter, recycle and purify air for the survival of inhabitants huddled in shelters.
Although images of human habitation on Mars may have filled your mind, the world just described is actually Earth, and the technologies cited are spinoffs, or technologies developed by the American space program that have gone on to benefit the public.
Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
Washington, D.C. – Beyond Earth, Jupiter’s moon Europa is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for signs of present-day life, and a new NASA mission to explore this potential is moving forward from concept review to development.
NASA’s mission concept — to conduct a detailed survey of Europa and investigate its habitability — has successfully completed its first major review by the agency and now is entering the development phase known as formulation.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA has selected nine science instruments for a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, to investigate whether the mysterious icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.
NASA’s Galileo mission yielded strong evidence that Europa, about the size of Earth’s moon, has an ocean beneath a frozen crust of unknown thickness. If proven to exist, this global ocean could have more than twice as much water as Earth.
With abundant salt water, a rocky sea floor, and the energy and chemistry provided by tidal heating, Europa could be the best place in the solar system to look for present day life beyond our home planet.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – One day, when humans go to Mars, they might find that, occasionally, the Red Planet has green skies.
In late December 2014, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft detected evidence of widespread auroras in Mars’s northern hemisphere. The “Christmas Lights,” as researchers called them, circled the globe and descended so close to the Martian equator that, if the lights had occurred on Earth, they would have been over places like Florida and Texas.
“It really is amazing,” says Nick Schneider who leads MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument team at the University of Colorado. “Auroras on Mars appear to be more wide ranging than we ever imagined.”
Written by Dwayne Brown
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.
The presence of the dust at orbital altitudes from about 93 miles (150 kilometers) to 190 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface was not predicted. Although the source and composition of the dust are unknown, there is no hazard to MAVEN and other spacecraft orbiting Mars.
NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data helps astronomers find old Planetary System with Five Small Planets
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler mission have discovered a planetary system of five small planets dating back to when the Milky Way galaxy was a youthful two billion years old.
The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five planets that range in size, with the smallest comparable to the size of Mercury and the largest to Venus. All five planets orbit their sun-like star in less than 10 days, which makes their orbits much closer than Mercury’s sweltering 88-day orbit around the sun.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – NASA successfully launched its first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of the vital soil moisture hidden just beneath our feet.
The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off at 6:22am PST (9:22am EST) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket.
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – Two donuts of seething radiation that surround Earth, called the Van Allen radiation belts, have been found to contain a nearly impenetrable barrier that prevents the fastest, most energetic electrons from reaching Earth.
The Van Allen belts are a collection of charged particles, gathered in place by Earth’s magnetic field. They can wax and wane in response to incoming energy from the sun, sometimes swelling up enough to expose satellites in low-Earth orbit to damaging radiation.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – Despite large temperature increases in Alaska in recent decades, a new analysis of NASA airborne data finds that methane is not being released from Alaskan soils into the atmosphere at unusually high rates, as recent modeling and experimental studies have suggested.
The new result shows that the changes in this part of the Arctic have not yet had enough impact to affect the global methane budget.
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