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Topic: University of Colorado

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft discovers Dust Cloud and Aurora in Mars’ Atmosphere

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, 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.

Artist’s conception of MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) observing the “Christmas Lights Aurora" on Mars. MAVEN observations show that aurora on Mars is similar to Earth’s "Northern Lights" but has a different origin. (University of Colorado)

Artist’s conception of MAVEN’s Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) observing the “Christmas Lights Aurora” on Mars. MAVEN observations show that aurora on Mars is similar to Earth’s “Northern Lights” but has a different origin. (University of Colorado)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope data helps astronomers find old Planetary System with Five Small Planets

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five small planets in very compact orbits. The planets were detected from the dimming that occurs when they transit the disk of their parent star, as shown in this artist's conception. (Tiago Campante/Peter Devine)

The tightly packed system, named Kepler-444, is home to five small planets in very compact orbits. The planets were detected from the dimming that occurs when they transit the disk of their parent star, as shown in this artist’s conception. (Tiago Campante/Peter Devine)

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NASA launches Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory into orbit around Earth

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory lifts off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, beginning a three-year mission to map Earth's vital moisture hidden in the soils beneath our feet. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory lifts off from Space Launch Complex 2 West at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base, beginning a three-year mission to map Earth’s vital moisture hidden in the soils beneath our feet. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes discover Impenetrable Barrier in Radiation Belts

 

Written by Karen C. Fox
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth's radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet. (NASA/Goddard)

A cloud of cold, charged gas around Earth, called the plasmasphere and seen here in purple, interacts with the particles in Earth’s radiation belts — shown in grey— to create an impenetrable barrier that blocks the fastest electrons from moving in closer to our planet. (NASA/Goddard)

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NASA airborne data reveals Methane not being released in high rates in Alaska

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

This photo taken during the CARVE experiment shows polygonal lakes created by melting permafrost on Alaska's North Slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This photo taken during the CARVE experiment shows polygonal lakes created by melting permafrost on Alaska’s North Slope. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft to investigate disappearance of Mars’ atmosphere

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After 10-month voyage across more than 400 million miles of empty space, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft reached Mars on September 21st 2014. Less than 8 hours later, the data started to flow.

“Our Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) obtained these false-color images of Mars on September 22nd,” says Nick Schneider who leads the instrument team at the University of Colorado. “They trace the distribution of hydrogen and oxygen in the Martian atmosphere.”

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NASA reports Arctic sea ice coverage at Sixth Lowest on Record

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum on September 17th, according to the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“Arctic sea ice coverage in 2014 is the sixth lowest recorded since 1978,” said Walter Meier, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft ready to enter Mars orbit

 

Written by Izumi Hansen and Elizabeth Zubritsky
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is nearing its scheduled September 21st insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles (711 million kilometers).

Flight Controllers at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will be responsible for the health and safety of the spacecraft throughout the process. The spacecraft’s mission timeline will place the spacecraft in orbit at approximately 6:50pm PDT (9:50pm EDT).

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft is quickly approaching Mars on a mission to study its upper atmosphere. When it arrives on September 21, 2014, MAVEN's winding journey from Earth will culminate with a dramatic engine burn, pulling the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit.

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft is quickly approaching Mars on a mission to study its upper atmosphere. When it arrives on September 21, 2014, MAVEN’s winding journey from Earth will culminate with a dramatic engine burn, pulling the spacecraft into an elliptical orbit.

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NASA says there will be a bright colorful Lunar Eclipse October 8th

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On Wednesday morning, October 8th, not long before sunrise, the bright full Moon over North America will turn a lovely shade of celestial red. It’s a lunar eclipse—visible from all parts of the USA.

“It promises to be a stunning sight, even from the most light polluted cities,” says NASA’s longtime eclipse expert Fred Espenak. “I encourage everyone, especially families with curious children, to go out and enjoy the event.”

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NASA says International Space Station Microgravity Research looks at how to Build Better Bones

 

Written by Jessica Nimon
International Space Station Program Science Office
NASA’s Johnson Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHouston, TX – As the saying goes, sticks and stones may break your bones—especially if you have a weak skeleton. This is not only a concern for the elderly who can suffer from osteoporosis. Inactivity from injury, illness, or malnutrition from anorexia or dietary challenges also can lead to bone breakdown in otherwise healthy people.

Another cause of bone loss is living in microgravity. While most people may never experience life in space, the benefits of studying bone loss aboard the International Space Station has the potential to touch all of our lives here on the ground.

Micro-computed tomography bone density imaging shows ground mice (G) with highly connected, dense spongy bone structure, flight mice (F) with less connectivity and flight mice treated with a myostatin inhibitor (F+D) on STS-118 that appear to have bone structure unaffected by microgravity. (Ted Bateman)

Micro-computed tomography bone density imaging shows ground mice (G) with highly connected, dense spongy bone structure, flight mice (F) with less connectivity and flight mice treated with a myostatin inhibitor (F+D) on STS-118 that appear to have bone structure unaffected by microgravity. (Ted Bateman)

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