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NASA extends Dawn Spacecraft’s mission at Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has authorized a second extension of the Dawn mission at Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. During this extension, the spacecraft will descend to lower altitudes than ever before at the dwarf planet, which it has been orbiting since March 2015.

The spacecraft will continue at Ceres for the remainder of its science investigation and will remain in a stable orbit indefinitely after its hydrazine fuel runs out.

This artist concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Psyche Mission utilizes Photons to increase Space Communications Performance and Efficiency

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A spacecraft destined to explore a unique asteroid will also test new communication hardware that uses lasers instead of radio waves.

The Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package aboard NASA’s Psyche mission utilizes photons — the fundamental particle of visible light — to transmit more data in a given amount of time. The DSOC goal is to increase spacecraft communications performance and efficiency by 10 to 100 times over conventional means, all without increasing the mission burden in mass, volume, power and/or spectrum.

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 detects Gravitational Waves from Two merging Neutron Stars

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – For the first time, NASA scientists have detected light tied to a gravitational-wave event, thanks to two merging neutron stars in the galaxy NGC 4993, located about 130 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Hydra.

Shortly after 5:41am PDT (8:41am EDT) on August 17th, 2017, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope picked up a pulse of high-energy light from a powerful explosion, which was immediately reported to astronomers around the globe as a short gamma-ray burst. The scientists at the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detected gravitational waves dubbed GW170817 from a pair of smashing stars tied to the gamma-ray burst, encouraging astronomers to look for the aftermath of the explosion.

An artist's impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. (R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

An artist’s impression of gravitational waves generated by binary neutron stars. (R. Hurt/Caltech-JPL)

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NASA’s Terra Satellite observes Smoke coming from Fires in California

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Terra satellite saw a stream of smoke that extended over 500 miles from various fires raging in northern California out over the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument aboard Terra passed over California on October 12th and captured a visible light image of the smoke plume. The MODIS image showed the stream of smoke extending from Santa Rosa, California, located north of San Francisco, out into the Eastern Pacific, parallel to San Diego. A stream that stretched over 550 miles.

NASA’s Terra satellite saw a stream of smoke that extended over 500 miles from various fires raging in northern California out over the Eastern Pacific Ocean. (NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team.)

NASA’s Terra satellite saw a stream of smoke that extended over 500 miles from various fires raging in northern California out over the Eastern Pacific Ocean.
(NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team.)

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NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite data reveals reasons for Earth’s Carbon Dioxide Rise

 

Written by Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A new NASA study provides space-based evidence that Earth’s tropical regions were the cause of the largest annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration seen in at least 2,000 years.

Scientists suspected the 2015-16 El Nino — one of the largest on record — was responsible, but exactly how has been a subject of ongoing research. Analyzing the first 28 months of data from NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) satellite, researchers conclude impacts of El Nino-related heat and drought occurring in tropical regions of South America, Africa and Indonesia were responsible for the record spike in global carbon dioxide.

The last El Nino in 2015-16 impacted the amount of carbon dioxide that Earth's tropical regions released into the atmosphere, leading to Earth's recent record spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The effects of the El Nino were different in each region. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

The last El Nino in 2015-16 impacted the amount of carbon dioxide that Earth’s tropical regions released into the atmosphere, leading to Earth’s recent record spike in atmospheric carbon dioxide. The effects of the El Nino were different in each region. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

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NASA looks back at Cassini spacecraft’s dive into Saturn

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its fateful dive into the upper atmosphere of Saturn on September 15th, 2017, the spacecraft was live-streaming data from eight of its science instruments, along with readings from a variety of engineering systems.

While analysis of science data from the final plunge will take some time, Cassini engineers already have a pretty clear understanding of how the spacecraft itself behaved as it went in.

The data are useful for evaluating models of Saturn’s atmosphere the team used to predict the spacecraft’s behavior at mission’s end, and they help provide a baseline for planning future missions to Saturn.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is shown during its Sept. 15, 2017, plunge into Saturn's atmosphere in this artist's depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft is shown during its Sept. 15, 2017, plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere in this artist’s depiction. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey Spacecraft data provides new information about Mars Equator

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Scientists taking a new look at older data from NASA’s longest-operating Mars orbiter have discovered evidence of significant hydration near the Martian equator — a mysterious signature in a region of the Red Planet where planetary scientists figure ice shouldn’t exist.

Jack Wilson, a post-doctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, led a team that reprocessed data collected from 2002 to 2009 by the neutron spectrometer instrument on NASA’s Mars Odyssey spacecraft. In bringing the lower-resolution compositional data into sharper focus, the scientists spotted unexpectedly high amounts of hydrogen — which at high latitudes is a sign of buried water ice — around sections of the Martian equator.

A new paper suggests hydrogen-possibly water ice-in the Medusa Fossae area of Mars, which is in an equatorial region of the planet to the lower left in this view. (Steve Lee (University of Colorado), Jim Bell (Cornell University), Mike Wolff (Space Science Institute), and NASA)

A new paper suggests hydrogen-possibly water ice-in the Medusa Fossae area of Mars, which is in an equatorial region of the planet to the lower left in this view. (Steve Lee (University of Colorado), Jim Bell (Cornell University), Mike Wolff (Space Science Institute), and NASA)

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NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter takes a look at Mars’ Moon Phobos

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s longest-lived mission to Mars has gained its first look at the Martian moon Phobos, pursuing a deeper understanding by examining it in infrared wavelengths.

The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter observed Phobos on September 29th, 2017. Researchers have combined visible-wavelength and infrared data to produce an image color-coded for surface temperatures of this moon, which has been considered for a potential future human-mission outpost.

This image combines two products from the first pointing at the Martian moon Phobos by the THEMIS camera on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter, on Sept. 29, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

This image combines two products from the first pointing at the Martian moon Phobos by the THEMIS camera on NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter, on Sept. 29, 2017. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

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NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data reveals Hydrothermal Conditions for Life may have existed on Mars

 

Written by Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The discovery of evidence for ancient sea-floor hydrothermal deposits on Mars identifies an area on the planet that may offer clues about the origin of life on Earth.

A recent international report examines observations by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) of massive deposits in a basin on southern Mars. The authors interpret the data as evidence that these deposits were formed by heated water from a volcanically active part of the planet’s crust entering the bottom of a large sea long ago.

This view of a portion of the Eridania region of Mars shows blocks of deep-basin deposits that have been surrounded and partially buried by younger volcanic deposits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

This view of a portion of the Eridania region of Mars shows blocks of deep-basin deposits that have been surrounded and partially buried by younger volcanic deposits. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA study shows Boyajian Star’s dimness could be caused by Dust

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – One of the most mysterious stellar objects may be revealing some of its secrets at last.

Called KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian’s Star, or Tabby’s Star, the object has experienced unusual dips in brightness — NASA’s Kepler space telescope even observed dimming of up to 20 percent over a matter of days. In addition, the star has had much subtler but longer-term enigmatic dimming trends, with one continuing today. None of this behavior is expected for normal stars slightly more massive than the Sun.

This illustration depicts a hypothetical uneven ring of dust orbiting KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian's Star or Tabby's Star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts a hypothetical uneven ring of dust orbiting KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian’s Star or Tabby’s Star. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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