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NASA selects Instruments for mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’ Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, 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.

This artist's rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s rendering shows a concept for a future NASA mission to Europa in which a spacecraft would make multiple close flybys of the icy Jovian moon, thought to contain a global subsurface ocean. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory starts three year mission

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed has begun science operations.

Launched January 31st on a minimum three-year mission, SMAP will help scientists understand links among Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles; reduce uncertainties in predicting climate; and enhance our ability to monitor and predict natural hazards like floods and droughts. SMAP data have additional practical applications, including improved weather forecasting and crop yield predictions.

High-resolution global soil moisture map from SMAP's combined radar and radiometer instruments, acquired between May 4 and May 11, 2015 during SMAP's commissioning phase. The map has a resolution of 5.6 miles (9 kilometers). The data gap is due to turning the instruments on and off during testing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

High-resolution global soil moisture map from SMAP’s combined radar and radiometer instruments, acquired between May 4 and May 11, 2015 during SMAP’s commissioning phase. The map has a resolution of 5.6 miles (9 kilometers). The data gap is due to turning the instruments on and off during testing. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

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After 6 years, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has found over 1,000 planets and counting

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside our solar system on May 12th, 2009. From the trove of data collected, we have learned that planets are common, that most sun-like stars have at least one planet and that nature makes planets with unimaginable diversity.

Kepler launched on March 6th, 2009. Its mission was to survey a portion of our galaxy to determine what fraction of stars might harbor potentially habitable, Earth-sized exoplanets, or planets that orbit other stars.

The artistic concept shows NASA's planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2's first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

The artistic concept shows NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft operating in a new mission profile called K2. Using publicly available data, astronomers may have confirmed K2’s first discovery of star with more than one planet. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory completes test, produces First Global Maps

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – With its antenna now spinning at full speed, NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory has successfully re-tested its science instruments and generated its first global maps, a key step to beginning routine science operations next month.

SMAP launched January 31st on a minimum three-year mission to map global soil moisture and detect whether soils are frozen or thawed. The mission will help scientists understand the links among Earth’s water, energy and carbon cycles; help reduce uncertainties in predicting weather and climate; and enhance our ability to monitor and predict natural hazards such as floods and droughts.

SMAP radar image acquired from data from March 31 to April 3, 2015. Weaker radar signals (blues) reflect low soil moisture or lack of vegetation, such as in deserts. Strong radar signals (reds) are seen in forests. SMAP's radar also takes data over the ocean and sea ice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

SMAP radar image acquired from data from March 31 to April 3, 2015. Weaker radar signals (blues) reflect low soil moisture or lack of vegetation, such as in deserts. Strong radar signals (reds) are seen in forests. SMAP’s radar also takes data over the ocean and sea ice. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover measurements of Weather, Soil reveals possibility of Liquid Brine on Mars

 

Written by Guy Webster

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Martian weather and soil conditions that NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured, together with a type of salt found in Martian soil, could put liquid brine in the soil at night.

Perchlorate identified in Martian soil by the Curiosity mission, and previously by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission, has properties of absorbing water vapor from the atmosphere and lowering the freezing temperature of water. This has been proposed for years as a mechanism for possible existence of transient liquid brines at higher latitudes on modern Mars, despite the Red Planet’s cold and dry conditions.

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover's mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

The Rover Environmental Monitoring Station (REMS) on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover includes temperature and humidity sensors mounted on the rover’s mast. One of the REMS booms extends to the left from the mast in this view. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

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NASA missions have discovered an abundance of Water in our Solar System

 

Written by Preston Dyches
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA missions explore our solar system and search for new worlds, they are finding water in surprising places. Water is but one piece of our search for habitable planets and life beyond Earth, yet it links many seemingly unrelated worlds in surprising ways.

“NASA science activities have provided a wave of amazing findings related to water in recent years that inspire us to continue investigating our origins and the fascinating possibilities for other worlds, and life, in the universe,” said Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for the agency. “In our lifetime, we may very well finally answer whether we are alone in the solar system and beyond.”

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the workings of the universe, searching for water and life among the stars. (NASA)

NASA is exploring our solar system and beyond to understand the workings of the universe, searching for water and life among the stars. (NASA)

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NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory data reveals California Tuolumne Snowpack 40 percent less water than 2014

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – New NASA data find the snowpack in the Tuolumne River Basin in California’s Sierra Nevada — a major source of water for millions of Californians — currently contains just 40 percent as much water as it did near this time at its highest level of 2014, one of the two driest years in California’s recorded history.

The data was acquired through a partnership with the California Department of Water Resources, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Turlock and Modesto irrigation districts.

Spatial distribution of the total volume of water in the snowpack across the Tuolumne River Basin on March 25, 2015 (left) and April 7, 2014 (right) as measured by NASA's Airborne Snow Observatory. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Spatial distribution of the total volume of water in the snowpack across the Tuolumne River Basin on March 25, 2015 (left) and April 7, 2014 (right) as measured by NASA’s Airborne Snow Observatory. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory antenna now rotating at full speed

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The 20-foot (6-meter) “golden lasso” reflector antenna atop NASA’s new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful completion of a two-part procedure to spin it up to full speed.

Mission controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, on Thursday, March 26th commanded SMAP’s spun instrument assembly – the part of the observatory that spins – to increase its rotation speed from the initial rate of 5 revolutions per minute achieved on March 23rd to its final science measurement rate of 14.6 revolutions per minute.

SMAP will produce global maps of soil moisture, which will help improve our understanding of Earth's water and carbon cycles and our ability to manage water resources. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

SMAP will produce global maps of soil moisture, which will help improve our understanding of Earth’s water and carbon cycles and our ability to manage water resources. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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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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Tennessee Department of Agriculture says Extreme Weather can Impact Livestock

 

The Tennessee Department of AgricultureNashville, TN – As the temperatures plummet and the icy conditions take hold, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture is urging citizens to take steps to keep livestock safe and healthy.

“Most livestock tolerate cold weather well,” state veterinarian Dr. Charles Hatcher said. “However, extreme temperature changes can have a dramatic impact on an animal’s health and performance.”

Access to fresh water is a must. Stock tanks and ponds should be monitored closely and any ice should be broken if freezing occurs. «Read the rest of this article»

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