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Topic: Auroras

NASA’s Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment to study Auroral Winds

 

Written by Miles Hatfield
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – From the ground, the dance of the northern lights, or aurora borealis, can look peaceful. But those shimmering sheets of colored lights are the product of violent collisions between Earth’s atmosphere and particles from the Sun.

The beautiful lights are just the visible product of these collisions — the kinetic and thermal energy released, invisible to the naked eye, are no less important. Understanding the contribution that aurora make to the total amount of energy that enters and leaves Earth’s geospace system — referred to as auroral forcing — is one of the major goals of the NASA-funded Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment, or AZURE.

Aurora as seen from Talkeetna, Alaska, on Nov. 3, 2015. (Dora Miller)

Aurora as seen from Talkeetna, Alaska, on Nov. 3, 2015. (Dora Miller)

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NASA’s THEMIS Mission helps reveal mystery of Pulsating Aurora

 

Written by Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Sometimes on a dark night near the poles, the sky pulses a diffuse glow of green, purple and red. Unlike the long, shimmering veils of typical auroral displays, these pulsating auroras are much dimmer and less common.

While scientists have long known auroras to be associated with solar activity, the precise mechanism of pulsating auroras was unknown. Now, new research, using data from NASA’s Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms — or THEMIS — mission and Japan’s Exploration of energization and Radiation in Geospace — shortened to ERG, or also known as Arase — satellite, has finally captured the missing link thought responsible for these auroras.

Illustration of the ERG satellite in orbit. (ISAS/JAXA)

Illustration of the ERG satellite in orbit. (ISAS/JAXA)

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NASA’s Juno mission observes Jupiter’s Auroras acting differently than expected

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists on NASA’s Juno mission have observed massive amounts of energy swirling over Jupiter’s polar regions that contribute to the giant planet’s powerful auroras – only not in ways the researchers expected.

Examining data collected by the ultraviolet spectrograph and energetic-particle detector instruments aboard the Jupiter-orbiting Juno spacecraft, a team led by Barry Mauk of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, observed signatures of powerful electric potentials, aligned with Jupiter’s magnetic field, that accelerate electrons toward the Jovian atmosphere at energies up to 400,000 electron volts.

This is a reconstructed view of Jupiter's northern lights through the filters of the Juno Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph instrument on Dec. 11, 2016, as the Juno spacecraft approached Jupiter, passed over its poles, and plunged towards the equator. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Bertrand Bonfond )

This is a reconstructed view of Jupiter’s northern lights through the filters of the Juno Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph instrument on Dec. 11, 2016, as the Juno spacecraft approached Jupiter, passed over its poles, and plunged towards the equator. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Bertrand Bonfond )

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft makes Fifth Flyby of Jupiter

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission accomplished a close flyby of Jupiter on Monday, March 27th, successfully completing its fourth science orbit.

All of Juno’s science instruments and the spacecraft’s JunoCam were operating during the flyby, collecting data that is now being returned to Earth. Juno’s next close flyby of Jupiter will occur on May 19th, 2017.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft made its fifth flyby over Jupiter’s mysterious cloud tops on Monday, March 27th, at 1:52am PDT (4:52am EDT, 8:52 UTC).

This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian "galaxy" of swirling storms. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko)

This enhanced-color image of a mysterious dark spot on Jupiter seems to reveal a Jovian “galaxy” of swirling storms. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Roman Tkachenko)

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NASA launches Three Sounding Rockets to study Alaska Auroras

 

Written by Keith Koehler
NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWallops Island, VA – Three NASA rockets carrying instruments into active auroras over Alaska to aid scientists studying the northern lights and the interactions of the solar wind with Earth’s upper atmosphere and ionosphere were launched within a nearly two-hour period March 2nd, 2017.

The instruments were successfully carried on Black IX sounding rockets from the Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks. The first two rockets were launched nearly simultaneously at 12:41am and 12:42:30am EST as part of the Neutral Jets in Auroral Arcs mission. 

Two NASA sounding rockets are launched 90-seconds apart into an active aurora from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. (NASA/Terry Zaperach)

Two NASA sounding rockets are launched 90-seconds apart into an active aurora from the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. (NASA/Terry Zaperach)

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NASA discovers low-energy electrons play role in Pulsating Auroras

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Thanks to a lucky conjunction of two satellites, a ground-based array of all-sky cameras, and some spectacular aurora borealis, researchers have uncovered evidence for an unexpected role that electrons have in creating the dancing auroras. Though humans have been seeing auroras for thousands of years, we have only recently begun to understand what causes them.

In this study, published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, scientists compared ground-based videos of pulsating auroras—a certain type of aurora that appears as patches of brightness regularly flickering on and off—with satellite measurements of the numbers and energies of electrons raining down towards the surface from inside Earth’s magnetic bubble, the magnetosphere.

This image of a colorful aurora was taken in Delta Junction, Alaska, on April 10, 2015. All auroras are created by energetic electrons, which rain down from Earth’s magnetic bubble and interact with particles in the upper atmosphere to create glowing lights that stretch across the sky. (Image courtesy of Sebastian Saarloos)

This image of a colorful aurora was taken in Delta Junction, Alaska, on April 10, 2015. All auroras are created by energetic electrons, which rain down from Earth’s magnetic bubble and interact with particles in the upper atmosphere to create glowing lights that stretch across the sky. (Image courtesy of Sebastian Saarloos)

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NASA study discovers Brown Dwarfs have strong Auroras around them

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Mysterious objects called brown dwarfs are sometimes called “failed stars.” They are too small to fuse hydrogen in their cores, the way most stars do, but also too large to be classified as planets.

But a new study in the journal Nature suggests they succeed in creating powerful auroral displays, similar to the kind seen around the magnetic poles on Earth.

“This is a whole new manifestation of magnetic activity for that kind of object,” said Leon Harding, a technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and co-author on the study.

This artist's concept shows an auroral display on a brown dwarf. If you could see an aurora on a brown dwarf, it would be a million times brighter than an aurora on Earth. (Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows an auroral display on a brown dwarf. If you could see an aurora on a brown dwarf, it would be a million times brighter than an aurora on Earth. (Chuck Carter and Gregg Hallinan/Caltech)

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NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft detects Auroras around Mars

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, 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.”

A map of MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) auroral detections in December 2014 overlaid on Mars’ surface. The map shows that the aurora was widespread in the northern hemisphere, not tied to any geographic location. The aurora was detected in all observations during a 5-day period. (University of Colorado)

A map of MAVEN’s Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) auroral detections in December 2014 overlaid on Mars’ surface. The map shows that the aurora was widespread in the northern hemisphere, not tied to any geographic location. The aurora was detected in all observations during a 5-day period. (University of Colorado)

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NASA to launch Magnetospheric Multiscale mission to study explosions in Earth’s Magnetic Field

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Magnetic reconnection could be the Universe’s favorite way to make things explode.

It operates anywhere magnetic fields pervade space–which is to say almost everywhere. In the cores of galaxies, magnetic reconnection sparks explosions visible billions of light-years away. On the sun, it causes solar flares as powerful as a million atomic bombs. At Earth, it powers magnetic storms and auroras. It’s ubiquitous.

The problem is, researchers can’t explain it.

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NASA’s Cassini spacecraft and Hubble Space Telescope capture unique view of Saturn’s Auroras

 

Written by Jia-Rui Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA trained several pairs of eyes on Saturn as the planet put on a dancing light show at its poles.

While NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, orbiting around Earth, was able to observe the northern auroras in ultraviolet wavelengths, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, orbiting around Saturn, got complementary close-up views in infrared, visible-light and ultraviolet wavelengths. Cassini could also see northern and southern parts of Saturn that don’t face Earth.

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