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Topic: Big Dipper

NASA observations of Comet Catalina Suggests Comets Delivered Carbon to Rocky Planets

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA says that in early 2016, an icy visitor from the edge of our solar system hurtled past Earth. It briefly became visible to stargazers as Comet Catalina before it slingshot past the Sun to disappear forevermore out of the solar system.

Among the many observatories that captured a view of this comet, which appeared near the Big Dipper, was the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, NASA’s telescope on an airplane. Using one of its unique infrared instruments, SOFIA was able to pick out a familiar fingerprint within the dusty glow of the comet’s tail – carbon.

Illustration of a comet from the Oort Cloud as it passes through the inner solar system with dust and gas evaporating into its tail. SOFIA’s observations of Comet Catalina reveal that it’s carbon-rich, suggesting that comets delivered carbon to the terrestrial planets like Earth and Mars as they formed in the early solar system. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

Illustration of a comet from the Oort Cloud as it passes through the inner solar system with dust and gas evaporating into its tail. SOFIA’s observations of Comet Catalina reveal that it’s carbon-rich, suggesting that comets delivered carbon to the terrestrial planets like Earth and Mars as they formed in the early solar system. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

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NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will search for life on planets near Earth

 

Written by Elaine Hunt
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – As the search for life on distant planets heats up, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is bringing this hunt closer to home. Launching in 2017-2018, TESS will identify planets orbiting the brightest stars just outside our solar system using what’s known as the transit method.

When a planet passes in front of, or transits, its parent star, it blocks some of the star’s light. TESS searches for these telltale dips in brightness, which can reveal the planet’s presence and provide additional information about it.

TESS will look at the nearest, brightest stars to find planetary candidates that scientists will observe for years to come. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

TESS will look at the nearest, brightest stars to find planetary candidates that scientists will observe for years to come. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA reports Comet Catalina visible New Year’s Morning

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Did you get a telescope or pair of binoculars under the Christmas tree? If so, you can put them to the test by searching the Eastern sky for a view of a fuzzy comet on or shortly after New Year’s Day.

Comet Catalina, formally known as C/2013 US10, is currently perched in the pre-dawn skies as it returns to the depths of space following a recent visit to the inner part of our solar system. Named for the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the comet was discovered on October 31st, 2013.

This icy, dirty snowball from the outer solar system, known formally as C/2013 US10 (Catalina), rounded the sun last month and is now headed for its closest approach to Earth on Jan. 17. The comet poses no threat to Earth, as it will pass a comfortable 67 million miles (108 million kilometers) at close approach. This image was captured on Dec. 16 at about 6 a.m. EST from Kathleen, Georgia using a Meade ETX80 telescope and Canon 7D camera. (Greg Hogan)

This icy, dirty snowball from the outer solar system, known formally as C/2013 US10 (Catalina), rounded the sun last month and is now headed for its closest approach to Earth on Jan. 17. The comet poses no threat to Earth, as it will pass a comfortable 67 million miles (108 million kilometers) at close approach. This image was captured on Dec. 16 at about 6 a.m. EST from Kathleen, Georgia using a Meade ETX80 telescope and Canon 7D camera. (Greg Hogan)

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NASA reports Venus, Jupiter and Mars to form Triangle of Planets this month

 

Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Winter is approaching. The early, wakeful sunbeams of summer are a fading memory as October mornings grow dark and cold. Frankly, waking up isn’t as easy as it used to be…..

Except this week.

In the days ahead, if you find yourself yawning over your morning coffee before sunrise, longing for repose, just take a look out the window. Three bright planets are converging in the eastern sky–and the view is an eye opener.

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NASA says June is month for Stargazing

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – If you love stargazing, there’s a date you need to mark on your calendar. It’s June.

That’s right, the whole month!

Throughout the month of June 2015, the two brightest planets in the night sky, Venus and Jupiter, are going to converge for a jaw-dropping close encounter. You don’t want to miss any of the action.

When the sun goes down, step outside and look west. You don’t have to wait until the sky fades to black. Venus and Jupiter are so bright, you can see then shining through the twilight.

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NASA says get up early to see Venus and Jupiter converging in the Morning Sky

 

Written by Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Sleeping late is one of the simple pleasures of summer vacation. This week, waking up early will be a pleasure, too.

Set your alarm for 30 minutes before sunrise. Venus and Jupiter are converging in the dawn sky for a beautiful conjunction that will wake you up faster than a cup of strong coffee.

To see it, you’ll need a clear view of the east-northeastern horizon and … that’s all. No telescope is required.

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NASA reports Comet from the Oort Cloud to pass by Earth in March

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Far beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, where the sun is a pinprick of light not much brighter than other stars, a vast swarm of icy bodies circles the solar system. Astronomers call it the “Oort Cloud,” and it is the source of some of history’s finest comets.

One of them could be heading our way now.

Comet Pan-STARRS was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System atop the Haleakala volcano in Hawaii. Astronomers use the massive 1.8 meter telescope to scan the heavens for Earth-approaching objects, both asteroids and comets, that might pose a danger to our planet. In June 2011 a comet appeared, and it was named “Pan-STARRS” after  the acronym for the telescope.

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NASA says Mars, Saturn and Spica to form “Martian Triangle” Sky Show just before the Curiosity Rover lands on Mars

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Every time NASA lands a rover on Mars–or even makes the attempt–it is cause for celebration. On August 5th, the heavens themselves are aligning to mark the event.

Only a few hours before the Mars Science Lab spacecraft reaches the red planet and drops Curiosity on a hair-raising descent mission planners have dubbed the “seven minutes of terror,” Mars itself will be put on a special show in the sunset skies of Earth: Together with Saturn and Spica (a blue giant star in the constellation Virgo), the Red Planet will form a “Martian Triangle” visible from almost all parts of our planet.

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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Images Big Dipper

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In England it is known as the “Plough,” in Germany the “Great Cart,” and in Malaysia the “Seven Ploughs.” Since humanity first turned its eyes skyward, the seven northern hemisphere stars that compose the “Big Dipper” have been a welcome and familiar introduction to the heavens.

“I can recall as a kid making an imaginary line from the two stars that make up the right side of the Big Dipper’s bowl and extending it upward to find the North Star,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. “Now, the Big Dipper is helping me make sure the camera aboard Juno is ready to do its job.”

NASA's Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft tested its JunoCam instrument on one of the icons of the night sky - the Big Dipper. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI/MSSS)

NASA's Jupiter-bound Juno spacecraft tested its JunoCam instrument on one of the icons of the night sky - the Big Dipper. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI/MSSS)

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NASA to attempt 3D Photography of Lyrid Meteor Shower

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – This weekend, NASA scientists, amateur astronomers, and an astronaut on board the International Space Station will attempt the first-ever 3D photography of meteors from Earth and space.

“The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks on April 21st-22nd,” says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “We’re going to try to photograph some of these ‘shooting stars’ simultaneously from ground stations, from a research balloon in the stratosphere, and from the space station.”

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