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Topic: Comets

NASA investigates why Asteroid Bennu is shedding material into Space

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – When NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid (101955) Bennu, mission scientists knew that their spacecraft was orbiting something special. Not only was the boulder-strewn asteroid shaped like a rough diamond, its surface was crackling with activity, shedding small pieces of rock into space.

Now, after more than a year and a half up close with Bennu, they’re starting to better understand these dynamic particle-ejection events.

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft's PolyCam instrument from a range of 15 miles (24 kilometers). (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

This mosaic image of asteroid Bennu is composed of 12 images collected on Dec. 2, 2018, by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s PolyCam instrument from a range of 15 miles (24 kilometers). (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

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NASA reports Comet NEOWISE passes by the Sun, Providing a Treat for Observers

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA says a comet visiting from the most distant parts of our solar system is putting on a spectacular nighttime display. Named Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, the comet made its once-in-our-lifetimes close approach to the Sun on July 3rd, 2020, and will cross outside Earth’s orbit on its way back to the outer parts of the solar system by mid-August.

The comet cruised just inside Mercury’s orbit on July 3rd. This very close passage by the Sun is cooking the comet’s outermost layers, causing gas and dust to erupt off the icy surface and creating a large tail of debris. And yet the comet has managed to survive this intense roasting.

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE appears as a string of fuzzy red dots in this composite of several heat-sensitive infrared images taken by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission on March 27, 2020. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE appears as a string of fuzzy red dots in this composite of several heat-sensitive infrared images taken by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission on March 27, 2020. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captures image of California Nebula Stars just before being Decommissioned

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Five days before NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope ended its mission on January 30th, 2020, scientists used the spacecraft’s infrared camera to take multiple images of a region known as the California Nebula – a fitting target considering the mission’s management and science operations were both based in Southern California at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech.

This mosaic is made from those images. It is the final mosaic image taken by Spitzer and one of hundreds the spacecraft captured throughout its lifetime.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope took this image of the California Nebula on Jan. 25, 2020, five days before the spacecraft was decommissioned. The red and blue bands on either side of the image represent two different wavelengths of light; the gray area shows both wavelengths. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope took this image of the California Nebula on Jan. 25, 2020, five days before the spacecraft was decommissioned. The red and blue bands on either side of the image represent two different wavelengths of light; the gray area shows both wavelengths. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope mission ends after 16 years of Service

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope’s mission has come to an end after more than 16 years studying the universe in infrared light, revealing new wonders in our solar system, our galaxy and beyond.

Mission engineers confirmed at about 2:30pm PT (4:30pm CT) Thursday the spacecraft was placed in safe mode, ceasing all science operations. After the decommissioning was confirmed, Spitzer Project Manager Joseph Hunt declared the mission had officially ended.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer begins its "Beyond" mission phase on Oct. 1, 2016. The spacecraft is depicted in the orientation it assumes to establish communications with ground stations. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. Spitzer begins its “Beyond” mission phase on Oct. 1, 2016. The spacecraft is depicted in the orientation it assumes to establish communications with ground stations. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA explains how LISA Pathfinder Detected Dozens of ‘Comet Crumbs’

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA says LISA Pathfinder, a mission led by ESA (the European Space Agency) that included NASA contributions, successfully demonstrated technologies needed to build a future space-based gravitational wave observatory, a tool for detecting ripples in space-time produced by, among other things, merging black holes.

A team of NASA scientists leveraged LISA Pathfinder’s record-setting sensitivity for a different purpose much closer to home — mapping microscopic dust shed by comets and asteroids.

European Space Agency's LISA Pathfinder. (ESA)

European Space Agency’s LISA Pathfinder. (ESA)

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NASA says new data suggests Earth’s Water came from Comets

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – According to NASA, the mystery of why Earth has so much water, allowing our “blue marble” to support an astounding array of life, is clearer with new research into comets.

Comets are like snowballs of rock, dust, ice, and other frozen chemicals that vaporize as they get closer to the Sun, producing the tails seen in images.

A new study reveals that the water in many comets may share a common origin with Earth’s oceans, reinforcing the idea that comets played a key role in bringing water to our planet billions of years ago.

Illustration of a comet, ice grains and Earth's oceans. SOFIA found clues in Comet Wirtanen's ice grains that suggest water in comets and Earth's oceans may share a common origin. (NASA/SOFIA/L. Cook/L. Proudfit)

Illustration of a comet, ice grains and Earth’s oceans. SOFIA found clues in Comet Wirtanen’s ice grains that suggest water in comets and Earth’s oceans may share a common origin. (NASA/SOFIA/L. Cook/L. Proudfit)

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NASA studies Dust in our Solar System

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.

The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets.

In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)

In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)

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NASA’s TESS Satellite discovers its first Exoplanets

 

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Greenbelt, MD – NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, in its first three months of observations.

The mission’s sensitive cameras also captured 100 short-lived changes — most of them likely stellar outbursts — in the same region of the sky. They include six supernova explosions whose brightening light was recorded by TESS even before the outbursts were discovered by ground-based telescopes.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets in the data from the space telescope’s four cameras. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets in the data from the space telescope’s four cameras. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

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NASA explains why it’s important to study Space Rocks

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA says the entire history of human existence is a tiny blip in our solar system’s 4.5-billion-year history. No one was around to see planets forming and undergoing dramatic changes before settling in their present configuration. In order to understand what came before us — before life on Earth and before Earth itself — scientists need to hunt for clues to that mysterious distant past.

Those clues come in the form of asteroids, comets and other small objects. Like detectives sifting through forensic evidence, scientists carefully examine these small bodies for insights about our origins.

The small worlds of our solar system help us trace its history and evolution, including comets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD)

The small worlds of our solar system help us trace its history and evolution, including comets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD)

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NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies, 20 years of mapping Asteroids and Comets

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies enters Third Decade.

On March 11th, 1998, asteroid astronomers around the world received an ominous message: new observational data on the recently discovered asteroid 1997 XF11 suggested there was a chance that the half-mile-wide (nearly one kilometer) object could hit Earth in 2028.

The message came from the Minor Planet Center, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the worldwide repository for such observations and initial determination of asteroid orbits. And although it was intended to alert only the very small astronomical community that hunts and tracks asteroids to call for more observations, the news spread quickly.

The chart depicts the cumulative number of known Near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) versus time. The area in red depicts the number of known NEAs larger than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer). The area in orange depicts the quantity of known NEAs larger than 460 feet (140 meters). The area in blue depicts the number of known NEAs in all sizes. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The chart depicts the cumulative number of known Near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) versus time. The area in red depicts the number of known NEAs larger than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer). The area in orange depicts the quantity of known NEAs larger than 460 feet (140 meters). The area in blue depicts the number of known NEAs in all sizes. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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