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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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Three NASA Missions to explore our Solar System capture first images

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA’s continued quest to explore our solar system and beyond received a boost of new information this week with three key missions proving not only that they are up and running, but that their science potential is exceptional.

On September 17th, 2018, TESS — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite — shared its first science observations. Later in the week, the latest two missions to join NASA’s heliophysics fleet returned first light data: Parker Solar Probe, humanity’s first mission to “touch” the Sun, and GOLD, a mission that studies the dynamic boundary between Earth and space.

Download high-resolution versions of this and other TESS “first light” images from the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

Download high-resolution versions of this and other TESS “first light” images from the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. (NASA/MIT/TESS)

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NASA Satellite observations used to make 3-D models of Coronal Mass Ejections from the Sun

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The more solar observatories, the merrier: Scientists have developed new models to see how shocks associated with coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, propagate from the Sun — an effort made possible only by combining data from three NASA satellites to produce a much more robust mapping of a CME than any one could do alone.

Much the way ships form bow waves as they move through water, CMEs set off interplanetary shocks when they erupt from the Sun at extreme speeds, propelling a wave of high-energy particles. These particles can spark space weather events around Earth, endangering spacecraft and astronauts.

Using data from three different satellites, scientists have developed new models that recreate, in 3-D, CMEs and shocks, separately. This movie illustrates the recreation of a CME and shock that erupted from the Sun on March 7, 2011. The pink lines show the CME structure and the yellow lines show the structure of the shock - a side effect of the CME that can spark space weather events around Earth. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/GMU/APL/Joy Ng)

Using data from three different satellites, scientists have developed new models that recreate, in 3-D, CMEs and shocks, separately. This movie illustrates the recreation of a CME and shock that erupted from the Sun on March 7, 2011. The pink lines show the CME structure and the yellow lines show the structure of the shock – a side effect of the CME that can spark space weather events around Earth. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/GMU/APL/Joy Ng)

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NASA explains the difference between Greatest Eclipse and Greatest Duration

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – During the total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st, 2017, the Moon’s shadow will cross the United States from Oregon to South Carolina in just an hour and a half. But the shadow won’t travel across the country at the same speed. Instead, its speed will vary — and depending on location, so too will the duration of totality, the fleeting minutes when the Moon completely covers the Sun.

Two points along the shadow’s path are of particular interest to eclipse viewers seeking the longest-lasting totality: the point of greatest eclipse and the point of greatest duration.

The point of greatest eclipse for the August 21st total solar eclipse will see 2 minutes, 40.1 seconds of totality. The closest towns to this location are Cerulean and Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which each will experience 2 minutes, 40 seconds of totality. (Map data by Google; eclipse calculations by NASA)

The point of greatest eclipse for the August 21st total solar eclipse will see 2 minutes, 40.1 seconds of totality. The closest towns to this location are Cerulean and Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which each will experience 2 minutes, 40 seconds of totality. (Map data by Google; eclipse calculations by NASA)

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NASA to study Earth’s Ionosphere during Total Solar Eclipse

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On August 21st, 2017, the Moon will slide in front of the Sun and for a brief moment, day will melt into a dusky night. Moving across the country, the Moon’s shadow will block the Sun’s light, and weather permitting, those within the path of totality will be treated to a view of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, called the corona.

But the total solar eclipse will also have imperceptible effects, such as the sudden loss of extreme ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, which generates the ionized layer of Earth’s atmosphere, called the ionosphere. This ever-changing region grows and shrinks based on solar conditions, and is the focus of several NASA-funded science teams that will use the eclipse as a ready-made experiment, courtesy of nature.

The Moon’s shadow will dramatically affect insolation — the amount of sunlight reaching the ground — during the total solar eclipse. (NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio)

The Moon’s shadow will dramatically affect insolation — the amount of sunlight reaching the ground — during the total solar eclipse. (NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio)

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NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) Spacecraft sees Noctilucent Cloud Season begin over Antarctica

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Data from NASA’s Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere, or AIM, spacecraft shows the sky over Antarctica is glowing electric blue due to the start of noctilucent, or night-shining, cloud season in the Southern Hemisphere – and an early one at that.

Noctilucent clouds are Earth’s highest clouds, sandwiched between Earth and space 50 miles above the ground in a layer of the atmosphere called the mesosphere.

An artist's rendition of the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft in orbit above Earth. (NASA)

An artist’s rendition of the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft in orbit above Earth. (NASA)

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NASA’s THEMIS spacecraft observes Earth’s vibrating Magnetic Field

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The majestic auroras have captivated humans for thousands of years, but their nature – the fact that the lights are electromagnetic and respond to solar activity – was only realized in the last 150 years.

Thanks to coordinated multi-satellite observations and a worldwide network of magnetic sensors and cameras, close study of auroras has become possible over recent decades. Yet, auroras continue to mystify, dancing far above the ground to some, thus far, undetected rhythm.

An artist’s rendering (not to scale) of a cross-section of the magnetosphere, with the solar wind on the left in yellow and magnetic field lines emanating from the Earth in blue. The five THEMIS probes were well-positioned to directly observe one particular magnetic field line as it oscillated back and forth roughly every six minutes. In this unstable environment, electrons in near-Earth space, depicted as white dots, stream rapidly down magnetic field lines towards Earth’s poles. There, they interact with oxygen and nitrogen particles in the upper atmosphere, releasing photons and brightening a specific region of the aurora. (Emmanuel Masongsong/UCLA EPSS/NASA)

An artist’s rendering (not to scale) of a cross-section of the magnetosphere, with the solar wind on the left in yellow and magnetic field lines emanating from the Earth in blue. The five THEMIS probes were well-positioned to directly observe one particular magnetic field line as it oscillated back and forth roughly every six minutes. In this unstable environment, electrons in near-Earth space, depicted as white dots, stream rapidly down magnetic field lines towards Earth’s poles. There, they interact with oxygen and nitrogen particles in the upper atmosphere, releasing photons and brightening a specific region of the aurora. (Emmanuel Masongsong/UCLA EPSS/NASA)

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NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory sees Earth and Moon in Double Eclipse

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Early in the morning of September 1st, 2016, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, caught both Earth and the moon crossing in front of the sun. SDO keeps a constant eye on the sun, but during SDO’s semiannual eclipse seasons, Earth briefly blocks SDO’s line of sight each day – a consequence of SDO’s geosynchronous orbit.

On September 1st, Earth completely eclipsed the sun from SDO’s perspective just as the moon began its journey across the face of the sun. The end of the Earth eclipse happened just in time for SDO to catch the final stages of the lunar transit.

You can tell Earth and the moon’s shadows apart by their edges: Earth’s is fuzzy, while the moon’s is sharp and distinct. This is because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs some of the sun’s light, creating an ill-defined edge. On the other hand, the moon has no atmosphere, producing a crisp horizon. (NASA/SDO)

You can tell Earth and the moon’s shadows apart by their edges: Earth’s is fuzzy, while the moon’s is sharp and distinct. This is because Earth’s atmosphere absorbs some of the sun’s light, creating an ill-defined edge. On the other hand, the moon has no atmosphere, producing a crisp horizon.
(NASA/SDO)

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NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory takes dazzling images of the Sun during 360 rotation

 

Written by Lina Tran
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On July 6th, 2016, engineers instructed NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, to roll 360 degrees on one axis. SDO dutifully performed the seven-hour maneuver, while producing some dizzying data:

For this period of time, SDO images – taken every 12 seconds – appeared to show the sun spinning, as if stuck on a pinwheel. The images below were taken by SDO’s Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument in extreme ultraviolet wavelengths that are typically invisible to our eyes, but was colorized here in gold for easy viewing.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory image of the sun. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng)

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory image of the sun. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO/Joy Ng)

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