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Topic: Lowell Observatory

NASA’s New Horizons scientists have released papers that shed new light on the Pluto System

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – A year ago, Pluto was just a bright speck in the cameras of NASA’s approaching New Horizons spacecraft, not much different than its appearances in telescopes since Clyde Tombaugh discovered the then-ninth planet in 1930.

But this week, in the journal Science, New Horizons scientists have authored the first comprehensive set of papers describing results from last summer’s Pluto system flyby.

This image of haze layers above Pluto’s limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Gladstone et al./Science (2016))

This image of haze layers above Pluto’s limb was taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. About 20 haze layers are seen; the layers have been found to typically extend horizontally over hundreds of kilometers, but are not strictly parallel to the surface. For example, scientists note a haze layer about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the surface (lower left area of the image), which descends to the surface at the right. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Gladstone et al./Science (2016))

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NASA reports Two Comets with similar Orbits to safely pass by Earth

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Two comets that will safely fly past Earth later this month may have more in common than their intriguingly similar orbits. They may be twins of a sort.

Comet P/2016 BA14 was discovered on January 22nd, 2016, by the University of Hawaii’s PanSTARRS telescope on Haleakala, on the island of Maui. It was initially thought to be an asteroid, but follow-up observations by a University of Maryland and Lowell Observatory team with the Discovery Channel Telescope showed a faint tail, revealing that the discovery was, in fact, a comet.

Comet 252P/LINEAR will safely fly past Earth on March 21, 2016, at a range of about 3.3 million miles (5.2 million kilometers). The following day, comet P/2016 BA14 will safely fly by our planet at a distance of about 2.2 million miles (3.5 million kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Comet 252P/LINEAR will safely fly past Earth on March 21, 2016, at a range of about 3.3 million miles (5.2 million kilometers). The following day, comet P/2016 BA14 will safely fly by our planet at a distance of about 2.2 million miles (3.5 million kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captures perlexing photo of Pluto’s landscape

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The newest high-resolution images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons are both dazzling and mystifying, revealing a multitude of previously unseen topographic and compositional details.

The image below — showing an area near the line that separates day from night — captures a vast rippling landscape of strange, aligned linear ridges that has astonished New Horizons team members.

In this extended color image of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, rounded and bizarrely textured mountains, informally named the Tartarus Dorsa, rise up along Pluto’s day-night terminator and show intricate but puzzling patterns of blue-gray ridges and reddish material in between. This view, roughly 330 miles (530 kilometers) across, combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, 2015, and resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers). (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

In this extended color image of Pluto taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, rounded and bizarrely textured mountains, informally named the Tartarus Dorsa, rise up along Pluto’s day-night terminator and show intricate but puzzling patterns of blue-gray ridges and reddish material in between. This view, roughly 330 miles (530 kilometers) across, combines blue, red and infrared images taken by the Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14, 2015, and resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers). (NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft takes stunning photos of Pluto

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The latest images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft have scientists stunned – not only for their breathtaking views of Pluto’s majestic icy mountains, streams of frozen nitrogen and haunting low-lying hazes, but also for their strangely familiar, arctic look.

This new view of Pluto’s crescent — taken by New Horizons’ wide-angle Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14th and downlinked to Earth on September 13th — offers an oblique look across Plutonian landscapes with dramatic backlighting from the sun.

Pluto’s Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes: Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Pluto’s Majestic Mountains, Frozen Plains and Foggy Hazes: Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft looked back toward the sun and captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA asks “What’s next for Comet ISON?”

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Comet ISON is now inside the orbit of Earth as it plunges headlong toward the sun for a fiery close encounter on November 28th.

The comet is putting on a good show for observatories around the solar system, especially after an outburst on November 13th-14th that boosted the comet’s brightness 10-fold. NASA spacecraft and amateur astronomers alike are snapping crisp pictures of the comet’s gossamer green atmosphere and suddenly riotous tail.

Comet ISON photographed on November 15th by amateur astronomer Mike Hankey of Auberry, California. The comet's bright head and riotous tail are consequences of an outburst on November 13th-14th that significantly boosted the comet's level of activity.

Comet ISON photographed on November 15th by amateur astronomer Mike Hankey of Auberry, California. The comet’s bright head and riotous tail are consequences of an outburst on November 13th-14th that significantly boosted the comet’s level of activity.

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NASA’s Swift satellite observes Comet ISON

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Astronomers from the University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP) and Lowell Observatory have used NASA’s Swift satellite to check out comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), which may become one of the most dazzling in decades when it rounds the sun later this year.

Using images acquired over the last two months from Swift’s Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT), the team has made initial estimates of the comet’s water and dust production and used them to infer the size of its icy nucleus.

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NASA’s STEREO-B spacecraft observes Comet Pan-STARRS survive it’s trip by the Sun

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – For a comet, visiting the sun is risky business. Fierce solar heat vaporizes gases long frozen in the fragile nucleus, breaking up some comets and completely destroying others.

That’s why astronomers weren’t sure what would happen in early March when Comet Pan-STARRS, a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, dipped inside the orbit of Mercury.

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Some Comets like it Hot

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Comets are icy and fragile. They spend most of their time orbiting through the dark outskirts of the solar system safe from destructive rays of intense sunlight.  The deepest cold is their natural habitat.

Last November amateur astronomer Terry Lovejoy discovered a different kind of comet.  The icy fuzzball he spotted in the sky over his backyard observatory in Australia was heading almost directly for the sun.  On December 16th, less than three weeks after he found it, Comet Lovejoy would swoop through the sun’s atmosphere only 120,000 km above the stellar surface.

Astronomers soon realized a startling fact: Comet Lovejoy likes it hot.

Comet Lovejoy at sunrise on December 25th, 2011. Wayne England took the picture from Poocher Swamp, west of Bordertown, South Australia

Comet Lovejoy at sunrise on December 25th, 2011. Wayne England took the picture from Poocher Swamp, west of Bordertown, South Australia

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