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NASA Sounding Rocket Probes the Dark Regions of Space

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The Dual-channel Extreme Ultraviolet Continuum Spectrograph or DEUCE payload was successfully launched at 1:46am CST, December 18th, 2018 on a Black Brant IX sounding rocket from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The rocket carried the payload to 175 miles altitude before descending and landing by parachute.  Payload recovery is in progress.  The experiment team reports that great data was received during the flight.

The DEUCE payload sits atop a NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. (NASA)

The DEUCE payload sits atop a NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. (NASA)

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NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Spacecraft finds new Magnetic Event in near Earth Environment

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Though close to home, the space immediately around Earth is full of hidden secrets and invisible processes. In a new discovery reported in the journal Nature, scientists working with NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale spacecraft — MMS — have uncovered a new type of magnetic event in our near-Earth environment by using an innovative technique to squeeze extra information out of the data.

Magnetic reconnection is one of the most important processes in the space — filled with charged particles known as plasma — around Earth.

In a turbulent magnetic environment, magnetic field lines become scrambled. As the field lines cross, intense electric currents (shown here as bright regions) form and eventually trigger magnetic reconnection (indicated by a flash), which is an explosive event that releases magnetic energy accumulated in the current layers and ejects high-speed bi-directional jets of electrons.(NASA Goddard’s Conceptual Image Lab/Lisa Poje; Simulations by: University of Chicago/Colby Haggerty; University of Delaware/Tulasi Parashar)

In a turbulent magnetic environment, magnetic field lines become scrambled. As the field lines cross, intense electric currents (shown here as bright regions) form and eventually trigger magnetic reconnection (indicated by a flash), which is an explosive event that releases magnetic energy accumulated in the current layers and ejects high-speed bi-directional jets of electrons.(NASA Goddard’s Conceptual Image Lab/Lisa Poje; Simulations by: University of Chicago/Colby Haggerty; University of Delaware/Tulasi Parashar)

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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 Van Allen Probes mission and FIREBIRD II CubeSat discover Whistling Space Electrons’ Origins

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Scientists have long known that solar-energized particles trapped around the planet are sometimes scattered into Earth’s upper atmosphere where they can contribute to beautiful auroral displays.

Yet for decades, no one has known exactly what is responsible for hurling these energetic electrons on their way. Recently, two spacecraft found themselves at just the right places at the right time to witness first hand both the impulsive electron loss and its cause.

The Van Allen Belts, shown in green in this illustration, are concentric doughnut-shaped belts filled with charged particles, trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. (Tony Phillips/NASA)

The Van Allen Belts, shown in green in this illustration, are concentric doughnut-shaped belts filled with charged particles, trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. (Tony Phillips/NASA)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes celebrates 5 years of studying Van Allen Radiation Belts

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Most satellites, not designed to withstand high levels of particle radiation, wouldn’t last a day in the Van Allen Radiation belts. Trapped by Earth’s magnetic field into two giant belts around the planet, high-energy particles in the region can batter the spacecraft and even interfere with onboard electronics.

But NASA’s Van Allen Probes have been traveling through this hazardous area since August 30th 2012 – they are now celebrating their fifth year in space studying this dynamic region.

The two Van Allen Probes work as a team, following one behind the other to uniquely observe changes in the belts. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/JHUAPL)

The two Van Allen Probes work as a team, following one behind the other to uniquely observe changes in the belts. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/JHUAPL)

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NASA gives Five Tips for Photographing Total Solar Eclipse on August 21st

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The total solar eclipse crossing America on August 21st, 2017 will be the first eclipse to march from sea to shining sea in nearly 100 years. This astronomical event is a unique opportunity for scientists studying in the shadow of the Moon, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to capture unforgettable images.

Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a selfie master, try out these tips for photographing the eclipse.  

People watch a partial eclipse in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 20, 2015. (Robin Cordiner)

People watch a partial eclipse in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 20, 2015. (Robin Cordiner)

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes discover human made Barrier around the Earth

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Humans have long been shaping Earth’s landscape, but now scientists know we can shape our near-space environment as well. A certain type of communications — very low frequency, or VLF, radio communications — have been found to interact with particles in space, affecting how and where they move.

At times, these interactions can create a barrier around Earth against natural high energy particle radiation in space. These results, part of a comprehensive paper on human-induced space weather, were recently published in Space Science Reviews.

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NASA prepares Satellites for alignment of Planets and Stars

 

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

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – The movements of the stars and the planets have almost no impact on life on Earth, but a few times per year, the alignment of celestial bodies has a visible effect.

One of these geometric events — the spring equinox — is just around the corner, and another major alignment — a total solar eclipse — will be visible across America on August 21st, with a fleet of NASA satellites viewing it from space and providing images of the event.

To understand the basics of celestial alignments, here is information on equinoxes, solstices, full moons, eclipses and transits:

During a transit, a planet passes in between us and the star it orbits. This method is commonly used to find new exoplanets in our galaxy. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein)

During a transit, a planet passes in between us and the star it orbits. This method is commonly used to find new exoplanets in our galaxy. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein)

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