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NASA research shows Gravitational Pull of Moons could preserve Liquid Water Oceans on Frigid Worlds

 

Written by Bill Steigerwald / Nancy Jones
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Heat generated by the gravitational pull of moons formed from massive collisions could extend the lifetimes of liquid water oceans beneath the surface of large icy worlds in our outer solar system, according to new NASA research.

This greatly expands the number of locations where extraterrestrial life might be found, since liquid water is necessary to support known forms of life and astronomers estimate there are dozens of these worlds.

“These objects need to be considered as potential reservoirs of water and life,” said Prabal Saxena of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of the research published in Icarus November 24th.

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Composite, enhanced-color image of Pluto (lower right) and its largest moon Charon (upper left) taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon are shown with approximately correct relative sizes, but their true separation is not to scale. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s MAVEN Spacecraft celebrates 1,000 Days in Orbit

 

Written by Nancy Jones
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On June 17th, NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission) will celebrate 1,000 Earth days in orbit around the Red Planet. Since its launch in November 2013 and its orbit insertion in September 2014, MAVEN has been exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars.

MAVEN is bringing insight to how the sun stripped Mars of most of its atmosphere, turning a planet once possibly habitable to microbial life into a barren desert world.

This artist concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft and the limb of Mars. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

This artist concept shows the MAVEN spacecraft and the limb of Mars. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to observe the Final Lunar Eclipse of the Year

 

Written by Nancy Jones
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Orbiting 31 miles above the lunar surface, NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft will get a “front-row seat” to the total lunar eclipse on December 10th, 2011.

LRO’s Diviner instrument will record how quickly targeted areas on the moon’s day side cool off during the eclipse. The degree of cooling is dependent on factors such as how rocky the surface is, how densely packed the soil is, and its mineral composition. By studying the lunar surface during the eclipse, scientists can learn even more about our nearest celestial neighbor.

This 2003 image shows the ruddy appearance typical of the moon during a lunar eclipse. (Credit: Fred Espenak)

This 2003 image shows the ruddy appearance typical of the moon during a lunar eclipse. (Credit: Fred Espenak)

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