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Topic: NASA’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager

NASA L’Ralph instrument to study Trojan Asteroids aboard Lucy Spacecraft

 

Written by Tamsyn Brann
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Ralph, one of the most well-traveled NASA space explorers, has voyaged far and accomplished much: on the New Horizons mission, Ralph obtained stunning flyby images of Jupiter and its moons; this was followed by a visit to Pluto where Ralph took the first high-definition pictures of the iconic minor planet. And, in 2021, Ralph journeys with the Lucy mission to Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids.

Ralph, however, is not an impossibly accomplished astronaut — it is a scientific instrument that has made many discoveries since it first launched aboard the New Horizons spacecraft in 2006. Given a name and not an acronym, Ralph enables the study of the composition and atmospheres of celestial objects.

Illustration of the Lucy Spacecraft. (SwRI)

Illustration of the Lucy Spacecraft. (SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft takes farthest image ever made from Earth

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft recently turned its telescopic camera toward a field of stars, snapped an image – and made history.

The routine calibration frame of the “Wishing Well” galactic open star cluster, made by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on December 5th, was taken when New Horizons was 3.79 billion miles (6.12 billion kilometers, or 40.9 astronomical units) from Earth – making it, for a time, the farthest image ever made from Earth.

With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. They're also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

With its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), New Horizons has observed several Kuiper Belt objects (KBOs) and dwarf planets at unique phase angles, as well as Centaurs at extremely high phase angles to search for forward-scattering rings or dust. These December 2017 false-color images of KBOs 2012 HZ84 (left) and 2012 HE85 are, for now, the farthest from Earth ever captured by a spacecraft. They’re also the closest-ever images of Kuiper Belt objects. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft examines the layers of Pluto’s atmosphere

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Scientists on NASA’s New Horizons mission team are learning more about the structure and behavior of Pluto’s complex atmosphere by discovering new attributes of its extensive haze layers. The hazes were first discovered by New Horizons in July, as the spacecraft swept past Pluto and made its historic first exploration of the mysterious world.

Mission scientists have discovered that the layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere vary in brightness depending on illumination and viewpoint, yet the haze itself maintains its overall vertical structure.

NASA scientists have discovered that the layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere vary in brightness depending on illumination and viewpoint, yet the haze itself maintains its overall vertical structure. (NASA)

NASA scientists have discovered that the layers of haze in Pluto’s nitrogen atmosphere vary in brightness depending on illumination and viewpoint, yet the haze itself maintains its overall vertical structure. (NASA)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft discovers former Lake of Frozen Nitrogen on Pluto

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft spied several features on Pluto that offer evidence of a time millions or billions of years ago when – thanks to much higher pressure in Pluto’s atmosphere and warmer conditions on the surface – liquids might have flowed across and pooled on the surface of the distant world.

“In addition to this possible former lake, we also see evidence of channels that may also have carried liquids in Pluto’s past,” said Alan Stern, Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado—principal investigator of New Horizons and lead author of the scientific paper.

Former frozen lake of nitrogen found near mountain range on Pluto. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Former frozen lake of nitrogen found near mountain range on Pluto. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft photos suggest possible subsurface ocean on Pluto’s moon Charon

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Pluto’s largest moon may have gotten too big for its own skin.

Images from NASA’s New Horizons mission suggest that Pluto’s moon Charon once had a subsurface ocean that has long since frozen and expanded, pushing outward and causing the moon’s surface to stretch and fracture on a massive scale.

The side of Pluto’s largest moon viewed by NASA’s passing New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015 is characterized by a system of “pull apart” tectonic faults, which are expressed as ridges, scarps and valleys—the latter sometimes reaching more than 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) deep.

A close-up of the canyons on Charon, Pluto's big moon, taken by New Horizons during its close approach to the Pluto system last July. Multiple views taken by New Horizons as it passed by Charon allow stereo measurements of topography, shown in the color-coded version of the image. The scale bar indicates relative elevation. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

A close-up of the canyons on Charon, Pluto’s big moon, taken by New Horizons during its close approach to the Pluto system last July. Multiple views taken by New Horizons as it passed by Charon allow stereo measurements of topography, shown in the color-coded version of the image. The scale bar indicates relative elevation. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft nabs photo of Pluto’s Smallest Moon Styx

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Styx – also the faintest of Pluto’s five moons – was discovered using the Hubble Space Telescope in 2012, when New Horizons was more than two-thirds into its voyage to Pluto.

The Styx images downlinked on October 5th, 2015, were taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on July 13th, approximately 12.5 hours before New Horizons’ closest approach to Pluto.

This Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) composite image of Pluto’s smallest moon, Styx, was taken July 14, 2015, when the New Horizons spacecraft was 391,000 miles (631,000 kilometers) from the tiny moon. The image reveals a highly-elongated satellite, roughly 4.5 miles [7 kilometers] across in its longest dimension and 3 miles [5 kilometers] in its shortest dimension. For context, the orbits of Pluto’s moons are shown above. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

This Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) composite image of Pluto’s smallest moon, Styx, was taken July 14, 2015, when the New Horizons spacecraft was 391,000 miles (631,000 kilometers) from the tiny moon. The image reveals a highly-elongated satellite, roughly 4.5 miles [7 kilometers] across in its longest dimension and 3 miles [5 kilometers] in its shortest dimension. For context, the orbits of Pluto’s moons are shown above. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft answers decade old question, What is the Size of Pluto?

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons mission has answered one of the most basic questions about Pluto—its size.

Mission scientists have found Pluto to be 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter, somewhat larger than many prior estimates. Images acquired with the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) were used to make this determination. This result confirms what was already suspected: Pluto is larger than all other known solar system objects beyond the orbit of Neptune.

A portrait from the final approach. Pluto and Charon display striking color and brightness contrast in this composite image from July 11, showing high-resolution black-and-white LORRI images colorized with Ralph data collected from the last rotation of Pluto. Color data being returned by the spacecraft now will update these images, bringing color contrast into sharper focus. (NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

A portrait from the final approach. Pluto and Charon display striking color and brightness contrast in this composite image from July 11, showing high-resolution black-and-white LORRI images colorized with Ralph data collected from the last rotation of Pluto. Color data being returned by the spacecraft now will update these images, bringing color contrast into sharper focus. (NASA-JHUAPL-SWRI)

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