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Topic: NASA’s New Horizons Spacecraft

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’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 researchers explore growing Food Crops during long Deep Space Missions

 

Written by Linda Herridge
NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationKennedy Space Center, FL – NASA plant physiologist Ray Wheeler, Ph.D., and fictional astronaut Mark Watney from the movie “The Martian” have something in common — they are both botanists. But that’s where the similarities end. While Watney is a movie character who gets stranded on Mars, Wheeler is the lead for Advanced Life Support Research activities in the Exploration Research and Technology Program at Kennedy Space Center, working on real plant research.

“The Martian movie and book conveyed a lot of issues regarding growing food and surviving on a planet far from the Earth,” Wheeler said. “It’s brought plants back into the equation.”

An artist concept depicts a greenhouse on the surface of Mars. Plants are growing with the help of red, blue and green LED light bars and a hydroponic cultivation approach. (SAIC)

An artist concept depicts a greenhouse on the surface of Mars. Plants are growing with the help of red, blue and green LED light bars and a hydroponic cultivation approach. (SAIC)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft images used to create geological maps of Pluto

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – How to make sense of Pluto’s surprising geological complexity? To help understand the diversity of terrain and to piece together how Pluto’s surface has formed and evolved over time, mission scientists construct geological maps like the one shown above.

This map covers a portion of Pluto’s surface that measures 1,290 miles (2,070 kilometers) from top to bottom, and includes the vast nitrogen-ice plain informally named Sputnik Planum and surrounding terrain.

This map of the left side of Pluto’s heart-shaped feature uses colors to represent Pluto’s varied terrains, which helps scientists understand the complex geological processes at work. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

This map of the left side of Pluto’s heart-shaped feature uses colors to represent Pluto’s varied terrains, which helps scientists understand the complex geological processes at work. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft shows activity on the surface of Pluto

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – “X” marks the spot of some intriguing surface activity in the latest picture of Pluto returned from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

Transmitted to Earth on December 24th, this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) extends New Horizons’ highest-resolution views of Pluto to the very center of Sputnik Planum, the informally named icy plain that forms the left side of Pluto’s “heart” feature.

Transmitted to Earth on Dec. 24, 2015, this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) extends New Horizons’ highest-resolution swath of Pluto to the center of Sputnik Planum, the informally named plain that forms the left side of Pluto’s “heart.” Mission scientists believe the pattern of the cells stems from the slow thermal convection of the nitrogen-dominated ices. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Transmitted to Earth on Dec. 24, 2015, this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) extends New Horizons’ highest-resolution swath of Pluto to the center of Sputnik Planum, the informally named plain that forms the left side of Pluto’s “heart.” Mission scientists believe the pattern of the cells stems from the slow thermal convection of the nitrogen-dominated ices. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA Planetary Discoveries honored by U.S. Postal Service with 2016 Commemorative Stamps

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The U.S. Postal Service has previewed the New Year’s series of stamps highlighting NASA’s Planetary Science program, including a do-over of a famous Pluto stamp commemorating the NASA New Horizons’ historic 2015 flyby.

The Postal Service on Wednesday released a preview of its new 2016 stamps, which include an image of Pluto and the New Horizons spacecraft, eight new colorful Forever stamps of NASA images of solar system planets, a Global Forever stamp dedicated to Earth’s moon as well as another postal treat for space fans: a tribute to 50 years of Star Trek.

Pluto Explored! In 2006, NASA placed a 29-cent 1991 ‘Pluto: Not Yet Explored’ stamp in the New Horizons spacecraft. In 2015 the spacecraft carried the stamp on its history-making mission to Pluto and beyond. With this stamp, the Postal Service recognizes the first reconnaissance of Pluto in 2015 by NASA’s New Horizon mission. The souvenir sheet of four stamps contains two new stamps appearing twice. The first stamp shows an artists’ rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft and the second shows the spacecraft’s enhanced color image of Pluto taken near closest approach. (USPS/Antonio Alcalá © 2016 USPS)

Pluto Explored! In 2006, NASA placed a 29-cent 1991 ‘Pluto: Not Yet Explored’ stamp in the New Horizons spacecraft. In 2015 the spacecraft carried the stamp on its history-making mission to Pluto and beyond. With this stamp, the Postal Service recognizes the first reconnaissance of Pluto in 2015 by NASA’s New Horizon mission. The souvenir sheet of four stamps contains two new stamps appearing twice. The first stamp shows an artists’ rendering of the New Horizons spacecraft and the second shows the spacecraft’s enhanced color image of Pluto taken near closest approach. (USPS/Antonio Alcalá © 2016 USPS)

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NASA reports Comet Catalina visible New Year’s Morning

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Did you get a telescope or pair of binoculars under the Christmas tree? If so, you can put them to the test by searching the Eastern sky for a view of a fuzzy comet on or shortly after New Year’s Day.

Comet Catalina, formally known as C/2013 US10, is currently perched in the pre-dawn skies as it returns to the depths of space following a recent visit to the inner part of our solar system. Named for the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson, the comet was discovered on October 31st, 2013.

This icy, dirty snowball from the outer solar system, known formally as C/2013 US10 (Catalina), rounded the sun last month and is now headed for its closest approach to Earth on Jan. 17. The comet poses no threat to Earth, as it will pass a comfortable 67 million miles (108 million kilometers) at close approach. This image was captured on Dec. 16 at about 6 a.m. EST from Kathleen, Georgia using a Meade ETX80 telescope and Canon 7D camera. (Greg Hogan)

This icy, dirty snowball from the outer solar system, known formally as C/2013 US10 (Catalina), rounded the sun last month and is now headed for its closest approach to Earth on Jan. 17. The comet poses no threat to Earth, as it will pass a comfortable 67 million miles (108 million kilometers) at close approach. This image was captured on Dec. 16 at about 6 a.m. EST from Kathleen, Georgia using a Meade ETX80 telescope and Canon 7D camera. (Greg Hogan)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft takes sharpest photos yet of planet Pluto

 

NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has sent back the first in a series of the sharpest views of Pluto it obtained during its July flyby – and the best close-ups of Pluto that humans may see for decades.

Each week the piano-sized New Horizons spacecraft transmits data stored on its digital recorders from its flight through the Pluto system on July 14th.

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft continues to make fascinating discoveries about Pluto

 

Written by Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – From possible ice volcanoes to twirling moons, NASA’s New Horizons science team is discussing more than 50 exciting discoveries about Pluto at this week’s 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences in National Harbor, Maryland.

“The New Horizons mission has taken what we thought we knew about Pluto and turned it upside down,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It’s why we explore — to satisfy our innate curiosity and answer deeper questions about how we got here and what lies beyond the next horizon.”

Locations of more than 1,000 craters mapped on Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons mission indicate a wide range of surface ages, which likely means Pluto has been geologically active throughout its history. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

Locations of more than 1,000 craters mapped on Pluto by NASA’s New Horizons mission indicate a wide range of surface ages, which likely means Pluto has been geologically active throughout its history. (NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI)

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NASA’s Mars Mission Spinoffs Part 3: Harnessing Power

 

Written by Joshua Buck
Public Affairs Officer, NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – It will be the most powerful rocket ever built. More powerful than the mighty Saturn V that took humans to the moon, the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA’s newest rocket currently under development, will have the capability to send astronauts deeper into space than ever before.

With SLS and the Orion capsule, humans will no longer have to dream of walking on Mars: They finally will do it.

While the Dawn spacecraft is visiting the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, has been developing the next generation of ion thrusters for future missions. NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Project has developed a 7-kilowatt ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. (NASA)

While the Dawn spacecraft is visiting the asteroids Vesta and Ceres, NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, has been developing the next generation of ion thrusters for future missions. NASA’s Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) Project has developed a 7-kilowatt ion thruster that can provide the capabilities needed in the future. (NASA)

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