Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate
Pasadena, CA – New composite images made from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft are the most detailed global infrared views ever produced of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. And data used to build those images provides strong evidence that the northern hemisphere of the moon has been resurfaced with ice from its interior.
Cassini’s Visible and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) collected light reflected off Saturn, its rings and its ten major icy moons – light that is visible to humans as well as infrared light. VIMS then separated the light into its various wavelengths, information that tells scientists more about the makeup of the material reflecting it.
Pasadena, CA – An international team of astronomers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and retired Spitzer Space Telescope has reported what may be the first intact planet found closely orbiting a white dwarf, the dense leftover of a Sun-like star, only 40% larger than Earth.
The Jupiter-size object, called WD 1856 b, is about seven times larger than the white dwarf, named WD 1856+534. It circles this stellar cinder every 34 hours, more than 60 times faster than Mercury orbits our Sun.
Pasadena, CA – On August 25th, 2020 several days before Hurricane Laura made landfall as a destructive Category 4 storm in Louisiana, NASA’s Terra satellite flew over Laura in the Gulf of Mexico.
Using its Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument, the satellite collected data on wind speeds and cloud-top heights as the storm intensified and moved northwest towards the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The NASA Earth Applied Sciences Disasters Program Geographic Information Systems (GIS) team worked closely with representatives from the Esri 3D team to produce the first-ever interactive 3D visualization of MISR cloud-top height data and publish it to the NASA Disasters Mapping Portal.
Pasadena, CA – Weather sensors aboard NASA’s InSight Mars lander stopped providing data on Sunday, August 16th, 2020, a result of an issue affecting the sensor suite’s electronics. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California are working to understand the cause of the issue.
Called the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Suite (APSS), the sensors collect data on wind speed and direction, air temperature and pressure, and magnetic fields.
Pasadena, CA – Since leaving Earth 15 years ago, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has reshaped our understanding of the Red Planet. The veteran spacecraft studies temperatures in Mars’ thin atmosphere, peers underground with radar, and detects minerals on the planet’s surface. But perhaps what it’s become best known for are stunning images.
Among its instruments, MRO carries three cameras: The Mars Color Imager (MARCI) has a fisheye lens that produces a daily global view. The Context Camera (CTX) provides 19-mile-wide (30-kilometer-wide) black-and-white terrain shots.
Greenbelt, MD – Yesterday, the NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft performed its final practice run of the sampling sequence, reaching an approximate altitude of 131 feet (40 meters) over sample site Nightingale before executing a back-away burn. Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site, is located within a crater in Bennu’s northern hemisphere.
The approximately four-hour “Matchpoint” rehearsal took the spacecraft through the first three of the sampling sequence’s four maneuvers: the orbit departure burn, the “Checkpoint” burn and the Matchpoint burn.
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft gave scientists extraordinary close-up views of the dwarf planet Ceres, which lies in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. By the time the mission ended in October 2018, the orbiter had dipped to less than 22 miles (35 kilometers) above the surface, revealing crisp details of the mysterious bright regions Ceres had become known for.
Scientists had figured out that the bright areas were deposits made mostly of sodium carbonate – a compound of sodium, carbon, and oxygen.
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s first asteroid sampling spacecraft is making final preparations to grab a sample from asteroid Bennu’s surface. Next week, the OSIRIS-REx mission will conduct a second rehearsal of its touchdown sequence, practicing the sample collection activities one last time before touching down on Bennu this fall.
On August 11th, the mission will perform its “Matchpoint” rehearsal – the second practice run of the Touch-and-Go (TAG) sample collection event. The rehearsal will be similar to the April 14th “Checkpoint” rehearsal, which practiced the first two maneuvers of the descent, but this time the spacecraft will add a third maneuver, called the Matchpoint burn, and fly even closer to sample site Nightingale – reaching an altitude of approximately 131 ft (40 m) – before backing away from the asteroid.
Pasadena, CA – New results from NASA’s Juno mission at Jupiter suggest our solar system’s largest planet is home to what’s called “shallow lightning.” An unexpected form of electrical discharge, shallow lightning originates from clouds containing an ammonia-water solution, whereas lightning on Earth originates from water clouds.
Other new findings suggest the violent thunderstorms for which the gas giant is known may form slushy ammonia-rich hailstones Juno’s science team calls “mushballs”; they theorize that mushballs essentially kidnap ammonia and water in the upper atmosphere and carry them into the depths of Jupiter’s atmosphere.
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on International Space Station (ECOSTRESS) captured a birds-eye view of the vast Apple fire raging in Southern California.
The wildfire began on the evening of Friday, July 31st, after two smaller fires merged and rapidly grew in the hot conditions in Riverside County, east of Los Angeles, prompting the evacuation of thousands of residents. Air temperatures have soared past 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), stressing the vegetation and turning the area into a tinderbox. By Monday, the wildfire had exploded to over 26,000 acres.
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