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Topic: NASA’s Science Mission Directorate

NASA’s SOFIA telescope discovers how Swan Nebula was born

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA says one of the brightest and most massive star-forming regions in our galaxy, the Omega or Swan Nebula, came to resemble the shape resembling a swan’s neck we see today only relatively recently.

New observations reveal that its regions formed separately over multiple eras of star birth. The new image from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, is helping scientists chronicle the history and evolution of this well-studied nebula.

“The present-day nebula holds the secrets that reveal its past; we just need to be able to uncover them,” said Wanggi Lim, a Universities Space Research Association scientist at the SOFIA Science Center at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.

Composite image of the Swan Nebula. SOFIA detected the blue areas (20 microns) near the center, revealing gas as it’s heated by massive stars located at the center and the green areas (37 microns) that trace dust as it’s warmed both by massive stars and nearby newborn stars. (NASA/SOFIA/De Buizer/Radomski/Lim; NASA/JPL-Caltech; ESA/Herschel)

Composite image of the Swan Nebula. SOFIA detected the blue areas (20 microns) near the center, revealing gas as it’s heated by massive stars located at the center and the green areas (37 microns) that trace dust as it’s warmed both by massive stars and nearby newborn stars. (NASA/SOFIA/De Buizer/Radomski/Lim; NASA/JPL-Caltech; ESA/Herschel)

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NASA picks spot on Asteroid Bennu to collect Samples

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After a year scoping out asteroid Bennu’s boulder-scattered surface, the team leading NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission has officially selected a sample collection site.

The Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) mission team concluded a site designated “Nightingale” – located in a crater high in Bennu’s northern hemisphere – is the best spot for the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to snag its sample.

This image shows sample site Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site on asteroid Bennu. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

This image shows sample site Nightingale, OSIRIS-REx’s primary sample collection site on asteroid Bennu. The image is overlaid with a graphic of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to illustrate the scale of the site. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

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NASA maps Water Ice locations on Mars

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has big plans for returning astronauts to the Moon in 2024, a stepping stone on the path to sending humans to Mars. But where should the first people on the Red Planet land?

A new paper published in Geophysical Research Letters will help by providing a map of water ice believed to be as little as an inch (2.5 centimeters) below the surface.

Water ice will be a key consideration for any potential landing site. With little room to spare aboard a spacecraft, any human missions to Mars will have to harvest what’s already available for drinking water and making rocket fuel.

The area of Mars in this illustration holds near-surface water ice that would be easily accessible for astronauts to dig up. The water ice was identified as part of a map using data from NASA orbiters. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The area of Mars in this illustration holds near-surface water ice that would be easily accessible for astronauts to dig up. The water ice was identified as part of a map using data from NASA orbiters. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft offers insight into Particles being ejected from Asteroid Bennu

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Shortly after NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrived at asteroid Bennu, an unexpected discovery by the mission’s science team revealed that the asteroid could be active, or consistently discharging particles into space. The ongoing examination of Bennu – and its sample that will eventually be returned to Earth – could potentially shed light on why this intriguing phenomenon is occurring.

The OSIRIS-REx team first observed a particle-ejection event in images captured by the spacecraft’s navigation cameras taken on January 6th, just a week after the spacecraft entered its first orbit around Bennu.

This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on Jan. 6, 2019, was created by combining two images taken by the NavCam 1 imager aboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft: a short exposure image, which shows the asteroid clearly, and a long-exposure image (five seconds), which shows the particles clearly. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin)

This view of asteroid Bennu ejecting particles from its surface on Jan. 6, 2019, was created by combining two images taken by the NavCam 1 imager aboard NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft: a short exposure image, which shows the asteroid clearly, and a long-exposure image (five seconds), which shows the particles clearly. (NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona/Lockheed Martin)

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe discovers new insights about our Sun

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – In August 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launched to space, soon becoming the closest-ever spacecraft to the Sun. With cutting-edge scientific instruments to measure the environment around the spacecraft, Parker Solar Probe has completed three of 24 planned passes through never-before-explored parts of the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona.

On December 4th, 2019, four new papers in the journal Nature describe what scientists have learned from this unprecedented exploration of our star — and what they look forward to learning next.

Illustration of Parker Solar Probe. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL)

Illustration of Parker Solar Probe. (NASA/Johns Hopkins APL)

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NASA’s Cassini mission images used to create First Global Geologic Map of Titan

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has released the first map showing the global geology of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has been completed and fully reveals a dynamic world of dunes, lakes, plains, craters and other terrains.

Titan is the only planetary body in our solar system other than Earth known to have stable liquid on its surface. But instead of water raining down from clouds and filling lakes and seas as on Earth, on Titan what rains down is methane and ethane – hydrocarbons that we think of as gases but that behave as liquids in Titan’s frigid climate.

The first global geologic map of Titan is based on radar and visible-light images from NASA's Cassini mission, which orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. Labels point to several of the named surface features. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

The first global geologic map of Titan is based on radar and visible-light images from NASA’s Cassini mission, which orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. Labels point to several of the named surface features. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

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NASA’s Mars 2020 rover to search for Ancient Life

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists with NASA’s Mars 2020 rover have discovered what may be one of the best places to look for signs of ancient life in Jezero Crater, where the rover will land on February 18th, 2021.

A paper published today in the journal Icarus identifies distinct deposits of minerals called carbonates along the inner rim of Jezero, the site of a lake more than 3.5 billion years ago. On Earth, carbonates help form structures that are hardy enough to survive in fossil form for billions of years, including seashells, coral and some stromatolites – rocks formed on this planet by ancient microbial life along ancient shorelines, where sunlight and water were plentiful.

NASA's Mars 2020 Will Hunt for Microscopic Fossils Lighter colors represent higher elevation in this image of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA's Mars 2020 mission. The oval indicates the landing ellipse, where the rover will be touching down on Mars. (NASA)

NASA’s Mars 2020 Will Hunt for Microscopic Fossils Lighter colors represent higher elevation in this image of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. The oval indicates the landing ellipse, where the rover will be touching down on Mars. (NASA)

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NASA Instrument on European Mission to Explore Planet Clouds on European Mission

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA will contribute an instrument to a European space mission that will explore the atmospheres of hundreds of planets orbiting stars beyond our Sun, or exoplanets, for the first time.

The instrument, called the Contribution to ARIEL Spectroscopy of Exoplanets, or CASE, adds scientific capabilities to ESA’s (the European Space Agency’s) Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey, or ARIEL, mission.

This artist's concept shows the European Space Agency's ARIEL spacecraft on its way to Lagrange Point 2 (L2) - a gravitationally stable, Sun-centric orbit - where it will be shielded from the Sun and have a clear view of the sky. NASA's JPL will manage the mission's CASE instrument. (ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office)

This artist’s concept shows the European Space Agency’s ARIEL spacecraft on its way to Lagrange Point 2 (L2) – a gravitationally stable, Sun-centric orbit – where it will be shielded from the Sun and have a clear view of the sky. NASA’s JPL will manage the mission’s CASE instrument. (ESA/STFC RAL Space/UCL/Europlanet-Science Office)

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NASA reports Seven Student-Made CubeSats Set To Fly Aboard Antares November 2nd from Wallops

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – On Saturday, seven small research satellites, or CubeSats, developed by students from eight universities across the nation will fly on Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops, Virginia, targeting a launch at 8:59am CDT.

All seven CubeSats were selected through NASA’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) and are a part of the 25th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission. CSLI enables the launch of CubeSat projects designed, built and operated by students, teachers and faculty, as well as NASA Centers and nonprofit organizations.

Montana State University students with RadSat-u CubeSat. (NASA)

Montana State University students with RadSat-u CubeSat. (NASA)

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NASA’s Mars InSight Lander’s Mole Has Backed Out half way of Its Hole

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After making progress over the past several weeks digging into the surface of Mars, NASA’s InSight Lander’s mole has backed about halfway out of its hole this past weekend. Preliminary assessments point to unusual soil conditions on the Red Planet. The international mission team is developing the next steps to get it buried again.

A scoop on the end of the arm has been used in recent weeks to “pin” the mole against the wall of its hole, providing friction it needs to dig. The next step is determining how safe it is to move InSight’s robotic arm away from the mole to better assess the situation. The team continues to look at the data and will formulate a plan in the next few days.

NASA InSight Lander's heat probe, or "mole," is seen after backing about halfway out of the hole it had burrowed. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA InSight Lander’s heat probe, or “mole,” is seen after backing about halfway out of the hole it had burrowed. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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