Topic: NASA’s Voyager
Greenbelt, MD – Only the two Voyager spacecraft have ever been there, and it took than more than 30 years of supersonic travel. It lies well past the orbit of Pluto, through the rocky Kuiper belt, and on for four times that distance. This realm, marked only by an invisible magnetic boundary, is where Sun-dominated space ends: the closest reaches of interstellar space.
In this stellar no-man’s land, particles and light shed by our galaxy’s 100 billion stars jostle with ancient remnants of the big bang. This mixture, the stuff between the stars, is known as the interstellar medium. Its contents record our solar system’s distant past and may foretell hints of its future.
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Juno mission has provided its first science results on the amount of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Published recently in the journal Nature Astronomy, the Juno results estimate that at the equator, water makes up about 0.25% of the molecules in Jupiter’s atmosphere – almost three times that of the Sun.
These are also the first findings on the gas giant’s abundance of water since the agency’s 1995 Galileo mission suggested Jupiter might be extremely dry compared to the Sun (the comparison is based not on liquid water but on the presence of its components, oxygen and hydrogen, present in the Sun).
Greenbelt, MD – NASA says that out at the boundary of our solar system, pressure runs high. This pressure, the force plasma, magnetic fields and particles like ions, cosmic rays and electrons exert on one another when they flow and collide, was recently measured by scientists in totality for the first time — and it was found to be greater than expected.
Using observations of galactic cosmic rays — a type of highly energetic particle — from NASA’s Voyager spacecraft scientists calculated the total pressure from particles in the outer region of the solar system, known as the heliosheath.
Pasadena, CA – NASA says that on the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa a familiar ingredient has been hiding in plain sight. Using a visible-light spectral analysis, planetary scientists at Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have discovered that the yellow color visible on portions of the surface of Europa is actually sodium chloride, a compound known on Earth as table salt, which is also the principal component of sea salt.
The discovery suggests that the salty subsurface ocean of Europa may chemically resemble Earth’s oceans more than previously thought, challenging decades of supposition about the composition of those waters. The finding was published by Science Advances on June 12th.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – The rings of Saturn may be iconic, but there was a time when the majestic gas giant existed without its distinctive halo. In fact, the rings may have formed much later than the planet itself, according to a new analysis of gravity science data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
The findings indicate that Saturn’s rings formed between 10 million and 100 million years ago. From our planet’s perspective, that means Saturn’s rings may have formed during the age of dinosaurs.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – Massive structures of moving air that appear like waves in Jupiter’s atmosphere were first detected by NASA’s Voyager missions during their flybys of the gas-giant world in 1979. The JunoCam camera aboard NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter has also imaged the atmosphere.
JunoCam data has detected atmospheric wave trains, towering atmospheric structures that trail one after the other as they roam the planet, with most concentrated near Jupiter’s equator.
Written by Jay Thompson
Pasadena, CA – Humans sometimes struggle to adjust to Daylight Saving Time, but just measuring the exact length of a Saturn day is one of the big challenges for scientists on NASA’s Cassini mission. Over more than a decade in Saturn orbit, Cassini’s instruments have wrestled with confusing measurements to determine the planet’s precise rotation rate.
The mission’s final year and unprecedented trajectory will carry Cassini to unexplored regions so near to Saturn that scientists might finally answer the question:
Just how long is a day on Saturn?
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun returning its best-ever views of the northern extremes of Saturn’s icy, ocean-bearing moon Enceladus.
The spacecraft obtained the images during its October 14th flyby, passing 1,142 miles (1,839 kilometers) above the moon’s surface. Mission controllers say the spacecraft will continue transmitting images and other data from the encounter for the next several days.
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will zip past Saturn’s moon Dione on Monday, August 17th — the final close flyby of this icy satellite during the spacecraft’s long mission.
Cassini’s closest approach, within 295 miles (474 kilometers) of Dione’s surface, will occur at 11:33am PDT (2:33pm EDT). Mission controllers expect fresh images to begin arriving on Earth within a couple of days following the encounter.
Cassini scientists have a bevy of investigations planned for Dione. Gravity-science data from the flyby will improve scientists’ knowledge of the moon’s internal structure and allow comparisons to Saturn’s other moons.
Written by Preston Dyches / DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made a close flyby of Saturn’s moon Dione on June 16th, coming within 321 miles (516 kilometers) of the moon’s surface. The spacecraft made its closest approach to Dione at 1:12pm PDT (4:12pm EDT) on June 16th.
During the flyby, Cassini’s cameras and spectrometers observed terrain that includes “Eurotas Chasmata,” a region first observed 35 years ago by NASA’s Voyager mission as bright, wispy streaks. After the Voyager encounter, scientists considered the possibility that the streaks were bright material extruded onto the surface by geologic activity, such as ice volcanoes.
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