Pasadena, CA – NASA says that a speck of light will streak across the sky, getting brighter and faster on April 13th, 2029. At one point it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper.
But it won’t be a satellite or an airplane – it will be a 1,100-foot-wide (340-meter-wide) near-Earth asteroid called 99942 Apophis that will cruise harmlessly by Earth, about 19,000 miles (31,000 kilometers) above the surface. That’s within the distance that some of our spacecraft that orbit Earth.
The international asteroid research community couldn’t be more excited.
NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 will study Earth’s Carbon Cycle from International Space Station
Pasadena, CA – NASA says that when the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3, OCO-3, heads to the International Space Station, it will bring a new view – literally – to studies of Earth’s carbon cycle.
OCO-3 will observe near-global measurements of carbon dioxide on land and sea, from just after sunrise to just before sunset from its perch on the space station. That makes it far more versatile and powerful than its predecessor, OCO-2.
“OCO-2 revisits areas on Earth at roughly the same time of day due to its sun-synchronous orbit,” said Matt Bennett, OCO-3’s project systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “OCO-3 will expand the time period of that coverage and observe the presence of carbon dioxide at varying times of day.”
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – While headlines routinely report on “close shaves” and “near-misses” when near-Earth objects (NEOs) such as asteroids or comets pass relatively close to Earth, the real work of preparing for the possibility of a NEO impact with Earth goes on mostly out of the public eye.
For more than 20 years, NASA and its international partners have been scanning the skies for NEOs, which are asteroids and comets that orbit the Sun and come within 30 million miles (50 million kilometers) of Earth’s orbit.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – Two NASA CubeSats teamed up on an impromptu optical, or laser, communications pointing experiment. The laser beam is seen as a brief flash of light close to the center of the focal plane, to the left of Earth’s horizon.
The light originated from the laser communications system onboard one of two Optical Communications and Sensor Demonstration (OCSD) spacecraft. The laser flash was recorded by a short-wavelength infrared camera, one of three cameras comprising the CubeSat Multispectral Observation System (CUMULOS) payload, onboard the Integrated Solar Array and Reflectarray Antenna (ISARA) spacecraft.
Written by Carol Rasmussen
Washington, D.C. – NASA says when plants take in too much energy, they don’t get fat – they lighten up. They absorb more sunlight than they need to power photosynthesis, and they get rid of the excess solar energy by emitting it as a very faint glow.
The light is far too dim for us to notice under normal circumstances, but it can be measured with a spectrometer. Called solar-induced fluorescence (SIF), it’s the most accurate signal of photosynthesis that can be observed from space.
That’s important because, as Earth’s climate changes, growing seasons worldwide are also changing in both timing and length.
Written by Danny Baird
Greenbelt, MD – The four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft recently broke the world record for navigating with GPS signals farther from Earth than ever before. MMS’ success indicates that NASA spacecraft may soon be able to navigate via GPS as far away as the Moon, which will prove important to the Gateway, a planned space station in lunar orbit.
After navigation maneuvers conducted this February, MMS now reaches over 116,300 miles from Earth at the highest point of its orbit, or about halfway to the Moon.
Washington, D.C. – A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid’s surface. Bennu also revealed itself to be more rugged than expected, challenging the mission team to alter its flight and sample collection plans, due to the rough terrain.
Bennu is the target of NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) mission, which began orbiting the asteroid on December 31st. Bennu, which is only slightly wider than the height of the Empire State Building, may contain unaltered material from the very beginning of our solar system.
Written by Lina Tran
Greenbelt, MD – Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.
The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets.
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are cooking up an alien atmosphere right here on Earth. In a new study, JPL scientists used a high-temperature “oven” to heat a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide to more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,100 Celsius), about the temperature of molten lava.
The aim was to simulate conditions that might be found in the atmospheres of a special class of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) called “hot Jupiters.”
Written by Lori Keesey
Greenbelt, MD – NASA scientists, engineers, and technologists are preparing for a new era of human exploration at the Moon, which includes a new launch system, capsule, and lunar-orbiting outpost that will serve as the jumping-off point for human spaceflight deeper into the Solar System.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is playing a vital role in these initiatives, particularly in the areas of communications and instrument development as evidenced by the recent award of five proposals under NASA’s Development and Advancement of Lunar Instrumentation (DALI) to advance spacecraft-based instrument for use in lunar-landing missions.
The technologies needed for sustainable exploration at the Moon will have to be powerful, multipurpose, and fast, said Jake Bleacher, Chief Scientist for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
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