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Topic: Orbit

NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Spots Saturn’s tiny moon Methone

 

Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Saturn’s tiny moon Methone as part of a trajectory that will take it on a close flyby of another of Saturn’s moons, Titan. The Titan flyby will put the spacecraft in an orbit around Saturn that is inclined, or tilted, relative to the plane of the planet’s equator.

The flyby of Methone took place on May 20th at a distance of about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers). It was Cassini’s closest flyby of the 2-mile-wide (3-kilometer-wide) moon.

This raw, unprocessed image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on May 20th, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Methone. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

This raw, unprocessed image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on May 20th, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Methone. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)

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NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope Detects Possible Evaporating Planet

 

Written by Michele Johnson
NASA’s Ames Research Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMoffett Field, CA – Astronomers may have detected evidence of a possible planet disintegrating under the searing heat of its host star located 1,500 light-years from Earth. Similar to a debris-trailing comet, the super Mercury-size planet candidate is theorized to fashion a dusty tail. But the tail won’t last for long.

Scientists calculate that, at the current rate of evaporation, the dusty world could be completely vaporized within 200 million years.

The artist's concept depicts a comet-like tail of a possible disintegrating super Mercury-size planet candidate as it transits its parent star named KIC 12557548. At an orbital distance of only twice the diameter of its star, the surface temperature of the potential planet is estimated to be a sweltering 3,300 degrees Fahrenheit. At such a high temperature, the surface would melt and evaporate. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The artist's concept depicts a comet-like tail of a possible disintegrating super Mercury-size planet candidate as it transits its parent star named KIC 12557548. At an orbital distance of only twice the diameter of its star, the surface temperature of the potential planet is estimated to be a sweltering 3,300 degrees Fahrenheit. At such a high temperature, the surface would melt and evaporate. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Survey Counts Potentially Hazardous Asteroids Near Earth

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Observations from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have led to the best assessment yet of our solar system’s population of potentially hazardous asteroids. The results reveal new information about their total numbers, origins and the possible dangers they may pose.

Potentially hazardous asteroids, or PHAs, are a subset of the larger group of near-Earth asteroids. The PHAs have the closest orbits to Earth’s, coming within five million miles (about eight million kilometers), and they are big enough to survive passing through Earth’s atmosphere and cause damage on a regional, or greater, scale.

New results from NASA's NEOWISE survey find that more potentially hazardous asteroids, or PHAs, are closely aligned with the plane of our solar system than previous models suggested. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

New results from NASA's NEOWISE survey find that more potentially hazardous asteroids, or PHAs, are closely aligned with the plane of our solar system than previous models suggested. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity hits Paydirt at Endeavour Crater

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A report in the May 4th edition of the journal Science details discoveries Opportunity made in its first four months at the rim of Endeavour Crater, including key findings reported at a geophysics conference in late 2011.

Opportunity completed its original three-month mission on Mars eight years ago. It reached Endeavour last summer, three years after the rover’s science team chose Endeavour as a long-term destination. This crater is about 4 billion years old and 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.

This color view of a mineral vein called "Homestake" comes from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The vein is about the width of a thumb and about 18 inches (45 centimeters) long. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU )

This color view of a mineral vein called "Homestake" comes from the panoramic camera (Pancam) on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The vein is about the width of a thumb and about 18 inches (45 centimeters) long. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU )

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NASA reports Perigee “Super Moon” to occur on May 5th-6th

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The full Moon has a reputation for trouble. It raises high tides, it makes dogs howl, it wakes you up in the middle of the night with beams of moonlight stealing through drapes.

If a moonbeam wakes you up on the night of May 5th, 2012, you might want to get out of bed and take a look.

This May’s full Moon is a “Super Moon,” as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full Moons of 2012.

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NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory sees Remarkable Outburst from Old Black Hole

 

Written by Janet Anderson
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationHuntsville, AL – An extraordinary outburst produced by a black hole in a nearby galaxy has provided direct evidence for a population of old, volatile stellar black holes.

The discovery, made by astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, provides new insight into the nature of a mysterious class of black holes that can produce as much energy in X-rays as a million suns radiate at all wavelengths.

An extraordinary outburst from a black hole where its X-ray output increased at least 3,000 times -- has been seen with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in the galaxy M83.  Chandra observed what is called a ULX, or ultraluminous X-ray source.  The panel on the left features an optical view of the full M83 galaxy, while the right panel shows a close up of the region where the ULX was found with data from Chandra (pink) and Hubble (blue and yellow).   The remarkable behavior of this ULX in M83 provides direct evidence for a population of older, volatile, stellar-mass black holes.

An extraordinary outburst from a black hole where its X-ray output increased at least 3,000 times -- has been seen with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory in the galaxy M83. Chandra observed what is called a ULX, or ultraluminous X-ray source. The panel on the left features an optical view of the full M83 galaxy, while the right panel shows a close up of the region where the ULX was found with data from Chandra (pink) and Hubble (blue and yellow). The remarkable behavior of this ULX in M83 provides direct evidence for a population of older, volatile, stellar-mass black holes.

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft finds Saturn Moon Phoebe has Planet-Like Qualities

 

Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Data from NASA’s Cassini mission reveal Saturn’s moon Phoebe has more planet-like qualities than previously thought.

Scientists had their first close-up look at Phoebe when Cassini began exploring the Saturn system in 2004. Using data from multiple spacecraft instruments and a computer model of the moon’s chemistry, geophysics and geology, scientists found Phoebe was a so-called planetesimal, or remnant planetary building block. The findings appear in the April issue of the Journal Icarus.

Phoebe's true nature is revealed in startling clarity in this mosaic of two images taken during Cassini's flyby on June 11th, 2004. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

Phoebe's true nature is revealed in startling clarity in this mosaic of two images taken during Cassini's flyby on June 11th, 2004. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute)

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NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft Sees Objects Blazing Trails in Saturn Ring

 

Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Scientists working with images from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft have discovered strange half-mile-sized (kilometer-sized) objects punching through parts of Saturn’s F ring, leaving glittering trails behind them.

These trails in the rings, which scientists are calling “mini-jets,” fill in a missing link in our story of the curious behavior of the F ring. The results will be presented tomorrow at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna, Austria.

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NASA’s Dawn mission gets extra time to explore the giant asteroid Vesta

 

Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena CA – NASA’s Dawn mission has received official confirmation that 40 extra days have been added to its exploration of the giant asteroid Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt.

The mission extension allows Dawn to continue its scientific observations at Vesta until August 26th, while still arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres at the same originally scheduled target date in February 2015.

This artist's concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting the giant asteroid Vesta. The depiction of Vesta is based on images obtained by Dawn's framing cameras. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist's concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting the giant asteroid Vesta. The depiction of Vesta is based on images obtained by Dawn's framing cameras. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope Observations of Dwarf Galaxies Provide New Insights on Dark Matter

 

Written by Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – There’s more to the cosmos than meets the eye. About 80 percent of the matter in the universe is invisible to telescopes, yet its gravitational influence is manifest in the orbital speeds of stars around galaxies and in the motions of clusters of galaxies.

Yet, despite decades of effort, no one knows what this “dark matter” really is. Many scientists think it’s likely that the mystery will be solved with the discovery of new kinds of subatomic particles, types necessarily different from those composing atoms of the ordinary matter all around us. The search to detect and identify these particles is underway in experiments both around the globe and above it.

This dwarf spheroidal galaxy in the constellation Fornax is a satellite of our Milky Way and is one of 10 used in Fermi's dark matter search. The motions of the galaxy's stars indicate that it is embedded in a massive halo of matter that cannot be seen. (Credit: ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2)

This dwarf spheroidal galaxy in the constellation Fornax is a satellite of our Milky Way and is one of 10 used in Fermi's dark matter search. The motions of the galaxy's stars indicate that it is embedded in a massive halo of matter that cannot be seen. (Credit: ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2)

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