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NASA’s New Horizons Conducts the First Interstellar Parallax Experiment

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – For the first time, a spacecraft has sent back pictures of the sky from so far away that some stars appear to be in different positions than we’d see from Earth. 

More than four billion miles from home and speeding toward interstellar space, NASA’s New Horizons has traveled so far that it now has a unique view of the nearest stars.

“It’s fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth,” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado.

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA)

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA Lucy Spacecraft to navigate to Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids

 

Written by Tamsyn Brann
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – In science fiction, NASA says explorers can hop in futuristic spaceships and traverse half the galaxy in the blink of a plot hole. However, this sidelines the navigational acrobatics required in order to guarantee real-life mission success.

In 2021, the feat of navigation that is the Lucy mission will launch. To steer Lucy towards its targets doesn’t simply involve programming a map into a spacecraft and giving it gas money – it will fly by six asteroid targets, each in different orbits, over the course of 12 years.

This diagram illustrates Lucy's orbital path. The spacecraft’s path (green) is shown in a frame of reference where Jupiter remains stationary, giving the trajectory its pretzel-like shape. After launch in October 2021, Lucy has two close Earth flybys before encountering its Trojan targets. In the L4 cloud Lucy will fly by (3548) Eurybates (white), (15094) Polymele (pink), (11351) Leucus (red), and (21900) Orus (red) from 2027-2028. After diving past Earth again Lucy will visit the L5 cloud and encounter the (617) Patroclus-Menoetius binary (pink) in 2033. (Southwest Research Institute)

This diagram illustrates Lucy’s orbital path. The spacecraft’s path (green) is shown in a frame of reference where Jupiter remains stationary, giving the trajectory its pretzel-like shape. After launch in October 2021, Lucy has two close Earth flybys before encountering its Trojan targets. In the L4 cloud Lucy will fly by (3548) Eurybates (white), (15094) Polymele (pink), (11351) Leucus (red), and (21900) Orus (red) from 2027-2028. After diving past Earth again Lucy will visit the L5 cloud and encounter the (617) Patroclus-Menoetius binary (pink) in 2033. (Southwest Research Institute)

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NASA’s Parker Solar Probe uses Venus gravity assist to get closer to the Sun

 

Written by Sarah Frazier
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On October 3rd, 2018, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe performed the first significant celestial maneuver of its seven-year mission. As the orbits of the spacecraft and Venus converged toward the same point, Parker Solar Probe slipped in front of the planet, allowing Venus’ gravity — relatively small by celestial standards — to twist its path and change its speed.

This maneuver, called a gravity assist, reduced Parker’s speed relative to the Sun by 10 percent — amounting to 7,000 miles per hour — drawing the closest point of its orbit, called perihelion, nearer to the star by 4 million miles.

NASA's Parker Solar Probe completed its first flyby of Venus on Oct. 3, 2018, during a Venus gravity assist, where the spacecraft used the planet's gravity to alter its trajectory and bring it closer to the Sun. (NASA/JHUAPL)

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe completed its first flyby of Venus on Oct. 3, 2018, during a Venus gravity assist, where the spacecraft used the planet’s gravity to alter its trajectory and bring it closer to the Sun. (NASA/JHUAPL)

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NASA’s GRACE-1 and GRACE-2 satellites end operations

 

Written by Steve Cole
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – After more than 15 productive years in orbit, the U.S./German GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) satellite mission has ended science operations. During their mission, the twin GRACE satellites have provided unprecedented insights into how our planet is changing by tracking the continuous movement of liquid water, ice and the solid Earth.

GRACE made science measurements by precisely measuring the distance between its twin satellites, GRACE-1 and GRACE-2, which required that both spacecraft and their instruments be fully functional.

Illustration of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites in orbit. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

Illustration of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) twin satellites in orbit. (NASA-JPL/Caltech)

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NASA’s Voyager 2 Spacecraft data suggests Uranus may have Two Additional Moons

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft flew by Uranus 30 years ago, but researchers are still making discoveries from the data it gathered then. A new study led by University of Idaho researchers suggests there could be two tiny, previously undiscovered moonlets orbiting near two of the planet’s rings.

Rob Chancia, a University of Idaho doctoral student, spotted key patterns in the rings while examining decades-old images of Uranus’ icy rings taken by Voyager 2 in 1986. He noticed the amount of ring material on the edge of the alpha ring — one of the brightest of Uranus’ multiple rings — varied periodically. A similar, even more promising pattern occurred in the same part of the neighboring beta ring.

Uranus is seen in this false-color view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope from August 2003. The brightness of the planet's faint rings and dark moons has been enhanced for visibility. (NASA/Erich Karkoschka (Univ. Arizona))

Uranus is seen in this false-color view from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope from August 2003. The brightness of the planet’s faint rings and dark moons has been enhanced for visibility. (NASA/Erich Karkoschka (Univ. Arizona))

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NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will search for life on planets near Earth

 

Written by Elaine Hunt
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – As the search for life on distant planets heats up, NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is bringing this hunt closer to home. Launching in 2017-2018, TESS will identify planets orbiting the brightest stars just outside our solar system using what’s known as the transit method.

When a planet passes in front of, or transits, its parent star, it blocks some of the star’s light. TESS searches for these telltale dips in brightness, which can reveal the planet’s presence and provide additional information about it.

TESS will look at the nearest, brightest stars to find planetary candidates that scientists will observe for years to come. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

TESS will look at the nearest, brightest stars to find planetary candidates that scientists will observe for years to come. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

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NASA to release Kepler Space Telescope’s latest discoveries May 10th

 

Written by Felicia Chou
NASA Headquarters

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA will host a news teleconference at 10:00am PDT (12:00pm CDT) Tuesday, May 10th to announce the latest discoveries made by its planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope.

When Kepler was launched in March 2009, scientists did not know how common planets were outside our solar system. Thanks to Kepler’s treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky.

Artist's concept of NASA's Kepler space telescope. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Orion Spacecraft set for December 4th Launch

 

NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – The processing of Orion and its United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket remains on course for a launch Thursday, December 4th, on the first flight test of the spacecraft design.

Working at Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, technicians and engineers head into Thanksgiving conducting a series of electrical and battery checks between the connections between the crew module, service module and Delta IV Heavy second stage.

NASA’s Orion spacecraft

NASA’s Orion spacecraft

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