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Topic: Solar System

NASA’s Juno Spacecraft gets Mission Extended

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has authorized a mission extension for its Juno spacecraft exploring Jupiter. The agency’s most distant planetary orbiter will now continue its investigation of the solar system’s largest planet through September 2025, or until the spacecraft’s end of life.

This expansion tasks Juno with becoming an explorer of the full Jovian system – Jupiter and its rings and moons – with multiple rendezvous planned for three of Jupiter’s most intriguing Galilean moons: Ganymede, Europa, and Io.

This view of Jupiter's atmosphere from NASA's Juno spacecraft includes something remarkable, two storms caught in the act of merging. (Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSSImage processing by Tanya Oleksuik, © CC)

This view of Jupiter’s atmosphere from NASA’s Juno spacecraft includes something remarkable, two storms caught in the act of merging. (Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSSImage processing by Tanya Oleksuik, © CC)

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NASA picks Four Small Mission Concepts to Study the Universe

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has chosen four small-scale astrophysics missions for further concept development in a new program called Pioneers. Through small satellites and scientific balloons, these selections enable new platforms for exploring cosmic phenomena such as galaxy evolution, exoplanets, high-energy neutrinos, and neutron star mergers.

“The principal investigators of these concept studies bring innovative, out-of-the-box thinking to the problem of how to do high-impact astrophysics experiments on a small budget,” said Thomas H. Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Each of the proposed experiments would do something no other NASA telescope or mission can do, filling important gaps in our understanding of the universe as a whole.” 

As neutron stars collide, some of the debris blasts away in particle jets moving at nearly the speed of light, producing a brief burst of gamma rays. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab)

As neutron stars collide, some of the debris blasts away in particle jets moving at nearly the speed of light, producing a brief burst of gamma rays. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab)

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NASA finishes final tests on James Webb Space Telescope Sunshield

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Lengthened to the size of a tennis court, the five-layer sunshield of NASA’s fully assembled James Webb Space Telescope successfully completed a final series of large-scale deployment and tensioning tests. This milestone puts the observatory one step closer to its launch in 2021.

“This is one of Webb’s biggest accomplishments in 2020,” said Alphonso Stewart, Webb deployment systems lead for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope’s final tests are underway with the successful completion of its last sunshield deployment test, which occurred at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California. (NASA/Chris Gunn)

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s final tests are underway with the successful completion of its last sunshield deployment test, which occurred at Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California. (NASA/Chris Gunn)

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NASA reports ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter, Saturn happens night of December 21st

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Skywatchers are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of December 21st, 2020.

In 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei pointed his telescope to the night sky, discovering the four moons of Jupiter – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. In that same year, Galileo also discovered a strange oval surrounding Saturn, which later observations determined to be its rings.

Saturn, top, and Jupiter, below, are seen after sunset from Shenandoah National Park, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Luray, Virginia. The two planets are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head towards a “great conjunction” on December 21, where the two giant planets will appear a tenth of a degree apart. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Saturn, top, and Jupiter, below, are seen after sunset from Shenandoah National Park, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Luray, Virginia. The two planets are drawing closer to each other in the sky as they head towards a “great conjunction” on December 21, where the two giant planets will appear a tenth of a degree apart. (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope finds Exoplanet with Extreme Orbit

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – A planet in an unlikely orbit around a double star 336 light-years away may offer a clue to a mystery much closer to home: a hypothesized, distant body in our solar system dubbed “Planet Nine.”

This is the first time that astronomers have been able to measure the motion of a massive Jupiter-like planet that is orbiting very far away from its host stars and visible debris disk. This disk is similar to our Kuiper Belt of small, icy bodies beyond Neptune.

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the environment around double star HD 106906. The brilliant light from these stars is masked here to allow fainter features in the system to be seen. (Credits: NASA, ESA, M. Nguyen (University of California, Berkeley), R. De Rosa (European Southern Observatory), and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute))

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the environment around double star HD 106906. The brilliant light from these stars is masked here to allow fainter features in the system to be seen. (Credits: NASA, ESA, M. Nguyen (University of California, Berkeley), R. De Rosa (European Southern Observatory), and P. Kalas (University of California, Berkeley and SETI Institute))

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NASA’s Lunar Gateway to be equipped with Instruments to Forecast Weather Forecast for Artemis Missions

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – One of the first things people want to know before taking a trip is what the weather will be like wherever they are headed.

For Artemis astronauts traveling on missions to the Moon, two space weather instrument suites, NASA’s HERMES and ESA’s ERSA, will provide an early forecast. Weather in this case means energized, subatomic particles and electromagnetic fields hurtling through the solar system.

Artist's concept of the Gateway Power and Propulsion Element, or PPE, and Habitation and Logistics Outpost, or HALO, in orbit around the Moon. The gold box on the right side of the image depicts the HERMES payload. The ERSA payload is the silver box just below it. (NASA)

Artist’s concept of the Gateway Power and Propulsion Element, or PPE, and Habitation and Logistics Outpost, or HALO, in orbit around the Moon. The gold box on the right side of the image depicts the HERMES payload. The ERSA payload is the silver box just below it. (NASA)

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NASA Kepler Space Telescope data reveals around Half of Sun Like Stars could have Rocky, Potentially Habitable Planets

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMountain View, CA – Since astronomers confirmed the presence of planets beyond our solar system, called exoplanets, humanity has wondered how many could harbor life. Now, we’re one step closer to finding an answer.

According to new research using data from NASA’s retired planet-hunting mission, the Kepler space telescope, about half the stars similar in temperature to our Sun could have a rocky planet capable of supporting liquid water on its surface.

This illustration depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

This illustration depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

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NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft measurements reveals loads of Hydrogen in Interstellar Medium

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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. 

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA)

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. (NASA)

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NASA Scientists identify Molecule in Titan’s Atmosphere that’s never been seen before

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – NASA scientists identified a molecule in Titan’s atmosphere that has never been detected in any other atmosphere. In fact, many chemists have probably barely heard of it or know how to pronounce it: cyclopropenylidene, or C3H2. Scientists say that this simple carbon-based molecule may be a precursor to more complex compounds that could form or feed possible life on Titan.

Researchers found C3H2 by using a radio telescope observatory in northern Chile known as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

These infrared images of Saturn's moon Titan represent some of the clearest global views of the icy moon's surface. The views were created using 13 years of data acquired by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer instrument onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Nantes/University of Arizona)

These infrared images of Saturn’s moon Titan represent some of the clearest global views of the icy moon’s surface. The views were created using 13 years of data acquired by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer instrument onboard NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Nantes/University of Arizona)

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NASA says Massive Stars Are Factories for Ingredients to Life

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA’s telescope on an airplane, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, has provided a new glimpse of the chemistry in the inner region surrounding massive young stars where future planets could begin to form.

It found massive quantities of water and organic molecules in these swirling, disk-shaped clouds, offering new insights into how some of the key ingredients of life get incorporated into planets during the earliest stages of formation.

Illustration of a dusty disc rotating around a massive newborn star that’s about 40 times the size of the Sun. SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, found the inner regions of two of these kinds of discs are filled with organic molecules that are important for life as we know it. These include water, ammonia, methane, and acetylene — which is a chemical building block to larger and more complex organic molecules — illustrated in the call out. (NASA / Ames Research Center / Daniel Rutter)

Illustration of a dusty disc rotating around a massive newborn star that’s about 40 times the size of the Sun. SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, found the inner regions of two of these kinds of discs are filled with organic molecules that are important for life as we know it. These include water, ammonia, methane, and acetylene — which is a chemical building block to larger and more complex organic molecules — illustrated in the call out. (NASA / Ames Research Center / Daniel Rutter)

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