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Topic: Solar System

NASA’s Cassini mission images used to create First Global Geologic Map of Titan

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – NASA has released the first map showing the global geology of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, has been completed and fully reveals a dynamic world of dunes, lakes, plains, craters and other terrains.

Titan is the only planetary body in our solar system other than Earth known to have stable liquid on its surface. But instead of water raining down from clouds and filling lakes and seas as on Earth, on Titan what rains down is methane and ethane – hydrocarbons that we think of as gases but that behave as liquids in Titan’s frigid climate.

The first global geologic map of Titan is based on radar and visible-light images from NASA's Cassini mission, which orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. Labels point to several of the named surface features. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

The first global geologic map of Titan is based on radar and visible-light images from NASA’s Cassini mission, which orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017. Labels point to several of the named surface features. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU)

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NASA research shows Neptune Moons orbits connected to avoid each other

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA says even by the wild standards of the outer solar system, the strange orbits that carry Neptune’s two innermost moons are unprecedented, according to newly published research.

Orbital dynamics experts are calling it a “dance of avoidance” performed by the tiny moons Naiad and Thalassa. The two are true partners, orbiting only about 1,150 miles (1,850 kilometers) apart. But they never get that close to each other; Naiad’s orbit is tilted and perfectly timed. Every time it passes the slower-moving Thalassa, the two are about 2,200 miles (3,540 kilometers) apart.

Neptune Moon Dance: This photo illustrates how the odd orbits of Neptune's inner moons Naiad and Thalassa enable them to avoid each other as they race around the planet. (NASA)

Neptune Moon Dance: This photo illustrates how the odd orbits of Neptune’s inner moons Naiad and Thalassa enable them to avoid each other as they race around the planet. (NASA)

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NASA examines what happens when Exoplanets Collide

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationMountain View, CA – NASA says a dramatic glimpse of the aftermath of a collision between two exoplanets is giving scientists a view at what can happen when planets crash into each other. A similar event in our own solar system may have formed our Moon.

Known as BD +20 307, this double-star system is more than 300 light years from Earth with stars that are at least one billion years old. Yet this mature system has shown signs of swirling dusty debris that is not cold, as would be expected around stars of this age. Rather, the debris is warm, reinforcing that it was made relatively recently by the impact of two planet-sized bodies.  

Artist’s concept illustrating a catastrophic collision between two rocky exoplanets in the planetary system BD +20 307, turning both into dusty debris. Ten years ago, scientists speculated that the warm dust in this system was a result of a planet-to-planet collision. Now, SOFIA found even more warm dust, further supporting that two rocky exoplanets collided. This helps build a more complete picture of our own solar system’s history. Such a collision could be similar to the type of catastrophic event that ultimately created our Moon. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

Artist’s concept illustrating a catastrophic collision between two rocky exoplanets in the planetary system BD +20 307, turning both into dusty debris. Ten years ago, scientists speculated that the warm dust in this system was a result of a planet-to-planet collision. Now, SOFIA found even more warm dust, further supporting that two rocky exoplanets collided. This helps build a more complete picture of our own solar system’s history. Such a collision could be similar to the type of catastrophic event that ultimately created our Moon. (NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

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NASA’s Lucy Mission completes Critcal Design Review

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – On Friday, October 18th, 2019,  NASA’s Lucy mission successfully completed its Critical Design Review.

During this review, Lucy team members presented the completed mission design, demonstrating that the team has met all the technical challenges of the mission and is ready to begin building hardware. After the review completion, NASA’s independent review board provided a green light for proceeding into the fabrication/manufacturing stage of the mission.

Artist's concept of Lucy Mission. (SwRI)

Artist’s concept of Lucy Mission. (SwRI)

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NASA says Pressure Runs High at Edge of Solar System

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, 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.

An illustration depicting the layers of the heliosphere. (NASA/IBEX/Adler Planetarium)

An illustration depicting the layers of the heliosphere. (NASA/IBEX/Adler Planetarium)

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Austin Peay State University physics graduate Deborah Gulledge to spend 10 months at South Pole

 

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – An Austin Peay State University (APSU) graduate is heading to the South Pole in January to perform seismology observations of the Solar System’s largest planet. She’ll be there – during winter – for 10 months.

Austin Peay State University graduate Deborah Gulledge tests the insulation on the telescope in a deep freezer in Hawaii. (APSU)

Austin Peay State University graduate Deborah Gulledge tests the insulation on the telescope in a deep freezer in Hawaii. (APSU)

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NASA announces Newly Discovered Comet is likely Interstellar Visitor

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA says a newly discovered comet has excited the astronomical community this week because it appears to have originated from outside the solar system. The object – designated C/2019 Q4 (Borisov) – was discovered on August 30th, 2019, by Gennady Borisov at the MARGO observatory in Nauchnij, Crimea.

The official confirmation that comet C/2019 Q4 is an interstellar comet has not yet been made, but if it is interstellar, it would be only the second such object detected. The first, ‘Oumuamua, was observed and confirmed in October 2017.

This illustration depicts Comet C/2019 Q4's trajectory. Deemed a possible interstellar object, it will approach no closer to Earth than about 190 million miles (300 million kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This illustration depicts Comet C/2019 Q4’s trajectory. Deemed a possible interstellar object, it will approach no closer to Earth than about 190 million miles (300 million kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope discovers Water Vapor for first time on Habitable-Zone Exoplanet

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – Its size and surface gravity are much larger than Earth’s, and its radiation environment may be hostile, but a distant planet called K2-18b has captured the interest of scientists all over the world.

For the first time, researchers have detected water vapor signatures in the atmosphere of a planet beyond our solar system that resides in the “habitable zone,” the region around a star in which liquid water could potentially pool on the surface of a rocky planet.

This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, its host star and an accompanying planet in this system. K2-18b is now the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life. (ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser)

This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, its host star and an accompanying planet in this system. K2-18b is now the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life. (ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser)

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NASA names Rock on Mars, “Rolling Stones Rock”

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – The team behind NASA’s InSight lander has named a Martian rock after the band: ‘Rolling Stones Rock.’ For decades, the music of The Rolling Stones has had a global reach here on Earth. Now, the band’s influence extends all the way to Mars. 

The Rolling Stones – Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood – were delighted with the news and commented, “What a wonderful way to celebrate the ‘Stones No Filter’ tour arriving in Pasadena. This is definitely a milestone in our long and eventful history. A huge thank you to everyone at NASA for making it happen.”

The rock in the center of this image was tossed about 3 feet (1 meter) by NASA's InSight spacecraft as it touched down on Mars on November 26, 2018. The rock, which is a little bigger than a golf ball, was later nicknamed "Rolling Stones Rock" in honor of The Rolling Stones. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The rock in the center of this image was tossed about 3 feet (1 meter) by NASA’s InSight spacecraft as it touched down on Mars on November 26, 2018. The rock, which is a little bigger than a golf ball, was later nicknamed “Rolling Stones Rock” in honor of The Rolling Stones. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA confirms mission to Jupiter’s Moon, Europa

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has announced the mission to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa is a go.

An icy ocean world in our solar system that could tell us more about the potential for life on other worlds is coming into focus with confirmation of the Europa Clipper mission’s next phase. The decision allows the mission to progress to completion of final design, followed by the construction and testing of the entire spacecraft and science payload.

A 2016 artist's concept of the Europa Clipper spacecraft. The design is changing as the spacecraft is developed. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A 2016 artist’s concept of the Europa Clipper spacecraft. The design is changing as the spacecraft is developed. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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