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Topic: University of Colorado in Boulder

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope given new mission to discover exoplanets in the center of Milky Way Galaxy

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Astronomers have made great strides in discovering planets outside of our solar system, termed “exoplanets.” In fact, over the past 20 years more than 5,000 exoplanets have been detected beyond the eight planets that call our solar system home.

The majority of these exoplanets have been found snuggled up to their host star completing an orbit (or year) in hours, days or weeks, while some have been found orbiting as far as Earth is to the sun, taking one Earth year to circle.

As an exoplanet passes in front of a more distant star, its gravity causes the trajectory of the starlight to bend, and in some cases, results in a brief brightening of the background star as seen by a telescope. The artistic animation illustrates this effect. This phenomenon of gravitational microlensing enables scientists to search for exoplanets that are too distant and dark to detect any other way. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

As an exoplanet passes in front of a more distant star, its gravity causes the trajectory of the starlight to bend, and in some cases, results in a brief brightening of the background star as seen by a telescope. The artistic animation illustrates this effect. This phenomenon of gravitational microlensing enables scientists to search for exoplanets that are too distant and dark to detect any other way. (NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

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NASA to suspend Communications to Mars Missions in June due to Mars Solar Conjunction

 

Written by Guy Webster
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – In June 2015, Mars will swing almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective, and this celestial geometry will lead to diminished communications with spacecraft at Mars.

The arrangement of the sun between Earth and Mars is called Mars solar conjunction. It occurs about every 26 months as the two planets travel in their sun-centered orbits. The sun disrupts radio communications between the planets during the conjunction period.

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth's perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This diagram illustrates the positions of Mars, Earth and the sun during a period that occurs approximately every 26 months, when Mars passes almost directly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Kepler space telescope discovers a Planet that Wobbles

 

Written by Whitney Clavin
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Imagine living on a planet with seasons so erratic you would hardly know whether to wear Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat. That is the situation on a weird, wobbly world found by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope.

The planet, designated Kepler-413b, precesses, or wobbles, wildly on its spin axis, much like a child’s top. The tilt of the planet’s spin axis can vary by as much as 30 degrees over 11 years, leading to rapid and erratic changes in seasons.

In contrast, Earth’s rotational precession is 23.5 degrees over 26,000 years. Researchers are amazed that this far-off planet is precessing on a human timescale.

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

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

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NASA answers the question, “If We Landed on Europa, What Would We Want to Know?”

 

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Most of what scientists know of Jupiter’s moon Europa they have gleaned from a dozen or so close flybys from NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1979 and NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the mid-to-late 1990s.

Even in these fleeting, paparazzi-like encounters, scientists have seen a fractured, ice-covered world with tantalizing signs of a liquid water ocean under its surface. Such an environment could potentially be a hospitable home for microbial life.

This artist's concept shows a simulated view from the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. Europa's potentially rough, icy surface, tinged with reddish areas that scientists hope to learn more about, can be seen in the foreground. The giant planet Jupiter looms over the horizon. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist’s concept shows a simulated view from the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. Europa’s potentially rough, icy surface, tinged with reddish areas that scientists hope to learn more about, can be seen in the foreground. The giant planet Jupiter looms over the horizon. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA Satellite Obervations helps determine how Glacier Mass reductions effect Sea Level Rise

 

Written by Alan Buis
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – A new study of glaciers worldwide using observations from two NASA satellites has helped resolve differences in estimates of how fast glaciers are disappearing and contributing to sea level rise.

The new research found glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, repositories of 1 percent of all land ice, lost an average of 571 trillion pounds (259 trillion kilograms) of mass every year during the six-year study period, making the ocean rise 0.03 inches (0.7 millimeters) per year.

The Aletschglacier in Switzerland is the largest valley glacier in the Alps. Its volume loss since the middle of the 19th century is well visible from the trimlines to the right of the image. (Credit: Frank Paul, University of Zurich)

The Aletschglacier in Switzerland is the largest valley glacier in the Alps. Its volume loss since the middle of the 19th century is well visible from the trimlines to the right of the image. (Credit: Frank Paul, University of Zurich)

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NASA’s MAVEN mission to study Mars upper atomosphere

 

Written by Claire De Saravia
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationGreenbelt, MD – When the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission begins its journey to the Red Planet in 2013, it will carry a sensitive magnetic-field instrument built and tested by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD.

Scheduled for launch in late 2013, MAVEN will be the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere.

The goal of MAVEN is to determine the history of the loss of atmospheric gases to space through time, providing answers about Mars’ climate evolution.

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes find third Radiation Belt around the Earth

 

Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Science at NASA

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationWashington, D.C. – Earth’s radiation belts were one of the first discoveries of the Space Age. A new finding published in today’s issue of Science shows that we still have much to learn about them. NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes, launched just last August, have revealed a previously unknown third radiation belt around Earth.

“Even 55 years after their discovery, Earth’s radiation belts still are capable of surprising us,” said Nicky Fox, Van Allen Probes deputy project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics  Laboratory in Laurel, MD. “We thought we knew the radiation belts, but we don’t.”

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