Topic: University of Maryland at College Park
Greenbelt, MD – For the first time in the history of space exploration, NASA scientists have measured the seasonal changes in the gases that fill the air directly above the surface of Gale Crater on Mars.
As a result, they noticed something baffling: oxygen, the gas many Earth creatures use to breathe, behaves in a way that so far scientists cannot explain through any known chemical processes.
Over the course of three Mars years (or nearly six Earth years) an instrument in the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) portable chemistry lab inside the belly of NASA’s Curiosity rover inhaled the air of Gale Crater and analyzed its composition.
Written by Carol Rasmussen
Washington, D.C. – “Stable landslide” sounds like a contradiction in terms, but there are indeed places on Earth where land has been creeping downhill slowly, stably and harmlessly for as long as a century. But stability doesn’t necessarily last forever.
For the first time, researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and collaborating institutions have documented the transition of a stable, slow-moving landslide into catastrophic collapse, showing how drought and extreme rains likely destabilized the slide.
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD – About a year ago, astronomers excitedly reported the first detection of electromagnetic waves, or light, from a gravitational wave source. Now, a year later, researchers are announcing the existence of a cosmic relative to that historic event.
The discovery was made using data from telescopes including NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and the Discovery Channel Telescope (DCT).
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, CA – In a first-of-its-kind study, scientists have combined an array of NASA satellite observations of Earth with data on human activities to map locations where freshwater is changing around the globe and why.
The study, published today in the journal Nature, finds that Earth’s wet land areas are getting wetter and dry areas are getting drier due to a variety of factors, including human water management, climate change and natural cycles.
A team led by Matt Rodell of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, used 14 years of observations from the U.S./German-led Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) spacecraft mission to track global trends in freshwater in 34 regions around the world.
NASA’s WISE spacecraft reveals nearly five times more comets have passed the Sun then previously predicted
Written by Elizabeth Landau
Pasadena, CA – Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the Sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many “long-period comets” will never approach the Sun in a person’s lifetime.
In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud — a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 186 billion miles (300 billion kilometers) away from the Sun — can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.
NASA’s WISE spacecraft, scanning the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, has delivered new insights about these distant wanderers.
Written by Felicia Chou
Washington, D.C. – If you lived on one of Pluto’s moons, you might have a hard time determining when, or from which direction, the sun will rise each day. Comprehensive analysis of data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope shows that two of Pluto’s moons, Nix and Hydra, wobble unpredictably.
“Hubble has provided a new view of Pluto and its moons revealing a cosmic dance with a chaotic rhythm,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “When the New Horizons spacecraft flies through the Pluto system in July we’ll get a chance to see what these moons look like up close and personal.”
NASA’s Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler Telescopes discovers water vapor on Exoplanet outside our solar system
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Astronomers using data from three of NASA’s space telescopes — Hubble, Spitzer and Kepler — have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a gaseous planet outside our solar system. The planet is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest planet from which molecules of any kind have been detected.
“This discovery is a significant milepost on the road to eventually analyzing the atmospheric composition of smaller, rocky planets more like Earth,” said John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “Such achievements are only possible today with the combined capabilities of these unique and powerful observatories.”
Washington, D.C. – Launched on a clear winter day in January 2005, NASA’s Deep Impact spacecraft spanned 268 million miles (431 million kilometers) of deep space in 172 days, then reached out and touched comet Tempel 1. The collision between the coffee table-sized impactor and city-sized comet occurred on July 4th, 2005, at 1:52am EDT.
This hyper-speed collision between spaceborne iceberg and copper-fortified, rocket-powered probe was the first of its kind. It was a boon to not only comet science, but to the study of the evolution of our solar system.
Pasadena, CA – After almost 9 years in space that included an unprecedented July 4th impact and subsequent flyby of a comet, an additional comet flyby, and the return of approximately 500,000 images of celestial objects, NASA’s Deep Impact mission has ended.
The project team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, has reluctantly pronounced the mission at an end after being unable to communicate with the spacecraft for over a month. The last communication with the probe was August 8th. Deep Impact was history’s most traveled comet research mission, going about 4.7 billion miles (7.58 billion kilometers).
Written by Francis Reddy
Greenbelt, MD – Astronomers from the University of Maryland at College Park (UMCP) and Lowell Observatory have used NASA’s Swift satellite to check out comet C/2012 S1 (ISON), which may become one of the most dazzling in decades when it rounds the sun later this year.
Using images acquired over the last two months from Swift’s Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT), the team has made initial estimates of the comet’s water and dust production and used them to infer the size of its icy nucleus.
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