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Topic: Vesta

NASA explains why it’s important to study Space Rocks

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA says the entire history of human existence is a tiny blip in our solar system’s 4.5-billion-year history. No one was around to see planets forming and undergoing dramatic changes before settling in their present configuration. In order to understand what came before us — before life on Earth and before Earth itself — scientists need to hunt for clues to that mysterious distant past.

Those clues come in the form of asteroids, comets and other small objects. Like detectives sifting through forensic evidence, scientists carefully examine these small bodies for insights about our origins.

The small worlds of our solar system help us trace its history and evolution, including comets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD)

The small worlds of our solar system help us trace its history and evolution, including comets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft runs out of fun, mission ends

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has gone silent, ending a historic mission that studied time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter.

Dawn missed scheduled communications sessions with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Wednesday, October 31st, and Thursday, November 1st, 2018. After the flight team eliminated other possible causes for the missed communications, mission managers concluded that the spacecraft finally ran out of hydrazine, the fuel that enables the spacecraft to control its pointing.

This photo of Ceres and the bright regions of Occator Crater was one of the last views NASA's Dawn spacecraft transmitted before it completed its mission. This view, which faces south, was captured on Sept. 1 at an altitude of 2,340 miles (3,370 kilometers) as the spacecraft was ascending in its elliptical orbit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This photo of Ceres and the bright regions of Occator Crater was one of the last views NASA’s Dawn spacecraft transmitted before it completed its mission. This view, which faces south, was captured on Sept. 1 at an altitude of 2,340 miles (3,370 kilometers) as the spacecraft was ascending in its elliptical orbit. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft nears Mission’s End

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn mission is drawing to a close after 11 years of breaking new ground in planetary science, gathering breathtaking imagery, and performing unprecedented feats of spacecraft engineering.

Dawn’s mission was extended several times, outperforming scientists’ expectations in its exploration of two planet-like bodies, Ceres and Vesta, that make up 45 percent of the mass of the main asteroid belt. Now the spacecraft is about to run out of a key fuel, hydrazine. When that happens, most likely between mid-September and mid-October, Dawn will lose its ability to communicate with Earth. It will remain in a silent orbit around Ceres for decades.

Artist's concept of NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbiting dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbiting dwarf planet Ceres. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft set to end 11-year Mission

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – As NASA’s Dawn spacecraft prepares to wrap up its groundbreaking 11-year mission, which has included two successful extended missions at Ceres, it will continue to explore — collecting images and other data.

Within a few months, Dawn is expected to run out of a key fuel, hydrazine, which feeds thrusters that control its orientation and keeps it communicating with Earth. When that happens, sometime between August and October, the spacecraft will stop operating, but it will remain in orbit around dwarf planet Ceres.

Dawn is the only spacecraft to orbit two deep-space destinations. It has given us new, up-close views of Ceres and Vesta, the largest bodies between Mars and Jupiter.

This mosaic of Cerealia Facula in Occator Crater is based on images obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft in its second extended mission, from an altitude as low as about 21 miles (34 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This mosaic of Cerealia Facula in Occator Crater is based on images obtained by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in its second extended mission, from an altitude as low as about 21 miles (34 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft moves to low orbit around Dwarf Planet Ceres

 

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA –  NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is maneuvering to its lowest-ever orbit for a close-up examination of the inner solar system’s only dwarf planet.

In early June, Dawn will reach its new, final orbit above Ceres. Soon after, it will begin collecting images and other science data from an unprecedented vantage point. This orbit will be less than 30 miles (50 kilometers) above the surface of Ceres — 10 times closer than the spacecraft has ever been.

This picture is one of the first images returned by Dawn in more than a year, as Dawn moves to its lowest-ever and final orbit around Ceres. Dawn captured this view on May 16, 2018 from an altitude of about 270 miles (440 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This picture is one of the first images returned by Dawn in more than a year, as Dawn moves to its lowest-ever and final orbit around Ceres. Dawn captured this view on May 16, 2018 from an altitude of about 270 miles (440 kilometers). (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft launched 10 Years Ago for Vesta, Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – Ten years ago, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft set sail for the two most massive bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter: giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres. The mission was designed to deliver new knowledge about these small but intricate worlds, which hold clues to the formation of planets in our solar system.

“Our interplanetary spaceship has exceeded all expectations in the last decade, delivering amazing insights about these two fascinating bodies,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dawn launched 10 years ago on Sept. 27, 2007. (NASA/Sandra Joseph and Rafael Hernandez)

Dawn launched 10 years ago on Sept. 27, 2007. (NASA/Sandra Joseph and Rafael Hernandez)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft loses third reaction wheel to failure

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA’s Dawn spacecraft is preparing to observe Ceres on April 29th from an “opposition” position, directly between the dwarf planet’s mysterious Occator Crater and the sun. This unique geometry may yield new insights about the bright material in the center of the crater.

While preparing for this observation, one of Dawn’s two remaining reaction wheels stopped functioning on April 23rd. By electrically changing the speed at which these gyroscope-like devices spin, Dawn controls its orientation in the zero-gravity, frictionless conditions of space.

This artist's rendering shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

This artist’s rendering shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft maneuvering above Ceres with its ion propulsion system. (NASA)

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NASA’s Discovery Program to send missions to Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids and Metal Asteroid

 

Written by DC Agle
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system – a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun. The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

“Lucy will visit a target-rich environment of Jupiter’s mysterious Trojan asteroids, while Psyche will study a unique metal asteroid that’s never been visited before,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “This is what Discovery Program missions are all about – boldly going to places we’ve never been to enable groundbreaking science.”

Artist's concept of the Psyche spacecraft, which will conduct a direct exploration of an asteroid thought to be a stripped planetary core. (SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artist’s concept of the Psyche spacecraft, which will conduct a direct exploration of an asteroid thought to be a stripped planetary core. (SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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NASA’s Dawn spacecraft reveals new areas where Ice may hide on Ceres

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – At first glance, Ceres, the largest body in the main asteroid belt, may not look icy. Images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have revealed a dark, heavily cratered world whose brightest area is made of highly reflective salts — not ice.

But newly published studies from Dawn scientists show two distinct lines of evidence for ice at or near the surface of the dwarf planet. Researchers are presenting these findings at the 2016 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.

This graphic shows a theoretical path of a water molecule on Ceres. Some water molecules fall into cold, dark craters called "cold traps," where very little of the ice turns into vapor, even over the course of a billion years. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

This graphic shows a theoretical path of a water molecule on Ceres. Some water molecules fall into cold, dark craters called “cold traps,” where very little of the ice turns into vapor, even over the course of a billion years. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA)

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NASA’s Dawn Spacecraft to study Dwarf Planet Ceres from Higher Orbit

 

Written by Elizabeth Landau
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationPasadena, CA – After studying Ceres for more than eight months from its low-altitude science orbit, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will move higher up for different views of the dwarf planet.

Dawn has delivered a wealth of images and other data from its current perch at 240 miles (385 kilometers) above Ceres’ surface, which is closer to the dwarf planet than the International Space Station is to Earth. Now, the mission team is pivoting to consider science questions that can be examined from higher up.

This artist concept shows NASA's Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

This artist concept shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft above dwarf planet Ceres, as seen in images from the mission. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

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