NASA’s Curiosity Eyes Prominent Mineral Veins on Mars

Two-tone mineral veins at a site NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached by climbing a layered Martian mountain offer clues about multiple episodes of fluid movement. These episodes occurred later than the wet environmental conditions that formed lake-bed deposits the rover examined at the mountain’s base. Curiosity has analyzed rock samples drilled from three targets lower on the mountain in the past seven months. It found a different mineral composition at each, including a silica mineral named cristobalite in the most recent sample. These differences, together with the prominent veins seen in images taken a little farther uphill, illustrate how the … Continue exploring

NASA Spacecraft Achieves Unprecedented Success Studying Mercury

fter extraordinary science findings and technological innovations, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2004 to study Mercury will impact the planet’s surface, most likely on April 30, after it runs out of propellant. NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft will impact the planet at more than 8,750 miles per hour (3.91 kilometers per second) on the side of the planet facing away from Earth. Due to the expected location, engineers will be unable to view in real time the exact location of impact. On Tuesday, mission operators in mission control at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics … Continue exploring

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Making Tracks and Observations

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover is continuing science observations while on the move this month. On April 16, the mission passed 10 kilometers (6.214 miles) of total driving since its 2012 landing, including about a fifth of a mile (310 meters) so far this month. The rover is trekking through a series of shallow valleys between the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop, which it investigated for six months, and the next science destination, “Logan Pass,” which is still about 200 yards, or meters, ahead toward the southwest. “We’ve not only been making tracks, but also making important observations to characterize rocks we’re passing, … Continue exploring

NASA to Celebrate MESSENGER Mission Prior to Surface Impact of Mercury

NASA will hold a media and public event at 1 p.m. EDT on Thursday, April 16, to share scientific findings and technical accomplishments of the agency’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft. After more than 10 years in space, the highly successful mission will come to an end when it is expected to collide into Mercury at a speed of more than 8,750 miles per hour (3.91 km/sec) near the end of this month. The event will take place in the NASA Headquarters’ James E. Webb Auditorium, 300 E Street, S.W., Washington, and will be carried live … Continue exploring

Curiosity’s data leads scientists to find evidence of liquid water on Mars

Martian weather and soil conditions that NASA’s Curiosity rover has measured, together with a type of salt found in Martian soil, could put liquid brine in the soil at night. Perchlorate identified in Martian soil by the Curiosity mission, and previously by NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander mission, has properties of absorbing water vapor from the atmosphere and lowering the freezing temperature of water. This has been proposed for years as a mechanism for possible existence of transient liquid brines at higher latitudes on modern Mars, despite the Red Planet’s cold and dry conditions. New calculations were based on more than … Continue exploring

NASA’s Space Launch System to Boost Science with Secondary Payloads

When NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) launches on its first flight, it will be doing some serious multi-tasking. Not only will Exploration Mission-1 test the performance of SLS and its integration with the Orion spacecraft – the agency plans to use its massive lift capability to carry nearly a dozen nano-satellites to conduct science experiments beyond low Earth orbit. NASA’s newest rocket will launch Orion on an uncrewed test flight to a distant retrograde orbit around the moon. Tucked inside the stage adapter — the ring connecting Orion to the top propulsion stage of the SLS — will be … Continue exploring

Scientists Take Aim at Four Corners Methane Mystery

Researchers from several institutions are in the Four Corners region of the U.S. Southwest with a suite of airborne and ground-based instruments, aiming to uncover reasons for a mysterious methane “hot spot” detected from space. “With all the ground-based and airborne resources that the different groups are bringing to the region, we have the unique chance to unequivocally solve the Four Corners mystery,” said Christian Frankenberg, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, who is heading NASA’s part of the effort. Other investigators are from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, Colorado; the … Continue exploring

Saturn Spacecraft Returns to the Realm of Icy Moons

A dual view of Saturn’s icy moon Rhea marks the return of NASA’s Cassini spacecraft to the realm of the planet’s icy satellites. This follows nearly two years during which the spacecraft’s orbits carried it high above the planet’s poles. Those paths limited the mission’s ability to encounter the moons, apart from regular flybys of Titan. Cassini’s orbit will remain nearly equatorial for the remainder of 2015, during which the spacecraft will have four close encounters with Titan, two with Dione and three with the geyser-moon, Enceladus. The two views of Rhea were taken about an hour-and-a-half apart on Feb. … Continue exploring

NASA’s Curiosity Eyes Prominent Mineral Veins on Mars

Two-tone mineral veins at a site NASA’s Curiosity rover has reached by climbing a layered Martian mountain offer clues about multiple episodes of fluid movement. These episodes occurred later than the wet environmental conditions that formed lake-bed deposits the rover examined at the mountain’s base. Curiosity has analyzed rock samples drilled from three targets lower on the mountain in the past seven months. It found a different mineral composition at each, including a silica mineral named cristobalite in the most recent sample. These differences, together with the prominent veins seen in images taken a little farther uphill, illustrate how the … Continue exploring

NASA’s LRO Spacecraft Finds March 17, 2013 Impact Crater

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) acquired images of the lunar surface before and after the largest recorded explosion occurred on the surface. On March 17, 2013, an object the size of a small boulder hit the surface in Mare Imbrium and exploded in a flash of light nearly 10 times as bright as anything ever recorded before. This bright flash was recorded by researchers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville with coordinates 20.6°N, 336.1°E. The Lunar Reconnaissance Camera (LROC) scientists were able to obtain observations before and after the impact. Comparing the actual size of the crater to … Continue exploring

NASA’s SDO Sees Two Coronal Holes

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, captured this solar image on March 16, 2015, which clearly shows two dark patches, known as coronal holes. The larger coronal hole of the two, near the southern pole, covers an estimated 6- to 8-percent of the total solar surface. While that may not sound significant, it is one of the largest polar holes scientists have observed in decades. The smaller coronal hole, towards the opposite pole, is long and narrow. It covers about 3.8 billion square miles on the sun – only about 0.16-percent of the solar surface. Coronal holes are lower density … Continue exploring

Rover Arm Delivers Rock Powder Sample

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used its robotic arm Wednesday, March 11, to sieve and deliver a rock-powder sample to an onboard instrument. The sample was collected last month before the team temporarily suspended rover arm movement pending analysis of a short circuit. The Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) analytical instrument inside the rover received the sample powder. This sample comes from a rock target called “Telegraph Peak,” the third target drilled during about six months of investigating the “Pahrump Hills” outcrop on Mount Sharp. With this delivery completed, the rover team plans to drive Curiosity away from Pahrump Hills in coming … Continue exploring

Launch Begins MMS Mission in Spectacular Fashion

Four octagonal disc-shaped spacecraft are flying in a loose formation above Earth following a brilliant, thundering launch from Florida that lit up the Cape Canaveral region for miles late Thursday night. The spacecraft make up the Magnetospheric MultiScale mission which is set to decipher interactions within magnetic fields that cause tremendous amounts of energy to be released when the fields reconnect. A United Launch Alliance Atlas V lifted the four spacecraft into orbit with the help of solid-fueled boosters that joined with the RD-180 main engine on the first stage to produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The … Continue exploring

Spacecraft Data Suggest Saturn Moon’s Ocean May Harbor Hydrothermal Activity

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has provided scientists the first clear evidence that Saturn’s moon Enceladus exhibits signs of present-day hydrothermal activity which may resemble that seen in the deep oceans on Earth. The implications of such activity on a world other than our planet open up unprecedented scientific possibilities. “These findings add to the possibility that Enceladus, which contains a subsurface ocean and displays remarkable geologic activity, could contain environments suitable for living organisms,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “The locations in our solar system where extreme environments occur in which life … Continue exploring

Planet ‘Reared’ by Four Parent Stars

  Growing up as a planet with more than one parent star has its challenges. Though the planets in our solar system circle just one star — our sun — other more distant planets, called exoplanets, can be reared in families with two or more stars. Researchers wanting to know more about the complex influences of multiple stars on planets have come up with two new case studies: a planet found to have three parents, and another with four. The discoveries were made using instruments fitted to telescopes at the Palomar Observatory in San Diego: the Robo-AO adaptive optics system, … Continue exploring

NASA’s Chandra Observatory Finds Cosmic Showers Halt Galaxy Growth

This galaxy cluster comes from a sample of over 200 that were studied to determine how giant black holes at their centers affect the growth and evolution of their host galaxy, as reported in our latest press release [link to PR.] This study revealed that an unusual form of cosmic precipitation enables a feedback loop of cooling and heating, stifling star formation in the middle of these galaxy clusters. Abell 2597, shown here, is a galaxy cluster located about one billion light years from Earth. This image contains X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue), optical data from the Hubble … Continue exploring

Rover Examining Odd Mars Rocks at Valley Overlook

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity climbed last month to an overlook for surveying “Marathon Valley,” a science destination chosen because spectrometer observations from orbit indicate exposures of clay minerals. Near the overlook, it found blocky rocks so unlike any previously examined on Mars that the rover team has delayed other activities to provide time for a thorough investigation. “We drove to the edge of a plateau to look down in the valley, and we found these big, dark-gray blocks along the ridgeline,” said Opportunity Project Scientist Matt Golombek of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “We checked one and found … Continue exploring

NASA-Funded Study Finds Two Solar Wind Jets in the Heliosphere

New NASA-funded research now suggests that the heliosphere is actually dominated by two giant jets of material shooting backwards over the north and south poles of the sun, which are confined by the interaction of the sun’s magnetic field with the interstellar magnetic field. These curve around in two—relatively short – tails toward the back. The end result is a heliosphere without that long tail; a heliosphere that looks a lot more like a crescent moon than a comet. What’s more, the two jets are similar to other astrophysical jets seen in space, so studying them locally could open doors … Continue exploring

MOSI Selects Prof. Antonio Paris to Lead Space Program

The Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) in Tampa, FL has selected Professor Antonio Paris as Manager of Space Programs and Planetarium. Paris, a Professor of Astronomy at St. Petersburg College, will direct the day-to-day operations of the planetarium, NASA’s Mission: Moonbase, Starlab, and MOSI’s telescope program. Additionally, he will serve as the on-air Space Science Expert for MOSI and will develop new lectures on astronomy, space exploration and other topics of scientific interest. MOSI, the largest science center in the Southeast U.S., is a non-profit, community-based institution and educational resource that is dedicated to advancing public interest, knowledge and understanding of … Continue exploring

NASA’s Orion Flight Test Yields Critical Data as Engineers Improve Spacecraft for Next Mission

NASA’s Orion spacecraft continues on the agency’s journey to Mars as engineers analyze data from the spacecraft’s December flight test and make progress developing and building the spacecraft for its first mission atop NASA Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket. On future missions, Orion will send astronauts to an asteroid and onward toward the Red Planet. At machine houses across the country, elements of the primary structure for the next Orion to fly in space are coming together. Avionics components are being built and simulators for the ESA (European Space Agency)-built service module that will house the spacecraft’s propulsion and … Continue exploring

NASA, ESA Telescopes Give Shape to Furious Black Hole Winds

NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton telescope are showing that  fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all directions — a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now. This discovery has given astronomers their first opportunity to measure the strength of these ultra-fast winds and prove they are powerful enough to inhibit the host galaxy’s ability to make new stars. “We know black holes in the centers of galaxies can feed on matter, and this process can produce winds. This is thought to regulate the growth of … Continue exploring

Dawn Captures Sharper Images of Ceres

Craters and mysterious bright spots are beginning to pop out in the latest images of Ceres from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. These images, taken Feb. 12 at a distance of 52,000 miles (83,000 kilometers) from the dwarf planet, pose intriguing questions for the science team to explore as the spacecraft nears its destination. The image is available at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA19056 “As we slowly approach the stage, our eyes transfixed on Ceres and her planetary dance, we find she has beguiled us but left us none the wiser,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at UCLA. “We expected to … Continue exploring

Black Hole Candidate Discovered

Searching for Black Holes: Black Holes emit jets of radio emissions detectible through radio telescopes. Below are two images. The first is an artist impression of what a black hole would look like. The second set of images were collected by the WISE Infrared Telescope and radio data from the Very Large Array in New Mexico. By combining the data from both image sets, a black hole candidate has been identified for galaxy J134831.4+094528. The candidate black hole was discovered  by Prof. Antonio Paris, Chief Scientist at the Center for Planetary Science.        

Pale Blue Dot’ Images Turn 25

Valentine’s Day is special for NASA’s Voyager mission. It was on Feb. 14, 1990, that the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back at our solar system and snapped the first-ever pictures of the planets from its perch at that time beyond Neptune. This “family portrait” captures Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus from Voyager 1’s unique vantage point. A few key members did not make it in: Mars had little sunlight, Mercury was too close to the sun, and dwarf planet Pluto turned out too dim. Taking these images was not part of the original plan, but the late Carl … Continue exploring

The View from New Horizons: A Full Day on Pluto-Charon

This time-lapse “movie” of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, was recently shot at record-setting distances with the Long-Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. The movie was made over about a week, from Jan. 25-31, 2015. It was taken as part of the mission’s second optical navigation (“OpNav”) campaign to better refine the locations of Pluto and Charon in preparation for the spacecraft’s close encounter with the small planet and its five moons on July 14, 2015. Pluto and Charon were observed for an entire rotation of each body; a “day” on Pluto and Charon is 6.4 … Continue exploring