WASP-18b: A ‘Hot Jupiter’

A new study using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has shown that a planet is making the star that it orbits act much older than it actually is, as explained in our latest press release. The artist’s illustration featured in the main part of this graphic depicts the star, WASP-18, and its planet, WASP-18b. WASP-18b is a “hot Jupiter,” a giant exoplanet that orbits very close to its star, located about 330 light years from Earth. Specifically, the mass of WASP-18b is estimated to be about ten times that of Jupiter, yet it orbits its star about once every 23 hours. By comparison, it takes Jupiter about 12 years to complete one trip around the sun … Continue reading

Station Trio Preps for Departure as Expedition 40 Nears End

As the Expedition 40 crew members head into their final weekend together aboard the International Space Station, the six astronauts and cosmonauts spent Friday preparing for the arrival of a cargo craft and Wednesday’s departure of three crewmates after nearly six months in space. Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev got an early start on the day, waking up a half hour before the crew’s usual 2 a.m. EDT reveille to conduct a test of the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft’s motion control system. Soyuz Commander Skvortsov, Artemyev and Expedition 40 Commander Steve Swanson will undock their Soyuz from the Poisk … Continue reading

Memory Reformat Planned for Opportunity Mars Rover

An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover’s flash memory. The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover’s planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two. Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses. Individual cells within a flash memory sector can wear out from repeated use. Reformatting clears the memory while … Continue reading

NASA Captures Images of a Late Summer Flare

On Aug. 24, 2014, the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 8:16 a.m. EDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the flare, which erupted on the left side of the sun. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. To see how this event may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government’s official source for … Continue reading

Mars Rover Team Chooses Not to Drill ‘Bonanza King’

Evaluation of a pale, flat Martian rock as the potential next drilling target for NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover determined that the rock was not stable enough for safe drilling. The rock, called “Bonanza King,” moved slightly during the mini-drill activity on Wednesday, at an early stage of this test, when the percussion drill impacted the rock a few times to make an indentation. Instead of drilling that or any similar rock nearby, the team has decided that Curiosity will resume driving toward its long-term destination on the slopes of a layered mountain. It will take a route skirting the north … Continue reading

Asteroid Discovered by NASA to Pass Earth Safely

A newfound asteroid will safely pass Earth on June 8 from a distance of about 777,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers), more than three times farther away than our moon. Designated 2014 HQ124, the asteroid was discovered April 23, 2014, by NASA’s NEOWISE mission, a space telescope adapted for scouting the skies for asteroids and comets. The telescope sees infrared light, which allows it to pick up the infrared glow of asteroids and obtain better estimates of their true sizes. The NEOWISE data estimate asteroid 2014 HQ124 to be between 800 and 1,300 feet (250 and 400 meters). “There is zero … Continue reading

Hubble Sees Flickering Light Display on Saturn

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have captured new images of the dancing auroral lights at Saturn’s north pole. Taken from Hubble’s perspective in orbit around the Earth, these images provide a detailed look at Saturn’s stormy aurorae — revealing previously unseen dynamics in the choreography of the auroral glow. The cause of the changing patterns in Saturn’s aurorae is an ongoing mystery in planetary science. These ultraviolet images, taken by Hubble’s super-sensitive Advanced Camera for Surveys, add new insight by capturing moments when Saturn’s magnetic field is affected by bursts of particles streaming out from the sun. Saturn … Continue reading

May Camelopardalids Meteor Shower

From NASA: Sky-watchers all across North America are in for a real treat in the early morning hours of May 24 – there’s a brand new meteor shower that may light up the night sky. Scientists aren’t sure yet how many shooting stars people may see, but the May Camelopardalids meteor shower could be at a dazzling one-per-minute rate. This is the first time Earth will directly cross the dusty trails left behind by a recently discovered comet named Comet 209P/LINEAR. Discovered in 2004, this comet’s path has been slowly altered by Jupiter’s gravity over the last 200 years and … Continue reading

NASA’s Curiosity Rover Drills Sandstone Slab on Mars

Portions of rock powder collected by the hammering drill on NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover from a slab of Martian sandstone will be delivered to the rover’s internal instruments. Rover team members at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., received confirmation early today (Tuesday) of Curiosity’s third successful acquisition of a drilled rock sample, following the drilling Monday evening (PDT).  The fresh hole in the rock target “Windjana,” visible in images from the rover, is 0.63 inch (1.6 centimeters) in diameter and about 2.6 inches (6.5 centimeters) deep. The full-depth hole for sample collection is close to a shallower test hole … Continue reading

Mid-level Solar Flare Erupts from the Sun

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 6:07 a.m. EDT on May 8, 2014, and NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, captured images of it. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. To see how this event may impact Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings. … Continue reading