Tag Archives: nasa

This Stunning Image Of Saturn's Rings Contains A Surprise

This Stunning Image Of Saturn’s Rings Contains A Surprise

If youre confused by this image, we dont blame you. What youre seeing here are the rings of Saturn and the gas giant itself. But the planets rings are, well, rings. Why do they appear to be criss-crossing each other here?

The answer is a pretty awesome illusion, snapped by the Cassini spacecraft thats currently in orbit around Saturn. The bulk of the image is the rings itself, while in the background is the planet Saturn. The lines going the other direction to the rings are actually the shadow of the rings on the planet, visible because the rings are semi-transparent.

Thats not the only surprising thing about this image, though. Take a look just below the middle, and youll spot a gap in one of the rings with a white dot in it. This gap is known as the Encke gap, and the white dot is the moon Pan (28 kilometers/17 miles across). Moons like this form gaps by cleaning out debris from the rings.

Now you see it… NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Cassini took this image from a distance of 1.9 million kilometers (1.2 million miles) from Pan on February 11, 2016, with a scale of 10 kilometers (6 miles) per pixel. The spacecraft arrived in orbit around Saturn in 2004, and since then it has provided uswith incredible views and data from Saturn and its various moons, including Enceladus and Titan.

But, sadly, all good things must come to an end. On September 15 next year, the spacecraft will be sent to its death in the atmosphere of Saturn. This is because, as it runs out of fuel, NASA wants to ensure it wont accidentally hit one of the potentially life-harboring moons and contaminate it with material from Earth.

Dont despair too much, though, because this final death plunge will see Cassini return some groundbreaking science to Earth. Itll be sending back data constantly until its final moments, so well get incredible data from within Saturns rings and from its upper atmosphere as well something weve never gotten before.

Until then, bask in the glory of images like these. With no other spacecraft to Saturn currently in the works, we really shouldn’t take Cassini for granted.

Here’s the full image in all its glory.NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/stunning-image-saturn-contains-more-one-surprise

Bacteria in Space Grows in Strange Ways

Bacteria in Space Grows in Strange Ways

Pseudomonas-aeruginosa

When bacteria grows in a dish of fake urine in space, it behaves in ways never-before-seen in Earth microorganisms, scientists say.

A team of scientists sent samples of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa into orbit aboard NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis to see how they grew in comparison to their Earth-dwelling counterparts.

The 3D communities of microorganisms (called biofilms) grown aboard the space shuttle had more live cells, were thicker and had more biomass than the bacterial colonies grown in normal gravity on Earth as controls. The space bacteria also grew in a “column-and-canopy” structure that has never been observed in bacterial colonies on Earth, according to NASA scientists.

“Biofilms were rampant on the Mir space station and continue to be a challenge on the [International Space Station], but we still don’t really know what role gravity plays in their growth and development,” NASA’s study leader Cynthia Collins, an assistant professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., said in a statement. “Our study offers the first evidence that spaceflight affects community-level behaviors of bacteria, and highlights the importance of understanding how both harmful and beneficial human-microbe interactions may be altered during spaceflight.”

Most biofilms found in the human body and in nature are harmless, but some are associated with disease, NASA officials said.

The space bacteria were cultured in artificial urine on NASA’s Atlantis shuttle in 2010 and again in 2011 before the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program. Collins and her team of researchers used fabricated urine because it can be used to study the formation of biofilm outside and inside the body. Understanding how to safely remove and recycle waste is particularly relevant because of its importance in long-term spaceflight, NASA officials said.

“The unique appearance and structure of the P. aeruginosa biofilms formed in microgravity suggests that nature is capable of adapting to nonterrestrial environments in ways that deserve further studies, including studies exploring long-term growth and adaptation to a low-gravity environment,” Collins said in a statement. “Before we start sending astronauts to Mars or embarking on other long-term spaceflight missions, we need to be as certain as possible that we have eliminated or significantly reduced the risk that biofilms pose to the human crew and their equipment.”

Scientists sent 12 devices with eight vials of P. aeruginosa — a bacterium that can be associated with disease on Earth — into orbit on Atlantis. Once in space, astronauts on the shuttle introduced the bacterium to the fake urine while scientists on the ground began the control experiment.

After the samples arrived safely on Earth, Collins and her team took a detailed 3D image of the biofilms to investigate their internal structure, and used other research methods to investigate the colony’s thickness and cell growth.

The study, published in the April 20 issue of the journal PLOS ONE, also could have implications for bacterial research on Earth. It’s possible that this kind of research could help scientists and doctors more effectively limit the spread of infection in hospitals, Collins said.

Image courtesy of NASA

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/10/bacteria-growth-space/

Does the Moon Have Levitating Lunar Dust?

Does the Moon Have Levitating Lunar Dust?

Does-the-moon-have-levitating-lunar-dust--ba51520a7f

Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon? Great food, but no atmosphere.

While that wisecrack has been floating about in space circles for decades, a NASA lunar orbiter will gather detailed information about the moon’s atmosphere next year, including conditions near its surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is to depart the Earth for the moon in August 2013. LADEE is loaded with science gear, including instruments that can address a lingering question that’s rooted in space history: Are electrostatically lofted lunar dust particles present within the moon’s tenuous atmosphere?

Twilight Rays on the Moon

In the 1960s, several NASA Surveyor moon landers relayed images showing a twilight glow low over the lunar horizon persisting after the sun had set. Also, a number of Apollo astronauts orbiting the moon saw twilight rays before lunar sunrise or lunar sunset.

In addition, some have floated the theory that the glowing transient lunar phenomenon seen from Earth might stem from sunlight reflecting off of suspended lunar dust.

LADEE will investigate this moon magic trick of levitating lunar dust. The spacecraft has the tools it needs to address mysteries and questions that have been around since Apollo, said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Ames is responsible for managing the mission, building the spacecraft and performing mission operations.

Elphic told SPACE.com that among its duties, the LADEE mission can further investigate tantalizing hints about the dust and the moon’s exotic atmosphere.

“If we fly LADEE through the regions where the Apollo command module observations were made, we will know right away if there are small grains there or not,” Elphic said. LADEE’s Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) is a very sensitive dust-detecting instrument, he said, and scientists may be able to place new upper limits on the dust in the first week of the spacecraft’s orbiting operations.

Nagging Moon Question

“If LADEE never sees levitated dust, that settles the question for the high-altitude observations, at least for its mission time frame,” Elphic said.

Still, there’s the nagging question about what Surveyor saw, the near-surface horizon glow. “That might be something else entirely, and can only be addressed with a surface mission,” Elphic said.

“If LADEE does see dust, we will then have a basis for expecting the same phenomena at all other ‘nearly-airless’ bodies around the solar system,” Elphic added.

This dust may not pose much of a hazard, Elphic added, but the physics will need to be explained. Right now, no one has a good end-to-end model for getting dust to loft and secondly, stay suspended for long periods, he said.

“If LADEE observes levitated dust, then scientists will have to explain it. Right now, no one can,” Elphic said.

One-Way Trip Off the Moon

One scientist ready for the new data to be gleaned by LADEE is Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Apollo 17 moonwalker and geologist. He and astronaut Eugene Cernan walked the lunar surface in December 1972 — the last mission of the Apollo moon landings.

“I do not know if LADEE will see lunar dust in the lunar atmosphere, but I will not be surprised if there is none,” Schmitt told SPACE.com. “We know about several transient gases in that atmosphere, and these may be what causes the horizon glow at sunrise and sunset.”

Moon dust, Schmitt added, was always been on his mind.

“My concern about levitated dust has always been that levitation, if it occurs at all, probably has to be a one-way trip off the moon … because many flat rock surfaces are essentially free of very fine dust, as I personally witnessed on Apollo 17.”

Schmitt said that if dust has been levitated and then dropped again, he would expect the rock surfaces to be covered with such dust.

“Nonetheless, LADEE data on this question, as well as various gases, should give us a lot to think about,” Schmitt said.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/20/nasa-ladee-levitating-lunar-dust/

Planetary Resources 3D Print An Alien Material

Planetary Resources 3D Print An Alien Material

3D printing is capable of some incredible things, from creating huge bridges, prosthetics for amputees, and even human hearts using biological ink. Jumping on this bandwagon, the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources hasbeen flaunting their own attempts at 3D printing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The results are literally out-of-this-world 3D printing, with the companyshowcasing a design forged from asteroid materials.

Planetary Resources raison d’tre is to mine valuable resources from asteroids, which are demonstrably rich sources of metals and compounds including platinum, nickel, iron, and cobalt. Many contain plentiful water, which couldbe converted into rocket fuel and help prolong space missions. Their ultimate aim is to help create a space-based business economy: ambitious for sure, but its CEO, Chris Lewicki, thinks that this will be possible by 2025.

Although this process has yet to begin, Lewicki was determined to have a presence at the world-renowned technological showcase. Using a meteorite that landed in Campo Del Cielo, Argentina, a decorative object has been made out of it, essentially a 3D Planetary Resources logo. The partnership with 3D Systems has resulted in the first-ever direct metal print from asteroid-derived metals.

The 3D-printed logo, made from nickel, iron and cobalt. Credit: Planetary Resources

Explaining the motivation behind the 3D printing to Engadget, Lewicki said: Instead of manufacturing something in an Earth factory and putting it on a rocket and shipping it to space, what if we put a 3D printer into space and everything we printed with it we got from space? There are billions and billions of tons of this material in space.

Despite this world first, the technique used to print the material isnt new. Nevertheless, it does highlight the fact that 3D printing, a clearly versatile technology, can be applied to asteroid-mined materials. NASA is also aware of the possibilities: Officials have previously noted that 3D printing could assist human space exploration, with spacecraft, outposts, and supplies generated on other planets and celestial objects using this exact technique.

Photo Gallery

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/literally-out-world-3d-printing-demonstrated-planetary-resources

Exoplanets Explain Why the 'Dark Side' of the Moon Has No Face

Exoplanets Explain Why the ‘Dark Side’ of the Moon Has No Face

Moon-composite-nasa

A composite image of the Moon.
Image: NASA

Heat radiating from the young Earth could help solve the more than 50-year-old mystery of why the far side of the moon, which faces away from Earth, lacks the dark, vast expanses of volcanic rock that define the face of the Man in the Moon as seen from Earth, researchers say.

The Man in the Moon was born when cosmic impacts struck the near side of the moon, the side that faces Earth. These collisions punched holes in the moon’s crust, which later filled with vast lakes of lava that formed the dark areas known as maria or “seas.”

In 1959, when the Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 transmitted the first images of the “dark” or far side of the moon, the side facing away from Earth, scientists immediately noticed fewer maria there. This mystery — why no Man in the Moon exists on the moon’s far side — is called the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem.

“I remember the first time I saw a globe of the moon as a boy, being struck by how different the far side looks,” study co-author Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, said in a statement. “It was all mountains and craters. Where were the maria?”

Far Side of the Moon

The farside of the moon, taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera.

Image: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Now scientists may have solved the 55-year-old mystery; heat from the young Earth as the newborn moon was cooling caused the difference. The researchers came up with the solution during their work on exoplanets, which are worlds outside the solar system.

“There are many exoplanets that are really close to their host stars,”lead study author Arpita Roy, also of Penn State, told Space.com. “That really affects the geology of those planets.”

Similarly, the moon and Earth are generally thought to have orbited very close together after they formed. The leading idea explaining the moon’s formation suggests that it arose shortly after the nascent Earth collided with a Mars-size planet about 4.5 billion years ago, with the resulting debris coalescing into the moon. Scientists say the newborn moon and Earth were 10 to 20 times closer to each other than they are now.

“The moon and Earth loomed large in each other’s skies when they formed, ” Roy said in a statement.

Since the moon was so close to Earth, the mutual pull of gravity was strong. The gravitational tidal forces the moon and Earth exerted on each other braked their rotations, resulting in the moon always showing the same face to Earth, a situation known as tidal lock.

The moon and Earth were very hot shortly after the giant impact that formed the moon. The moon, being much smaller than Earth, cooled more quickly. Since the moon and Earth were tidally locked early on, the still-hot Earth — more than 4,530 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 degrees Celsius) — would have cooked the near side of the moon, keeping it molten. On the other hand, the far side of the moon would have cooled, albeit slowly.

The difference in temperature between the moon’s halves influenced the formation of its crust. The lunar crust possesses high concentrations of aluminum and calcium, elements that are very hard to vaporize.

“When rock vapor starts to cool, the very first elements that snow out are aluminum and calcium,” study co-author Steinn Sigurdsson of Penn State said in a statement.

Aluminum and calcium would have more easily condensed in the atmosphere on the colder far side of the moon. Eventually, these elements combined with silicates in the mantle of the moon to form minerals known as plagioclase feldspars, making the crust of the far side about twice as thick as that of the near side.

“Earthshine, the heat of Earth soon after the giant impact, was a really important factor shaping the moon,” Roy said.

When collisions from asteroids or comets blasted the moon’s surface, they could punch through the near side’s crust to generate maria. In contrast, impacts on the far side’s thicker crust failed to penetrate deeply enough to cause lava to well up, instead leaving the far side of the moon with a surface of valleys, craters and highlands, but almost no maria.

“It’s really cool that our understanding of exoplanets is affecting our understanding of the solar system,” Roy said.

Future research could generate detailed 3D models testing this idea, Roy suggested. The authors detailed their findings June 9 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/06/16/farside-of-the-moon/

NASA Has Released Images Of Real Locations Featured In "The Martian"

NASA Has Released Images Of Real Locations Featured In “The Martian”

NASAhasreleased imagesshowing the real areas of Mars that feature in the Hollywood film and Andy Weir novel “The Martian.”The images were taken by a HiRISE camera onboardNASA’sMars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The first imageshows Acidalia Planitia, the area in the story where the original Ares 3 mission landed and subsequently left NASA astronaut Mark Watney stranded.

Image:Acidalia PlanitiaThe Ares 3 mission landing site. Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The other image, below, shows a shallow crater in the southwestern corner of the Schiaparelli crater, named after Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli.In the story, this is the area in which Watney has to travel 3,200 kilometers (nearly 2,000 miles) toin the hope he can be saved by the Ares 4 mission. According to NASA,this area is likely to be covered in “at least a meter thick” layer of red dust.

Image: The Schiaparelli craterThe Ares 4 mission landing site. Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has taken more than 39,000 images with theHiRISE camera since 2006. Each image covers an area of several miles and can pick up details smaller than a car. Although dont zoom in looking for Matt Damon, weve already tried.

A large bulk of the HiRISE images are available to view for free online. Another cool feature NASA has released is an online suggestion box for sites you want their HiRISE camera to photograph next.

Read this next:Physics Duo Wins The Nobel Prize For Solving Longstanding Neutrino Puzzle

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-release-images-real-location-featured-martian

NASA Explains What Exploded Over Russia

NASA Explains What Exploded Over Russia

The world was shaken when a giant meteorite hit the mountains of Ural, Russia last week. Now that all the dust has finally settled, Science At NASA has analyzed the data, and explains what exploded over Russia in this new trending video. 

Gizmodo, GeekoSystem, and EarthSky all cover the video in greater detail. 

 

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2013/02/27/nasa-explains-what-exploded-over-russia/

NASA, 'Angry Birds' Team Up to Explore the Red Planet

NASA, ‘Angry Birds’ Team Up to Explore the Red Planet

Nasa-angry-birds-team-up-to-explore-the-red-planet-4dc7d4cd79

There is life on Mars — and it’s out for revenge against some nasty pigs!

Angry Birds creators Rovio announced a new chapter to Angry Birds Space will come out Thursday. The update is titled “Red Planet”, and will send players to the fields of Mars for more bird-on-pig rivalry.

NASA helped Rovio create the trailer by giving them footage taken by the Mars Rover Curiosity from the planet’s surface. In addition, the additional levels will include NASA vehicles as part of the architecture.

“Rovio is teaching huge new audiences about NASA’s missions to Mars thanks to this collaboration,” said David Weaver, associate administrator for communications at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “It’s a great way to introduce both kids and adults to the wonders of the planet in a fun and entertaining way.”

It’s not the first partnership between the two. When Angry Birds Space debuted in March, NASA Flight Engineer Don Pettit demonstrated the physics behind Angry Birds — while in space.

“We’re huge NASA fans, and we were all cheering the Mars Curiosity rover as it touched down,” said Peter Vesterbacka, chief marketing officer of Rovio Entertainment. “So, working together on the Mars update was a perfect fit.”

Players can download the updates for the iOS [iTunes link] and Android [Google Play link] versions right now.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/23/angry-birds-mars/

Watch What Happens When You Add Dye To A Floating Ball Of Water On The ISS

Watch What Happens When You Add Dye To A Floating Ball Of Water On The ISS

Another day and another incredible post from NASA. This video shows more astronauts messing around with liquids on board the International Space Station.

A few months ago, we sawTerry Virts releasing a ball of floating water and an antacid tablet into it. In this newly released video, we see astronauts inserting dye into floating balls of water. Simple, yet spectacularly elegant.

The RED Epic Dragon camera used for this footage is cable of shooting resolutions of up to 6,144 x 3,160 pixels and 300 frames per second. It was also the same camera used for The Hobbit trilogy and is commercially available if youve got a modest $57,805 (38,000) lying around. The cameras unbelievable quality means its able to capture even more information that can aid the astronauts with scientific investigations. Back home on Earth at theMarshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, NASA is looking into using the cameras for vehicleoperations such as docking and undocking.

NASA is also working on posting 4K videos from the ISSto itsYouTube channel every few weeks.

Make sure you watch the video in4K quality if youre using a screen capable of displaying itby clicking the settings cog in the bottom right of the player, its worth the download time.

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/4k-footage-astronauts-having-fun-micro-gravity