Tag Archives: nasa

NASA Has Mapped Out Pluto’s Geological Jigsaw

Pluto is a medley of geological textures. In order to gauge the numerous processes that have operated on Pluto, NASA has created a geological map of the dwarf planets rugged terrain.

A compilation of 12 images were used to create this map, which were gathered during New Horizons fleeting but fruitful passing of Pluto last year on July 14.

The imageswere taken by the spacecraft’sLong Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), 77,300 kilometers (48,000 miles) away from the icy surface. To give you a sense ofscale, one pixel accounts for around390 meters (1,280 feet).

In the center of the image, you can see Sputnik Planum (in pale blue-green),the icy plain surrounded by a hotchpotch of geological textures and morphologies.The black lines that web the icy plaindepictthe boundaries of cellular regions in the nitrogen ice.

Other interesting features include the yellow blobs on the left, which represent large impact craters, and the swath of red in the bottom-left corner that illustrates a potentially cryovolcanic mound known as Wright Mons.

As NASA explains, the information can also be used to work out when these geological processes occurred relative to each other,giving some sense of history to this far-out loner.

For a close-up view of the map, click here.

Image credit:NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/space/nasa-has-mapped-out-plutos-geological-jigsaw

Packing for Interstellar Space Voyage: What to Bring?

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Contemplating the idea of a manned voyage to another star raises many confounding questions, including one that has been around since the days of the first travelers: What to pack?

To build a closed environment that can sustain astronauts and perhaps their descendants during the long mission is going to require many kinds of technological innovations, some of them needed just to clothe the interstellar travelers, said Karl Aspelund, a professor of textiles, fashion merchandising and design at the University of Rhode Island.

“The longest time anyone has been in space is around 400 days. Now we’re suddenly talking years, decades, possibly even generations,” Aspelund said last week at the 100 Year Starship Symposium in Houston, a conference about interstellar space travel. “That changes everything.”

An interstellar mission is most likely going to be a very extended trip, considering the nearest stars are light-years away. Aspelund estimated that every person aboard a ship on a 30-year voyage would need to pack about 100 cubic feet of clothing. For 10 people, that means enough clothes to fill a railcar. Based on current launch costs, so much mass could add $18 million to $36 million to the price tag for the mission simply for shirts, pants and underwear, he calculated.

Clearly, future astronauts will have to pack lighter.

“We might have to rethink the idea of clothing altogether,” Aspelund said. “We might have to really re-evaluate what constitutes being dressed and undressed.”

Aspelund is only half joking when he contemplates sending spaceflyers onto a starship naked. He concedes there are good reasons ? culturally as well as individually ? why humans couldn’t just discard clothes on an interstellar mission.

But researchers will need to find ways for clothes (and everything else astronauts pack) to be used sustainably, he says.

So far NASA hasn’t figured out many good ways to do laundry in space. Astronauts on the International Space Station have been known to rarely change outfits.

“It’s basically a flying dorm room, by the sound of it,” Aspelund said of the space station. “The solution to keeping things clean is exactly the dorm room solution: You stuff it into a hole and you never see it again. That’s not so good if you’re not going to be coming back, or if you’re going to be out there for years.”

Aspelund plans to write a grant and collaborate with other researchers on the issue of cosmic duds and space laundry. The solutions may require completely different types of textiles that are more durable and recyclable, or new ways to clean existing materials.

On an even deeper level, the issue forces people to question just what items are essential for life on Earth and whether those same items are essential in space.

“We have things that are absolutely critical to our well-being on the planet,” Aspelund said. “This project, the 100 Year Starship, inspires a completely fresh look. Suddenly we step back from Earthly concerns.”

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/26/packing-for-space-voyage/

Comet, Earth and Mercury Seen Together in Rare Video

A new video from a NASA spacecraft studying the sun has captured an unexpected sight: a wandering comet posing with the planets Earth and Mercury.

The cosmic view comes from one of NASA’s twin Stereo spacecraft that constantly watch the sun for signs of solar flares and other space weather events. It shows Mercury and Earth as they appeared with the Comet Pan-STARRS, a comet that is currently visible from the Northern Hemisphere during evening twilight.

The probe captured the video of Comet Pan-STARRS, Earth and Mercury together while observing the sun from March 9 to March 12.

According to a NASA description, the video “shows the comet and its fluttering tail as it moves through space.” The Earth appears as a bright stationary object on the right side of the video, while Mercury is visible as a moving light on the left side.

The sun is actually out of the frame in the Stereo-B spacecraft’s video, but its solar wind is visible as a stream of material, NASA officials explained. Meanwhile, the view of Comet Pan-STARRS from space is giving scientists a wealth of data to review, they added.

“Comet scientists say the tail looks quite complex and it will take computer models to help understand exactly what’s happening in STEREO’s observations,” agency officials said in a video description. “The comet should remain visible to the naked eye through the end of March.”

Comet Pan-STARRS is currently visible to stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere just after sunset. To see the comet, look low on the western horizon just after the sun has gone down. Comet Pan-STARRS can appear as a bright head with a wispy trail, weather permitting, though some stargazers have said the bright evening twilight can make spotting it tricky.

The Comet Pan-STARRS was discovered in June 2011 by astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii. The comet’s official name is C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS).

Scientists estimate that Comet Pan-STARRS takes more than 100 million years to orbit the sun once. The comet crossed into the Northern Hemisphere evening sky last week after months of being visible to observers in the Southern Hemisphere.

NASA’s twin Stereo A and B spacecraft (the name is short for Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) observe the sun in tandem to provide unparalleled views of how material from solar eruptions makes its way to Earth. The spacecraft launched in 2006 and are part of a fleet of sun-watching spacecraft that monitor solar storms.

Comet Pan-STARRS is one of several comets gracing the night sky in 2013. Pan-STARRS was joined by the Comet Lemmon earlier this year when both were visible together in the Southern Hemisphere sky. Later this year, the sungrazing Comet ISON could put on a potentially dazzling display when it makes its closest approach to the sun in late November.

Homepage image courtesy of Astronomy Education Services/Gingin Observatory

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/03/15/comet-earth-mercury-video/

NASA and NOAA Agree: 2014 Was Hottest Year On Record

Though it might be hard to believe right now since the Northern Hemisphere is currently experiencing the coldest part of winter, our average global temperatures are increasing at a worrying rate. NASA and NOAA have analyzed the data independently of one another and yet have arrived at the same conclusion: 2014 is the warmest year on record since 1880. This is the 38th consecutive year with above average surface temperatures. The dataset has been released by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS).

“NASA is at the forefront of the scientific investigation of the dynamics of the Earth’s climate on a global scale,” NASA’s John Grunsfeld said in a press release. “The observed long-term warming trend and the ranking of 2014 as the warmest year on record reinforces the importance for NASA to study Earth as a complete system, and particularly to understand the role and impacts of human activity.”

Surface temperatures in 2014 averaged 0.8° C (1.4° F) warmer than 1880. This doesn’t mean that 1880 was a particularly hot year; it’s just where the instrumental record begins. It might not seem like a significant increase, but it can have an incredible impact on the environment. This increase has been largely attributed to carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere due to human activity.

Those living in the Midwest or East Coast of the United States will remember last year’s Polar Vortex, which brought extreme winter weather to hundreds of millions of people. However, other parts of the country experienced record-setting temperatures during the summer, offsetting the cold experienced during the winter.

Overall, the planet has been growing increasingly warmer for several decades. Variations in weather patterns have created slight cooling periods, but looking at the larger picture shows that temperatures are definitely looking up, and not in a good way. In fact, nine out of the 10 warmest years since the record began have happened after 2000. The exception is 1998, due to the intense effects of El Niño. 2014 was not affected by El Niño.

Image credit: NASA, Hansen et al. (2010)

“This is the latest in a series of warm years, in a series of warm decades. While the ranking of individual years can be affected by chaotic weather patterns, the long-term trends are attributable to drivers of climate change that right now are dominated by human emissions of greenhouse gases,” noted Gavin Schmidt, GISS Director.

Though NASA and NOAA have agreed that 2014 was the warmest year since the Industrial Revolution, they used different methods for data collection. Researchers at GISS combined data from 6,300 weather stations to get land temperatures, while ocean temps were retrieved via ships, buoys, and from the Antarctic. NOAA’s conclusion also came from data collected by ships and buoys, though it made use of satellite and radar data as well.

 

 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/environment/nasa-and-noaa-agree-2014-was-hottest-year-record

NASA Wants To Design The Planes Of The Future

If the federal budget is approved in full, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration, don’t forget)will try to revolutionize aeronautics in the next 10 years by developing an aircraftthat produceslessemissions,noise, anduses less fuel than current models on the market.

The ambitious project is called New Aviation Horizons and aims to design, build, and fly a variety of flight demonstration vehicles dubbed “X-planes.” The work on theseexperimental aircraftwill assess the feasibility of brand-new technologies,designs, and materials, and NASA thinks this will helpmove new technology more quickly into the commercial sector.

“We’re at the right place, at the right time, with the right technologies,” Jaiwon Shin, associate administrator for NASAs Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate,said in astatement.The full potential of these technologies cant be realized in the tube-and-wing shape of todays aircraft.We need the X-planes to prove, in an undeniable way, how that tech can make aviation more Earth friendly, reduce delays and maintain safety for the flying public, and support an industry thats critical to our nations economic vitality.”

The X-planes will include several experimental innovations:Lightweight composite materials might be used for the craft and the engines, new fan designs can improve propulsion and reduce noise, and different wing shapes can make the planes fasters. NASAs researchers estimate that once this tech is put into service, it will save $10 billion a year for the airline industry.

A version ofa hybrid wing body planewith engines on top of the back end, flanked by two vertical tails to shield people on the ground from engine noise.NASA / Boeing

Design-wise, NASA is thinking of a hybrid wing-bodycraft. By having wings that blend into the fuselage (instead of the traditional tube plus wings structure), the team engineers believe they can reduce fuel use and emissions, as well as reducenoise during take-off, approach, and landing.

NASA has even designed a business-jet-sized supersonic vehicle that haslow bio-fuelconsumptionand is shaped in a way that the sonic boom it emits cannot be heard by people on the ground. If the budget is approved and work starts immediately, the first test flight could start as early as 2020.

This is an exciting time for the entire NASA Aeronautics team and for those who benefit from aviation, which, frankly, is everyone, Shin said.With this 10-year plan to accelerate the transformation of aviation, the United States can maintain its status as the worlds leader in aviation for many years to come.

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/technology/nasa-wants-shape-future-commercial-aviation

NASAs Awesome Vintage Posters For Future Destinations

Last year, NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) produced some stunning artwork showing the potential destinations of a futuristic galactic explorer. In 2015, the posters were all about interesting exoplanets, and with a bit of artistic license highlighted curious information about those objects.

Now, JPL has released ninenew posters about wonderful locations in the Solar System, showcasing the marvel of planets and satellites in our neighborhood. The new posters have the same vintage feeling about them, playing on the theme of retro-futurism.

In every posters tag line, there are interesting tidbits of information. They are written in the captivating language of travel posters, but reveal important scientific facts, frompotential life in Europas ocean to the geysers of Enceladus.

Full size versions can be downloaded on JPL’sVisions of the Future website.

Three of the nine new posters in the Vision of the Future series. NASA/JPL

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Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/nasa-s-vintage-posters-future-destinations

Amazing Photo Shows Saturn Dwarfing Tiny Moon

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A jaw-dropping picture of the planet Saturn was recently released by NASA’s Cassini probe orbiting the ringed giant.

The black-and-white photo shows the gas giant tilted, with its iconic rings draping striking shadows against the planet’s atmosphere.

A faint dot in the top middle of the image, which you might be forgiven for thinking was a speck on your monitor, is actually Saturn’s moon Mimas. The moon, at 246 miles (396 kilometers) across, is dwarfed by its much larger parent. When seen up close, Mimas is dominated by a giant crater on one side that gives it a strong resemblance to the Death Star in the “Star Wars” films.

The darker dapples along Saturn‘s face are violent storms that rage in the planet’s hydrogen and helium atmosphere, researchers said.

Cassini’s view of Saturn looks up at the unilluminated side of its rings from an angle of about 18 degrees below the ring plane. The north side of the planet itself is up and rotated 27 degrees to the left.

Cassini launched in 1997 along with the Huygens lander. Cassini arrived at Saturn in 2004 and dropped Huygens onto the surface of Saturn’s huge moon Titan in January 2005. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

Just last month, Cassini celebrated the 15th anniversary of its launch, and it has logged more than 3.8 billion miles (6.1 billion km) during its time in space. The probe has taken more than 300,000 images of the Saturnian system, which includes the ringed planet and its more than 60 known moons.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/07/saturn-tiny-moon-photo/

Facebook Stats Reveal Men Most Interested in Mars Rover Landing

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As space enthusiasts worldwide tuned in online to watch and follow the historic landing of the NASA rover Curiosity on Mars earlier this week, Facebook found that men were significantly more interested in the event than females.

Although Facebook didn’t provide percentages for the male to female ratio, it said men ranked 6.08 on a buzz scale of one to 10, compared to an overall score for women of 4.76.

Using a tool called the Talk Meter, Facebook examined how much buzz the Mars landing generated across the social network and noted trends in age, demographic and location. It tracked search terms such as “Curiosity” and “Mars” and conducted searches during the time period that the rover landed around 10:00 p.m. PT.

“We looked at the increase in the fraction of chatter containing these terms compared to the baseline, which is what the chatter was for these terms one week before,” a Facebook spokesperson told Mashable. “We take the difference in fractions and hit it with a logarithm scale (1-10).”

Although teenagers expressed the least interest in the landing, Facebook said buzz surrounding Curiosity occurred across all adult age ranges. It was most popular among the 25 to 34 age group.

Due to the local timing, chatter was significantly higher in the Western part of the United States with California, Oregon and Washington state bringing in the most general interest on Facebook. But Washington, D.C. — the home of NASA’s headquarters — brought in similar scores to California, and spikes were also seen in Utah and Colorado.

Meanwhile, U.S. Facebook members cheered on their home country’s journey to Mars more than any other nation, bringing in a buzz score of (5.45). Facebook users from Canada (5.37) showed the second most interest, followed by Costa Rica (5.29), New Zealand (4.94), Australia (4.88), China (4.54) and Israel (4.53).

European countries didn’t top the list because most were asleep while the events took place, Facebook noted.

To put those scores in perspective, Facebook did previous analysis on other major events such as the Royal Wedding in the U.K. (8.4), the U.S. Super Bowl (8.7) and the Hunger Games premiere (6.4).

Did you use social media to follow the rover landing? Which sites did you use? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS: Curiosity Lands on Mars: NASA’s Behind the Scenes Images

7 Space Tech Experiments to Launch Friday

Up-aerospace

Seven space technology experiments are slated to blast off Friday on a NASA-funded suborbital research flight.

A SpaceLoft sounding rocket, built by Denver-based UP Aerospace Inc., is scheduled to launch from New Mexico’s Spaceport America between 9 a.m. and noon EDT.

The 15-minute flight is expected to reach a maximum altitude of 74 miles (119 kilometers) and provide up to four minutes of weightlessness for the onboard experiments. Landing is targeted for the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range, about 320 miles (515 km) from Spaceport America according to NASA officials.

Among the seven payloads aboard the 20-foot-long (6 meters) rocket is the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), a tracking device being developed for use in air traffic control systems. Current plans call for all aircraft operating in U.S. airspace to be equipped with ADS-B by 2020.

Two high school science experiments are also riding along on Friday’s flight, as is Diapason, an instrument developed by DTM Technologies in Italy to study the movement of very tiny particles in Earth’s atmosphere. Diapason could help identify and monitor atmospheric pollution and contaminants, NASA officials said.

UP Aerospace isn’t the only company with a NASA contract to make technology-testing suborbital research flights. The space agency has also signed deals with Virgin Galactic, Masten Space Systems, Near Space Corporation, XCOR Aerospace, Whittinghill Aerospace and Armadillo Aerospace.

NASA manages such launches via its Flight Opportunities Program, which matches payloads with flights and pays launch costs (though no funds are provided for development of the payloads). The program should help the burgeoning American private spaceflight industry get off the ground, agency officials say.

“The Flight Opportunities Program fosters the development of the commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry, an important step in the longer-term path that envisions suborbital reusable launch vehicles evolving to provide the nation with much lower-cost, more frequent, and more reliable access to orbital space,” NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program website states.

Image courtesy of Leslie Williams/NASA

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/21/space-experiments-launch/

New NASA Satellites Have Android Smartphones for Brains

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NASA is aiming to launch a line of small satellites called “PhoneSats” that are cheaper to make and easier to build than those it has produced in the past. To achieve this, engineers are using unmodified Android smartphones — in one prototype, HTC’s Nexus One, and in another, Samsung’s Nexus S — to perform many of a satellite’s key functions.

As NASA explains on its website, these off-the-shelf smartphones “offer a wealth of capabilities needed for satellite systems, including fast processors, versatile operating systems, multiple miniature sensors, high-resolution cameras, GPS receivers and several radios.”

“This approach allows engineers to see what capabilities commercial technologies can provide, rather than trying to custom-design technology solutions to meet set requirements,” NASA adds.

The total cost for building one of these prototype satellites costs a mere $3,500. Three are expected to launch aboard the first flight of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket from a NASA flight facility at Wallops Island, Va., later this year.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/26/nasa-satellites-android/