Author: George McGinn

Why This Martian Full Moon Looks Like Candy

Posted on Updated on

jpeg
LATEST NEWS
NASA JPL latest news release
Why This Martian Full Moon Looks Like Candy For the first time, NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter has caught the Martian moon Phobos during a full moon phase. Each color in this new image represents a temperature range detected by Odyssey’s infrared camera, which has been studying the Martian moon since September of 2017. Looking like a rainbow-colored jawbreaker, these latest observations could help scientists understand what materials make up Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two moons.

Odyssey is NASA’s longest-lived Mars mission. Its heat-vision camera, the Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS), can detect changes in surface temperature as Phobos circles Mars every seven hours. Different textures and minerals determine how much heat THEMIS detects.

“This new image is a kind of temperature bullseye – warmest in the middle and gradually cooler moving out,” said Jeffrey Plaut, Odyssey project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which leads the mission. “Each Phobos observation is done from a slightly different angle or time of day, providing a new kind of data.”

On April 24, 2019, THEMIS looked at Phobos dead-on, with the Sun behind the spacecraft. This full moon view is better for studying material composition, whereas half-moon views are better for looking at surface textures.

“With the half-moon views, we could see how rough or smooth the surface is and how it’s layered,” said Joshua Bandfield, a THEMIS co-investigator and senior research scientist at the Space Sciences Institute in Boulder, Colorado. “Now we’re gathering data on what minerals are in it, including metals.”

Iron and nickel are two such metals. Depending on how abundant the metals are, and how they’re mixed with other minerals, these data could help determine whether Phobos is a captured asteroid or a pile of Mars fragments, blasted into space by a giant impact long ago.

These recent observations won’t definitively explain Phobos’ origin, Bandfield added. But Odyssey is collecting vital data on a moon scientists still know little about – one that future missions might want to visit. Human exploration of Phobos has been discussed in the space community as a distant, future possibility, and a Japanese sample-return mission to the moon is scheduled for launch in the 2020s.

“By studying the surface features, we’re learning where the rockiest spots on Phobos are and where the fine, fluffy dust is,” Bandfield said. “Identifying landing hazards and understanding the space environment could help future missions to land on the surface.”

Odyssey has been orbiting Mars since 2001. It takes thousands of images of the Martian surface each month, many of which help scientists select landing sites for future missions. The spacecraft also serves an important role relaying data for Mars’ newest inhabitant, NASA’s InSight lander. But studying Phobos is a new chapter for the orbiter.

“I think it’s a great example of taking a spacecraft that’s been around a very long time and finding new things you can do with it,” Bandfield said. “It’s great that you can still use this tool to collect groundbreaking science.”

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. THEMIS was developed by Arizona State University in Tempe in collaboration with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing. The THEMIS investigation is led by Philip Christensen at Arizona State University. The prime contractor for the Odyssey project, Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, developed and built the orbiter. Mission operations are conducted jointly from Lockheed Martin and from JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rover Getting Set to Motor

Posted on

353d2e0a3d1cfb9a28d5480ee17cd4ef.jpeg
LATEST NEWS
NASA JPL latest news release
Rover Getting Set to Motor Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, integrate the rover motor controller assembly (RMCA) into the Mars 2020 rover’s body. The RMCA is the electrical heart of the rover’s mobility and motion systems, commanding and regulating the movement of the motors in the rover’s wheels, robotic arms, mast, drill and sample-handling functions.

The image was taken on April 29, 2019, in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s High Bay 1 clean room at JPL.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

For more information about the mission, go to https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/.

Manage Your Subscription
This message was sent to from jplnewsroom@jpl.nasa.gov

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Dr
Pasadena, CA 91109

track.php?msgid=274576&act=I3XZ&r=21682411&c=1389932

New Clues About How Ancient Galaxies Lit up the Universe

Posted on Updated on

Calla Cofield
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov 

 

This deep-field view of the sky (center) taken by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes is dominated by galaxies – including some very faint, very distant ones – circled in red. The bottom right inset shows the light collected from one of those galaxies during a long-duration observation.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Spitzer/P. Oesch/S. De Barros/I.Labbe

 

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed that some of the universe’s earliest galaxies were brighter than expected. The excess light is a byproduct of the galaxies releasing incredibly high amounts of ionizing radiation. The finding offers clues to the cause of the Epoch of Reionization, a major cosmic event that transformed the universe from being mostly opaque to the brilliant starscape seen today. 

In a new study (Royal Astronomical Society), researchers report on observations of some of the first galaxies to form in the universe, less than 1 billion years after the big bang (or a little more than 13 billion years ago). The data show that in a few specific wavelengths of infrared light, the galaxies are considerably brighter than scientists anticipated. The study is the first to confirm this phenomenon for a large sampling of galaxies from this period, showing that these were not special cases of excessive brightness, but that even average galaxies present at that time were much brighter in these wavelengths than galaxies we see today. 

Read the rest of this entry »

For InSight, Dust Cleanings Will Yield New Science

Posted on Updated on

Andrew Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

 

This is NASA InSight’s second full selfie on Mars. Since taking its first selfie, the lander has removed its heat probe and seismometer from its deck, placing them on the Martian surface; a thin coating of dust now covers the spacecraft as well.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The same winds that blanket Mars with dust can also blow that dust away. Catastrophic dust storms have the potential to end a mission, as with NASA’s Opportunity rover. But far more often, passing winds cleared off the rover’s solar panels and gave it an energy boost. Those dust clearings allowed Opportunity and its sister rover, Spirit, to survive for years beyond their 90-day expiration dates.

Dust clearings are also expected for Mars’ newest inhabitant, the InSight lander. Because of the spacecraft’s weather sensors, each clearing can provide crucial science data on these events, as well – and the mission already has a glimpse at that. 

Read the rest of this entry »

Now Mars 2020 Can Phone Home

Posted on

353d2e0a3d1cfb9a28d5480ee17cd4ef.jpeg
LATEST NEWS
NASA JPL latest news release
Now Mars 2020 Can Phone Home Mars 2020 engineers and technicians prepare the high-gain antenna for installation on the rover’s equipment deck. The antenna is articulated so it can point directly at Earth to uplink or downlink data.

The image was taken on April 19, 2019, in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility’s High Bay 1 clean room at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, California.

JPL is building and will manage operations of the Mars 2020 rover for the NASA Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

For more information about the mission, go to:

https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Manage Your Subscription
This message was sent to from jplnewsroom@jpl.nasa.gov

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Dr
Pasadena, CA 91109

track.php?msgid=274316&act=I3XZ&r=21682411&c=1389932

NASA’s AIRS Images Cyclone Fani Before Landfall

Posted on

jpeg
LATEST NEWS
NASA JPL latest news release
NASA’s AIRS Images Cyclone Fani Before Landfall This image shows Tropical Cyclone Fani just off the east coast of India in the Bay of Bengal. NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) collected the image at about 1 p.m. PDT (4 p.m. EDT) today, May 2. At the time, the cyclone’s wind speeds were equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (249 kph) and gusts of up to 190 mph (306 kph), according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center. The cyclone is expected to make landfall on Friday, May 3.

AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU), senses emitted infrared and microwave radiation from Earth to provide a 3D look at weather and climate.

The infrared image shows temperatures of the clouds or surface. The large purple area indicates very cold clouds carried high into the atmosphere by deep thunderstorms. Warmer areas, including the eye of the cyclone, are shown in blue. Shallower rain clouds appear green, while the orange areas represent mostly cloud-free air moving away from the storm.

Launched into orbit in 2002, the AIRS and AMSU instruments fly onboard NASA’s Aqua spacecraft and are managed by the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, under contract with NASA. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena.

More information about AIRS can be found at:

https://airs.jpl.nasa.gov

Manage Your Subscription
This message was sent to from jplnewsroom@jpl.nasa.gov

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Dr
Pasadena, CA 91109

track.php?msgid=274306&act=I3XZ&r=21682411&c=1389932

Data with Flippers? Studying the Ocean from a Seal’s POV

Posted on Updated on

jpeg
LATEST NEWS
NASA JPL latest news release
Data with Flippers? Studying the Ocean from a Seal’s POV Scientist Lia Siegelman is using a surprising data source to study the ocean around Antarctica – one that has flippers and bears a passing resemblance to Jabba the Hut.

Siegelman is using data from a single tagged southern elephant seal to study small-scale ocean features in a little-known part of the ocean around Antarctica. She is a visiting research student from the University of Western Brittany in Brest, France, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Weighing as much as a midsize pickup truck, southern elephant seals may look sluggish on land, but in the water they’re endurance athletes. They spend 9-10 months of each year at sea, swimming thousands of miles and continually diving to depths as great as 3,300 feet (1,000 meters). “Even when they sleep, they dive – they float down like a leaf,” Siegelman said. They average about 80 dives a day, spaced less than half a mile apart (700 meters), returning to the surface briefly for air but staying underwater up to two hours at a time.

With all this diving, a tagged elephant seal collects data from the entire top layer of the Southern Ocean. Some seals even forage under Antarctic sea ice, where conventional ocean instruments can’t go. As global warming changes important ocean currents in ways that affect Antarctic melt rates, any additional data from these dangerous, remote seas is likely to be valuable. That’s why Siegelman and her colleagues explore using seal data to better understand the ocean environment.

For more than two decades, scientists have been tagging seals on the Kerguelen Islands, a French territory in the Antarctic, to study the animals’ behavior. In 2014, the researchers began using a new type of sensor that records every dive, providing an oceanographic data set with very high resolution.

The animals are tagged in a French research program called SO-MEMO (Observing System – Mammals as Samplers of the Ocean Environment), operated by the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). The tag – actually, sensors with antennas – are glued to the seals’ heads in accordance with established ethical standards when the animals come ashore either to breed or to molt (shed dead skin). The researchers remove the tags to retrieve their data when the seals return to land. If they miss a tag, it drops off with the dead skin in the next molting season.

Siegelman and her co-authors analyzed a three-month foraging voyage by a female seal, during which the animal logged an impressive 3,520 miles (5,665 kilometers) and dove 6,942 times. Most seals from the Kerguelen Islands forage to the east, but this particular seal made a beeline to the west to an area in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current where there’s a standing meander – a place where the topography of the ocean floor creates a permanent bend in the path of the current.

The seal spent about a third of her entire voyage zigzagging in the meander, providing a wealth of data from a region where few direct oceanographic measurements have been made. The researchers used the data to identify the location of sudden changes in water density called fronts, like the cold and warm fronts in the atmosphere. These oceanic features have a width of only 3-12 miles (5-20 kilometers). The sharp dividing lines between denser and lighter waters pull nutrients up from the depths, fertilizing microscopic ocean plants called phytoplankton. The increased food supply works its way up the food chain into a lavish buffet for elephant seals. The researchers saw the effects of this bounty in the short lunges the seal made during her dives, as if after nearby prey.

“I hope this [result] will encourage physicists and biologists to use those very rich data from seals,” Siegelman said. A paper on the research, titled “Submesoscale ocean fronts act as biological hotspot for southern elephant seal,” was published this month in the journal Scientific Reports. Co-authors are from Caltech in Pasadena, the University of Western Brittany and the University of Western Australia in Crawley.

This message was sent to from jplnewsroom@jpl.nasa.gov

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Dr
Pasadena, CA 91109

track.php?msgid=274285&act=I3XZ&r=21682411&c=1389932

InSight Captures Sunrise and Sunset on Mars

Posted on

jpeg
LATEST NEWS
NASA JPL latest news release
InSight Captures Sunrise and Sunset on Mars NASA’s InSight lander captured a series of sunrise and sunset images.

A camera on the spacecraft’s robotic arm snapped the photos on April 24 and 25, the 145th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. In local Mars time, the shots were taken starting around 5:30 a.m. and then again starting around 6:30 p.m. As a bonus, a camera under the lander’s deck also caught clouds drifting across the Martian sky at sunset.

These images are available as both “raw” and color-corrected versions. It’s easier to see some details in the raw versions, but the latter more accurately show the images as the human eye would see them. Much farther from Mars than it is from Earth, the Sun appears only about two-thirds the size that it does when viewed from Earth.

This is actually the second time InSight has captured these daily events: The camera took practice shots on March 2 and 10. “It’s been a tradition for Mars missions to capture sunrises and sunsets,” said Justin Maki, InSight science team co-investigator and imaging lead at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “With many of our primary imaging tasks complete, we decided to capture the sunrise and sunset as seen from another world.”

The first mission to send back such images was the Viking 1 lander, which captured a sunset on Aug. 21, 1976; Viking 2 captured a sunrise on June 14, 1978. Since then, both sunrises and sunsets have been recorded by the Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, among other missions.

About InSight

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument to NASA, with the principal investigator at IPGP (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). Significant contributions for SEIS came from IPGP; the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany; the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) in Switzerland; Imperial College London and Oxford University in the United Kingdom; and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the temperature and wind sensors.

For more about InSight, visit:

https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

Manage Your Subscription
This message was sent to from jplnewsroom@jpl.nasa.gov

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
4800 Oak Grove Dr
Pasadena, CA 91109

track.php?msgid=274219&act=I3XZ&r=21682411&c=1389932

OCO-3 Ready to Extend NASA’s Study of Carbon

Posted on Updated on

 Written by Jane Platt
 Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California

 

OCO-3 sits on the large vibration table (known as the “shaker”) in the Environmental Test Lab at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

When the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3, OCO-3, heads to the International Space Station, it will bring a new view – literally – to studies of Earth’s carbon cycle.

From its perch on the space station, OCO-3 will observe near-global measurements of carbon dioxide on land and sea, from just after sunrise to just before sunset. That makes it far more versatile and powerful than its predecessior, OCO-2.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Scientists Planning Now for Asteroid Flyby a Decade Away

Posted on Updated on

Dwayne Brown / JoAnna Wendel 
NASA Headquarters, Washington 

DC Agle 
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

This animation shows the distance between the Apophis asteroid and Earth at the time of the asteroid’s closest approach. The blue dots are the many man-made satellites that orbit our planet, and the pink represents the International Space Station.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

 

On April 13, 2029, a speck of light will streak across the sky, getting brighter and faster. At one point it will travel more than the width of the full Moon within a minute and it will get as bright as the stars in the Little Dipper. But it won’t be a satellite or an airplane – it will be a 1,100-foot-wide (340-meter-wide) near-Earth asteroid called 99942 Apophis that will cruise harmlessly by Earth, about 19,000 miles (31,000 kilometers) above the surface. That’s within the distance that some of our spacecraft that orbit Earth.

The international asteroid research community couldn’t be more excited.

 

Read the rest of this entry »