The Earth’s magnetic field, or magnetosphere, stretches from the planet’s core out into space, where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emitted by the sun. For the most part, the magnetosphere acts as a shield to protect the Earth from this high-energy solar activity. But when this field comes into contact with the sun’s magnetic field, powerful electrical currents from the sun can stream into Earth’s atmosphere.
The U.S. space agency is planning an ambitious robotic mission to Europa, a Jupiter moon where astronomers speculate there might be some form of life. The space agency set aside $15 million in its 2015 budget proposal to start planning some kind of mission to Europa. No details have been decided yet, but NASA chief financial officer Elizabeth Robinson said Tuesday that it would be launched in the mid-2020s.
NASA on Wednesday confirmed a bonanza of 715 newly discovered planets outside our solar system. Scientists using the planet-hunting Kepler telescope pushed the number of planets discovered in the galaxy to about 1,700. Twenty years ago, astronomers had not found any planets circling stars other than the ones revolving around our sun.
A new NASA video shows three days of movement, beginning Feb. 10, of a massive winter storm that stretches from the southern U.S. to the northeast. Compiled using NOAA's GOES satellite imagery, the sequence shows snow cover and cloud movements over a true-color image of land and ocean created by data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard NASA’s Aqua and Terra satellites.
Using images from NASA’s Voyager Mission in the 1970s and the orbital Galileo Mission of 1995, researchers have created the first global geological map of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede. With its varied terrain and possible underground ocean, Ganymede is considered a prime target in the search for habitable environments in the solar system.
EQUiSat, a nanosatellite being built by a team of Brown Univ. students, has been cleared for launch. NASA announced that EQUiSat is among 16 small satellites selected to fly on rockets to be launched over the three-year period beginning in 2015. EQUiSat has not been assigned to a particular rocket, but the announcement assures that the student-led project has a ticket to ride.
For the past eight years, scientists have been puzzled by why some satellite data seemed to show the Amazon rain forest "greening-up" during the region's dry season from June to October. The green-up indicated productive, thriving vegetation in spite of limited rainfall. Now, a new NASA study shows that the appearance of canopy greening is not caused by a biophysical change in Amazon forests, but instead a quirk of satellite imaging.
Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, offers a compelling alternative to more traditional manufacturing approaches at NASA, where the need for highly customized spacecraft and instrument components is quite high. The agency has recently launched a number of formal programs to prototype new 3-D printed components, including rocket engine injectors, and 3-D printers for use in space.
Since the 2003 Columbia shuttle disaster, business professor Peter Madsen at Brigham Young Univ. has examined how NASA recognizes “near-misses”, where narrowly averted failures result in successful outcomes. A new study of NASA’s safety climate finds that recognition of those near-misses goes up when the significance of a project is emphasized, and when organizational leaders emphasize safety relative to other goals, such as efficiency.
When a high-altitude aircraft flew over the icy Arctic Ocean and the snow-covered terrain of Greenland in April 2012, it was the first polar test of a new laser-based technology to measure the height of Earth from space. Aboard that aircraft flew the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar, or MABEL, which can resolve elevation change to as little as the width of a pencil.
An unmanned rocket blasted into a chilly, clear sky Thursday night carrying the latest, third-generation Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS). The TDRS system, used on several satellites to support the International Space Station and Hubble Space Telescope, is so vital it's considered a national asset. Together they supply real-time global coverage at all times.
A decade after landing on Mars, the rover Opportunity is still chugging along. Sure, it has some wear and tear. One of its six wheels and two instruments stopped working long ago. It has an arthritic joint. Its flash memory occasionally suffers a senior moment. But these problems are considered minor for a journey that was supposed to be just a three-month adventure.
The largest object in the asteroid belt just got more attractive: Scientists have confirmed signs of water on the dwarf planet Ceres, one of the few bodies in the solar system to hold that distinction. The observations, published in Thursday's issue of Nature, come as NASA's Dawn spacecraft is set to arrive at the Texas-sized dwarf planet next year.
On Thursday, Jan. 23, Sierra Nevada Corp. will publicly discuss expansion plans for its Dream Chaser Space System Program. The press conference, to be held at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, will detail the company’s efforts to build a winged, lifting-body spacecraft that provides a flexible, credible, affordable solution for ISS crew transportation.
Images released by NASA on Tuesday show galaxies that are 20 times fainter than those pictured before. They are from a new campaign to have the 23-year-old Hubble Space Telescope gaze much earlier and farther away than it was designed to see. The spacecraft is now looking within 500 million years after the Big Bang.
An international team of astronomers, using NASA's Fermi observatory, has made the first-ever gamma ray measurements of a gravitational lens, a kind of natural telescope formed when a rare cosmic alignment allows the gravity of a massive object to bend and amplify light from a more distant source. This accomplishment opens new avenues for research, including a novel way to probe emission regions near supermassive black holes.
The completion of the 30-day Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) mission has helped confirm laser communication capabilities from a distance of almost 250,000 miles. In addition to demonstrating record-breaking data download and upload speeds to the moon at 622 and 20 Mbps, respectively, LLCD also showed that it could operate as well as any NASA radio system.
NASA has ordered up a series of urgent spacewalks to fix a broken cooling line at the International Space Station, a massive repair job that could stretch to Christmas Day. Station managers decided Tuesday to send two American astronauts out as soon as possible to replace a pump with a bad valve. The task will require two and possibly three spacewalks on Saturday, Monday and next Wednesday.
The astronauts aboard the International Space Station dimmed the lights, turned off unnecessary equipment and put off science work Thursday as NASA scrambled to figure out what's wrong with a key cooling unit. One of two identical cooling loops shut down Wednesday when the line got too cold because of a faulty valve. The system uses ammonia to dissipate heat from onboard equipment.
Although researchers have determined the ages of rocks from other planetary bodies, the actual experiments have been done on Earth. Now, for the first time, researchers have successfully determined the age of a Martian rock with experiments performed on Mars. The work could not only help in understanding the geologic history of Mars but also aid in the search for evidence of ancient life on the planet.
In the first 300 days of the Mars Science Laboratory surface mission, the Curiosity rover collected soil samples in Gale Crater while the onboard Radiation Assessment Detector made detailed measurements of the radiation environment on the surface of Mars. Southwest Research Institute scientists have published the results of these studies, comparing them to typically doses received on Earth.
NASA's Curiosity rover has uncovered signs of an ancient freshwater lake on Mars that may have teemed with tiny organisms for tens of millions of years, far longer than scientists had imagined, new research suggests. The watering hole near the Martian equator existed about 3.5 billion years ago. Scientists say it was neither salty nor acidic, and contained nutrients—a perfect spot to support microbes.
The ChemCam laser instrument aboard NASA’s Curiosity rover fired its 100,000th shot recently, chronicling its adventures on Mars with a coffee-table-book’s worth of spectral data that might rival snapshots gathered during a long and satisfying family vacation here on Earth. ChemCam zaps rocks with a high-powered laser to determine their composition and carries a camera that can survey the Martian landscape.
A research team has discovered a natural particle accelerator of interstellar scale. By analyzing data from NASA’s Van Allen probes, physicists have been able to measure and identify the “smoking gun” of a planetary scale process that accelerates particles to speeds close to the speed of light within the Van Allen radiation belt.
Using the powerful eye of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, two teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets. The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.