According to NASA, there are more than 21,000 pieces of “space junk roughly the size of a baseball in orbit, and about 500,000 pieces that are golf ball-sized. These pieces can be dangerous, which is why researchers at Texas Advanced Computing Center’s supercomputers are simulating orbital debris impacts on spacecraft and fragment impacts on body armor to help NASA design better shielding.
Using data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, scientists believe they have solved a mystery from one of the solar system’s coldest regions—a permanently shadowed crater on the moon. They have explained how energetic particles penetrating lunar soil can create molecular hydrogen from water ice. The finding provides insight into how radiation can change the chemistry of water ice throughout the solar system.
Nearly 120 scientists and engineers from around the world are meeting in South Dakota this week to discuss operational and technical issues with collecting images from the Landsat 8 satellite. In February, NASA launched the satellite, which takes images of every inch of the Earth’s surface to see what happens over time, and recently handed over operational control of it to the EROS Center.
Space scientists from the Univ. of New Hampshire and the Southwest Research Institute report that data gathered by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter show lighter materials like plastics provide effective shielding against the radiation hazards faced by astronauts during extended space travel. The finding could help reduce health risks to humans on future missions into deep space.
Just about 10 years ago, NASA’s Mars Express launched, setting the stage for a remarkable advance in knowledge of the Red Planet in the past decade. Using high-resolution camera technologies, researchers could for the first time see Mars spatially. Over time, a 3-D image of Mars was built. Researchers at the German Aerospace Center, who have been instrumental in this effort, have taken a look back the impact of this orbiter.
Observations by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity have revealed areas with gravel and pebbles that are characteristic of a former riverbed. Researchers, including members of the Niels Bohr Institute, have analyzed their shapes and sizes and the rounded pebbles clearly show that there has been flowing water on Mars.
One of the densest objects in the universe, a neutron star about 10,000 light years from Earth, has been discovered suddenly putting the brakes on its spinning speed. The event is a mystery that holds important clues for understanding how matter reacts when it is squeezed more tightly than the density of an atomic nucleus—a state that no laboratory on Earth has achieved.
Researchers from Northeastern University are among the many scientists helping NASA use the weightlessness of space to design stronger materials here on Earth. Researchers say by observing the solidification process in a microgravity environment—in this case, the International Space Station—they were able to study how this morphological instability develops in three dimensions to shape the structure of materials on a micron scale.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found the building blocks for Earth-sized planets in an unlikely place—the atmospheres of a pair of burned-out stars called white dwarfs. Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph observed silicon and only low levels of carbon in the white dwarfs' atmospheres. Silicon is a major ingredient of the rocky material that constitutes Earth and other solid planets in our solar system.
A University of Iowa undergraduate student has discovered that a process occurring in Saturn’s magnetosphere is linked to the planet's seasons and changes with them, a finding that helps clarify the length of a Saturn day and could alter our understanding of the Earth’s magnetosphere.
On March 29, 2012, the science team for NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope learned that a defunct Cold-War spy satellite would pass too close for comfort on April 4. The two spacecraft were expected to occupy the same point in space within 30 milliseconds of each other. The story of how it sidestepped a potential disaster offers a glimpse at an underappreciated aspect of managing a space mission.
A NASA-funded sounding rocket mission will launch from an atoll in the Pacific in the next few weeks to help scientists better understand and predict the electrical storms in Earth's upper atmosphere These storms can interfere with satellite communication and global positioning signals.
Human travel to Mars has long been the unachievable dangling carrot for space programs. Now, astronauts could be a step closer to our nearest planetary neighbor through a unique manipulation of nuclear fusion, the same energy that powers the sun and stars. University of Washington researchers and scientists at a Redmond-based space-propulsion company are building components of a fusion-powered rocket aimed to clear many of the hurdles that block deep space travel, including long times in transit, exorbitant costs, and health risks.
A laboratory experiment at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., simulating the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan suggests complex organic chemistry that could eventually lead to the building blocks of life extends lower in the atmosphere than previously thought. The results now point out another region on the moon that could brew up prebiotic materials.
Scheduled for launch in late 2013, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission will carry a sensitive magnetic-field instrument built and tested by a team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Very little magnetic field traces remain on Mars, which is forcing NASA to eliminate all magnetic traces from its spacecraft. The magnetometer may help determine the history of the loss of atmospheric gases to space through time, providing answers about Mars’ climate evolution.
After taking measurements of sudden, drastic changes in radiation levels, researchers have reported that NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, now more than 11 billion miles from the Sun, left the heliosphere dominated by the Sun and has passed outside our solar system. Anomalous cosmic rays, which are cosmic rays trapped in the outer heliosphere, all but vanished, dropping to less than 1% of previous amounts.
NASA's twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) spacecraft went out in a blaze of glory Dec. 17, 2012, when they were intentionally crashed into a mountain near the moon's north pole. GRAIL had company—NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mapping satellite was orbiting the moon as well. With just three weeks notice, the LRO team scrambled to get LRO in the right place at the right time to witness GRAIL's fiery finale
The space terminal for the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD), NASA's first high-data-rate laser communication system, was recently integrated onto the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. LLCD will demonstrate laser communications from lunar orbit to Earth at six times the rate of the best modern-day advanced radio communication systems.
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits our planet every 95 minutes, building up increasingly deeper views of the universe with every circuit. Its wide-eyed Large Area Telescope (LAT) sweeps across the entire sky every three hours, capturing gamma rays from sources across the universe. A Fermi scientist has transformed LAT data of a famous pulsar into a mesmerizing movie that visually encapsulates the spacecraft's complex motion.
An international team including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists has definitively measured the spin rate of a supermassive black hole for the first time. The findings, made by the two X-ray space observatories, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton, solve a long-standing debate about similar measurements in other black holes and will lead to a better understanding of how black holes and galaxies evolve.
An ultraviolet spectrograph designed by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has been selected for flight on the European Space Agency's Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE). NASA is funding development of the instrument, which will observe ultraviolet emissions from the Jovian system.
In a remarkable demonstration of the imaging abilities of the Mars Hand Lens Imager and Mastcam aboard NASA's Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity rover operators recently captured a panoramic self-portrait that includes a sweeping view of the Gale Crater region. Visibly in the photo is Curiosity's recent drilling activities.
Fresh off drilling into a rock for the first time, the Mars rover Curiosity is prepping for the next step—dissecting the pulverized rock to determine what it's made of. NASA said Wednesday it received confirmation that Curiosity successfully collected a tablespoon of powder from the drilling two weeks ago and was poised to transfer a pinch to its onboard laboratories. It's the first time a spacecraft has bored into a rock on Mars to retrieve a sample from the interior.
For the first time, researchers are demonstrating ice crystal icing formation in a full-scale engine test facility at NASA's Glenn Research Center. The tests duplicate the natural event of cloud formation, ingestion by an aircraft engine of ice crystals created by the cloud, and the reduction of engine power that can result. This phenomenon is being studied to gain an understanding of the physics behind ice crystal formation in a turbine engine.
Scientists have found more than 50 tiny fragments of a meteor that exploded over Russia's Ural Mountains with the power of dozens of atomic bombs. Most are less than a centimeter in diameter, but locals saw a big meteorite fall into the lake on Friday, leaving a 6-m-wide hole in the ice. A meteor up to 50-60 cm could eventually be found in the lake.