This could be NASA's most exciting mission--ever. The space agency announced yesterday that they will send a heliocopter to Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Titan is in many ways more like Earth than any other place in the solar system. It has rivers and lakes, a thick atmosphere, and organic compounds that could support the genesis of life. The quad-chopper, named "Dragonfly," will fly between sites on interest, covering more than twice the distance of every Mars rover combined. Get the full story from nasa.gov.
MIT Technology Review; Fri, 21 Jun 2019 18:43 UTC
The Tibetan Plateau is a vast elevated plain almost five kilometers above sea level, sometimes called the Roof of the World. It is bordered to the south by the world's highest mountain range and to the north by desert lands. It is one of the most isolated places on Earth.
But the extreme altitude makes it a useful place for scientists. In 1990, they built an observatory here to study the showers of subatomic particles that rain down from the upper atmosphere whenever it is hit by a high-energy cosmic ray. This work is better done at high altitude because there is less atmosphere to absorb the particles.
Since then, the so-called Tibet Air Shower Array has recorded vast numbers of high-energy cosmic rays, particles accelerated to huge energies by astrophysical phenomena such as supernovas, active galactic nuclei, and mysterious as-yet-unidentified sources.
But the array also picks up air showers caused by a different source - high-energy photons. These mysterious photons are also created by astrophysical phenomena such as the interaction between high-energy particles and the cosmic microwave background. Consequently, they can provide a unique insight into these processes and the environments in which they occur.
Over the years, the Tibet Air Shower Array has spotted plenty of these photons with energies up to dozens of teraelectronvolts (TeV 1012). That's roughly equivalent to the highest-energy photons that can be created on Earth. But nobody has ever observed more powerful photons.
Until now. Today, researchers from the Tibet Air Shower Gamma Collaboration say they have observed photons with energies above 100 TeV for the first time, including a remarkable photon with an energy of almost 500 TeV. This single photon has about the same energy as a falling Ping-Pong ball and is the highest-energy photon ever recorded.
The collaboration has also worked out where these photons are coming from: the Crab Nebula, the remnants of a supernova that occurred in 1054 AD in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way, some 6,500 light-years from Earth.
.... read more at https://www.sott.net/article/415559-Earth-hit-by-highest-energy-photons-ever-recorded-from-the-Crab-Nebula
© REUTERS / Amr Abdallah Dalsh
NASA has clocked up numerous amazing technological feats of engineering and ingenuity for decades, but a recent video from the space agency shows just how much work they have cut out for them.
In just the last few years, NASA has provided some incredible perspectives on our own planet, including stunning images of some of the Earth's most majestic natural phenomena.
Not content with studying our own backyard, the agency has beamed back photos and videos from Mars thanks to its now-deceased rover, not to mention orbiting far-flung asteroids to try and understand the origins of the universe itself.
In an attempt to explain the vastness of their field of study, NASA helpfully put together a short explainer video showcasing the mindblowing scale of the Milky Way galaxy.
Our Milky Way Galaxy: How Big is Space?
Published on Apr 2, 2019
When we talk about the enormity of the cosmos, it’s easy to toss out big numbers – but far more difficult to wrap our minds around just how large, how far, and how numerous celestial bodies really are. How big is our Milky Way Galaxy and how far away are exoplanets, the planets beyond our solar system?
Read more: go.nasa.gov/2FTyhgH
Friday night (April 5th) in Norway, researchers at the Andøya Space Center launched two sounding rockets into a minor geomagnetic storm. The results were out of this world. Aurora tour guide Kim Hartviksen photographed glowing blobs of blue and purple caused by the rockets dumping chemical powders into the storm:
Photo credit: Kim Hartviksen of Aurora Addicts
"Residents for hundreds of miles were taken by surprise by these strange lights, which prompted calls to the police and 'The aliens are coming!' hysteria!" says Chris Nation who runs the Aurora Addicts guiding service.
When the night began, Nation, Hartviksen, and their clients were treated to a display of auroras, ignited by a stream of solar wind buffeting Earth's magnetic field. "As the auroras started to ebb away, our friends at Andøya launched their rockets into the fading lights," says Nation. "The show began anew as the rockets released their payload into the upper atmosphere."
An automated webcam operated by Chad Blakely of Lights over Lapland in Abisko, Sweden, caught the first puffs of powder emerging from the rockets. "It looked like an invasion of UFOs," says Blakley.
"Soon the glowing blobs evolved into more complicated structures--like two giant squid dancing in the northern sky with an impressive aurora display as its backdrop," decribes Blakley. "Our webcam has been taking a picture every five minutes for nearly 10 years. These images are by far the most exciting I've ever seen it record."
The name of the sounding rocket mission is AZURE--short for Auroral Zone Upwelling Rocket Experiment. Its goal is to measure winds and currents in the ionosphere, a electrically-charged layer of the Earth's atmosphere where auroras appear. Specifically, the researchers are interested in discovering how auroral energy might percolate down toward Earth to influence the lower atmosphere.
The twin rockets deployed two chemical tracers: trimethyl aluminum (TMA) and a barium/strontium mixture. These mixtures create colorful clouds that allow researchers to visually track the flow of neutral and charged particles, respectively. According to NASA, which funded the mission, the chemicals pose no hazard to residents in the region.
Update--a movie! "Here is my realtime video of the surprise rocket launch last night from NASA/ASC," reports Ole Salomonsen of Tromsø, Norway. "I was shocked when I saw this in the night sky facing north, I was not aware of the launch.
When a stream of solar wind hits Earth's magnetic field, magnetometers around the Arctic Circle normally go a bit haywire, with their needles swinging chaotically as the buffeting ensues. Rob Stammes of the Polarlightcenter, a magnetic observatory in Norway, sees such disordered behavior all the time. But on Nov. 18th something quite different happened. The solar wind produced a pure sine wave:
"A very stable ~15 second magnetic oscillation appeared in my recordings, and lasted for several hours," he says. "The magnetic field was swinging back and forth by 0.06 degrees, peak to peak."
Imagine blowing across a piece of paper, making it flutter with your breath. The solar wind can have a similar effect Earth's magnetic field. The waves Stammes recorded are essentially flutters propagating down the flanks of our planet's magnetosphere excited by the breath of the sun. Researchers call them "pulsations continuous" -- or "Pc" for short..
"A sensitive magnetometer is required to record these waves," says Stammes. "I use a mechanical magnetometer with bar magnets suspended from a special wire. LEDs and light detectors in an isolated dark box record the motion of the magnets, while vanes in oil damp out non-magnetic interference."
Pc waves are classified into 5 types depending on their period. The Nov. 18th waves fall into category Pc3. Researchers have found that Pc3 waves sometimes flow around Earth's magnetic field and cause a "tearing instability" in our planet's magnetic tail. This, in turn, sets the stage for an explosion as magnetic fields in the tail reconnect.
A quartet of NASA spacecraft recently flew through just such an explosion. Last week, researchers from the University of New Hampshire reported that four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft spent several seconds inside a magnetic reconnection event as they were orbiting through Earth's magnetic tail. Sensors on the spacecraft recorded jets of high energy particles emerging from the blast site. One jet was aimed squarely at Earth and probably sparked auroras when it hit the upper atmosphere.
Stammes has recorded many Pc waves in the past, "but this is the first time I have detected category Pc3," he says. "This was a very rare episode indeed."
Laura Geggel; Live Science; Wed, 07 Nov 2018 09:34 UTC
Astronaut aboard the International Space Station captures image of orange airglow enveloping Earth
An eerie, marmalade-colored light show made Earth look like a gigantic orange lollipop, prompting an astronaut aboard the International Space Station to snap a photo of it on Oct. 7. And yesterday, NASA shared the glorious shot with Earthlings down below.
The enveloping orange hue is known as airglow - a mesmerizing luminescence caused by chemical reactions high in Earth's atmosphere, NASA reported. This ghostly glow usually happens when ultraviolet radiation from sunlight energizes molecules of nitrogen, oxygen, sodium and ozone in the atmosphere. These energized molecules then bump into each other and lose energy as they collide, resulting in a faint but spectacular afterglow, NASA said.
Airglow is best seen at night, as it's 1 billion times fainter than sunlight, NASA said. This particular photo was taken at an altitude of more than 250 miles (about 400 kilometers) above Australia.
The radiating blush, also known as chemiluminescence, is comparable to glowing chemical reactions here on Earth, including those seen in children's toys such as glow sticks and glow-in-the-dark silly putty, NASA added.
But airglow is more than an entrancing light attraction. It can also teach scientists about the workings of the upper atmosphere. For instance, it can shed light on how particles near the interface of Earth and space move, including how space weather and Earth weather are connected, NASA said.
Researchers are already using satellites - such as NASA's Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) - to study this dynamic zone.
Although this airglow emanated orange, the phenomenon isn't always the color of the snack food Doritos. In 2016, a photographer in the Azores islands in the Atlantic Ocean took a photo of a rainbow-colored airglow, according to Space.com, a sister site of Live Science.
The Parker Solar Probe has just radioed NASA with good news. The spacecraft survived its close approach to the sun on Nov. 5th. Because the sun is a giant natural source of broadband radio noise, Parker cannot transmit complicated data streams through the interference. Images and data won't arrive until early December when the probe has reached a sufficient distance from the sun again. For now, mission controllers are happy to have received a simple beacon saying the spacecraft is okay.
First Perihelion: Into the Unknown - Parker Solar Probe
JHU Applied Physics Laboratory
Published on Nov 2, 2018
Earlier this week, Parker screamed around the sun at 213,200 mph only 15 million miles from the stellar surface--shattering old records for both speed and distance. Intense sunlight raised the temperature of the probe's heat shield to about 820 degrees Fahrenheit. All the while, instruments and systems behind the shield kept cool in the mid-80s F.
Mission controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab received the status beacon at 4:46 p.m. EST on Nov. 7, 2018. It indicated, simply, "A" — the best of all four possible status signals, meaning that the probe is operating well with all instruments running and collecting science data and, if there were any minor issues, they were resolved autonomously by the spacecraft. Stay tuned for "first light" science results about one month from now.
NASA's Parker Solar Probe is now closer to the sun than any other spacecraft in history, shattering the previous record of 26.6 million miles set by the Helios 2 spacecraft in 1976. The probe is now well inside the orbit of Mercury."It's a proud moment for our team," says Project Manager Andy Driesman of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.
Count to 3. Parker just broke the record again. The spacecraft is accelerating sunward for the mission's first perihelion on Nov. 5th. At closest approach, the solar disk will seem 6 times wider than it does on Earth as the probe is hit by "brutal heat and radiation" (NASA's words). Parker's carbon-composite heat shield is expected to heat up to a sizzling 2000 deg. F.
Parker's prime mission is to investigate the origin of the solar wind--a project best done uncomfortably close to the star. Parker will trace the solar wind back to its source and find out how it escapes the sun's gravity and magnetic confinement.
Russell Howard of the Naval Research Laboratory expects to learn a lot from this encounter. "We might detect magnetic islands in the solar wind, which have been theoretically predicted. And if a CME (solar explosion) happens or a comet passes through the sun's atmosphere while we are so nearby, it could be spectacular."
Howard is the principal investigator for WISPR, the probe's wide-field camera system. WISPR can actually see the solar wind, allowing it to image clouds and shock waves as they approach and pass the spacecraft. Other sensors on the spacecraft will sample the structures that WISPR sees, making measurements of particles and fields that researchers can use to test competing theories.
"We lose communication with the spacecraft during the perihelion period which begins next week," notes Howard. "This is because there isn't sufficient power to drive both the instruments and the transmitter. The first dump of data will occur in early December." Stay tuned for that.
Parker will plunge toward the sun 24 more times in the next 8 years, breaking many records en route. Here's the timeline.
The sun is entering a deep Solar Minimum, and Earth's upper atmosphere is responding. Data from NASA's TIMED satellite show that the thermosphere (the uppermost layer of air around our planet) is cooling and shrinking, literally decreasing the radius of the atmosphere. If current trends continue, the thermosphere could set a Space Age record for cold in the months ahead: Full story.
RT : 21 Apr 2017
NASA's Cassini spacecraft captured an incredible final image of Earth from 1.4 billion km away during its orbit of Saturn's rings. The space probe was facing Earth's Southern Atlantic Ocean, some 870 million miles (1.4 billion km) away, when the image of earth was captured on April 12, says NASA.
CassiniSaturn ✔ @CassiniSaturn
See that dot between #Saturn's rings? That's us. All of us, in Cassini's last view of Earth,
a billion miles away. https://go.nasa.gov/2o9bZAe :11:18 PM - 20 Apr 2017
In a zoomed-in version of the image, Earth's moon is also clearly visible, seeming to float alongside our bright planet in the dark vastness of space.
CassiniSaturn ✔ @CassiniSaturn
Zoom into Cassini’s last view of Earth and you can also see the moon – a smaller, fainter dot
to the left. https://go.nasa.gov/2o9bZAe :12:31 AM - 21 Apr 2017
The image marks Cassini's last view of Earth as the spacecraft prepares to end its mission by dramatically plunging into Saturn's atmosphere on September 15. The probe's 'Grand Finale' mission begins on Friday when the spacecraft will complete a close flyby of Saturn's moon, Titan - passing a mere 600 miles above its surface - before beginning its final set of 22 orbits between Saturn and its rings.
Cassini, a $3.2 billion mission from NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Italian Space Agency, launched in 1997 and has delivered unprecedented data of Saturn and its moons.
You can see video from the mission here.
In a surprising development, NASA has regained contact with the STEREO-B spacecraft after two years of silence. STEREO-B, which can see the farside of the sun, went quiet in 2014 after mission controllers tested a communications reset procedure. Unfortunately, STEREO-B failed the test. Since then, NASA has regularly attempted to regain contact using the Deep Space Network. On Aug. 21st, they succeeded, managing to receive a downlink carrier for several hours. In the days and weeks ahead, engineers will take steps to assess the health of STEREO-B and return it to service.
NASA is advising the world to pack up and go hiking on the night of August 11-12 to watch a spectacular shooting star show, as the annual Perseid meteor shower is forecast to beat all records this year.
"Forecasters are predicting a Perseid outburst this year with double normal rates on the night of August 11-12," Bill Cooke, from NASA's Meteoroid Environments Office in Huntsville, Alabama, said on Tuesday. Cooke noted that under perfect conditions, we will be treated to up to 200 meteors every hour.
The "outburst" the NASA man is referring to means this year's cosmic dance is set to be far more crowded than usual. The last time the event happened on such a scale was 2009.
The Perseid meteor shower wows spectators with its swift and extremely bright meteors, traveling at a speed of 60km per second. A Perseid meteor is a small piece of debris left in the wake of the ancient Swift-Tuttle comet, which orbits the sun every 133 years. Despite these visits into the inner solar system being so rare, each of them gives off trillions of comet particles. When Earth passes through this trail of debris, the particles enter the planet's atmosphere and break up in bright specs of light.
From down here they seem to fly from the direction of the Perseus constellation, leading to the meteors being given the name "Perseids."
"Here's something to think about: The meteors you'll see this year are from comet flybys that occurred hundreds if not thousands of years ago. And they've traveled billions of miles before their kamikaze run into Earth's atmosphere," Cooke says.
Earth flies through the trail of these comet particles every August, usually grazing the edge of the debris stream. But its trajectory shifts somewhat every now and then thanks to Jupiter's gravity pull, and according to NASA experts this year our planet may be getting a seat in the front row, flying closer to the middle, where there are more particles. In fact, they claim that three or more debris trails will cross paths with Earth in but a few days.
According to NASA, the best opportunity to watch the Perseids will be between midnight and dawn on the morning of August 12. If you're not all that into getting out in the fresh air, the agency has also promised a live broadcast of the shooting star display on its Ustream channel starting at 2am GMT.
The Perseids are no danger to Earth, as even the largest ones mostly burn up in its atmosphere some 80km above the planet's surface. But the outburst could still land spacecraft in a spot of trouble: the bigger particles are capable of causing minor damage to the hulls of rockets and satellites.
Let's hope for the best though, and get the binoculars ready.
There's a new room on the International Space Station. NASA inflated it Saturday. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) was filled with air by astronaut Jeff Williams as the ISS flew over the south Pacific, kicking off an experiment to learn how inflatable habitats perform in a microgravity environment. "I think I am the first amateur astronomer to photograph BEAM from Earth," says Philip Smith, who sends these before-and-after images from Manorville, New York:
"Using a backyard telescope, I tracked the ISS as it passed overhead on May 26th (before inflation) and May 28th (after)," says Smith. "The new addition was clearly visible in my images."
"The Bigelow Aerospace-built BEAM is a prototype space habitat for future space stations, moon colonies and moon bases," he adds. "I am glad to be a small part of that history."
BEAM will remain attached to station for a two-year test period. Astronauts will not occupy the new room, but they will enter from time to time and monitor its performance. For more information about BEAM, visit: www.nasa.gov/beam. www.spaceweather.com
Published on May 12, 2016
Like sending sensors up into a hurricane, NASA has flown four spacecraft through an invisible maelstrom in space, called magnetic reconnection. Magnetic reconnection is one of the prime drivers of space radiation and so it is a key factor in the quest to learn more about our space environment and protect our spacecraft and astronauts as we explore farther and farther from Earth.
MMS is made of four identical spacecraft that launched in March 2015. They fly in a pyramid formation to create a full 3-dimensional map of any phenomena it observes. On October 16, 2015, the spacecraft traveled straight through a magnetic reconnection event at the boundary where Earth’s magnetic field bumps up against the sun’s magnetic field.
This short video outlines the MMS mission and its first results. Since it launched, MMS has made more than 4,000 trips through the magnetic boundaries around Earth, each time gathering information about the way the magnetic fields and particles move. A surprising result was that at the moment of interconnection between the sun’s magnetic field lines and those of Earth the crescents turned abruptly so that the electrons flowed along the field lines. By watching these electron tracers, MMS made the first observation of the predicted breaking and interconnection of magnetic fields in space.
Credit: NASA/GSFC/Genna Duberstein
If you like this video, subscribe to the NASA Goddard YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/NASAExplorer
This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/deta...
NASA Goddard: Published on Apr 26, 2016
From a quarter to half of Earth’s vegetated lands has shown significant greening over the last 35 years largely due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change on April 25. The greening represents an increase in leaves on plants and trees equivalent in area to two times the continental United States.
Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Kayvon Sharghi
This video is public domain and may be downloaded at:
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