Thursday, December 29, 2011

Science Nugget: Using Many Instruments to Track a Comet

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In 16 years of data observations, the Solar Heliophysics Observatory (SOHO) -- a joint European Space Agency and NASA mission –- made an unexpected claim for fame: the sighting of new comets at an alarming rate. SOHO has spotted over 2100 comets, most of which are from what's known as the Kreutz family, which graze the solar atmosphere where they usually evaporate completely.

But on December 2, 2011, the discovery of a new Kreutz-family comet was announced. This comet was found the old-fashioned way: from the ground. Australian astronomer Terry Lovejoy spotted the comet, making this the first time a Kreutz comet has been found through a ground-based telescope since the 1970's. The comet has been designated C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy).

Discovering a comet before it moves into view of space-based telescopes, gives scientists the opportunity to prepare the telescopes for the best possible observations. Indeed, since comet Lovejoy was visible from the ground, scientists have high hopes that this might be an exceptionally bright comet, making it all the easier to view and study. (Some Kreutz comets –- such as Ikeya-Seki in 1965 -- are so bright they can be seen with the naked eye in the daytime, though this is extremely rare.)

The comet moved into view of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) on Monday, December 12. It should be visible in SOHO by Wednesday, Dec 14.

Next up is Hinode, which will make observations at about 6 p.m. ET on Dec 15, as the comet moves towards its closest approach to the sun. Hinode's solar optical telescope will take the highest resolution images of this close approach. As the comet passes through the sun's atmosphere, the corona, an increase in particle collisions may produce X-rays, so Hinode may also capture X-ray images of the comet.

The comet will likely pass within some 87,000 miles of the sun, and disappear behind the northwest limb of the sun shortly after it is seen by Hinode.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/track-comet.html

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Evening dresses with strap, so sexy!

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Evening dresses were mostly intended to be worn out in this case as a law, do not happen tonight. Women prove their astonishing in the evening, and so they should have amazing eye catching and stylish rudiments. Dress for the twilight is actually immense, almost for every woman, and gives a huge sense of delight. Thus, the growth of evening dresses fashions is always varying. Prom Night or New Year's evening gown fashionable is very accepted.


The present trend will carry on until mid-length dresses that can be used to walk at night or even one that may be Jazzed night really rocking. There is no shortage of different types of evening gowns and designer clothes in provisions nowadays. Each evening gown design was created by considerate training, you must be able to decide the most excellent clothing intended to compliment the ideal way.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

JEFF ADAMS - ADVANTAGES OF REAL ESTATE INVESTING

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•    Every investment has advantage and disadvantages. In the case of land, it responds slower than stock markets.

•    There are options to influence. The best thing about real estate investing according to Jeff Adams is that there are many options that are available to real estate investor allowing them to borrow money whenever they want to purchase new property. It is beneficial to investors who don’t have upfront cash. This kind of options are not available in the case of shares in which the trade permitted is limited, while in property investments, you don’t need to stick to any restrictions.

•    Investors can also purchase properties that are below market value such as foreclosed properties that are intense in the real estate market today. They are sold at very cheap prices and you can choose from a group of properties in order for you to find the most cost-effective property that can bring you profits in the future.
•    Numerous bonuses are offered to real estate investors such as tax benefits. In addition to this, investors can go well with the reduction choice. Investors are given support by the government to permit their property to have a useful life.

•    Real estate investors are given power to quote price for their property. This is another benefit of real estate investing over stock investments. Real estate investors can add value to the property by making adding enrichments such as renovating the property by constructing swimming pool, garage and extra rooms. By doing this, the property is added with considerable value and investors are given full control in quoting the price of the property.

These are the important tips newbie investors must learn before they get into the real estate market. Jeff Adams scam may sound daunting to most people, but there is no evidence that Jeff Adams would only want money from you. In fact, these tips are intended to help you make money in your investing career.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Shuttle Model Move Shows Way for Atlantis

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Moving the high fidelity model of the space shuttle Dec. 10 called for an array of planning, about 100 people and a specialized trailer. It also called for the temporary removal of 18 light poles, four traffic signals and some signs.

It took the team about five hours to make the six-mile trip from the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex to the Turn Basin across the street from the Vehicle Assembly Building. The group started rolling at 7:30 a.m. so they wouldn't have to worry about the dark.

"It went very well," said Gerald "Jay" Green, project manager for the move. "I felt a great sense of accomplishment when we got it done."

A similar move will be made next year when space shuttle Atlantis is taken the opposite direction to its display location at the Visitor Complex.

The model's convoy never traveled more than about 6 mph. It came to a stop many times along the way so the trailer's built-in jacks could raise or lower the wings to get past obstacles such as guard shacks and traffic lights.

"There were four or five really hard spots," Green said.

But then, moving space shuttles and full-scale model shuttles has always required extra consideration. For instance, crews moving a space shuttle through the mountains in California had to cut slots in the rock to make room for the wings.

Moving the model didn't require such an extreme action, but it took a month of planning and considerable study of potential routes. Even 3-D modeling was incorporated to find problem zones. All this was before Green and his group found out they would have to move it with the wings attached.

The first plans called for the model's wings to be cut off, but that decision was changed, forcing Green to model for a wingspan of 78 feet, not just the relatively narrow fuselage.

"We had to redo the plan in about a week," Green said. "We knew we would eventually have to take Atlantis, so we had to figure out what would make it work."

Some of the workers were on hand in case more signs or other hardware had to be removed as the model made its way.

Beyel Bros., a heavy lifting and hauling contractor, used a specialized trailer that had lifts built in, along with 144 wheels that could turn and swivel so the trailer could move nearly sideways if needed.

The tightest fit came when the wings crossed within six inches of a railroad crossing sign.

The shuttle model took a different route through the center, including going the "wrong way" on an entrance ramp to avoid going beneath the bridge over Kennedy Parkway. With tour buses and other traffic detoured to the other side of the parkway, the model moved north on the southbound side.

The model is expected to remain at the Turn Basin until February, when it will be taken on an open barge to Texas for display at Space Center Houston, the visitor center for NASA's Johnson Space Center.

The model, which weighs some 130,000 pounds, about the same as a real shuttle, is outfitted with doors and people toured the inside of it for years at the Visitor Complex.

"You can go in it, which I think is a great thing," Green said. "It's going somewhere where it's going to be used and enjoyed."

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/centers/kennedy/news/explorermove.html

Monday, December 12, 2011

NASA Flies Robotic Lander Prototype to New Heights

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NASA successfully completed the final flight in a series of tests of a new robotic lander prototype at the Redstone Test Center’s propulsion test facility on the U.S. Army Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. Data from this test series will aid in the design and development of a new generation of small, smart, versatile robotic landers capable of performing science and exploration research on the surface of the moon or other airless bodies in the solar system, such as asteroids or the planet Mercury.

Since early October, the Robotic Lander Development Project at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville has subjected the lander prototype to a series of more complex outdoor flight tests maneuvers. The team steadily increased the lander's flight profile, starting by hovering the lander – dubbed Mighty Eagle -- at 3 feet, then 30 feet and finally a record 100-foot flight test.

During the 100-foot flight test, the lander autonomously flew for 30 seconds. The Mighty Eagle ascended to 100 feet, hovered and then demonstrated the equivalent of an autonomous landing on the lunar surface. The final maneuver simulated the required descent approach by horizontally translating 30 feet while descending and landing on target. The test demonstrated the lander's ability to maneuver to avoid hazards before performing a safe, controlled landing.

"The successful completion of the Mighty Eagle lander prototype provides a high level of confidence in our flight system design which significantly reduces cost and schedule," said Julie Bassler, Robotic Lander Development project manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. "Our combined NASA and contractor team went from the drawing board to successfully flight testing an autonomous, closed-loop, lander prototype system in less than two years," she said. "Mighty Eagle has performed well, demonstrating precision ascents, descents and horizontal translation flights to prove the lander can control itself and land safely."

"Our small team has worked tirelessly to develop a robust lander system," said Dr. Greg Chavers, lead systems engineer for the Robotic Lander Development Project at Marshall. "The prototype lander has the capability to launch, descend and land safely on its own -- without a man in the loop -- demonstrating the lander's autonomous and reusable test capability. Our team has matured the lander's guidance, navigation and control algorithms, which provided stable control of the lander, even through light wind and rain."

Mighty Eagle is a three-legged prototype that resembles an actual flight lander design. It is 4 feet tall and 8 feet in diameter and weighs 700 pounds when fueled with 90 percent hydrogen peroxide.

The lander receives its commands from an onboard computer that activates its 16 onboard thrusters -- 15 pulsed and one gravity cancelling thruster -- to carry it to a controlled landing using a pre-programmed flight profile. The prototype serves as a platform to develop and test algorithms, sensors, avionics, software, landing legs, and integrated system elements to support autonomous landings on airless planetary bodies, where aero-braking and parachutes are not options.

The next test phase of the test series is set to resume in early Spring when weather is more favorable for outdoor flight test. This new test series will test enhanced navigation capabilities.

Development and integration of the lander prototype is a cooperative endeavor led by the Robotic Lunar Lander Development Project at the Marshall Center; Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory; and the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation, which includes the Science Applications International Corporation, Dynetics Corp., Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc., and Millennium Engineering and Integration Company, all of Huntsville.

The project is partnered with the U.S. Army’s Test and Evaluation Command’s test center located at Redstone Arsenal. The Redstone Test Center is one of six centers under the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and has been a leading test facility for defense systems since the 1950s. Utilizing an historic test site at the arsenal, the project is leveraging the Redstone Test Center’s advanced capability for propulsion testing.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/lunarquest/robotic/11-146.html

Saturday, December 10, 2011

NASA's Hubble Finds Stellar Life and Death in a Globular Cluster

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A new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image shows globular cluster NGC 1846, a spherical collection of hundreds of thousands of stars in the outer halo of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring dwarf galaxy of the Milky Way that can be seen from the southern hemisphere.

Aging bright stars in the cluster glow in intense shades of red and blue. The majority of middle-aged stars, several billions of years old, are whitish in color. A myriad of far distant background galaxies of varying shapes and structure are scattered around the image.

The most intriguing object, however, doesn’t seem to belong in the cluster. It is a faint green bubble near the bottom center of the image. This so-called ‘planetary nebula’ is the aftermath of the death of a star. The burned-out central star can be seen inside the bubble. It is uncertain whether the planetary nebula is a member of NGC 1846, or simply lies along the line of sight to the cluster. Measurements of the motion of the cluster stars and the planetary nebula’s central star suggest it might be a cluster member.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/life-death.html

Friday, December 9, 2011

Save your time and money by booking your ticket in online

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People who ready to go for journey will give most preference to travel in bus and nowadays, they also started booking a ticket through online and cyberspace for saving their time and money. Booking a ticket through online or cyberspace will take more than a few seconds. In this fast moving world, online booking is good technique which will be like by every passenger. Online bus tickets can be booked through the internet and you can do at any time of day. The website is open for maximum hours and you can be sure that you do when you have time. 

 Every deluxe bus services like BUS NY TO DC provides this online booking for passenger convenient. Most people prefer to travel in bus since it is really affordable. For booking ticket all you need is an internet connection and credit cards and you can also easily book your ticket from your home.  Purchase your online ticket in advance and also makes sure that you get the best seat in the bus, to grab a comfortable seat in the bus and have a great time with your family.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lightning-made Waves in Earth's Atmosphere Leak Into Space

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At any given moment about 2,000 thunderstorms roll over Earth, producing some 50 flashes of lightning every second. Each lightning burst creates electromagnetic waves that begin to circle around Earth captured between Earth's surface and a boundary about 60 miles up. Some of the waves – if they have just the right wavelength – combine, increasing in strength, to create a repeating atmospheric heartbeat known as Schumann resonance. This resonance provides a useful tool to analyze Earth's weather, its electric environment, and to even help determine what types of atoms and molecules exist in Earth's atmosphere, but until now they have only ever been observed from below.

Now, NASA's Vector Electric Field Instrument (VEFI) aboard the U.S. Air Force's Communications/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite has detected Schumann resonance from space. This comes as a surprise, since current models of Schumann resonance predict these waves should be caged at lower altitude, between the ground and a layer of Earth's atmosphere called the ionosphere.

"Researchers didn't expect to observe these resonances in space," says Fernando Simoes, a scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "But it turns out that energy is leaking out and this opens up many other possibilities to study our planet from above."

Simoes is the first author on a paper about these observations that appeared online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters on November 16 and will appear in the print publication in December. He explains that the concept of resonance in general is fairly simple: adding energy at the right time will help any given phenomenon grow. Think of a swing – if you push it back just as it hits the top of its arc, you add speed. Push it backwards in the middle of its swing, and you will slow it down. When it comes to waves, resonance doesn't occur because of a swing-like push, but because a series of overlapping waves are synchronized such that the crests line up with the other crests and the troughs line up with the other troughs. This naturally leads to a much larger wave than one where the crests and troughs cancel each other out.

The waves created by lightning do not look like the up and down waves of the ocean, but they still oscillate with regions of greater energy and lesser energy. These waves remain trapped inside an atmospheric ceiling created by the lower edge of the "ionosphere" – a part of the atmosphere filled with charged particles, which begins about 60 miles up into the sky. In this case, the sweet spot for resonance requires the wave to be as long (or twice, three times as long, etc) as the circumference of Earth. This is an extremely low frequency wave that can be as low as 8 Hertz (Hz) – some one hundred thousand times lower than the lowest frequency radio waves used to send signals to your AM/FM radio. As this wave flows around Earth, it hits itself again at the perfect spot such that the crests and troughs are aligned. Voila, waves acting in resonance with each other to pump up the original signal.

While they'd been predicted in 1952, Schumann resonances were first measured reliably in the early 1960s. Since then, scientists have discovered that variations in the resonances correspond to changes in the seasons, solar activity, activity in Earth's magnetic environment, in water aerosols in the atmosphere, and other Earth-bound phenomena.

"There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of studies on this phenomenon and how it holds clues to understanding Earth's atmosphere," says Goddard scientist Rob Pfaff, Principal Investigator of the VEFI instrument and an author on the GRL paper. "But they're all based on ground measurements."

C/NOFS, of course, measured them much higher – at altitudes of 250 to 500 miles. While models suggest that the resonances should be trapped under the ionosphere, it is not unheard of that energy can leak through. So the team began looking for waves of the correct, very low frequency in the observations from VEFI – an instrument built at NASA Goddard with high enough sensitivity to spot these very faint waves. And the team was rewarded. They found the resonance showing up in almost every orbit C/NOFS made around Earth, which added up to some 10,000 examples.

Detection of these Schumann resonances in space requires, at the very least, an adjustment of the basic models to incorporate a "leaky" boundary at the bottom of the ionosphere. But detecting Schumann resonance from above also provides a tool to better understand the Earth-ionosphere cavity that surrounds Earth, says Simoes.

"Combined with ground measurements, it provides us with a better way to study lightning, thunderstorms, and the lower atmosphere," he says. "The next step is to figure out how best to use that tool from this new vantage point."

For more information http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/lightning-waves.html

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

NASA's TRMM Satellite Sees Deadly Tornadic Thunderstorms in Southeastern U.S.

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Tornadoes are expected to accompany severe storms in the springtime in the U.S., but this time of year they also usually happen. When a line of severe thunderstorms associated with a cold front swept through the U.S. southeast on Nov. 16, TRMM collected rainfall data on the dangerous storms from space.

NASA's Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite flew over the southeastern United States on November 16, 2011 at 2310 UTC (6:10 p.m. EST) when tornadoes were occurring with a line of thunderstorms that stretched from western Florida north through North Carolina. At least six deaths were caused by one of these tornadoes that destroyed three homes near Rock Hill, South Carolina.

Typically in the fall, the transition from warm air to cooler air occurs as Canadian cold air moves down into the U.S. The combination of a strong cold front with warm, moist air in its path enables the creation of strong to severe storms at this time of year.

TRMM data was used to create a rainfall analysis of the line of severe thunderstorms associated with the cold front. The analysis showed that the area of moderate to very heavy rainfall (falling at more than 2 inches or 50 mm per hour) with this frontal system was only located in a narrow line. In addition to heavy rain and some tornadoes, the strong cold front brought winds gusting over 30 mph, and a temperature drop of as much as 20 degrees as the front passed.

TRMM rainfall imagery is created at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. To create the images, rain rates in the center swaths are taken from the TRMM Precipitation Radar (PR), a unique space-borne precipitation radar, while rain rates in the outer swath are from the TRMM Microwave Imager (TMI). The rain rates are overlaid on infrared (IR) data from the TRMM Visible Infrared Scanner (VIRS) to form a complete picture of the rainfall in a storm or storm system like this one.

Data captured at the same time with TRMM's Precipitation Radar (PR) were used to create a three dimensional look at the line of severe storms. That 3-D image shows the vertical structure or height of the thunderstorms. The higher the cloud tops go, the stronger the storm. Strong updrafts had pushed precipitation within some of these storms to heights of 9.3 miles (15 kilometers).

According to USA Today tornadoes were reported in four states from that line of thunderstorms. Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina all had reported tornadoes, and dozens of buildings and homes were damaged. The line of severe weather also took down trees and power lines leaving many without electricity.

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission is a joint mission between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) designed to monitor and study tropical rainfall.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/Tornadic-Storms.html

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ESA To Collaborate with NASA on Solar Science Mission

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Solar Orbiter will venture closer to the Sun than any previous mission. The spacecraft will also carry advanced instrumentation that will help untangle how activity on the sun sends out radiation, particles and magnetic fields that can affect Earth's magnetic environment, causing aurora, or potentially damaging satellites, interfering with GPS communications or even Earth's electrical power grids.

"Solar Orbiter will use multiple gravity assists from Venus to tilt its orbit until it can see the poles of the Sun, and that's never been done before," said Chris St. Cyr, NASA's project scientist for Solar Orbiter at Goddard. "A full view of the solar poles will help us understand how the sun's magnetic poles reverse direction every 11 years, causing giant eruptions and flares, called space weather, that can affect the rest of the solar system."

Being so close to the sun also means that the Solar Orbiter will stay over a given area of the solar surface for a longer time, allowing the instruments to track the evolution of sunspots, active regions, coronal holes and other solar activity far longer than has been done before.

Solar Orbiter is also designed to make major breakthroughs in our understanding of how the sun generates and propels the flow of particles in which the planets are bathed, known as the solar wind. Solar activity and solar eruptions create strong perturbations in this wind, triggering spectacular auroral displays on Earth and other planets. Solar Orbiter will be close enough to the sun to both observe the details of how the solar wind is accelerated off the sun and to sample the wind shortly after it leaves the surface.

The mission's launch is planned for 2017 from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard a NASA-provided launch vehicle. Solar Orbiter will be placed into an elliptical orbit around the sun. Its closest approach will be near the orbit of Mercury, 75% of the distance between Earth and the sun – some 21,000,000 miles away from the sun's surface.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/ESA-SolarOrbiter.html

Friday, November 18, 2011

NASA's Hubble Confirms That Galaxies Are the Ultimate Recyclers

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New observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are expanding astronomers' understanding of the ways in which galaxies continuously recycle immense volumes of hydrogen gas and heavy elements. This process allows galaxies to build successive generations of stars stretching over billions of years.

This ongoing recycling keeps some galaxies from emptying their "fuel tanks" and stretches their star-forming epoch to over 10 billion years.

This conclusion is based on a series of Hubble Space Telescope observations that flexed the special capabilities of its Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) to detect gas in the halo of our Milky Way and more than 40 other galaxies. Data from large ground-based telescopes in Hawaii, Arizona and Chile also contributed to the studies by measuring the properties of the galaxies.

Astronomers believe that the color and shape of a galaxy is largely controlled by gas flowing through an extended halo around it. The three studies investigated different aspects of the gas-recycling phenomenon.

The results are being published in three papers in the November 18 issue of Science magazine. The leaders of the three studies are Nicolas Lehner of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.; Jason Tumlinson of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.; and Todd Tripp of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The COS observations of distant stars demonstrate that a large mass of clouds is falling through the giant halo of our Milky Way, fueling its ongoing star formation. These clouds of hot hydrogen reside within 20,000 light-years of the Milky Way disk and contain enough material to make 100 million suns. Some of this gas is recycled material that is continually being replenished by star formation and the explosive energy of novae and supernovae, which kicks chemically enriched gas back into the halo.

The COS observations also show halos of hot gas surrounding vigorous star-forming galaxies. These halos, rich in heavy elements, extend as much as 450,000 light-years beyond the visible portions of their galactic disks. The amount of heavy-element mass discovered far outside a galaxy came as a surprise. COS measured 10 million solar masses of oxygen in a galaxy's halo, which corresponds to about one billion solar masses of gas -- as much as in the entire space between stars in a galaxy’s disk.

Researchers also found that this gas is nearly absent from galaxies that have stopped forming stars. In these galaxies, the “recycling” process ignites a rapid firestorm of star birth which can blow away the remaining fuel, essentially turning off further star-birth activity.

This is evidence that gas pushed out of a galaxy, rather than pulled in from intergalactic space, determine a galaxy's fate."

The Hubble observations demonstrate that those galaxies forming stars at a very rapid rate, perhaps a hundred solar masses per year, can drive two-million-degree gas very far out into intergalactic space at speeds of up to two million miles per hour. That's fast enough for the gas to escape forever and never refuel the parent galaxy.

While hot gas "winds" from galaxies have been known for some time, the new COS observations reveal that hot outflows extend to much greater distances than previously thought and can carry a tremendous amount of mass out of a galaxy. Some of the hot gas is moving more slowly and could eventually be recycled. The observations show how gas-rich star-forming spiral galaxies can evolve to elliptical galaxies that no longer have star formation.

The light emitted by this hot plasma is invisible, so the researchers used COS to detect the presence of the gas by the way it absorbs certain colors of light from background quasars. Quasars are the brightest objects in the universe and are the brilliant cores of active galaxies that contain active central black holes. The quasars serve as distant lighthouse beacons that shine through the gas-rich "fog" of hot plasma encircling galaxies. At ultraviolet wavelengths, COS is sensitive to the presence of heavy elements, such as nitrogen, oxygen, and neon. COS's high sensitivity allows many galaxies to be studied that happen to lie in front of the much more distant quasars. The ionized heavy elements are markers for estimating how much mass is in a galaxy's halo.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/recyclers.html

Idressonline conducting Thanksgiving Sale with special offers

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Idressonline is an online store which is going to conduct Thanksgiving sale on Black Friday Promotion with exclusive offers.

This promotion will starts at 10.00p.m on Thursday, Nov-24 to 26 midnight. In this restricted sale, idressonline delivers you new fashionable and elegant evening dresses, cocktail dresses, prom dresses, homecoming dresses in distinctive styles and in exciting colors that will help you to grab everyone’s attention. Make use of this precious opportunity to grab all your desire dresses at reduced prices in idressonline.com.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

NASA Develops Super-Black Material That Absorbs Light Across Multiple Wavelength Bands

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NASA engineers have produced a material that absorbs on average more than 99 percent of the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared light that hits it -- a development that promises to open new frontiers in space technology.

The team of engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., reported their findings recently at the SPIE Optics and Photonics conference, the largest interdisciplinary technical meeting in this discipline. The team has since reconfirmed the material's absorption capabilities in additional testing, said John Hagopian, who is leading the effort involving 10 Goddard technologists.

"The reflectance tests showed that our team had extended by 50 times the range of the material’s absorption capabilities. Though other researchers are reporting near-perfect absorption levels mainly in the ultraviolet and visible, our material is darn near perfect across multiple wavelength bands, from the ultraviolet to the far infrared," Hagopian said. "No one else has achieved this milestone yet."



The nanotech-based coating is a thin layer of multi-walled carbon nanotubes, tiny hollow tubes made of pure carbon about 10,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. They are positioned vertically on various substrate materials much like a shag rug. The team has grown the nanotubes on silicon, silicon nitride, titanium, and stainless steel, materials commonly used in space-based scientific instruments. (To grow carbon nanotubes, Goddard technologist Stephanie Getty applies a catalyst layer of iron to an underlayer on silicon, titanium, and other materials. She then heats the material in an oven to about 1,382 degrees Fahrenheit. While heating, the material is bathed in carbon-containing feedstock gas.)

The tests indicate that the nanotube material is especially useful for a variety of spaceflight applications where observing in multiple wavelength bands is important to scientific discovery. One such application is stray-light suppression. The tiny gaps between the tubes collect and trap background light to prevent it from reflecting off surfaces and interfering with the light that scientists actually want to measure. Because only a small fraction of light reflects off the coating, the human eye and sensitive detectors see the material as black.

In particular, the team found that the material absorbs 99.5 percent of the light in the ultraviolet and visible, dipping to 98 percent in the longer or far-infrared bands. "The advantage over other materials is that our material is from 10 to 100 times more absorbent, depending on the specific wavelength band," Hagopian said.

"We were a little surprised by the results," said Goddard engineer Manuel Quijada, who co-authored the SPIE paper and carried out the reflectance tests. "We knew it was absorbent. We just didn't think it would be this absorbent from the ultraviolet to the far infrared."


If used in detectors and other instrument components, the technology would allow scientists to gather hard-to-obtain measurements of objects so distant in the universe that astronomers no longer can see them in visible light or those in high-contrast areas, including planets in orbit around other stars, Hagopian said. Earth scientists studying the oceans and atmosphere also would benefit. More than 90 percent of the light Earth-monitoring instruments gather comes from the atmosphere, overwhelming the faint signal they are trying to retrieve.

Currently, instrument developers apply black paint to baffles and other components to help prevent stray light from ricocheting off surfaces. However, black paints absorb only 90 percent of the light that strikes it. The effect of multiple bounces makes the coating’s overall advantage even larger, potentially resulting in hundreds of times less stray light.

In addition, black paints do not remain black when exposed to cryogenic temperatures. They take on a shiny, slightly silver quality, said Goddard scientist Ed Wollack, who is evaluating the carbon-nanotube material for use as a calibrator on far-infrared-sensing instruments that must operate in super-cold conditions to gather faint far-infrared signals emanating from objects in the very distant universe. If these instruments are not cold, thermal heat generated by the instrument and observatory, will swamp the faint infrared they are designed to collect.

Black materials also serve another important function on spacecraft instruments, particularly infrared-sensing instruments, added Goddard engineer Jim Tuttle. The blacker the material, the more heat it radiates away. In other words, super-black materials, like the carbon nanotube coating, can be used on devices that remove heat from instruments and radiate it away to deep space. This cools the instruments to lower temperatures, where they are more sensitive to faint signals.

To prevent the black paints from losing their absorption and radiative properties at long wavelengths, instrument developers currently use epoxies loaded with conductive metals to create a black coating. However, the mixture adds weight, always a concern for instrument developers. With the carbon-nanotube coating, however, the material is less dense and remains black without additives, and therefore is effective at absorbing light and removing heat. "This is a very promising material," Wollack said. "It's robust, lightweight, and extremely black. It is better than black paint by a long shot."

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For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/super-black-material.html

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Herschel Finds Oceans of Water in Disk of Nearby Star

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Using data from the Herschel Space Observatory, astronomers have detected for the first time cold water vapor enveloping a dusty disk around a young star. The findings suggest that this disk, which is poised to develop into a solar system, contains great quantities of water, suggesting that water-covered planets like Earth may be common in the universe. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions.

Scientists previously found warm water vapor in planet-forming disks close to a central star. Evidence for vast quantities of water extending out into the cooler, far reaches of disks where comets take shape had not been seen until now. The more water available in disks for icy comets to form, the greater the chances that large amounts eventually will reach new planets through impacts.

"Our observations of this cold vapor indicate enough water exists in the disk to fill thousands of Earth oceans," said astronomer Michiel Hogerheijde of Leiden Observatory in The Netherlands. Hogerheijde is the lead author of a paper describing these findings in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal Science.

The star with this waterlogged disk, called TW Hydrae, is 10 million years old and located about 175 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Hydra. The frigid, watery haze detected by Hogerheijde and his team is thought to originate from ice-coated grains of dust near the disk's surface. Ultraviolet light from the star causes some water molecules to break free of this ice, creating a thin layer of gas with a light signature detected by Herschel's Heterodyne Instrument for the Far-Infrared, or HIFI.

"These are the most sensitive HIFI observations to date," said Paul Goldsmith, NASA project scientist for the Herschel Space Observatory at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It is a testament to the instrument builders that such weak signals can be detected."
TW Hydrae is an orange dwarf star, somewhat smaller and cooler than our yellow-white sun. The giant disk of material that encircles the star has a size nearly 200 times the distance between Earth and the sun. Over the next few million years, astronomers believe matter within the disk will collide and grow into planets, asteroids and other cosmic bodies. Dust and ice particles will assemble as comets.

As the new solar system evolves, icy comets are likely to deposit much of the water they contain on freshly created worlds through impacts, giving rise to oceans. Astronomers believe TW Hydrae and its icy disk may be representative of many other young star systems, providing new insights on how planets with abundant water could form throughout the universe.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/herschel/news/herschel20111020.html

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Day for Recharging: Green Flight Challenge Competition, Day Three

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At the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, the competing electric aircraft are completing battery recharging today in preparation for their speed challenge tomorrow. Many of the team members are away from the CAFE campus, doing some sightseeing and catching up on other business. Everything is much more relaxed today here in Santa Rosa, Calif., at the site of this NASA Centennial Challenges event.

CAFE has more than 80 volunteers helping out with the competition. They can be seen around the campus, wearing Green Flight Challenge shirts. They've been quite the local heroes.

The daily briefing was at 11 a.m. EDT. A big concern for tomorrow's challenge is the weather, which looks to be a bit questionable when the speed test is planned, so CAFE wants to get the planes off as soon as they can tomorrow morning. A suggestion was made to have the pilots' briefing at 10:30 a.m. EDT in order to expedite the planes taking off.

Safety and security measures were reviewed and particular emphasis was placed on the no-smoking requirement. (This is fire season in California and the area is quite dry and a fire would be a bad thing to deal with.

Everyone was also cautioned about the poisonous black widow and brown recluse spiders in the area -- adding another note of excitement as the next competition nears.

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For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/centennial/gfc_third_day.html

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Holiday Cottages- Your Friends for Vacations

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Vacations are one of the things we enjoyed while we go with our parents during our school/college days. Now we don’t find time for ourselves and find our lives to be stale, so it’s about time we considered going for a vacation.
There are number of things to do on a vacation based on the place we visit, the first thing however is to let ourselves loose and enjoy the time. One of the essential needs for a vacation is accommodation and the perfect accommodations are holiday cottages or holiday villas. It’s one of the most luxurious places to live in during the vacation, we have a cozy feeling while we are in them and the ambience they provide is fabulous. Be it anytime they are one of the best places as it gives you the private space and wonderful luxury service.Holiday anywhere in the world booking these vacation rentals.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mars Science Laboratory Meets its Match in Florida

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In preparation for launch later this year, the "back shell powered descent vehicle" configuration containing NASA's Mars Science Laboratory rover, Curiosity, has been placed on the spacecraft's heat shield.

The matchup was performed by technicians at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The heat shield and the spacecraft's back shell form an aeroshell that encapsulates and protects the rover from the intense heat it will experience during the final leg of the trip to Mars—the friction-filled descent through the Martian atmosphere.

The mission is scheduled for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during the period from Nov. 25 to Dec. 18. Arrival at Gale Crater on Mars is expected in August 2012.

After arrival, the Curiosity rover will investigate whether the landing region has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and favorable for preserving clues about whether life existed.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/news/msl20111005.html

Friday, October 7, 2011

NASA to Demonstrate Communications Via Laser Beam

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It currently takes 90 minutes to transmit high-resolution images from Mars, but NASA would like to dramatically reduce that time to just minutes. A new optical communications system that NASA plans to demonstrate in 2016 will lead the way and even allow the streaming of high-definition video from distances beyond the Moon.

This dramatically enhanced transmission speed will be demonstrated by the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), one of three projects selected by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) for a trial run. To be developed by a team led by engineers at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., LCRD is expected to fly as a hosted payload on a commercial communications satellite developed by Space Systems/Loral, of Palo Alto, Calif.

"We want to take NASA's communications capabilities to the next level," said LCRD Principal Investigator Dave Israel, who is leading a multi-organizational team that includes NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. and Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass. Although NASA has developed higher data-rate radio frequency systems, data-compression, and other techniques to boost the amount of data that its current systems can handle, the Agency's capabilities will not keep pace with the projected data needs of advanced instruments and future human exploration, Israel added.

"Just as the home Internet user hit the wall with dial-up, NASA is approaching the limit of what its existing communications network can handle," he said.

The solution is to augment NASA's legacy radio-based network, which includes a fleet of tracking and data relay satellites and a network of ground stations, with optical systems, which could increase data rates by anywhere from 10 to 100 times. "This transition will take several years to complete, but the eventual payback will be very large increases in the amount of data we can transmit, both downlink and uplink, especially to distant destinations in the solar system and beyond," said James Reuther, director of OCT's Crosscutting Technology Demonstrations Division.

First Step

The LCRD is the next step in that direction, Israel said, likening the emerging capability to land-based fiber-optic systems, such as Verizon's FiOS network. "In a sense, we're moving FiOS to space."

To demonstrate the new capability, the Goddard team will encode digital data and transmit the information via laser light from specially equipped ground stations to an experimental payload hosted on the commercial communications satellite.

The payload will include telescopes, lasers, mirrors, detectors, a pointing and tracking system, control electronics, and two different types of modems. One modem is ideal for communicating with deep space missions or tiny, low-power smallsats operating in low-Earth orbit. The other can handle much higher data rates, particularly from Earth-orbiting spacecraft, including the International Space Station. "With the higher-speed modem type, future systems could support data rates of tens of gigabits per second," Israel said.

Once the payload receives the data, it would then relay it back to ground stations now scheduled to operate in Hawaii and Southern California.

The multiple ground stations are important to demonstrating a fully operational system, Israel said. Cloud cover and turbulent atmospheric conditions impede laser communications, requiring a clear line of sight between the transmitter and receiver. If bad weather prevents a signal from being sent or received at one location, the network could hand over the responsibility to one of the other ground stations or store it for later retransmission.

The demonstration is expected to run two to three years.

Follow-On to LADEE Experiment

The project isn't NASA's first foray into laser communications. Goddard engineers are now developing a laser communications payload for NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), which the Agency plans to launch in 2013 to characterize the Moon's wisp-thin atmosphere and dust environment. The main goal of the LADEE experiment is proving fundamental concepts of laser-based communications and transferring up to 622 megabits per second, which is about five times the current state-of-the-art from lunar distances.

However, the LADEE payload, called the Lunar Laser Communications Demonstration (LLCD), is equipped with only one modem, the lower-speed model best suited for deep space communications. In addition, LADEE is a short-duration mission. LLCD is expected to operate for only 16 days of the LADEE mission, not enough time to demonstrate a fully operational laser-communications network, Israel said.

"What we're trying to do is get ahead of the curve," Israel said. "We want to get to the point where communications is no longer a constraint on scientists who want to gather more data, but are worried about getting their data back from space."

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/laser-comm.html

Friday, September 23, 2011

NASA Rover Inspects Next Rock at Endeavour

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NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is using instruments on its robotic arm to inspect targets on a rock called "Chester Lake."

This is the second rock the rover has examined with a microscopic imager and a spectrometer since reaching its long-term destination, the rim of vast Endeavour crater, in August. Unlike the first rock, which was a boulder tossed by excavation of a small crater on Endeavour's rim, Chester Lake is an outcrop of bedrock.

The rocks at Endeavour apparently come from an earlier period of Martian history than the rocks that Opportunity examined during its first seven-and-a-half years on Mars. More information about the ongoing exploration of Endeavour's rim is at: http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/22660.aspx .

Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued for years of bonus, extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit stopped communicating in 2010. NASA will launch the next-generation Mars rover, car-size Curiosity, this autumn for arrival at Mars' Gale crater in August 2012.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/news/mer20110914.html

Monday, September 19, 2011

Lee's Heavy Rainfall Makes a Muddy Susquehanna in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

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Traveling northward from the Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Lee carried heavy rain to the northeastern U.S. in early September 2011. The rain swelled multiple rivers, including the Susquehanna.

Authorities evacuated residents of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, then nervously watched the city’s 41-foot (12-meter) high levees, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. By September 11, the river had receded. The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image on September 10.

Loaded with sediment, the Susquehanna flows through the city, but appears confined within its embankments. According to the Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service of the U.S. National Weather Service, the Susquehanna River fell rapidly between September 9 and 12, 2011, from major flood stage to below flood level.

The levees withstood the river’s pressure in Harrisburg, but other communities along the banks of the Susquehanna were less fortunate. The river stressed levees “beyond what they were built to withstand,” said The Philadelpha Inquirer. The paper reported that some towns suffered more from Tropical Storm Lee than they had from Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

By September 9, 2011, President Obama declared an emergency in New York and Pennsylvania, Agence France-Presse reported. Roughly 100,000 people had been forced to evacuate, and the death toll stood at five. By September 11, the death toll for Pennsylvania had climbed to seven.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hurricanes/archives/2011/h2011_Lee.html

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Memorial Image Taken on Mars on September 11, 2011

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A view of a memorial to victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center towers was taken on Mars yesterday, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

The memorial, made from aluminum recovered from the site of the twin towers in weeks following the attacks, serves as a cable guard on a tool on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and bears an image of the American flag.

The view combining exposures from two cameras on the rover is online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/multimedia/pia14750.html .

The memorial is on the rover's rock abrasion tool, which was being made in September 2001 by workers at Honeybee Robotics in lower Manhattan, less than a mile from the World Trade Center.

Opportunity's panoramic camera and navigation camera photographed the tool on Sept. 11, 2011, during the 2,713th Martian day of the rover's work on Mars. Opportunity completed its three-month prime mission on Mars in April 2004 and has worked for more than seven years since then in bonus extended missions.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/news/mer20110912.html

Monday, September 12, 2011

NPP Satellite Prevents Gap in Critical Climate Data

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The consequences of global warming are not only challenging, but they are far-reaching, which is why NASA maintains a strong scientific focus on climatic and global change research. As the growing human population continues to burn fossil fuels and release carbon into the atmosphere at an accelerated rate, we are faced with a complex problem: a warming Earth.

A warmer Earth leads to warmer oceans that expand and rise from melting ice, potentially forcing millions of coastal residents to move inland. A warmer climate, even by just a few degrees, also means we could expect more extreme and erratic weather, from heavier blizzards to stronger hurricanes.

Measuring climate is not as easy as popping a thermometer in Earth's mouth every day. The crux of climate change is energy. In 1984, NASA began measuring and keeping a record of changes in Earth's energy with a satellite instrument known as ERBE (Earth Radiation Budget Experiment) and then its successor, CERES (Clouds and Earth's Radiant Energy System).

Five satellites and 27 years later, not a single year has passed without a record of Earth's energy budget. This year, the climate-monitoring torch is being passed to the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP), a satellite carrying the fifth edition of CERES.

Norman Loeb, a climate scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center and the principal investigator for CERES, gave us some insight into what he and other scientists have been able to discern from our current record of Earth's climate -- and why a long-term, continuous record is so important.


Why are we measuring energy on Earth? What does that have to do with the Earth getting warmer?

Just like you have a budget at home that you must balance with income coming in and expenses going out, the climate has a very similar process. Sunlight is the incoming resource (or energy), and the outgoing energy back to space is from reflected sunlight and emitted thermal radiation. The balance of incoming and outgoing energy is commonly referred to as the Earth's energy budget. A balanced energy budget keeps Earth's temperature at a consistent level. However, we currently have less energy leaving the Earth than is necessary to keep a steady temperature. Most of the extra, trapped energy is stored in the ocean, contributing to sea-level rise, and the remainder melts snow and ice over land and warms the atmosphere.

Can you point to the cause of this trapped energy?

We feel confident that one reason for the change in Earth's energy budget is due to greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases, like water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2), block energy from radiating back out to space. Just as if you were to put another blanket on your bed at night, a layer of greenhouse gases makes the Earth warmer by not allowing heat to fully escape. The more CO2 we put in the atmosphere, the thicker the blanket we have, and the warmer the Earth gets.

A second key component of climate change is the role of clouds. The CERES team combines measurements made by other instruments on the same spacecraft as the CERES instrument to observe changes in cloud properties in conjunction with changes in Earth's energy budget. The influence of clouds on the energy budget is complex because clouds both reflect sunlight back to space and block energy from radiating to space. Which of these two dominates depends upon the properties of clouds, such as their amount, thickness and height. As the Earth undergoes changes in its climate, cloud properties may change in ways that may amplify or offset climate change. Understanding the influence of clouds on the energy budget is therefore a critical climate problem.

Based on all of the ERBE and CERES energy data that has been collected, how much, exactly, has the energy budget changed in the last few decades?

We measure the energy coming into earth in watts per square meter. Averaged over the entire planet, the sun gives us about 340 watts per meter (about the energy radiated from six incandescent light bulbs) yearly. The Earth returns an equal amount of energy back to space, keeping the temperature constant. However, because greenhouse gases are preventing some energy from leaving, there appears to be a little over 0.8 watts per square meter that aren't leaving. This trapping process doesn't change the atmospheric temperature immediately, because most of this excess energy is absorbed and stored in the ocean. However, over the past century the global temperature has risen 1.44 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius).

There are still CERES instruments actively taking measurements of Earth's energy budget from space. Why do we need another CERES instrument on NPP?

The CERES instruments on the Aqua and Terra satellites are indeed continuing to take measurements, however both of these instruments have exceeded their expected lifetime. While we are happy they have continued to provide data, they could stop working at any time.

The easiest way to see significant changes in Earth's climate is to know what the normal pattern of incoming and outgoing energy looks like and to keep a continuous record. We've been tracking those patterns with CERES, but if we were to lose an instrument before another was launched, we would lose the ability to intercalibrate the newer instrument with the older one, and would also lose time interval of data. It would be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to accurately tie the two records together, and it would be impossible to accurately determine what happened to the energy budget during the measurement gap. We can't just guess the missing measurements and pencil them in, nor can we correct for any calibration differences between the two instruments without having overlap; we essentially have to reset the climate record to zero and the separate pieces of the record are forced to stand on their own.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NPP/news/ceres-npp-qa.html

Sunday, September 11, 2011

CERES Continues Legacy of Cloud Study on NPP

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In October when NASA launches its next-generation Earth-observing satellite, NPP (NPOESS Preparatory Project), one of the passengers aboard will be the latest in a series of instruments that has studied the Earth's climate for nearly 30 years.

The first Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) instrument launched in 1997. Before that, the job was done by the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) beginning in 1984.

For 27 years without a break, the instruments collectively have returned a vast amount of data about the solar energy reflected and absorbed by Earth, the heat the planet emits, and the role of clouds in that process.

"Like wine, CERES gets better with time," said Norman Loeb, CERES principal investigator at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Amassing a long record of data is important because CERES monitors minute changes in the Earth's energy budget - the balance between incoming and outgoing energy - that can lead to serious longer-term consequences, such as polar ice melting and rising sea levels, said Loeb.

How It Works

Scientists are studying the planetary energy balance that results from these interactions primarily because the Earth's atmosphere is influenced by the buildup of human-released carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

CERES sensor reflected solar radiation
Click to enlarge

This image from NASA's Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES) sensor on the Terra satellite show reflected solar radiation. Dark blue in the Arctic regions of the right image show the lack of reflected radiation. Greens, yellows, and whites indicate higher levels of reflected radiation in higher latitudes. Credit: NASA/T. Wong, CERES Science Team
"Clouds both reflect sunlight and block energy from radiating to space," Loeb said. "Which of these two dominates depends upon the properties of clouds, such as their amount, thickness and height."

"As the Earth undergoes changes in its climate, cloud properties may change in ways that may amplify or offset climate change. Understanding the influence of clouds on the energy budget is therefore a critical climate problem."

The four other CERES instruments are in orbit aboard NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites. The instruments use a radiometer to measure the power of electromagnetic radiation being transmitted in the atmosphere.

All the radiometers on the CERES instruments are essentially the same, are well calibrated and produce comparable data - and that's critical, said Mark Folkman, director of sensor products for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, which made CERES.

"Because scientists need to measure minute changes in the Earth's radiance over decades, CERES provides the absolute radiometric accuracy that is essential to monitoring the temperature of our planet," he said.

"If the instrument calibration were to change over these long timeframes, scientists might draw the wrong conclusions about the Earth's environment," Folkman added. "For more than 25 years, CERES has generated the accurate, long-term measurements that are essential to providing a true picture of the Earth's radiation balance, a critical element of the climate system."

Overall Mission

This fall, the climate-monitoring torch is being passed to NASA's NPP, a satellite carrying the fifth edition of CERES. The spacecraft, carrying four other Earth-observing instruments, is scheduled for launch into a polar orbit Oct. 25 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on a Boeing Delta II-7920-10 launch vehicle.

The five-instrument suite will collect and distribute remotely sensed land, ocean, and atmospheric data to the meteorological and global climate change communities. It will provide atmospheric and sea surface temperatures, humidity sounding, land and ocean biological productivity, cloud and aerosol properties, total/profile ozone measurements, and monitor changes in the Earth's radiation budget.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the NPP mission on behalf of the Earth Science Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, Washington. NASA Langley manages the CERES mission. The TRW Space & Electronics Group in Redondo Beach, Calif., now owned by Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, built all of the CERES instruments.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/NPP/news/ceres-on-npp.html

Thursday, September 8, 2011

NASA Spacecraft Sees Wind-Whipped Fires in East Texas

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As most of Texas continues to experience the worst one-year drought on record, more than 170 wildfires have erupted across the Lone Star State so far this month alone. The Texas Forest Service reports the past week’s blazes have charred more than 135,000 acres and destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Strong, gusty winds on the western side of Tropical Storm Lee, which passed over Louisiana on Monday, Sept. 5, 2011, stoked the fires burning throughout eastern Texas. The Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft passed over the wildfires at 12:05 p.m. CDT on Sept. 5. At that time, temperatures were around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius), with winds from the north gusting to 25 mph (40 kilometers per hour).

This image is a blend of data from MISR's vertical-viewing camera, which provides the sharpest view of surface features, and data acquired at a view angle of 70 degrees, which accentuates the appearance of smoke plumes generated by the fires. The Bear Creek Fire north of Marshall, near the top center of the image, is the largest fire in the image. When this image was acquired, the fire had charred 30,000 acres and was 0 percent contained. To the west is the Diana Fire, just north of Longview, and the Henderson-502 Fire, northwest of Nacogdoches.

The combined smoke from these two fires extends more than 171 miles (275 kilometers), passing over Lake Livingston into the northern outskirts of Houston. The city of Houston appears as the grayish area at the bottom of the image, to the left of Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

This image covers about 275 miles (442 kilometers) in the north-south direction, and 199 miles (320 kilometers) in the east-west direction.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/wildfire20110907.html

Jupiter-Bound Space Probe Captures Earth and Moon

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On its way to the biggest planet in the solar system -- Jupiter, NASA's Juno spacecraft took time to capture its home planet and its natural satellite -- the moon.

"This is a remarkable sight people get to see all too rarely," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "This view of our planet shows how Earth looks from the outside, illustrating a special perspective of our role and place in the universe. We see a humbling yet beautiful view of ourselves."

The image was taken by the spacecraft’s camera, JunoCam, on Aug. 26 when the spacecraft was about 6 million miles (9.66 million kilometers) away. The image was taken as part of the mission team’s checkout of the Juno spacecraft. The team is conducting its initial detailed checks on the spacecraft’s instruments and subsystems after its launch on Aug. 5.

Juno covered the distance from Earth to the moon (about 250,000 miles or 402,000 kilometers) in less than one day's time. It will take the spacecraft another five years and 1,740 million miles (2,800 million kilometers) to complete the journey to Jupiter. The spacecraft will orbit the planet's poles 33 times and use its eight science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant's obscuring cloud cover to learn more about its origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core.

The solar-powered Juno spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 9:25 a.m. PDT (12:25 p.m. EDT) on Aug. 5 to begin its five-year journey to Jupiter.

JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/juno/news/juno20110830.html

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mars Science Laboratory Mission Status Report

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NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project continues to press ahead with launch preparation activities, planning to use additional time before encapsulating the rover in the launch vehicle's nose cone.

Officials want to maintain additional schedule margin for enhanced safety procedures in assembly and testing. System testing put the rover and other parts of the spacecraft through simulations of many activities from launch through operations on Mars' surface. Aspects of the test simulating the final moments before landing took longer than scheduled. Additional margin that had been built into the schedule has been consumed in recent weeks by stepped-up safety procedures in assembly and testing.

Based on this, the rover development team will turn over the spacecraft for encapsulation four days later in October than originally scheduled. The project expects to know in approximately two weeks if launch timelines may need to be adjusted. The mission's launch period begins Nov. 25 and runs through Dec. 18.

"We consumed some of the slack in our schedule during system testing in August, and we want to restore the slack to give the assembly, test and launch operations team time to do its job," said Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Pete Theisinger of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

The Mars Science Laboratory will deliver Curiosity to an August 2012 landing beside a mountain inside Gale crater on Mars. During a two-year mission on the Red Planet, the rover will investigate whether a selected area of Mars has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life and for preserving evidence about life.

The spacecraft's back shell, heat shield and cruise stage were delivered to NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla., in May. The rover and descent stage were delivered in June.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/news/msl20110831.html

Monday, September 5, 2011

Extreme 2010 Russian Fires and Pakistan Floods Linked Meteorologically

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Two of the most destructive natural disasters of 2010 were closely linked by a single meteorological event, even though they occurred 1,500 miles (2,414 km) apart and were of completely different natures, a new NASA study suggests.

The research finds that the same large-scale meteorological event — an abnormal Rossby wave — sparked extreme heat and persistent wildfires in Russia as well as unusual downstream wind patterns that shifted rainfall in the Indian monsoon region and fueled heavy flooding in Pakistan. Although the heat wave started before the floods, both events attained maximum strength at approximately the same time, the researchers found by analyzing satellite data generated by NASA instruments capable of measuring the land surface temperature, precipitation intensity and wildfire activity.

William Lau and Kyu-Myong Kim, atmospheric scientists at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., authored the study, which the Journal of Hydrometeorology published in August

A Rossby Connection

The atmosphere, gaseous and transparent, may not seem like a fluid, but that’s precisely how the thin layer of air encasing the planet behaves. As Earth spins on its axis, huge rivers of air — scientists call them Rossby waves — meander around the globe in a westerly direction. Currents in the center of these waves form the jet streams, fast-moving columns of air that push weather systems from west to east.

Rossby waves aren’t uniform. They tend to undulate and have troughs and ridges. Areas of low-pressure typically develop in the troughs of the waves, while high-pressure areas form in their ridges. Parcels of warm air from the tropics and cool air from the poles swirl around the low- and high-pressure parts of the waves creating a complex tapestry of warm and cool fronts that meet and interact constantly. Collisions between warm and cool fronts produce storms and precipitation.

Under normal summertime conditions, the jet stream pushes weather fronts through Eurasia in four or five days, but something unusual happened in July of 2010. A large-scale, stagnant weather pattern — known as an Omega blocking event — developed over a high-pressure ridge above western Russia. This blocking event, which divided the jet stream, had the effect of slowing the Rossby wave and prevented the normal progression of weather systems from west to east.

As a result, a large region of high pressure formed over Russia and trapped a hot, dry air mass. As the high lingered, the land surface dried and the normal transfer of moisture from the soil to the atmosphere slowed. Precipitation ceased, vegetation dried out, and the region became a taiga tinderbox.

Meanwhile, the blocking pattern created unusual downstream wind patterns over Pakistan. Areas of low pressure on the leading edge of the Rossby wave formed in response to the high that pulled cold, dry Siberian air into lower latitudes.

"From NASA satellite data and wind analysis, we can clearly see the connection between the two events," Lau said. "Think of the atmosphere like a loose membrane. If you push one part up, something else has to come down somewhere else. If you produce a high in one region, you produce a corresponding low in another."

This cold air from Siberia clashed with warm, moist air arriving over Pakistan from the Bay of Bengal. There’s nothing unusual about moisture moving north over India toward the Himalayas. It’s a normal part of the monsoon. However, in this case, the unusual wind patterns associated with the blocking high brought upper level air disturbances farther south than is typical, which helped shift the entire monsoon rainfall system north and west. The shift brought heavy monsoon rains squarely over the northern part of Pakistan.

Future Directions

While the new study highlights the degree of interconnection that can exist between two seemingly unrelated weather events, Lau cautions that many questions remain. For example, why did such a powerful blocking high form in the first place? And did some particular process occurring on the land or in the atmosphere sustain and strengthen it?

Lau’s analysis of data from the Modern Era Retrospective-analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) – an atmospheric model focused on hydrology that blends data from satellites and the Goddard Earth Observing System Model, Version 5 (GEOS-5) – suggests that certain interactions between the land and atmosphere may have amplified the heat wave as it dragged on creating what climatologists call a positive feedback cycle.

Clouds, for example, typically provide shade and precipitation, but Lau’s research shows they were suppressed in the vicinity of the blocking high because prolonged drought dried the soil and slowed the rate of evaporation. The modeling and satellite data suggest that over time the reduced cloud cover would have resulted in an even greater dose of heat reaching the surface, which, in turn, would have dried the soil out even more and amplified the effect.

What’s more, Lau thinks that graphite-like dark particles in wildfire smoke – a type of aerosol called black carbon – may have helped burn clouds away, making the surface even drier and more fire prone. "We need more research to say for sure whether land and aerosol feedback sustained the high, but this study suggests it’s possible," said Ralph Kahn, an atmospheric scientist at Goddard who wasn’t involved in the study.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/asia-fire.html