Monday, May 28, 2012

Cassini Spots Tiny Celestial satellite, Starts to Point Orbit

NASA's Cassini spacecraft created its nearest strategy to Saturn's little celestial satellite Methone as aspect of a velocity that will take it on a near flyby of another of Saturn's moons, Powerhouse. The Powerhouse flyby will put the spacecraft in an orbit around Saturn that is prepared, or straight, comparative to the aircraft of the globe's equator. The flyby of Methone took position on May 20 at a range of about 1,200 kilometers (1,900 kilometers). It was Cassini's nearest flyby of the 2-mile-wide (3-kilometer-wide) celestial satellite. The best previous Cassini pictures were taken on May 8, 2005, at a range of about 140,000 kilometers (225,000 kilometers), and they hardly settled this item.

Also on May 20, Cassini acquired pictures of Tethys, a bigger Saturnian celestial satellite that is 660 kilometers (1,062 kilometers) across. The spacecraft went by Tethys at a range of about 34,000 kilometers (54,000 kilometers).

Cassini's encounter with Powerhouse, Saturn's biggest celestial satellite, on May 22, is the first of a series of flybys that will put the spacecraft into an prepared orbit. At nearest strategy, Cassini will fly within about 593 kilometers (955 kilometers) of the exterior of the obscure Powerhouse. The flyby will position Cassini's direction around Saturn by about 16 levels out of the tropical aircraft, which is the same aircraft in which Saturn's jewelry and most of its moons live.

Cassini's built in thrusters don't have the capability to position the spacecraft into orbits so prepared. But objective developers have organized trajectories that take benefits of the gravitational power applied by Powerhouse to increase Cassini into prepared orbits. Over the next few several weeks, Cassini will use several flybys of Powerhouse to modify the position of its trend, developing one on top of the other until Cassini is revolving about Saturn at around 62 levels comparative to the tropical aircraft in 2013. Cassini hasn't traveled in orbits this prepared since 2008, when it orbited at an position of 74 levels.

This set of prepared orbits is predicted to offer amazing opinions of the jewelry and posts of Saturn. Further research of Saturn's other moons will have to delay until around 2015, when Cassini profits to an tropical orbit.

"Getting Cassini into these prepared orbits is going to need the same stage of routing precision that the group has provided in previous times, because each of these Powerhouse flybys has to remain right on the cash," said John Mitchell, Cassini system administrator at NASA's Jet Space Clinical, Pasadena, Calif. "However, with nearly eight decades of encounter to depend on, there's no question about their capability to take this off."

Cassini found Methone and two other little moons, Pallene and Anthe, between the orbits of Mimas and Enceladus between 2004 and 2007. The three little moons, known as the Alkyonides group, are included in Saturn's E band, and their materials are applied by ice contaminants via the water jets of water ice, water steam and natural substances via the southern region complete place of Enceladus.

The Cassini-Huygens objective is a supportive venture of NASA, the Western Area Organization and the French language Area Organization. JPL controls the objective for the company's Technological innovation Mission Directorate in Florida. The Florida Institution of Technological innovation in Pasadena controls JPL for NASA.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Sunspot Has Produced M-Class Flares, But No CMEs

Due to current issues on the SOHO spacecraft, the LASCO instrument was not taking data during this event. This instrument is used to develop the near real-time coronal mass ejections alerts. The STEREO beacon data is now coming online and indicates a possible small coronal mass ejection. A preliminary indication of its direction indicates a low likelihood of any geomagnetic storms at Earth.
A particularly large and complex sunspot appeared over the left limb of the sun on Saturday, May 5, beginning its two-week trek across the face of the star in conjunction with the sun's rotation. The sunspot, dubbed Active Region 1476, has so far produced seven M-class flares and numerous C-class flares, including two M-class flares on May 9, 2012 that peaked at 8:32 EDT and 10:08 EDT. These flares were all short-lived and there were no associated coronal mass ejections, so we do not expect any geomagnetic storms at Earth.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

NASA Image Gallery Highlights Earth’s Changing Face

In celebration of this year's Earth Day on April 22, NASA's Webby Award-winning Global Climate Change website, , has unveiled a new version of its popular image gallery, "State of Flux." The gallery, which can be found at , presents stunning images, mostly from space, of our ever-changing planet, chronicling changes taking place over time periods ranging from days to centuries.
Each image pair in the continuously updated gallery highlights before-and-after impacts of change, including the destruction wrought by extreme events such as wildfires and floods, the retreat of glaciers caused by climate change, and the expanding footprint of urban areas due to population growth.

The redesigned gallery, which currently features more than 160 comparison views, is now organized and sortable by categories, including ice, human impact, water, land cover and extreme events. A selection of some of the Global Climate Change website team’s favorite images is highlighted in a new "Top Picks" category.

Another new feature is a map view, which places each image into its geographical context. Guests can zoom in to specific locations on the map, or select by region, and see where particular changes are taking place around the globe. They can also share links to each image set and download high-resolution versions of the images.

"Seeing our planet from space gives us a global view that we can't get elsewhere," said Amber Jenkins, editor of the Global Climate Change website, who established the gallery in 2009. "It underscores how fragile and interconnected our planet is, and how it is constantly changing. With this new version of the gallery, we want people to be better able to immerse themselves in the images, and gain that sense of perspective."

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Paydirt at 8-Year-Old Mars Rover's 'New Landing Site'

A report in the May 4 edition of the journal Science details discoveries Opportunity made in its first four months at the rim of Endeavour Crater, including key findings reported at a geophysics conference in late 2011.

Opportunity completed its original three-month mission on Mars eight years ago. It reached Endeavour last summer, three years after the rover's science team chose Endeavour as a long-term destination. This crater is about 4 billion years old and 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.

The impact that excavated the crater left a jumble of fused-together rock fragments around the rim. In a chunk brought to the surface by a later, much smaller impact into the rim, Opportunity found evidence that the original impact released heated, underground water that deposited zinc in that rock. Later after the impact, cool water flowed through cracks in the ground near the edge of the crater and deposited veins of the mineral gypsum.

"These bright mineral veins are different from anything seen previously on Mars, and they tell a clear story of water flowing through cracks in the rocks," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. He is the principal investigator for Opportunity and lead author of the new report by 27 researchers. "From landing until just before reaching the Endeavour rim, Opportunity was driving over sandstone made of sulfate grains that had been deposited by water and later blown around by the wind. These gypsum veins tell us about water that flowed through the rocks at this exact spot. It's the strongest evidence for water that we've ever seen with Opportunity."

For the past four months, the solar-powered rover has been working at one outcrop on the Endeavour rim, called Greeley Haven. Reduced daylight during the Martian winter, and accumulated dust on the rover's solar array, have kept energy too low for driving. "The days are now growing longer, and the sun is moving higher in the sky at Endeavour Crater. We expect Opportunity to resume driving in the next two months and continue exploring other parts of the crater's rim," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Researchers hope to get Opportunity to one of the deposits of clay minerals that have been detected in Endeavour's rim by observations from orbit. These minerals could be evidence of a non-acidic wet phase of the region's environmental history.

"Exploring Endeavour Crater is like having a new landing site," said JPL's Timothy Parker, a co-author of the new report. "That's not just because of the difference in the geology here compared to what we saw during most of the first eight years, but also because there's a whole vista before us inviting much more exploration."

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 launched the next-generation Mars rover, car-size Curiosity of the Mars Science Laboratory mission, on Nov. 26 for arrival at Mars' Gale Crater in August 2012.

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