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Space / Astronomy News and Articles

Fri07282017

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Pluto

Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite To Study Star Formation

— NASA's Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS) mission, scheduled for launch at 8:40 p.m. EST (5:40 p.m. PST) on Dec. 2, 1998, will gather star-formation data, which have remained invisible from beneath the obscuring effects of the Earth's atmosphere.

The overall goal of the two-year mission is to gain a greater understanding of star formation by determining the composition of interstellar...

— NASA's Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite (SWAS) mission, scheduled for launch at 8:40 p.m. EST (5:40 p.m. PST) on Dec. 2, 1998, will gather star-formation data, which have remained invisible from beneath the obscuring effects of the Earth's atmosphere.

The overall goal of the two-year mission is to gain a greater...

Pluto Safe From Demotion

— LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The short national nightmare is coming to an end. The solar system will continue to have nine planets.

"There is no plan to 'downgrade' or 'demote' Pluto," says Brian Marsden, head of the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. "It will stay as a planet."

Sometime early this year, it's likely Pluto will be designated a "transneptunian object" -- but not lose its planetary...

— LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The short national nightmare is coming to an end. The...

Student-built dust counter breaks distance record on New Horizons mission to Pluto

— A University of Colorado at Boulder space dust counter designed, tested and operated by students that is flying aboard NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto now holds the record for the most distant working dust detector ever to travel through space.

The instrument on the New Horizons mission -- officially named the Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter, or SDC, after an 11-year-old English girl who named Pluto more...

— A University of Colorado at Boulder space dust counter designed...

Hubble harvests distant solar system objects

— Beyond the orbit of Neptune reside countless icy rocks known as trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs). One of the biggest, Pluto, is classified as a dwarf planet. The region also supplies us with comets such as famous Comet Halley. Most TNOs are small and receive little sunlight, making them faint and difficult to spot.

Now, astronomers using clever techniques to cull the data archives of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have...

— Beyond the orbit of Neptune reside countless icy rocks known as...

Asteroid found in gravitational 'dead zone' near Neptune

— There are places in space where the gravitational tug between a planet and the Sun balance out, allowing other smaller bodies to remain stable. These places are called Lagrangian points. So-called Trojan asteroids have been found in some of these stable spots near Jupiter and Neptune. Trojans share their planet's orbit and help astronomers understand how the planets formed and how the solar system evolved. Now ...

— There are places in space where the gravitational tug between a planet...

Neptune's Moon Triton: Summer sky of methane and carbon monoxide

— According to the first ever infrared analysis of the atmosphere of Neptune's moon Triton, summer is in full swing in its southern hemisphere. The European observing team used ESO's Very Large Telescope and discovered carbon monoxide and made the first ground-based detection of methane in Triton's thin atmosphere. These observations revealed that the thin atmosphere varies seasonally, thickening when warmed.

"We have...

— According to the first ever infrared analysis of the atmosphere...

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter's LAMP Shedding Light On Permanently Shadowed Regions Of The Moon

— NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), launched on June 18 of this year, has begun its extensive exploration of the lunar environment and will return more data about the Moon than any previous mission. The Lyman-Alpha Mapping Project (LAMP), developed by Southwest Research Institute, is an integral part of the LRO science investigation. LAMP uses a novel method to peer into the perpetual darkness of the Moon's ...

— NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), launched on June 18 of...

Planet-forming Disk Discovered Orbiting Twin Suns

BestAstronomy (June 10, 2009) — Astronomers have announced that a sequence of images collected with the Smithsonian's Submillimeter Array (SMA) clearly reveals the presence of a rotating molecular disk orbiting the young binary star system V4046 Sagittarii. The SMA images provide an unusually vivid snapshot of the process of formation of giant planets, comets, and Pluto-like bodies. The results also confirm that such objects may just as easily form around double stars as around single...

NASA Prepares For New Juno Mission To Jupiter

— NASA is officially moving forward on a mission to conduct an unprecedented, in-depth study of Jupiter.

Called Juno, the mission will be the first in which a spacecraft is placed in a highly elliptical polar orbit around the giant planet to understand its formation, evolution and structure. Underneath its dense cloud cover, Jupiter safeguards secrets to the fundamental processes and conditions that governed our...

— NASA is officially moving forward on a mission to conduct an...

Pluto-bound Spacecraft Sees Changes In Jupiter System

— The voyage of NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft through the Jupiter system earlier this year provided a bird’s-eye view of a dynamic planet that has changed since the last close-up looks by NASA spacecraft.

New Horizons passed Jupiter on Feb. 28, riding the planet’s gravity to boost its speed and shave three years off its trip to Pluto. It was the eighth spacecraft to visit Jupiter – ...

— The voyage of NASA’s Pluto-bound New...

Sign Of 'Embryonic Planets' Forming In Nearby Stellar Systems

— Astronomers at the University of Rochester are pointing to three nearby stars they say may hold "embryonic planets"—a missing link in planet-formation theories.

As scientists try to piece together how our own planet came to be, they look to the forming planets of other star systems for clues. But astronomers have been unable to find evidence for one of the key stages of planet development, a period early in the...

— Astronomers at the University of Rochester are pointing to three...

Pioneering NASA Spacecraft Mark Thirty Years Of Flight

— NASA's two venerable Voyager spacecraft are celebrating three decades of flight as they head toward interstellar space. Their ongoing odysseys mark an unprecedented and historic accomplishment.

Voyager 2 launched on Aug. 20, 1977, and Voyager 1 launched on Sept. 5, 1977. They continue to return information from distances more than three times farther away than Pluto.

"The Voyager mission is a legend in the annals...

— NASA's two venerable Voyager spacecraft are celebrating three...

Charon: An Ice Machine In The Ultimate Deep Freeze

— Frigid geysers spewing material up through cracks in the crust of Pluto’s companion Charon and recoating parts of its surface in ice crystals could be making this distant world into the equivalent of an outer solar system ice machine.

Evidence for these ice deposits comes from high-resolution spectra obtained using the Gemini Observatory’s Adaptive Optics system, ALTAIR coupled with the near-infrared instrument N...

— Frigid geysers spewing material up through cracks in the...

Pluto-bound New Horizons Provides New Look At Jupiter System

— NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has provided new data on the Jupiter system ­-- stunning scientists with never-before-seen perspectives of the giant planet’s atmosphere, rings, moons and magnetosphere.

These new views include the closest peek yet at the Earth-sized “Little Red Spot” storm churning materials through Jupiter’s cloud tops; detailed images of small satellites herding dust and bould...

— NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has...

Rosetta And New Horizons Watch Jupiter

— ESA’s Rosetta and NASA’s New Horizons are working together in their joint campaign to observe Jupiter. A preliminary analysis of the data from Rosetta’s Alice ultraviolet spectrometer indicates that the data quality is excellent and that good science is expected to follow.

New Horizons made its closest approach to Jupiter on 28 February 2007. Its principal objective was to use the gravity of the giant planet to...

— ESA’s Rosetta and NASA’s New Horizons are working together...

NASA Spacecraft Gets Boost From Jupiter For Pluto Encounter

— NASA's New Horizons spacecraft successfully completed a flyby of Jupiter early this morning (Feb. 28), using the massive planet's gravity to pick up speed for its 3-billion mile voyage to Pluto and the unexplored Kuiper Belt region beyond.

"We're on our way to Pluto," said New Horizons Mission Operations Manager Alice Bowman of Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), Laurel, Md. "The swingby was a...

— NASA's New Horizons spacecraft successfully completed a flyby...

NASA Selects New Frontiers Mission Concept Study

— NASA has announced that a mission to fly to Jupiter will proceed to a preliminary design phase. The mission is called Juno, and it is the second in NASA's New Frontiers Program.

The mission will conduct an in-depth study of the giant planet. The mission proposes to place a spacecraft in a polar orbit around Jupiter to investigate the existence of an ice-rock core; determine the amount of global water and ammonia...

— NASA has announced that a mission to fly to Jupiter will proceed to...

Spitzer Sees Dusty Aftermath Of Pluto-Sized Collision

BestAstronomy (Jan. 11, 2005) — Astronomers say a dusty disc swirling around the nearby star Vega is bigger than earlier thought. It was probably caused by collisions of objects, perhaps as big as the planet Pluto, up to 2,000 kilometers (about 1,200 miles) in diameter.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has seen the dusty aftermath of this "run-in." Astronomers think embryonic planets smashed together, shattered into pieces and repeatedly crashed into other fragments to create...

Cassini Opens A Cosmic Time Capsule

— Like a woolly mammoth trapped in Arctic ice, Saturn's small moon Phoebe may be a frozen artifact of a bygone era, some four billion years ago. The finding is suggested by new data from the Cassini spacecraft.

Cassini scientists reviewed data from the spacecraft's June 11, 2004, flyby of the diminutive moon. They concluded Phoebe is likely a primordial mixture of ice, rock and carbon-containing compounds...

— Like a woolly mammoth trapped in Arctic ice, Saturn's small moon Phoebe...

Cassini Makes Close Observations Of Phoebe

— June 12, 2004 -- With its flyby of Phoebe, the Cassini spacecraft has completed the first satellite flyby in its four-year tour of the Saturn system. NASA's Deep Space Network received confirmation at 7:52 a.m. PDT today. The spacecraft is operating normally and is in excellent health.

"One down, 52 to go," said Jeremy Jones, chief navigator for the Cassini-Huygens mission at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory,...

— June 12, 2004 -- With its flyby of Phoebe, the Cassini spacecraft...

First Extrasolar Planets, Now Extrasolar Moons

— The European Space Agency is now planning a mission that can detect moons around planets outside our Solar System, those orbiting other stars.

Everyone knows our Moon: lovers stare at it, wolves howl at it, and ESA recently sent SMART-1 to study it. But there are over a hundred other moons in our Solar System, each a world in its own right.

A moon is a natural body that travels around a planet. Moons are...

— The European Space Agency is now planning a mission that can...