NASA Solar System
NASA/Solar System News 2015
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Recent Measurements of Pluto and Charon Obtained by New Horizons
How Big Is Pluto? New Horizons Settles Decades-Long Debate
A Portrait from the Final Approach to Pluto and Charon
ORION LIFT OFF
Critical Step on Journey to Mars Thursday, Dec. 5
The un-crewed Orion will orbit 3,600 miles above Earth before
splashing down in the Pacific. Orion is being designed to carry
astronauts on exploration missions into deep space, including a
trip to an asteroid and eventually to Mars.
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Once There Set Day:Wednesday,November12 2014 Time:9:00am Time Zone:Eastern U.S.,All Channels
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- Landing scheduled for Nov. 12
- Landing site gets a name
- Camera gets sneak peek of the comet's "dark side"
After sailing through space for more than 10 years, the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is now less than a week shy of landing a robotic probe on a comet.
The mission's Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7:35 a.m PST/10:35 a.m. EST. A signal confirming the landing is expected about 8:02 a.m. PST/11:02 a.m. EST. If all goes as planned with this complex engineering feat, it will be the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet.
The landing site, formerly known simply as Site J, now has an official name: Agilkia. The name, chosen after an ESA public essay competition, is in keeping with the mission's Egyptian theme. It refers to an island on the Nile where ancient buildings were relocated after the island Philae flooded. One hundred fifty people nominated Agilkia, including the overall winner, Alexandre Brouste from France. He has been invited to watch the landing activities at Rosetta's mission control in Darmstadt, Germany.
After touchdown on Nov. 12, the Philae lander will obtain the first images ever taken from a comet's surface. It will also drill into the surface to study the composition, and witness close up how a comet changes as its exposure to the sun varies. Philae can remain active on the surface for about two-and-a-half days. Its mothership, the Rosetta spacecraft, will remain in orbit around the comet through 2015. The orbiter will continue detailed studies of the comet as it approaches the sun and then moves away.
In addition to their well-deserved reputation as beautiful cosmic objects, comets hold vital clues about our solar system's history. They are considered primitive building blocks of the solar system that are literally frozen in time, and they may have played a part in "seeding" Earth with water and, possibly, the basic ingredients for life.
NASA provided three of the 16 instruments on board the Rosetta orbiter. The NASA instruments are:
- The Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO) studies the process by which gas and dust leave the surface of the comet nucleus to form the tail and the coma. MIRO is capable of observing water, carbon monoxide, ammonia and methanol.
- Alice, an ultraviolet spectrometer, analyzes gases in the comet's coma and tail; measures how fast the comet produces water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide (clues to the surface composition of the nucleus); and measures argon levels. These measurements help determine the temperature of the solar system when the nucleus formed more than 4.6 billion years ago.
- Ion and Electron Sensor (IES) is part of a suite of five instruments to analyze the comet's plasma environment and measure charged particles in the sun's outer atmosphere as they interact with gas flowing from the comet during Rosetta's approach to the sun.
Rosetta launched in March 2004 and spent 957 days in "hibernation" as it zoomed through the darkness of space. It was "brought back to life" in January 2014 to prepare for its August arrival in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Since August, Rosetta has been capturing sneak peeks of what lies ahead. Images have revealed stunning structures on the areas of the comet that are visible and illuminated. These features include steep ravines, sharp cliffs and numerous boulders.
New images from the spacecraft's scientific imaging system, OSIRIS, give us a first glimpse of the dark, southern side of the comet. This side has faced away from the sun for a while, hiding its shape and surface features. The new images take advantage of slight illumination from light scattered by dust particles in the comet's coma.
Rosetta is a European Space Agency mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen; National Center of Space Studies of France (CNES), Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages the U.S. participation in the Rosetta mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit:
More information about Rosetta is available at:
DC Agle/Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
NASA Headquarters, Washington
European Space Agency, Noordwijk, Netherlands
Written by Jane Platt/JPL
COMET COULD SPARK AURORAS ON MARS: Comet Siding Spring is about to fly historically close to Mars. The encounter could spark Martian auroras, a meteor shower, and other unpredictable effects. Whatever happens, NASA's fleet of Mars satellites will have a ringside seat. Get the full story and a video from Science@NASA.
PERSEID METEOR SHOWER: The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks tonight, Aug. 12-13, as Earth passes through a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Forecasters expect peak rates of 30 to 40 meteors per hour, less than usual because of the glare from the waning supermoon. Observing tips: To reduce the effects of moonlight, pick an observing site with clear, dry air. Also try watching the sky from the moonshadow of a tall building or other obstacle. Many Perseid fireballs will be visible in spite of the glare. [NASA chat]
Unaffected by moonlight, the Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar (CMOR) is scanning the skies above North America for echoes from disintegrating meteoroids. The latest CMOR sky map shows strong activity from the constellation Perseus (PER):
Click to view a radar map of the entire sky. The Perseids are not alone. In the southern hemisphere, a cluster of lesser radiants is also active. Foremost among them is the Southern Delta Aquarids (SDA) probably caused by debris from Comet 96P/Machholz. Delta Aquarid fireballs will augment the Perseids south of the equator.
Because of the moonlight, radar may be the best way to observe tonight's shower. You can listen to meteor radar echoes in realtime on Space Weather Radio.
Pluto is an extremely distant world, orbiting the sun more than 29 times farther than Earth. With a surface temperature estimated to be about 380 degrees below zero Fahrenheit (around minus 229 degrees Celsius), the environment at Pluto is far too cold to allow liquid water on its surface. Pluto's moons are in the same frigid environment.
Pluto's remoteness and small size make it difficult to observe, but in July of 2015, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft will be the first to visit Pluto and Charon, and will provide the most detailed observations to date.
NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has imaged the planet Mercury passing in front of the sun, visible as a faint darkening that moves across the face of the sun.
This is the first transit of the sun by a planet observed from any planet other than Earth, and also the first imaging of Mercury from Mars. Mercury fills only about one-sixth of one pixel as seen from such great distance, so the darkening does not have a distinct shape, but its position follows Mercury's expected path based on orbital calculations.
The observation by the telephoto camera of Curiosity's two-eyed Mast Camera instrument is available online at:
"This is a nod to the relevance of planetary transits to the history of astronomy on Earth," said Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station, a member of the Mastcan science team. "Observations of Venus transits were used to measure the size of the solar system, and Mercury transits were used to measure the size of the sun."
The observations were made on June 3, 2014, from Curiosity's position inside Gale Crater on Mars. In addition to showing the Mercury transit, the same Mastcam frames show two sunspots approximately the size of Earth. The sunspots move only at the pace of the sun's rotation, much slower than the movement of Mercury./
Antelope Valley Astronomy Club
If you're new to astronomy? Experience a for the first time, and maybe even look through a telescope at some of the wonders of our Universe. The first step is to find Astronomy activities in your area of the Antelope Valley look here... http://www.avastronomyclub.org/
Sky & Telescope Magazine
Whats Going on in The Night Sky This Week
Sky & Telescope Home
The NASA Comet ISON Observing Campaign
Sun Grazing Comets or Sun Grazers
Amateur Observers' Program Asteroids & Comets
Experience the thrill of participating
in a NASA project!
Don't worry, you won't need to know much about astronomy, comets or asteroids. That's what this site is about!
•If you don't know what an asteroid or comet is or how to find things in the night sky, you'll want to start with the Beginner's Guide.
- Take the next step and learn about coordinates, magnitudes, and some simple projects in the Intermediate Guide.
- If you just want to submit your latest observation, go to the Log Book.
- Finally, want to know the lowdown on the missions/projects? Check out the
"NEW" Canada-France-Hawaii (CFH) Telescope and Live Webcams:
The CFH observatory hosts a world-class, 3.6 meter optical/infrared telescope. The observatory is located atop the summit of Mauna Kea, a 4200 meter, dormant volcano located on the island of Hawaii. "Check out their image gallery and webcams links above"
NASA/Solar System News 2014
"One Small Step For [a] Man, One Giant Leap For Mankind." The infamous words of Astronaut Neil Armstrong as he set foot on the Moon.
- The Life of Astronaut Buzz Aldrin
- The Apollo Missions
- Other Astronaut Biographies
- 'One Small Step for Man': Was Neil Armstrong Misquoted?
NASA's first mission to sample an asteroid is moving ahead into development and testing in preparation for its launch in 2016.
The Origins-Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) passed a confirmation review Wednesday called Key Decision Point (KDP)-C. NASA officials reviewed a series of detailed project assessments and authorized the spacecraft's continuation into the development phase.
NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) satellite arrived at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday, April 16, to begin its final preparations for launch currently scheduled no earlier than May 28. IRIS will improve our understanding of how heat and energy move through the deepest levels of the sun’s atmosphere, thereby increasing our ability to forecast space weather. Following final checkouts, the IRIS spacecraft will be placed inside an Orbital Sciences Pegasus rocket. Deployment of the Pegasus from the L-1011 carrier aircraft is targeted for 7:27 p.m. PDT at an altitude of 39,000 feet at a location over the Pacific Ocean about 100 miles northwest of Vandenberg AFB off the central coast of California south of Big Sur. Go to: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/iris/news/arrives-vafb.html
NASA Voyager Status Update on Voyager 1 Location 03.20.13
The Voyager team is aware of reports today that NASA's Voyager 1 has left the solar system," said Edward Stone, Voyager project scientist based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space. In December 2012, the Voyager science team reported that Voyager 1 is within a new region called 'the magnetic highway' where energetic particles changed dramatically. A change in the direction of the magnetic field is the last critical indicator of reaching interstellar space and that change of direction has not yet been observed."
To learn more about the current status of the Voyager mission: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2012-381
The Voyager spacecraft were built and continue to be operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The Voyager missions are a part of NASA's Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
Jia-Rui C. Cook 818-354-0850
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
How Did Life Arise? Fuel Cells May Have Answers
|How Did Life Arise? Fuel Cells May Have Answers|
|A new JPL-led study demonstrates a unique way to study the origins of life: fuel cells. |
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