COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The University of Maryland-led EPOXI mission successfully flew by comet Hartley 2 at 10 a.m. EDT today, and the spacecraft has begun returning images. Hartley 2 is the fifth comet nucleus visited by any spacecraft and the s…
Hurricane Earl, currently a Category Two storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale with maximum sustained winds of 100 knots (115 miles per hour), continues to push relentlessly toward the U.S. East Coast, and NASA scientists, instruments and spacecraft…
NASA’s Galileo spacecraft continues to deliver surprises with the discovery that Jupiter’s potato-shaped inner moon, named Amalthea, appears to have a very low density, indicating it is full of holes. “The density is unexpectedly low,” said Dr. John D. Anderson, an astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Amalthea is apparently a loosely packed pile of rubble.” The empty gaps between solid chunks likely take up more of the moon’s total volume than the solid pieces, and even the chunks are probably material that is not dense enough to fit some theories about the origin of Jupiter’s moons. “Amalthea now seems more likely to be mostly rock with maybe a little ice, rather than a denser mix of rock and iron,” said JPL’s Dr. Torrence Johnson, project scientist for Galileo.
A team of researchers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and the Royal Observatory of Belgium has apparently solved a recently observed mystery regarding changes to the physical shape of Earth and its gravity field. The answer, they found, appears to lie in the melting of sub-polar glaciers and mass shifts in the Southern, Pacific and Indian Oceans associated with global-scale climate changes.
All systems on NASA’s Stardust spacecraft performed successfully when tested in a flyby of asteroid Annefrank on Friday, heightening anticipation for Stardust’s encounter with its primary target, comet Wild 2, 14 months from now. As a bonus, Stardust discovered that Annefrank is about twice the size anticipated, but with a dimmer surface. The dimmer surface increased the challenge of sighting the object as the spacecraft approached.
Before starting its 35th and final orbit around Jupiter next week, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft will visit three intriguing features of the giant planet’s neighborhood for the first time: a small moon named Amalthea, a dusty ring and the inner region of Jupiter’s high-energy magnetic environment.
A new moon of the planet Uranus has been discovered and confirmed by a team of astronomers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This most-recently discovered natural satellite, named S/2001 U 1, brings the total number of confirmed uranian moons to 21. The new kid on the block — and five others like it — have very irregular, eccentric orbits that don’t share the same orbital plane as the larger moons of Uranus. Ranging in size from 10 to 20 kilometers, these moons are thought to be remnants of ancient collisions that occurred at the early stage of planetary formation.
Researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., have demonstrated a prototype device that automatically and continuously monitors the air for the presence of bacterial spores. The result is a novel alarm capability reminiscent of smoke detectors. Current methods for detecting bacterial spores, such as anthrax, require a trained operator. The large number of trained monitors required, with associated costs, limits widespread implementation of these methods.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has completed the first comprehensive high-resolution topographic map of Central America, a region where persistent cloud cover had made high-quality satellite imagery difficult to obtain. A mosaic image created from the map, which was collected during the 2000 Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, is available on the JPL Planetary Photojournal at: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA03364
NASA has developed a way to pilot aircraft independent of local navigational aids, infrastructure and even good ol’ landmarks. The NASA Global Differential GPS system at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has demonstrated the ability to achieve real-time aircraft positioning accuracy of 10 centimeters horizontally and 20 centimeters vertically, anywhere in the world. Think of it this way: Using the NASA system, a pilot could remotely navigate an unmanned aircraft from, say, Atlanta, Georgia and have it land within three inches of its target in Tokyo, Japan.
Chaos can explain the seemingly random behavior of two moons of Saturn, JPL researchers say. The moons — Pandora and Prometheus — are more than 100,000 miles off course of where they would be if their orbits followed conventional physics. “With chaotic interactions, a barely perceptible difference in starting conditions can make such a great difference in later positions that the movements are not fully predictable over time. The two moons give each other a gravitational kick each time Pandora passes inside Prometheus, about every 28 days. Because neither’s orbit is quite circular, the distance between them on those occasions — hence the strength of the kick — varies.”