(NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio)When the clock strikes lunar noon, water molecules begin to dance around on the light side of the moon.As the moon's surface heats up, water molecules detach and find another, cooler spot to hang out until temperatures cool back down, scientists found using data from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance orbiter (LRO), which has been circling the moon since 2009.Water on the surface of the moon exists mainly in two forms: frozen as stretches of ice always shrouded in darkness near the poles and as water molecules scattered across the surface bound to grains in the regolith or soil of the moon, according to a statement.[See Spectacular Lunar Mission Images in 3D (Photos)]Aboard the LRO is a UV spectrograph, an instrument that measures UV light (from the sun) that's reflected off the surface of the moon.
During the Apollo missions, NASA smartly set aside some lunar materials knowing future scientists would likely be better equipped to analyse them.Now, nearly 50 years later, the space agency is giving a select group of researchers the extraordinary opportunity to study these unopened and untarnished samples.Some of the returned samples were never opened to prevent possible contamination, while other lunar materials, after some initial processing, were re-sealed and placed in cold storage.The point of all this was to ensure the integrity of lunar materials for later study, allowing future scientists—equipped with new technologies and new questions—to take a look.Given that no lunar materials have returned to Earth since 1972, this was a remarkably prescient idea.The work will also be relevant to scientists working on the OSIRIS-REx mission, in which samples collected from asteroid Bennu will be returned to Earth in March 2021.
Work has begun on a new CubeSat mission that will demonstrate for the first time a new, highly promising technique for measuring soil moisture from space -- data important for early flood and drought warnings as well as crop-yield forecasts.Although scientists have proven the concept in ground-based campaigns, SNoOPI, as the mission is also known, will be the first on-orbit demonstration when it's deployed into a low-Earth orbit in 2021.Ultimately, scientists want to fly a constellation of tiny satellites, all employing the same technique, to determine the amount of water stored in snowpack and that which is present in soil in the root zone -- measurements not possible with current space-based technology.Instead of generating and transmitting its own radio signals toward Earth and then analyzing the returned signal, it will take advantage of already-available telecommunications signals.Specifically, SNoOPI will retrieve the P-band radio signal, which is sensitive to moisture levels, in transmissions from a telecommunications satellite orbiting 22,000 miles above Earth's surface.As with visible light, these signals hit Earth, interact with the environment, and literally bounce back into space where SNoOPI's sole instrument lies in wait to collect the P-band frequency.
Currently, NASA relies on radio waves to send information between spacecraft and Earth.This means that, in principle, XCOM can send more data for the same amount of transmission power.The X-rays can broadcast in tighter beams, thus using less energy when communicating over vast distances."We've waited a long time to demonstrate this capability," said Jason Mitchell, an engineer at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who helped develop the technology demonstration, which relies on a device called the Modulated X-ray Source, or MXS.Perhaps more dramatically, at least as far as human spaceflight is concerned, X-rays can pierce the hot plasma sheath that builds up as spacecraft hurdle through Earth's atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.The plasma acts as a shield, cutting off radio frequency communications with anything outside the vehicle for several seconds -- a nail-biting period of time dramatically portrayed in the movie, Apollo 13.
Scientists have spotted a potential asteroid crater in Greenland just 114 miles away from another one announced a few months ago.But the newest crater is even larger—it would be the 22nd largest on Earth.After the announcement of the first crater discovery last year, scientists went sifting through data in hopes of finding more craters hiding beneath Greenland’s ice.They found another potential crater over 22 miles (35 kilometres) in diameter.It brought up quite a few questions.“How many impact craters are hidden beneath the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets?” Joseph MacGregor, scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, told Gizmodo.
Scientists have spotted a potential asteroid crater in Greenland just 114 miles away from another one announced a few months ago.But the newest crater is even larger—it would be the 22nd largest on Earth.After the announcement of the first crater discovery last year, scientists went sifting through data in hopes of finding more craters hiding beneath Greenland’s ice.They found another potential crater over 22 miles (35 kilometres) in diameter.It brought up quite a few questions.“How many impact craters are hidden beneath the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets?” Joseph MacGregor, scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, told Gizmodo.
A potentially groundbreaking nanomaterial sensor could revolutionize how NASA explores planets, dramatically shrinking existing technologies into a far more capable form-factor.After refinement, the 3D printed sensor could find itself equipping future NASA missions to the moon and Mars, monitoring astronauts, and on the robotic arms of robots like the ill-fated Opportunity rover.Currently, sensor payload can add significantly to how much weight space missions are expected to carry.Rovers like Opportunity and Curiosity are typically equipped with a number of task-specific sensor arrays and test suites.Replacing traditional instrumentation with a more flexible, lighter alternative, therefore, could have a huge impact on the cost and capabilities of future NASA missions.A 3D printing system, funded by NASA and developed by a group at Northeastern University in Boston, is used to lay down individual layers of nanomaterials onto a single substrate.
The technology is capable of sensing everything from minute concentrations of gases and vapor, atmospheric pressure and temperature, and then transmitting that data via a wireless antenna -- all from the same self-contained platform that measures just two-by-three-inches in size.Under a $2 million technology development award, Sultana and her team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will spend the next two years advancing the autonomous multifunctional sensor platform.These tiny platforms could be deployed on planetary rovers to detect small quantities of water and methane, for example, or be used as monitoring or biological sensors to maintain astronaut health and safety.Central to the effort, funded by NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate's (STMD) Early Career Initiative (ECI) is a 3D printing system developed by Ahmed Busnina and his group at Northeastern University in Boston.Ultimately, each is capable of detecting a different gas, pressure level or temperature.Under her partnership with Northeastern University, Sultana and her group will design the sensor platform, determining which combination of materials are best for measuring minute, parts-per-billion concentrations of water, ammonia, methane and hydrogen -- all important in the search for life throughout the solar system.
The appearance of a massive white cap on Uranus may seem alarming, but as planetary scientists are learning, this is what a prolonged summer looks like on the remote ice giant.Ice giants Uranus and Neptune have water-rich interiors coated with hydrogen, helium, and a pinch of methane, the latter of which gives these outer planets their distinctive cyan complexion.A long-term side project of the Hubble program, OPAL is an annual effort to map these two planets when their orbital paths bring them closest to Earth.The new data, captured during the autumn of 2018, are providing important new insights into the seasonal variations on both Neptune and Uranus.“The yearly observations are helping us to understand the frequency of storms, as well as their longevity,” Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center who leads the OPAL mission, told Gizmodo.Most of the extrasolar planets that have been found are this size of planet, though at all sorts of distances from their parent stars.”
The speed of light is about 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second) in a vacuum.That can be tough to comprehend, so a scientist at NASA created several simple animations to demonstrate light's speed.His latest video — which he described as "ridiculous" —shows how long it takes light to go from the sun to Pluto in real time.The speed of light is not as fast as you might think.To underscore this point, a researcher at NASA created a simple new animation (below) that shows what light-speed travel looks like between from the sun to Pluto.James O'Donoghue, a planetary scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center, said he learned how to make animations only in the past few months.
NASA instrument scientist Bryan Blair had just finished writing the flight software for the agency's Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter, or MOLA, when he was invited in 1991 to fly a lidar instrument aboard a P-3 research aircraft to test new lidar techniques over the ice sheets in Greenland.What he discovered in the data stunned him, resulting in a 27-year quest to build a spaceborne lidar for measuring forests.That instrument -- the Global Ecosystems Dynamics Investigation, or GEDI -- is now collecting data as a payload attached to the Japanese Experiment Module, the largest science facility on the International Space Station."We were shooting lasers over forests and what we saw were crazy, complicated results in the signals that came back possibly indicating the structure of the forests below," recalled Blair, the GEDI deputy principal investigator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.Using research-and-development funds he cobbled together from various NASA R programs, he advanced an innovative idea into the first-ever mission dedicated to providing three-dimensional views of forests and details about the role of forests in the carbon cycle.It also underscores the importance of conceiving an idea, building a prototype, testing the instrument, and, as in GEDI's case, building an aircraft instrument first to finalize the measurement technique and needed technologies," said Goddard Chief Technologist Peter Hughes.
The speed of light in a vacuum is about 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second).That is, of course, barring the existence of theoretical shortcuts in the fabric of space called wormholes (and the ability to go through them without being destroyed).In a perfectly empty vacuum, a particle of light called a photon can travel 186,282 miles per second (299,792 kilometers per second), or about 670.6 million miles per hour (1.079 billion kilometers per hour)."When I revised for my exams, I used to draw complex concepts out by hand just to truly understand, so that's what I'm doing here."How fast light travels relative to EarthOne of O'Donoghue's first animations shows how fast light moves in relation to Earth.
(NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)An instrument aboard the International Space Station has helped reveal how black holes release brilliant flares of X-rays, a new study finds.However, scientists have debated where these bright flares come from.One possibility involves changes in the swirling ring of debris falling into the black hole, known as its accretion disk, whose inner edges can experience so much friction that they can reach 18 million degrees Fahrenheit (10 million degrees Celsius) or more.Another option involves the coronas of black holes — blobs of highly energetic particles floating above the poles of black holes that can heat up to about 1.8 billion degrees F (1 billion degrees C).[No Escape: Dive Into a Black Hole (Infographic)]
A strange celestial explosion, nicknamed "The Cow", occurred in a galaxy almost 200 million light years away on June 16, 2018 and it had astronomers udderly bamboozled.Picked up by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) telescopes in Hawaii, the mysterious event was officially named "AT2018cow".Astronomers, always one for a nickname, quickly jumped on "the Cow" as the unofficial moniker.The flash of light produced by the Cow was sudden and about 10 times brighter than expected for an exploding star.A second group suggested the event was caused by a huge black hole obliterating a dying star known as a "white dwarf".On Thursday, astronomers from those teams put forth their theories on the Cow's origins during a panel discussion at the 233rd American Astronomical Society.
The images we picked show elephants under threat, hurricanes from space, individual atoms, face transplants, spacecraft selfies, and more.The best images force us to reconsider how we think the world works and looks (and are also visually arresting, of course).They named it STEVE, an acronym for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.Instead, it looks purple and is surrounded by a green structure resembling a fence.The photo shows a glow of light emitted by an atom that's trapped by magnetic fields and laser light.In the fall, astronauts in space managed to take pictures of the fearsome hurricanes that battered the US East Coast.
Photo by Feng Li/Getty ImagesThe Department of Justice (DOJ) has charged two Chinese nationals with being part of a decade-long, government-sponsored global hacking campaign that included the alleged theft of information from 45 US tech companies and government agencies, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center.The charges, announced after the US government unsealed an indictment against the two individuals on Thursday, come at a time of high tension between the US and China.In the middle of a detente in the trade war between the two countries, the US recently coordinated with Canada to arrest the CFO of Huawei, one of China’s biggest companies.“As evidenced by this investigation, the threats we face have never been more severe, or more pervasive, or more potentially damaging to our national security, and no country poses a broader, more severe long-term threat to our nation’s economy and cyber infrastructure than China,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said during a press conference Thursday.“China’s goal, simply put, is to replace the US as the world’s leading superpower, and they’re using illegal methods to get there.”
Saturn’s rings are dissolving faster than scientists expected, according to the study, and they could be gone in 100 million to 300 million years—a cosmological blink of the eye.Saturn’s rings are primarily composed of water ice, but new research published in the journal Icarus shows that the rings are being assaulted by the planet’s gravity and magnetic field, triggering a phenomenon known as “ring rain.” Scientists first documented ring rain back in 2013, but new research, led by James O’Donoghue from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, shows the effect is happening much quicker than expected, and by consequence, so is the rate at which Saturn’s rings are decaying.If it’s the former, the rings formed about 4.4 billion years ago, but if it’s the latter, they only formed about 100 million years ago, likely the consequence of colliding moons in orbit around Saturn, according to research published in 2016.If the recent-formation scenario is true, that means Saturn had no rings when giant sauropod dinosaurs roamed the Earth during the Jurassic.“However, if rings are temporary, perhaps we just missed out on seeing giant ring systems of Jupiter, Uranus, and Neptune, which have only thin ringlets today.”Anyhoo, when the Voyager probes visited Saturn several decades ago, they detected the gas giant’s electrically charged upper atmosphere, or ionosphere, along with density variations in its rings, and three dark and narrow bands encircling the planet’s northern latitudes.
NASA and the Sunnyvale, California-based AOSense, Inc., have successfully built and demonstrated a prototype quantum sensor capable of obtaining highly sensitive and accurate gravity measurements -- a stepping stone toward next-generation geodesy, hydrology, and climate-monitoring missions in space.The prototype sensor, developed in collaboration with NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, employs a revolutionary measurement technique called atom interferometry, which former U.S. Energy Department Secretary Steven Chu and his colleagues invented in the late 1980s.Since the discovery, researchers worldwide have attempted to build practical, compact, more sensitive quantum sensors, such as atom interferometers, that scientists could use in space-constrained areas, including spacecraft.With funding from NASA's Small Business Innovation Research, Instrument Incubator, and Goddard's Internal Research and Development programs, the Goddard-AOSense team developed an atom-optics gravity gradiometer primarily for mapping Earth's time-varying gravitational field.Although Earth's gravitational field changes for a variety of reasons, the most significant cause is a change in water mass.If a glacier or an ice sheet melts, this would affect mass distribution and therefore Earth's gravitational field
NASA has tapped Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to launch nine of its sponsored technology payloads into space.The launch will take place using the private space company’s New Shepard rocket, the agency said in a statement today, with the launch taking place “no earlier than December 18 at 8:30AM CST.” The company plans to broadcast the New Shepard launch live on its NASA TV platform.If all goes as planned, Blue Origin’s rocket will send nine technology payloads sponsored by NASA into space tomorrow morning.The payloads come from a variety of institutions, including Johns Hopkins, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the Johnson Space Center, Controlled Dynamics Inc., Purdue University, and others.Blue Origin has already conducted two suborbital flights with NASA-sponsored payloads on board; this will be its first full mission delivering payloads to space for the agency, however.Included experiments include one that simulates dust particle disturbance in space, another that tests a way for gauging remaining fuel in space, and more.
On December 16 and 17, NASA's GPM core observatory satellite and NASA's Aqua satellite, respectively, passed over the Southern Indian Ocean and captured rainfall and temperature data on Tropical Cyclone Kenanga.When the Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core satellite passed overhead, the rainfall rates it gathered were derived from the satellite's Microwave Imager (GMI) instrument.Data from GPM's microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) were used in this analysis.DPR found that a powerful storm northeast of Kenanga's center of circulation was dropping rain at a rate of over 119 mm (4.7 inches) per hour.A 3-D animation used GPM's radar to show the structure of precipitation within tropical Cyclone Kenanga.The simulated flyby around Kenanga showed storm tops that were reaching heights above 13.5 km (8.4 miles).