(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).
As expected, tropical cyclone Owen recently intensified as it moved over the Gulf of Carpentaria and NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's GPM core satellite found very heavy rainfall occurring within the revived storm.The storm has made a U-turn in the Gulf and is now headed back to Queensland.On December 12, 2018 at 0047 UTC (Dec. 11 at 7:47 p.m. EST) Owen's maximum sustained winds had increased to about 55 knots (63 mph) when the Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core observatory satellite scanned the western side of the tropical cyclone.This wind speed meant that Owen's intensity had reached the equivalent of a strong tropical storm on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale.GPM's Microwave Imager (GMI) and GPM's Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) instruments collected data showing that extremely heavy rainfall was occurring in the Arafura Sea well to the northwest of Owen's center of circulation.The 3-D view was created using data from the GPM satellite's Radar (DPR Ku Band) and showed the precipitation structure in storms north of Australia's Northern Territory.
But how Earth ended up with all its water is still a mysteryNASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has discovered water on the asteroid Bennu less than a week after its arrival at the hunk of space rock.The journey to Bennu began over two years ago when OSIRIS-Rex left Earth, it has been chugging along since travelling 1.2 billion miles (2 billion kilometers) to get within 12 miles away from the asteroid on 3 December.Now, data taken from the probe’s spectrometers reveals that hydroxyls, a group of molecules containing an oxygen atom bonded to a hydrogen atom.Alcohol is an example of a hydroxyl group bonded to a carbon compound.The presence of these molecules hints that Bennu was once in contact with water, and the fluid seeped into its clay minerals.
The secret to stabilising Earth’s climate could rest in the world’s forests.That’s why, this week, a team of researchers is sending a high-tech reconnaissance operative to the International Space Station to figure out how much carbon is stored in our planet’s trees.Tucked inside the next SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, and armed only with a laser altimeter, the Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) waits for deployment.Launching on December 4, this first-of-its-kind LIDAR instrument is designed to map the world’s forests in 3D, and by doing so give us better estimates of their biomass and how much carbon they store.Earth’s forests, like the oceans, soak up carbon from the atmosphere.But deforestation and other disturbances can cause that carbon to be released, and we still have a lot to learn about which forests are carbon sinks and which are carbon sources on a global scale.
(NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab)Gravity is big and weird and difficult to study.But these waves are subtle and difficult to detect.They occur in measurable amounts only after massive events, like the collision of black holes.Humanity didn't spot its first gravitational wave until 2015.Then, in 2017, astronomers for the first time detected both gravitational waves and light from a single event: a neutron star collision.
When Tropical Cyclone 33W, also known as Usagi strengthened to hurricane intensity as it approached Vietnam from the South China Sea it dropped a lot of rain.Although the storm weakened to tropical storm intensity when coming ashore in Vietnam, it continued to generate a lot of rain, and NASA added up that heavy rainfall.Very heavy rainfall and damaging winds accompanied tropical storm Usagi when it hit Vietnam's southern coast.More than 350 mm (14 inches) of rainfall was reported causing widespread flooding around Ho Chi Minh City.NASA's Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) data were used to show estimates of rainfall accumulation produced by Usagi as the tropical cyclone moved across the South China Sea into Southeast Asia.An IMERG accumulation analysis created at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland encompassed the period from November 19 to 26, 2018.
After taking a short break from observing the cosmos, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is officially back up and running, and the observatory captured a stunning new view of a distant, star-forming galaxy.After about three weeks, the mission team was able to fix the balky gyro and get Hubble back online.Shortly thereafter, the telescope homed in on a field of star-forming galaxies located approximately 11 billion light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus.The new image, taken on Oct. 27 using the telescope's Wide Field Camera 3, was the first picture captured by the telescope after it returned to service, according to a statement from NASA.However, getting Hubble back online was no easy feat; it involved an entire team of engineers and experts who worked tirelessly to find a fix, officials said in the statement.[The Hubble Space Telescope's Greatest Discoveries]
A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago.The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, and the first to be found beneath the Greenland ice sheet.An international team of scientists led by researchers at University of Copenhagen’s Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark has been studying the crater since July 2015, when it was spotted using ice-penetrating radar data from a NASA mission to log changes to polar ice.The team noted a huge depression beneath the Hiawatha Glacier in northwestern Greenland and decided to investigate further by looking at both radar data and images of the surface ice in the area.The surface ice showed a circular pattern similar to the pattern in the topography map, suggesting that the formation was very old.The team then flew a research plane over the area to collect a more detailed radar data survey.
In 2015, researchers created a new map of the continent's bedrock, which is normally obscured by thousands of feet of ice.When an international team of scientists studied that map, they found a 16-mile-wide, bowl-like depression — it looked like a giant asteroid impact crater.The scientists wanted to be sure, though, since this would be the one of the 25 largest impact craters on Earth.So they shored up evidence for the claim over the next three years.In a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, the team reports that there is indeed a crater, which was made by a half-mile-wide iron asteroid slamming into Greenland between 12,000 and 3 million years ago.Here's how the group made this remarkable discovery — and why it should worry us today.
As Tropical Storm Xavier continued to rain on western Mexico, the Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core satellite analyzed the rate in which rain was falling.The next day, Nov, 6, Xavier had weakened to a remnant low pressure area.The GPM core observatory satellite passed directly above tropical storm Xavier's low level center of circulation on November 4, 2018 at 11:33 a.m. EDT (1533 UTC).At that time Xavier was located in the eastern Pacific Ocean less than 150 nautical miles (277.8 km) south of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.Xavier was experiencing strong southwesterly vertical wind shear.The low level center of circulation was located well offshore while the tropical storm's deep convection had been pushed toward Mexico's coast.
An observational technique first proposed more than four decades ago to measure the physical parameters of the corona that determine the formation of the solar wind -- the source of disturbances in Earth's upper atmosphere -- will be demonstrated for the first time next year.These parameters are the density, temperature, and speed of electrons in the corona.Nat Gopalswamy and Jeff Newmark, heliophysicists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, plan to demonstrate BITSE -- short for the Balloon-borne Investigation of Temperature and Speed of Electrons in the corona -- aboard a high-altitude scientific balloon from Ft. Sumner, New Mexico, next fall.However, the BITSE coronagraph has added features that can measure some very important properties of the solar wind, which can travel as fast as a million miles per hour as it flows off the Sun carrying charged particles or plasma and embedded magnetic fields outward across the solar system.No coronagraph has ever done this before," said Gopalswamy, who used Goddard's Internal Research and Development program funding to advance BITSE.Understanding the source of the solar wind, which determines how space weather-causing coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, propagate between the Sun and Earth, can help improve space-weather forecasts, particularly in the near-Earth environment where changes can sometimes interfere with radio communications or GPS.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight CenterNASA launched its $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe mission toward the sun in August.The spacecraft is scheduled to "touch" the sun on Monday night during the first of 24 flybys.NASA's probe will reach a speed of 213,200 mph while flying through 3.6-million-degree solar plasma.That's far faster than the prior speed record held by NASA's Juno spacecraft, which zooms past the cloud tops of Jupiter at 130,000 mph once every two months.Right now, it's screaming through the diffuse outer atmosphere of the sun, which is about 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit.
An ultrafast laser that fires pulses of light just 100 millionths of a nanosecond in duration could potentially revolutionize the way that NASA technicians manufacture and ultimately assemble instrument components made of dissimilar materials.A team of optical physicists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is experimenting with a femtosecond laser and has already shown that it can effectively weld glass to copper, glass to glass, and drill hair-sized pinholes in different materials.Now the group, led by optical physicist Robert Lafon, is expanding its research into more exotic glass, such as sapphire and Zerodur, and metals, such as titanium, Invar, Kovar, and aluminum -- materials often used in spaceflight instruments.The goal is to weld larger pieces of these materials and show that the laser technology is effective at adhering windows onto laser housings and optics to metal mounts, among other applications.With support from the Space Technology Mission Directorate's Center Innovation Fund program, the group is also exploring the technology's use in fabricating and packaging photonic integrated circuits, an emerging technology that could benefit everything from communications and data centers to optical sensors.Though they are similar to electronic integrated circuits, photonic integrated circuits are fabricated on a mixture of materials, including silica and silicon, and use visible or infrared light, instead of electrons, to transfer information.