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  • NASA Gives Public New Internet Tool to Explore the Solar System
    Green director of NASA s Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington DC It demonstrates NASA s continued commitment to share our science with everyone The virtual environment uses the Unity game engine to display models of planets moons asteroids comets and spacecraft as they move through our solar system With keyboard and mouse controls users cruise through space to explore anything that catches their interest A free browser plug in available at the site is required to run the web application You are now free to move about the solar system said Blaine Baggett executive manager in the Office of Communication and Education at NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory See what NASA s spacecraft see and where they are right now all without leaving your computer Users may experience missions in real time and Eyes on the Solar System also allows them to travel through time The tool is populated with NASA data dating back to 1950 and projected to 2050 The playback rate can be sped up or slowed down When NASA s Juno spacecraft launched on August 5 2011 users could look ahead to see the mission s five year journey to Jupiter in a matter of seconds Point of view can be switched from faraway to close up to right on board the spacecraft Location motion and appearance are based on predicted and reconstructed mission data Dozens of controls on a series of pop up menus allow users to fully customize what they see and video and audio tutorials explain how to use the tool s many options Users may choose from two dimensional or three dimensional modes with the latter simply requiring a pair of red cyan glasses to see By basing our visualization primarily on mission data this tool will help both NASA

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/eyesOnSS/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Tributes to Terrorism Victims are on Mars
    Mars That shield on Mars to me contrasts the destructive nature of the attackers with the ingenuity and hopeful attitude of Americans said Stephen Gorevan Honeybee founder and chairman and a member of the Mars rover science team On the morning of September 11 2011 Gorevan was six blocks from the World Trade Center riding his bicycle to work when he heard an airliner hit the first tower Mostly what comes back to me even today is the sound of the engines before the first plane struck the tower Just before crashing into the tower I could hear the engines being revved up as if those behind the controls wanted to ensure the maximum destruction I stopped and stared for a few minutes and realized I felt totally helpless and I left the scene and went to my office nearby where my colleagues told me a second plane had struck We watched the rest of the sad events of that day from the roof of our facility At Honeybee s building on Elizabeth Street as in the rest of the area normal activities were put on hold for days and the smell from the collapse of the towers persisted for weeks Steve Kondos who was at the time a JPL engineer working closely with the Honeybee team came up with the suggestion for including something on the rovers as an interplanetary memorial JPL was building the rovers and managing the project To carry out the idea an early hurdle was acquiring an appropriate piece of material from the World Trade Center site Through Gorevan s contacts a parcel was delivered to Honeybee Robotics from the mayor s office on December 1 2001 with a twisted plate of aluminum inside and a note Here is debris from Tower 1 and Tower

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/0911Tribute/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Launches to Jupiter
    cutting edge science like this to help us better understand our solar system and an ever increasing array of challenging destinations After Juno s launch onboard an Atlas V rocket mission controllers now await telemetry from the spacecraft indicating it has achieved its proper orientation and that its massive solar arrays the biggest on any NASA deep space probe have deployed and are generating power Juno will cover the distance from Earth to the Moon about 250 000 miles or 402 336 kilometers in less than one day s time It will take another 5 years and 1740 million miles 2800 million kilometers to complete the journey to Jupiter The spacecraft will orbit the planet s poles 33 times and use its collection of 8 science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant s obscuring cloud cover to learn more about its origins structure atmosphere and magnetosphere and look for a potential solid planetary core With four large moons and many smaller moons Jupiter forms its own miniature solar system Its composition resembles that of a star and if it had been about 80 times more massive the planet could have become a star instead Jupiter is the Rosetta Stone

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/juno/080511/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Twisted Tale of Our Galaxy’s Ring
    The Herschel Space Observatory is a European Space Agency led mission with important NASA contributions It sees infrared and submillimeter light which can readily penetrate through the dust hovering between the bustling center of our galaxy and us Herschel s detectors are also suited to see the coldest stuff in our galaxy When astronomers turned the giant telescope to look at the center of our galaxy it captured unprecedented views of its inner ring a dense tube of cold gas mixed with dust where new stars are forming Astronomers were shocked by what they saw the ring which is in the plane of our galaxy looked more like an infinity symbol with two lobes pointing to the side In fact they later determined the ring was torqued in the middle so it only appears to have two lobes To picture the structure imagine holding a stiff elliptical band and twisting the ends in opposite directions so that one side comes up a bit Observations with the groundbased Nobeyama Radio Observatory in Japan complemented the Herschel results by determining the velocity of the denser gas in the ring The radio results demonstrate that the ring is moving together as a unit at the same speed relative to the rest of the galaxy The ring lies at the center of our Milky Way s bar a bar shaped region of stars at the center of its spidery spiral arms This bar is actually inside an even larger ring Other galaxies have similar bars and rings A classic example of a ring inside a bar is in the galaxy NGC 1097 The details of how bars and rings form in spiral galaxies are not well understood but computer simulations demonstrate how gravitational interactions can produce the structures Some theories hold that bars arise

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/hso/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA Spacecraft Data Suggest Water Flowing on Mars
    Science Some aspects of the observations still puzzle researchers but flows of liquid brine fit the features characteristics better than alternate hypotheses Saltiness lowers the freezing temperature of water Sites with active flows get warm enough even in the shallow subsurface to sustain liquid water that is about as salty as Earth s oceans while pure water would freeze at the observed temperatures These dark lineations are different from other types of features on martian slopes said Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project Scientist Richard Zurek of NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Repeated observations show they extend ever farther downhill with time during the warm season The features imaged are only about 0 5 to 5 yards or meters wide with lengths up to hundreds of yards The width is much narrower than previously reported gullies on martian slopes However some of those locations display more than 1000 individual flows Also while gullies are abundant on cold pole facing slopes these dark flows are on warmer equator facing slopes The images show flows lengthen and darken on rocky equator facing slopes from late spring to early fall The seasonality latitude distribution and brightness changes suggest a volatile material is involved but there is no direct detection of one The settings are too warm for carbon dioxide frost and at some sites too cold for pure water This suggests the action of brines which have lower freezing points Salt deposits over much of Mars indicate brines were abundant in Mars past These recent observations suggest brines still may form near the surface today in limited times and places When researchers checked flow marked slopes with the orbiter s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars CRISM no sign of water appeared The features may quickly dry on the surface or could be shallow subsurface

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/mro/080511/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Astronomers Find Largest, Most Distant Reservoir of Water
    and dust As it eats the quasar spews out huge amounts of energy Both groups of astronomers studied a particular quasar called APM 08279 5255 which harbors a black hole 20 billion times more massive than the Sun and produces as much energy as a thousand trillion Suns Astronomers expected water vapor to be present even in the early distant universe but had not detected it this far away before There s water vapor in the Milky Way although the total amount is 4000 times less than in the quasar because most of the Milky Way s water is frozen in ice Water vapor is an important trace gas that reveals the nature of the quasar In this particular quasar the water vapor is distributed around the black hole in a gaseous region spanning hundreds of light years in size a light year is about 6 trillion miles Its presence indicates that the quasar is bathing the gas in X rays and infrared radiation and that the gas is unusually warm and dense by astronomical standards Although the gas is at a chilly 63 F 53 C and is 300 trillion times less dense than Earth s atmosphere it s still 5 times hotter and 10 to 100 times denser than what s typical in galaxies like the Milky Way Measurements of the water vapor and of other molecules such as carbon monoxide suggest there is enough gas to feed the black hole until it grows to about six times its size Whether this will happen is not clear the astronomers say since some of the gas may end up condensing into stars or might be ejected from the quasar Bradford s team made their observations starting in 2008 using an instrument called Z Spec at the California Institute of

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/quasarWater/ (2016-02-15)
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  • WISE Eye Spies Near-Earth Asteroid
    are asteroids and comets with orbits that pass relatively close to Earth s path around the Sun In extremely rare cases of an impact the objects may cause damage to Earth s surface An asteroid about 10 kilometers 6 miles wide is thought to have plunged into our planet 65 million years ago triggering a global disaster and killing off the dinosaurs Additional asteroid and comet detections will continue to come from WISE The observations will be automatically sent to the clearinghouse for solar system bodies the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge Massachusetts for comparison against the known catalog of solar system objects A community of professional and amateur astronomers will provide follow up observations establishing firm orbits for the previously unseen objects This is just the beginning said Ned Wright the mission s principal investigator from the University of California Los Angeles We ve got a fire hose of data pouring down from space On January 14 the WISE mission began its official survey of the entire sky in infrared light one month after it rocketed into a polar orbit around Earth from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California By casting a wide net the mission will catch all sorts of cosmic objects from asteroids in our own solar system to galaxies billions of light years away Its data will serve as a cosmic treasure map pointing astronomers and telescopes such as NASA s Spitzer Space Telescope and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to the most interesting finds WISE is expected to find about 100 000 previously unknown asteroids in our main asteroid belt a rocky ring of debris between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter It will also spot hundreds of previously unseen near Earth objects By observing infrared light WISE will reveal the darkest members of

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/wise/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Barringer Fund Awardees Announced
    Fund for Meteorite Impact Research was established to support field work by eligible students interested in the study of impact cratering processes The Fund provides a small number of competitive grants each year for support of field research at known or suspected impact sites worldwide The Fund was established as a memorial to recognize the contributions of Brandon Moreau Paul and Richard Barringer to the field of meteoritics and the

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/awards/barringer2011/ (2016-02-15)
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