Category Archives: News

Meteor Explodes Over Russia

From NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio. Analysis of the meteor that flew in over Russia tells a surprising tale. Shortly after dawn on Feb. 15, 2013, a bolide measuring 18 meters across and weighing 11,000 metric tons, screamed into Earth’s atmosphere at 18.6 kilometers per second. Burning from the friction with Earth’s thin air, the space rock exploded 23.3 kilometers above Chelyabinsk, Russia.

The event led to the formation of a new dust belt in Earth’s stratosphere. Scientists used data from the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite along with the GEOS-5 computational atmospheric model to achieve the first space-based observation the long-term evolution of a bolide plume.

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The Incredible Sungrazing Comets

A sungrazing comet is a comet that passes extremely close to the Sun at perihelion — sometimes within a few thousand kilometers of the Sun’s surface. While small sungrazers can be completely evaporated during such a close approach to the Sun, larger sungrazers can survive many perihelion passages. However, the strong evaporation and tidal forces they experience often lead to their fragmentation.

What can these comets tell us about our solar system? Perhaps they can even reveal some of the mysteries of the sun itself…

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Titan: The Mystery of the Missing Waves

Titan (or Saturn VI) is the largest moon of Saturn. It is the only natural satellite known to have a dense atmosphere and the only object, other than Earth, for which clear evidence of stable bodies of surface liquid has been found. However, these bodies of liquid are incredibly still, with no sign of wave activity. What is causing this incredible phenomenon?

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Cosmic Journeys – HyperEarth

Scientists are intensively tracking the workings of planet Earth with satellites that chart its winds, ocean currents, temperatures, plant growth, and more. They are constructing a new virtual Earth based on physical equations, satellite data, and computer codes that show the workings of our planet in whole new ways.

Our world, Earth, is changing before our eyes. Go back millions of years. Forests reached into polar regions, sea levels rose, and temperatures soared with high levels of the greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A long cooling period followed. But now CO2 is on the rise again. What will happen? How will we live in the New World that’s now emerging?

Scientists are intensively tracking the workings of planet Earth with satellites that chart its winds, ocean currents, temperatures, plant growth, and more. And with a new virtual Earth, shrunk down and converted into physical equations, satellite data, and computer codes they are able to show the workings of our planet in whole new ways..

This other Earth, a mirror of the one in which we live, is designed to follow the flow of heat through the complex, dynamic engine known as the climate… and to predict its future evolution. Continue reading Cosmic Journeys – HyperEarth

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Tracking Solar Torrents

In its fourth year in orbit, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has brought us front row center to a show filled with radiant bursts and dark mysteries.

SDO captures images of the sun in 10 different wavelengths, highlighting a range of surface temperatures. These show specific structures…. such as solar flares — giant explosions of light and x-rays — and coronal loops — streams of solar material that travel up and down looping magnetic field lines. These field lines can launch prominence eruptions, when masses of solar material blast off the surface of the sun, often falling back in vast torrents of fire.

Eruptions like these are often associated with dark cool regions called sunspots… below which tangled magnetic fields cause the energy to build to extremes.

One of the largest sunspot clusters in recent years appeared in January 2014. It was a prelude to a powerful X-class flare.

The sun is a complex electromagnetic system, powered by energy generated deep in its core. Scientists study these images because solar eruptions can pose a danger to spacecraft and power systems on Earth, and because they reveal the inner moods of countless stars that live, evolve, and finally die, all across the stage of Continue reading Tracking Solar Torrents

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Cosmic Journeys – Earth in 1000 Years

This edition of COSMIC JOURNEYS explores the still unfolding story of Earth’s past and the light it sheds on the science of climate change today. While that story can tell us about the mechanisms that can shape our climate. it’s still the unique conditions of our time that will determine sea levels, ice coverage, and temperatures.

Ice, in its varied forms, covers as much as 16% of Earth’s surface, including 33% of land areas at the height of the northern winter. Glaciers, sea ice, permafrost, ice sheets and snow play an important role in Earth’s climate. They reflect energy back to space, shape ocean currents, and spawn weather patterns.

But there are signs that Earth’s great stores of ice are beginning to melt. To find out where Earth might be headed, scientists are drilling down into the ice, and scouring ancient sea beds, for evidence of past climate change. What are they learning about the fate of our planet… a thousand years into the future and even beyond?

30,000 years ago, Earth began a relentless descent into winter. Glaciers pushed into what were temperate zones. Ice spread beyond polar seas. New layers of ice accumulated on the vast frozen Continue reading Cosmic Journeys – Earth in 1000 Years

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How Large Can a Telescope Be?

From ESOCast: on clear nights we can look up at the stars and marvel at the vastness of the universe. Our eyes quickly adapt to the dark. As our pupils widen, more light streams onto our retinas and fainter stars become more visible. But the light-collecting area of the human eye is tiny. To peer much deeper into the night sky astronomers need telescopes with enormous primary mirrors. How large does modern technology allow us to build telescopes? How far into space can they see?

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Voyager Leaves the Solar System

Thirty-six years ago this month, on Sept. 5, 1977, the Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

On September 12, 2013, NASA officially confirmed that Voyager 1 had reached the interstellar medium in August 2012. This makes Voyager 1 the first spacecraft to exit our solar system, a mark in history to be remembered forever.

Hear what today’s leading Astro-celebs have to say about Voyager’s incredible landmark accomplishment!

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Reinventing Space Flight

Follow Dr. Ben Longmier and his team into the rugged Alaskan wilderness on a quest to build a whole new type of rocket engine. Their goal is to test sensitive components by launching them into radiation-filled environments of space aboard helium balloons. Their goal is to revolutionize space travel and exploration by harnessing the energy contained in the dynamic fourth state of matter: plasma.

This action-packed episode explores a big dream at the moment of its birth… taking us along to witness dramatic balloon launches on mountain glaciers, spectacular imagery inside the Sun, and flights through colorful geomagnetic storms.

This exciting show is about individuals who are challenging the odds and striking out to new frontiers. As part of a larger trend of private enterprise in space, their audacious plan is to seize the historic initiative by opening up whole new avenues of space exploration.

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