November 15, 2017

Pluto’s Hydrocarbon Haze Keeps Dwarf Planet Colder Than Expected

Pluto’s haze layers are visible in this image taken by the New Horizons Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera and computer generated to replicate true color. Haze is produced by sunlight-initiated chemical reactions of nitrogen and methane, leading to small particles that grow and settle toward the surface. Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

November 15, 2017 – The gas composition of a planet’s atmosphere generally determines how much heat gets trapped in the atmosphere. For the dwarf planet Pluto, however, the predicted temperature based on the composition of its atmosphere was much higher than actual measurements taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. Read More

Data From Van Allen Probes Mission Helps Scientists Locate Whistling Space Electrons’ Origins

illustration of Earth’s Van Allen Belts
The Van Allen Belts, shown in green in this illustration, are concentric doughnut-shaped belts filled with charged particles, trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. Image Credit: Tony Phillips/NASA

November 15, 2017 – Scientists have long known that solar-energized particles trapped around the planet are sometimes scattered into Earth’s upper atmosphere where they can contribute to beautiful auroral displays. Yet for decades, no one has known exactly what is responsible for hurling these energetic electrons on their way. Recently, two spacecraft found themselves at just the right places at the right time to witness first hand both the impulsive electron loss and its cause. Read More

What Causes The “Seasons” In Space Weather?

Left panel (a) shows oscillation between differential rotation kinetic energy (solid red curve) and perturbation Rossby waves kinetic energy (red dashed curve). Typically up to 42 modes in longitude were included in these nonlinear simulations. The units in x and y axis are dimensionless. 100 dimensionless time units correspond to approximately one year; thus the TNO has a period of about 6 months in this case. Frames (b-d) show perturbation flow patterns (in arrow vectors), and thickness of tachocline fluid shell (in color shades, red shade representing swelling, blue depression). Tilts of perturbations are eastward in (b), extracting energy from differential rotation until Rossby waves’ energy is at a maximum; perturbations then go through neutral tilts (c), and then overshoot to acquire westward tilts (d). Enhanced bursts of activity (shown by a semi-transparent gray arrow pointed towards a local peak (yellow-filled ellipse) in sunspot number curve in panel (e)) occurs when perturbation Rossby wave kinetic energy is at its maximum, followed by a relatively quiet season (second semi-transparent gray arrow pointing towards a local dip (the second yellow-filled ellipse) in panel (e)). Image Credit: HAO

November 15, 2017 – It is widely known that the Sun has ‘spots’–dark areas on its surface that are well known to contain strong magnetic fields, much stronger than the Earth’s field. The number of spots seen on the Sun waxes and wanes with a period of roughly eleven years, the ‘solar cycle’. Spots are just one manifestation of ‘solar activity’, that includes sudden bursts of high energy radiation and charged particles, called ‘flares’, as well as huge eruptions of material and magnetic fields from the solar corona, called coronal mass ejections (CME’s). Generally both flares and CME’s occur more often and are more intense when there are more spots present, near ‘solar maximum’, the peak of the solar cycle. Read More

Colorado Astronaut Jack Fischer Inspires Schriever Airmen

Col. Jack Fischer, NASA astronaut, greets Airmen at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado, Nov. 13, 2017. During his time in Colorado Springs, Fischer visited Schriever Air Force Base, Peterson Air Force Base, the United States Air Force Academy, Memorial Hospital, the Space Foundation Discovery Center, the Boys and Girls Club of Colorado Springs and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, College of Engineering. Image Credit: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Arielle Vasquez

November 15, 2017 – Col. Jack Fischer, NASA astronaut, met with more than 70 Schriever Airmen and family members at the event center November 13. While at Schriever, he spoke about his Air Force and NASA career, as well as his time in space. Fischer recently returned from a mission aboard the International Space Station, spanning 136 days. Read More

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Life, Liberty And Space: Jeff Bezos Links Blue Origin To Saving Earth
Source: GeekWire

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ vision for his Blue Origin rocket venture is to have millions of people living and working in space — but why? During this month’s Summit Series invitation-only event in Los Angeles, Bezos explained that it’s not just because he’s a Star Trek fan — although he is that indeed. He sees going beyond Earth as a critical step toward preserving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness on our home planet.

Coronal Hole All Spread Out
Source: NASA/SDO

A broad coronal hole was the dominant feature this week on the sun (Nov. 7-9, 2017). It was easily recognizable as the dark expanse across the top of the sun and extending down in each side. Coronal holes are magnetically open areas on the sun that allow high-speed solar wind to gush out into space. They always appear darker in extreme ultraviolet. This one was likely the source of bright aurora that shimmered for numerous observers, with some reaching down even to Nebraska.

Our Living Planet Shapes The Search For Life Beyond Earth
Source: NASA

Life. It’s the one thing that, so far, makes Earth unique among the thousands of other planets we’ve discovered. Since the fall of 1997, NASA satellites have continuously and globally observed all plant life at the surface of the land and ocean. During the week of Nov. 13-17, NASA is sharing stories and videos about how this view of life from space is furthering knowledge of our home planet and the search for life on other worlds.

Lockheed Martin Integrates New Engine For Fury Unmanned Air Vehicle
Source: Lockheed Martin

Fury, the expeditionary, runway-independent unmanned air vehicle (UAV) now has engine updates that will further increase its flight endurance, Lockheed Martin announced today. With the integration of the 1803 engine into the platform, engineering tests performed by the company indicate that Fury will be able to stay in the air for 15 continuous hours, making it one of the highest endurance unmanned systems in its class.

Colorado-Born NASA Astronaut Stops By Air Force Academy To Share Lessons, Inspire Cadets

He’s a Colorado native, active duty member of the Air Force, and an astronaut. Colonel Jack Fischer was at the Air Force Academy on Tuesday to share his knowledge with new cadets.

Companies Agree FAA Best Agency To Regulate Non-Traditional Space Activities

Representatives of four major companies agreed yesterday that the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST) is the best federal agency to be placed in charge of regulating non-traditional space activities to ensure compliance with the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. They also agreed that regulatory certainty is key to the success of their ventures, so although they want a “light hand” of regulation, they do want some.

SSL Selected To Conduct Power And Propulsion Study For NASA’s Deep Space Gateway Concept
Source: SSL

SSL, a business unit of Maxar Technologies (formerly MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) and a leading provider of innovative satellites and spacecraft systems, announced today it was selected by NASA to conduct a four-month study for a module that will provide power and control for NASA’s deep space gateway concept.

Working On Hubble Telescope For NASA A ‘Surreal’ Experience Says Lakehead University Grad
Source: CBC News

Colette Lepage made her dream of working for NASA come true. Those experiences included work on the Hubble Space Telescope, which launched aboard the space shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 24, 1990.

Delta 2 Launch Likely Pushed Back To Saturday
Source: Spaceflight Now

Brisk upper level winds blowing from the west thwarted a second try to launch a new NOAA weather satellite aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket Wednesday, likely postponing the liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California until at least Saturday.

Closest Temperature World Orbiting Quiet Star Discovered
Source: ESO

A temperate Earth-sized planet has been discovered only 11 light-years from the Solar System by a team using ESO’s unique planet-hunting HARPS instrument. The new world has the designation Ross 128 b and is now the second-closest temperate planet to be detected after Proxima b. It is also the closest planet to be discovered orbiting an inactive red dwarf star, which may increase the likelihood that this planet could potentially sustain life.

China’s New Meteorological Satellite Monitors Global Carbon Emissions
Source: China Daily

China’s newly launched meteorological satellite, Fengyun-3D, can monitor global greenhouse gas emissions with high accuracy, according to the satellite’s designers. The satellite, which was launched early Wednesday from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China’s Shanxi Province, carries hyper-spectral greenhouse gas monitoring equipment, said Xu Pengmei, researcher at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, which developed the satellite.

NASA Agreement Sign Of Stratolaunch Engine Development Program
Source: SpaceNews

An agreement to do engine testing at a NASA center is the latest sign that Stratolaunch is considering developing its own launch vehicle for its giant aircraft. The Space Act Agreement between Stratolaunch and NASA’s Stennis Space Center, signed Sept. 13, covers “reimbursable testing and related support services to Stratolaunch to support propulsion, vehicle, and ground support system development and testing activities.”