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Fantastic images of Jupiter captured by New Horizons

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

jupiter
This amazing color portrait of Jupiter’s “Little Red Spot” (LRS) combines high-resolution images from the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager and the Hubble Space Telescope.
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

May 1, 2007, NASA released stunning new images of Jupiter and its moons taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. Views include a movie of a volcanic eruption on Jupiter's moon Io; a nighttime shot of auroras and lava on Io; a color photo of the "Little Red Spot" churning in Jupiter's cloudtops; images of small moons herding dust and boulders through Jupiter's faint rings--and much more!


More: Science@NASA - Fantastic Flyby

More: New Horizons Mission Gallery

Cassini Spacecraft Images Seas on Saturn's Moon Titan

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

comparing sizes between lake superior and lakes on titan
A comparison view of a lake on Titan and Lake Superior. Image credit: NASA/JPL/GSFC

Instruments on NASA's Cassini spacecraft have found evidence for seas, likely filled with liquid methane or ethane, in the high northern latitudes of Saturn's moon Titan. One such feature is larger than any of the Great Lakes of North America and is about the same size as several seas on Earth.

Cassini's radar instrument imaged several very dark features near Titan's north pole. Much larger than similar features seen before on Titan, the largest dark feature measures at least 100,000 square kilometers (39,000 square miles). Since the radar has caught only a portion of each of these features, only their minimum size is known. Titan is the second largest moon in the solar system and is about 50 percent larger than Earth's moon.

More: NASA - Cassini Spacecraft Images Seas on Saturn's Moon Titan

NASA-Backed Team Developing Sensor to Check for Life on Mars

Thursday, March 8, 2007

NASA-funded researchers are refining a tool that could not only check for the faintest traces of life's molecular building blocks on Mars, but could also determine whether they have been produced by anything alive.

The instrument, called Urey: Mars Organic and Oxidant Detector, has already shown its capabilities in one of the most barren climes on Earth, the Atacama Desert in Chile. The European Space Agency has chosen this tool from the United States as part of the science payload for the ExoMars rover planned for launch in 2013. Last month, NASA selected Urey for an instrument-development investment of $750,000. Much of the development work on the instrument has been funded by the NASA Astrobiology Program.

The European Space Agency plans for the ExoMars rover to grind samples of Martian soil to fine powder and deliver them to a suite of analytical instruments, including Urey, that will search for signs of life. Each sample will be a spoonful of material dug from underground by a robotic drill.

"Urey will be able to detect key molecules associated with life at a sensitivity roughly a million times greater than previous instrumentation," said Dr. Jeffrey Bada of Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Bada is the principal investigator for an international team of scientists and engineers working on various components of the device.

More: NASA - NASA-Backed Team Developing Sensor to Check for Life on Mars

Volcanic Plume on Io

Thursday, March 8, 2007

lcanic plume on Io captured by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons.
Volcanic plume on Io captured by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

This dramatic image of Io was taken by the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) on New Horizons at 11:04 Universal Time on February 28, 2007, just about 5 hours after the spacecraft's closest approach to Jupiter. The distance to Io was 2.5 million kilometers (1.5 million miles) and the image is centered at 85 degrees west longitude. At this distance, one LORRI pixel subtends 12 kilometers (7.4 miles) on Io.


This processed image provides the best view yet of the enormous 290-kilometer (180-mile) high plume from the volcano Tvashtar, in the 11 o'clock direction near Io's north pole. The plume was first seen by the Hubble Space Telescope two weeks ago and then by New Horizons on February 26; this image is clearer than the February 26 image because Io was closer to the spacecraft, the plume was more backlit by the Sun, and a longer exposure time (75 milliseconds versus 20 milliseconds) was used. Io's dayside was deliberately overexposed in this picture to image the faint plumes, and the long exposure also provided an excellent view of Io's night side, illuminated by Jupiter. The remarkable filamentary structure in the Tvashtar plume is similar to details glimpsed faintly in 1979 Voyager images of a similar plume produced by Io's volcano Pele. However, no previous image by any spacecraft has shown these mysterious structures so clearly.

The image also shows the much smaller symmetrical fountain of the plume, about 60 kilometers (or 40 miles) high, from the Prometheus volcano in the 9 o'clock direction. The top of a third volcanic plume, from the volcano Masubi, erupts high enough to catch the setting Sun on the night side near the bottom of the image, appearing as an irregular bright patch against Io's Jupiter-lit surface. Several Everest-sized mountains are highlighted by the setting Sun along the terminator, the line between day and night.

This is the last of a handful of LORRI images that New Horizons is sending "home" during its busy close encounter with Jupiter - hundreds of images and other data are being taken and stored onboard. The rest of the images will be returned to Earth over the coming weeks and months as the spacecraft speeds along to Pluto.

More: NASA - Gallery of Jupiter Images from New Horizons, Tvashtar's Plume

HiRISE camera suffering signal loss

Monday, February 12, 2007

news@nature.com reports: The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) on board Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the newest and most powerful craft to arrive at the red planet, has lost its peripheral vision. And its colour vision is fading too.

Seven of HiRISE's 14 detectors are sending back spurious data, the mission team reports, and one of the four colour detectors has stopped working completely. This has led to only a 2% loss of signal so far, which doesn't sound too bad. But the problem looks set to hit all of the detectors eventually.

More: news@nature.com - Mar's top camera suffers failing eyesight

Huygens’s second landing anniversary

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

[DISR Image]
DISR view of Titan’s surface from 8 kilometres altitude
Image Credit: ESA/NASA/Univ. of Arizona

Two years ago, planetary scientists across the world watched as Europe and the US did something amazing. The Huygens descent module drifted down through the hazy atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan, beaming its data back to Earth via the Cassini mothership. Today, Huygens's data are still continuing to surprise researchers. Titan holds a unique place in the Solar System. It is the only moon covered in a significant atmosphere. The atmosphere has long intrigued scientists as it may be similar to that of the early Earth but the deeper mystery was: what lies beneath the haze?

Huygens parachuted to the surface of Titan on 14 January 2005. While Cassini keeps flying by this moon of Saturn collecting new amazing data, one can say that the data collected by Huygens’s six instruments during its 2.5-hour descent and touch-down have provided the most spectacular view of this world yet and first dramatic change in the way we now think about it.

More: ESA - Huygens’s second landing anniversary – the surprises continue

Link: USGS - Cassini Mission

MRO Pinpoints Mars Pathfinder

Friday, January 12, 2007

Image of Pathfinder mission landing site
Close-up of the Pathfinder Mission landing site.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona

Using the high-resolution camera, HiRISE, on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft, visual clues such as peaks and craters seen in earlier images, and old-fashioned detective skills, scientists were able to identify the landing site for the 1997 Pathfinder mission's rover Sojourner within a vast landscape of seemingly homogenous Martian terrain.

More: NASA - Pathfinder landing site images from MRO HiRISE camera - several more images, include close-up images showing Pathfinder mission hardware on the surface, landing site topography, and a panorama of the landing site as seen by the lander

Link: MRO HiRISE - see more fantastic images of Mars collected by this camera

Link: USGS Astrogeology and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter using HiRISE - learn more about the our involvement in this mission

Mars Global Surveyor Lost, Possibly Due to Software Glitch

Thursday, January 11, 2007

After nine years of operation, contact with the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) orbiter was lost in November 2006. MGS was the first in a series of spacecraft destined for Mars. It was in a near-polar orbit on a mission to globally map the planet, examining the planet's ionosphere, atmosphere, surface, and interior using six science instruments. Designed to study Mars from orbit for two years, it accomplished many important discoveries during nine years in orbit. On Nov. 2, 2006, the spacecraft transmitted information that one of its arrays was not pivoting as commanded. Loss of signal from the orbiter began on the following orbit.

According to a NASA Watch report, in a meeting of the Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG), NASA's John McNamee (Mars Exploration Program) stated "We think that the failure was due to a software load we sent up in June of last year. This software tried to synch up two flight processors. Two addresses were incorrect - two memory addresses were over written. As the geometry evolved, we drove the [solar] arrays against a hard stop and the spacecraft went into safe mode. The radiator for the battery pointed at the sun, the temperature went up, and battery failed. But this should be treated as preliminary."

An internal review board will review the events to determine what caused the MGS failure, and make recommendations for future missions.

More: NASA - Panel Will Study Mars Global Surveyor Events

More: NASA Watch - MEPAG Blog, Day One

Link: NASA Mars Exploration Program Analysis Group (MEPAG)

Liquid Lakes on Titan

Monday, January 8, 2007

The existence of oceans or lakes of liquid methane on Saturn's moon Titan was predicted more than 20 years ago. But with a dense haze preventing a closer look it has not been possible to confirm their presence. Until the Cassini flyby of July 22, 2006, that is.

Radar imaging data from the flyby, published this week in the journal Nature, provide convincing evidence for large bodies of liquid. This image, used on the journal's cover, gives a taste of what Cassini saw. Intensity in this colorized image is proportional to how much radar brightness is returned, or more specifically, the logarithm of the radar backscatter cross-section. The colors are not a representation of what the human eye would see.

The lakes, darker than the surrounding terrain, are emphasized here by tinting regions of low backscatter in blue. Radar-brighter regions are shown in tan. The strip of radar imagery is foreshortened to simulate an oblique view of the highest latitude region, seen from a point to its west.

This radar image was acquired by the Cassini radar instrument in synthetic aperture mode on July 22, 2006. The image is centered near 80 degrees north, 35 degrees west and is about 140 kilometers (84 miles) across. Smallest details in this image are about 500 meters (1,640 feet) across.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.cfm .


Link: USGS - Cassini Mission

Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS

NASA Images Suggest Water Still Flows in Brief Spurts on Mars

Monday, December 18, 2006

WASHINGTON - NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars that suggest water carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years.

"These observations give the strongest evidence to date that water still flows occasionally on the surface of Mars," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, Washington.

Liquid water, as opposed to the water ice and water vapor known to exist at Mars, is considered necessary for life. The new findings heighten intrigue about the potential for microbial life on Mars. The Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor provided the new evidence of the deposits in images taken in 2004 and 2005.


Continue reading "NASA Images Suggest Water Still Flows in Brief Spurts on Mars"

Fantastic orbital view of rover Opportunity at Victoria

Friday, October 6, 2006

Victoria Crater
Opportunity at Crater's 'Cape Verde' - MRO HiRISE image showing the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity near the rim of "Victoria Crater."
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/UA

This image from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity near the rim of "Victoria Crater." Victoria is an impact crater about 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter at Meridiani Planum near the equator of Mars. Opportunity has been operating on Mars since January, 2004. Five days before this image was taken, Opportunity arrived at the rim of Victoria, after a drive of more than 9 kilometers (over 5 miles). It then drove to the position where it is seen in this image.

More: NASA - Opportunity at Crater's 'Cape Verde' Read the full press realease and view full resolution image

NASA's New Mars Camera Gives Dramatic View of Planet

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Mars is ready for its close-up. The highest-resolution camera ever to orbit Mars is returning low-altitude images to Earth from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Rocks and surface features as small as armchairs are revealed in the first image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter since the spacecraft maneuvered into its final, low-altitude orbital path. The imaging of the red planet at this resolution heralds a new era in Mars exploration.

HiRISE image
The high resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured its first image of Mars in the mapping orbit, demonstrating the full resolution capability, on Sept. 29, 2006. The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) acquired this image at 8:16 AM (Pacific Time), and parts of the image became available to the HiRISE team at 1:30 PM. With the spacecraft at an altitude of 280 kilometers (174 miles), the image scale is 29.7 centimeters per pixel (about 12 inches per pixel). Credit: NASA/JPL/UA

The image of a small fraction of Mars' biggest canyon reached Earth on Friday, the beginning of a week of tests for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and other instruments on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

"We are elated at the sharpness of the image, revealing such fine detail in the landscape," said Dr. Alfred McEwen of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who is the principal investigator for this camera. The target area includes the deepest part of Ius Chasma, one portion of the vast Valles Marineris canyon. Valles Marineris is the largest known canyon in the solar system, as long as the distance from California to New York.

More: NASA Mission News - NASA's New Mars Camera Gives Dramatic View of Planet

A snapshot of Titan

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

T-17 Flyby
T-17 Flyby -- Raw Image N00065334
Image Credit: NASA/JPL
402x402

N00065334.jpg was received on Earth, Sept. 8, 2006. The camera was pointing toward TITAN at approximately 137,854 kilometers away, using the CL1 and CB3 filters. The image reportedly has not been validated or calibrated. A validated/calibrated image is expected to be archived with the NASA Planetary Data System in 2007.

SMART-1 hits the Moon

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

LUNAR FLASH: As planned, Europe's SMART-1 spacecraft crashed into the Moon this morning, Sept. 3rd, at 0542 UT. The resulting flash was too faint for most backyard telescopes, but a team of astronomers using the big 3.6m CFHT telescope in Hawaii did manage to photograph the explosion.

Visit http://spaceweather.com for updates and images.

Huygens Scientific Archive data set released

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Access to the Huygens archive is available via the ESA Planetary Science Archive (PSA). NASA’s Cassini spacecraft orbited Saturn for four years, surveying the ringed planet and its moons. The ESA Huygens probe was first to land on the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. Data from Cassini and Huygens was intended to offer clues about how life began on Earth.

The data sets include calibration information and documentation necessary to understand and process the products, and to carry out scientific analyses. It is available to scientist as well as the public for download and is also available in the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS).

"This achievement is the result of a major effort performed during the last three years by all the Huygens teams, scientists and engineers, from Europe and the United States," outlines Olivier Witasse, ESA planetary scientist.


Learn more about the data, valuable contacts, questions and feedback related to the archive.