All Systems Go for NASA’s Mission to Jupiter Moon Europa
NASA’s mission concept, to conduct a detailed survey of Europa and investigate its habitability, has successfully completed its first major review by the agency and now is entering the development phase known as formulation.
Beyond Earth, Jupiter’s moon Europa is considered one of the most promising places in the solar system to search for signs of present-day life, and a new NASA mission to explore this potential is moving forward from concept review to development.
NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter in the late 1990s produced strong evidence that Europa, about the size of Earth’s moon, has an ocean beneath its frozen crust. If proven to exist, this global ocean could hold more than twice as much water as Earth. With abundant salt water, a rocky sea floor, and the energy and chemistry provided by tidal heating, Europa may have the ingredients needed to support simple organisms.
The mission plan calls for a spacecraft to be launched to Jupiter in the 2020s, arriving in the distant planet’s orbit after a journey of several years. The spacecraft would orbit the giant planet about every two weeks, providing many opportunities for close flybys of Europa. The mission plan includes 45 flybys, during which the spacecraft would image the moon’s icy surface at high resolution and investigate its composition and the structure of its interior and icy shell.
The Curvature of Earth 4K 60FPS
We have all seen many video clips of Earth taken from the ISS in the past. Here we have a new take on an old classic. Once again, experience the glorious curvature of Earth. This time, however, the fluttering aurorae and city lights can now be seen in 4K Resolution at 60 frames per second.
Here are some of the best images captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
MarCO: First Interplanetary CubeSat Mission
In March 2016, two interplanetary CubeSats will launch with +NASA InSight, our next Mars mission. Watch how they work.
Two miniature satellites will be hitching a ride to the Red Planet to get a front row seat for InSight‘s landing on Mars.
Here we have a very clear picture of Ceres’s surface, showing the by now famous white lights and the mountain nicknamed”Pyramid”.
A new mystery for scientists to unravel.
5 km high ‘Pyramid’ Mountain found on Ceres After Puzzling White Spots
Ceres Shows Off a ‘Pyramid’ Mountain and Those Puzzling White Spots
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has beamed home the best-ever photo of the mysterious bright spots that speckle the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres.
The new image resolves Ceres’ strange spots, which are found inside a crater about 55 miles (90 kilometers) wide, into a cluster composed of several patches, some of which were not visible in previous photos. But it doesn’t solve the mystery of the spots’ origin and composition.
Dawn captured the photo on June 9 from a distance of 2,700 miles (4,400 kilometers) — the altitude of its second mapping orbit of Ceres. Additional newly released photos taken from this orbit show other intriguing features, including a steep-sided mountain that rises about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the dwarf planet’s heavily cratered surface and has been nicknamed the “pyramid.”
Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Cneter, developed a computer simulation to follow the orbits of hundreds of millions of dark matter particles, as well as the gamma rays produced when they collide, in the vicinity of a black hole. He found that some gamma rays escaped with energies far exceeding what had been previously regarded as theoretical limits.
A new computer simulation tracking dark matter particles in the extreme gravity of a black hole shows that strong, potentially observable gamma-ray light can be produced. Detecting this emission would provide astronomers with a new tool for understanding both black holes and the nature of dark matter, an elusive substance accounting for most of the mass of the universe that neither reflects, absorbs nor emits light.
In the simulation, dark matter takes the form of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or WIMPS, now widely regarded as the leading candidate class. In this model, WIMPs that crash into other WIMPs mutually annihilate and convert into gamma rays, the most energetic form of light. But these collisions are extremely rare under normal circumstances.
Over the past few years, theorists have turned to black holes as dark matter concentrators, where WIMPs can be forced together in a way that increases both the rate and energies of collisions. The concept is a variant of the Penrose process, first identified in 1969 by British astrophysicist Sir Roger Penrose as a mechanism for extracting energy from a spinning black hole. The faster it spins, the greater the potential energy gain.
Schnittman’s model tracks the positions and properties of hundreds of millions of randomly distributed particles as they collide and annihilate near a black hole. The new model reveals processes that produce gamma rays with much higher energies, as well as a better likelihood of escape and detection, than ever thought possible. He identified previously unrecognized trajectories where collisions produce gamma rays with a peak energy 14 times the rest mass of the annihilating particles.
The simulation tells astronomers that there is an astrophysically interesting signal they may be able to detect as gamma-ray telescopes improve.