WASHINGTON — NASA’s Kepler mission scientists have discovered a new planetary system that is home to the smallest planet yet found around a star similar to our sun.
The planets are located in a system called Kepler-37, about 210 light-years from Earth in the constellation Lyra. The smallest planet, Kepler-37b, is slightly larger than our moon, measuring about one-third the size of Earth. It is smaller than Mercury, which made its detection a challenge.
The moon-size planet and its two companion planets were found by scientists with NASA’s Kepler mission to find Earth-sized planets in or near the “habitable zone,” the region in a planetary system where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet. However, while the star in Kepler-37 may be similar to our sun, the system appears quite unlike the solar system in which we live.
Astronomers think Kepler-37b does not have an atmosphere and cannot support life as we know it. The tiny planet almost certainly is rocky in composition. Kepler-37c, the closer neighboring planet, is slightly smaller than Venus, measuring almost three-quarters the size of Earth. Kepler-37d, the farther planet, is twice the size of Earth.
The first exoplanets found to orbit a normal star were giants. As technologies have advanced, smaller and smaller planets have been found, and Kepler has shown even Earth-size exoplanets are common.
WASHINGTON — University faculty and students interested in learning how to build scientific experiments for spaceflight are invited to join RockOn 2013 from June 15-20 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
RockOn 2013 is an annual workshop held in partnership with the Colorado and Virginia Space Grant Consortia. Registration is open through May.
“Now in its sixth year, this program provides the basics on building, testing and flying a science payload on a suborbital rocket,” said Phil Eberspeaker, chief of the sounding rocket program office at Wallops. “This is an exciting first step for participants to gain hands-on experience in building more complex space experiments. The program provides students with a solid foundation on which to build a future aerospace career.”
During the program, participants will work together to build experiment payloads to fly on a NASA sounding rocket predicted to reach an altitude of 73 miles. The flight will take place June 20, the last day of the workshop, weather permitting.
“The purpose of the program is to bring together university students and instructors, and introduce them to building scientific experiments for space flight,” said Chris Koehler, director of the Colorado Space Grant Consortium. “We really get into the basics of building experiments, including developing circuit boards, programming flight code and working together as a cohesive team on space projects.”
For more information and to register online, visit:
The Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, Dragon spacecraft stands inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Teams had just installed the spacecraft’s solar array fairings.
NASA and its international partners are targeting Friday, March 1, as the launch date for the next cargo resupply flight to the International Space Station by SpaceX. Launch is scheduled for 10:10 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
SpaceX’s Dragon capsule will be filled with about 1,200 pounds of supplies for the space station crew and experiments being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Generations of stars can be seen in this infrared portrait from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. In this wispy star-forming region, called W5, the oldest stars can be seen as blue dots in the centers of the two hollow cavities (other blue dots are background and foreground stars not associated with the region).
Younger stars line the rims of the cavities, and some can be seen as pink dots at the tips of the elephant-trunk-like pillars. The white knotty areas are where the youngest stars are forming. Red shows heated dust that pervades the region’s cavities, while green highlights dense clouds.
Read more at: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2450.html
WASHINGTON — A new study using data from a pair of gravity-measuring NASA satellites finds that large parts of the arid Middle East region lost freshwater reserves rapidly during the past decade.
Scientists at the University of California at Irvine (UC Irvine); NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.; and the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., found during a seven-year period beginning in 2003, parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran along the Tigris and Euphrates river basins lost 117 million acre feet (144 cubic kilometers) of its total stored freshwater. That is almost the amount of water in the Dead Sea. The researchers attribute about 60 percent of the loss to pumping of groundwater from underground reservoirs.
The findings, to be published Friday, Feb. 15, in the journal Water Resources Research, are the result of one of the first comprehensive hydrological assessments of the entire Tigris-Euphrates-Western Iran region. Because obtaining ground-based data in the area is difficult, satellite data, such as that from NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, are essential. GRACE is providing a global picture of water storage trends and is invaluable when hydrologic observations are not routinely collected or shared beyond political boundaries.
This rectangular version of a self-portrait of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity combines dozens of exposures taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 177th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Feb. 3, 2013).
The rover is positioned at a patch of flat outcrop called “John Klein,” which was selected as the site for the first rock-drilling activities by Curiosity. The self-portrait was acquired to document the drilling site.
The rover’s robotic arm is not visible in the mosaic. MAHLI, which took the component images for this mosaic, is mounted on a turret at the end of the arm. Wrist motions and turret rotations on the arm allowed MAHLI to acquire the mosaic’s component images. The arm was positioned out of the shot in the images or portions of images used in the mosaic.
Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, developed, built and operates MAHLI. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project and the mission’s Curiosity rover for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The rover was designed and assembled at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — NASA’s progress toward a return to deep space missions continues with a new round of upcoming tests on the next-generation J-2X rocket engine, which will help power the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) to new destinations in the solar system.
Beginning this month, engineers will conduct a series of tests on the second J-2X development engine, designated number 10002, on the A-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Once the series is completed, the engine will be transferred to the A-1 Test Stand to undergo a series of gimbal, or pivot, tests for the first time.
“The upcoming test series is not only a critical step forward, but important to the Stennis test team, as well,” said Gary Benton, manager of the J-2X test project at Stennis. “This test series will help us increase our knowledge of the J-2X and its performance capabilities. In addition, the series will help us maintain the high skill level of our team as we look ahead to continued J-2X testing and testing of the RS-25 engines that will be used to power the SLS first-stage.”
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket with the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft onboard is seen on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) mission is a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey that will continue the Landsat program’s 40-year data record of monitoring the Earth’s landscapes from space. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch Feb. 11.
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
WASHINGTON — A NASA spacecraft studying Mercury has provided compelling support for the long-held hypothesis the planet harbors abundant water ice and other frozen volatile materials within its permanently shadowed polar craters.
The new information comes from NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft. Its onboard instruments have been studying Mercury in unprecedented detail since its historic arrival there in March 2011. Scientists are seeing clearly for the first time a chapter in the story of how the inner planets, including Earth, acquired their water and some of the chemical building blocks for life.