Goddard-Space-Flight-Center

NASA’s SDO Watches Glowing Solar Material Arch Up and Out
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NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

May 3, 2016

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An elongated, streaming arch of solar material rose up at the sun’s edge before breaking apart in this animation of imagery captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on April 28, 2016. While some of the solar material fell back into the sun, the disintegration of this magnetic arch also sent some particles streaming into space. These details were captured in a type of light that’s invisible to human eyes, called extreme ultraviolet. The images were colorized in gold for easy viewing. Animation Credits: NASA/SDO.

Glowing Solar Material Arches Up and Out. Video Credits: NASA/SDO
For more information about Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/main/index.html

Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Steele Hill/Sarah Frazier/Rob Garner.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch
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NASA TO PROVIDE COVERAGE OF MAY 9 MERCURY TRANSIT OF THE SUN

NASA is inviting media and viewers around the world to see a relatively rare celestial event, with coverage of the Monday, May 9, transit of the Sun by the planet Mercury. Media may view the event at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Agency scientists will be available at the Goddard viewing event for live media interviews from 6:00 to 11:30 a.m. EDT. To attend, media must contact Michelle Handleman, michelle.z.handleman@nasa.gov. To schedule an interview with a NASA scientist at the event, contact Claire Saravia, claire.g.desaravia@nasa.gov.

Mercury passes between Earth and the Sun only about 13 times a century, its last trek taking place in 2006. Due to its diminutive size, viewing this event safely requires a telescope or high-powered binoculars fitted with solar filters made of specially-coated glass or Mylar.

NASA is offering several avenues for the public to view the event without specialized and costly equipment, including images on NASA.gov, a one-hour NASA Television special, and social media coverage.

Mercury will appear as a small black dot as it crosses the edge of the Sun and into view at 7:12 a.m. EDT. The planet will make a leisurely journey across the face of the Sun, reaching mid-point at approximately 10:47 a.m. EDT, and exiting the golden disk at 2:42 p.m. EDT. The entire 7.5-hour path across the Sun will be visible across the Eastern United States – with magnification and proper solar filters – while those in the West can observe the transit in progress after sunrise.

Images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will be posted at http://www.nasa.gov/transit

NASA also will stream a live program on NASA TV and the agency’s Facebook page from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. EDT – an informal roundtable during which experts representing planetary science, heliophysics and astrophysics will discuss the science behind the Mercury transit. Viewers can ask questions via Facebook and Twitter using #AskNASA.

Roundtable participants:
* Jim Green, planetary science director at NASA Headquarters in Washington
* Lika Guhathakurta, heliophysics program scientist at NASA Headquarters
* Nicky Fox, project scientist for the Solar Probe Plus mission at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland
* Doug Hudgins, Exoplanet Exploration Program scientist at NASA Headquarters

NASA Research Gives New Insights into How the Moon Got ‘Inked’

A powerful combination of observations and computer simulations is giving new clues to how the moon got its mysterious “tattoos” – swirling patterns of light and dark found at over a hundred locations across the lunar surface.

“These patterns, called 'lunar swirls,’ appear almost painted on the surface of the moon,” said John Keller of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “They are unique; we’ve only seen these features on the moon, and their origin has remained a mystery since their discovery.” Keller is project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission, which made the observations.

Lunar swirls can be tens of miles across and appear in groups or just as an isolated feature. Previous observations yielded two significant clues about their formation: First, they appear where ancient bits of magnetic field are embedded in the lunar crust (although not every “fossil” magnetic field on the moon has a lunar swirl). Second, the bright areas in the swirls appear to be less weathered than their surroundings. The space environment is harsh; many things can cause material exposed to space to change chemically and darken over time, including impacts from microscopic meteorites and the effects of the solar wind – a million-mile-per-hour stream of electrically conducting gas blown from the surface of the sun.

Read more ~ NASA.gov

Image: This is an image of the Reiner Gamma lunar swirl from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.    Credits: NASA LRO WAC science team

Solar Eruptions - A Coronal Mass Ejection 

The swirling inner layers of our sun cause charged particles to generate magnetic fields. As charges accumulate on the surface, magnetic field lines readjust themselves and release huge quantities of matter and electromagnetic radiation into space. This particular Mass Ejection is traveling at over 900 miles per second and has an energy level equivalent to 160,000,000,000 megatons of TNT. 

Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory/Goddard Spaceflight Center

NASA's Fermi Telescope Helps Link Cosmic Neutrino to Blazar Blast
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NASA - Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope logo.

April 28, 2016

Nearly 10 billion years ago, the black hole at the center of a galaxy known as PKS B1424-418 produced a powerful outburst. Light from this blast began arriving at Earth in 2012. Now astronomers using data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and other space- and ground-based observatories have shown that a record-breaking neutrino seen around the same time likely was born in the same event.

NASA’s Fermi Links Ghost Particle to Galaxy
Video above: NASA Goddard scientist Roopesh Ojha explains how Fermi and TANAMI uncovered the first plausible link between a blazar eruption and a neutrino from deep space. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“Neutrinos are the fastest, lightest, most unsociable and least understood fundamental particles, and we are just now capable of detecting high-energy ones arriving from beyond our galaxy,” said Roopesh Ojha, a Fermi team member at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and a coauthor of the study. “Our work provides the first plausible association between a single extragalactic object and one of these cosmic neutrinos.”

Although neutrinos far outnumber all the atoms in the universe, they rarely interact with matter, which makes detecting them quite a challenge. But this same property lets neutrinos make a fast exit from places where light cannot easily escape – such as the core of a collapsing star – and zip across the universe almost completely unimpeded. Neutrinos can provide information about processes and environments that simply aren’t available through a study of light alone.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, built into a cubic kilometer of clear glacial ice at the South Pole, detects neutrinos when they interact with atoms in the ice. This triggers a cascade of fast-moving charged particles that emit a faint glow, called Cerenkov light, as they travel, which is picked up by thousands of optical sensors strung throughout IceCube. Scientists determine the energy of an incoming neutrino by the amount of light its particle cascade emits.

To date, the IceCube science team has detected about a hundred very high-energy neutrinos and nicknamed some of the most extreme events after characters on the children’s TV series “Sesame Street.” On Dec. 4, 2012, IceCube detected an event known as Big Bird, a neutrino with an energy exceeding 2 quadrillion electron volts (PeV). To put that in perspective, it’s more than a million million times greater than the energy of a dental X-ray packed into a single particle thought to possess less than a millionth the mass of an electron. Big Bird was the highest-energy neutrino ever detected at the time and still ranks second.

Where did it come from? The best IceCube position only narrowed the source to a patch of the southern sky about 32 degrees across, equivalent to the apparent size of 64 full moons.

Enter Fermi. Starting in the summer of 2012, the satellite’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) witnessed a dramatic brightening of PKS B1424-418, an active galaxy classified as a gamma-ray blazar. An active galaxy is an otherwise typical galaxy with a compact and unusually bright core. The excess luminosity of the central region is produced by matter falling toward a supermassive black hole weighing millions of times the mass of our sun. As it approaches the black hole, some of the material becomes channeled into particle jets moving outward in opposite directions at nearly the speed of light. In blazars, one of these jets happens to point almost directly toward Earth.

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Images above: Fermi LAT images showing the gamma-ray sky around the blazar PKS B1424-418. Brighter colors indicate greater numbers of gamma rays. The dashed arc marks part of the source region established by IceCube for the Big Bird neutrino (50-percent confidence level). First image:  An average of LAT data centered on July 8, 2011, and covering 300 days when the blazar was inactive. Second image:  An average of 300 active days centered on Feb. 27, 2013, when PKS B1424-418 was the brightest blazar in this part of the sky. Images Credits: NASA/DOE/LAT Collaboration.

During the year-long outburst, PKS B1424-418 shone between 15 and 30 times brighter in gamma rays than its average before the eruption. The blazar is located within the Big Bird source region, but then so are many other active galaxies detected by Fermi.

The scientists searching for the neutrino source then turned to data from a long-term observing program named TANAMI. Since 2007, TANAMI has routinely monitored nearly 100 active galaxies in the southern sky, including many flaring sources detected by Fermi. The program includes regular radio observations using the Australian Long Baseline Array (LBA) and associated telescopes in Chile, South Africa, New Zealand and Antarctica. When networked together, they operate as a single radio telescope more than 6,000 miles across and provide a unique high-resolution look into the jets of active galaxies.

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Animation above: Radio images from the TANAMI project reveal the 2012-2013 eruption of PKS B1424-418 at a wavelength of 8.4 GHz. The core of the blazar’s jet brightened by four times, producing the most dramatic blazar outburst TANAMI has observed to date. Animation Credit: TANAMI.

Three radio observations of PKS B1424-418 between 2011 and 2013 cover the period of the Fermi outburst. They reveal that the core of the galaxy’s jet had brightened by about four times. No other galaxy observed by TANAMI over the life of the program has exhibited such a dramatic change.

“We combed through the field where Big Bird must have originated looking for astrophysical objects capable of producing high-energy particles and light,” said coauthor Felicia Krauss, a doctoral student at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany. “There was a moment of wonder and awe when we realized that the most dramatic outburst we had ever seen in a blazar happened in just the right place at just the right time.”

In a paper published Monday, April 18, in Nature Physics, the team suggests the PKS B1424-418 outburst and Big Bird are linked, calculating only a 5-percent probability the two events occurred by chance alone. Using data from Fermi, NASA’s Swift and WISE satellites, the LBA and other facilities, the researchers determined how the energy of the eruption was distributed across the electromagnetic spectrum and showed that it was sufficiently powerful to produce a neutrino at PeV energies.

“Taking into account all of the observations, the blazar seems to have had means, motive and opportunity to fire off the Big Bird neutrino, which makes it our prime suspect,” said lead author Matthias Kadler, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Wuerzburg in Germany.

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Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA
Francis Halzen, the principal investigator of IceCube at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and not involved in this study, thinks the result is an exciting hint of things to come. “IceCube is about to send out real-time alerts when it records a neutrino that can be localized to an area a little more than half a degree across, or slightly larger than the apparent size of a full moon,” he said. “We’re slowly opening a neutrino window onto the cosmos.”

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

Related links:

IceCube Neutrino Observatory: http://icecube.wisc.edu/news/view/227

TANAMI: http://pulsar.sternwarte.uni-erlangen.de/tanami/

Australian Long Baseline Array (LBA): http://www.atnf.csiro.au/vlbi/overview/index.html

Nature Physics paper: http://www.nature.com/nphys/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nphys3715.html

For more information about NASA’s Fermi, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/fermi

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Ashley Morrow/Goddard Space Flight Center/Francis Reddy.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch
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Goddard Space Flight Center has published a beautiful photo gallery commemorating Hubble’s 25th anniversary. Goddard installed the telescope’s instruments as well as performed final pre-launch checkouts before being shipped towards NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for launch.

In the first and third images above, Hubble is seen undergoing testing at Goddard. The first photo is Hubble in the Vertical Assembly and Test Area and the second is Hubble undergoing final assembly at Lockheed Martin’s Sunnyvale, California plant.

For more on Hubble’s 25th anniversary, click here.

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Happy #NationalAviationDay!

Today’s post was written by Grace DiAgostino, Student Trainee at the National Archives at Philadelphia.

In honor of National Aviation Day, this post features photographs from the Office Records of the Scout Launch Vehicle (NAID: 616672), a series from our substantial NASA holdings. The Solid Controlled Orbital Utility Test, otherwise known as Scout, Launch Vehicle Program began in 1957 after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik, the first artificial Earth satellite. The launch of Sputnik ignited the Space Race, during which the United States and the Soviet Union competed to conquer the next frontier— outer space.  To gain a lead on the USSR, the United States initiated the Scout Launch Vehicle Program to produce an inexpensive, reliable, versatile, solid fuel launch vehicle for smaller payloads.

The first stage of the Scout Program began in 1957 and consisted of development and design at the Langley Airfield Research Center. Scout, an acronym for Solid Controlled Orbital Utility Test, is a four-stage solid fuel satellite system capable of launching a 385-pound satellite into a 500-mile orbit, and the rocket consists of four stages: Algol, Castor, Antares, and Altair. The goal of the Scout Project was to produce a relatively inexpensive, reliable, solid fuel vehicle that could be used to launch small satellites into orbit around Earth. Scout was the first orbital launch vehicle to be entirely composed of solid fuel stages.

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Full Disk Image of Earth Captured August 26, 2011 by NASA Goddard Photo and Video on Flickr.

Hurricane Irene can be seen on the U.S. East Coast.

Update: This satellite movie, released earlier today (August 27) by NASA, shows Hurricane Irene moving through the Bahamas and making landfall at Cape Lookout, North Carolina at around 8 a.m. EDT today.

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JWST mirror taking shape

by European Space Agency
 
This photograph shows the James Webb Space Telescope mirror taking shape, with 12 of the 18 mirror segments that make up the primary mirror installed. The first of the hexagonal-shaped mirror segments was installed on 22 November 2015, and since then a team of scientists and engineers have worked tirelessly to install the remaining mirror segments onto the telescope structure in the large cleanroom at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The twelfth mirror was installed on 2 January 2016. The individual segments are placed on the telescope’s backplane using a robotic arm, guided by engineers. Each mirror segment measures just over 1.3 metres across and weighs approximately 40 kilograms. After being pieced together, the 18 primary mirror segments will work together as one large 6.5-metre mirror. The primary mirror will unfold and adjust to shape after launch using actuators on the back of each segment. The mirror segments are made of ultra-lightweight beryllium chosen for its thermal and mechanical properties at cryogenic temperatures. Since JWST will search for infrared light from the first stars and galaxies in the early Universe, the mirrors need to be cold, below -220 degrees C, to minimise any glow from the mirror itself. A thin gold film, chosen for its ability to reflect infrared light, coats each mirror. During the installation process, the mirrors are protected with black covers, as can be seen in this picture. The mirrors were built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. Ball is the principal subcontractor to Northrop Grumman for the optical technology and lightweight mirror system. The installation of the mirrors onto the telescope structure is performed by Harris Corporation of Rochester, New York. Harris Corporation leads integration and testing for the telescope. The James Webb Space is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency. Credit: NASA/C. Gunn

In this image, a Goddard Space Flight Center photographer is assembling a camera system inside the dynamic test chamber at the Center’s test and evaluation facilities. Thorough testing in facilities that simulate the space environment has become a hallmark at Goddard. After spending years on a single project, no scientist or engineer wants to lose a key instrument or an entire satellite because of a faulty component or electrical connection. As a result, developing thorough test and evaluation facilities and procedures has always remained a high priority.