Tag Archives | NASA

Pluto may have ice volcanoes



Two possible volcanoes have been identified on Pluto. If they are indeed volcanoes, they would likely spew a mixture of “water, nitrogen, ammonia or methane.”

Jonathan Amos via BBC:

Two possible ice volcanoes have been identified on the surface of Pluto.

They are seen in images returned from the New Horizons probe, which flew past the distant dwarf planet in July.

The mountains are several km high and tens of km across, and each has what appears to be a depression in the top.

Unlike Earth volcanoes that spew molten rock, Pluto’s volcanoes – if that is what they are – would likely erupt an icy slush of substances such as water, nitrogen, ammonia or methane.

The suggestion was raised at the 47th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences, where the mission team is presenting over 50 research reports from the flyby.

The scientists still need to do further work to confirm their volcano idea.

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How Mars Went From a Planet that Could Potentially Support Life to the Arid Planet it is Now

Artist’s rendering of a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet's upper atmosphere. Credits: NASA/GSFC

Artist’s rendering of a solar storm hitting Mars and stripping ions from the planet’s upper atmosphere.
Credits: NASA/GSFC

According to NASA, solar wind has played in a key role in Mars’ atmospheric erosion, making it arid and dry.

via NASA:

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission has identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today.

MAVEN data have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind. The findings reveal that the erosion of Mars’ atmosphere increases significantly during solar storms. The scientific results from the mission appear in the Nov. 5 issues of the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters.

“Mars appears to have had a thick atmosphere warm enough to support liquid water which is a key ingredient and medium for life as we currently know it,” said John Grunsfeld, astronaut and associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

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End of the world plan: scientists to nudge asteroid off course as practice for protecting the Earth

Remember the old arcade game “Asteroids”? So do scientists at NASA and the ESA, who are planning to play it for real, per the Independent:

Scientists are to send two spacecraft to knock an asteroid off course, as part of a practice for what they would do if a rock was threatening the future of humanity.

The ESA's AIM watches the impact as the asteroid is knocked off course ESA - ScienceOffice.org

The ESA’s AIM watches the impact as the asteroid is knocked off course ESA – ScienceOffice.org


The joint US-European Aida (Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment) mission will send a small spacecraft to crash into the egg-shaped rock, known as Didymoon. That asteroid doesn’t pose any threat to us — and is far too small to do so — but the mission will be important test for whether our plans would work if we do eventually come at risk of civilisation being wiped out by a space rock.

The missions are set to be launched in October 2020.

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NASA’s Europa Mission May Land on Ocean-Harboring Moon

This remastered view of the Jupiter moon Europa is based on information from NASA’s Galileo mission of the 1990s.  Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

This remastered view of the Jupiter moon Europa is based on information from NASA’s Galileo mission of the 1990s.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

NASA is aiming to visit Jupiter’s Europa sometime in the mid-2020s. While they plan to “characterize” the moon with dozens of fly-bys, there are now talks of potentially sending a probe to the surface.

Mike Wall via Space.com:

NASA’s upcoming mission to Europa may actually touch down on the potentially life-harboring Jupiter moon.

While the main thrust of the Europa mission, which NASA aims to launch by the mid-2020s, involves characterizing the icy satellite from afar during dozens of flybys, the space agency is considering sending a small probe down to the surface as well.

“We are actively pursuing the possibility of a lander,” Robert Pappalardo, Europa project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said last week during a panel discussion at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Space 2015 conference in Pasadena.

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One year and counting: Mars isolation experiment begins

The obsession with colonizing Mars continues in the media, so much so that I’m starting to wonder how much the movie studio releasing The Martian is paying for it. AFP via Yahoo News reports from Hawaii on a year-long lock-in meant to replicate conditions on Mars:

Six people shut themselves inside a dome for a year in Hawaii, in the longest US isolation experiment aimed at helping NASA prepare for a pioneering journey to Mars.

Photo: Univ. of Hawaii

Photo: Univ. of Hawaii


The crew includes a French astrobiologist, a German physicist and four Americans — a pilot, an architect, a doctor/journalist and a soil scientist.

They are based on a barren, northern slope of Mauna Loa, living inside a dome that is 36 feet (11 meters) in diameter and 20 feet tall.

In a place with no animals and little vegetation around, they closed themselves in at 3:00 pm Hawaii time (0100 GMT Saturday), marking the official start to the 12-month mission.

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NASA: World ‘Locked Into’ at Least 3 Feet of Sea Level Rise

Photo: NASA/Saskia Madlener

Photo: NASA/Saskia Madlener

This post originally appeared on Common Dreams. See more of Andrea Germanos’ posts here.

New research underway indicates that at least three feet of global sea level rise is near certain, NASA scientists warned Wednesday.

That’s the higher range of the 1 to 3 feet level of rise the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave in its 2013 assessment.

Sea levels have already risen 3 inches on average since 1992, with some areas experiencing as much as a 9-inch rise.

“Given what we know now about how the ocean expands as it warms and how ice sheets and glaciers are adding water to the seas, it’s pretty certain we are locked into at least 3 feet of sea level rise, and probably more,” said Steve Nerem of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and lead of NASA’s interdisciplinary Sea Level Change Team. “But we don’t know whether it will happen within a century or somewhat longer.”

The Greenland ice sheet has contributed more greatly to sea level rise, losing an average of 303 gigatons of ice a year over the past decade, while the Antarctic ice sheet has lost an average of 118 gigatons a year.… Read the rest

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NASA: There is No Asteroid Threatening Earth

There’s a panic in certain quarters of the Internet that an asteroid is going to hit Earth next month. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has issued this statement rubbishing the rumors:

Numerous recent blogs and web postings are erroneously claiming that an asteroid will impact Earth, sometime between Sept. 15 and 28, 2015. On one of those dates, as rumors go, there will be an impact — “evidently” near Puerto Rico — causing wanton destruction to the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States and Mexico, as well as Central and South America.

This view of Earth comes from NASA's Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Terra satellite. Image credit: NASA

This view of Earth comes from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Terra satellite. Image credit: NASA


That’s the rumor that has gone viral — now here are the facts.

“There is no scientific basis — not one shred of evidence — that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Near-Earth Object office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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For Pluto ‘Truthers,’ the New Horizons Mission Is Only the Latest Lie

The latest in the ever-expanding cast of “truthers” are Pluto truthers, who apparently think that NASA is hiding something. From Newsweek:

Southwest Research Institute waited for their piano-sized New Horizons space probe to pass by Pluto. It finally reached the dwarf planet last month and beamed photos back to Earth from billions of miles away. The stunning images captivated the scientific community, revealing ice mountains, frozen tundras and other never-before-seen details on Pluto’s surface. Stunning, that is, if the scientists are telling the truth.

There’s a small but vocal group of conspiracists—bloggers have taken to calling them “Pluto Truthers”—who claim the recent images are fake. In fact, they argue, New Horizons is simply the latest bogus galactic mission to deceive the public, perhaps to divert tax money to more secretive or nefarious government projects. That trickery is nothing new, they charge; it goes all the way back to the first moon landing.

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NASA’s ‘Planet X’ Files Leaked: NASA Knows Nibiru Is Coming

Hot off NASA’s great success in photographing Pluto comes “speculation” that Nibiru is next, per the Inquisitr:

There is evidence of an ongoing resurgence of the Planet X (also known as Nibiru) cataclysm conspiracy theory following the publication of new scientific studies in 2014 claiming evidence of a mysterious unnamed planet lurking beyond Pluto. The scientific claims were based on observations of gravitational influences on a group of space bodies termed the “extreme trans-Neptunian objects” (ETNOs) orbiting our Sun beyond the planet Neptune.

A slew of messages and YouTube videos currently being circulated in the conspiracy theory blogosphere claims that a NASA study published in 1988 revealed details about the mysterious Planet X/Nibiru with an estimated orbital period of more than 1,000 years.

The study, according to conspiracy theorists, demonstrates that NASA and the U.S. government have been aware for decades that the rogue Planet X is coming with catastrophic consequences for humanity.

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