PASADENA, Calif. (NASA/JPL/Caltech PR) — These six infrared images of Saturn’s moon Titan represent some of the clearest, most seamless-looking global views of the icy moon’s surface produced so far. The views were created using 13 years of data acquired by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) instrument on board NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The images are the result of a focused effort to smoothly combine data from the multitude of different observations VIMS made under a wide variety of lighting and viewing conditions over the course of Cassini’s mission.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA JPL/Caltech PR) — Data collected by NASA’s Juno spacecraft using its Jovian InfraRed Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument point to a new heat source close to the south pole of Io that could indicate a previously undiscovered volcano on the small moon of Jupiter. The infrared data were collected on Dec. 16, 2017, when Juno was about 290,000 miles (470,000 kilometers) away from the moon.
“The new Io hotspot JIRAM picked up is about 200 miles (300 kilometers) from the nearest previously mapped hotspot,” said Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator from the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome. “We are not ruling out movement or modification of a previously discovered hot spot, but it is difficult to imagine one could travel such a distance and still be considered the same feature.”
The Juno team will continue to evaluate data collected on the Dec. 16 flyby, as well as JIRAM data that will be collected during future (and even closer) flybys of Io. Past NASA missions of exploration that have visited the Jovian system (Voyagers 1 and 2, Galileo, Cassini and New Horizons), along with ground-based observations, have located over 150 active volcanoes on Io so far. Scientists estimate that about another 250 or so are waiting to be discovered.
Juno has logged nearly 146 million miles (235 million kilometers) since entering Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016. Juno’s 13th science pass will be on July 16.
Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops — as close as about 2,100 miles (3,400 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere.
JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the Science Mission Directorate. The Italian Space Agency (ASI), contributed two instruments, a Ka-band frequency translator (KaT) and the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM). Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California.
More information on the Juno mission is available at:
PASADENA, Calif. (JPL/Caltech PR) — New observations by three of the world’s largest radio telescopes have revealed that an asteroid discovered last year is actually two objects, each about 3,000 feet (900 meters) in size, orbiting each other.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The team of scientists behind the European Space Agency’s Planck mission has been awarded the prestigious 2018 Gruber Cosmology Prize. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, played a key role in the design and construction of the Planck instrument, and in the scientific analysis of the mission’s data.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — New research from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s up-close Grand Finale orbits shows a surprisingly powerful and dynamic interaction of plasma waves moving from Saturn to its rings and its moon Enceladus. The observations show for the first time that the waves travel on magnetic field lines connecting Saturn directly to Enceladus. The field lines are like an electrical circuit between the two bodies, with energy flowing back and forth.
MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. (NASA PR) — Earlier this week, NASA’s Kepler team received an indication that the spacecraft fuel tank is running very low. NASA has placed the spacecraft in a hibernation-like state in preparation to download the science data collected in its latest observation campaign. Once the data has been downloaded, the expectation is to start observations for the next campaign with any remaining fuel.
PASADENA (NASA PR) — The laser ranging interferometer (LRI) instrument has been successfully switched on aboard the recently launched twin U.S./German Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) satellites. The LRI, which is being flown as a technology demonstration, has made its first measurements in parallel with GRACE-FO’s main microwave ranging instrument, and initial comparisons of the data from the two types of instruments show that they agree as expected.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has awarded a contract to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, to continue operations of the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), also in Pasadena.
This cost plus fixed-fee, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract has a maximum value of $30 billion. The contract begins Oct. 1 with a five-year base period of performance, followed by five one-year options that could extend the contract to Sept. 30, 2028.
Under this contract, Caltech will continue to develop and sustain core competencies in support of NASA-sponsored work in the areas of Earth and planetary sciences, heliophysics, astrophysics, and aeronautics and space activities, to include the development of spacecraft and instruments.
Caltech also will manage NASA-sponsored programs that carry out competed and peer-reviewed research, NASA partnerships with other government agencies, academia and the private sector, and the operation, research, and management of NASA’s Deep Space Network.
For information about NASA and agency programs, visit:
PARIS (ESA PR) — An object from another star system that made a brief appearance in our skies guised as an asteroid turns out to be a tiny interstellar comet.
‘Oumuamua, a name that reflects the Hawaiian meaning for ‘a messenger from afar, arriving first’, was discovered by astronomers working with the Pan-STARRS survey in Hawaii in October last year as the object came close to Earth’s orbit. Follow-up observations by ESA’s Optical Ground Station telescope in Tenerife, Canary Islands, and other telescopes around the world helped determine its trajectory.
GALE CRATER, Mars (NASA PR) — A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations. But across the planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has been studying Martian soil at Gale Crater, is expected to remain largely unaffected by the dust. While Opportunity is powered by sunlight, which is blotted out by dust at its current location, Curiosity has a nuclear-powered battery that runs day and night.
The Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a “planet-encircling” (or “global”) dust event.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.
NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater.
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A recent series of parabolic flights onboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE aircraft demonstrated a variety of technologies selected by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. The flight campaign consisted of two successful flights on March 21, 2018, lifting off from Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida.
WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has approved an update to Juno’s science operations until July 2021. This provides for an additional 41 months in orbit around Jupiter and will enable Juno to achieve its primary science objectives. Juno is in 53-day orbits rather than 14-day orbits as initially planned because of a concern about valves on the spacecraft’s fuel system. This longer orbit means that it will take more time to collect the needed science data.
An independent panel of experts confirmed in April that Juno is on track to achieve its science objectives and is already returning spectacular results. The Juno spacecraft and all instruments are healthy and operating nominally.
The media and public are invited to ask questions during a live discussion at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, June 7, on new science results from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover. The results are embargoed by the journal Science until then.
The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
Michelle Thaller, assistant director of science for communications, in NASA’s Planetary Science Division will host the chat. Participants include:
Paul Mahaffy, director of the Solar System Exploration Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland
Jen Eigenbrode, research scientist at Goddard
Chris Webster, senior research fellow, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
Ashwin Vasavada, Mars Science Laboratory project scientist, JPL