September 12, 2012
Re "Ready for a real star trek," Sept. 8 Thank you for your article on Voyager 1's imminent departure from our solar system. While Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists are now focused on the spacecraft's passage into interstellar space, the greatest legacy of the Voyager 1 and 2 missions is the stunning images they have captured - of Jupiter's Great Red Spot, the Jovian moon Io's erupting volcanoes, Saturn's rings, Uranus and Neptune....
September 8, 2012 |
In 1977, Jimmy Carter moved into the White House, "Star Wars" and "Saturday Night Fever" premiered in theaters and the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft launched from Florida's Cape Canaveral to explore the outer solar system. In the years since, there have been five more presidents and five more "Star Wars" movies; disco has given way to punk, grunge and rap; and the Voyagers have flown billions of miles past Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Their explorations aren't over yet. As scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge marked the mission's 35th anniversary this week, they marveled that Voyager 1 was poised to leave the solar system - crossing the so-called heliopause and entering the vastness of interstellar space.
September 5, 2012 |
The spacecraft Dawn has been visiting Vesta, an Arizona-sized chunk of lumpy rock in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Now the NASA spacecraft will head to the dwarf planet Ceres. As the Associated Press reports, Dawn orbited Vesta for a year, taking photos and using various instruments to explore the asteroid from as close as 130 miles. But NASA isn't done with asteroids. Today the space agency launched a name-the-asteroid contest as efforts geared up to bring a piece of an asteroid home to Earth. And we're not talking just any asteroid.
September 4, 2012 |
How long does it take to fly to the edge of the solar system? At least 35 years. Voyager 1 is there now, carrying 1970s-era technology that might make your jaw sag -- computers with 8,000 words of memory and eight-track-tape recorders. Those of us who can remember popping the Allman Brothers into the eight-track tape deck can identify with Voyagers 1 and 2 -- a couple of nearly old fogies. But these NASA stalwarts are set to make space history. Again. Wednesday marks the 35th anniversary of Voyager 1's launch to Jupiter and Saturn.
September 3, 2012 |
Dressed as usual in jeans and Velcro-secured sneakers, UCLA astronomer David Jewitt sat at his desk recently and feigned concern: What, exactly, does one wear when accepting gold medals from the king of Norway and a Chinese billionaire-philanthropist? "I'm trying to figure out what a tuxedo is," he said, rolling his eyes. "It's apparently different everywhere. " Fashion isn't familiar territory for Jewitt, 54, an expert on comets and the other small objects zipping through the solar system.
August 20, 2012 |
Two weeks after landing the Curiosity rover on Mars without a hitch, scientists and engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory learned that their InSight mission to study the Martian interior had received the go-ahead from NASA. InSight - short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport - will use a lander to understand how Mars, Earth and other rocky planets were formed in the early days of the solar system. Planned to launch in March 2016 and reach Mars six months later, the lander would operate for 720 days and give the Red Planet the equivalent of a doctor's physical - checking its pulse, gauging its reflexes and taking its temperature.
July 5, 2012 |
A disc of planet-forming dust around a distant star has disappeared unexpectedly, leaving astronomers scratching their heads and questioning current theories of how planets are formed. "It's like the classic magician's trick: Now you see it, now you don't," said astronomer Carl Melis of UC San Diego, who led the team that discovered the phenomenon. "Only in this case, we're talking about enough dust to fill an inner solar system and it is really gone. " The team has proposed several possible explanations for the disappearance, but "none are really compelling," Melis said.
June 21, 2012 |
Besides our one beautiful star, the sun, we have eight planets, several dwarf planets, dozens of moons, millions of asteroids, a trillion comets and — most important of all — us! We call it: our solar system. How did our solar system even get here? What were the ingredients that made the sun and all the planets and other objects? How can we find out? What if we could watch a video and see it all unfold again? When the video starts, we see a huge, wispy cloud of gas and dust swirling slowly throughout a huge region of space.
June 15, 2012 |
Thirty-five years after NASA's Voyager 1 was launched, the spacecraft is on the edge of the solar system and verging on entering interstellar space, the agency said Friday. The craft is now 11.1 billion miles from Earth, a distance that means radio signals from the craft require 16 hours and 38 minutes to reach the antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network. "It is very exciting. We are approaching the solar system's frontier," said Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist at Caltech. Three instruments onboard are providing key data about the craft's passage into interstellar space.
June 4, 2012 |
The first thing you need to understand about Venus is that Earth is practically its sister -- that is, if your sister looked like you, had the same body mass but was extremely harsh and super hot-tempered. And she's clingy too. Venus is the closest planet to Earth in the solar system. After the spectacular annular eclipse last month, it's Venus' turn to shine, celestially speaking. The transit of Venus , i.e., the rare event that occurs when Venus moves between Earth and sun, starts at 3:06 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday in Los Angeles and continues until the sun sets at 8 p.m. It won't happen again for 105 years.