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The VeSpR (Venus Spectral Rocket) Experiment
launched successfully from White Sand Missile Range. VeSpR will
study the present day escape of water from the atmosphere of Venus and
relate it to the past abundance of water on Venus by measuring hydrogen
(H) and the heavier, slower to escape, deuterated hydrogen (D) above 90
km on Venus. The use of a pre-dispersing prism to prevent long
wavelengths from entering the spectrograph permits a long-aperture
approach to echelle spectroscopy, and the chosen combination of imaging
and dispersion scales provides high spectral resolution of emission line
profiles with a several arc sec wide aperture for good sensitivity. For
comparable spectral resolution the HST/STIS uses a 0.2 arc sec
aperture, which provides 375 times less solid angle on the sky than a 3 x
5 arc sec region observed by the sounding rocket telescope. Good data
was obtained by both detectors with no obvious significant anomalies.
Preliminary reports indicate a successful mission.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission
launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Nov. 18.
Now, the Venus Spectral Rocket, VeSpR for short, is scheduled to lift
off from White Sands, N.M., on Nov. 25.
"It is appropriate that these launch dates are close together,
because both missions will study atmospheric loss," said Kelly Fast, the
program scientist for MAVEN and the program officer for Planetary
Astronomy at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "VeSpR will peek at Venus
from above Earth's absorbing atmosphere, and MAVEN will journey to Mars
to do a long-term study."
VeSpR is a two-stage system, combining a Terrier missile – originally
built as a surface-to-air missile and later repurposed to support
science missions – and a Black Brant model Mk1 sounding rocket with a
telescope inside. Integration took place at NASA’s Wallops Flight
Facility in Virginia.
The experiments will look at ultraviolet (UV) light that is being
emitted from Venus' atmosphere, which can provide information about the
history of the planet's water. Measurements like these cannot be done
using Earth-based telescopes because our atmosphere absorbs most UV
light before it reaches the ground.
Boeing Company of Houston, a NASA Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner,
recently performed wind tunnel testing of its CST-100 spacecraft and integrated
launch vehicle, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The testing is
part of NASA's Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative,
intended to make commercial human spaceflight services available for government
and commercial customers.
and ULA also worked together to test a newly developed component of the Atlas
V's Centaur upper stage. Boeing now has completed two of eight performance
milestones under CCiCap and is on track to have completed all 19 of its
milestones around mid-2014.
"The Centaur has a long and storied past of launching the agency's most
successful spacecraft to other worlds," said Ed Mango, NASA's CCP manager
at the agency's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "Because it has never
been used for human spaceflight before, these tests are critical to ensuring a
smooth and safe performance for the crew members who will be riding atop the
human-rated Atlas V."
The wind tunnel testing, which began in March and wrapped up in May at NASA's
Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., were the first interface tests
of Boeing's spacecraft, launch vehicle adaptor and launch vehicle. A scale
model of the integrated spacecraft and rocket was placed in Ames' 11-foot
diameter transonic wind tunnel. The data gathered provides Boeing with critical
information it needs to ensure its system is safe for launching crews to
Centaur liquid oxygen-feed duct line was tested in March in Murrieta, Calif.,
to characterize how liquid oxygen moves from the stage's oxygen tank to its two
engines where the propellant will be mixed with liquid hydrogen to create
thrust. The Centaur, which takes over after the Atlas V first stage runs low on
propellants, will push the spacecraft to its intended orbit. The Centaur has an
extensive and successful history of delivering spacecraft to their
destinations, including carrying NASA's Curiosity science rover to Mars.
A new study of glaciers worldwide using observations from two NASA
satellites has helped resolve differences in estimates of how fast
glaciers are disappearing and contributing to sea level rise.
The new research found glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, repositories of 1 percent of all land ice, lost an average of 571 trillion pounds (259 trillion kilograms) of mass every year during the six-year study period, making the oceans rise 0.03 inches (0.7 mm) per year. This is equal to about 30 percent of the total observed global sea level rise during the same period and matches the combined contribution to sea level from the Greenland and Antarctica ice sheets.
The study compares traditional ground measurements to satellite data from NASA's Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) and Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) missions to estimate ice loss for glaciers in all regions of the planet. The study period spans 2003 to 2009, the years when the two missions overlapped.
"For the first time, we have been able to very precisely constrain how much these glaciers as a whole are contributing to sea level rise," said Alex Gardner, Earth scientist at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., and lead author of the study. "These smaller ice bodies are currently losing about as much mass as the ice sheets."
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has found the building blocks
for Earth-sized planets in an unlikely place-- the atmospheres of a pair of
burned-out stars called white dwarfs.
These dead stars are located 150 light-years from Earth in a relatively young
star cluster, Hyades, in the constellation Taurus. The star cluster is only 625
million years old. The white dwarfs are being polluted by asteroid-like debris
falling onto them.
Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph observed
silicon and only low levels of carbon in the white dwarfs' atmospheres. Silicon
is a major ingredient of the rocky material that constitutes Earth and other
solid planets in our solar system. Carbon, which helps determine properties and
origin of planetary debris, generally is depleted or absent in rocky,
"We have identified chemical evidence for the building blocks of rocky
planets," said Jay Farihi of the University of Cambridge in England. He is
lead author of a new study appearing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal
Astronomical Society. "When these stars were born, they built planets, and
there's a good chance they currently retain some of them. The material we are
seeing is evidence of this. The debris is at least as rocky as the most
primitive terrestrial bodies in our solar system."
This discovery suggests rocky planet assembly is common around stars, and it
offers insight into what will happen in our own solar system when our sun burns
out 5 billion years from now.
Farihi's research suggests asteroids less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) wide
probably were torn apart by the white dwarfs' strong gravitational forces.
Asteroids are thought to consist of the same materials that form terrestrial
planets, and seeing evidence of asteroids points to the possibility of
Earth-sized planets in the same system.
The pulverized material may have been pulled into a ring around the stars and
eventually funneled onto the dead stars. The silicon may have come from
asteroids that were shredded by the white dwarfs' gravity when they veered too
close to the dead stars.
This charming and bright galaxy, known as IRAS 23436+5257,
was captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. It is located in the
northern constellation of Cassiopeia, which is named after an arrogant, vain,
and yet beautiful mythical queen.
Hubble Digs Up Galactic Glow Worm
The twisted, wormlike structure of this galaxy is most likely the result of a
collision and subsequent merger of two galaxies. Such interactions are quite
common in the universe, and they can range from minor interactions involving a
satellite galaxy being caught by a spiral arm, to major galactic crashes.
Friction between the gas and dust during a collision can have a major effect on
the galaxies involved, morphing the shape of the original galaxies and creating
interesting new structures.
When you look up at the calm and quiet night sky it is not always easy to
picture it as a dynamic and vibrant environment with entire galaxies in motion,
spinning like children’s toys and crashing into whatever crosses their path.
The motions are, of course, extremely slow, and occur over millions or even
billions of years.
The aftermath of these galactic collisions helps scientists to understand how
these movements occur and what may be in store for our own Milky Way, which is
on a collision course with a neighboring galaxy, Messier 31