NASA News Digest: Space Science For 6 October – 9 October 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The NASA News service provides up-to-date announcements of NASA policy, news events, and space science. A recent selection of space science articles are provided below, including direct links to the full announcements. Those interested in receiving these news announcements directly from NASA can subscribe to their service by sending an email to:

hqnews-request@newsletters.nasa.gov?subject=subscribe

NASA Holds Media Briefing to Discuss Comet Flyby of Mars Observations

RELEASE M14-171 (Click here for the full article) – 6 October 2014

2014october10_14_m14_171_mars_cometNASA will host a media briefing at 2 p.m. EDT Thursday, Oct. 9, to outline the space and Earth-based assets that will have extraordinary opportunities to image and study a comet from relatively close range to Mars on Sunday, Oct. 19.

The briefing will be held in NASA Headquarters’ auditorium, 300 E Street SW in Washington, and broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring will miss Mars by only about 88,000 miles (139,500 kilometers). That is less than half the distance between Earth and its moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth. The comet’s nucleus will come closest to Mars at about 2:27 p.m. EDT (11:27 a.m. PDT), hurtling at about 126,000 mph (56 kilometers per second), relative to Mars.

For more about the comet, visit: mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring

For NASA Television downlink information, scheduling information and streaming video, visit: www.nasa.gov/nasatv

Send Your Name on NASA’s Journey to Mars, Starting with Orion’s First Flight

RELEASE 14-275 (Click here for the full article) – 7 October 2014

2014october10_14_275If only your name could collect frequent flyer miles. NASA is inviting the public to send their names on a microchip to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.

Your name will begin its journey on a dime-sized microchip when the agency’s Orion spacecraft launches Dec. 4 on its first flight, designated Exploration Flight Test-1. After a 4.5 hour, two-orbit mission around Earth to test Orion’s systems, the spacecraft will travel back through the atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

To submit your name to fly on Orion’s flight test, visit: go.usa.gov/vcpz

Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #JourneyToMars.

For information about Orion and its first flight, visit:www.nasa.gov/orion

NASA’s NuSTAR Telescope Discovers Shockingly Bright Dead Star

RELEASE 14-270 (Click here for the full article) – 8 October 2014

2014october10_14_270Astronomers have found a pulsating, dead star beaming with the energy of about 10 million suns. This is the brightest pulsar – a dense stellar remnant left over from a supernova explosion – ever recorded. The discovery was made with NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR.

“You might think of this pulsar as the ‘Mighty Mouse’ of stellar remnants,” said Fiona Harrison, the NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. “It has all the power of a black hole, but with much less mass.”

The discovery appears in a new report in the Thursday Oct. 9 issue of the journal Nature.

More information about NuSTAR is online at: www.nasa.gov/nustar

NASA Prepares its Science Fleet for Oct. 19 Mars Comet Encounter

RELEASE 14-282 (Click here for the full article) – 9 October 2014

2014october10_14_282NASA’s extensive fleet of science assets, particularly those orbiting and roving Mars, have front row seats to image and study a once-in-a-lifetime comet flyby on Sunday, Oct. 19.

Comet C/2013 A1, also known as comet Siding Spring, will pass within about 87,000 miles (139,500 kilometers) of the Red Planet — less than half the distance between Earth and our moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.

Siding Spring’s nucleus will come closest to Mars around 2:27 p.m. EDT, hurtling at about 126,000 mph (56 kilometers per second). This proximity will provide an unprecedented opportunity for researchers to gather data on both the comet and its effect on the Martian atmosphere.

Images and updates will be posted online before and after the comet flyby. Several pre-flyby images of Siding Spring, as well as information about the comet and NASA’s planned observations of the event, are available online at: mars.nasa.gov/comets/sidingspring

NASA’s Hubble Maps the Temperature and Water Vapor on an Extreme Exoplanet

RELEASE 14-268 (Click here for the full article) – 9 October 2014

2014october10_14_268A team of scientists using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made the most detailed global map yet of the glow from a turbulent planet outside our solar system, revealing its secrets of air temperatures and water vapor.

Hubble observations show the exoplanet, called WASP-43b, is no place to call home. It is a world of extremes, where seething winds howl at the speed of sound from a 3,000-degree-Fahrenheit “day” side, hot enough to melt steel, to a pitch-black “night” side with plunging temperatures below 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Astronomers have mapped the temperatures at different layers of the planet’s atmosphere and traced the amount and distribution of water vapor. The findings have ramifications for the understanding of atmospheric dynamics and how giant planets like Jupiter are formed.


For images and more information about Hubble, visit: www.nasa.gov/hubble and hubblesite.org/news/2014/28

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