NASA News Digest: Space Science For 30 July – 20 August 2015

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

California “Rain Debt” Equal to Average Full Year of Precipitation

RELEASE 15-162 (Click here for the full article) – 30 July 2015

2015august20_15_162_masterA new NASA study has concluded California accumulated a debt of about 20 inches of precipitation between 2012 and 2015 — the average amount expected to fall in the state in a single year. The deficit was driven primarily by a lack of air currents moving inland from the Pacific Ocean that are rich in water vapor.

In an average year, 20 to 50 percent of California’s precipitation comes from relatively few, but extreme events called atmospheric rivers that move from over the Pacific Ocean to the California coast.

“When they say that an atmospheric river makes landfall, it’s almost like a hurricane, without the winds. They cause extreme precipitation,” said study lead author Andrey Savtchenko at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

For more information about NASA’s Precipitation Measurement missions, visit: pmm.nasa.gov

NASA’s Spitzer Confirms Closest Rocky Exoplanet

RELEASE 15-160 (Click here for the full article) – 30 July 2015

Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have confirmed the discovery of the nearest rocky planet outside our solar system, larger than Earth and a potential gold mine of science data.

Dubbed HD 219134b, this exoplanet, which orbits too close to its star to sustain life, is a mere 21 light-years away. While the planet itself can’t be seen directly, even by telescopes, the star it orbits is visible to the naked eye in dark skies in the Cassiopeia constellation, near the North Star.

HD 219134b is also the closest exoplanet to Earth to be detected transiting, or crossing in front of, its star and, therefore, perfect for extensive research.

“Transiting exoplanets are worth their weight in gold because they can be extensively characterized,” said Michael Werner, the project scientist for the Spitzer mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “This exoplanet will be one of the most studied for decades to come.”

For more information about NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, visit: www.nasa.gov/spitzer

NASA To Share The Universe With Tumblr Users

RELEASE 15-167 (Click here for the full article) – 7 August 2015

2015august20_15_167cNASA is launching an official Tumblr profile that will give Tumblr users a regular dose of space in a blog-like format through text, photos, videos and more.

Tumblr is a social media platform that allows users to connect and follow other content creators in a collaborative micro-blog format. People are able to discover, share and create content that expresses their personality, hobbies and interests. The NASA Tumblr profile will share information, images and video about the agency’s missions of exploration and discovery.

To follow NASA’s new Tumblr account, visit: nasa.tumblr.com

For a comprehensive list of NASA social media accounts and platforms, visit: nasa.gov/socialmedia

Oxymoronic Black Hole Provides Clues To Growth

RELEASE 15-165 (Click here for the full article) – 11 August 2015

2015august20_15_165Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the 6.5-meter Clay Telescope in Chile have identified the smallest supermassive black hole ever detected in the center of a galaxy. This oxymoronic object could provide clues to how larger black holes formed along with their host galaxies 13 billion years or more in the past.

Astronomers estimate this supermassive black hole is about 50,000 times the mass of the sun. This is less than half the mass of the previous smallest black hole at the center of a galaxy.

“It might sound contradictory, but finding such a small, large black hole is very important,” said Vivienne Baldassare of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, first author of a paper on these results published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. “We can use observations of the lightest supermassive black holes to better understand how black holes of different sizes grow.”

An interactive image, podcast, and a video about the findings are available at: chandra.si.edu

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: www.nasa.gov/chandra

Send Your Name To Mars On NASA’s Next Red Planet Mission

RELEASE 15-171 (Click here for the full article) – 17 August 2015

Mars enthusiasts around the world can participate in NASA’s journey to Mars by adding their names to a silicon microchip headed to the Red Planet aboard NASA’s InSight Mars lander, scheduled to launch next year.

“Our next step in the journey to Mars is another fantastic mission to the surface,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “By participating in this opportunity to send your name aboard InSight to the Red Planet, you’re showing that you’re part of that journey and the future of space exploration.”

Submissions will be accepted until Sept. 8. To send your name to Mars aboard InSight, go to: go.usa.gov/3Aj3G

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