Category Archives: Nasa Space Place

NASA Space Place – Sixty Years Of Observing Our Earth

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in January, 2018.

By Teagan Wall

2013february2_spaceplaceSatellites are a part of our everyday life. We use global positioning system (GPS) satellites to help us find directions. Satellite television and telephones bring us entertainment, and they connect people all over the world. Weather satellites help us create forecasts, and if there’s a disaster-such as a hurricane or a large fire-they can help track what’s happening. Then, communication satellites can help us warn people in harm’s way.

There are many different types of satellites. Some are smaller than a shoebox, while others are bigger than a school bus. In all, there are more than 1,000 satellites orbiting Earth. With that many always around, it can be easy to take them for granted. However, we haven’t always had these helpful eyes in the sky.

The United States launched its first satellite on Jan. 31, 1958. It was called Explorer 1, and it weighed in at only about 30 pounds. This little satellite carried America’s first scientific instruments into space: temperature sensors, a microphone, radiation detectors and more.

Explorer 1 sent back data for four months, but remained in orbit for more than 10 years. This small, relatively simple satellite kicked off the American space age. Now, just 60 years later, we depend on satellites every day. Through these satellites, scientists have learned all sorts of things about our planet.

For example, we can now use satellites to measure the height of the land and sea with instruments called altimeters. Altimeters bounce a microwave or laser pulse off Earth and measure how long it takes to come back. Since the speed of light is known very accurately, scientists can use that measurement to calculate the height of a mountain, for example, or the changing levels of Earth’s seas.

Satellites also help us to study Earth’s atmosphere. The atmosphere is made up of layers of gases that surround Earth. Before satellites, we had very little information about these layers. However, with satellites’ view from space, NASA scientists can study how the atmosphere’s layers interact with light. This tells us which gases are in the air and how much of each gas can be found in the atmosphere. Satellites also help us learn about the clouds and small particles in the atmosphere, too.

When there’s an earthquake, we can use radar in satellites to figure out how much Earth has moved during a quake. In fact, satellites allow NASA scientists to observe all kinds of changes in Earth over months, years or even decades.

Satellites have also allowed us-for the first time in civilization-to have pictures of our home planet from space. Earth is big, so to take a picture of the whole thing, you need to be far away. Apollo 17 astronauts took the first photo of the whole Earth in 1972. Today, we’re able to capture new pictures of our planet many times every day.

Today, many satellites are buzzing around Earth, and each one plays an important part in how we understand our planet and live life here. These satellite explorers are possible because of what we learned from our first voyage into space with Explorer 1-and the decades of hard work and scientific advances since then.

To learn more about satellites, including where they go when they die, check out NASA Space Place: https://spaceplace.nasa.gov/spacecraft-graveyard.

Caption: This photo shows the launch of Explorer 1 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Jan. 31, 1958. Explorer 1 is the small section on top of the large Jupiter-C rocket that blasted it into orbit. With the launch of Explorer 1, the United States officially entered the space age. Image credit: NASA

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

NASA Space Place – Snowy Worlds Beyond Earth

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in December, 2017.

The Space Place article format has changed recently, including more embedded images. To simplify the posting process, a PDF version of the article is provided below, with a snippet of the article reproduced below it.

Download as PDF: Snowy Worlds Beyond Earth

By Linda Hermans-Killiam

2013february2_spaceplace

There are many places on Earth where it snows, but did you know it snows on other worlds, too? Here are just a few of the places where you might find snow beyond Earth:

A Moon of Saturn: Enceladus

Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, has geysers that shoot water vapor out into space. There it freezes and falls back to the surface as snow. Some of the ice also escapes Enceladus to become part of Saturn’s rings. The water vapor comes from a heated ocean which lies beneath the moon’s icy surface. (Jupiter’s moon Europa is also an icy world with a liquid ocean below the frozen surface.) All of this ice and snow make Enceladus one of the brightest objects in our solar system.

Caption: Enceladus as viewed from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Credit: NASA

Want to learn more about weather on other planets? Check out NASA Space Place: spaceplace.nasa.gov/planet-weather

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

NASA Space Place – Studying Storms From The Sky

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in November, 2017.

By Teagan Wall

2013february2_spaceplaceThe United States had a rough hurricane season this year. Scientists collect information before and during hurricanes to understand the storms and help people stay safe. However, collecting information during a violent storm is very difficult.

Hurricanes are constantly changing. This means that we need a lot of really precise data about the storm. It’s pretty hard to learn about hurricanes while inside the storm, and instruments on the ground can be broken by high winds and flooding. One solution is to study hurricanes from above. NASA and NOAA can use satellites to keep an eye on storms that are difficult to study on the ground.

In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria was so strong that it knocked out radar before it even hit land. Radar can be used to predict a storm’s path and intensity—and without radar, it is difficult to tell how intense a storm will be. Luckily, scientists were able to use information from a weather satellite called GOES-16, short for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite – 16.

The “G” in GOES-16 stands for geostationary. This means that the satellite is always above the same place on the Earth, so during Hurricane Maria, it never lost sight of the storm. GOES-16’s job as a weather satellite hasn’t officially started yet, but it was collecting information and was able to help.

From 22,000 miles above Earth, GOES-16 watched Hurricane Maria, and kept scientists on the ground up to date. Knowing where a storm is—and what it’s doing—can help keep people safe, and get help to the people that need it.

Hurricanes can also have a huge impact on the environment—even after they’re gone. To learn about how Hurricane Irma affected the Florida coast, scientists used images from an environmental satellite called Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership, or Suomi-NPP. One of the instruments on this satellite, called VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite), took pictures of Florida before and after the Hurricane.

Hurricane Irma was so big and powerful, that it moved massive amounts of dirt, water and pollution. The information captured by VIIRS can tell scientists how and where these particles are moving in the water. This can help with recovery efforts, and help us design better ways to prepare for hurricanes in the future.

By using satellites like GOES-16 and Suomi-NPP to observe severe storms, researchers and experts stay up to date in a safe and fast way. The more we know about hurricanes, the more effectively we can protect people and the environment from them in the future.

To learn more about hurricanes, check out NASA Space Place: spaceplace.nasa.gov/hurricanes/

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Caption: These images of Florida and the Bahamas were captured by a satellite called Suomi-NPP. The image on the left was taken before Hurricane Irma and the image on the right was taken after the hurricane. The light color along the coast is dirt, sand and garbage brought up by the storm. Image credit: NASA/NOAA

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!