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We See Seashores Shifting with Satellites

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We See Seashores Shifting with Satellites

If you’re like us, as soon as the summer Sun is out, you start feeling – well, just beachy, sand you very much. 

Lots of our favorite beaches are inside protected marine areas, which are regulated by governments to keep their ecosystems or cultural heritage intact. If you beachcomb at Cape Cod, swim in the Florida Keys or learn about Hawaiian culture at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, congrats! You’ve visited a protected marine area.

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But time and tide haven’t been kind to some protected beaches.

Beaches are constantly changing, and science teams are using our 30-year record of Earth images from the NASA/USGS Landsat program to study what’s happening.

Overall, the sum total of sandy beaches has increased a bit over the last 30 years. But time and tide haven’t been as kind to our protected beaches – the team found that more than 1/3 of sandy beaches in protected marine areas have been eroding away.

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Some of these areas were designated to protect vulnerable plant and animal species or connect delicate ecosystems. They are home to humpback whales and sea turtles, reefs and mangroves that protect the land from erosion and natural disasters, and species which are found in only one habitat in the world. Losing land area could upset the balance of these areas and endanger their future.

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Next step: Looking for pearls of wisdom to save the beaches!

Right now, we aren’t sure which beaches are eroding due to natural processes, and which are due to humans – that’s the next step for science teams to investigate. Once we know the causes, we can start working on solutions to save the beaches.

Those 30 years of Landsat data will help scientists find answers to these questions much faster – instead of using airplanes or measuring the beaches by hand, they can use computer programs to rapidly investigate millions of satellite photos spanning many years of change.

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By tracking beaches from space, scientists can help keep our summers sandy for years to come.

And that makes us as happy as clams.

Read the full story HERE.

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Source: NASA


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Mark Vande Hei’s ‘Space-Selfie’ : On Tuesday,…

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Mark Vande Hei’s ‘Space-Selfie’ : On Tuesday,…

Mark Vande Hei’s ‘Space-Selfie’ : On Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, spacewalker Mark Vande Hei snapped his own portrait, better known as a “space-selfie,” during the first spacewalk of the year. (via NASA)

Source: Just Space


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Our Sun is More than Meets the Eye

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Our Sun is More than Meets the Eye

The Sun may look unchanging to us here on Earth, but that’s not the whole story.

In visible light – the light our eyes can see – the Sun looks like an almost featureless orange disk, peppered with the occasional sunspot. (Important note: Never look at the Sun directly, and always use a proper filter for solar viewing – or tune in to our near-real time satellite feeds!)

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But in other kinds of light, it’s a different picture. The Sun emits light across the electromagnetic spectrum, including the relatively narrow range of light we can see, as well as wavelengths that are invisible to our eyes. Different wavelengths convey information about different components of the Sun’s surface and atmosphere, so watching the Sun in multiple types of light helps us paint a fuller picture.

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Watching the Sun in these wavelengths reveals how active it truly is. This image, captured in a wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light at 131 Angstroms, shows a solar flare. Solar flares are intense bursts of light radiation caused by magnetic events on the Sun, and often associated with sunspots. The light radiation from solar flares can disturb part of Earth’s atmosphere where radio signals travel, causing short-lived problems with communications systems and GPS.

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Looking at the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light also reveals structures like coronal loops (magnetic loops traced out by charged particles spinning along magnetic field lines)…

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…solar prominence eruptions…

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…and coronal holes (magnetically open areas on the Sun from which solar wind rushes out into space).

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Though extreme ultraviolet light shows the Sun’s true colors, specialized instruments let us see some of the Sun’s most significant activity in visible light.

A coronagraph is a camera that uses a solid disk to block out the Sun’s bright face, revealing the much fainter corona, a dynamic part of the Sun’s atmosphere. Coronagraphs also reveal coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, which are explosions of billions of tons of solar material into space. Because this material is magnetized, it can interact with Earth’s magnetic field and trigger space weather effects like the aurora, satellite problems, and even – in extreme cases – power outages.

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The Sun is also prone to bursts of energetic particles. These particles are blocked by Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere, but they could pose a threat to astronauts traveling in deep space, and they can interfere with our satellites. This clip shows an eruption of energetic particles impacting a Sun-observing satellite, creating the ‘snow’ in the image.

We keep watch on the Sun 24/7 with a fleet of satellites to monitor and better understand this activity. And this summer, we’re going one step closer with the launch of Parker Solar Probe, a mission to touch the Sun. Parker Solar Probe will get far closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft has ever gone – into the corona, within 4 million miles of the surface – and will send back unprecedented direct measurements from the regions thought to drive much of the Sun’s activity. More information about the fundamental processes there can help round out and improve models to predict the space weather that the Sun sends our way.

Keep up with the latest on the Sun at @NASASun on Twitter, and follow along with Parker Solar Probe’s last steps to launch at nasa.gov/solarprobe.

Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com. 

Source: NASA


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Solar System 10 Things: Looking Back at Pluto

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Solar System 10 Things: Looking Back at Pluto

In July 2015, we saw Pluto up close for the first time and—after three years of intense study—the surprises keep coming. “It’s clear,” says Jeffery Moore, New Horizons’ geology team lead, “Pluto is one of the most amazing and complex objects in our solar system.”

1. An Improving View

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These are combined observations of Pluto over the course of several decades. The first frame is a digital zoom-in on Pluto as it appeared upon its discovery by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. More frames show of Pluto as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope. The final sequence zooms in to a close-up frame of Pluto taken by our New Horizons spacecraft on July 14, 2015.

2. The Heart

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Pluto’s surface sports a remarkable range of subtle colors are enhanced in this view to a rainbow of pale blues, yellows, oranges, and deep reds. Many landforms have their own distinct colors, telling a complex geological and climatological story that scientists have only just begun to decode. The image resolves details and colors on scales as small as 0.8 miles (1.3 kilometers). Zoom in on the full resolution image on a larger screen to fully appreciate the complexity of Pluto’s surface features.

3. The Smiles

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July 14, 2015: New Horizons team members Cristina Dalle Ore, Alissa Earle and Rick Binzel react to seeing the spacecraft’s last and sharpest image of Pluto before closest approach.

4. Majestic Mountains

Just 15 minutes after its closest approach to Pluto, the New Horizons spacecraft captured this near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains extending to Pluto’s horizon. The backlighting highlights more than a dozen layers of haze in Pluto’s tenuous atmosphere. The image was taken from a distance of 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) to Pluto; the scene is 780 miles (1,250 kilometers) wide.

5. Icy Dunes

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Found near the mountains that encircle Pluto’s Sputnik Planitia plain, newly discovered ridges appear to have formed out of particles of methane ice as small as grains of sand, arranged into dunes by wind from the nearby mountains.

6. Glacial Plains

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The vast nitrogen ice plains of Pluto’s Sputnik Planitia – the western half of Pluto’s “heart”—continue to give up secrets. Scientists processed images of Sputnik Planitia to bring out intricate, never-before-seen patterns in the surface textures of these glacial plains.

7. Colorful and Violent Charon

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High resolution images of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, show a surprisingly complex and violent history. Scientists expected Charon to be a monotonous, crater-battered world; instead, they found a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-color variations and more.

8. Ice Volcanoes

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One of two potential cryovolcanoes spotted on the surface of Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft. This feature, known as Wright Mons, was informally named by the New Horizons team in honor of the Wright brothers. At about 90 miles (150 kilometers) across and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) high, this feature is enormous. If it is in fact an ice volcano, as suspected, it would be the largest such feature discovered in the outer solar system.

9. Blue Rays

Pluto’s receding crescent as seen by New Horizons at a distance of 120,000 miles (200,000 kilometers). Scientists believe the spectacular blue haze is a photochemical smog resulting from the action of sunlight on methane and other molecules in Pluto’s atmosphere. These hydrocarbons accumulate into small haze particles, which scatter blue sunlight—the same process that can make haze appear bluish on Earth.

10. Encore

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On Jan. 1, 2019, New Horizons will fly past a small Kuiper Belt Object named MU69 (nicknamed Ultima Thule)—a billion miles (1.5 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto and more than four billion miles (6.5 billion kilometers) from Earth. It will be the most distant encounter of an object in history—so far—and the second time New Horizons has revealed never-before-seen landscapes.

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Source: NASA


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Day of Remembrance 2018 : On the last Thursday in January, NASA…

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Day of Remembrance 2018 : On the last Thursday in January, NASA…

Day of Remembrance 2018 : On the last Thursday in January, NASA pays tribute to the crews of Apollo 1 and space shuttles Challenger and Columbia, as well as other NASA colleagues who lost their lives while furthering the cause of exploration and discovery. (via NASA)

Source: Just Space


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