Find us on Google+

A Hitchhiker’s Ride to Space

by
A Hitchhiker’s Ride to Space

This month, we are set to launch the latest weather satellite from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Joint Polar Satellite System-1, or JPSS-1, satellite will provide essential data for timely and accurate weather forecasts and for tracking environmental events such as forest fires and droughts.

image

Image Credit: Ball Aerospace

JPSS-1 is the primary satellite launching, but four tiny satellites will also be hitchhiking a ride into Earth orbit. These shoebox-sized satellites (part of our CubeSat Launch Initiative) were developed in partnership with university students and used for education, research and development. Here are 4 reasons why MiRaTA, one of the hitchhikers, is particularly interesting…

image

Miniaturized Weather Satellite Technology

The Microwave Radiometer Technology Acceleration (MiRaTA) CubeSat is set to orbit the Earth to prove that a small satellite can advance the technology necessary to reduce the cost and size of future weather satellites. At less than 10 pounds, these nanosatellites are faster and more cost-effective to build and launch since they have been constructed by Principal Investigator Kerri Cahoy’s students at MIT Lincoln Laboratory (with lots of help). There’s even a chance it could be put into operation with forecasters.

image

The Antenna? It’s a Measuring Tape

That long skinny piece coming out of the bottom right side under MiRaTA’s solar panel? That’s a measuring tape. It’s doubling as a communications antenna. MiRaTA will measure temperature, water vapor and cloud ice in Earth’s atmosphere. These measurements are used to track major storms, including hurricanes, as well as everyday weather. If this test flight is successful, the new, smaller technology will likely be incorporated into future weather satellites – part of our national infrastructure.

image

Tiny Package Packing a Punch

MiRaTA will also test a new technique using radio signals received from GPS satellites in a higher orbit. They will be used to measure the temperature of the same volume of atmosphere that the radiometer is viewing. The GPS satellite measurement can then be used for calibrating the radiometer. “In physics class, you learn that a pencil submerged in water looks like it’s broken in half because light bends differently in the water than in the air,” Principal Investigator Kerri Cahoy said. “Radio waves are like light in that they refract when they go through changing densities of air, and we can use the magnitude of the refraction to calculate the temperature of the surrounding atmosphere with near-perfect accuracy and use this to calibrate a radiometer.” 

image

What’s Next?

In the best-case scenario, three weeks after launch MiRaTA will be fully operational, and within three months the team will have obtained enough data to study if this technology concept is working. The big goal for the mission—declaring the technology demonstration a success—would be confirmed a bit farther down the road, at least half a year away, following the data analysis. If MiRaTA’s technology validation is successful, Cahoy said she envisions an eventual constellation of these CubeSats orbiting the entire Earth, taking snapshots of the atmosphere and weather every 15 minutes—frequent enough to track storms, from blizzards to hurricanes, in real time.

Learn more about MiRaTA

Watch the launch!

image

The mission is scheduled to launch this month (no sooner than Nov. 14), with JPSS-1 atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket lifting off from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. You’ll be able to watch on NASA TV or at nasa.gov/live.

image

Watch the launch live HERE on Nov. 14, liftoff is scheduled for Tuesday, 4:47 a.m.! 

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

Source: NASA


Posted in NASA and tagged by with no comments yet.

What’s Up November 2017

by
What’s Up November 2017

What’s Up For November?

Dawn pairing of Jupiter and Venus, Moon shines near star clusters, meteor activity all month long!

image

This month binoculars will come in handy–to view the moon, star clusters, and a close pairing of Venus and Jupiter.

image

You can’t miss bright Venus in the predawn sky. This month Venus pairs up
with Jupiter on the morning of November 13th.

image

The Leonids peak on a moonless November 17th. Expect no more than 10 meteors an hour around 3:00 a.m., the height of the shower.

image

The Northern and Southern sub-branches of the Taurid meteor shower offer sparse counts of about 5 meteors per hour, but slow, bright meteors are common.

image

The nearby November Orionids peak on the 28th. In contrast to the Taurids, the Orionids are swift. But don’t expect more than 3 meteors per hour.

image

The moon glides by three beautiful star clusters in the morning sky this month, and a pair of binoculars will allow you to see the individual stars in the clusters. Aim your binoculars at the Pleiades and the moon on the 5th.

image

Then aim at the Messier or M-35 cluster and the moon on the 7th and the Beehive cluster and the moon on the 10th.

image

Meanwhile, at dusk, catch Saturn as it dips closer to the western horizon and pairs up with Mercury on the 24th through the 28th.

image

Also, Comet C/2017 O1 should still be a binocular-friendly magnitude 7 or 8 greenish object in November. Use Polaris, the North Star as a guide. Look in the East to Northeast sky in the late evening.  

Watch the full What’s Up for November Video: 

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

Source: NASA


Posted in NASA and tagged by with no comments yet.

Solar System: 10 Things to Know This Week…Halloween Edition!

by
Solar System: 10 Things to Know This Week…Halloween Edition!

This week, we’re getting into the Halloween spirit with 10 spooktacular things to let your imagination run wild. 

image

It’s not Halloween without our favorite scary characters, but what if they could stop bothering us Earthlings and go far, far away? We begin with where Dracula, Frankenstein, and other creepy creatures might choose to live if the galaxy were theirs to claim…

1. The dark (k)night.

image

The prince of darkness himself, Dracula, can finally seek sweet respite from the Sun. We think he’d love to live on a rocky planet named YZ Ceti d that orbits so close to its red star that it’s tidally locked keeping one side of the planet in perpetual nighttime and the other side in perpetual daytime, with a brilliant red sky (though we can guess which side Dracula will prefer). 

2. Where art thou, werewolves? 

image

Home sweet home for our furry Full Moon friends might just be on Trappist-1, a planetary system with seven planets—and where standing on one planet would mean the other planets look like six moons (some as big as our Moon in the sky). 

3. Left in the dust. 

image

We couldn’t think of anyone better to live on Proxima b than The Mummy. Hopefully this ancient monster can finally rest in peace on an exoplanet that scientists theorize is a desert planet once home to ancient oceans. 

4. Cloudy with a chance of Frankenstein.

image

One scientific experiment we’d like to conduct: whether Frankenstein would rather live on HAT-P-11b or Kepler-3b, theorized to have fierce thunderstorms and lightning. 

5. The walking dead. 

image

We’re pretty confident that if zombies were to pick a planet, they’d want one that shares their love of death and destruction. We think they’d feel right at home on one of the pulsar planets, which are scorched by radiation because they orbit a dead star. 

6. Rest your weary bones. 

image

Skeletons need look no further: Osiris, an exoplanet that’s so close to a star that it’s “losing its flesh” as the star destroys it, seems like a perfect match. 

7. Enough of the scary stuff. 

image

For kids out there, turn pumpkin decorating into an out-of-this-world activity with space-themed stencils, from Saturn to the Sun. 

8. Spooky sounds. 

image

Cassini’s radio emissions from Saturn could give creaky doors and howling winds a run for their money. Listen to the eerie audio recordings here and find more HERE.

9. Pumpkin-carve like a NASA engineer. 

image

NASA engineers design and build robots that can fly millions of miles to study other planets for a living—so on Halloween, they can’t help but bring that creative thinking to the grand old tradition of pumpkin carving. Take a cue from their creations with these insider tips.

10. Detective for a day. 

image

From blades of ice on Pluto to a fuzzy, white “bunny” photographed on Mars, become a solar system sleuth and see if you can solve the stellar mysteries in this slideshow (then compare with how scientists cracked the case). 

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

Source: NASA


Posted in NASA and tagged by with no comments yet.