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Posts Tagged ‘goddard space flight center’

NASA Goddard Engineers Testing Webb Telescope’s OSIM and BIA Instruments

April 16, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Chris Gunn

Image Credit: NASA Goddard/Chris Gunn

Several critical items related to NASA’s next-generation James Webb Space Telescope are being tested in the giant thermal vacuum test chamber at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

These photos show the OTE (Optical Telescope Element) Simulator or OSIM wrapped in a silver blanket on a platform, being lowered down into a vacuum chamber (called the Space Environment Simulator, or SES) by a crane to be tested to withstand the cold temperatures of space.

The OSIM simulates the Webb telescope for the purposes of testing the science instruments that will fly on the observatory. The OSIM itself will never fly into space, but it is a vital part of the testing program to verify that the science cameras and spectrographs will function as planned.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/technology/features/webb-osim.html

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Ultra-fast Outflows Help Monster Black Holes Shape Their Galaxies

February 27, 2012 Leave a comment

A curious correlation between the mass of a galaxy’s central black hole and the velocity of stars in a vast, roughly spherical structure known as its bulge has puzzled astronomers for years. An international team led by Francesco Tombesi at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., now has identified a new type of black-hole-driven outflow that appears to be both powerful enough and common enough to explain this link.

Most big galaxies contain a central black hole weighing millions of times the sun’s mass, but galaxies hosting more massive black holes also possess bulges that contain, on average, faster-moving stars. This link suggested some sort of feedback mechanism between a galaxy’s black hole and its star-formation processes. Yet there was no adequate explanation for how a monster black hole’s activity, which strongly affects a region several times larger than our solar system, could influence a galaxy’s bulge, which encompasses regions roughly a million times larger.

“This was a real conundrum. Everything was pointing to supermassive black holes as somehow driving this connection, but only now are we beginning to understand how they do it,” Tombesi said.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/universe/features/fast-outflow.html

Improved Forecasting to Coincide with Peak in Solar Activity

January 27, 2012 Leave a comment

After years of relative somnolence, the sun is beginning to stir. By the time it’s fully awake in about 20 months, the team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., charged with researching and tracking solar activity, will have at their disposal a greatly enhanced forecasting capability.

Goddard’s Space Weather Laboratory recently received support under NASA’s Space Technology Program Game Changing Program to implement “ensemble forecasting,” a computer technique already used by meteorologists to track potential paths and impacts of hurricanes and other severe weather events.

Instead of analyzing one set of solar-storm conditions, as is the case now, Goddard forecasters will be able to simultaneously produce as many as 100 computerized forecasts by calculating multiple possible conditions or, in the parlance of Heliophysicists, parameters. Just as important, they will be able to do this quickly and use the information to provide alerts of space weather storms that could potentially be harmful to astronauts and NASA spacecraft.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/ensemble-forecasting.html

Vesta Likely Cold and Dark Enough for Ice

January 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Though generally thought to be quite dry, roughly half of the giant asteroid Vesta is expected to be so cold and to receive so little sunlight that water ice could have survived there for billions of years, according to the first published models of Vesta’s average global temperatures and illumination by the sun.

“Near the north and south poles, the conditions appear to be favorable for water ice to exist beneath the surface,” says Timothy Stubbs of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Stubbs and Yongli Wang of the Goddard Planetary Heliophysics Institute at the University of Maryland published the models in the January 2012 issue of the journal Icarus. The models are based on information from telescopes including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

Vesta, the second-most massive object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, probably does not have any significant permanently shadowed craters where water ice could stay frozen on the surface all the time, not even in the roughly 300-mile-diameter (480-kilometer-diameter) crater near the south pole, the authors note. The asteroid isn’t a good candidate for permanent shadowing because it is tilted on its axis at about 27 degrees, which is even greater than Earth’s tilt of roughly 23 degrees. In contrast, the moon, which does have permanently shadowed craters, is tilted at only about 1.5 degrees. As a result of its large tilt, Vesta has seasons, and every part of the surface is expected to see the sun at some point during Vesta’s year.

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-024

NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope Explores New Energy Extremes

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

After more than three years in space, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is extending its view of the high-energy sky into a largely unexplored electromagnetic range. Today, the Fermi team announced its first census of energy sources in this new realm.

Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) scans the entire sky every three hours, continually deepening its portrait of the sky in gamma rays, the most energetic form of light. While the energy of visible light falls between about 2 and 3 electron volts, the LAT detects gamma rays with energies ranging from 20 million to more than 300 billion electron volts (GeV).

At higher energies, gamma rays are rare. Above 10 GeV, even Fermi’s LAT detects only one gamma ray every four months.

“Before Fermi, we knew of only four discrete sources above 10 GeV, all of them pulsars,” said David Thompson, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “With the LAT, we’ve found hundreds, and we’re showing for the first time just how diverse the sky is at these high energies.”

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/energy-extremes.html

 

NASA’s Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer Completes Mission Operations

January 9, 2012 Leave a comment

After 16 years in space, NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) has made its last observation. The satellite provided unprecedented views into the extreme environments around white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes.

RXTE sent data from its last science observation to the ground early on Jan. 4. After performing engineering tests, controllers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., successfully decommissioned the satellite on Jan. 5.

RXTE far exceeded its original science goals and leaves astronomers with a scientific bounty for years to come. Data from the mission have resulted in more than 2,200 papers in refereed journals, 92 doctoral theses, and more than 1,000 rapid notifications alerting astronomers around the globe to new astronomical activity.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/jan/HQ_12-005_RXTE_Mission_Ends.html