The spectacle of a mammoth rocket ‘breaking the surly bonds of Earth’ takes our breath away. Equally amazing are the secrets revealed to us by science missions these rockets have launched – and NASA puts careful thought into what kind of mission will best achieve that science. Sometimes a large, multi-instrumented mission on a giant rocket is the best way to go. But other missions are better suited to a smaller, less expensive rocket as the key to getting a quick answer to a tightly focused science question.
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Comets are some of the most interesting objects in the solar system. Water that filled the ancient oceans of Earth might have been delivered by comets. And there is growing evidence that many comets (as well as some primitive asteroids) contain molecules key to life. NASA has sent space probes to travel hundreds of millions of miles to study these icy interlopers from the outer solar system.
The most sophisticated space science telescope ever constructed – the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – is targeted to launch in October 2018. With a primary mirror three times as wide as The Hubble Space Telescope and a special sensitivity to penetrating infrared radiation, Webb will peer into the far reaches of the universe to reveal how the first stars and galaxies formed after the Big Bang.
Earth. A world dominated by water. Trillions of gallons flow freely across the surface of our blue-green planet. While we once thought oceans made our planet unique, we’re now coming to realize that ‘ocean worlds’ are all around us.
Stop what you’re doing and mark your calendar:
When: Sunset on April 7, 2017 to sunrise on April 8, 2017
What: Jupiter at opposition
The earliest satellites of the Space Age were small. Sputnik, for instance, weighed just 184.3 lbs. America’s first satellite, Explorer 1, was even smaller at only about 30 lbs.
Over time, satellites grew to accommodate more sensors with greater capabilities, but thanks to miniaturization and new technology capabilities, small is back in vogue.
About 30 years ago, researchers announced that ozone concentrations high in the atmosphere over the South Pole had hit an all-time low. This critical layer of the atmosphere that shields us from the Sun’s harmful UV rays had a ‘hole’ in it. And that hole was rapidly expanding. This discovery led to the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty that regulates production of ozone-destroying chemicals like chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. As a result, the ozone layer is now on the mend.
Something strange is about to happen to sunbeams in the southern hemisphere.
On Sunday, February 26th, the moon will pass in front of the sun, transforming rays of sunlight across parts of South America, southern Africa and Antarctica into fat crescents and thin rings of light.
2017 is beginning with fireworks.
No, not those fireworks…
We’re talking about a lightshow from shattered comet 2003 EH1.
According to the International Meteor Organization and other forecasters, Earth will pass through a stream of debris from the comet on January 3, 2017, producing a shower of meteors known as the Quadrantids.
Earth’s coral reefs teem with diverse forms of life, from microscopic phytoplankton to whale sharks. As much as one quarter of all ocean species depend on reefs for food or shelter—a remarkable statistic considering that reefs cover less than two percent of the ocean bottom.