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Major Ocean-Observing Satellite Starts Providing Science Data   This map shows sea level measured by the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite from June 5 to15. Red areas are regions where sea level is higher than normal, and blue areas indicate areas where it's lower than normal. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich, the latest spacecraft to monitor sea surface height, releases its first science measurements to users. After six months of check-out and calibration in orbit, the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite will make its first two data streams available to the public on June 22. It launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Nov. 21, 2020, and is a U.S.-European collaboration to measure sea surface height and other key ocean features, such as ocean surface wind speed and wave height. One of the sea surface height data streams that will be released is accurate to 2.3 inches (5.8 centimeters) and will be available within hours of when...

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The Sky This Week: Welcome, summer!

Monday, June 21st 2021 09:31 AM

The Sky This Week: Welcome, summer!   Summer evening: The summer solstice occurs June 20, bringing the longest day of the year and kicking off the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere. Friday, June 18 An hour after sunset, the bright red star Antares, located in Scorprius, is visible above the southern horizon. This magnitude 1 star is located in a rich region of the sky rife with star clusters, including M4, a globular cluster less than 1.5° due west of Antares. M4 is an easy magnitude 5.6 and spans about 36'. At just 7,200 light-years from Earth, it’s one of the nearest globular clusters to our planet. Many observers can see a straight “bar” structure of 11th-magnitude stars within the cluster’s core. Wait a little longer, and two open clusters — M6 and M7 — will appear as Scorpius’ tail clears the horizon. These are much younger, looser groupings of stars than M4, and excellent binocular targets for even beginning observers...

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Mystery object blotted out a giant star for 200 days Stars may twinkle, but they don’t just vanish—so when a distant, giant star pulled a disappearing act for about 200 days, it took astronomers by surprise. Now, roughly a decade later, astronomers have sifted through a variety of possible explanations—and they still have no idea what’s responsible for blotting out nearly all of the star’s light. Described in a new study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, some of the theories still on the table rely on as-yet unobserved phenomena, such as a dark disk of material orbiting a nearby black hole, or undiscovered, dust-enshrouded companion stars. But over 17 years of observations, the star has only gone dark once, in 2012, making it more difficult for teams to nail down a plausible culprit. It’s clear that whatever object eclipsed the distant star is huge—much bigger than the star itself. It also appeared to be completely...

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Operations Underway to Restore Payload Computer on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope NASA is working to resolve an issue with the payload computer on the Hubble Space Telescope. The computer halted on Sunday, June 13, shortly after 4 p.m. EDT. After analyzing the data, the Hubble operations team is investigating whether a degrading memory module led to the computer halt. The team is preparing to switch to one of several backup modules on Wednesday, June 16. The computer will then be allowed to run for approximately one day to verify that the problem has been solved. The team would then restart all science instruments and return the telescope to normal science operations.   The Hubble Space Telescope is deployed on April 25, 1990 from the space shuttle Discovery. Avoiding distortions of the atmosphere, Hubble has an unobstructed view peering to planets, stars and galaxies, some more than 13.4 billion light years away. (Credits: NASA/Smithsonian Institution/Lockheed Corporation) The...

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Citizen Scientists Discover Two Gaseous Planets around a Bright Sun-like Star At night, seven-year-old Miguel likes talking to his father Cesar Rubio about planets and stars. “I try to nurture that,” says Rubio, a machinist in Pomona, California, who makes parts for mining and power generation equipment.   In this artist’s rendering, two gaseous planets orbit the bright star HD 152843. These planets were discovered through the citizen science project Planet Hunters TESS, in collaboration with professional scientists. Now, the boy can claim his father helped discover planets, too. Cesar Rubio is one of thousands of volunteers participating in Planet Hunters TESS, a NASA-funded citizen science project that looks for evidence of planets beyond our solar system, or exoplanets. Citizen science is a way for members of the public to collaborate with scientists. More than 29,000 people worldwide have joined the Planet Hunters TESS effort to help scientists find exopl...

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NASA Statement on James Webb Space Telescope Launch Readiness   NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which will be the premier observatory of the next decade, remains on schedule for a launch readiness date no earlier than Oct. 31, 2021. Webb will ship to the launch site in August with little to no schedule margin; launch processing will take two months. The observatory has completed all the post-environmental testing deployments, and it is in its final integration and folding stages. Final stow, closeout, and pack and ship are imminent. We are working closely with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Arianespace on establishing the launch date. We will launch approximately four months after the first launch of the Ariane 5 this year, which is scheduled for late July. Webb has no launch date constraints; hence, it can launch almost any day of the year. Webb will study every phase in the history of our universe, including the first luminous glows after the creation of the co...

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Strange FM signal discovered coming from one of Jupiter's moons NASA recently extended the life of two of its planetary discovery missions, including the Juno mission to Jupiter. Now it's come to light Juno has discovered an FM signal emanating from one of the gas giant's moons, Ganymede. The discovery is not an indication of extraterrestrial life, but it is fascinating nonetheless, given it's the first time it's been discovered coming from the celestial satellite. "It’s not E.T.," Patrick Wiggins, one of NASA’s ambassadors to Utah, said in comments obtained by ABC 4. "It’s more of a natural function."   Natural color view of Ganymede from the Galileo spacecraft during its first encounter with the satellite. North is to the top of the picture and the sun illuminates the surface from the right. The dark areas are the older, more heavily cratered regions and the light areas are younger, tectonically deformed regions. (NASA/JPL) The spacecraft, which launched...

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Spacecraft buzzes Jupiter's mega moon, 1st close-up in years     Juno zoomed past icy Ganymede, passing within 645 miles of planet surface Fox News Flash top headlines for June 8 CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Juno spacecraft has provided the first close-ups of Jupiter’s largest moon in two decades. Juno zoomed past icy Ganymede on Monday, passing within 645 miles (1,038 kilometers). The last time a spacecraft came that close was in 2000 when NASA’s Galileo spacecraft swept past our solar system’s biggest moon. NASA released Juno’s first two pictures Tuesday, highlighting Ganymede’s craters and long, narrow features possibly related to tectonic faults. One shows the moon's far side, opposite the sun. This June 7, 2021 image made available by NASA shows the Jovian moon Ganymede as the Juno spacecraft flies by. "This is the closest any spacecraft has come to this mammoth moon in a generation," said Juno's lead scientist, Scott...

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NASA’s Juno to Get a Close Look at Jupiter’s Moon Ganymede   Left to right: The mosaic and geologic maps of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede were assembled incorporating the best available imagery from NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft and NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. The first of the gas-giant orbiter’s back-to-back flybys will provide a close encounter with the massive moon after over 20 years. On Monday, June 7, at 1:35 p.m. EDT (10:35 a.m. PDT), NASA’s Juno spacecraft will come within 645 miles (1,038 kilometers) of the surface of Jupiter’s largest moon, Ganymede. The flyby will be the closest a spacecraft has come to the solar system’s largest natural satellite since NASA’s Galileo spacecraft made its penultimate close approach back on May 20, 2000. Along with striking imagery, the solar-powered spacecraft’s flyby will yield insights into the moon’s composition, ionosphere, magnetosphere, and ice shell. Juno&rsq...

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NASA will head to Venus for first time in roughly 30 years Two spacecraft aim to solve deep mysteries about the nearby planet, including why it resembles a hellish, toxic version of Earth. NASA had a surprise in store for planetary scientists today: During a “State of NASA” briefing, the agency announced that roiling, toxic Venus will be the target of the next two missions in its highly competitive Discovery program. “These two sister missions, both aimed to understand how Venus became an inferno-like world capable of melting lead at the surface—they will offer the entire science community the chance to investigate a planet we haven’t been to in more than 30 years,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during the briefing. “We hope these missions will help further our understanding of how Earth evolved and why it’s currently habitable, when other [rocky planets] in our solar system are not.” One spacecraft, called DAVINCI+, wil...

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