Pulsating Aurora Mysteries Uncovered with Help from NASA’s THEMIS Mission

Portal origin URL: Pulsating Aurora Mysteries Uncovered with Help from NASA’s THEMIS MissionPortal origin nid: 418834Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 14:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: The precise mechanism driving pulsating auroras, long unknown, has now been identified with help from NASA's THEMIS mission.Portal image: Illustraton of the THEMIS spacecraft in orbit in Earth's magnetic field.Science Categories: Sun

NASA Television Coverage Set for Weather Satellite Science Briefing, Launch

Portal origin URL: NASA Television Coverage Set for Weather Satellite Science Briefing, LaunchPortal origin nid: 418856Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 14:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) newest weather satellite, Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S), is scheduled to launch Thursday, March 1. The launch, as well as prelaunch and science briefings on Tuesday, Feb. 27, will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.Portal image: Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S)Science Categories: Earth

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope to Reveal Secrets of the Red Planet

The planet Mars has fascinated scientists for over a century. Today, it is a frigid desert world with a carbon dioxide atmosphere 100 times thinner than Earth’s. But evidence suggests that in the early history of our solar system, Mars had an ocean’s worth of water. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will study Mars to learn more about the planet’s transition from wet to dry, and what that means about its past and present habitability.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 - 11:43

New Atmosphere Wind/Temperature Sensor to Improve Space Weather Prediction

This blog post originated in the 2016 Science Mission Directorate Technology Highlights Report (20 MB PDF).

Technology Development

Global wind and temperature measurements in the lower thermosphere (100-150 km above Earth) are the two most important variables needed to accurately predict space weather and climate change. An innovative technique is being developed jointly by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, GSFC, and JPL to make these measurements using the atomic oxygen emission at 2.06 THz (145 μm).

A new sensor, called the TeraHertz Limb Sounder (TLS), will make these critical measurements under a wide range of observation conditions (e.g., day and night, with and without aurora present) from a low Earth orbit. Not only will TLS measurements enable scientists to study neutral atmosphere interactions with the ionosphere and magnetosphere above, they will improve our fundamental understanding of the mechanisms and effects in Earth’s upper atmosphere and other planetary and stellar atmospheres. The data will also help researchers understand how the upper atmosphere is affected by solar variability (i.e., radiation, magnetized solar winds, and energetic particles) and lower-atmospheric disturbances—critical geophysical processes that influence numerous space weather phenomena that present hazards to spacecraft, humans in space, and technological infrastructure on the ground.

Close-up of the 2.06 THz Schottky diode mixer (left); a computer-generated model of the full TLS instrument (right). (Credit: NASA JPL)

The TLS instrument is enabled by a high-sensitivity gallium arsenide (GaAs)-diode-based heterodyne receiver that operates at room temperature. In 2016, the team developed the high-frequency Schottky diode shown on the previous page, which mixes the incoming signal from 2.06 THz down to an intermediate frequency band to measure spectral emission features from atomic oxygen in the atmosphere. This advanced mixer technology can be used to build compact, low-mass and low-power instruments for NASA’s small satellite missions.


TLS development will mature and optimize a low-noise, high-sensitivity THz receiver to advance Heliophysics science in future space weather missions with reduced cost and schedule risks. This development effort focuses on the receiver system integration, optimization, and demonstration of key subsystem performance. This THz receiver system is designed to operate at an ambient temperature in space using passive radiators, thus removing the need for a dedicated resource-demanding cryocooler.

Status and Future Plans

In 2016, the team completed development of the TLS receiver concept and successfully designed and fabricated the Schottky diode mixer. Ongoing research is focused on building a model prototype instrument and making receiver-sensitivity measurements to verify receiver performance.

Sponsoring Organization

The SMD Heliophysics Division’s H-TIDeS program provides the funding for this technology development effort. The PI is Dr. Jeng- Hwa (Sam) Yee at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

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NASA’s Longest Running Survey of Ice Shattered Records in 2017

Last year was a record-breaking one for Operation IceBridge, NASA’s aerial survey of the state of polar ice. For the first time in its nine-year history, the mission, which aims to close the gap between two NASA satellite campaigns that study changes in the height of polar ice, carried out seven field campaigns in the Arctic and Antarctic in a single year.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Friday, February 16, 2018 - 10:24

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite Arrives at Kennedy Space Center for Launch

NASA’s next planet-hunting mission has arrived in Florida to begin preparations for launch. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is scheduled to launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station nearby NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than April 16, pending range approval.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Friday, February 16, 2018 - 10:19

Hubble's Window into the Cosmic Past

This image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy cluster PLCK G004.5-19.5. It was discovered by the ESA Planck satellite through the Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect — the distortion of the cosmic microwave background radiation in the direction of the galaxy cluster by high-energy electrons in the intracluster gas.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Friday, February 16, 2018 - 10:10

Supermassive Black Holes Are Outgrowing Their Galaxies

The biggest black holes in the Universe are growing faster than the rate of stars being formed in their galaxies, according to two new studies using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 14:16

Hubble Sees Neptune's Mysterious Shrinking Storm

Three billion miles away on the farthest known major planet in our solar system, an ominous, dark storm – once big enough to stretch across the Atlantic Ocean from Boston to Portugal – is shrinking out of existence as seen in pictures of Neptune taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 14:10

Conserving the World's Corals


Coral reefs are some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. Known as the “rainforests of the sea,” they are home to more than a quarter of all marine species. Yet the beauty and vitality of the coral reef environments are threatened—and the reasons are numerous. Rising water temperatures due to climate change, land-based pollution, and indiscriminate fishing practices are the primary threats to coral reef health. Recreational activities like boating, scuba diving, and snorkeling, if done carelessly, can also seriously stress coral reefs. If these stressors continue, they can lead to coral bleaching, and recently the world’s corals have been facing more frequent and severe bleaching events.

When corals bleach, they lose their color because they lose symbiotic algae that live inside the coral animal tissue. When this happens, the coral animal is unable to grow, reproduce, and build its limestone skeleton making it more easily damaged or killed. “Some diseases occur when corals lose their resistance to pathogenic bacteria and fungi, that may be natural,” noted Frank Muller-Karger, biological oceanographer at the College of Marine Science, University of South Florida. “But in other cases, diseases are related to human discharge of sewage and other refuse into coastal waters.”

To maintain coral health, reef managers track global, large-scale temperature fluctuations, allowing them to assess conditions and monitor trends across the world’s oceans. Recent advances in satellite images have given managers finer-scale details and insights to carry out more immediate, targeted actions. Those include rescuing corals at risk of fatal bleaching, redirecting divers or snorkelers to unstressed reefs, and educating the public about the damage that fishing in stressed areas may cause.

When bleaching becomes imminent, however, “reef managers can implement various strategies…to reduce or mitigate the potential negative impacts additionally caused by human use,” said Beth Dieveney, Deputy Superintendent for science and policy at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

NOAA 60% Probability Coral Bleaching Thermal Stress for Jul-Oct 2016

An important resource is the NOAA Coral Reef Watch (CRW) program, which uses satellite data, climate models, and in situ observations to provide bleaching alerts to reef managers and scientists, as well as the general public. CRW’s satellite-based products include near-real-time and historical data and images of temperature and temperature anomalies for monitoring the risk of coral bleaching and disease in coral reef ecosystems. They also issue bleaching outlooks based on expected climate conditions up to four months in advance.

In a partnership, NASA has collaborated with NOAA to improve the CRW program and its products. The College of Marine Science of the University of South Florida and CRW staff worked together with NASA’s Ames Research Center to develop higher spatial and temporal resolution satellite data products that are now routinely included in the CRW analyses of global coral reef conditions.

Building on the 50-kilometer products that CRW already provided, the project created global, 5-kilometer sea surface temperature products based on the observations from NASA, NOAA, and international geostationary and polar-orbiting satellites. The team also created and is continuously validating finer-scale, 1-kilometer products based on NASA and NOAA real-time data for the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, and Caribbean Sea.

NOAA Coral Reef Watch Daily 5–km Geo-Polar Blended Night-Only Bleaching Alert Area 7d Max 20 Jun 2016

CRW’s new products now allow Florida reef managers to better understand conditions of offshore waters under their jurisdiction, as well as within actual reef ecosystems. The new products also provide finer-scale satellite data than the old products and directly monitor more than 98 percent of coral reefs around the world.

In fact, during the project, researchers and reef managers reported widespread coral beaching in the summer and fall of 2014 and 2015 in the Florida Keys and Hawaii, as well as in the U.S. territories of Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The new CRW products accurately predicted and helped monitor coral bleaching in all of these regions.

As a result of these improvements, reef managers are able to take earlier and more targeted approaches to protecting coral ecosystems through methods such as reducing the allowable pollutant loads, alerting recreational dive vessels to change locations, or rescuing rare corals before they are killed by bleaching.

“One example would be working with local diving and snorkeling operators to redirect on-water tourist activities away from natural reef areas, normally subject to high visitation, to artificial reefs and shipwrecks,” said Dieveney. “This could reduce unintentional physical damage to corals until favorable thermal conditions return.”

CRW also allows the public to help support reef health and collect information. “In times of severe thermal stress, that higher resolution helps us manage where we request researchers and citizen scientists alike to look for potential thermal stress in corals,” Dieveney added. “Also, over the long term, it may help reef managers refine where they place temperature-monitoring devices to help better correlate remotely sensed data.”

Frank Muller-Karger and Mark Eakin lead this project.

To learn more about Coral Reef Watch, visit

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Eclipse Season Starts for NASA’s SDO

Portal origin URL: Eclipse Season Starts for NASA’s SDOPortal origin nid: 418452Published: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 - 07:38Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: On Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, saw a total solar eclipse in space when Earth crossed its view of the Sun. Also known as a transit, Earth’s passage was brief, lasting from 2:10 a.m. to 2:41 a.m. EST and covering the entire face of the Sun.Portal image: animation of SDO observations of Earth transitScience Categories: Sun

Free Science Exhibits Available for Eligible Institutions

Institutions Can Now Apply for a free exhibit, “Sun, Earth, Universe.”

  • In collaboration with NASA, the NISE Network (NISENet) is pleased to offer institutions the opportunity to apply for a free Sun, Earth, Universe exhibition, which is an engaging and interactive museum exhibition about Earth and space science for family audiences.
  • Fifty (50) identical copies of the exhibition will be fabricated and distributed to eligible NISE Network partners through a competitive application process.
  • Applications are due May 1, 2018.
  • Learn more about eligibility and how to apply.
News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Monday, February 12, 2018 - 11:25

A Detailed Timeline of The IMAGE Mission Recovery

Portal origin URL: A Detailed Timeline of The IMAGE Mission RecoveryPortal origin nid: 418247Published: Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 14:40Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: The Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration, or IMAGE, spacecraft was re-discovered in January 2018 after more than twelve years of silence.Portal image: IMAGE spacecraft being enclosed in its fairing prior to launchScience Categories: Sun

New NASA Space Sensors to Address Key Earth Science Questions

Portal origin URL: New NASA Space Sensors to Address Key Earth Science QuestionsPortal origin nid: 418082Published: Monday, February 5, 2018 - 15:51Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Why is the Arctic warming faster than the rest of the planet? Does mineral dust warm or cool the atmosphere? NASA has selected two new, creative research proposals to develop small, space-based instruments that will tackle these fundamental questions about our home planet and its environment.Portal image: 2011 composite satellite image shows the expanse of Arctic sea ice (center) and the Greenland Ice Sheet (lower right)Science Categories: Earth

NASA’s Newly Rediscovered IMAGE Mission Provided Key Aurora Research

Portal origin URL: NASA’s Newly Rediscovered IMAGE Mission Provided Key Aurora ResearchPortal origin nid: 417919Published: Friday, February 2, 2018 - 11:13Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: A long-lost NASA satellite, IMAGE, has recently been rediscovered. The mission's nearly six years in operation provided robust research about the space around Earth that continue to guide science to this day.Portal image: illustration of plasmasphere, reconstructed from IMAGE dataScience Categories: Sun

NASA Mission Launched; Will Revolutionize Our Understanding of Space Weather

Portal origin URL: NASA Mission Launched; Will Revolutionize Our Understanding of Space WeatherPortal origin nid: 417936Published: Friday, February 2, 2018 - 10:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: NASA's first mission to provide unprecedented measurements of, and changes in, the temperature and composition of Earth's upper atmosphere launched at 5:20 p.m. EST Jan. 25, from the Guiana Space Centre in French Guiana.Portal image: illustration of satellite hosting GOLD instrumentScience Categories: Sun

Gravity Assist: The Kuiper Belt with Alan Stern

New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern talks about what we’ve learned about Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69 and the remarkable story of how -- against all odds -- the New Horizons team captured MU69’s fleeting shadow on Earth as the object passed in front of a distant star.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Thursday, February 1, 2018 - 15:25

Studying the Van Allen Belts 60 Years After America’s First Spacecraft

Portal origin URL: Studying the Van Allen Belts 60 Years After America’s First SpacecraftPortal origin nid: 417713Published: Wednesday, January 31, 2018 - 14:00Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: The U.S.' first satellite in space, launched Jan. 31, 1958, heralded the emergence of space physics and ushered in a new era of technology and communications. This satellite, Explorer 1, discovered Earth's Van Allen Belts. Sixty years later, scientists are still working to understand their peculiar and puzzling nature.Portal image: depiction of Earth's Van Allen BeltsScience Categories: Sun