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Latest Pluto surface images baffle scientists

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Washington: Pluto’s lattest sharp images have revealed perplexed variety of surface features that has left scientific community baffled because of their complexity and range.pluto

Taken from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, the images reveal new features as diverse as possible dunes, nitrogen ice flows that apparently oozed out of mountainous regions onto plains, and even networks of valleys that may have been carved by material flowing over Pluto’s surface.

“Pluto is showing us a diversity of land forms and complexity of processes that rival anything we have seen in the solar system,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), Boulder, Colorado.

New Horizons has begun its year-long download of new images and other data.

They show large regions that display chaotically jumbled mountains reminiscent of disrupted terrains on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

“The surface of Pluto is every bit as complex as that of Mars,” added Jeff Moore from NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.

The randomly jumbled mountains might be huge blocks of hard water ice floating within a vast, denser, softer deposit of frozen nitrogen within the region informally named Sputnik Planum, he explained.

New images also show the most heavily cratered — and thus oldest — terrain yet seen by New Horizons on Pluto next to the youngest, most crater-free icy plains.

There might even be a field of dark wind-blown dunes, among other possibilities.

“Seeing dunes on Pluto — if that is what they are — would be completely wild, because Pluto’s atmosphere today is so thin,” noted William B. McKinnon from Washington University-St Louis.

Images returned in the past days have also revealed that Pluto’s global atmospheric haze has many more layers than scientists realized.

The haze actually creates a twilight effect that softly illuminates night-side terrain near sunset, making them visible to the cameras aboard New Horizons.

The New Horizons spacecraft is now more than five billion kms from Earth and more than 69 million kms beyond Pluto.

The spacecraft is healthy and all systems are operating normally, NASA reported.

(with inputs from IANS )

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NASA, SpaceX Postpone Historic Astronauts Launch Due to Bad Weather

The launch was delayed due to unfavourable weather in the flight path according to SpaceX

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NASA and SpaceX postponed historic launch of two astronauts to space. Pixabay

NASA and SpaceX postponed historic launch of two astronauts to space from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday due to bad weather.

“Due to the weather conditions, the launch is scrubbing,” NASA tweeted, Xinhua reported.

SpaceX said the launch was delayed due to unfavourable weather in the flight path.

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The next launch opportunity is scheduled on Saturday, May 30. Pixabay

The next launch opportunity is scheduled on Saturday, May 30.

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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will carry the Crew Dragon spacecraft and veteran NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station (ISS).

It will be the first time since 2011 that American astronauts launch on an American rocket from American soil to the ISS. (IANS)

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Moon Mission: NASA Seeking Healthy US Citizens For 8-Month Isolation

NASA is looking for candidates between the ages of 30 and 55

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NASA
NASA is looking for healthy individuals for their study on isolation for 8 months. Pixabay

NASA is seeking US citizens for an eight-month study on social isolation in preparation for missions to Mars and the moon.

The international space agency is preparing for its next spaceflight simulation study and is seeking healthy participants to live together with a small crew in isolation for eight months in Moscow, Russia.

Participants will be staying in a lab located in Moscow, and they will experience environmental aspects similar to those astronauts are expected to experience on future missions to Mars that will have crew members from different nations.

NASA is looking for highly motivated and healthy individuals between the ages of 30 and 55 who are fluent in both English and Russian. They must also have an MS., PhD, MD. or have completed military officer training.

The space agency will consider other participants with a bachelor’s degree and other qualifications such as military or professional experience.

They will study the psychological and physiological effects astronauts are likely to face as a result of isolation on long missions.

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NASA is also looking for people who are fluent in both English and Russian. Pixabay

According to NASA, participants will experience environmental aspects similar to those astronauts are expected to experience on future missions to Mars.

A small international crew will live together in isolation for eight months conducting scientific research, using virtual reality and performing robotic operations among a number of other tasks during the lunar mission.

The research is being done to study the effects of isolation and confinement as participants work to complete simulated space missions.

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Results from ground-based missions like this help NASA prepare for the real-life challenges of space exploration and provide important scientific data to solve some of these problems and to develop countermeasures.

Participants will be compensated, and there are varying levels of pay depending on whether you’re associated with NASA.

This study builds on a four-month study conducted in 2019. The SIRIUS-19 analog mission had six participants — two US citizens and four Russians — isolated in a metal habitat that acted as their spacecraft, lunar lander and home. (IANS)

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Scientists to Probe Jupiter’s Violent Storms, Lightning Strikes

Scientists from various organisations probe Jupiter's violent Storms and lightning strikes

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Scientists to probe Jupiter's violent storms and lightning strikes. Pixabay

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the ground-based Gemini Observatory in Hawaii have teamed up with the Juno spacecraft to probe the mightiest storms on the giant planet Jupiter.

The images, part of a multi-year joint programme, revealed that lightning strikes, and some of the largest storm systems that create them, are formed in and around large convective cells over deep clouds of water ice and liquid.

The new observations also confirm that dark spots in the famous Great Red Spot are actually gaps in the cloud cover and not due to cloud colour variations.

Three years of imaging observations using the international Gemini Observatory have probed deep into Jupiter’s cloud tops. The ultra-sharp Gemini infrared images complement optical and ultraviolet observations by Hubble and radio observations by the Juno spacecraft to reveal new secrets about the giant planet.

“The Gemini data were critical because they allowed us to probe deeply into Jupiter’s clouds on a regular schedule,” said Michael Wong of University of California, Berkeley.

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Scientists to probe Jupiter’s violent storms and lightning strikes. Pixabay

“We used a very powerful technique called lucky imaging,” added Wong.

With lucky imaging, a large number of very short exposure images are obtained and only the sharpest images, when the Earth’s atmosphere is briefly stable, are used. The result in this case is some of the sharpest infrared images of Jupiter ever obtained from the ground.

According to Wong, “These images rival the view from space.”

Gemini North’s Near Infrared Imager (NIRI) allows astronomers to peer deep into Jupiter’s mighty storms, since the longer wavelength infrared light can pass through the thin haze but is obscured by thicker clouds high in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

This creates a “jack-o-lantern”-like effect in the images where the warm, deep layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere glow through gaps in the planet’s thick cloud cover.

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Jupiter’s violent storms and lightning strikes to be probed by scientist. Pixabbay

The detailed, multiwavelength imaging of Jupiter by Geminiand Hubble has, over the past three years, proven crucial to contextualizing the observations by the Juno orbiter, and to understanding Jupiter’s wind patterns, atmospheric waves, and cyclones.

The two telescopes, together with Juno, can observe Jupiter’s atmosphere as a system of winds, gases, heat, and weather phenomena, providing coverage and insight not unlike the network of weather satellites meteorologists use to observe Earth.

Because the Hubble and Gemini observations are so important for interpreting Juno data, Wong and his colleagues are making all of the processed data easily accessible to other researchers through the Mikulski Archives for Space Telescopes (MAST) at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

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The results were published in The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series. (IANS)