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Presence of Methane on Pluto confirmed: NASA

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Pluto_for_wikiWashington: NASA’s New Horizon probe — set for a Pluto flyby on July 14 — has confirmed that there is frozen methane on Pluto’s surface.

The Earth-based astronomers first observed Methane on Pluto in 1976.

“We already knew there was methane on Pluto but these are our first detections,” said Will Grundy, team leader with the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Soon, we will know if there are differences in the presence of methane ice from one part of Pluto to another, he added in a statement.

New Horizons is now about 16 million km from the Pluto system – around 4.75 billion km from the Earth.

Methane was detected by a team of ground-based astronomers led by New Horizons team member, Dale Cruikshank of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Mountain View, California.

The detection was made possible with the help of  the infrared spectrometer on New Horizons spacecraft.

Methane is an odourless, colourless gas that is present underground and in the atmosphere on the Earth.

On Pluto, methane may be primordial, inherited from the solar nebula from which the solar system formed 4.5 billion years ago.

Just hours after its flyby of Pluto on July 14, the spacecraft will observe sunlight passing through the planet’s atmosphere, to help scientists determine the atmosphere’s composition.

“It will be as if Pluto were illuminated from behind by a trillion-watt light bulb,” noted New Horizons scientist, Randy Gladstone.

The spacecraft is healthy and all systems are operating normally.

“We are really on the final path. It just gets better and more exciting every day,” said project manager Glen Fountain. (IANS)

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NASA Seeks US Partners to Develop Reusable Systems For Moon Mission

This process, known as in-situ resource utilization or ISRU, will make the third element also refuellable and reusable, it said

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NASA Seeks Partnership With US Industry to Develop First Gateway Element
NASA seeks US partners to develop reusable systems for Moon mission, Pixabay

NASA is set to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems, in a major step to land astronauts on the surface of the Moon.

NASA is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface in 2028, the US space agency said in a statement on Thursday.

Through upcoming multi-phased lunar exploration partnerships, NASA will ask American companies to study the best approach to landing astronauts on the Moon and start the development as quickly as possible with current and future anticipated technologies.

“Building on our model in low-Earth orbit, we’ll expand our partnerships with industry and other nations to explore the Moon and advance our missions to farther destinations such as Mars, with America leading the way,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“When we send astronauts to the surface of the Moon in the next decade, it will be in a sustainable fashion.”

To develop lunar robotic landers, NASA in November collaborated with nine commercial American companies namely Astrobotic, Deep Space Systems, Firefly Aerospace, Intuitive Machines, Lockheed Martin, Mastern Space Systems, Moon Express, Draper and Orbit Beyond.

UAE, Moon
The International Space Station, center, passes in front of the Moon in its Earth orbit as photographed from Salgotarjan, Hungary, July 5, 2018. (VOA)

These companies are eligible for competing for NASA’s contracts valued at $2.6 billion, according to the US-based space agency.

The agency plans to send humans to the Moon using a system of three separate elements that will provide transfer, landing, and safe return.

Using the Gateway to land astronauts on the Moon allows the first building blocks for fully reusable lunar landers. Initially NASA expects two of the lander elements to be reusable and refuelled by cargo ships carrying fuel from Earth to the Gateway.

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The agency is also working on technologies to make rocket propellants using water ice and regolith from the Moon. Once the ability to harness resources from the Moon for propellant becomes viable, NASA plans to refuel these elements with the Moon’s own resources.

This process, known as in-situ resource utilization or ISRU, will make the third element also refuellable and reusable, it said. (IANS)