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MOJAVE, Calif. — A Virgin Galactic space tourism rocket exploded Friday after taking off on a test flight, killing one person aboard and seriously injuring another while scattering wreckage in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, witnesses and officials said. The company founded […]

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“On behalf of the entire NASA family, I offer our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the pilot lost in today’s accident involving Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, and we are praying for a speedy recovery of the other pilot.”

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A new study in the latest issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society provides an in-depth look at how NASA facilities have been affected by climate extremes and climate change in recent years and how the agency is preparing for the future.

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This near-infrared, color mosaic from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft shows the sun glinting off of Titan’s north polar seas. While Cassini has captured, separately, views of the polar seas (see PIA17470) and the sun glinting off of them (see PIA12481 and PIA18433) in the past, this is the first time both have been seen together in the same view.

The sunglint, also called a specular reflection, is the bright area near the 11 o’clock position at upper left. This mirror-like reflection, known as the specular point, is in the south of Titan’s largest sea, Kraken Mare, just north of an island archipelago separating two separate parts of the sea.

This particular sunglint was so bright as to saturate the detector of Cassini’s Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) instrument, which captures the view. It is also the sunglint seen with the highest observation elevation so far — the sun was a full 40 degrees above the horizon as seen from Kraken Mare at this time — much higher than the 22 degrees seen in PIA18433. Because it was so bright, this glint was visible through the haze at much lower wavelengths than before, down to 1.3 microns.

The southern portion of Kraken Mare (the area surrounding the specular feature toward upper left) displays a “bathtub ring” — a bright margin of evaporate deposits — which indicates that the sea was larger at some point in the past and has become smaller due to evaporation. The deposits are material left behind after the methane & ethane liquid evaporates, somewhat akin to the saline crust on a salt flat.

The highest resolution data from this flyby — the area seen immediately to the right of the sunglint — cover the labyrinth of channels that connect Kraken Mare to another large sea, Ligeia Mare. Ligeia Mare itself is partially covered in its northern reaches by a bright, arrow-shaped complex of clouds. The clouds are made of liquid methane droplets, and could be actively refilling the lakes with rainfall.

The view was acquired during Cassini’s August 21, 2014, flyby of Titan, also referred to as “T104″ by the Cassini team.

The view contains real color information, although it is not the natural color the human eye would see. Here, red in the image corresponds to 5.0 microns, green to 2.0 microns, and blue to 1.3 microns. These wavelengths correspond to atmospheric windows through which Titan’s surface is visible. The unaided human eye would see nothing but haze, as in PIA12528.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The VIMS team is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

More information about Cassini is available at http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho

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Egmont National Park on New Zealand’s North Island is pictured in this satellite image. 

National parks protect forested areas from human activities that cause land degradation and deforestation. The boundary between protected and non-protected areas is often very clear in satellite images – as we see here between the green, densely forested area and surrounding agricultural landscape.

The land here was first formally protected in 1881, within a 9.6 km radius of the mountain summit.

With high rainfall and a mild coastal climate, the park is home to a lush rainforest, with some plants unique to the park. Halfway up the mountain slopes, the forest is sometimes called the ‘Goblin Forest’ for its gnarled trees and thick moss.

The mountain at the centre of the national park has two names: Mount Egmont and Mount Taranaki. Taranaki is the original name given by the indigenous Māori people, while the name Egmont was given by British explorer James Cook after John Perceval, 2nd Earl of Egmont in 1770. Many places in New Zealand have official dual names or, as in this case, alternate names in the original Māori and English (following colonisation by the British).

The mountain is considered an active volcano, although it has been dormant for over 150 years.

According to Māori mythology, Taranaki used to reside over 100 km farther east near other large volcanoes when a fight broke out over the female Mount Pihanga. Taranaki lost and fled west, carving the gorges of the Whanganui River along the way before stopping. When the mountain peak is covered by clouds and mist, it is believed that Taranaki is weeping for Pihanga.

This image, also featured on the Earth from Space video programme, was acquired on 6 March 2013 by Korea’s Kompsat-2 satellite.

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Technology image of the week: A spiral-based mechanism for solar panel deployment, produced by 3D printing

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While this might look like a postmodern sculpture, this weirdly organic design is actually a 3D-printed deployment mechanism for satellite solar panels. This prototype titanium version, by Thales Alenia Space, is called the Adel’Light, being a lightweight version of their existing Adele mechanism.

The 3D-printed version slashes the number of separate parts needed and reduces its mass by 80%. The spiral hinges in the foreground cannot be produced as a single part in any other way.

The device was on show this week during ESA’s Additive Manufacturing for Space Applications workshop at its ESTEC technical centre in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. More than 350 experts from across Europe came together to discuss the potential of 3D printing to transform the space industry and begin preparing common standards for its use.

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The DIRECTV-14 satellite has been fueled at the Spaceport as preparations continue for its launch on Arianespace’s upcoming Ariane 5 mission – which is scheduled for liftoff in early December, with India’s GSAT-16 as the co-passenger.

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By Brock Vergakis And Marcia Dunn CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. – Crews searched for scorched wreckage along the Virginia coast Wednesday in hopes of determining why an unmanned commercial rocket exploded in a blow to NASA’s strategy of using private companies to […]

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This Chandra X-ray Observatory image of the Hydra A galaxy cluster was taken on Oct. 30, 1999, with the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) in an observation that lasted about six hours. Hydra A is a galaxy cluster that is 840 million light years from Earth. The cluster gets its name from the strong radio source, Hydra A, that originates in a galaxy near the center of the cluster. Optical observations show a few hundred galaxies in the cluster. Chandra X-ray observations reveal a large cloud of hot gas that extends throughout the cluster. The gas cloud is several million light years across and has a temperature of about 40 million degrees in the outer parts decreasing to about 35 million degrees in the inner region.

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into space fifteen years ago aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. Since its deployment on July 23, 1999, Chandra has helped revolutionize our understanding of the universe through its unrivaled X-ray vision. Chandra, one of NASA’s current “Great Observatories,” along with the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, is specially designed to detect X-ray emission from hot and energetic regions of the universe.

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO

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