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Satellites are used for a large number of purposes. Common types include military (spy) and civilian Earth observation satellites, communication satellites, navigation satellites, weather satellites, and research satellites.

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NASA Probe Sees Solar Wind Decline

The 33-year odyssey of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has reached a distant point at the edge of our solar system where there is no outward motion of solar wind. Now hurtling toward interstellar space some 17.4 billion...

Super-Earth Atmosphere

A team of astronomers, including two NASA Sagan Fellows, has made the first characterizations of a super-Earth's atmosphere, by using a ground-based telescope...

Kepler Discovers

NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star...

Pulverized Planet

Tight double-star systems might not be the best places for life to spring up, according to a new study using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope....

Dark Asteroids

NASA is set to launch a sensitive new infrared telescope to seek out sneaky things in the night sky -- among them, dark asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth....

Archive for December 2009

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has photographed a flash of sunlight reflecting from a lake on Saturn's moon Titan, confirming the presence of liquid hydrocarbons on a part of the moon dotted with many lake-shaped basins.

Cassini scientists had been looking for the glint, also known as a specular reflection, since the spacecraft began orbiting Saturn in 2004. But until recently Titan's northern hemisphere, where most of the lakes are located, had been veiled in winter darkness. Now, however, the seasons are changing and sunlight has returned to the north, allowing Cassini to capture this serendipitous image:
Titan, Saturn's largest moon, has captivated scientists because of its many similarities to Earth. Scientists have theorized for 20 years that Titan's cold surface hosts seas or lakes of liquid hydrocarbons, making it the only other planetary body besides Earth believed to have liquid on its surface. While data from Cassini have not indicated any vast seas, they have revealed what appeared to be large lakes near Titan's north and south poles.

"These results remind us how unique Titan is in the solar system," says Ralf Jaumann, who leads the scientists at the DLR who work on Cassini. "They also show us that liquid has a universal power to shape geological surfaces in the same way, no matter what the liquid is."


A man-made spacecraft has measured a minus 249 degree Celsius spot on the Earth's moon in a bid to identify the coldest place in the Solar System.

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has measured temperatures at the southwestern edge of the floor of the moon's Hermite Crater.

The findings show the temperature of the environment reached as low as minus 249 degrees Celsius.


"The moon has one of the most extreme thermal environments of any body in the Solar System," said Professor David Paige of the University of California in Los Angeles.


It is believed that such an environment could conceal volatile substances that require extremely cold temperatures for storage during extended periods.


“These regions are cold enough to trap a wide range of compounds such as water, carbon dioxide, and various organic molecules,” Paige said.

The original launch was postponed several times due to equipment failure and bad weather, but NASA has finally lifted its latest project off the ground. The Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) is a solar-powered satellite and infrared telescope that will map the entire sky in greater detail than any device before it--even the famed Hubble Space Telescope.but science writers are already envisioning what WISE's might find.

Killer Asteroids :

One of WISE's chief goals will be cataloging (relatively) near-earth asteroids with the hopes of avoiding a catastrophic impact in the future: "A killer space rock heading for Earth is not just the stuff of Hollywood action movies and science fiction stories. The threat is real and getting a better handle on near-Earth asteroids could ease some concerns by scientists that NASA had not been doing enough.

Extra Planets :

WISE Telescope could resurrect some out-of-vogue theories: "There was a theory about 20 years ago, based on gravitational observations, that there was a giant planet called Nemesis way out beyond Pluto,"

Closer Stars :

"WISE will be able to detect stars much dimmer than the Sun. These brown dwarfs, many of which have yet to be discovered, should be readily apparent to the WISE instrument, and of course we hope for one that ranks as the closest star to the Earth. And beyond all this, WISE will be able to produce a global map of the galaxy and its associated dust."

Aliens :

"It'll be used to detect light- and heat-emitting objects that the Hubble might miss. Such as spaceships!

High Resolution Images :

WISE mission will be such a drastic improvement over NASA's previous attempts to map the sky: "WISE will perform an infrared all-sky survey at much higher resolution and sensitivity than any previous IR surveys."

A team of scientists compared leading theories of jets produced by rotating supermassive black holes with Chandra data. A sampling of nine giant galaxies that exhibit large disturbances in their gaseous atmospheres showed that the central black holes in these galaxies must be spinning at near their maximum rates.