JPL News-Month in Review, NASA -Climate Change, May 2022

JPL News-Month in Review, NASA-Climate Change, May 2022

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory <>


California Field Campaign Helping Scientists Protect Diverse Ecosystems
Above Santa Barbara County, the Surface Biology and Geology High-Frequency Time Series, or SHIFT, campaign collects data to understand land and aquatic ecosystems. Read More


California Field Campaign Helping Scientists Protect Diverse Ecosystems

A research plane collecting spectral imaging data of vegetation on land and in the ocean as part of the SHIFT campaign flies just off the Central Coast of California near Point Conception and the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve in February. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Full Image Details

The SHIFT campaign uses a research plane carrying the AVIRIS-NG instrument to collect data on the function, health, and resilience of plant communities in the 640-square-mile (1,656-square-kilometer) area of Santa Barbara County and the nearby ocean shown in this annotated map. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech Full Image Details



NASA’s EMIT Will Map Tiny Dust Particles to Study Big Climate Impacts


NASA Finds New Way to Monitor Underground Water Loss


International Sea Level Satellite Takes Over From Predecessor


Thawing Permafrost Could Leach Microbes, Chemicals Into Environment


NASA Finds Each State Has Its Own Climatic Threshold for Flu Outbreaks


California Fire Led to Spike in Bacteria, Cloudiness in Coastal Waters


NASA Supports Research to Advance Earth Science


Sea Level to Rise up to a Foot by 2050, Interagency Report Finds

Clusters of Weather Extremes Will Increase Risks to Corn Crops, Society
To assess how climate warming will change risks such as crop failures and wildfires, it’s necessary to look at how the risks are likely to interact. Read More


New Space-Based Weather Instruments Start Gathering Data


NASA’s Mars Helicopter Scouts Ridgeline for Perseverance Science Team

NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter scouted this ridgeline near the ancient river delta in Jezero Crater because it is of interest to Perseverance rover scientists. Enlarged at right is a close-up of one of the ridgeline’s rocky outcrops. The image was captured on April 23, during the rotorcraft’s 27th flight.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

For more information, please visit the following link:


NASA’s Mars Helicopter Spots Gear That Helped Perseverance Rover Land
Eyeing some of the components that enabled the rover to get safely to the Martian surface could provide valuable insights for future missions. Read More

This image of Perseverance’s backshell and parachute was collected by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 26th flight on April 19, 2022.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Full Image Details


NASA’s Mars Helicopter Spots Gear That Helped Perseverance Rover Land

This image of Perseverance’s backshell and supersonic parachute was captured by NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter during its 26th flight on Mars on April 19, 2022.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Full Image Details 

Greenland Ice, Jupiter Moon Share Similar Feature
Parallel ice ridges, a common feature on Jupiter’s moon Europa, are found on Greenland’s ice sheet – and could bode well for Europa’s potential habitability. Read More

 The surface geology of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is on display in this view made from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute


Greenland Ice, Jupiter Moon Share Similar Feature

A double ridge cutting across the surface of Europa is seen in this mosaic of two images taken by NASA’s Galileo during the spacecraft’s close flyby on Feb. 20, 1997. Analysis of a similar feature in Greenland suggests shallow liquid water may be ubiquitous across the Jovian moon’s icy shell.


NASA Extends Exploration for 8 Planetary Science Missions

An illustration shows our solar system (not to scale).

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Among the missions are InSight, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, and Curiosity, all of which have been critical to expanding our understanding of the Red Planet. Read More

For more information, please visit the following link:

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Captures Video of Solar Eclipse on Mars

April 20, 2022

The Mastcam-Z camera recorded video of Phobos, one of the Red Planet’s two moons, to study how its orbit is changing over time.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its Mastcam-Z camera to shoot video of Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons, eclipsing the Sun. It’s the most zoomed-in, highest-frame-rate observation of a Phobos solar eclipse ever taken from the Martian surface. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/SSI Full Image Details

NASA’s Perseveranc


NASA’s Perseverance Rover Captures Video of Solar Eclipse on Mars

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Sees Solar Eclipse on Mars

Apr 20, 2022           NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover used its Mastcam-Z camera system to shoot video of Phobos, one of Mars’ two moons, eclipsing the Sun. It’s the most zoomed-in, highest frame-rate observation of a Phobos solar eclipse ever taken from the Martian surface. Several Mars rovers have observed Phobos crossing in front of the Sun over the past 18 years. Spirit and Opportunity made the first observations back in 2004; Curiosity in 2019 was the first to record video of the event. Each time these eclipses are observed, they allow scientists to measure subtle shifts in Phobos’ orbit over time. The moon’s tidal forces pull on the deep interior of the Red Planet, as well as its crust and mantle; studying how much Phobos shifts over time reveals something about how resistant the crust and mantle are, and thus what kinds of materials they’re made of. The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/SSI

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Arrives at Delta for New Science Campaign

April 19, 2022


NASA’s Perseverance Rover Arrives at Delta for New Science Campaign

The expanse of Jezero Crater’s river delta is shown in this panorama of 64 stitched-together images taken by the Mastcam-Z system on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover on April 11, 2022, the 406th Martian day, or sol, of the mission. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS Full Image Details

This image of the parachute that helped deliver NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover to the Martian surface was taken by the rover’s Mastcam-Z instrument on April 6, 2022.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS

Full Image Details

“The delta at Jezero Crater pr

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What Sounds Captured by NASA’s Perseverane Rover Reveal About Mars

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Captures Puff, Whir, Zap Sounds from Mars

Apr 1, 2022  NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Listen closely to new sounds from Mars recorded by NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover, including puffs and pings from a rover tool, light Martian wind, the whirring of the agency’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, and laser zaps. Most of the sounds – best heard through headphones with the sound up – were recorded using the microphone belonging to Perseverance’s SuperCam instrument, mounted on the head of the rover’s mast. Other sounds, including the puffs and pings from the rover’s Gaseous Dust Removal Tool, or gDRT, blowing shavings off rock faces, were recorded by another microphone mounted on the chassis of the rover. A new study based on recordings made by the rover reveals that the speed of sound is slower on the Red Planet than on Earth and that, mostly, a deep silence prevails in the much thinner atmosphere. For more information on the study go to:… For more about Perseverance go to and Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU/MSSS/LANL/CNES/IRAP

This illustration indicates the placement of Perseverance’s two microphones. The microphone on the mast is part of the SuperCam science instrument. The microphone on the side of the rover was intended to capture the sounds of entry, descent, and landing for public engagement.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Full Image Details



NASA Wins 3 Webby Awards, 5 People’s Voice Awards for 2022

April 27, 2022

The awards are the highest honor for online communications.

Credit: Webby Awards

The JPL-managed NASA’s Global Climate Change and Solar System Exploration sites, along with JPL’s virtual tour, are among the winners.

 Read More


JPL Commits to First-Ever Space Industry Diversity Pledge
Interim Director Larry James joined 22 executives in a commitment to significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups by 2030. Read More

Inclusion is a JPL core value.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Interim Director Larry James joined 22 executives in a commitment to significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups by 2030.

Twenty-three space industry executives, including Larry James, interim director of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, gathered at the 37th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on April 5 to pledge their commitment to advancing diversity across the collective workforce in coming years.

The executives signed the “Space Workforce 2030” pledge, the first-ever space industry commitment of its kind to “significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups.” Each company will agree to annual reporting of data on diversity in our collective technical workforce, a regular cadence of exchanges of best practices, and work with universities to increase the number of diverse and underrepresented students graduating ready to join the space industry.

“We’re excited to be a part of this industry initiative and continuing to lead the way in growing our diverse and inclusive workforce,” said James. “We know that these qualities lead to stronger teams and innovative solutions – key things we need here at JPL as we tackle the toughest challenges in science and engineering.”

Cozette Hart, JPL’s director for human resources, is proud of JPL’s partnership in this effort.

“We’ve shared JPL DEI data in our annual report, so the unification and commitment of our industry to broaden this work is an extremely positive step for all of us,” said Hart.

Neela Rajendra, the Lab’s manager of diversity, equity, and inclusion, acknowledged the importance of being part of a cohort of other aerospace organizations where companies can identify trends and learn from each other.

“This is industry-specific and even more powerful,” she said. “There’s a recognition that if we can advance diversity, equity, and inclusion for the industry as a whole, we’ll all benefit from it.”

Collaboration also helps JPL refine its diversity focus areas as the Lab continues to develop its strategic plan, Rajendra added.

By signing the pledge, the companies vow to accomplish the following by 2030:

  • Significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups in our collective technical workforce.
  • Significantly increase the number of women and employees from underrepresented groups who hold senior leadership positions in our collective technical workforce.
  • Work with universities to increase the percentages of women and students from underrepresented groups receiving aerospace engineering degrees to levels commensurate with overall engineering programs.
  • Sponsor K-12 programs that collectively reach over 5 million underrepresented students annually.
  • Meet twice a year at the working level to exchange best practices on strengthening diversity recruitment, STEM education outreach, and representation at leadership levels.
  • Seek like-minded leaders and organizations to join this effort.

“This effort links to the DEI recruitment efforts already in place at JPL,” shared Hart. “In partnership with these companies and our universities, colleges, and organizations such as Society of Women Engineers (SWE), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), etc., we will be implementing even more opportunities for current and potential employees in the future.”

“Essentially, we’re committing to continuing the focus on our talent pipeline and really supporting future employees,” said Rajendra. “It’s about ensuring that all students and future talent have the opportunity to join the technical fields in aerospace regardless of background, socioeconomic status, or self-identity.”

Find the full list of “Space Workforce 2030” signatories below:

  • Roy Azevedo, president of Raytheon Intelligence & Space
  • Payam Banazadeh, CEO at Capella Space
  • Peter Beck, CEO at Rocket Lab
  • Tory Bruno, CEO at United Launch Alliance
  • Jim Chilton, senior VP of Space & Launch at Boeing
  • Michael Colglazier, CEO at Virgin Galactic
  • Eileen Drake, CEO and president of AeroJet Rocketdyne
  • Tim Ellis, CEO at Relativity Space
  • John Gedmark, CEO at Astranis Space Technologies
  • Steve Isakowitz, CEO at The Aerospace Corporation
  • Larry James, acting director at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Daniel Jablonsky, CEO at Maxar Technologies
  • Dave Kaufman, president of Ball Aerospace
  • Chris Kemp, CEO at Astra
  • Robert Lightfoot, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space
  • Will Marshall, CEO at Planet
  • Dan Piemont, president of ABL Space Systems
  • Peter Platzer, CEO at Spire Global
  • John Serafini, CEO at HawkEye 360
  • Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX
  • Melanie Stricklan, CEO at Slingshot Aerospace
  • Amela Wilson, CEO at Nanoracks
  • Tom Wilson, president of Space Systems at Northrop Grumman

News Media Contact

Matthew Segal

Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.



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Webb Telescope’s Coldest Instrument Reaches Operating Temperature
With help from a cryocooler, the Mid-Infrared Instrument has dropped down to just a few degrees above the lowest temperature matter can reach and is ready for calibration. Read More

In this illustration, the multilayered sunshield on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope stretches out beneath the observatory’s honeycomb mirror. The sunshield is the first step in cooling down Webb’s infrared instruments, but the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) requires additional help to reach its operating temperature.

Credit: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez


What’s Up – May 2022

April 29, 2022

What are some skywatching highlights in May 2022? May provides some great planet spotting, including a conjunction of Jupiter a conjunction of Jupiter and Mars.

Read More

What are some skywatching highlights in May 2022? May provides some great planet spotting, including a close conjunction of Jupiter and Mars. At mid-month, a total eclipse of the Moon should delight skywatchers across the Americas, Europe, and Africa. And all month long, the Coma star cluster (aka, the Coma Berenices star cluster, or Melotte 111) is a great target for binoculars in the evening.

What’s Up: May 2022 Skywatching Tips from NASA

Apr 29, 2022  NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

What are some skywatching highlights in May 2022? May provides some great planet spotting, including a close conjunction of Jupiter and Mars. At mid-month, a total eclipse of the Moon should delight skywatchers across the Americas, Europe, and Africa. And all month long, the Coma star cluster (aka, the Coma Berenices star cluster, or Melotte 111) is a great target for binoculars in the evening. YouTube Full Description (i.e., “Show More”) 0:00 Intro 0:11 Planet-spotting opportunities 1:02 Lunar eclipse 2:27 The Coma star cluster 3:33 May Moon phases Additional information about topics covered in this episode of What’s Up, along with still images from the video, and the video transcript, are available at….




Planet-spotting opportunities


Lunar eclipse


The Coma star cluster


May Moon phases



What’s Up for May? The planets of dusk and dawn, a lunar eclipse, and the Coma star cluster.

May begins and ends with a couple of great planet-spotting opportunities. On May 2nd, look to the west about 45 minutes after sunset to find Mercury about 10 degrees off the horizon, accompanied by a slim crescent moon. Just to the south of the Moon is brilliant red giant star Aldebaran, which should be roughly the same brightness as Mercury. (And by the way, this is the only chance to spot a naked-eye planet in the early evening until August.)

Then in the last week of May, you can watch each morning as Jupiter and Mars get increasingly close in the predawn sky. Their morning meetup culminates in a close conjunction that you can watch on the 28th through the 30th, where they’ll be separated by barely the width of the full moon. Should look incredible with binoculars, where you can also see Jupiter’s largest moons.

Skywatchers in the Western Hemisphere can look forward to a total lunar eclipse in mid-May. The event will be visible across the Americas, Europe, and Africa – basically anywhere the Moon is above the horizon at the time.

The visible part of the eclipse begins about 10:30pm U.S. Eastern time on May 15th, with totality starting an hour later and lasting for about an hour and a half. Those in the Eastern U.S. will see the eclipse start with the Moon well above the horizon. For the Central U.S., the eclipse starts about an hour and a half after dark, with the Moon relatively low in the sky. On the West coast of the U.S., the Moon rises with totality beginning or already underway, so you’ll want to find a clear view toward the southeast if viewing from there.

Now, lunar eclipses are the ones that are safe to look at directly with your eyes, binoculars, or a telescope (unlike solar eclipses).

The Moon takes on a dim, reddish hue during the period of totality. Even though the Moon is fully immersed in Earth’s shadow at that time, red wavelengths of sunlight filter through Earth’s atmosphere and fall onto the Moon’s surface. One way to think of this is that a total lunar eclipse shows us a projection of all the sunrises and sunsets happening on the planet at that moment.

So check your local details for this eclipse, and find lots more eclipse info from NASA at the address on your screen.

Finally in May, a really nice target for binoculars: the Coma star cluster. This loose, open star cluster displays 40 or 50 stars spread over a region of sky about three finger-widths wide. The brightest stars in the cluster form a distinctive Y shape, as seen here.

The Coma star cluster is located about 300 light years away, making it the second closest open cluster to Earth after the Hyades cluster in Taurus.

To find the Coma star cluster, look southward for the constellation Leo. It can be easiest to start from the Big Dipper, toward the north, and use the two “pointer stars” on the end which always point you toward Leo. Once you’ve identified Leo, the Coma star cluster is about 15 degrees to the east of the triangle of stars representing the lion’s hindquarters. It’s relatively easy to find with binoculars, even under light-polluted urban skies – as long as it’s clear out.

So here’s wishing you clear skies for finding the Coma star cluster and any other wonders you discover in the night sky in May.

Here are the phases of the Moon for May.

Stay up to date with all of NASA’s missions to explore the solar system and beyond at I’m Preston Dyches from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and that’s What’s Up for this month.

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NASA: SpaceCast Weekly, A New Source of Power for the Space Station, NASA ARSET, Expedition 64 In-Flight with MSNBC, Spacewalk, SpaceX: Starlink Mission, Starship | SN9 | High-Altitude Flight Test, and NASA – Image of the Day, Solar System and More

NASA: SpaceCast Weekly, A New Source of Power for the Space Station, NASA ARSET, Expedition 64 In-Flight with MSNBC, Spacewalk, SpaceX: Starlink Mission, Starship | SN9 | High-Altitude Flight Test, and NASA – Image of the DaySolar System and More

NASA: SpaceCast Weekly – February 5, 2021, Feb 5, 2021  NASA Video

NASA: A New Source of Power for the Space Station on This Week @NASA – February 5, 2021

NASA ARSET: Hyperspectral Data for Coastal and Ocean Systems, Part 3/3, Feb 3, 2021  NASA Video

NASA: Expedition 64 In-Flight with MSNBC – February 4, 2021, NASA Video

NASA: Spacewalk to Finish Battery Upgrades & Install Cameras on

The International Space Station, Streamed live on Feb 1, 2021

SpaceX: Starlink Mission, Streamed live on Feb 4, 2021 (1:20:58)

SpaceX: Starship | SN9 | High-Altitude Flight Test, Streamed live on Feb 2, 2021

NASA: LATEST IMAGES – Image of the DaySolar System and More

SpaceCast Weekly – February 5, 2021

Feb 5, 2021  NASA Video

SpaceCast Weekly is a NASA Television broadcast from the Johnson Space Center in Houston featuring stories about NASA’s work in human spaceflight, including the International Space Station and its crews and scientific research activities, and the development of Orion and the Space Launch System, the next generation American spacecraft being built to take humans farther into space than they’ve ever gone before.

A New Source of Power for the Space Station on This Week @NASA – February 5, 2021

Feb 5, 2021  NASA

A new source of power for the space station, targeting a second Green Run hot fire test, and another major boost for our Space Launch System rocket … a few of the stories to tell you about – This Week at NASA! Download Link:…

Expedition 64 Astronauts Speak with National Science Foundation – February 3, 2021

Feb 3, 2021  NASA Video

SPACE STATION CREW DISCUSSES LIFE IN SPACE WITH NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 64 Flight Engineers Kate Rubins and Victor Glover of NASA discussed research and other aspects of life in space during an in-flight conversation Feb. 3 with members of the National Science Foundation. Rubins, who is an epidemiologist, arrived on the station last October aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, while Glover flew to the station last November aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Resilience” vehicle.

NASA ARSET: Hyperspectral Data for Coastal and Ocean Systems, Part 3/3

Feb 3, 2021  NASA Video

Hyperspectral Data for Land and Coastal Systems Part 3: Hyperspectral Data for Coastal and Ocean Systems – Use of hyperspectral imaging for wetland vegetation communities – Use of hyperspectral for coastal shallow-water ecosystems – Use of hyperspectral for marine debris – Case study examples – Q&A You can access all training materials from this webinar series on the training webpage:…? This training was created by NASA’s Applied Remote Sensing Training Program (ARSET). ARSET is a part of NASA’s Applied Science’s Capacity Building Program. Learn more about ARSET:

Expedition 64 In-Flight with MSNBC – February 4, 2021

Feb 4, 2021  NASA Video

SPACE STATION CREW MEMBER DISCUSSES LIFE IN SPACE WITH MSNBC Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 64 Flight Engineer Victor Glover of NASA discussed life and work on the outpost and his view of astronauts serving as role models during an in-flight interview Feb. 4 with MSNBC anchor Kendis Gibson. Glover, who is involved in a series of spacewalks outside the complex, arrived on the station last November aboard the SpaceX Crew Dragon “Resilience” vehicle.

Spacewalk to Finish Battery Upgrades & Install Cameras on the International Space Station

Streamed live on Feb 1, 2021  NASA

Watch two spacewalkers at work outside the International Space Station! NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will exit the orbiting lab’s Quest airlock at about 7 a.m. EST, to complete tasks including battery maintenance and installing high definition cameras.   Live coverage on NASA Television begins at 5:30? a.m.. The spacewalk will officially begin once the duo set their spacesuits to battery power, and is scheduled to last approximately six-and-a-half hours.


Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)

Starlink Mission

Streamed live on Feb 4, 2021 (1:20:58)  SpaceX

SpaceX is targeting Thursday, February 4 for launch of 60 Starlink satellites from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The instantaneous window is at 1:19 a.m. EST, or 6:19? UTC. The Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster supporting this mission previously flew on four missions: the launches of GPS III Space Vehicle 03 and Turksat 5A and two Starlink missions. Following stage separation, SpaceX will land Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which will be located in the Atlantic Ocean. One half of Falcon 9’s fairing previously flew on the SAOCOM-1B mission, and the other previously flew in support of the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 mission.

Starship | SN9 | High-Altitude Flight Test

Streamed live on Feb 2, 2021  SpaceX

On Tuesday, February 2, Starship serial number 9 (SN9) completed SpaceX’s second high-altitude flight test of a Starship prototype from our site in Cameron County, Texas. Similar to the high-altitude flight test of Starship serial number 8 (SN8), SN9 was powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 kilometers in altitude. SN9 successfully performed a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent. The Starship prototype descended under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle. All four flaps are actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enable precise landing at the intended location. During the landing flip maneuver, one of the Raptor engines did not relight and caused SN9 to land at high speed and experience a RUD. These test flights are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration, interplanetary flights and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond.

NASA: LATEST IMAGESImage of the DaySolar System

New Chandra observations have been used to make the first detection of X-ray emission from young stars with masses similar to our Sun outside our Milky Way galaxy. The Chandra observations of these low-mass stars were made of the region known as the “Wing” of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC), one of the Milky Way’s closest galactic neighbors. In this composite image of the Wing the Chandra data is shown in purple, optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope is shown in red, green and blue and infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope is shown in red. Astronomers call all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium – that is, with more than two protons in the atom’s nucleus – “metals”. The Wing is a region known to have fewer metals compared to most areas within the Milky Way. The Chandra results imply that the young, metal-poor stars in NGC 602a produce X-rays in a manner similar to stars with much higher metal content found in the Orion cluster in our galaxy.

The tip of the “wing” of the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy is dazzling in this 2013 view from NASA’s Great Observatories. The Small Magellanic Cloud, or SMC, is a small galaxy about 200,000 light-years way that orbits our own Milky Way spiral galaxy.

The colors represent wavelengths of light across a broad spectrum. X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in purple; visible-light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is colored red, green and blue; and infrared observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope are also represented in red.

The spiral galaxy seen in the lower corner is actually behind this nebula. Other distant galaxies located hundreds of millions of light-years or more away can be seen sprinkled around the edge of the image.

The SMC is one of the Milky Way’s closest galactic neighbors. Even though it is a small, or so-called dwarf galaxy, the SMC is so bright that it is visible to the unaided eye from the Southern Hemisphere and near the equator. Many navigators, including Ferdinand Magellan who lends his name to the SMC, used it to help find their way across the oceans.

Modern astronomers are also interested in studying the SMC (and its cousin, the Large Magellanic Cloud), but for very different reasons. Because the SMC is so close and bright, it offers an opportunity to study phenomena that are difficult to examine in more distant galaxies. New Chandra data of the SMC have provided one such discovery: the first detection of X-ray emission from young stars, with masses similar to our sun, outside our Milky Way galaxy.

Image Credit: NASA/CXC/JPL-Caltech/STScI

Last Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Editor: Yvette Smith

Tags:  Image of the DaySolar System

Feb 5, 2021

Hubble Sees a Stellar Furnace

An orange glow radiates from the centre of NGC 1792, the heart of this stellar forge. Captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, this intimate view of NGC 1792 gives us some insight into this galactic powerhouse. The vast swathes of tell-tale blue seen throughout the galaxy indicate areas that are full of young, hot stars, and it is in the shades of orange, seen nearer the centre, that the older, cooler stars reside. Nestled in the constellation of Columba (The Dove), NGC 1792 is both a spiral galaxy, and a starburst galaxy. Within starburst galaxies, stars are forming at comparatively exorbitant rates. The rate of star formation can be more than 10 times faster in a starburst galaxy than in the Milky Way. When galaxies have a large resevoir of gas, like NGC 1792, these short lived starburst phases can be sparked by galactic events such as mergers and tidal interactions. One might think that these starburst galaxies would easily consume all of their gas in a large forming event. However, supernova explosions and intense stellar winds produced in these powerful starbursts can inject energy into the gas and disperse it. This halts the star formation before it can completely deplete the galaxy of all its fuel. Scientists are actively working to understand this complex interplay between the dynamics that drive and quench these fierce bursts of star formation.

Text credit: European Space Agency (ESA)
Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Lee; Acknowledgement: Leo Shatz

Last Updated: Feb 5, 2021

Editor: Lynn Jenner

Tags:  GalaxiesGoddard Space Flight CenterHubble Space TelescopeUniverse

SOFIA takes off from Hamburg, Germany, following a heavy maintenance visit at Lufthansa Technik.

Feb 4, 2021

SOFIA Begins First Series of Science Flights From Germany

SOFIA takes off from Hamburg, Germany, following a heavy maintenance visit at Lufthansa Technik.

SOFIA taking off from Hamburg, Germany, after finishing heavy maintenance at Lufthansa Technik.

Credits: Alexander Golz

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, will conduct its first ever series of science observations from Germany in February and March, 2021. Many of the observations seek to answer fundamental questions in astronomy, including how stars can transform galaxies and what is the origin of cosmic rays in the Milky Way galaxy.

SOFIA, a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR, recently completed scheduled maintenance and telescope upgrades at Lufthansa Technik’s facility in Hamburg, Germany. Now, the observatory will take advantage of its proximity to science teams at the Max Planck Institute of Radio Astronomy in Bonn and the University of Cologne, which operate the instrument called German Receiver at Terahertz Frequencies, or GREAT, to conduct research flights from the Cologne Bonn Airport.

“We’re taking advantage of SOFIA’s ability to observe from almost anywhere in the world to conduct compelling astronomical investigations,” said Paul Hertz, director of astrophysics at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “This observing campaign from Germany is an excellent example of the cooperation between NASA and DLR that has been the strength of the SOFIA program for over 25 years.”

SOFIA regularly flies to Christchurch, New Zealand, to study objects only visible in the skies over the Southern Hemisphere, and completed one science flight from Germany in 2019. But this is the first time a multi-flight observing campaign will be conducted over European soil. Over the course of six weeks, SOFIA will conduct about 20 overnight research flights that will focus on high-priority observations, including several large programs that were rescheduled from spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With new COVID-19 safety procedures in place, SOFIA will use its GREAT instrument to search for signatures of celestial molecules, ions, and atoms that are key to unlocking some of the secrets of the universe.

The observations include:

How Stars Affect Their Surroundings   

In stellar nurseries like Cygnus X, newborn stars can destroy the clouds in which they’re born. Researchers will use SOFIA to create a map of ionized carbon, a gas the young stars are heating, to better understand this process. Ionized carbon’s chemical fingerprint can determine the speed of the gas at all positions across the celestial clouds. The signal is so strong that it reveals critical details that are otherwise hidden from view deep inside natal clouds. The data may also help explain the source of the mysterious bubble-like structures that were detected by the Herschel Space Observatory and Spitzer Space Telescope but have yet to be fully understood.

Searching for Clues About Cosmic Rays 

The team will search for gases that can reveal the presence of cosmic rays, highly energetic charged particles that stream through our Milky Way galaxy. When a hydrogen atom combines with another element, such as argon or oxygen, simple molecules called hydrides are formed, some of which can be used to find cosmic rays. While cosmic rays can be detected directly within our solar system, astronomers know much less about their presence elsewhere in space. By measuring the concentration of hydride molecules, SOFIA’s observations will help researchers understand how common cosmic rays are in different parts of our galaxy, providing clues about the origin of these mysterious particles.

Understanding the Evolution of The Cigar Galaxy, or M82 

SOFIA previously found that the Cigar galaxy’s powerful wind, driven by the galaxy’s high rate of star birth, is aligned along the magnetic field lines and transports a huge amount of material out of the galaxy. Now, researchers will study ionized carbon gas, which traces star formation, to learn how this intense star birth and wind are affecting the evolution of the galaxy.


SOFIA’s GREAT instrument works like a radio receiver. Scientists tune to the frequency of the molecule they’re searching for, like tuning an FM radio to the right station. The instrument can also look for changes in signals that provide insights into how stars affect their surroundings, similar to how a radar gun bounces a signal off a moving car to determine its speed.


SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science, and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California.

Media Contact: 

Elizabeth Landau
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Alison Hawkes
NASA Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, Calif.

Last Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Editor: Kassandra Bell

Tags:  Ames Research CenterSOFIAUniverse

Feb 4, 2021

RELEASE 21-013

NASA Awards Launch Services Contract for SPHEREx Astrophysics Mission

NASA’s Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission is targeted to launch in 2024. SPHEREx will help astronomers understand both how our universe evolved and how common are the ingredients for life in our galaxy’s planetary systems.

Credits: Caltech

NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization, and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission. SPHEREx is a planned two-year astrophysics mission to survey the sky in the near-infrared light, which, though not visible to the human eye, serves as a powerful tool for answering cosmic questions involving the birth of the universe, and the subsequent development of galaxies.

It also will search for water and organic molecules – essentials for life as we know it – in regions where stars are born from gas and dust, known as stellar nurseries, as well as disks around stars where new planets could be forming. Astronomers will use the mission to gather data on more than 300 million galaxies, as well as more than 100 million stars in our own Milky Way galaxy.

The total cost for NASA to launch SPHEREx is approximately $98.8 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

The SPHEREx mission currently is targeted to launch as early as June 2024 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex-4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage the SpaceX launch service. The mission, which is funded by the Astrophysics Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, is led by the Explorer’s Program at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California is responsible for the mission’s overall project management, systems engineering, integration, and testing and mission operations.

For more information about NASA programs and missions, visit:

Joshua Finch
Headquarters, Washington

Patti Bielling
Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

Last Updated: Feb 4, 2021

Editor: Sean Potter

Tags:  GalaxiesKennedy Space CenterUniverse

Feb 3, 2021

NASA, International Partners Assess Mission to Map Ice on Mars, Guide Science Priorities

NASA and three international partners have signed a statement of intent to advance a possible robotic Mars ice mapping mission, which could help identify abundant, accessible ice for future candidate landing sites on the Red Planet. The agencies have agreed to establish a joint concept team to assess mission potential, as well as partnership opportunities.

This artist illustration depicts four orbiters as part of the International Mars Ice Mapper (I-MIM) mission concept. Low and to the left, an orbiter passes above the Martian surface, detecting buried water ice through a radar instrument and large reflector antenna. Circling Mars at a higher altitude are three telecommunications orbiters with one shown relaying data back to Earth.

Credits: NASA

Under the statement, NASA, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced their intention to develop a mission plan and define their potential roles and responsibilities. If the concept moves forward, the mission could be ready to launch as early as 2026.

The international Mars Ice Mapper mission would detect the location, depth, spatial extent, and abundance of near-surface ice deposits, which would enable the science community to interpret a more detailed volatile history of Mars. The radar-carrying orbiter would also help identify properties of the dust, loose rocky material – known as regolith – and rock layers that might impact the ability to access ice.

The ice-mapping mission could help the agency identify potential science objectives for initial human missions to Mars, which are expected to be designed for about 30 days of exploration on the surface. For example, identifying and characterizing accessible water ice could lead to human-tended science, such as ice coring to support the search for life. Mars Ice Mapper also could provide a map of water-ice resources for later human missions with longer surface expeditions, as well as help meet exploration engineering constraints, such as avoidance of rock and terrain hazards. Mapping shallow water ice could also support supplemental high-value science objectives related to Martian climatology and geology.

“This innovative partnership model for Mars Ice Mapper combines our global experience and allows for cost sharing across the board to make this mission more feasible for all interested parties,” said Jim Watzin, NASA’s senior advisor for agency architectures and mission alignment. “Human and robotic exploration go hand in hand, with the latter helping pave the way for smarter, safer human missions farther into the solar system. Together, we can help prepare humanity for our next giant leap – the first human mission to Mars.”

As the mission concept evolves, there may be opportunities for other space agency and commercial partners to join the mission.

Beyond promoting scientific observations while the orbiter completes its reconnaissance work, the agency partners will explore mission-enabling rideshare opportunities as part of their next phase of study. All science data from the mission would be made available to the international science community for both planetary science and Mars reconnaissance.

This approach is similar to what NASA is doing at the Moon under the Artemis program – sending astronauts to lunar South Pole, where ice is trapped in the permanently shadowed regions of the pole.

Access to water ice would also be central to scientific investigations on the surface of Mars that are led by future human explorers. Such explorers may one day core, sample, and analyze the ice to better understand the record of climatic and geologic change on Mars and its astrobiological potential, which could be revealed through signs of preserved ancient microbial life or even the possibility of living organisms, if Mars ever harbored life.

Ice is also a critical natural resource that could eventually supply hydrogen and oxygen for fuel. These elements could also provide resources for backup life support, civil engineering, mining, manufacturing, and, eventually, agriculture on Mars. Transporting water from Earth to deep space is extremely costly, so a local resource is essential to sustainable surface exploration.

“In addition to supporting plans for future human missions to Mars, learning more about subsurface ice will bring significant opportunities for scientific discovery,” said Eric Ianson, NASA Planetary Science Division Deputy Director and Mars Exploration Program Director. “Mapping near-surface water ice would reveal an as-yet hidden part of the Martian hydrosphere and the layering above it, which can help uncover the history of environmental change on Mars and lead to our ability to answer fundamental questions about whether Mars was ever home to microbial life or still might be today.”

The Red Planet is providing great research return for robotic exploration and the search for ancient life in our solar system. This latest news comes ahead of the agency’s Perseverance rover landing on Mars, which is scheduled to take place on February 18, following a seven-month journey in space. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) also recently announced they are moving forward with the Mars Sample Return mission.

Learn more about NASA’s Mars Exploration at:

Grey Hautaluoma / Alana Johnson
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-0668 / 202-358-1501 /

Last Updated: Feb 3, 2021

Editor: Tricia Talbert

Tags:  MarsSolar System

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