Gravity Assist: The Moon with Sarah Noble

Did you know the Moon is slowly moving away from Earth and that the Moon has water? Jim Green is joined by lunar expert Sarah Noble to discuss how the Moon was formed, lava tubes and moonquakes, the “dark side of the Moon,” and mysteries we have yet to solve about Earth’s nearest neighbor.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 10:40

NASA Television Updates Broadcast Schedule for Cargo Resupply Mission

Portal origin URL: NASA Television Updates Broadcast Schedule for Cargo Resupply MissionPortal origin nid: 415031Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 16:01Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: NASA commercial cargo provider SpaceX now is targeting no earlier than 10:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 15, for its 13th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station.Portal image: The Canadarm2 robotic arm prepares to release the SpaceX Dragon Commercial Resupply Services-6 cargo spacecraft from the ISSScience Categories: Earth

Spanning Disciplines in the Search for Life Beyond Earth

Portal origin URL: Spanning Disciplines in the Search for Life Beyond EarthPortal origin nid: 414999Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 11:30Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Following a gold rush of exoplanet discovery, the next step in the search for life is determining which of the known exoplanets are proper candidates for life — and for this, a cross-disciplinary approach is essential.Portal image: illustration of Kepler-186f, the first Earth-size planet discovered within a star’s habitable zoneScience Categories: Sun

Eclipse 2017: Science from the Moon’s Shadow

Portal origin URL: Eclipse 2017: Science from the Moon’s ShadowPortal origin nid: 414836Published: Monday, December 11, 2017 - 12:30Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: While people across North America took in the Aug. 21 eclipse, hundreds of citizen, student, and professional scientists were collecting scientific data, and their efforts are beginning to return results.Portal image: image of solar eclipseScience Categories: Sun

Taming the Inferno

A pioneering system is using satellites to expedite wildfire recovery—while the fires still rage

It was born from a lightning bolt. In less than a week, it grew into the largest ongoing wildfire in the United States.

An Insatiable Appetite

The Soda Fire ignited on August 10, 2015, burning across the rugged landscape of southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon. Feeding on sagebrush, cheatgrass, and mountain mahogany, the blaze expanded quickly, from 78,000 acres on the morning of August 12, to 120,000 acres by that afternoon.

When Keith Weber, director of the Idaho State University (ISU) GIS Training and Research Center, heard about the fire’s quick growth that day, he knew what lay ahead. Through his team’s partnership with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Boise District, their work to facilitate the use of satellite data for post-fire rehabilitation had become part of active fire-fighting efforts.

“The fire was an unusual one,” Weber remarked. “One of those rapidly moving mega-fires that can be very problematic.”

His assessment proved right. By the next morning, the wildfire had exploded to more than 210,000 acres.

A Request for Data

During this rapid expansion, the BLM reached out to Keith Weber for the information it needed immediately—near real-time data on the fire’s extent and recent impacts. That information is critical for the BLM’s Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation team, which must quickly assess the fire’s damage, as well as determine areas that require rapid treatment and restoration.

Access to this information was now possible thanks to a beneficial mapping system that Weber helped develop called the Rehabilitation Capability Convergence for Ecosystem Recovery (RECOVER).

“The land management agencies were doing all the work to fight the fire,” said Weber. “What we were doing was supporting them so they could make good decisions quickly about how to fight the fire, and later, how to manage the land after the fire.”

“RECOVER makes available all geospatial data relevant to a wildfire in five minutes. That includes a collection of NASA Earth-observing satellite imagery and derived products… Now that is truly awesome.” Keith Weber, Idaho State University

The Big Picture

In partnership, ISU, BLM, and NASA built RECOVER to establish a novel way of providing information for rapid remediation during and after wildfires using already-existing satellite data. It does this by creating a single tool that automatically integrates a multitude of data and imagery layers, such as current and archived Terra-MODIS imagery, Landsat imagery, and Suomi NPP’s Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument data. The RECOVER system then assembles and superimposes the information on top of imagery of burned and burning areas to produce near-real time updates in an easy-to-use interface accessible on a standard Web browser. 

An August 14, 2015, Landsat 8 image of the Soda Fire burn perimeter with VIIRS fire pixel vectors showingaccumulated fire data

By gathering up to 20 different datasets, like wildlife habitat and local topography, RECOVER helps BLM rehabilitation crews assess the situation more completely and quickly. Before this, remediation crews would have had to wait for the fire to be contained first, and then complete an assessment before submitting a rehabilitation plan. The assessment would include surveying multiple websites for information on soil layers, plant species composition, burn severity mapping, and other data, according to Gregory Mann, a fire ecologist with the BLM.

That process of collecting information was typically challenging and time-consuming—often taking several days to more than a week to complete. “When we’re dealing with large fires, it’s extremely difficult,” Mann added.

From Days to Minutes

The massive Soda Fire ultimately burned more than 283,000 acres across the Northwest. Thanks to RECOVER, crews were able to automatically generate and refresh derived data while the fire was still actively burning—something that wasn’t possible before.

In fact, by the time the wildfire was contained, crews already had a complete and ready-to-use customized analysis of the Soda Fire. With that data at their fingertips in a matter of five minutes, the teams could promptly determine where to target their rehabilitation efforts.

“RECOVER supported our early rapid assessment for rehabbing after the fire even while firefighters were still on the ground,” Karen Miranda, information officer for the Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation team, said. “Pre-planning before the fire is fully contained helps our work move forward as quickly as possible.”

Keith Weber leads this project.

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The Moon Shines Brightly Among NASA’s 2017 Highlights

The Moon became a key focus point for NASA in 2017, whether it was blocking out the Sun during one of the most-viewed events in U.S. history, or reinvigorating the agency’s human space exploration plans.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Friday, December 8, 2017 - 10:39

Can Data Save Dolphins? How Scientists Are Using NASA Data to Study Link Between Solar Storms and Animal Beachings

Portal origin URL: Can Data Save Dolphins? How Scientists Are Using NASA Data to Study Link Between Solar Storms and Animal BeachingsPortal origin nid: 414470Published: Friday, December 8, 2017 - 10:14Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: After a collaboration between NASA scientists and marine biologists, new research rules out space weather as a primary cause of animal beachings.Portal image: illustration of an Atlantic White-sided Dolphin and a Long-finned Pilot WhaleScience Categories: Sun

NASA Highlights Jupiter, Search for Life at American Geophysical Union

Portal origin URL: NASA Highlights Jupiter, Search for Life at American Geophysical UnionPortal origin nid: 414653Published: Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 14:10Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: NASA researchers will present new findings on a wide range of Earth and space science topics at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, Dec. 11-15 in New Orleans. NASA-related briefings will stream live on the agency’s website.Portal image: 2017 Total Solar EclipseScience Categories: Universe

New Horizons Next Kuiper Belt Flyby

New Horizons will fly by its next exploration target, a distant Kuiper Belt object called 2014 MU69 in early 2019.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 16:00

Gravity Assist: Earth with Tom Wagner

In this episode Tom Wagner of NASA’s Earth Science Division discusses sea ice, volcanoes, what it’s like to live and work in Antarctica, and how studying planets like Venus and Mars helps provide clues about the future of our home planet. News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 12:49

Voyager 1 Fires Up Thrusters After 37 Years

If you tried to start a car that's been sitting in a garage for decades, you might not expect the engine to respond. But a set of thrusters aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft successfully fired up Wednesday after 37 years without use.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 12:57

Tropical Cyclone Information System Updated to Include New Satellite Data Sets

Technology Development

The Tropical Cyclone Information System (TCIS) is a tool that fuses hurricane models and observations within a web-based system to improve forecasting capabilities. TCIS provides scientists with the capability to overlay user-selected observational data on top of a variety of user-selected model predictions, and to perform online analysis of models and observations. TCIS required development of processing techniques to enable multi-source data fusion across hurricane forecast models, satellite data, and in situ sensors. The TCIS team also developed tools to manage the validation and assessment of model comparisons to more easily evaluate the performance of different numerical models. These online, interactive visualization techniques are ideal for analyzing highly complex systems like hurricanes.


By bringing together near real-time data and a 12-year global data archive within a visualization portal, TCIS is enabling research about hurricane processes, helping to validate and improve models, and assisting in algorithm and data assimilation techniques.

This screen capture from the TCIS tool shows some of the enhancements to interactive region selection, model and data acquisition, statistical comparison, and visualization. Status and Future Plans

In 2016, the TCIS team unveiled an updated portal that presents ocean vector winds from two scatterometer missions: NASA's Rapid Scatterometer on the International Space Station (ISSRapidScat) and the European Advanced SCATterometer (ASCAT). The updated system has been adopted by the RapidScat project for their analysis work. The TCIS team is also using the system to review wind and precipitation fields to investigate whether the rapid intensification seen during 2016’s Hurricane Matthew was predictable, based on satellite observations alone. In a previous study conducted in late 2015, products from TCIS were presented to personnel at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center and the Hurricane Research Division (HRD) for use in analyzing Hurricane Joaquin. The output from a TCIS online analysis tool, developed in collaboration with HRD, suggested the potential for rapid intensification several hours before it happened.

Sponsoring Organization

The Earth Science Division sponsors development of TCIS via the AIST program. The PI is Svetla Hristova-Veleva at NASA JPL.

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Giant Black Hole Pair Photobombs Andromeda Galaxy

It seems like even black holes can’t resist the temptation to insert themselves unannounced into photographs. A cosmic photobomb found as a background object in images of the nearby Andromeda galaxy has revealed what could be the most tightly coupled pair of supermassive black holes ever seen.

News Article Type: Homepage ArticlesPublished: Friday, December 1, 2017 - 17:07

When the Earth Shook

Data from above guided an unprecedented effort to help Nepal recover from a series of devastating earthquakes

The Nepal earthquake disaster launched a global humanitarian effort in 2015. Even as the dust still settled, space-based information aided the nation’s recovery… and watched for new hazards.

The Quake

“All of a sudden it seemed like as if the ground had dropped away and then everything around us started shaking… It was impossible to try to stand and escape from there.”

Selina Shakya, a native of Kathmandu, was visiting the Nepalese city of Pokhara when the quake struck. “I had experienced a quake before, but not that big where you see buildings falling… and whole districts just vanished into dirt.”

A massive 7.8-magnitude temblor, the Gorkha earthquake struck just before noon local time on April 25, 2015, along the boundary where the Indian plate underthrusts the Eurasian plate. Lasting less than a minute, the initial earthquake left approximately 9,000 people dead, with additional quakes and aftershocks continuing for months.

After the Shaking Stopped

Immediately after the Gorkha quake, efforts to assess the damage and start the recovery came from across the globe. David Green, Earth Science’s Disasters manager, led the NASA response across our Centers. In a coordinated effort, people began gathering satellite information on the destruction from both domestic and international sources to disseminate to partners that needed it most, such as USAID and USGS, as well as in-country partners like the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), located in Kathmandu. (

“In a disaster situation like the one Nepal faced, collecting, managing, processing, and disseminating timely and reliable information becomes critical to relief and recovery operations.” David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD

This unprecedented approach tapped many resources including Landsat satellites, the Earth Observing-1 satellite, the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite, as well as DigitalGlobe satellites and image mosaics. This crucial optical data helped initially determine what regions were damaged or destroyed by the quake, and where to target relief efforts.

Helping this rapid flow of information was ICIMOD’s already-established presence in the region. To aid recovery and speed assistance, ICIMOD gave frequent briefings to Nepali government agencies, including the Ministry of Home Affairs. They also provided high-resolution printed images of the quake damage. These paper maps were critical pieces of support as the nation had limited Internet service, which at times delayed the immediate information the nation desperately needed.

More Threats to Assess

In addition to the initial destruction of the Gorkha earthquake, the region had yet more risks to consider—additional hazards spurred on by the quake and its aftershocks. Those threats included landslides and avalanches, as well as flash flooding caused by blocked rivers and breached glacial lakes.

As a partner in NASA’s disaster-relief response, the University of Arizona organized a team of scientists—a volunteer network with people across nine nations—to identify where landslides occurred in earthquake-affected areas of Nepal. In the immediate weeks after the quake, the team used spaceborne and ground observations to collectively map more than 4,300 landslides.

Smaller subgroups of the volunteer network focused on assessing and communicating the disaster, creating damage proxy maps, and producing vulnerability maps that showed potential risks. Jeff Kargel, a glaciologist at the University of Arizona, co-led one subgroup with NASA scientist Dalia Kirschbaum, called the “Induced Hazards” team. This team concentrated on identifying the landslides and other hazards triggered by the quake, as well as guiding relief efforts.

In one instance, a colleague of Kargel’s at ICIMOD alerted him in the middle of the night to an urgent situation facing the village of Beni, located at the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Myagdi Rivers. That village was one of several downstream from where a landslide dam had built a sizeable lake in the river flow. The colleague asked Kargel to use the data he’d collected to provide calculations of downstream flooding if the landslide dam were to break. Within a matter of hours, Kargel relayed that information and authorities evacuated the villages.

Debris landslide susceptibility with mapped hazards (white dots). Susceptibility inunits of acceleration divided by g (9.81 m/s2)

As Kargel feared, the landslide dam did give way. “An outburst flood roughly matching my numbers washed away one village and came lapping up onto Beni,” he said. “Nobody was killed, though one small village was destroyed.”

A Long Path to Recovery

In the months following the earthquake, the volunteer network knew more hazards were still potentially ahead. Aftershocks still jolted the region, and the monsoon season was coming. With the ground already unstable from the quake, the likelihood of landslides would be much higher when the rains came.

The team shared its mountains of data with ICIMOD, which in turn advised the Nepali Prime Minister and his cabinet of the new hazards they faced. “The briefing was well received,” said Kargel, who added that it opened the government’s eyes to the “uses of remote sensing in the earthquake response.”

As the relief efforts continued, Selina Shakya remained optimistic: “My hope for my country is to rise again and with everybody’s great effort we will build our nation even better. I know it might take us a very long time… but I haven't seen the people of Nepal losing their hopes. They are tirelessly working to reach out to people in need.”

More than 75 people and organizations contributed to NASA’s response to the Gorkha earthquake and associated hazards.

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Dellingr CubeSat Technologies Available for Commercial Licensing

Portal origin URL: Dellingr CubeSat Technologies Available for Commercial Licensing Portal origin nid: 414029Published: Tuesday, November 28, 2017 - 10:53Featured (stick to top of list): noPortal text teaser: Deployed from the International Space Station on Nov. 20, 2017, Dellingr, a first of its kind 6U CubeSat is carrying several NASA Goddard developed technologies on-board.Portal image: cubesat Science Categories: Sun