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On Jan. 19, 2007, the Cassini spacecraft took this view of Saturn and its rings -- the visible documentation of a technique called a "pi transfer" completed with a Titan flyby. A pi transfer uses the gravity of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, to alter the orbit of the Cassini spacecraft so it can gain different perspectives on Saturn and achieve a wide variety of science objectives. During a pi transfer, Cassini flies by Titan at opposite sides of its orbit about Saturn (i.e., Titan's orbital position differs by pi radians between the two flybys) and uses Titan's gravity to change its orbital perspective on the ringed planet.
On Feb. 19, 2014, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite flew over the Great Lakes and captured this striking false-colored image of the heavily frozen Great Lakes – one of the hardest freeze-ups in four decades. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), ice cover on North America’s Great Lakes peaked at 88.42% on Feb. 12-13 – a percentage not recorded since 1994. The ice extent has surpassed 80% just five times in four decades. The average maximum ice extent since 1973 is just over 50%.
On March 3, 2014, at 6:09 a.m. EST, a NASA-funded sounding rocket launched straight into an aurora over Venetie, Alaska. The Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics – Electron Correlative Experiment (GREECE) sounding rocket mission, which launched from Poker Flat Research Range in Poker Flat, Alaska, will study classic curls in the aurora in the night sky.
This 26 meter (85 foot) antenna operated in Woomera (Island Lagoon), Australia at Deep Space Station (DSS) 41, established in August 1960. The Island Lagoon site was the first deep space station to be established outside the United States and the first Australian antenna NASA built. The station was operated by the Australian Department of Supply and helped support the Ranger and early Mariner missions, as well as communications from the Deep Space Network (DSN) complex in Goldstone, California via a moon bounce. Woomera’s antenna ceased operations in 1972. Today, the Deep Space Network -- consisting of three sites in Goldstone, California; Madrid, Spain; and Canberra, Australia -- supports space communications for NASA and non-NASA missions that explore the furthest points of our solar system.
The crawler-transporter that will carry NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft to Launch Pad 39B for launch on Exploration Mission-1 in 2017 recently passed the first phase of an important milestone test at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Ground Systems Development and Operations Program completed testing of new traction roller bearings on crawler-transporter 2 (CT-2), on two of the massive vehicle’s truck sections, A and C, in late January. The new roller bearing assemblies that were installed on one side of the crawler are visible in this Jan. 31, 2014, image. CT-2 returned to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at Kennedy Space Center, where work continues to install new roller bearing assemblies on the B and D truck sections.
Roguish runaway stars can have a big impact on their surroundings as they plunge through the Milky Way galaxy. Their high-speed encounters shock the galaxy, creating arcs, as seen in this newly released image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. In this case, the speedster star is known as Kappa Cassiopeiae, or HD 2905 to astronomers. It is a massive, hot supergiant moving at around 2.5 million mph relative to its neighbors (1,100 kilometers per second). But what really makes the star stand out in this image is the surrounding, streaky red glow of material in its path. Such structures are called bow shocks, and they can often be seen in front of the fastest, most massive stars in the galaxy.
On Feb. 1, 2014, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata tweeted this view of a crescent moon rising and the cusp of Earth's atmosphere. Distinct colors are visible because the dominant gases and particles in each layer of the atmosphere act as prisms, filtering out certain colors of light.
On Jan. 30, 2014, beginning at 8:31 a.m. EST, the moon moved between NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) and the sun, giving the observatory a view of a partial solar eclipse from space. Such a lunar transit happens two to three times each year. This one lasted two and one half hours, which is the longest ever recorded. When the next one will occur is as of yet unknown due to planned adjustments in SDO's orbit.

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Latest News

Volume 2, Issue 2, of the NPP newsletter features the research of JPL Fellow Amanda Stockton; a report on Josh Alwood’s selection for a PECASE award; a summary of Sherry Palacios’s research at ARC; Caroline Alexander’s first impression of Marshall Space Flight Center; and a report about LaRC’s scientific landscape from our newest NPP Center Representative, Eileen Nelson. Also, in response to suggestions gathered during our Center visits, and from travelers themselves, we have adjusted some processes pertinent to NPP travel, so we have included a summary of those improvements in this issue.

Curiosity has always been a driving force in science. In the case of Heidar Thrastarson, curiosity drove him from his home in Iceland all the way to Pasadena, Calif. Heidar Thrastarson Thrastarson’s research focuses on extrasolar planets, an interest that spawned during an undergraduate astrophysics class. His curiosity was sparked after selecting extrasolar planets as an essay topic, and his career was born. Find out more about Heidar on his research experience profile.