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  • richardmitnick 1:26 pm on October 22, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA Goddard,   

    From NASA Goddard: “NASA-led Study Sees Titan Glowing at Dusk and Dawn” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    October 22, 2014
    Nancy Neal-Jones 301-286-0039
    nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov
    Elizabeth Zubritsky 301-614-5438
    Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
    elizabeth.a.zubritsky@nasa.gov

    New maps of Saturn’s moon Titan reveal large patches of trace gases shining brightly near the north and south poles. These regions are curiously shifted off the poles, to the east or west, so that dawn is breaking over the southern region while dusk is falling over the northern one.

    two
    High in the atmosphere of Titan, large patches of two trace gases glow near the north pole, on the dusk side of the moon, and near the south pole, on the dawn side. Brighter colors indicate stronger signals from the two gases, HNC (left) and HC3N (right); red hues indicate less pronounced signals.
    Image Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF

    The pair of patches was spotted by a NASA-led international team of researchers investigating the chemical make-up of Titan’s atmosphere.

    “This is an unexpected and potentially groundbreaking discovery,” said Martin Cordiner, an astrochemist working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the lead author of the study. “These kinds of east-to-west variations have never been seen before in Titan’s atmospheric gases. Explaining their origin presents us with a fascinating new problem.”

    The mapping comes from observations made by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a network of high-precision antennas in Chile. At the wavelengths used by these antennas, the gas-rich areas in Titan’s atmosphere glowed brightly. And because of ALMA’s sensitivity, the researchers were able to obtain spatial maps of chemicals in Titan’s atmosphere from a “snapshot” observation that lasted less than three minutes.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA Array

    Titan’s atmosphere has long been of interest because it acts as a chemical factory, using energy from the sun and Saturn’s magnetic field to produce a wide range of organic, or carbon-based, molecules. Studying this complex chemistry may provide insights into the properties of Earth’s very early atmosphere, which may have shared many chemical characteristics with present-day Titan.

    In this study, the researchers focused on two organic molecules, hydrogen isocyanide (HNC) and cyanoacetylene (HC3N), that are formed in Titan’s atmosphere. At lower altitudes, the two molecules appear concentrated above Titan’s north and south poles. These findings are consistent with observations made by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which has found a cloud cap and high concentrations of some gases over whichever pole is experiencing winter on Titan.

    NASA Cassini Spacecraft
    NASA/Cassini

    The surprise came when the researchers compared the gas concentrations at different levels in the atmosphere. At the highest altitudes, the gas pockets appeared to be shifted away from the poles. These off-pole locations are unexpected because the fast-moving winds in Titan’s middle atmosphere move in an east–west direction, forming zones similar to Jupiter’s bands, though much less pronounced. Within each zone, the atmospheric gases should, for the most part, be thoroughly mixed.

    The researchers do not have an obvious explanation for these findings yet.

    “It seems incredible that chemical mechanisms could be operating on rapid enough timescales to cause enhanced ‘pocket’’ in the observed molecules,” said Conor Nixon, a planetary scientist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper, published online today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. “We would expect the molecules to be quickly mixed around the globe by Titan’s winds.”

    At the moment, the scientists are considering a number of potential explanations, including thermal effects, previously unknown patterns of atmospheric circulation, or the influence of Saturn’s powerful magnetic field, which extends far enough to engulf Titan.

    Further observations are expected to improve the understanding of the atmosphere and ongoing processes on Titan and other objects throughout the solar system.

    NASA’s Astrobiology Program supported this work through a grant to the Goddard Center for Astrobiology, a part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Additional funding came from NASA’s Planetary Atmospheres and Planetary Astronomy programs. ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is funded in Europe by the European Southern Observatory, in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada and the National Science Council of Taiwan, and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica in Taiwan.

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

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  • richardmitnick 1:46 pm on August 28, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA Goddard, Solar Storms   

    From NASA/Goddard: “Researchers Use NASA and Other Data to Look Into the Heart of a Solar Storm” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    August 28, 2014

    Karen C. Fox
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland

    A space weather storm from the sun engulfed our planet on Jan. 21, 2005. The event got its start on Jan. 20, when a cloud of solar material, a coronal mass ejection or CME, burst off the sun and headed toward Earth. When it arrived at our planet, the ring current and radiation belts surrounding Earth swelled with extra particles, while the aurora persisted for six hours. Both of these are usually signs of a very large storm – indeed, this was one of the largest outpouring of solar protons ever monitored from the sun. But the storm barely affected the magnetic fields around Earth – disturbances in these fields can affect power grids on the ground, a potential space weather effect keenly watched for by a society so dependent on electricity.

    fila
    A filament of cold dense solar material moved toward the front of a Jan. 20, 2005, coronal mass ejection, which led to an unusually large amount of solar material funneling into near-Earth space during a Jan. 21 solar storm.
    CreditJanet Kozyra

    twelve
    Twelve spacecraft in Earth’s magnetosphere – in addition to other missions — helped scientists better observe and understand an unusual January 2005 solar storm. The four Cluster spacecraft were in the solar wind, directly upstream of Earth. Picture not to scale.
    Image Credit: ESA

    Janet Kozyra, a space scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, thought this intriguing combination of a simultaneously weak and strong solar storm deserved further scrutiny. In an effort to better understand — and some day forecast — such storms and their potential effects on human technology, an unusual event like this can help researchers understand just what aspects of a CME lead to what effects near Earth.

    “There were features appearing that we generally only see during extreme space weather events, when by other measures the storm was moderate,” said Kozyra. “We wanted to look at it holistically, much like terrestrial weather researchers do with extreme weather. We took every single piece of data that we could find on the solar storm and put it together to see what was going on.”

    With observations collected from ground-based networks and 20 different satellites, Kozyra and a group of colleagues, each an expert in different aspects of the data or models, found that the CME contained a rare piece of dense solar filament material. This filament coupled with an unusually fast speed led to the large amount of solar material observed. A fortuitous magnetic geometry, however, softened the blow, leading to reduced magnetic effects. These results were published in the Aug. 14, 2014, issue of Journal of Geophysical Research, Space Physics.

    The researchers gathered data from spacecraft orbiting in Earth’s ionosphere, which extends up to 600 miles above the planet’s surface, and satellites above that, orbiting through the heart of Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere. The massive amount of data was then incorporated into a variety of models developed at the University of Michigan’s Center for Space Environment Modeling, which are housed at the Community Coordinated Modeling Center at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, a facility dedicated to providing comprehensive access to space weather models.

    With the models in hand, the team could put together the story of this particular solar storm. It began with the CME on Jan. 20, 2005. The European Space Agency and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, captured images of the CME.

    NASA SOHO
    NASA SOHO

    At their simplest, CMEs look like a magnetic bubble with material around the outside. In this case, there was an additional line of colder, denser solar material – an electrically charged gas called plasma – inside called a solar filament. Solar filaments are ribbons of dense plasma supported in the sun’s outer atmosphere – the corona — by strong magnetic fields. Filament material is 100 times denser and 100 times cooler than the surrounding atmosphere. When the supporting magnetic fields erupt, the filaments are caught up in the explosive release that forms the CME. Despite observations that the majority of eruptions like this involve solar filaments, the filaments are rarely identified in disturbances that reach Earth. Why this might be, is a mystery – but it means that the presence of the solar filament in this particular event is a rare sighting.

    Subsequent observations of the CME showed it to be particularly fast, with a velocity that peaked at around 1800 miles per second before slowing to 600 miles per second as it approached Earth. Just how many CMEs have filaments or how the geometry of such filaments change as they move toward Earth is not precisely known. In this case, however, it seems that the dense filament sped forward, past the leading edge of the CME, so as it slammed into the magnetosphere, it delivered an extra big dose of energetic particles into near-Earth space.

    What happened next was observed by a flotilla of Earth-orbiting scientific satellites, including NASA’s IMAGE, FAST and TIMED missions, the joint European Space Agency, or ESA, and NASA’s Cluster, the NASA and ESA’s Geotail, the Chinese and ESA’s Double Star-1; other spacecraft 1 million miles closer to the sun including SOHO and NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer, Wind various other spacecraft; as well as the National Science Foundation-supported ground-based SuperDARN radar network. At the time Cluster was in the solar wind directly upstream of Earth. Meanwhile, Double Star-1 was passing from the outer region of the planet’s magnetic field and entering the magnetosphere. This enabled it to observe the entry of the solar filament material as it crossed into near-Earth space.

    “Within one hour of the impact, a cold, dense plasma sheet formed out of the filament material,” said Kozyra. “High density material continued to move through the magnetosphere for the entire six hours of the filament’s passage.”

    Despite the intense amount of plasma carried by the CME, it still lacked a key component of a super storm. The magnetic fields embedded in this CME generally pointed toward Earth’s north pole, just as Earth’s own magnetic fields do. This configuration causes far fewer disruptions to our planet’s system than when the CME’s fields point southward. When pointing south, the CME’s fields clash with Earth’s, peeling them back and setting off magnetic perturbations that cascade through the magnetosphere.

    The magnetic field orientation is what kept this solar storm to low levels. On the other hand, the extra solar material from the filament catalyzed long-term aurora over the poles and enhanced the particle filled radiation belts around Earth, characteristic of a larger storm.

    “This event, with its unusual combination of space weather effects really demonstrates why it’s important to look at the entire system, not just individual elements,” said Kozyra. “Only by using all of this data, by watching the event from the beginning to the end, can we begin to understand all the different facets of an extreme storm like this.”

    Understanding what created the facets of this particular 2005 storm adds to a much larger body of knowledge about how different kinds of CMEs can affect us here at Earth. By knowing what factors lead to the total strength of a storm, we can better learn to predict what the sun is sending our way.

    flash
    A coronal mass ejection on Jan. 20, 2005, produced an extreme amount of solar particles, seen as white static in this imagery from ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. Closer to Earth, it created a solar storm with an unusual combination of strong and weak effects.
    Image Credit: ESA/NASA/SOHO

    This work was supported by NASA’s Heliophysics Division, in combination with the National Science Foundation’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences.

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

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  • richardmitnick 4:19 pm on August 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/Goddard: “NASA’s 3-D Study of Comets Reveals Chemical Factory at Work” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    NASA Goddard Space flight Center

    August 11, 2014
    Elizabeth Zubritsky
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-614-5438
    elizabeth.a.zubritsky@nasa.gov

    Nancy Neal-Jones
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
    301-286-0039
    nancy.n.jones@nasa.gov

    A NASA-led team of scientists has created detailed 3-D maps of the atmospheres surrounding comets, identifying several gases and mapping their spread at the highest resolution ever achieved.

    “We achieved truly first-of-a-kind mapping of important molecules that help us understand the nature of comets,” said Martin Cordiner, a researcher working in the Goddard Center for Astrobiology at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Cordiner led the international team of researchers.

    Almost unheard of for comet studies, the 3-D perspective provides deeper insight into which materials are shed from the nucleus of the comet and which are produced within the atmosphere, or coma. This helped the team nail down the sources of two key organic, or carbon-containing, molecules.

    The observations were conducted in 2013 on comets Lemmon and ISON using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, a network of high-precision antennas in Chile. These comets are the first to be studied with ALMA.

    ALMA Array
    ALMA

    The ALMA observations combine a high-resolution 2-D image of a comet’s gases with a detailed spectrum at each point. From these spectra, researchers can identify the molecules present at every point and determine their velocities (speed plus direction) along the line-of-sight; this information provides the third dimension – the depth of the coma.

    “So, not only does ALMA let us identify individual molecular species in the coma, it also gives us the ability to map their locations with great sensitivity,” said Anthony Remijan, a scientist with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, one of the organizations that operates ALMA, and a co-author of the study.

    The researchers reported results for three molecular species, focusing primarily on two whose sources have been difficult to discern (except in comet Halley). The 3-D maps indicated whether each molecule was flowing outward evenly in all directions or coming off in jets or in clumps.

    In each comet, the team found that two species – formaldehyde and HNC (made of one hydrogen, one nitrogen and one carbon) – were produced in the coma. For formaldehyde, this confirmed what researchers already suspected, but the new maps contained enough detail to resolve clumps of the material moving into different regions of the coma day-by-day and even hour-by-hour.

    For HNC, the maps settled a long-standing question about the material’s source. Initially, HNC was thought to be pristine interstellar material coming from the nucleus of a comet, whereas later work suggested other possible sources. The new study provided the first proof that HNC is produced during the breakdown of large molecules or organic dust in the coma.

    “Understanding organic dust is important, because such materials are more resistant to destruction during atmospheric entry, and some could have been delivered intact to early Earth, thereby fueling the emergence of life,” said Michael Mumma, Director of the Goddard Center for Astrobiology, and a co-author on the study. “These observations open a new window on this poorly known component of cometary organics.”

    The observations, published today by the Astrophysical Journal Letters, also were significant because modest comets like Lemmon and ISON contain relatively low concentrations of crucial molecules, making them difficult to probe in depth with Earth-based telescopes. The few comprehensive studies of this kind so far have been conducted on bright, blockbuster comets, such as Hale-Bopp. The present results extend them to comets of only moderate brightness.

    This research was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute through the Goddard Center for Astrobiology and by NASA’s Planetary Atmospheres and Planetary Astronomy programs. ALMA is an international astronomy facility. Its construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by the European Southern Observatory, on behalf of North America by the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA

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  • richardmitnick 7:41 am on April 18, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA Goddard, NASA SDO   

    From NASA: “Bright Points in Sun’s Atmosphere Mark Patterns Deep In Its Interior” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    April 17, 2014
    Karen C. Fox
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    New research that uses data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, to track bright points in the solar atmosphere and magnetic signatures on the sun’s surface offers a way to probe the star’s depths faster than ever before. The technique opens the door for near real-time mapping of the sun’s roiling interior – movement that affects a wide range of events on the sun from its 22-year sunspot cycle to its frequent bursts of X-ray light called solar flares.

    sun
    Brightpoints in the sun’s atmosphere, left, correspond to magnetic parcels on the sun’s surface, seen in the processed data on the right. Green spots show smaller parcels, red and yellow much bigger ones. Images based on data from NASA’s SDO captured at 8 p.m. EDT on May 15, 2010. Image Credit: NASA/SDO

    “There are all sorts of things lurking below the surface,” said Scott McIntosh, first author of a paper on these results in the April 1, 2014, issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. “And we’ve found a marker for this deep rooted activity. This is kind of a gateway to the interior, and we don’t need months of data to get there.”

    One of the most common ways to probe the sun’s interior is through a technique called helioseismology in which scientists track the time it takes for waves – not unlike seismic waves on Earth — to travel from one side of the sun to the other. From helioseismology solar scientists have some sense of what’s happening inside the sun, which they believe to be made up of granules and super-granules of moving solar material. The material is constantly overturning like boiling water in a pot, but on a much grander scale: A granule is approximately the distance from Los Angeles to New York City; a super-granule is about twice the diameter of Earth.

    sdo
    SDO contains three instruments; Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI), Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA), and Extreme Ultraviolet Variablity Experiment(EVE) — for observations leading to a more complete understanding of the solar dynamics that drive variability in the Earth’s environment.
    Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

    NASA EVE Extreme Ultraviolet Variablity Experiment
    EVE

    NASA Helio Magnetic Imager
    Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI)

    Instead of tracking seismic waves, the new research probes the solar interior using the Helioseismic Magnetic Imager on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, which can map the dynamic magnetic fields that thread through and around the sun. Since 2010, McIntosh has tracked the size of different magnetically-balanced areas on the sun, that is, areas where there are an even number of magnetic fields pointing down in toward the sun as pointing out. Think of it like looking down at a city from above with a technology that observed people, but not walls, and recording areas that have an even number of men and women. Even without seeing the buildings, you’d naturally get a sense for the size of rooms, houses, buildings, and whole city blocks – the structures in which people naturally group.

    The team found that the magnetic parcels they mapped corresponded to the size of granules and supergranules, but they also spotted areas much larger than those previously noted — about the diameter of Jupiter. It’s as if when searching for those pairs of men and women, one suddenly realized that the city itself and the sprawling suburbs was another scale worth paying attention to. The scientists believe these areas correlate to even larger cells of flowing material inside the sun.

    The researchers also looked at these regions in SDO imagery of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument. They noticed that ubiquitous spots of extreme ultraviolet and X-ray light, known as brightpoints, prefer to hover around the vertices of these large areas, dubbed g-nodes.

    NASA Atmospheric Imaging Assembly Instrument
    Atmospheric Imaging Assembly instrument

    “Imagine a bunch of helium balloons with weights on them,” said Robert Leamon, co-author on the paper at Montana State University in Bozeman and NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The weights get carried along by the motions at the bottom. We can track the motion of the helium balloons floating up high and that tells us what’s happening down below.”

    By opening up a way to peer inside the sun quickly, these techniques could provide a straightforward way to map the sun’s interior and perhaps even improve our ability to forecast changes in magnetic fields that can lead to solar eruptions.

    SDO is the first mission in NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. For more information about SDO and its mission, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/sdo

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA


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  • richardmitnick 9:06 pm on August 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , NASA Goddard,   

    Dennis Overbye Makes Page 3 on a Friday – Kepler is Hobbled 

    New York Times

    This is copyright protected, so just some hints.

    NASA Planet-Hunting Star Idled by Broken Parts

    Friday, August 16, 2013
    Dennis Overbye

    NASA said Thursday that its celebrated planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft, which broke down in May when a reaction wheel that controls its pointing failed, could not be fixed and would never again search for planets around other stars.

    kepler
    Kepler

    The disappointing news brings to an end, for now, one phase of the most romantic of space dreams, the search for other Earths among the exoplanets of the Milky Way. NASA has already asked astronomers for ideas on how to use the hobbled spacecraft, whose telescope is in perfect shape.

    At last count, Kepler had discovered 3,548 possible planets, and 135 of them — some smaller than the Earth — have been validated by other observations, including earthbound telescopes. But hundreds or thousands more are in the pipeline, said William Borucki of NASA’s Ames Research Laboratory in Mountain View, Calif., Kepler’s originator and principal investigator.

    The closest Kepler has come to finding another Earth was in April, when the team discovered a pair of planets about half again as big as the Earth orbiting a yellow star, now known as Kepler 62, that is 1,200 light years away. Both planets reside in the “Goldilocks” zone where temperatures should be lukewarm and suitable for liquid water and thus life as we imagine it.”

    62
    Kepler-62f (foreground) and Kepler-62e (right) are habitable zone exoplanets orbiting the star Kepler-62 (center). (Artists’ conception.) Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

    See the full article here.

    NASA

    NASA Ames Research Center

    NASA Goddard Banner


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  • richardmitnick 7:20 pm on August 6, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA Goddard: “NASA’s MMS stacked for shock tests” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    “Spacecraft must go through a series of rigorous tests before they are launched into space. NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, mission is undergoing those tests now in preparation for a late 2014 launch. The testing schedule is all the more complicated as the mission consists of four identical observatories. This picture from July 26, 2013, shows two of the four observatories stacked up for testing to make sure they can withstand the harsh shock of a rocket launch.

    mm
    Two of the four Magnetospheric Multiscale mission observatories are stacked for shock testing to make sure they can withstand the rigors of launch.
    Image Credit: NASA
    MMS Observatory #1 (bottom) and #2 (top) are shown here in their “mini-stack” configuration for shock testing. The gold ring seen between them is one of three that will be used when all four spacecraft are stacked in the fairing for launch. Once in orbit, the separation systems will fire, releasing them into the pyramid formation necessary for the mission.

    mms
    The Magnetospheric Multiscale mission will use four identical spacecraft, variably spaced in Earth orbit, to make three-dimensional measurements of magnetospheric boundary regions and examine the process of magnetic reconnection. Credit: Southwest Research Institute

    The Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission is a Solar Terrestrial Probes mission comprising four identically instrumented spacecraft that will use Earth’s magnetosphere as a laboratory to study the microphysics of three fundamental plasma processes: magnetic reconnection, energetic particle acceleration, and turbulence. These processes occur in all astrophysical plasma systems but can be studied in situ only in our solar system and most efficiently only in Earth’s magnetosphere, where they control the dynamics of the geospace environment and play an important role in the processes known as ‘space weather.'”

    Articles are here and here.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA


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  • richardmitnick 1:55 pm on July 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NASA Goddard,   

    From NASA Goddard: “Lasers to carry 622 Mbps Earth-Moon link” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    Broadband in spaaaaace as NASA, ESA, prepare for liftoff with new comms kit

    18th July 2013
    Richard Chirgwin

    “If all goes to plan, the next few weeks will bring a revolution in communication with spacecraft, with two space-based laser communications demonstrations due to take to the skies.

    The European Space Agency’s Alphasat – also the largest telecommunications satellite built in Europe – is due to launch on July 25. While the Astrium-built, 3.5 tonne dry mass satellite will primarily serve the Inmarsat network, the experiments it carries include an optical communication terminal.

    machine
    Laser communications payload forThe European Space Agency’s Alphasat

    The TDP 1 broadband data relay project has been on the drawing board since 2008, and if all goes well, it will take a 300 Mbps data stream from Germany’s Tandem-X satellite, using binary phase shift keying to achieved a planned bit error rate of 10-8 on an optical channel capable of 2 Gbps operation. The Tandem-X data will then be relayed to Earth on a conventional Ka-band channel.

    NASA’s more ambitious project, due to lift during August, will use optics not for space-to-space communications, but for broadband space-to-ground communications – all the way to the moon.

    Travelling on the upcoming LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) spacecraft, the laser communications system uses a 30cm telescope to direct what NASA hopes will be a 622 Mbps communications stream from lunar orbit to Earth.

    nasa
    NASA’s LLCD integratyed onto LADEE

    The ground segment has four 15 cm telescopes to act as transmitters and four 40 cm reflective telescopes as receivers.

    As Nature notes, the point of all this is that as their data collection capacity approaches levels of petabytes per year, they’re also running into the constraints of the radio channels they currently use. In addition, spectrum regulation limits what frequencies satellites can use.

    Laser overcomes the downlink capacity challenges, and for now at least, sidesteps spectrum regulation.

    Yes, this stuff is exotic. But history tells us it’s eminently foreseeable that these experiments will one day be put to work in more prosaic terrestrial applications.”

    See the full article here.

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA


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  • richardmitnick 3:09 pm on February 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA Goddard: More on Cosmic Rays 

    A neat little video courtesy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.


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  • richardmitnick 9:44 am on January 17, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA Webb: “NASA’S Webb Telescope Team Completes Optical Milestone” 

    NASA WEBB

    Engineers working on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope met another milestone recently with they completed performance testing on the observatory’s aft-optics subsystem at Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp’s facilities in Boulder, Colo. Ball is the principal subcontractor to Northrop Grumman for the optical technology and lightweight mirror system.

    aft
    Ball Aerospace Technician Robin Russell inspects the Webb Telescope Aft Optics Subsystem during mirror integration activities. The Aft Optics bench, made of lightweight beryllium like the mirrors, holds Webb’s tertiary and fine steering mirrors. The installed, gold-coated tertiary mirror can be seen in the background. Photo courtesy Ball Aerospace.

    ‘Completing Aft Optics System performance testing is significant because it means all of the telescope’s mirror systems are ready for integration and testing, said Lee Feinberg, NASA Optical Telescope Element Manager for the James Webb Space Telescope at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.”

    See the full article here.


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  • richardmitnick 1:27 pm on December 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA Webb: “The Webb Telescope’s Holiday Package” 

    NASA WEBB

    12.19.12

    This photo shows the James Webb Space Telescope’s “IEC” all wrapped up in a thermal blanket, and looking like a holiday package at a cleanroom in NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) Electronics Compartment or “IEC” houses all of the electronics responsible for control, data handling, and telemetry for the Webb telescope’s scientific instruments.

    package
    Credit: NASA/Chris Gunn

    The ISIM is one-of-a-kind living framework that provides electrical power, computing resources, cooling capability as well as extreme structural stability to the Webb telescope. It is a state-of-the-art bonded graphite-epoxy composite attached to the backside of Webb’s telescope structure.

    The ISIM will contain the four science instruments that will record images and spectra of astronomical objects whose light will be collected by the giant optics of Webb’s telescope element.

    The electronics boxes that control each instrument will be mounted in the gift-wrapped IEC and protected from the harsh conditions of space during the mission.”

    The original article is here.


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