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  • richardmitnick 5:05 am on June 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “NASA Instruments on Rosetta Start Comet Science” 

    JPL

    June 10, 2014
    DC Agle
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-9011
    agle@jpl.nasa.gov

    Dwayne Brown
    Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1726
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    Markus Bauer
    European Space Agency, Noordwijk, Netherlands
    011-31-71-565-6799
    markus.bauer@esa.int

    Three NASA science instruments aboard the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft, which is set to become the first to orbit a comet and land a probe on its nucleus, are beginning observations and sending science data back to Earth.

    rosetta

    Launched in March 2004, Rosetta was reactivated in January 2014 after a record 957 days in hibernation. Composed of an orbiter and lander, Rosetta’s objective is to arrive at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August to study the celestial object up close in unprecedented detail and prepare for landing a probe on the comet’s nucleus in November.

    Rosetta’s lander will obtain the first images taken from a comet’s surface and will provide the first analysis of a comet’s composition by drilling into the surface. Rosetta also will be the first spacecraft to witness at close proximity how a comet changes as it is subjected to the increasing intensity of the sun’s radiation. Observations will help scientists learn more about the origin and evolution of our solar system and the role comets may have played in seeding Earth with water, and perhaps even life.

    “We are happy to be seeing some real zeroes and ones coming down from our instruments, and cannot wait to figure out what they are telling us,” said Claudia Alexander, Rosetta’s U.S. project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Never before has a spacecraft pulled up and parked next to a comet. That is what Rosetta will do, and we are delighted to play a part in such a historic mission of exploration.”

    Rosetta currently is approaching the main asteroid belt located between Jupiter and Mars. The spacecraft is still about 300,000 miles (500,000 kilometers) from the comet, but in August the instruments will begin to map its surface.

    The three U.S. instruments aboard the spacecraft are the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO), an ultraviolet spectrometer called Alice, and the Ion and Electron Sensor (IES). They are part of a suite of 11 science instruments aboard the Rosetta orbiter.

    miro

    alice
    ALICE

    ies
    IES

    MIRO is designed to provide data on how gas and dust leave the surface of the nucleus to form the coma and tail that gives comets their intrinsic beauty. Studying the surface temperature and evolution of the coma and tail provides information on how the comet evolves as it approaches and leaves the vicinity of the sun.

    Alice will analyze gases in the comet’s coma, which is the bright envelope of gas around the nucleus of the comet developed as a comet approaches the sun. Alice also will measure the rate at which the comet produces water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. These measurements will provide valuable information about the surface composition of the nucleus.

    The instrument also will measure the amount of argon present, an important clue about the temperature of the solar system at the time the comet’s nucleus originally formed more than 4.6 billion years ago.

    IES is part of a suite of five instruments to analyze the plasma environment of the comet, particularly the coma. The instrument will measure the charged particles in the sun’s outer atmosphere, or solar wind, as they interact with the gas flowing out from the comet while Rosetta is drawing nearer to the comet’s nucleus.

    NASA also provided part of the electronics package for the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer, which is part of the Swiss-built Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis (ROSINA) instrument. ROSINA will be the first instrument in space with sufficient resolution to be able to distinguish between molecular nitrogen and carbon monoxide, two molecules with approximately the same mass. Clear identification of nitrogen will help scientists understand conditions at the time the solar system was formed.

    U.S. scientists are partnering on several non-U.S. instruments and are involved in seven of the mission’s 21 instrument collaborations. NASA’s Deep Space Network is supporting ESA’s Ground Station Network for spacecraft tracking and navigation.

    Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottigen; French National Space Agency, Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the U.S. contribution of the Rosetta mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL also built the MIRO and hosts its principal investigator, Samuel Gulkis. The Southwest Research Institute (San Antonio and Boulder), developed the Rosetta orbiter’s IES and Alice instruments, and hosts their principal investigators, James Burch (IES) and Alan Stern (Alice).

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 2:56 pm on May 5, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Biosphere, NASA JPL   

    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “How Does Your Garden Glow? NASA’s OCO-2 Seeks Answer 

    JPL

    May 05, 2014
    Laurie J. Schmidt

    Science is full of serendipity — moments when discoveries happen by chance or accident while researchers are looking for something else. For example, penicillin was identified when a blue-green mold grew on a Petri dish that had been left open by mistake.

    Now, satellite instruments have given climate researchers at NASA and other research institutions an unexpected global view from space of a nearly invisible fluorescent glow that sheds new light on the productivity of vegetation on land. Previously, global views of this glow from chlorophyll were only possible over Earth’s ocean, using NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on NASA’s Terra and Aqua spacecraft.

    NASA MODIS
    NASA/MODIS

    NASA Terra satellite
    NASA/TERRA

    NASA Aqua satellite
    NASA/AQUA

    When the Japanese Greenhouse gases Observing SATellite (GOSAT), known as “IBUKI” in Japan, launched into orbit in 2009, its primary mission was to measure levels of carbon dioxide and methane, two major heat-trapping greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. However, NASA researchers, in collaboration with Japanese and other international colleagues, found another treasure hidden in the data: fluorescence from chlorophyll contained within plants. Although scientists have measured fluorescence in laboratory settings and ground-based field experiments for decades, these new satellite data now provide the ability to monitor what is known as solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence on a global scale, opening up a world of potential new applications for studying vegetation on land.

    GOSAT JE
    GOSAT

    A “signature” of photosynthesis, solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence is an indicator of the process by which plants convert light from the sun into chemical energy. As chlorophyll molecules absorb incoming radiation, some of the light is dissipated as heat, and some radiation is re-emitted at longer wavelengths as fluorescence.

    Enter NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2). Researchers who study the interaction of plants, carbon and climate are eagerly awaiting fluorescence data from the OCO-2 satellite mission, scheduled to launch in July 2014. The instrument aboard OCO-2 will make precise measurements of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, recording 24 observations a second versus GOSAT’s single observation every four seconds, resulting in almost 100 times more observations of both carbon dioxide and fluorescence than GOSAT.

    NASA OCO satellite
    NASA/OCO-2

    “Data from OCO-2 will extend the GOSAT time series and allow us to observe large-scale changes to photosynthesis in a new way,” said David Schimel, lead scientist for the Carbon and Ecosystems research program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., which manages the OCO-2 mission for NASA. “The fluorescence data may turn out to be a unique and very complementary data set of the OCO-2 mission.”

    “OCO-2’s fluorescence data, when combined with the observatory’s atmospheric carbon dioxide measurements, will increase the value of the OCO-2 mission to NASA, the United States and world,” said Ralph Basilio, OCO-2 project manager at JPL.

    Turning the Sun Off

    Being able to see fluorescence from space allows scientists to estimate photosynthesis rates over vast scales, gleaning insights into vital processes that affect humans and other living things on Earth. “The rate of photosynthesis is critical because it’s the process that drives the absorption of carbon from the atmosphere and agricultural [food] production,” said Joseph Berry, a researcher in the Department of Global Ecology at Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif.

    Measuring the fluorescent “glow” may sound simple, but the tiny signal is overpowered by reflected sunlight. “Imagine that you’re in your child’s bedroom and they have a bunch of glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling,” Schimel said. “Then you turn the lights on. The stars are still glowing, but looking for that glow with the lights on is like looking for fluorescence amidst the reflected sunlight.” Retrieving the fluorescence data requires disentangling sunlight that is reflected by plants from the light given off by them — in other words, figuring out a way to “turn the sun off.”

    Researchers found that by tuning GOSAT’s spectrometer (an instrument that can measure different parts of the spectrum of light) to look at very narrow channels, they could see parts of the spectrum where there was fluorescence but less reflected solar radiation. “It’s as if you had put on a pair of glasses that filtered out the radiation in your child’s room except for that glow from the stars,” said Schimel.

    Scientists are excited about the new measurement because it will give them better insight into how Earth’s plants are taking up carbon dioxide. According to the Global Carbon Project, a non-governmental organization devoted to developing a complete picture of the carbon cycle, our burning of fossil fuels on Earth had produced nearly 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide by 2011. This is almost 5 tons of carbon dioxide for every one of Earth’s seven billion inhabitants.

    About half of that carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere. The other half is dissolved in the ocean or taken up by Earth’s biosphere (living organisms on land and in the ocean), where it is tucked away in carbon reservoirs or “sinks.” These sinks are shielding us from the full effect of our emissions.

    Plants in a High-Carbon World

    “Everybody that’s using fossil fuels right now is being subsidized by the biosphere,” said Berry. “But one of the key unknowns is — what’s going to be happening in the long term? Is it going to continue to subsidize us?”

    bis
    A false-color composite of global oceanic and terrestrial photoautotroph abundance, from September 1997 to August 2000. Provided by the SeaWiFS Project, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center and ORBIMAGE.

    The future of Earth’s plants depends largely on one of the carbon cycle’s key ingredients: water. Plants need water to carry out photosynthesis. When their water supply runs low, such as during times of drought, photosynthesis slows down.

    For the past quarter century, satellite instruments such as MODIS and the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) on NOAA polar-orbiting satellites have enabled researchers to monitor plant health and productivity by measuring the amount of “greenness,” which shows how much leaf material is exposed to sunlight. The drawback of using the greenness index, however, is that greenness doesn’t immediately respond to stresses — water stress for example — that reduce photosynthesis and productivity.

    NOAA with AVHRR
    NOAA satellite with AVHRR

    “Plants can be green, but not active,” said JPL research scientist Christian Frankenberg, also a member of the OCO-2 science team. “Imagine an evergreen needle-leaf forest at high elevation in winter. The trees are still green, but they’re not photosynthesizing.”

    Solar-induced fluorescence data would tell you straight away that something had happened, explains Schimel, but greenness doesn’t tell you until the plants are already drooping and maybe dead.

    About 30 percent of the photosynthesis that occurs in Earth’s land regions takes place in the tropical rainforest of the Amazon, which encompasses about 2.7 million square miles (7 million square kilometers) of South America. The Amazon is home to more than half of Earth’s terrestrial biomass and tropical forest area — making it one of the two most important land regions for carbon storage (the other being the Arctic, where carbon is stored in the soil).

    Recent studies in the Amazon using fluorescence measurements have examined how photosynthesis rates change during wet and dry seasons. Most of the results show that during the dry season, photosynthesis slows down. According to Berry, when the air is dry and hot, it makes sense for plants to conserve water by closing their stomates (pores). “During the dry season when it would cost the plants a lot of water, photosynthesis is dialed down and the forest becomes less active,” he said.

    In 2005 and 2010, the Amazon basin experienced the type of droughts that historically have happened only once in a century. Greenness measurements indicated widespread die-off of trees and major changes to the forest canopy (treetops) after the droughts, but fluorescence data from GOSAT exposed even milder water stress in the dry season of normal years. “There is the potential that as climate change proceeds, these droughts will become more severe. The areas that support tropical rainforest could decrease,” said Berry. Less tropical forest means less carbon absorbed from the air.

    In addition, as trees decay, they release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, creating a scenario whereby the biosphere potentially becomes a source of carbon rather than a sink. “If there is a dieback of the tropical rainforest, that might add to the effect of fossil fuel carbon dioxide on climate change,” said Frankenberg.

    Because photosynthesis is one of the key processes involved in the carbon cycle, and because the carbon cycle plays an important role in climate, better fluorescence information could help resolve some uncertainties about the uptake of carbon dioxide by plants in climate models. “We think fluorescence is going to help carbon cycle models get the right answer,” said Berry. “If you don’t have the models right, how can you get the rest of it right?”

    “We really don’t understand the quantitative relationship between climate and photosynthesis very well, because we’ve only been able to study it at very small scales,” said Schimel. “Measuring plant fluorescence from space may be an important addition to the set of techniques available to us.”

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 8:24 am on May 2, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “Ganymede May Harbor ‘Club Sandwich’ of Oceans and Ice” 

    NASA/JPL at Caltech

    May 01, 2014
    Whitney Clavin
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-4673
    whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

    The largest moon in our solar system, a companion to Jupiter named Ganymede, might have ice and oceans stacked up in several layers like a club sandwich, according to new NASA-funded research that models the moon’s makeup.

    gan
    This artist’s concept of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, the largest moon in the solar system, illustrates the “club sandwich” model of its interior oceans. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Previously, the moon was thought to harbor a thick ocean sandwiched between just two layers of ice, one on top and one on bottom.

    “Ganymede’s ocean might be organized like a Dagwood sandwich,” said Steve Vance of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., explaining the moon’s resemblance to the “Blondie” cartoon character’s multi-tiered sandwiches. The study, led by Vance, provides new theoretical evidence for the team’s “club sandwich” model, first proposed last year. The research appears in the journal Planetary and Space Science.

    The results support the idea that primitive life might have possibly arisen on the icy moon. Scientists say that places where water and rock interact are important for the development of life; for example, it’s possible life began on Earth in bubbling vents on our sea floor. Prior to the new study, Ganymede’s rocky sea bottom was thought to be coated with ice, not liquid — a problem for the emergence of life. The “club sandwich” findings suggest otherwise: the first layer on top of the rocky core might be salty water.

    “This is good news for Ganymede,” said Vance. “Its ocean is huge, with enormous pressures, so it was thought that dense ice had to form at the bottom of the ocean. When we added salts to our models, we came up with liquids dense enough to sink to the sea floor.”

    NASA scientists first suspected an ocean in Ganymede in the 1970s, based on models of the large moon, which is bigger than Mercury. In the 1990s, NASA’s Galileo mission flew by Ganymede, confirming the moon’s ocean, and showing it extends to depths of hundreds of miles. The spacecraft also found evidence for salty seas, likely containing the salt magnesium sulfate.

    NASA Galileo spacecraft
    NASA/Galileo

    Previous models of Ganymede’s oceans assumed that salt didn’t change the properties of liquid very much with pressure. Vance and his team showed, through laboratory experiments, how much salt really increases the density of liquids under the extreme conditions inside Ganymede and similar moons. It may seem strange that salt can make the ocean denser, but you can see for yourself how this works by adding plain old table salt to a glass of water. Rather than increasing in volume, the liquid shrinks and becomes denser. This is because the salt ions attract water molecules.

    The models get more complicated when the different forms of ice are taken into account. The ice that floats in your drinks is called “Ice I.” It’s the least dense form of ice and lighter than water. But at high pressures, like those in crushingly deep oceans like Ganymede’s, the ice crystal structures become more compact. “It’s like finding a better arrangement of shoes in your luggage — the ice molecules become packed together more tightly,” said Vance. The ice can become so dense that it is heavier than water and falls to the bottom of the sea. The densest and heaviest ice thought to persist in Ganymede is called “Ice VI.”

    By modeling these processes using computers, the team came up with an ocean sandwiched between up to three ice layers, in addition to the rocky seafloor. The lightest ice is on top, and the saltiest liquid is heavy enough to sink to the bottom. What’s more, the results demonstrate a possible bizarre phenomenon that causes the oceans to “snow upwards.” As the oceans churn and cold plumes snake around, ice in the uppermost ocean layer, called “Ice III,” could form in the seawater. When ice forms, salts precipitate out. The heavier salts would thus fall downward, and the lighter ice, or “snow,” would float upward. This “snow” melts again before reaching the top of the ocean, possibly leaving slush in the middle of the moon sandwich.

    “We don’t know how long the Dagwood-sandwich structure would exist,” said Christophe Sotin of JPL. “This structure represents a stable state, but various factors could mean the moon doesn’t reach this stable state.

    Sotin and Vance are both members of the Icy Worlds team at JPL, part of the multi-institutional NASA Astrobiology Institute based at the Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

    The results can be applied to exoplanets too, planets that circle stars beyond our sun. Some super-Earths, rocky planets more massive than Earth, have been proposed as “water worlds” covered in oceans. Could they have life? Vance and his team think laboratory experiments and more detailed modeling of exotic oceans might help find answers.

    Ganymede is one of five moons in our solar system thought to support vast oceans beneath icy crusts. The other moons are Jupiter’s Europa and Callisto and Saturn’s Titan and Enceladus. The European Space Agency is developing a space mission, called JUpiter ICy moons Explorer or JUICE, to visit Europa, Callisto and Ganymede in the 2030s. NASA and JPL are contributing to three instruments on the mission, which is scheduled to launch in 2022 (see http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-069).

    ESA JUICE
    ESA/JUICE

    Other authors of the study are Mathieu Bouffard of Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France, and Mathieu Choukroun, also of JPL and the Icy World team of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. JPL is managed by the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena for NASA.

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 12:30 pm on April 16, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA: “New Study Outlines ‘Water World’ Theory of Life’s Origins” 

    April 15, 2014
    Whitney Clavin
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-4673
    whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

    Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed into slime molds, frogs, elephants, humans and the rest of our planet’s living kingdoms. How did it all begin?

    A new study from researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the Icy Worlds team at NASA’s Astrobiology Institute, based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., describes how electrical energy naturally produced at the sea floor might have given rise to life. While the scientists had already proposed this hypothesis — called “submarine alkaline hydrothermal emergence of life” — the new report assembles decades of field, laboratory and theoretical research into a grand, unified picture.

    According to the findings, which also can be thought of as the “water world” theory, life may have begun inside warm, gentle springs on the sea floor, at a time long ago when Earth’s oceans churned across the entire planet. This idea of hydrothermal vents as possible places for life’s origins was first proposed in 1980 by other researchers, who found them on the sea floor near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Called “black smokers,” those vents bubble with scalding hot, acidic fluids. In contrast, the vents in the new study — first hypothesized by scientist Michael Russell of JPL in 1989 — are gentler, cooler and percolate with alkaline fluids. One such towering complex of these alkaline vents was found serendipitously in the North Atlantic Ocean in 2000, and dubbed the Lost City.

    two
    Michael Russell and Laurie Barge of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are pictured in their Icy Worlds laboratory, where they mimic the conditions of Earth billions of years ago, attempting to answer the question of how life first arose.
    Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    chimney
    This image from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean shows a collection of limestone towers known as the “Lost City.” Alkaline hydrothermal vents of this type are suggested to be the birthplace of the first living organisms on the ancient Earth.
    Image Credit: D. Kelley and M. Elend/University of Washington

    “Life takes advantage of unbalanced states on the planet, which may have been the case billions of years ago at the alkaline hydrothermal vents,” said Russell. “Life is the process that resolves these disequilibria.” Russell is lead author of the new study, published in the April issue of the journal Astrobiology.

    Other theories of life’s origins describe ponds, or “soups,” of chemicals, pockmarking Earth’s battered, rocky surface. In some of those chemical soup models, lightning or ultraviolet light is thought to have fueled life in the ponds.

    The water world theory from Russell and his team says that the warm, alkaline hydrothermal vents maintained an unbalanced state with respect to the surrounding ancient, acidic ocean — one that could have provided so-called free energy to drive the emergence of life. In fact, the vents could have created two chemical imbalances. The first was a proton gradient, where protons — which are hydrogen ions — were concentrated more on the outside of the vent’s chimneys, also called mineral membranes. The proton gradient could have been tapped for energy — something our own bodies do all the time in cellular structures called mitochondria.

    lab
    Underwater Chimney Created in Lab
    A close-up of chimney structures created in the Icy Worlds lab at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. Chimney structures like these can be found on the sea floor, surrounding warm, alkaline hydrothermal vents. Researchers are recreating the chimneys in the lab to test the “water world” theory of life’s origins, which says the warm, underwater vents helped kick-start life on Earth billions of years ago. The vents were thought to have been out of balance with respect to the ancient oceans, leading to proton gradients and electron transfer processes — two essential energy sources that all life forms use on Earth. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    The second imbalance could have involved an electrical gradient between the hydrothermal fluids and the ocean. Billions of years ago, when Earth was young, its oceans were rich with carbon dioxide. When the carbon dioxide from the ocean and fuels from the vent — hydrogen and methane — met across the chimney wall, electrons may have been transferred. These reactions could have produced more complex carbon-containing, or organic compounds — essential ingredients of life as we know it. Like proton gradients, electron transfer processes occur regularly in mitochondria.

    “Within these vents, we have a geological system that already does one aspect of what life does,” said Laurie Barge, second author of the study at JPL. “Life lives off proton gradients and the transfer of electrons.”

    As is the case with all advanced life forms, enzymes are the key to making chemical reactions happen. In our ancient oceans, minerals may have acted like enzymes, interacting with chemicals swimming around and driving reactions. In the water world theory, two different types of mineral “engines” might have lined the walls of the chimney structures.

    “These mineral engines may be compared to what’s in modern cars,” said Russell.

    “They make life ‘go’ like the car engines by consuming fuel and expelling exhaust. DNA and RNA, on the other hand, are more like the car’s computers because they guide processes rather than make them happen.”

    One of the tiny engines is thought to have used a mineral known as green rust, allowing it to take advantage of the proton gradient to produce a phosphate-containing molecule that stores energy. The other engine is thought to have depended on a rare metal called molybdenum. This metal also is at work in our bodies, in a variety of enzymes. It assists with the transfer of two electrons at a time rather than the usual one, which is useful in driving certain key chemical reactions.

    “We call molybdenum the Douglas Adams element,” said Russell, explaining that the atomic number of molybdenum is 42, which also happens to be the answer to the “ultimate question of life, the universe and everything” in Adams’ popular book, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Russell joked, “Forty-two may in fact be one answer to the ultimate question of life!”

    The team’s origins of life theory applies not just to Earth but also to other wet, rocky worlds.

    “Michael Russell’s theory originated 25 years ago and, in that time, JPL space missions have found strong evidence for liquid water oceans and rocky sea floors on Europa and Enceladus,” said Barge. “We have learned much about the history of water on Mars, and soon we may find Earth-like planets around faraway stars. By testing this origin-of-life hypothesis in the lab at JPL, we may explain how life might have arisen on these other places in our solar system or beyond, and also get an idea of how to look for it.”

    For now, the ultimate question of whether the alkaline hydrothermal vents are the hatcheries of life remains unanswered. Russell says the necessary experiments are jaw-droppingly difficult to design and carry out, but decades later, these are problems he and his team are still happy to tackle.

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 10:11 am on February 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “Largest Solar System Moon Detailed in Geologic Map” 

    February 12, 2014
    Jia-Rui Cook 818-354-0850
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,
    Calif. jccook@jpl.nasa.gov

    More than 400 years after its discovery by astronomer Galileo Galilei, the largest moon in the solar system – Jupiter’s moon Ganymede – has finally claimed a spot on the map.

    Ganymede
    To present the best information in a single view of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede, a global image mosaic was assembled, incorporating the best available imagery from NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft and NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. USGS Astrogeology Science Center/Wheaton/NASA/JPL-Caltech

    A group of scientists led by Geoffrey Collins of Wheaton College has produced the first global geologic map of Ganymede, Jupiter’s seventh moon. The map combines the best images obtained during flybys conducted by NASA’s Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft (1979) and Galileo orbiter (1995 to 2003) and is now published by the U. S. Geological Survey as a global map. It technically illustrates the varied geologic character of Ganymede’s surface and is the first global, geologic map of this icy, outer-planet moon. The geologic map of Ganymede is available for download at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=pia17902 ).

    NASA Galileo
    Galileo

    NASA Voyager
    Voyager

    “This map illustrates the incredible variety of geological features on Ganymede and helps to make order from the apparent chaos of its complex surface,” said Robert Pappalardo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “This map is helping planetary scientists to decipher the evolution of this icy world and will aid in upcoming spacecraft observations.”

    The European Space Agency’s Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer mission is slated to be orbiting Ganymede around 2032. NASA is contributing a U.S.-led instrument and hardware for two European-led instruments for the mission.

    Since its discovery in January 1610, Ganymede has been the focus of repeated observation, first by Earth-based telescopes, and later by the flyby missions and spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. These studies depict a complex, icy world whose surface is characterized by the striking contrast between its two major terrain types: the dark, very old, highly cratered regions, and the lighter, somewhat younger (but still very old) regions marked with an extensive array of grooves and ridges.

    According to the scientists who have constructed this map, three major geologic periods have been identified for Ganymede that involve the dominance of impact cratering, then tectonic upheaval, followed by a decline in geologic activity. The map, which illustrates surface features, such as furrows, grooves and impact craters, allows scientists to decipher distinct geologic time periods for an object in the outer solar system for the first time.

    “The highly detailed, colorful map confirmed a number of outstanding scientific hypotheses regarding Ganymede’s geologic history, and also disproved others,” said Baerbel Lucchitta, scientist emeritus at the U.S. Geological Survey in Flagstaff, Ariz., who has been involved with geologic mapping of Ganymede since 1980. “For example, the more detailed Galileo images showed that cryovolcanism, or the creation of volcanoes that erupt water and ice, is very rare on Ganymede.”

    The Ganymede global geologic map will enable researchers to compare the geologic characters of other icy satellite moons, because almost any type of feature that is found on other icy satellites has a similar feature somewhere on Ganymede.

    “The surface of Ganymede is more than half as large as all the land area on Earth, so there is a wide diversity of locations to choose from,” Collins said. “Ganymede also shows features that are ancient alongside much more recently formed features, adding historical diversity in addition to geographic diversity.”

    Amateur astronomers can observe Ganymede (with binoculars) in the evening sky this month, as Jupiter is in opposition and easily visible.

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 9:03 pm on February 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “NASA Telescopes Help Solve Ancient Supernova Mystery” 2011 

    1097

    A mystery that began nearly 2,000 years ago, when Chinese astronomers witnessed what would turn out to be an exploding star in the sky, has been solved. New infrared observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, reveal how the first supernova ever recorded occurred and how its shattered remains ultimately spread out to great distances.

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    Spitzer

    NASA Wise Telescope
    WISE

    The findings show that the stellar explosion took place in a hollowed-out cavity, allowing material expelled by the star to travel much faster and farther than it would have otherwise.

    “This supernova remnant got really big, really fast,” said Brian J. Williams, an astronomer at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Williams is lead author of a new study detailing the findings online in the Astrophysical Journal. “It’s two to three times bigger than we would expect for a supernova that was witnessed exploding nearly 2,000 years ago. Now, we’ve been able to finally pinpoint the cause.”

    In 185 A.D., Chinese astronomers noted a “guest star” that mysteriously appeared in the sky and stayed for about 8 months. By the 1960s, scientists had determined that the mysterious object was the first documented supernova. Later, they pinpointed RCW 86 [SN185] as a supernova remnant located about 8,000 light-years away. But a puzzle persisted. The star’s spherical remains are larger than expected. If they could be seen in the sky today in infrared light, they’d take up more space than our full moon.

    The solution arrived through new infrared observations made with Spitzer and WISE, and previous data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton Observatory.

    ESA XMM Newton
    XMM-Newton

    The findings reveal that the event is a “Type Ia” supernova, created by the relatively peaceful death of a star like our sun, which then shrank into a dense star called a white dwarf. The white dwarf is thought to have later blown up in a supernova after siphoning matter, or fuel, from a nearby star.

    “A white dwarf is like a smoking cinder from a burnt-out fire,” Williams said. “If you pour gasoline on it, it will explode.”

    The observations also show for the first time that a white dwarf can create a cavity around it before blowing up in a Type Ia event. A cavity would explain why the remains of RCW 86 are so big. When the explosion occurred, the ejected material would have traveled unimpeded by gas and dust and spread out quickly.

    Spitzer and WISE allowed the team to measure the temperature of the dust making up the RCW 86 remnant at about minus 325 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 200 degrees Celsius. They then calculated how much gas must be present within the remnant to heat the dust to those temperatures. The results point to a low-density environment for much of the life of the remnant, essentially a cavity.

    Scientists initially suspected that RCW 86 was the result of a core-collapse supernova [Type II], the most powerful type of stellar blast. They had seen hints of a cavity around the remnant, and, at that time, such cavities were only associated with core-collapse supernovae. In those events, massive stars blow material away from them before they blow up, carving out holes around them.

    But other evidence argued against a core-collapse supernova. X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton indicated that the object consisted of high amounts of iron, a telltale sign of a Type Ia blast. Together with the infrared observations, a picture of a Type Ia explosion into a cavity emerged.

    “Modern astronomers unveiled one secret of a two-millennia-old cosmic mystery only to reveal another,” said Bill Danchi, Spitzer and WISE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Now, with multiple observatories extending our senses in space, we can fully appreciate the remarkable physics behind this star’s death throes, yet still be as in awe of the cosmos as the ancient astronomers.”

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    JPL manages, and operated, WISE for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The spacecraft was put into hibernation mode after it scanned the entire sky twice, completing its main objectives. Edward Wright is the principal investigator and is at UCLA. The mission was selected competitively under NASA’s Explorers Program managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan. The spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 12:14 pm on January 30, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “NASA and ESA Space Telescopes Help Solve Mystery of Burned-Out Galaxies” 

    January 29, 2014
    Whitney Clavin 818-354-4673
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

    list
    This graphic shows the evolutionary sequence in the growth of massive elliptical galaxies over 13 billion years, as gleaned from space-based and ground-based telescopic observations. The growth of this class of galaxies is quickly driven by rapid star formation and mergers with other galaxies. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Toft (Niels Bohr Institute), and A. Feild (STScI)

    Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, and Europe’s Herschel Space Observatory, have pieced together the evolutionary sequence of compact elliptical galaxies that erupted and burned out early in the history of the universe.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    Hubble

    NASA Spitzer Telescope
    Spitzer

    ESA Herschel
    Herschel

    Enabled by Hubble’s infrared imaging capabilities, astronomers have assembled for the first time a representative spectroscopic sampling of ultra-compact, burned-out elliptical galaxies — galaxies whose star formation was finished when the universe was only 3 billion years old, less than a quarter of its current estimated age of 13.8 billion years.

    The research, supported by several ground-based telescopes, solves a 10-year-old mystery about the growth of the most massive elliptical galaxies we see today. It provides a clear picture of the formation of the most massive galaxies in the universe, from their initial burst of star formation through their development of dense stellar cores, to their ultimate reality as giant ellipticals.

    “We at last show how these compact galaxies can form, how it happened, and when it happened. This basically is the missing piece in the understanding of how the most massive galaxies formed, and how they evolved into the giant ellipticals of today,” said Sune Toft of the Dark Cosmology Center at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, who is the leader of this study.

    “This had been a great mystery for many years because just 3 billion years after the big bang we see that half of the most massive galaxies have already completed their star formation.”

    Through the research, astronomers have determined the compact ellipticals voraciously consumed the gas available for star formation, to the point they could not create new stars, and then merged with smaller galaxies to form giant ellipticals. The stars in the burned-out galaxies were packed 10 to 100 times more densely than in equally massive elliptical galaxies seen in the nearby universe today, and that surprised astronomers, according to Toft.

    To develop the evolutionary sequence for ultra-compact, burned-out galaxies, Toft’s team assembled, for the first time, representative samples of two galaxy populations using the rich dataset in Hubble’s COSMOS (Cosmic Evolution Survey) program.

    One group of galaxies is the compact ellipticals. The other group contains galaxies that are highly obscured with dust and undergoing rapid star formation at rates thousands of times faster than observed in the Milky Way. Starbursts in these dusty galaxies likely were ignited when two gas-rich galaxies collided. These galaxies are so dusty that they are almost invisible at optical wavelengths, but they shine bright at submillimeter wavelengths, where they were first identified nearly two decades ago by the Submillimeter Common-User Bolometer Array (SCUBA) camera on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii.

    jcm
    James Clark Maxwell telescope

    Toft’s team started by constructing the first representative sample of compact elliptical galaxies with accurate sizes and spectroscopic redshifts, or distances, measured with Hubble’s Cosmic Assembly Near-Infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey (CANDELS) and 3D-HST (3D- Hubble Space Telescope) programs. 3D-HST is a near-infrared spectroscopic survey to study the physical processes that shape galaxies in the distant universe. The astronomers combined these data with observations from the Subaru telescope in Hawaii, and Spitzer. This allowed for accurate stellar age estimates, from which they concluded compact elliptical galaxies formed in intense starbursts inside the galaxies that preceded them by as long as two billion years.

    subaru
    NAOJ Subaru

    Next, the team made the first representative sample of the most distant submillimeter galaxies using COSMOS data from the Hubble, Spitzer and Herschel space telescopes, and ground-based telescopes such as Subaru, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, and the Submillimeter Array, all located in Hawaii. This multi-spectral information, stretching from optical light through submillimeter wavelengths, yielded a full suite of information about the sizes, stellar masses, star-formation rates, dust content, and precise distances of the dust-enshrouded galaxies that were present early in the universe.

    When Toft’s team compared the samples of the two galaxy populations, it discovered an evolutionary link between the compact elliptical galaxies and the submillimeter galaxies. The observations show that the violent starbursts in the dusty galaxies had the same characteristics that would have been predicted for progenitors to the compact elliptical galaxies. Toft’s team also calculated the intense starburst activity inside the submillimeter galaxies lasted only about 40 million years before the interstellar gas supply was exhausted.

    The results appear in the Jan. 29 online issue of The Astrophysical Journal. For related and high resolution imagery, visit: http://hubblesite.org/news/2014/10 .

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 6:18 pm on January 17, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “Rosetta: To Chase a Comet” 

    January 17, 2014
    DC Agle/Jia-Rui Cook 818-393-9011/818-354-0850
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    agle@jpl.nasa.gov / jccook@jpl.nasa.gov
    Dwayne Brown 202-358-1726
    Headquarters, Washington
    dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov

    Markus Bauer 31-71-565-6799
    European Space Agency, Noordwijk, The Netherland
    markus.bauer@esa.int

    Comets are among the most beautiful and least understood nomads of the night sky. To date, half a dozen of these most heavenly of heavenly bodies have been visited by spacecraft in an attempt to unlock their secrets. All these missions have had one thing in common: the high-speed flyby. Like two ships passing in the night (or one ship and one icy dirtball), they screamed past each other at hyper velocity — providing valuable insight, but fleeting glimpses, into the life of a comet. That is, until Rosetta.

    NASA is participating in the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission, whose goal is to observe one such space-bound icy dirt ball from up close — for months on end. The spacecraft, festooned with 25 instruments between its lander and orbiter (including three from NASA) will monitor comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as it makes its nosedive into, and then climb out of, the inner solar system. Over 16 months, during which old 67P is expected to transform from a small, frozen world into a roiling mass of ice and dust, complete with surface eruptions, mini-earthquakes, basketball-sized, fluffy ice particles and spewing jets of carbon dioxide and cyanide.

    “We are going to be in the cometary catbird seat on this one,” said Claudia Alexander, project scientist for U.S. Rosetta from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “To have an extended presence in the neighborhood of a comet as it goes through so many changes should change our perspective on what it is to be a comet.

    rosetta
    Rosetta

    “Since work began on Rosetta back in 1993, scientists and engineers from all over Europe and the United States have been combining their talents to build an orbiter and a lander for this unique expedition. NASA’s contribution includes three of the orbiter’s instruments (an ultraviolet spectrometer called Alice; the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter; and the Ion and Electron Sensor. NASA is also providing part of the electronics package for an instrument called the Double Focusing Mass Spectrometer, which is part of the Swiss-built Rosetta Orbiter Spectrometer for Ion and Neutral Analysis instrument. NASA is also providing U.S. science investigators for selected non-U.S. instruments and is involved to a greater or lesser degree in seven of the mission’s 25 instruments. NASA’s Deep Space Network provides support for ESA’s Ground Station Network for spacecraft tracking and navigation.

    “All the instruments aboard Rosetta and the Philae lander are designed to work synergistically,” said Sam Gulkis of JPL, the principal investigator for the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter. “They will all work together to create the most complete picture of a comet to date, telling us how the comet works, what it is made of, and what it can tell us about the origins of the solar system.

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 11:58 am on January 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “Powerful Planet Finder Turns Its Eye to the Sky” 

    January 07, 2014
    Whitney Clavin 818-354-4673
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    whitney.clavin@jpl.nasa.gov

    After nearly a decade of development, construction and testing, the world’s most advanced instrument for directly imaging and analyzing planets around other stars is pointing skyward and collecting light from distant worlds.

    image

    The instrument, called the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), was designed, built, and optimized for imaging giant planets next to bright stars, in addition to studying dusty disks around young stars. It is the most advanced instrument of its kind to be deployed on one of the world’s biggest telescopes – the 26-foot (8-meter) Gemini South telescope in Chile.

    gpi

    Imaging a planet next to a star is a tricky task. The planet is much fainter than its star, and also appears very close. These challenges make the act of separating the planet’s light from the glare of the star difficult. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., contributed to the project by designing and building an ultra-precise infrared sensor to measure small distortions in starlight that might mask a planet.

    “Our tasks were two-fold,” said Kent Wallace, JPL’s subsystem technical lead for the project. “First, keep the star centered on the instrument so that its glare is blocked as much as possible. Second, ensure the instrument itself is stable during the very long exposures required to image faint companions.”

    GPI detects infrared, or heat, radiation from young Jupiter-like planets in wide orbits around other stars. Those are equivalent to the giant planets in our own solar system not long after their formation. Every planet GPI sees can be studied in detail, revealing components of their atmospheres.

    Although GPI was designed to look at distant planets, it can also observe objects in our solar system. Test images of Jupiter’s moon Europa, for example, can allow scientists to map changes in the satellite’s surface composition. The images were released today at the 223rd meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington.

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 8:34 pm on December 24, 2013 Permalink | Reply
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    From NASA/JPL at Caltech: “NASA’s Deep Space Network Celebrates 50 Years” 

    December 24, 2013
    David Israel
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-4797
    david.israel@jpl.nasa.gov

    2013-378

    The Deep Space Network first existed as just a few small antennas as part of the Deep Space Instrumentation Facility. That facility, originally operated by the U.S. Army in the 1950s, morphed into the Deep Space Network on Dec. 24, 1963, and quickly became the de facto network for missions into deep space.

    dsn
    This aerial photo shows the NASA Deeps Space Network complex outside of Canberra, Australia in 1997. The Canberra complex officially opened in 1965. Because of celestial mechanics and trajectories, the best spacecraft tracking requires stations located in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    During its first year of operation, the network communicated with three spacecraft – Mariner 2, IMP-A and Atlas Centaur 2. Today, it communicates with 33 via three antenna complexes in Goldstone, Calif.; near Madrid, Spain; and near Canberra, Australia, maintaining round-the-clock coverage of the solar system.

    During the past 50 years, antennas of the Deep Space Network have communicated with most of the missions that have gone to the moon and far into deep space. The highlights include relaying the moment when astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon in a “giant leap for mankind”; transmitting data from numerous encounters with the outer planets of our solar system; communicating images taken by rovers exploring Mars; and relaying the data confirming that NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft had entered interstellar space.

    Space agencies in Europe, Japan and Russia have also relied on the Deep Space Network when planning and communicating with their own missions over the decades. The Deep Space Network has been used recently by India’s first interplanetary probe, the Mars Orbiter Mission.

    JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Deep Space Network for NASA.

    big
    Making a Giant Even Bigger
    In anticipation of the upcoming flyby of Neptune by NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989, NASA’s Deep Space Network upgraded the giant antenna at the Goldstone complex known as DSS-14. This antenna was expanded from 210 feet (64 meters) across to 230 feet (70 meters) across in order to pick up Voyager’s faraway signal with more accuracy. This image was taken on Dec. 12, 1987. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    See the full article here.

    Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center located in the San Gabriel Valley area of Los Angeles County, California, United States. Although the facility has a Pasadena postal address, it is actually headquartered in the city of La Cañada Flintridge [1], on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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