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  • richardmitnick 8:04 am on November 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New analysis of Winchcombe meteorite reveals a window into the early solar system", Asteroids, , , , , ,   

    From The University of Oxford (UK): “New analysis of Winchcombe meteorite reveals a window into the early solar system” 

    U Oxford bloc

    From The University of Oxford (UK)

    11.17.22

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    New analysis of Winchcombe meteorite reveals a window into the early solar system.

    Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Departments of Physics and Earth Sciences have contributed to a highly detailed analysis of the Winchcombe meteorite which fell to Earth last year. The results, published today in Science Advances [below], shed light on early solar system conditions and support the theory that meteorites catalysed the emergence of life on Earth.

    Late in the evening of February 28, 2021, a coal-dark space rock about the size of a soccer ball fell through the sky over northern England. The rock blazed in a dazzling, eight-second-long streak of light, split into fragments and sped toward the Earth. The largest piece went splat in the driveway of Rob and Cathryn Wilcock in the small, historic town of Winchcombe.

    An analysis of those fragments now shows that the meteorite came from the outer solar system, and contains water that is chemically similar to Earth’s, scientists report November 16 in Science Advances [below]. How Earth got its water remains one of science’s enduring mysteries. The new results support the idea that asteroids brought water to the young planet.

    The Wilcocks were not the only ones who found pieces of the rock that fell that night. But they were the first. Bits of the Winchcombe meteorite were collected within 12 hours after they hit the ground, meaning they are relatively uncontaminated with earthly stuff, says planetary scientist Ashley King of London’s Natural History Museum.

    Other meteorites have been recovered after being tracked from space to the ground, but never so quickly.

    “It’s as pristine as we’re going to get from a meteorite,” King says. “Other than it landing in the museum on my desk, or other than sending a spacecraft up there, we can’t really get them any quicker or more pristine.”

    After collecting about 530 grams of meteorite from Winchcombe and other sites, including a sheep field in Scotland, King and colleagues threw a kitchen sink of lab techniques at the samples. The researchers polished the material, heated it and bombarded it with electrons, X-rays and lasers to figure out what elements and minerals it contained.

    The team also analyzed video of the fireball from the UK Fireball Alliance, a collaboration of 16 meteor-watching cameras around the world, plus many more videos from doorbell and dashboard cameras. The films helped to determine the meteorite’s trajectory and where it originated.

    The meteorite is a type of rare, carbon-rich rock called a carbonaceous chondrite, the team found. It came from an asteroid near the orbit of Jupiter, and got its start toward Earth around 300,000 years ago, a relatively short time for a trip through space, the researchers calculate.

    Chemical analyses also revealed that the meteorite is about 11 percent water by weight, with the water locked in hydrated minerals. Some of the hydrogen in that water is actually deuterium, a heavy form of hydrogen, and the ratio of hydrogen to deuterium in the meteorite is similar to that of the Earth’s atmosphere. “It’s a good indication that water [on Earth] was coming from water-rich asteroids,” King says.

    Researchers also found amino acids and other organic material in the meteorite pieces. “These are the building blocks for things like DNA,” King says. The pieces “don’t contain life, but they have the starting point for life locked up in them.” Further studies can help determine how those molecules formed in the asteroid that the meteorite came from, and how similar organic material could have been delivered to the early Earth.

    “It’s always exciting to have access to material that can provide a new window into an early time and place in our solar system,” says planetary scientist Meenakshi Wadhwa of Arizona State University in Tempe, who was not involved in the study.

    She hopes future studies will compare the samples of the Winchcombe meteorite to samples of asteroids Ryugu and Bennu, which were collected by spacecraft and sent back to Earth. Those asteroids are both closer to Earth than the main asteroid belt, where the Winchcombe meteorite came from. Comparing and contrasting all three samples will build a more complete picture of the early solar system’s makeup, and how it evolved into what we see today.

    Meteorites can offer an invaluable window into the early solar system, since most originate from asteroids that formed in the same era as the planets (4.5 billion years ago). When they land on Earth, however, the fragments usually become contaminated and less informative. But on Sunday 28 February 2021, planetary scientists received a gift from the heavens when a fireball hurtled through the skies over the UK, eventually smashing to a halt on a driveway in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire. Within hours, researchers were at the scene to recover the resulting fragments and securely store them. As a result, the Winchcombe meteorite fragments are some of the most pristine available for analysis.

    Overseen by the Natural History Museum in London, the Winchcombe fragments were distributed to multiple institutions around the UK, including the University of Oxford, for one of the most comprehensive meteorite analyses ever undertaken.

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    The main mass of the Winchcombe meteorite recovered by the Wilcock family on 1 March 2021. Credit: Rob, Cathryn and Hannah Wilcock.

    A witness from the early solar system

    At the University of Oxford’s Department of Physics, the fragments were analyzed by Dr Katherine Shirley using infrared spectroscopy to map the meteorite’s mineral composition. This helped to confirm that the Winchcombe specimen belongs to a rare class of meteorites called CM carbonaceous chondrites, which originate from primitive asteroids in the asteroid belt. It is the first ever meteorite of this type to be found in the UK.

    Other academic institutions involved in the study carried out detailed imaging and chemical analyses which found that the Winchcombe meteorite contains approximately 11% extra-terrestrial water (by weight). Most of this is locked-up in minerals that formed during chemical reactions between fluids and rocks on its parent asteroid in the earliest stages of the solar system. Furthermore, the ratio of hydrogen isotopes in the water closely resembled the composition of water on Earth.

    Extracts from the Winchcombe meteorite also contained extra-terrestrial amino acids – prebiotic molecules that are fundamental components for the origin of life. As the composition of the Winchcombe meteorite is largely unmodified by the terrestrial environment, these results indicate that carbonaceous asteroids played a key role in delivering the ingredients needed to catalyse oceans and life on the early Earth.

    A magnetic memory

    Another key strand of the analysis was to assess the magnetic composition, which was led by the University of Oxford’s Department of Earth Sciences. James Bryson, Associate Professor of Mineralogy, explained: ‘The magnetic composition of a meteorite acts like an internal hard drive memory of the conditions during its formation. We found that there is a particularly high abundance of a magnetic phase called magnetite present in an exotic and uncommon form. This type of magnetite only forms under specific conditions, so this tells us that Winchcombe had a unique history. Our ongoing investigations are now trying to figure out exactly what this was.’

    This future work will make use of the Department’s new, cutting-edge geo-quantum diamond microscope, one of only two in Europe. ‘This machine will enable us to perform magnetic analysis on much smaller samples than before, opening up a completely new avenue of research. It will bring a new lease of life into planetary sciences’ said Professor Bryson.

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    The powdered Winchcombe meteorite sample used in the study at the University of Oxford. Credit: Dr Rowan Curtis.

    Tracing a path to Earth

    Meanwhile, investigations by Dr Rowan Curtis (Department of Physics) could help to trace the path by which the Winchcombe meteorite made its way from the asteroid belt to Earth. Using a machine called a goniometer, he measured how light scattered across the surface of the meteorite, enabling improvements in asteroid thermal models and further constraints to be placed on the Yarkovsky effect. ‘When one side of an asteroid is illuminated by the Sun, it creates a differential heating effect that acts as a propeller,’ he explained. ‘Over long time periods, this effect can influence the trajectory of an asteroid. By mapping in detail variations in light scattering and thermal absorption, we can more accurately trace the path of the Winchcombe meteorite in reverse.’

    ‘The perfect test run’

    The team agree that it has been a privilege to work on such a pristine sample, but their thorough analyses have also been the ideal pilot for future investigations. For example, the University of Oxford is part of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, which aims to return samples from a “primitive” carbonaceous asteroid in the solar system named Bennu. The spacecraft is scheduled to return to Earth in September 2023.

    The study ‘The Winchcombe meteorite, a unique and pristine witness from the outer solar system’ is published in Science Advances [below].

    Samples of the Winchcombe meteorite are currently on public display at the Natural History Museum in London, the Winchcombe Museum, and The Wilson (Art Gallery), Cheltenham. You can also learn more about meteorites and even touch the 4.5 billion year-old Nathan Meteorite by visiting the recently refurbished displays at the Oxford University Natural History Museum.

    Science paper:
    Science Advances
    See the science paper for instructive material with images.

    See the full article here.

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    U Oxford campus

    The University of Oxford

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    Universitas Oxoniensis

    The University of Oxford [a.k.a. The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford] is a collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second-oldest university in continuous operation. It grew rapidly from 1167 when Henry II banned English students from attending the University of Paris [Université de Paris](FR). After disputes between students and Oxford townsfolk in 1209, some academics fled north-east to Cambridge where they established what became the The University of Cambridge (UK). The two English ancient universities share many common features and are jointly referred to as Oxbridge.

    The university is made up of thirty-nine semi-autonomous constituent colleges, six permanent private halls, and a range of academic departments which are organised into four divisions. All the colleges are self-governing institutions within the university, each controlling its own membership and with its own internal structure and activities. All students are members of a college. It does not have a main campus, and its buildings and facilities are scattered throughout the city centre. Undergraduate teaching at Oxford consists of lectures, small-group tutorials at the colleges and halls, seminars, laboratory work and occasionally further tutorials provided by the central university faculties and departments. Postgraduate teaching is provided predominantly centrally.

    Oxford operates the world’s oldest university museum, as well as the largest university press in the world and the largest academic library system nationwide. In the fiscal year ending 31 July 2019, the university had a total income of £2.45 billion, of which £624.8 million was from research grants and contracts.

    Oxford has educated a wide range of notable alumni, including 28 prime ministers of the United Kingdom and many heads of state and government around the world. As of October 2020, 72 Nobel Prize laureates, 3 Fields Medalists, and 6 Turing Award winners have studied, worked, or held visiting fellowships at the University of Oxford, while its alumni have won 160 Olympic medals. Oxford is the home of numerous scholarships, including the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the oldest international graduate scholarship programmes.

    The University of Oxford’s foundation date is unknown. It is known that teaching at Oxford existed in some form as early as 1096, but it is unclear when a university came into being.

    It grew quickly from 1167 when English students returned from The University of Paris-Sorbonne [Université de Paris-Sorbonne](FR). The historian Gerald of Wales lectured to such scholars in 1188, and the first known foreign scholar, Emo of Friesland, arrived in 1190. The head of the university had the title of chancellor from at least 1201, and the masters were recognised as a universitas or corporation in 1231. The university was granted a royal charter in 1248 during the reign of King Henry III.

    The students associated together on the basis of geographical origins, into two ‘nations’, representing the North (northerners or Boreales, who included the English people from north of the River Trent and the Scots) and the South (southerners or Australes, who included English people from south of the Trent, the Irish and the Welsh). In later centuries, geographical origins continued to influence many students’ affiliations when membership of a college or hall became customary in Oxford. In addition, members of many religious orders, including Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites and Augustinians, settled in Oxford in the mid-13th century, gained influence and maintained houses or halls for students. At about the same time, private benefactors established colleges as self-contained scholarly communities. Among the earliest such founders were William of Durham, who in 1249 endowed University College, and John Balliol, father of a future King of Scots; Balliol College bears his name. Another founder, Walter de Merton, a Lord Chancellor of England and afterwards Bishop of Rochester, devised a series of regulations for college life. Merton College thereby became the model for such establishments at Oxford, as well as at the University of Cambridge. Thereafter, an increasing number of students lived in colleges rather than in halls and religious houses.

    In 1333–1334, an attempt by some dissatisfied Oxford scholars to found a new university at Stamford, Lincolnshire, was blocked by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge petitioning King Edward III. Thereafter, until the 1820s, no new universities were allowed to be founded in England, even in London; thus, Oxford and Cambridge had a duopoly, which was unusual in large western European countries.

    The new learning of the Renaissance greatly influenced Oxford from the late 15th century onwards. Among university scholars of the period were William Grocyn, who contributed to the revival of Greek language studies, and John Colet, the noted biblical scholar.

    With the English Reformation and the breaking of communion with the Roman Catholic Church, recusant scholars from Oxford fled to continental Europe, settling especially at the University of Douai. The method of teaching at Oxford was transformed from the medieval scholastic method to Renaissance education, although institutions associated with the university suffered losses of land and revenues. As a centre of learning and scholarship, Oxford’s reputation declined in the Age of Enlightenment; enrollments fell and teaching was neglected.

    In 1636, William Laud, the chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, codified the university’s statutes. These, to a large extent, remained its governing regulations until the mid-19th century. Laud was also responsible for the granting of a charter securing privileges for The University Press, and he made significant contributions to the Bodleian Library, the main library of the university. From the beginnings of the Church of England as the established church until 1866, membership of the church was a requirement to receive the BA degree from the university and “dissenters” were only permitted to receive the MA in 1871.

    The university was a centre of the Royalist party during the English Civil War (1642–1649), while the town favoured the opposing Parliamentarian cause. From the mid-18th century onwards, however, the university took little part in political conflicts.

    Wadham College, founded in 1610, was the undergraduate college of Sir Christopher Wren. Wren was part of a brilliant group of experimental scientists at Oxford in the 1650s, the Oxford Philosophical Club, which included Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke. This group held regular meetings at Wadham under the guidance of the college’s Warden, John Wilkins, and the group formed the nucleus that went on to found the Royal Society.

    Before reforms in the early 19th century, the curriculum at Oxford was notoriously narrow and impractical. Sir Spencer Walpole, a historian of contemporary Britain and a senior government official, had not attended any university. He said, “Few medical men, few solicitors, few persons intended for commerce or trade, ever dreamed of passing through a university career.” He quoted the Oxford University Commissioners in 1852 stating: “The education imparted at Oxford was not such as to conduce to the advancement in life of many persons, except those intended for the ministry.” Nevertheless, Walpole argued:

    “Among the many deficiencies attending a university education there was, however, one good thing about it, and that was the education which the undergraduates gave themselves. It was impossible to collect some thousand or twelve hundred of the best young men in England, to give them the opportunity of making acquaintance with one another, and full liberty to live their lives in their own way, without evolving in the best among them, some admirable qualities of loyalty, independence, and self-control. If the average undergraduate carried from university little or no learning, which was of any service to him, he carried from it a knowledge of men and respect for his fellows and himself, a reverence for the past, a code of honour for the present, which could not but be serviceable. He had enjoyed opportunities… of intercourse with men, some of whom were certain to rise to the highest places in the Senate, in the Church, or at the Bar. He might have mixed with them in his sports, in his studies, and perhaps in his debating society; and any associations which he had this formed had been useful to him at the time, and might be a source of satisfaction to him in after life.”

    Out of the students who matriculated in 1840, 65% were sons of professionals (34% were Anglican ministers). After graduation, 87% became professionals (59% as Anglican clergy). Out of the students who matriculated in 1870, 59% were sons of professionals (25% were Anglican ministers). After graduation, 87% became professionals (42% as Anglican clergy).

    M. C. Curthoys and H. S. Jones argue that the rise of organised sport was one of the most remarkable and distinctive features of the history of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was carried over from the athleticism prevalent at the public schools such as Eton, Winchester, Shrewsbury, and Harrow.

    All students, regardless of their chosen area of study, were required to spend (at least) their first year preparing for a first-year examination that was heavily focused on classical languages. Science students found this particularly burdensome and supported a separate science degree with Greek language study removed from their required courses. This concept of a Bachelor of Science had been adopted at other European universities (The University of London (UK) had implemented it in 1860) but an 1880 proposal at Oxford to replace the classical requirement with a modern language (like German or French) was unsuccessful. After considerable internal wrangling over the structure of the arts curriculum, in 1886 the “natural science preliminary” was recognized as a qualifying part of the first-year examination.

    At the start of 1914, the university housed about 3,000 undergraduates and about 100 postgraduate students. During the First World War, many undergraduates and fellows joined the armed forces. By 1918 virtually all fellows were in uniform, and the student population in residence was reduced to 12 per cent of the pre-war total. The University Roll of Service records that, in total, 14,792 members of the university served in the war, with 2,716 (18.36%) killed. Not all the members of the university who served in the Great War were on the Allied side; there is a remarkable memorial to members of New College who served in the German armed forces, bearing the inscription, ‘In memory of the men of this college who coming from a foreign land entered into the inheritance of this place and returning fought and died for their country in the war 1914–1918’. During the war years the university buildings became hospitals, cadet schools and military training camps.

    Reforms

    Two parliamentary commissions in 1852 issued recommendations for Oxford and Cambridge. Archibald Campbell Tait, former headmaster of Rugby School, was a key member of the Oxford Commission; he wanted Oxford to follow the German and Scottish model in which the professorship was paramount. The commission’s report envisioned a centralised university run predominantly by professors and faculties, with a much stronger emphasis on research. The professional staff should be strengthened and better paid. For students, restrictions on entry should be dropped, and more opportunities given to poorer families. It called for an enlargement of the curriculum, with honours to be awarded in many new fields. Undergraduate scholarships should be open to all Britons. Graduate fellowships should be opened up to all members of the university. It recommended that fellows be released from an obligation for ordination. Students were to be allowed to save money by boarding in the city, instead of in a college.

    The system of separate honour schools for different subjects began in 1802, with Mathematics and Literae Humaniores. Schools of “Natural Sciences” and “Law, and Modern History” were added in 1853. By 1872, the last of these had split into “Jurisprudence” and “Modern History”. Theology became the sixth honour school. In addition to these B.A. Honours degrees, the postgraduate Bachelor of Civil Law (B.C.L.) was, and still is, offered.

    The mid-19th century saw the impact of the Oxford Movement (1833–1845), led among others by the future Cardinal John Henry Newman. The influence of the reformed model of German universities reached Oxford via key scholars such as Edward Bouverie Pusey, Benjamin Jowett and Max Müller.

    Administrative reforms during the 19th century included the replacement of oral examinations with written entrance tests, greater tolerance for religious dissent, and the establishment of four women’s colleges. Privy Council decisions in the 20th century (e.g. the abolition of compulsory daily worship, dissociation of the Regius Professorship of Hebrew from clerical status, diversion of colleges’ theological bequests to other purposes) loosened the link with traditional belief and practice. Furthermore, although the university’s emphasis had historically been on classical knowledge, its curriculum expanded during the 19th century to include scientific and medical studies. Knowledge of Ancient Greek was required for admission until 1920, and Latin until 1960.

    The University of Oxford began to award doctorates for research in the first third of the 20th century. The first Oxford D.Phil. in mathematics was awarded in 1921.

    The mid-20th century saw many distinguished continental scholars, displaced by Nazism and communism, relocating to Oxford.

    The list of distinguished scholars at the University of Oxford is long and includes many who have made major contributions to politics, the sciences, medicine, and literature. As of October 2020, 72 Nobel laureates and more than 50 world leaders have been affiliated with the University of Oxford.

    To be a member of the university, all students, and most academic staff, must also be a member of a college or hall. There are thirty-nine colleges of the University of Oxford (including Reuben College, planned to admit students in 2021) and six permanent private halls (PPHs), each controlling its membership and with its own internal structure and activities. Not all colleges offer all courses, but they generally cover a broad range of subjects.

    The colleges are:

    All-Souls College
    Balliol College
    Brasenose College
    Christ Church College
    Corpus-Christi College
    Exeter College
    Green-Templeton College
    Harris-Manchester College
    Hertford College
    Jesus College
    Keble College
    Kellogg College
    Lady-Margaret-Hall
    Linacre College
    Lincoln College
    Magdalen College
    Mansfield College
    Merton College
    New College
    Nuffield College
    Oriel College
    Pembroke College
    Queens College
    Reuben College
    St-Anne’s College
    St-Antony’s College
    St-Catherines College
    St-Cross College
    St-Edmund-Hall College
    St-Hilda’s College
    St-Hughs College
    St-John’s College
    St-Peters College
    Somerville College
    Trinity College
    University College
    Wadham College
    Wolfson College
    Worcester College

    The permanent private halls were founded by different Christian denominations. One difference between a college and a PPH is that whereas colleges are governed by the fellows of the college, the governance of a PPH resides, at least in part, with the corresponding Christian denomination. The six current PPHs are:

    Blackfriars
    Campion Hall
    Regent’s Park College
    St Benet’s Hall
    St-Stephen’s Hall
    Wycliffe Hall

    The PPHs and colleges join as the Conference of Colleges, which represents the common concerns of the several colleges of the university, to discuss matters of shared interest and to act collectively when necessary, such as in dealings with the central university. The Conference of Colleges was established as a recommendation of the Franks Commission in 1965.

    Teaching members of the colleges (i.e. fellows and tutors) are collectively and familiarly known as dons, although the term is rarely used by the university itself. In addition to residential and dining facilities, the colleges provide social, cultural, and recreational activities for their members. Colleges have responsibility for admitting undergraduates and organizing their tuition; for graduates, this responsibility falls upon the departments. There is no common title for the heads of colleges: the titles used include Warden, Provost, Principal, President, Rector, Master and Dean.

    Oxford is regularly ranked within the top 5 universities in the world and is currently ranked first in the world in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, as well as the Forbes’s World University Rankings. It held the number one position in The Times Good University Guide for eleven consecutive years, and the medical school has also maintained first place in the “Clinical, Pre-Clinical & Health” table of The Times Higher Education World University Rankings for the past seven consecutive years. In 2021, it ranked sixth among the universities around the world by SCImago Institutions Rankings. The Times Higher Education has also recognised Oxford as one of the world’s “six super brands” on its World Reputation Rankings, along with The University of California-Berkeley, The University of Cambridge (UK), Harvard University, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University. The university is fifth worldwide on the US News ranking. Its Saïd Business School came 13th in the world in The Financial Times Global MBA Ranking.
    Oxford was ranked ninth in the world in 2015 by The Nature Index, which measures the largest contributors to papers published in 82 leading journals. It is ranked fifth best university worldwide and first in Britain for forming CEOs according to The Professional Ranking World Universities, and first in the UK for the quality of its graduates as chosen by the recruiters of the UK’s major companies.

    In the 2018 Complete University Guide, all 38 subjects offered by Oxford rank within the top 10 nationally meaning Oxford was one of only two multi-faculty universities (along with Cambridge) in the UK to have 100% of their subjects in the top 10. Computer Science, Medicine, Philosophy, Politics and Psychology were ranked first in the UK by the guide.

    According to The QS World University Rankings by Subject, the University of Oxford also ranks as number one in the world for four Humanities disciplines: English Language and Literature, Modern Languages, Geography, and History. It also ranks second globally for Anthropology, Archaeology, Law, Medicine, Politics & International Studies, and Psychology.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:52 am on September 20, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Impact Crater off the African Coast May Be Linked to Chicxulub", A possibility is that one or more asteroids collided somewhere in deep space—most likely in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter—and an ensemble of cosmic shrapnel traveled en masse to Earth, , Asteroids, , , Perhaps a breakup of a common parent asteroid occurred on Earth 66 million years ago resulting in the two impacts., Researchers have uncovered another crater off the coast of West Africa that might well be Chicxulub’s cousin.   

    From “Eos” : “Impact Crater off the African Coast May Be Linked to Chicxulub” 

    Eos news bloc

    From “Eos”

    AT

    AGU

    9.19.22
    Katherine Kornei

    1
    Scientists hope to drill into a newly discovered impact crater off the west coast of Africa to explore how it’s linked—if it is—to the famous Chicxulub impact 66 million years ago. Credit: iStock.com/guvendemir.

    In the world of impact craters, Chicxulub is a celebrity: The 180-kilometer-diameter maw, in the Gulf of Mexico, was created by a cataclysmic asteroid impact at the end of the Cretaceous that spelled the demise of most dinosaurs. But researchers have now uncovered another crater off the coast of West Africa that might well be Chicxulub’s cousin. The newly discovered feature, albeit much smaller, is also about 66 million years old. That’s a curious coincidence, and scientists are now wondering whether the two impact structures might be linked. Perhaps Chicxulub and the newly discovered feature—dubbed Nadir crater—formed from the breakup of a parent asteroid or as part of an impact cluster, the team suggested. These results were published in Science Advances [below].

    Rocks of Concern

    Every day, tons of cosmic dust rain down on our planet. That microscopic debris poses no danger to life on Earth, but its larger brethren are very much cause for concern: A space rock measuring hundreds of meters in size is apt to cause regional destruction, and the arrival of something measuring kilometers in size could spell global havoc. That’s what happened 66 million years ago when a roughly 12-kilometer-wide asteroid slammed into a shallow reef in the Gulf of Mexico. That event, now known as Chicxulub after the small town that’s grown up nearby in Mexico, launched shock waves, powerful tsunamis, and blasts of superheated air that decimated life in the vicinity. And airborne particles—bits of dust, soot, and sulfate aerosols born from the sulfur-rich rocks that existed at the Chicxulub impact site—choked the atmosphere and plunged the entire planet into a sunlight-starved “impact winter” that lasted for years. When the air finally cleared, over 75% of all species had gone extinct.

    The newly discovered Nadir crater appears to have formed right around the same time as that cataclysm. Uisdean Nicholson, a sedimentary geologist at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and his colleagues discovered the candidate crater while they were poring over observations of seafloor sediments originally collected for oil and gas exploration. The team spotted the roughly 8-kilometer-wide structure in seismic reflection imaging data obtained off the coast of West Africa. “It was pure serendipity,” said Nicholson.

    Signs of an Impact

    The putative crater is buried under roughly 300 meters of sediments topped by 900 meters of water, and its appearance strongly suggests it was created by a hypervelocity impact, said Nicholson. For starters, it’s circular in shape, with a pronounced rim. Second, it contains a small central peak, a feature that often arises in large impact craters. And perhaps most important, there’s clear evidence of deformed sediments—caused by faulting and folding—persisting hundreds of meters below what would be the crater floor. “There’s a lot of things that suggest it’s an impact,” said Gavin Kenny, a geochemist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm who was not involved in the research.

    3
    Fig. 1. Map and regional seismic sections showing location of Nadir Crater.
    (A) Regional bathymetry map of the Guinea Plateau and Guinea Terrace showing location of 2D seismic reflection and well data used in this study. JS, Jane Seamount; NS, Nadir Seamount; PS, Porter Seamount. The white dashed line shows the NE extent of high-amplitude discontinuous seismic facies at the top Maastrichtian interpreted as ejecta deposits and associated tsunami deposits. The north-east limit of this facies closely corresponds with the Maastrichtian shelf-slope break at the landward margin of the Guinea Terrace. Inset map shows a paleogeographic reconstruction of the Atlantic near the end of the Cretaceous, ~66 Ma ago, made using GPlates software (58). Ch, Chicxulub Crater; Nd, Nadir Crater; Bo, Boltysh Crater. (B). Regional composite 2D seismic reflection profile extending from the GU-2B-1 well in the east to the deep Atlantic basin in the west, showing the structural and stratigraphic character of the Guinea Plateau and Guinea Terrace. (C) North-South seismic profile from the salt basin in the north to the Nadir Seamount, south of the Guinea Fracture Zone. Data courtesy of the Republic of Guinea and TGS.

    4
    Fig. 2. Seismic characteristics of the Nadir Crater.
    (A) Seabed depth map of crater showing seismic line locations and the mapped extent of the crater rim and damage zone. (B) W-E seismic section (pre-stack depth migration – depth domain) across the crater, highlighting the crater morphology and damage zone, and the extent of subsurface deformation. Data courtesy of the Republic of Guinea, TGS and WesternGeco. Stratigraphic key is on Fig. 1. (C) Detailed seismic stratigraphic and structural elements of the crater. KP, Cretaceous-Paleogene sequence (KP1 equivalent to Top Maastrichtian); KU, Upper Cretaceous seismic horizons. KU1 and KP1 “regionals” are schematic reconstructions of these seismic horizons before formation of the crater at the end of the Cretaceous and are used to reconstruct a conceptual model of crater formation (Fig. 5). (D) SW-NE seismic section (pre-stack time migration – time domain) across the crater, showing crater morphology and seismic facies outside the crater, including high-amplitude seismic facies sitting above a ~100-ms-thick unit of chaotic reflections, interpreted to have formed as a result of seismic shaking following the impact event. Data courtesy of the Republic of Guinea and WesternGeco Multiclient.

    More mapping images are available in the science paper.

    Numerical simulations run by team member Veronica Bray, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, have suggested that the impactor was about 400 meters in diameter. The arrival of such an object moving at roughly 20 kilometers per second would have produced tsunami waves more than a kilometer in height and ground shaking equivalent to that of a magnitude 7 earthquake, Bray estimated. But the mayhem that ensued, intense as it was, was mostly limited to a regional scale, said Bray. “This wasn’t a global killer.”


    Computer Simulation of the Nadir Impact Event.
    Hydrocode simulation of the impact of a 400m asteroid into an 800m ocean, performed by Veronica Bray at the University of Arizona. This is the best-fit simulation from our Nadir Crater discovery paper. In future, we are aiming to drill into the crater. This will allow us to confirm whether the crater is due to an asteroid impact, and to determine its age. Current estimates of its age, based on its position in the rock layers, suggest it is of similar age to the Chicxulub – Dinosaur killer – impact. But we’ll only be sure when we get that all-important drill core!

    On the basis of assemblages of microfossils unearthed close to Nadir crater, Nicholson and his colleagues estimated that this feature formed at or near the end of the Cretaceous period. But it’s too simplistic to assume that a pair of gravitationally bound asteroids—a binary asteroid—formed Chicxulub and Nadir crater in a one-two punch, the authors suggested. That’s because of the extreme distance between the two sites 66 million years ago: roughly 5,500 kilometers. (They’re even farther apart now—about 8,000 kilometers—because of spreading of the Atlantic seafloor.) Binary asteroids tend to hit much closer to one another: The one example on Earth of a so-called “impact doublet” formed by a binary asteroid is characterized by craters just a little over 10 kilometers apart. “So Chicxulub and Nadir couldn’t have formed from a direct hit of a binary asteroid,” said Nicholson.

    Looking to Jupiter

    A more likely scenario, Nicholson and his collaborators suggested, is something akin to what happened to comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. In 1992, the roughly 2-kilometer-diameter comet had fragmented into more than 20 pieces after passing very close to Jupiter. Two years later, those fragments slammed into the gas giant over the course of several days, creating a series of dark scars that stretched across a wide swath of the planet.

    Perhaps a similar breakup of a common parent asteroid occurred on Earth 66 million years ago, Nicholson and his colleagues proposed. An asteroid—there’s good evidence that the Chicxulub impact was due to an asteroid rather than a comet—orbiting Earth could have been torn apart by our planet’s gravity. Those fragments could have then dispersed sufficiently in space such that they smashed into Earth within days of one another yet in very disparate locations, the researchers suggested.

    Another possibility is that one or more asteroids collided somewhere in deep space—most likely in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter—and an ensemble of cosmic shrapnel traveled en masse to Earth. The result would have been an uptick in cratering that persisted not over days, as in the case of the breakup of a common parent asteroid, but over a million or so years. Scientists are aware of only one such event—known as an impact cluster—in Earth’s history, and it occurred roughly 460 million years ago. “We think an asteroid parent body broke up somewhere in the solar system and sent material flying towards Earth,” said Kenny.

    The impact cluster scenario might be more likely, Nicholson and his colleagues suggested. That’s because a third large crater—the 24-kilometer-diameter Boltysh crater in central Ukraine—also dates to around 66 million years ago. Research published last year suggested that Boltysh formed just 650,000 years after the Chicxulub impact.

    There’s also the possibility that Nadir crater was simply created by an unrelated impact, Nicholson and his colleagues acknowledged. Perhaps a stroke of bad cosmic luck led to Earth being pummeled in relatively close succession.

    Going Deep

    It’s clearly key to more precisely constrain the age of Nadir crater, Nicholson and his collaborators maintain. Right now, the uncertainty in the structure’s age is about a million years, and that’s too large to discriminate between the breakup of a common parent asteroid and impact cluster scenarios. Drilling sediment cores from the crater would allow scientists to look for stratigraphic signatures like the iridium layer from Chicxulub that could yield a much more precise date. Nicholson and his colleagues recently submitted a drilling proposal to the International Ocean Discovery Program to do just that.

    Science paper:
    Science Advances

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    “Eos” is the leading source for trustworthy news and perspectives about the Earth and space sciences and their impact. Its namesake is Eos, the Greek goddess of the dawn, who represents the light shed on understanding our planet and its environment in space by the Earth and space sciences.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:30 am on September 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Igneous provinces": giant fingerprints of volcanic igneous rock., , "What Killed Dinosaurs and Other Life on Earth?", A series of eruptions in what is now known as Siberia triggered the most destructive of the mass extinctions about 252 million years ago., , Asteroids, , , , Dartmouth-led study fortifies link between mega volcanoes and mass extinctions., , , , Large igneous provinces releasa gigantic pulses of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nearly choking off all life., , , , The eruption rate of the Deccan Traps in India suggests that the stage was set for widespread extinction even without the asteroid., The total amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in modern climate change is still very much smaller than the amount emitted by a large igneous province., To count as “large” an igneous province must contain at least 100000 cubic kilometers of magma., Volcanic eruptions rocked the Indian subcontinent around the time of the great dinosaur die-off creating what is known today as the Deccan plateau.,   

    From Dartmouth College: “What Killed Dinosaurs and Other Life on Earth?” 

    From Dartmouth College

    9.12.22
    Harini Barath

    Dartmouth-led study fortifies link between mega volcanoes and mass extinctions.

    1
    The Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano, near Iceland’s capital of Reykjavík, erupted for six months in 2021, and also again in August. (Photo by Tanya Grypachevskaya/Unsplash Photo Community)

    The biological history of the Earth has been punctuated by mass extinctions that wiped out a vast majority of living species in a geological instant.

    Based on evidence in the fossil record, scientists have identified five such events that reshaped life on Earth, the most familiar of which brought about the demise of the mighty dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period 66 million years ago.

    What caused these catastrophes remains a matter of keen scientific debate. Some scientists argue that comets or asteroids that crashed into Earth were the most likely agents of mass destruction, while others point fingers at large volcanic eruptions.

    Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences Brenhin Keller belongs to the latter camp. In a new study published in PNAS [below], Keller and his co-authors make a strong case for volcanic activity being the key driver of mass extinctions. Their study provides the most compelling quantitative evidence so far that the link between major volcanic eruptions and wholesale species turnover is not simply a matter of chance.

    Four of the five mass extinctions are contemporaneous with a type of volcano called a flood basalt, the researchers say. These are a series of eruptions (or one giant one) that flood vast areas with lava in the blink of a geological eye, a mere million years. They leave behind giant fingerprints as evidence—extensive regions of step-like, igneous rock that geologists call large igneous provinces.

    To count as “large” an igneous province must contain at least 100,000 cubic kilometers of magma. For scale, the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens involved less than one cubic kilometer of magma.

    In fact, a series of eruptions in what is now known as Siberia triggered the most destructive of the mass extinctions about 252 million years ago, releasing a gigantic pulse of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and nearly choking off all life. Bearing witness are the Siberian Traps, a large region of volcanic rock roughly the size of Australia.

    Volcanic eruptions also rocked the Indian subcontinent around the time of the great dinosaur die-off creating what is known today as the Deccan plateau. This, much like an asteroid strike, would have had far-reaching global effects, blanketing the atmosphere in dust and toxic fumes, asphyxiating dinosaurs and other life.

    “It seems like these large igneous provinces line up in time with mass extinctions and other significant climactic and environmental events,” says Theodore Green ’21, lead author of the paper.

    On the other hand, the researchers say, the theories in favor of annihilation by asteroid impact hinge upon the Chicxulub impactor, a space rock that crash-landed into Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula around the same time that the dinosaurs went extinct.

    “All other theories that attempted to explain what killed the dinosaurs got steamrolled when the crater the asteroid had gouged out was discovered,” says Keller. But there’s very little evidence of similar impact events that coincide with the other mass extinctions despite decades of exploration, he points out.

    For his Senior Fellowship thesis, Green set out to find a way to quantify the apparent link between eruptions and extinctions and test whether the coincidence was just chance or whether there was evidence of a causal relationship between the two. Working with Keller and co-author Paul Renne, professor of Earth and planetary science at the University of California-Berkeley, Green turned to the supercomputers at the Dartmouth Discovery Cluster to crunch the numbers.

    2
    Discovery is a 3000+ core Linux cluster that is available to the Dartmouth research community.

    Discovery contains ‘C’ and FORTRAN compilers as well as third party applications. Requests to install additional application software are welcomed and should be directed to Research Computing.

    Job submissions on Discovery are submitted to a queue. A queuing system allows for more equitable allocation of resources and optimizes cpu usage. For more information see the Scheduling Jobs to Run page.

    Discovery is available for all Dartmouth faculty research including the Geisel School of Medicine, and professional schools.

    The researchers compared the best available estimates of flood basalt eruptions with periods of drastic species kill-off in the geological timescale, including but not limited to the five mass extinctions. To prove that the timing was more than a random chance, they examined whether the eruptions would line up just as well with a randomly generated pattern and repeated the exercise with 100 million such patterns. “Less than 1% of the simulated timelines agreed as well as the actual record of flood basalts and extinctions, suggesting the relationship is not just random chance,” says Green, who is now a graduate student at Princeton.

    But is this proof enough that volcanic flood basalts sparked extinctions? If there were a causal link, scientists expect that larger eruptions would entail more severe extinctions, but such a correlation has not been observed until now.

    By recasting how the severity of the eruptions is defined, the researchers make a convincing case to unequivocally incriminate volcanoes in their paper.

    Rather than considering the absolute magnitude of eruptions, they ordered the events by the rate at which they spewed lava and found that the ones with the highest eruptive rates did indeed cause the most destruction.

    “Our results make it hard to ignore the role of volcanism in extinction,” says Keller.

    3
    Examples of flood basalt volcanism can be seen in what are known as Grande Ronde flows exposed in Joseph Canyon on the Oregon-Washington border. (Photo courtesy of Brenhin Keller)

    The researchers ran the numbers for asteroids too. The coincidence of impacts with periods of species turnover was significantly weaker, and only worsened when the Chicxulub impactor was not considered.

    The eruption rate of the Deccan Traps in India suggests that the stage was set for widespread extinction even without the asteroid, says Green. The impact was the double whammy that loudly sounded the death knell for the dinosaurs, he adds.

    Flood basalt eruptions aren’t common in the geologic record, says Green. The last one of comparable scale happened about 16 million years ago in the Pacific Northwest. But there are other sources of emissions that pose a threat in the present day, the researchers say.

    “While the total amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in modern climate change is still very much smaller than the amount emitted by a large igneous province, thankfully,” says Keller, “we’re emitting it very fast, which is reason to be concerned.”

    Green says that this rate of carbon dioxide emissions places climate change in the framework of historical periods of environmental catastrophe.

    Green describes Dartmouth’s Senior Fellowship program, which allows undergraduates to go beyond the curriculum in their senior year, as a unique opportunity to dive into a field of his choice and develop a taste for research.

    “This work is a great example of what Senior Fellows can achieve,” says Keller.

    Science paper:
    PNAS

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Dartmouth College campus

    Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League research university in Hanover, New Hampshire. Established in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock, Dartmouth is one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution and among the most prestigious in the United States. Although founded to educate Native Americans in Christian theology and the English way of life, the university primarily trained Congregationalist ministers during its early history before it gradually secularized, emerging at the turn of the 20th century from relative obscurity into national prominence.

    Following a liberal arts curriculum, Dartmouth provides undergraduate instruction in 40 academic departments and interdisciplinary programs, including 60 majors in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering, and enables students to design specialized concentrations or engage in dual degree programs. In addition to the undergraduate faculty of arts and sciences, Dartmouth has four professional and graduate schools: the Geisel School of Medicine, the Thayer School of Engineering, the Tuck School of Business, and the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies. The university also has affiliations with the Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center. Dartmouth is home to the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, the Hood Museum of Art, the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding, and the Hopkins Center for the Arts. With a student enrollment of about 6,700, Dartmouth is the smallest university in the Ivy League. Undergraduate admissions are highly selective with an acceptance rate of 6.24% for the class of 2026, including a 4.7% rate for regular decision applicants.

    Situated on a terrace above the Connecticut River, Dartmouth’s 269-acre (109 ha) main campus is in the rural Upper Valley region of New England. The university functions on a quarter system, operating year-round on four ten-week academic terms. Dartmouth is known for its strong undergraduate focus, Greek culture, and wide array of enduring campus traditions. Its 34 varsity sports teams compete intercollegiately in the Ivy League conference of the NCAA Division I.

    Dartmouth is consistently cited as a leading university for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News & World Report. In 2021, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education listed Dartmouth as the only majority-undergraduate, arts-and-sciences focused, doctoral university in the country that has “some graduate coexistence” and “very high research activity”.

    The university has many prominent alumni, including 170 members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, 24 U.S. governors, 23 billionaires, 8 U.S. Cabinet secretaries, 3 Nobel Prize laureates, 2 U.S. Supreme Court justices, and a U.S. vice president. Other notable alumni include 79 Rhodes Scholars, 26 Marshall Scholarship recipients, and 14 Pulitzer Prize winners. Dartmouth alumni also include many CEOs and founders of Fortune 500 corporations, high-ranking U.S. diplomats, academic scholars, literary and media figures, professional athletes, and Olympic medalists.

    Comprising an undergraduate population of 4,307 and a total student enrollment of 6,350 (as of 2016), Dartmouth is the smallest university in the Ivy League. Its undergraduate program, which reported an acceptance rate around 10 percent for the class of 2020, is characterized by the Carnegie Foundation and U.S. News & World Report as “most selective”. Dartmouth offers a broad range of academic departments, an extensive research enterprise, numerous community outreach and public service programs, and the highest rate of study abroad participation in the Ivy League.

    Dartmouth, a liberal arts institution, offers a four-year Bachelor of Arts and ABET-accredited Bachelor of Engineering degree to undergraduate students. The college has 39 academic departments offering 56 major programs, while students are free to design special majors or engage in dual majors. For the graduating class of 2017, the most popular majors were economics, government, computer science, engineering sciences, and history. The Government Department, whose prominent professors include Stephen Brooks, Richard Ned Lebow, and William Wohlforth, was ranked the top solely undergraduate political science program in the world by researchers at The London School of Economics (UK) in 2003. The Economics Department, whose prominent professors include David Blanchflower and Andrew Samwick, also holds the distinction as the top-ranked bachelor’s-only economics program in the world.

    In order to graduate, a student must complete 35 total courses, eight to ten of which are typically part of a chosen major program. Other requirements for graduation include the completion of ten “distributive requirements” in a variety of academic fields, proficiency in a foreign language, and completion of a writing class and first-year seminar in writing. Many departments offer honors programs requiring students seeking that distinction to engage in “independent, sustained work”, culminating in the production of a thesis. In addition to the courses offered in Hanover, Dartmouth offers 57 different off-campus programs, including Foreign Study Programs, Language Study Abroad programs, and Exchange Programs.

    Through the Graduate Studies program, Dartmouth grants doctorate and master’s degrees in 19 Arts & Sciences graduate programs. Although the first graduate degree, a PhD in classics, was awarded in 1885, many of the current PhD programs have only existed since the 1960s. Furthermore, Dartmouth is home to three professional schools: the Geisel School of Medicine (established 1797), Thayer School of Engineering (1867)—which also serves as the undergraduate department of engineering sciences—and Tuck School of Business (1900). With these professional schools and graduate programs, conventional American usage would accord Dartmouth the label of “Dartmouth University”; however, because of historical and nostalgic reasons (such as Dartmouth College v. Woodward), the school uses the name “Dartmouth College” to refer to the entire institution.

    Dartmouth employs a total of 607 tenured or tenure-track faculty members, including the highest proportion of female tenured professors among the Ivy League universities, and the first black woman tenure-track faculty member in computer science at an Ivy League university. Faculty members have been at the forefront of such major academic developments as the Dartmouth Workshop, the Dartmouth Time Sharing System, Dartmouth BASIC, and Dartmouth ALGOL 30. In 2005, sponsored project awards to Dartmouth faculty research amounted to $169 million.

    Dartmouth serves as the host institution of the University Press of New England, a university press founded in 1970 that is supported by a consortium of schools that also includes Brandeis University, The University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University, Tufts University and The University of Vermont.

    Rankings

    Dartmouth was ranked tied for 13th among undergraduate programs at national universities by U.S. News & World Report in its 2021 rankings. U.S. News also ranked the school 2nd best for veterans, tied for 5th best in undergraduate teaching, and 9th for “best value” at national universities in 2020. Dartmouth’s undergraduate teaching was previously ranked 1st by U.S. News for five years in a row (2009–2013). Dartmouth College is accredited by The New England Commission of Higher Education.

    In Forbes’ 2019 rankings of 650 universities, liberal arts colleges and service academies, Dartmouth ranked 10th overall and 10th in research universities. In the Forbes 2018 “grateful graduate” rankings, Dartmouth came in first for the second year in a row.

    The 2021 Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked Dartmouth among the 90–110th best universities in the nation. However, this specific ranking has drawn criticism from scholars for not adequately adjusting for the size of an institution, which leads to larger institutions ranking above smaller ones like Dartmouth. Dartmouth’s small size and its undergraduate focus also disadvantage its ranking in other international rankings because ranking formulas favor institutions with a large number of graduate students.

    The 2006 Carnegie Foundation classification listed Dartmouth as the only “majority-undergraduate”, “arts-and-sciences focus[ed]”, “research university” in the country that also had “some graduate coexistence” and “very high research activity”.

    The Dartmouth Plan

    Dartmouth functions on a quarter system, operating year-round on four ten-week academic terms. The Dartmouth Plan (or simply “D-Plan”) is an academic scheduling system that permits the customization of each student’s academic year. All undergraduates are required to be in residence for the fall, winter, and spring terms of their freshman and senior years, as well as the summer term of their sophomore year. However, students may petition to alter this plan so that they may be off during their freshman, senior, or sophomore summer terms. During all terms, students are permitted to choose between studying on-campus, studying at an off-campus program, or taking a term off for vacation, outside internships, or research projects. The typical course load is three classes per term, and students will generally enroll in classes for 12 total terms over the course of their academic career.

    The D-Plan was instituted in the early 1970s at the same time that Dartmouth began accepting female undergraduates. It was initially devised as a plan to increase the enrollment without enlarging campus accommodations, and has been described as “a way to put 4,000 students into 3,000 beds”. Although new dormitories have been built since, the number of students has also increased and the D-Plan remains in effect. It was modified in the 1980s in an attempt to reduce the problems of lack of social and academic continuity.

    3

     
  • richardmitnick 9:57 am on June 24, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Arecibo Observatory Scientists Help Unravel Surprise Asteroid Mystery", , Asteroids, , , ,   

    From The University of Central Florida : “Arecibo Observatory Scientists Help Unravel Surprise Asteroid Mystery” 

    From The University of Central Florida

    June 23, 2022
    Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala

    A team from the observatory publish their findings ahead of Asteroid Day, a U.N. designation aimed at increasing awareness about the threats some asteroids pose.

    1
    There are almost 30,000 known asteroids according to Center for Near Earth Studies and while few pose an immediate threat, there is a chance one of significant size could hit the earth and cause catastrophic damage. That’s why the work of researchers like UCF’s Luisa Fernanda Zambrano-Marin is so important. Photo: Stock image.

    When asteroid 2019 OK suddenly appeared barreling toward Earth on July 25, 2019, Luisa Fernanda Zambrano-Marin and the team at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico jumped into action.

    After getting an alert, the radar scientists zoned in on the asteroid, which was coming from Earth’s blind spot — solar opposition. Zambrano-Marin and the team had 30 minutes to get as many radar readings as they could. It was traveling so fast, that’s all the time she’d have it in Arecibo’s sights. UCF manages the Arecibo Observatory for the U.S. National Science Foundation under a cooperative agreement.

    The asteroid made headline news because it appeared to come out of nowhere and was traveling fast.

    Zambrano-Marin’s findings were published in the Planetary Science Journal June 10, just a few weeks before the world observes Asteroid Day, which is June 30 and promotes global awareness to help educate the public about these potential threats.

    “It was a real challenge,” says Zambrano-Marin, a UCF planetary scientist. “No one saw it until it was practically passing by, so when we got the alert, we had very little time to act. Even so, we were able to capture a lot of valuable information.”

    It turns out the asteroid was between .04 and .08 miles in diameter and was moving fast. It was rotating at 3 to 5 minutes. That means it is part of only 4.2 percent of the known fast rotating asteroids. This is a growing group that the researchers say need more attention.

    The data indicates that the asteroid is likely a C-type, which are made up of clay and silicate rocks, or S-type, which are made up of silicate and nickel-iron. C-type asteroids are among the most common and some of the oldest in our solar system. S-type are the second most common.

    Zambrano-Marin is now inspecting the data collected through Arecibo’s Planetary Radar database to continue her research. Although the observatory’s telescope collapsed in 2020, the Planetary Radar team can tap the existing data bank that spans four decades. Science operations continue in the areas of space and atmospheric sciences, and the staff is refurbishing 12-meter antennae to continue with astronomy research.

    “We can use new data from other observatories and compare it to the observations we have made here over the past 40 years,” Zambrano-Marin says. “The radar data not only helps confirm information from optical observations, but it can help us identify physical and dynamical characteristics, which in turn could give us insights into appropriate deflection techniques if they were needed to protect the planet.”
    ===
    There are almost 30,000 known asteroids according to Center for Near Earth Studies and while few pose an immediate threat, there is a chance one of significant size could hit the earth and cause catastrophic damage. That’s why NASA keeps a close watch and system to detect and characterize objects once they are found. NASA and other space agencies nations have been launching missions to explore Near-Earth Asteroids to better understand what they are made of and how they move in anticipation of having to divert one heading for earth in the future.

    The OSIRIS REx mission, which includes UCF Pegasus Professor of Physics Humberto Campins, is headed back to Earth with a sample of asteroid Bennu, which gave scientists a few surprises.

    Bennu was first observed at Arecibo in 1999. A new mission — NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission — aims to demonstrate the ability to redirect an asteroid using the kinetic energy of a projectile.

    The spacecraft launched in November 2021 and is expected to reach its target — the Dimorphos asteroid — on September 26, 2022.

    Zambrano-Marin and the rest of the team at Arecibo are working on providing the scientific community with more information about the many kinds of asteroids in the solar system to help come up with contingency plans.

    This week the team at the Arecibo Observatory is holding a series of special events as part of the Asteroid Day awareness campaign. They include presentations, “ask a scientist” stations for those visiting the science museum at Arecibo, and on June 25 presentations about the DART mission in English and Spanish. The timing couldn’t be better as there are five known asteroids from the size of a car to a Boeing 747 that will be buzzing Earth before Asteroid Day, according to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory that keeps track of the celestial bodies for NASA. The closest approach is on June 25 with an object coming within 475,000 miles of Earth. For comparison, the moon is about 239,000 miles from Earth.

    Zambrano-Marin has multiple degrees including a bachelor’s degree in applied physics from the Ana G. Mendez University System and a master’s in space sciences from the International Space University in France. She has published more than 20 articles and is a frequent speaker and presenter at conference around the world. She previously worked at the Vatican Observatory and as a consultant to the Caribbean University president. In addition to working on the planetary radar group at Arecibo, Zambrano-Marin also created the Arecibo Observatory Space Academy, an 18-week research program for pre-college students in Puerto Rico.

    The other team members on the study are: Sean Marshal, Maxime Devogele, Anne Virkki, and Flaviane Venditti from the Arecibo Observatory/UCF; Dylan C. Hickson formerly from Arecibo/UCF and now at Center for Wave Phenomena, Colorado School of Mines; Ellen S. Howell from Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona, Tucson; Patrick Taylor and Edgard Rivera-Valentin from Lunar and Planetary Institute, Universities Space Research Association, Houston; and Jon Giorgini from Solar System Dynamics Group, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded in 1963 by the Florida Legislature, The University of Central Florida opened in 1968 as Florida Technological University, with the mission of providing personnel to support the growing U.S. space program at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Florida’s Space Coast. As the school’s academic scope expanded beyond engineering and technology, Florida Tech was renamed The University of Central Florida in 1978. UCF’s space roots continue, as it leads the NASA Florida Space Grant Consortium. Initial enrollment was 1,948 students; enrollment today exceeds 66,000 students from 157 countries, all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

    Most of the student population is on the university’s main campus, 13 miles (21 km) east of downtown Orlando and 35 miles (56 km) west of Cape Canaveral. The university offers more than 200 degrees through 13 colleges at 10 regional campuses in Central Florida, the Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management in south Orlando and the Center for Emerging Media in downtown Orlando.[13] Since its founding, UCF has awarded more than 290,000 degrees, including over 50,000 graduate and professional degrees, to over 260,000 alumni worldwide.

    UCF is a space-grant university. Its official colors are black and gold, and the university logo is Pegasus, which “symbolizes the university’s vision of limitless possibilities.” The university’s intercollegiate sports teams, known as the “UCF Knights” and represented by mascot Knightro, compete in NCAA Division I and the American Athletic Conference.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:11 am on June 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "What happened before during and after solar system formation? A recent study of the Asteroid Ryugu holds the answers!", Among the organic materials identified were amino acids, Asteroids, Asteroids such as Ryugu may have seeded the Earth with the raw materials required for the origin of life., Okayama University of Science [岡山理科大学](JP), Ryugu contains the most primitive pre-solar nebular (an ancient disk of gas and dust surrounding what would become the Sun) material yet identified., Some organic materials may have been inherited from before the solar system formed., which are the building blocks of the proteins that are in all living things on Earth.   

    From Okayama University of Science [岡山理科大学](JP): “What happened before during and after solar system formation? A recent study of the Asteroid Ryugu holds the answers!” 

    From Okayama University of Science [岡山理科大学](JP)

    June 10, 2022

    A team of scientists undertake a comprehensive analysis of samples returned from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hayabusa 2 mission and provide invaluable insights into the formation and evolution of our solar system.

    Summary

    The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa 2 mission returned uncontaminated primitive asteroid samples to Earth. A comprehensive analysis of 16 particles from the asteroid Ryugu revealed many insights into the processes that operated before, during and after the formation of the solar system, with some still shaping the surface of the present-day asteroid. Elemental and isotopic data revealed that Ryugu contains the most primitive pre-solar nebular (an ancient disk of gas and dust surrounding what would become the Sun) material yet identified and that some organic materials may have been inherited from before the solar system formed. Among the organic materials identified were amino acids, which are the building blocks of the proteins that are in all living things on Earth. The discovery of protein forming amino acids in uncontaminated asteroid samples indicates that asteroids such as Ryugu may have seeded the Earth with the raw materials required for the origin of life. Furthermore, Ryugu samples provided both physical and chemical evidence that Ryugu originated from a large (at least several 10’s of km) icy body in outer solar system, which experienced aqueous alteration (complex chemical reactions involving liquid water). The icy body was then broken up to yield a comet-like fragment (several km in size). The fragment evolved through sublimation of ice to yield the dry porous asteroid observed today. Subsequently, space weathering, involving the bombardment of the asteroid by particles from the sun and distant stars, altered the surface materials, such as organic matter, to give materials with a distinct albedo (reflective properties), defining how the asteroid currently appears.

    _________________________________________________

    1
    Figure 1. The external appearance of several representative Ryugu particles.

    2
    Figure 2. The internal characteristics of representative portions of the Ryugu particles.

    3
    Figure 3. An overview of the aqueous fluid related processes that affected the Ryugu particles, including aqueous alteration and freeze-thaw cycling.

    4
    Figure 4. An illustration explaining the timing and mechanism behind the heat source for the melting of ice on the icy planetesimal progenitor of Ryugu.

    5
    Figure 5. An overview of the processes that led to the formation and evolution of current day Ryugu.

    6
    Figure 6. The dynamical evolution of the comet-like planetesimal fragment that would become Ryugu.
    _________________________________________________

    Asteroids and comets represent the material that was left over after the formation of the planets that orbit the Sun. Such bodies would have initially formed in a vast disk of gas and dust (protosolar nebular) around what would eventually become the Sun (protosun) and thus can preserve clues about the processes that operated during this period of the Solar system. The protosolar nebular would have been spinning fastest towards its center and this would have concentrated much of the material within this region. Some of the material then began to fall onto the surface of the protosun, increasing its temperature. The higher temperature of the protosun would have led to an increased output of radiation, which could have caused photoevaporation (evaporation due to energy from light) of the material within the inner solar system. Later, as the inner solar system cooled, new material condensed with distinct compositions to what had been present before. Eventually such materials would stick together to produce large bodies (planetesimals) that would then break up from collisions, with some forming S-type asteroids. One S-type asteroid (Itokawa) was the target of the Hayabusa mission, the predecessor of Hayabusa 2. The samples that were returned to Earth revealed a lot about such asteroids, including how their surfaces are affected by continuous small impacts and confirming identifications made through telescopes on Earth.

    Haybusa 2 targeted a very different type of asteroid, C-type, which unlike S-types preserve far more of the primitive outer solar system material, which was much less affected by heating from the protosun. Initial Earth based telescope and remote sensing information from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft suggested that Ryugu may contain organic matter and small amounts water (stuck to the surface of minerals or contained within their structure). However, C-type asteroids are incredibly hard to study using such methods, because they are very dark and the resulting data has very little information that can be used to identify specific materials. As such, the sample return represented a very important step in improving our understanding of C-type asteroids. Around 5.4 g of sample was returned to the Earth in December 2020 and the samples were initially studied at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) phase-1 curation facility at Sagamihara, Japan. Comprehensive geochemical analysis was begun in June 2021 once the samples had arrived at the phase-2 curation facility of the Pheasant Memorial Laboratory (PML), Institute for Planetary Materials, Okayama University, Japan.

    Initially, the external and physical information of the samples was obtained (Figure 1), but shortly after the particles were cut open using a microtome equipped with a diamond knife. Inside, the particles revealed textures indicative of freeze-thawing and a fine-grained mass of different minerals, with some coarser-grained components being dispersed throughout (Figure 2). The majority of the minerals were hydrous silicates called phyllosilicates (clay), which formed through chemical reactions involving non-hydrous silicate minerals and liquid water (aqueous alteration). Together with the freeze-thaw textures, the evidence indicated that the samples had experienced both liquid and frozen water in the past.

    The aqueous alteration (Figure 3) was found to have peaked before ~2.6 Myr after the formation of the solar system, through analysis of manganese and chromium within magnetite (iron oxide) and dolomite (calcium-magnesium carbonate) minerals. This means that the materials from Ryugu experienced liquid water very early in the Solar System’s history and the heat that melted the ice would have been supplied from radioactive elements (Figure 4) that only survive for a relatively short period of time (almost all would be gone after 5 Myr). After much of the radioactive elements had decayed the body would cool and freeze again. Ryugu also contains chromium, calcium and oxygen isotopes that indicate it preserved the most primitive source of materials from the protosolar nebular. Furthermore, organic materials from Ryugu record primitive isotopic signatures suggestive of their formation within the interstellar medium (the region of space between solar systems) or outer protosolar nebular. Together with the abundant water and the lack of any inner solar system material or signatures, the above findings suggest that the material within Ryugu was stuck together (accreted) and aqueously altered very early in the outer solar system (Figure 5).

    However, to form liquid water, from the heating of a rocky-icy body by radioactive decay, requires the body to be at least several 10’s of km in size. Accordingly, Ryugu must have originally been a part of a much bigger body, termed a planetesimal. Icy planetesimals are thought to be the source of comets, which can be formed by their collisional break up. If the planetesimal precursor of Ryugu was impacted after it had re-frozen, then a comet preserving many of the original textures and physical and chemical properties of the planetesimal could be produced. As a comet the fragment would have needed to move from the outer to inner solar system by some dynamical pathway, involving the interactions of the planets. Once in the inner solar system Ryugu would have then undergone significant sublimation (transition of solid ice to gas). Modelling in a previous study indicated that the sublimation could increase the rate at which Ryugu spins and lead to its distinctive spinning top shape. The sublimation could have also led to the formation of water vapor jets (as seen on the comet 67P) that would have redeposited subsurface material onto the surface and frozen it in place (Figure 6).

    Moreover, the jets may be able to explain some interesting differences between the sampling sites where the Ryugu samples were obtained. The Hayabusa 2 mission sampled material from the very surface at touch down site 1 (TD1) and most likely subsurface material from an artificial impact crater at touch down site 2 (TD2). Some of the TD1 samples show elemental fractionation beyond the mm scale and scattered B and Be abundances. However, all TD2 samples record elemental abundances similar to CI chondrites (a type of meteorite with elemental abundances similar to the Sun) and show no evidence of elemental fractionation over the mm scale. One explanation is that the TD1 site records the material entrained in a jet, brought to the surface of the comet-like fragment from many distinct regions of the subsurface and thus represents a wide variety of compositions. Meanwhile, the TD2 samples may represent material sourced from one part of Ryugu and as such have a more uniform composition.

    After complete sublimation of the ice at the surface of Ryugu, a low density and highly porous rocky asteroid was formed. While water related processes ceased, space weathering began. The surface of Ryugu was bombarded over time by large quantities of energetic particles from solar wind and cosmic rays from the sun and distant stars. The particles modified the materials on the surface of Ryugu, causing the organic matter to alter in terms of its structure. The effects of such a process were more obvious in TD1 particles from the surface of Ryugu when compared to those from TD2, which had likely been brought to the surface during the creation of an artificial impact crater. As such, space weathering is a process that still shapes the surfaces of asteroids today and will continue to do so in the future.

    Despite the effects of space weathering, which act to alter and destroy the information contained within organic matter, primitive organic materials were also detected by the comprehensive geochemical analysis of the Ryugu samples. Amino acids, such as those found within the proteins of every living organism on Earth, were detected in a Ryugu particle. The discovery of protein forming amino acids is important, because Ryugu has not been exposed to the Earth’s biosphere, like meteorites, and as such their detection proves that at least some of the building blocks of life on Earth could have been formed in space environments. Hypotheses concerning the origin of life, such as those involving hydrothermal activity, require sources of amino acids, with meteorites and asteroids like Ryugu representing strong candidates due to their inventory of amino acids and because such material would have been readily delivered to the surface of the early Earth. Additionally, the isotopic characteristics of the Ryugu samples suggest that Ryugu-like material could have supplied the Earth with its water, another resource essential for the origin and sustainment of life on Earth.

    In conjunction the findings reported by the study provide invaluable insights into the processes that have affected the most primitive asteroid sampled by human kind. Such insights have already begun to change our understanding of the events that occurred from before the solar system and up until the current day. Future work on the Ryugu samples will no doubt continue to advance our knowledge of the solar system and beyond.

    See the full article here.

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Okayama University of Science [岡山理科大学](JP) is a private university in Okayama, Okayama, Japan, established in 1964. It is predominately a school of science and engineering.

    Okayama University of Science opened; established Faculty of Science; opened Department of Applied Mathematics and Department of Chemistry
    1966 Opened Department of Applied Chemistry and Department of Applied Physics in Faculty of Science
    1969 Opened Department of Mechanical Science and Department of Electronic Science in Faculty of Science
    1971 Opened Department of Applied Mathematics, Department of Chemistry, Department of Applied Chemistry and Department of Applied Physics in Faculty of Science
    1973 Opened Department of Mechanical Science, Department of Electronic Science in Faculty of Science
    1974 Established Graduate School of Science; Opened Chemistry Master’s Program and Applied Physics Master’s Program
    1975 Opened Department of Basic Science in Faculty of Science
    1976 Opened Department of Applied Mathematics and Department of Information in Faculty of Science
    1978 Opened Material Physics Doctoral Program in Graduate School of Science
    1979 Opened Mechanical Science Master’s Program and Electronic Science Master’s Program in Graduate School of Science
    1980 Opened Applied Mathematics Master’s Program in Graduate School of Science; Opened Department of Applied Chemistry and Department of Environmental Chemistry in Faculty of Science
    1982 Started Electronic Physical Property Course and Information System Course in Department of Electronic Science
    1983 Opened Systems Science Doctoral Program in Graduate School of Science
    1986 Established Faculty of Engineering; Opened Department of Applied Chemistry, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Electronic Engineering
    1987 Opened Applied Mathematics Doctoral Program in the Graduate School of Science
    1988 Opened Department of Biochemistry in Faculty of Science; Opened General Science Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Science
    1990 Opened Applied Chemistry Master’s Program, Mechanical Engineering Master’s Program, Electronic Engineering Master’s Program, and Systems Science Doctoral Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    1992 Opened Department of Information Engineering in Faculty of Engineering; opened Biochemistry Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Science
    1996 Opened Information Engineering Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    1997 Established Faculty of Informatics; opened Department of Mathematics and Information, Department of Simulation Physics, Department of Biosphere-Geosphere System, and Department of Socio Information
    1999 Opened Department of Biochemistry and Department of Clinical Biochemistry in Faculty of Science
    2001 Opened Department of Welfare System Engineering in Faculty of Engineering; Opened Information Science Master’s Program, Simulation Physics Master’s Program, Biosphere-Geosphere Systems Master’s Program, and Socio Information Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Informatics
    2002 Opened Department of Applied Physics and Department of Medical Science in Faculty of Science
    2003 Opened Mathematical and Environmental Systems Doctoral Program in the Graduate School of Informatics
    2004 Opened Department of Life Science in Faculty of Science
    2005 Opened Department of Intelligent Mechanical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineerng; opened Welfare Systems Engineering Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    2006 Opened Department of Applied Chemistry and Biotechnology in Faculty of Engineering
    2007 Opened Department of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in Faculty of Engineering; Opened Department of Architecture in Faculty of Informatics
    2008 Opened Department of Zoology in Faculty of Science; opened Life Science Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Science
    2009 Started Engineering Project Course in Faculty of Engineering; Opened Intelligent Mechanical Engineering Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    2011 Switched Department of Architecture to Faculty of Engineering; Opened Biomedical Engineering Master’s Program and Architecture Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    2012 Established Faculty of Biosphere-Geosphere Science, opened Department of Biosphere-Geosphere Science;
    Opened Zoology Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Science
    2015 Opened Department of Biomedical Engineering in Faculty of Engineering
    2016 Established Faculty of Education, opened Department of Elementary Education and Department of Secondary Education; opened Biosphere-Geosphere Science Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Biosphere-Geosphere Science
    2017 Established Faculty of Management, opened Department of Management
    2018 Established Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, opened Department of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Veterinary Associated Science

    1966 Opened Department of Applied Chemistry and Department of Applied Physics in Faculty of Science
    1969 Opened Department of Mechanical Science and Department of Electronic Science in Faculty of Science
    1971 Opened Department of Applied Mathematics, Department of Chemistry, Department of Applied Chemistry and Department of Applied Physics in Faculty of Science
    1973 Opened Department of Mechanical Science, Department of Electronic Science in Faculty of Science
    1974 Established Graduate School of Science; Opened Chemistry Master’s Program and Applied Physics Master’s Program
    1975 Opened Department of Basic Science in Faculty of Science
    1976 Opened Department of Applied Mathematics and Department of Information in Faculty of Science
    1978 Opened Material Physics Doctoral Program in Graduate School of Science
    1979 Opened Mechanical Science Master’s Program and Electronic Science Master’s Program in Graduate School of Science
    1980 Opened Applied Mathematics Master’s Program in Graduate School of Science; Opened Department of Applied Chemistry and Department of Environmental Chemistry in Faculty of Science
    1982 Started Electronic Physical Property Course and Information System Course in Department of Electronic Science
    1983 Opened Systems Science Doctoral Program in Graduate School of Science
    1986 Established Faculty of Engineering; Opened Department of Applied Chemistry, Department of Mechanical Engineering and Department of Electronic Engineering
    1987 Opened Applied Mathematics Doctoral Program in the Graduate School of Science
    1988 Opened Department of Biochemistry in Faculty of Science; Opened General Science Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Science
    1990 Opened Applied Chemistry Master’s Program, Mechanical Engineering Master’s Program, Electronic Engineering Master’s Program, and Systems Science Doctoral Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    1992 Opened Department of Information Engineering in Faculty of Engineering; opened Biochemistry Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Science
    1996 Opened Information Engineering Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    1997 Established Faculty of Informatics; opened Department of Mathematics and Information, Department of Simulation Physics, Department of Biosphere-Geosphere System, and Department of Socio Information
    1999 Opened Department of Biochemistry and Department of Clinical Biochemistry in Faculty of Science
    2001 Opened Department of Welfare System Engineering in Faculty of Engineering; Opened Information Science Master’s Program, Simulation Physics Master’s Program, Biosphere-Geosphere Systems Master’s Program, and Socio Information Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Informatics
    2002 Opened Department of Applied Physics and Department of Medical Science in Faculty of Science
    2003 Opened Mathematical and Environmental Systems Doctoral Program in the Graduate School of Informatics
    2004 Opened Department of Life Science in Faculty of Science
    2005 Opened Department of Intelligent Mechanical Engineering in the Faculty of Engineerng; opened Welfare Systems Engineering Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    2006 Opened Department of Applied Chemistry and Biotechnology in Faculty of Engineering
    2007 Opened Department of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in Faculty of Engineering; Opened Department of Architecture in Faculty of Informatics
    2008 Opened Department of Zoology in Faculty of Science; opened Life Science Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Science
    2009 Started Engineering Project Course in Faculty of Engineering; Opened Intelligent Mechanical Engineering Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    2011 Switched Department of Architecture to Faculty of Engineering; Opened Biomedical Engineering Master’s Program and Architecture Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Engineering
    2012 Established Faculty of Biosphere-Geosphere Science, opened Department of Biosphere-Geosphere Science;
    Opened Zoology Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Science
    2015 Opened Department of Biomedical Engineering in Faculty of Engineering
    2016 Established Faculty of Education, opened Department of Elementary Education and Department of Secondary Education; opened Biosphere-Geosphere Science Master’s Program in the Graduate School of Biosphere-Geosphere Science
    2017 Established Faculty of Management, opened Department of Management
    2018 Established Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, opened Department of Veterinary Medicine and Department of Veterinary Associated Science

     
  • richardmitnick 12:47 pm on November 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , "Study suggests Sun is likely an unaccounted source of the Earth's water", , Asteroids, ,   

    From Curtin University (AU) via phys.org : “Study suggests Sun is likely an unaccounted source of the Earth’s water” 

    From Curtin University (AU)

    via

    phys.org

    1
    Graphic of the sun, solar winds and itokawa. Credit: Curtin University.

    A University of Glasgow (SCT)-led international team of researchers including those from Curtin’s Space Science and Technology Center (SSTC) found the solar wind, comprised of charged particles from the Sun largely made of hydrogen ions, created water on the surface of dust grains carried on asteroids that smashed into the Earth during the early days of the Solar System.

    Solar winds-Sun’s coronal holes release solar winds towards Earth. National Geophysical Data Cantre.

    SSTC Director, John Curtin Distinguished Professor Phil Bland said the Earth was very water-rich compared to other rocky planets in the Solar System, with oceans covering more than 70 percent of its surface, and scientists had long puzzled over the exact source of it all.

    “An existing theory is that water was carried to Earth in the final stages of its formation on C-type asteroids, however previous testing of the isotopic ‘fingerprint’ of these asteroids found they, on average, didn’t match with the water found on Earth meaning there was at least one other unaccounted for source,” Professor Bland said.

    “Our research suggests the solar wind created water on the surface of tiny dust grains and this isotopically lighter water likely provided the remainder of the Earth’s water.

    “This new solar wind theory is based on meticulous atom-by-atom analysis of miniscule fragments of an S-type near-Earth asteroid known as Itokawa, samples of which were collected by the Japanese space probe Hayabusa and returned to Earth in 2010.

    Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) (国立研究開発法人宇宙航空研究開発機構](JP) Hayabusa2

    “Our world-class atom probe tomography system here at Curtin University allowed us to take an incredibly detailed look inside the first 50 nanometres or so of the surface of Itokawa dust grains, which we found contained enough water that, if scaled up, would amount to about 20 liters for every cubic meter of rock.”

    Curtin graduate Dr. Luke Daly, now of the University of Glasgow, said the research not only gives scientists a remarkable insight into the past source of Earth’s water, but could also help future space missions.

    “How astronauts would get sufficient water, without carrying supplies, is one of the barriers of future space exploration,” Dr. Daly said.

    “Our research shows that the same space weathering process which created water on Itokawa likely occurred on other airless planets, meaning astronauts may be able to process fresh supplies of water straight from the dust on a planet’s surface, such as the Moon.”

    The paper was published in Nature Astronomy.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Curtin University (AU) (formerly known as Curtin University of Technology and Western Australian Institute of Technology) is an Australian public research university based in Bentley and Perth, Western Australia. The university is named after the 14th Prime Minister of Australia, John Curtin, and is the largest university in Western Australia, with over 58,000 students (as of 2016).

    Curtin would like to pay respect to the indigenous members of our community by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which the Perth campus is located, the Wadjuk people of the Nyungar Nation; and on our Kalgoorlie campus, the Wongutha people of the North-Eastern Goldfields.

    Curtin was conferred university status after legislation was passed by the Parliament of Western Australia in 1986. Since then, the university has been expanding its presence and has campuses in Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai and Mauritius. It has ties with 90 exchange universities in 20 countries. The University comprises five main faculties with over 95 specialists centres. The University formerly had a Sydney campus between 2005 & 2016. On 17 September 2015, Curtin University Council made a decision to close its Sydney campus by early 2017.

    Curtin University is a member of Australian Technology Network (ATN), and is active in research in a range of academic and practical fields, including Resources and Energy (e.g., petroleum gas), Information and Communication, Health, Ageing and Well-being (Public Health), Communities and Changing Environments, Growth and Prosperity and Creative Writing.

    It is the only Western Australian university to produce a PhD recipient of the AINSE gold medal, which is the highest recognition for PhD-level research excellence in Australia and New Zealand.

    Curtin has become active in research and partnerships overseas, particularly in mainland China. It is involved in a number of business, management, and research projects, particularly in supercomputing, where the university participates in a tri-continental array with nodes in Perth, Beijing, and Edinburgh. Western Australia has become an important exporter of minerals, petroleum and natural gas. The Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the Woodside-funded hydrocarbon research facility during his visit to Australia in 2005.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:49 am on October 14, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA’s Lucy spacecraft poised to launch Oct. 16. 2021", Asteroids, ,   

    From Southwest Research Institute (US) : “NASA’s Lucy spacecraft poised to launch Oct. 16. 2021” 

    SwRI bloc

    From Southwest Research Institute (US)

    October 12, 2021

    1
    Workers prepare the Lucy spacecraft for launch from Cape Canaveral. The launch date is set for Saturday, October 16, 2021. Image via SwRI.

    NASA’s Lucy spacecraft is encapsulated in a protective fairing atop an Atlas V rocket, awaiting its 23-day launch window to open on October 16. All is go for the Southwest Research Institute-led mission to begin, as the spacecraft prepares to launch on a 12-year journey of almost 4 billion miles to visit a record-breaking eight asteroids — one main belt asteroid and seven Jupiter Trojan asteroids.

    “The Trojan asteroids are leftovers from the early days of our solar system, effectively fossils of the planet formation process,” said SwRI’s Harold Levison, the principal investigator of the mission. “They hold vital clues to deciphering the history of our solar system. Lucy, like the human ancestor fossil for which it is named, will revolutionize the understanding of our origins.”

    The Lucy mission is the first space mission to explore this diverse population of small bodies known as the Jupiter Trojan asteroids. These small bodies are trapped in stable orbits shared with the solar system’s largest planet, forming two “swarms” that lead and trail Jupiter in its path around the Sun.

    “Lucy’s ability to fly by so many targets means that we will not only get the first up-close look at this unexplored population, but we will also be able to study why these asteroids appear so different,” said SwRI’s Cathy Olkin, deputy principal investigator of the mission. “The mission will provide an unparalleled glimpse into the formation of our solar system, helping us understand the evolution of the planetary system as a whole.”

    Following pandemic protocols, Lucy team members have spent nearly two months at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida preparing the spacecraft for flight. Engineers have tested the spacecraft’s mechanical, electrical and thermal systems, and they have practiced executing the launch sequence from the mission operations centers at Kennedy and Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado.

    “Launching a spacecraft is almost like sending a child off to college — you’ve done what you can to get them ready for that next big step on their own,” Levison said. “Lucy is ready to fly.”

    Lucy’s first launch attempt is scheduled for 5:34 a.m. EDT on October 16. That day, the team will be “called to stations” at 1 a.m. to monitor the spacecraft and run through the full launch countdown procedures. If weather or any other issues scrub launch that day, the team will have additional launch opportunities every morning over the next couple of weeks.

    SwRI is the principal investigator institution for Lucy. The Goddard Space Flight Center | NASA (US) provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and safety and mission assurance. Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Lucy is the 13th mission in NASA Discovery Program (US). NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (US), manages the Discovery Program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The launch is managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SwRI Campus

    Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) (US) is an independent, nonprofit applied research and development organization. The staff of nearly 2,800 specializes in the creation and transfer of technology in engineering and the physical sciences. SwRI’s technical divisions offer a wide range of technical expertise and services in such areas as engine design and development, emissions certification testing, fuels and lubricants evaluation, chemistry, space science, nondestructive evaluation, automation, mechanical engineering, electronics, and more.

    Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is one of the oldest and largest independent, nonprofit, applied research and development (R&D) organizations in the United States. Founded in 1947 by oil businessman Tom Slick, SwRI provides contract research and development services to government and industrial clients.

    The institute consists of nine technical divisions that offer multidisciplinary, problem-solving services in a variety of areas in engineering and the physical sciences. The Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, also operates on the SwRI grounds. More than 4,000 projects are active at the institute at any given time. These projects are funded almost equally between the government and commercial sectors. At the close of fiscal year 2019, the staff numbered approximately 3,000 employees and research volume was almost $674 million. The institute provided more than $8.7 million to fund innovative research through its internally sponsored R&D program.

    A partial listing of research areas includes space science and engineering; automation; robotics and intelligent systems; avionics and support systems; bioengineering; chemistry and chemical engineering; corrosion and electrochemistry; earth and planetary sciences; emissions research; engineering mechanics; fire technology; fluid systems and machinery dynamics; and fuels and lubricants. Additional areas include geochemistry and mining engineering; hydrology and geohydrology; materials sciences and fracture mechanics; modeling and simulation; nondestructive evaluation; oil and gas exploration; pipeline technology; surface modification and coatings; and vehicle, engine, and powertrain design, research and development. In 2019, staff members published 673 papers in the technical literature; made 618 presentations at technical conferences, seminars and symposia around the world; submitted 48 invention disclosures; filed 33 patent applications; and received 41 U.S. patent awards.

    SwRI research scientists have led several National Aeronautics Space Agency(USA) missions, including the New Horizons mission to Pluto; the Juno mission to Jupiter; and the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission(US) to study the Earth’s magnetosphere.

    SwRI initiates contracts with clients based on consultations and prepares a formal proposal outlining the scope of work. Subject to client wishes, programs are kept confidential. As part of a long-held tradition, patent rights arising from sponsored research are often assigned to the client. SwRI generally retains the rights to institute-funded advancements.

    The institute’s headquarters occupy more than 2.3 million square feet of office and laboratory space on more than 1,200 acres in San Antonio. SwRI has technical offices and laboratories in Boulder, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Warner-Robins, Georgia; Ogden, Utah; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Rockville, Maryland; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Beijing, China; and other locations.

    Technology Today, SwRI’s technical magazine, is published three times each year to spotlight the research and development projects currently underway. A complementary Technology Today podcast offers a new way to listen and learn about the technology, science, engineering, and research impacting lives and changing our world.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:06 pm on July 1, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Q&A- How we’re gearing up to deflect asteroids that might cause Earth considerable damage", Asteroids, Dr Naomi Murdoch, , ,   

    From Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine : “Q&A- How we’re gearing up to deflect asteroids that might cause Earth considerable damage” 

    1

    From Horizon The EU Research and Innovation Magazine

    06 April 2021 [Why now!! This just showed up in social media.]
    Natalie Grover

    1
    “Asteroids hold clues about how our solar system formed. Their physical makeup and composition can also help answer the big question of how life emerged”, tells Dr Naomi Murdoch, planetary scientist specialised in the geophysical evolution of asteroids at the French aeronautics and space institute National Higher School of Mechanics and Aerotechnics [ISAE-ENSMA // École Nationale Supérieure de Mécanique et d’Aérotechnique | Le site de l’école ISAE-ENSMA situé au Futuroscope de Poitiers. (FR). Image credit – Naomi Murdoch.

    Asteroids — the bits and pieces left over from the formation of the inner planets — are a source of great curiosity for those keen to learn about the building blocks of our solar system, and to probe the chemistry of life.

    Humans are also considering mining asteroids for metals, but one of the crucial reasons scientists study this ancient space rubble is planetary defense, given the potential for space debris to cause Earth harm.

    Accordingly, NASA is planning a 2022 planetary defense mission that involves sending a spacecraft to crash into a near-Earth asteroid in an effort to check whether it could be deflected were it on a collision course with Earth.

    Dr Naomi Murdoch — a planetary scientist at the French aeronautics and space institute ISAE-SUPAERO, who specialises in the geophysical evolution of asteroids — is part of a follow-on mission planned by the European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU).

    She tells Horizon about the mission will characterise the asteroid after impact to obtain data that will inform strategies designed to address any threatening asteroids that might come Earth’s way.

    But are we in any real danger of being wiped out by a big rocky remnant? Not really, but some asteroids can cause considerable damage, which is why we’re shoring up our defences here on Earth, she suggests.

    What makes asteroids interesting?

    Asteroids hold clues about how our solar system formed. Their physical makeup and composition can also help answer the big question of how life emerged.

    How many have we identified – and what are they made of?

    So far, we have identified more than a million asteroids, but there are tens, if not hundreds of millions out there that we don’t know about. This is because unlike stars, asteroids don’t emit a light of their own, they only reflect sunlight, so many of the smaller ones are difficult to spot.

    What they are made of depends on where they were formed in the solar system. The ones that formed closest to the sun have borne the brunt of the heat, losing material that could have been really interesting to study. But the most common ones are those that formed furthest away from the sun: the C (carbonaceous)-type, likely consisting of clay and silicate rocks, are among the most ancient objects in the solar system but are hard to detect because they are relatively dark in colour.

    Then there are brighter options. The M (metallic)-type, composed mainly of metallic iron, largely inhabit the asteroid belt’s middle section. (The asteroid belt lies roughly between Mars and Jupiter). The S (stony)-type, comprising silicate materials and nickel-iron, are most commonly found in the inner asteroid belt.

    Most meteorites (a small piece of an asteroid or comet that survives the journey across Earth’s atmosphere) found on Earth are either metallic or stony. It is less likely that the carbonaceous type will be found on the ground, unless the asteroids were quite large because they have to survive our planet’s atmosphere without completely burning up. Basically, the types of meteorites that we find on the ground are not necessarily representative of the type of asteroids that would even hit our atmosphere.

    So what kind of asteroid are scientists wary of in terms of the danger they pose to our planet?

    Any asteroid size could in principle, hit us, but the largest asteroids are easy to detect — we’ve identified the vast majority of them and they’re not risky. There are many, many more small asteroids than there are large ones, and because they’re small, they’re really difficult to detect and difficult to follow. We have to look for them several times in order to pinpoint their orbit to know where they’re going to be in space.

    What we focus on are those (small asteroids) in the 100-to-500-metre size range. This size range is probably the most dangerous because they could still cause a large amount of damage on Earth, for example on a regional and national scale. But we don’t know yet where they all are, which is why this is the key size range for planetary defence, because there’s a risk of discovering one day that one we didn’t know existed is coming towards us.

    Space scientists are trying to improve our ability to detect these smaller asteroids, then assess whether they are threats, and finally, if need be, (we try to) deflect the object.

    As part of the NEO-MAPP project, we are helping prepare for these planetary defence missions by improving space instruments that are linked to measuring properties of the surface, the subsurface and the internal structure of asteroids, because it’s these parameters that will govern whether a deflection mission is successful or not. Another objective is to develop a better understanding of landing on asteroids, of the consequences of their low gravity environment, and how to interpret data recorded during surface interactions.

    Once you’ve detected an asteroid you want to explore, how do you go about landing on one?

    Before the first space missions, many people thought that asteroids were just boring lumps of rock, but we started to realise that they were actually a lot more interesting. They have their own evolutionary history, which is really important to understand the solar system in general.

    The only way to really probe the mechanical and physical properties of an asteroid is to touch and interact directly with it, but we don’t have a good understanding of the actual surface of asteroids, which harbour a low-gravity environment. It’s a really exotic place, typically covered by granular material like sand, rocks, boulders, depending on the type of asteroid and its size. And this granular material, in that low gravity environment, appears to behave much more like a fluid than the same material would behave on Earth.

    As a result, previous missions have had varying degrees of landing success so we are now studying landing behaviour in gravitational conditions similar to those on asteroids.

    You are part of the European Space Agency’s Hera mission, which will follow-on from NASA’s DART mission to a binary asteroid system. What are these missions hoping to achieve?

    DART is an upcoming planetary defence mission designed to collide with a smaller asteroid moon, called Dimorphos, orbiting with the near-Earth asteroid Didymos. The idea is to test whether Dimorphos’s orbit can be deflected. In the days following, we’ll know whether the deflection was successful or not. Then, Hera will survey and characterise the asteroid pair and the resulting crater.

    The main Hera spacecraft will not touch the surface, and will perform all of the investigations in orbit around the asteroids. However, mini satellites called cubesats will land on the moon. One, for instance, will orbit and study the asteroid (the main instrument is a radar for looking inside it), and then it will descend to the surface. The landing part of the mission is ‘bonus science’ (not necessary to achieve the mission goals), but extremely interesting in order to characterise the physical properties of the asteroid.

    The idea behind these missions is to test a key deflection method and to understand the target. Although Dimorphos is not a threat to Earth, it is a size that is roughly in line with potentially threatening asteroids. What we want to do is have a well-characterised, large-scale experiment that we can use to extrapolate to any potential asteroid threats. In order to do that we need to learn about our targets, including their form, mass density, the impact crater size and the level of debris generated upon collision.

    By measuring the physical properties and characterising the target in detail we can calibrate our numerical (impact) models. If one day a potentially dangerous asteroid comes our way, we can use these models to predict what may happen if we try to deflect it.

    Another feature of Hera is the plan to take a look inside the moon. I think it’s going to be extremely exciting to see what’s in there, because that’s going to tell us a lot about the history of the asteroid-moon pair.

    So we’re gearing up to tackle any asteroids that might cause Earth some damage. But how likely are we to be wiped out completely by an asteroid?

    Small asteroids, including pieces tiny enough to be called space dust, hit our atmosphere every day — that is what shooting stars are. The probability of an asteroid causing large-scale damage is very small. That 100-to-500-metre size range is the most threatening range — so that’s what scientists are working on at the moment.

    Overall, we can all sleep soundly knowing that it is extremely unlikely that we’re going to be wiped out by an asteroid.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 6:37 pm on November 12, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "DES­TINY+: Ger­many and Japan be­gin new as­ter­oid mis­sion", Asteroids, From DLR German Aerospace Center (DE), JAXA (JP),   

    From DLR German Aerospace Center (DE) “DES­TINY+: Ger­many and Japan be­gin new as­ter­oid mis­sion” 

    DLR Bloc

    From DLR German Aerospace Center (DE)

    DLR (DE) and JAXA (JP) sign cooperation agreement for a bilateral mission during their joint strategy dialogue meeting.

    1
    As­ter­oid ex­plor­er DES­TINY+. Credit: JAXA (JP)/Kashikagaku.

    2
    Cross-sec­tion­al view of the DES­TINY+ Dust An­a­lyz­er (DDA) dust in­stru­ment. Credit: IRS, University Stuttgart (DE)

    3
    As­ter­oid Phaethon. Credit: ESA (EU)/P. Carril.

    In 2024, the Japanese-German space mission DESTINY+ will launch on a journey to asteroid 3200 Phaethon.
    The mission’s key instrument is the German DESTINY+ Dust Analyzer (DDA), which will collect and analyse cosmic dust samples during the entire flight of the spacecraft.
    The cooperation agreement for the bilateral mission was signed by DLR and JAXA on 11 November 2020 as part of a joint strategy dialogue meeting.

    Focus: Space

    How did life arrive on Earth? To investigate this and to address fundamental questions about the evolution of celestial bodies in our Solar System, the Japanese-German space mission DESTINY+ (Demonstration and Experiment of Space Technology for INterplanetary voYage with Phaethon fLyby and dUst Science), will launch in 2024 on a journey to asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The German DESTINY+ Dust Analyzer (DDA) instrument on board the Japanese spacecraft will examine cosmic dust during the entire cruise phase to Phaethon, with dust particles that have escaped from the asteroid and are measured in its vicinity of particular interest to scientists. The cooperation agreement for the bilateral mission was signed on 11 November 2020 by Walther Pelzer, German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR (DE)) Executive Board Member and Head of the DLR Space Administration, and Hitoshi Kuninaka, Vice President of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) (JP). The signing ceremony was part of the joint strategy dialogue meeting between DLR and JAXA.

    Asteroid Phaethon

    “This mission once again underlines the benefits of bilateral cooperation between equal partners, as is the case with Germany and Japan,” explains Pelzer. “With DESTINY+, we are continuing our successful cooperation on missions such as Hayabusa2 (JP), Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) and BepiColombo, and we are pleased to be able to make an important contribution to space research with the DDA dust instrument.”

    JAXA (JP)/Hayabusa 2 Credit: JAXA/Akihiro Ikeshita.

    JAXA (JP) MMX spacecraft

    Artistic rendition ESA (EU)/JAXA (JP) BepiColombo

    In mid-2024, the DESTINY+ spacecraft is scheduled to launch on an Epsilon S launch vehicle from the Uchinoura Space Center(JP), beginning a four-year journey to asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This celestial body is thought to be the origin of a cloud of dust orbiting the Sun, which rains a shower of meteors – referred to as the Geminids – onto Earth every December.

    “With a minimum approach distance of approximately 21 million kilometres, Phaethon gets closer to the Sun than the planet Mercury,” explains Carsten Henselowsky, DESTINY+ Project Manager at the DLR Space Administration. “In the process, its surface heats up to a temperature of over 700 degrees Celsius, causing the celestial body to release more dust particles. The aim of the DESTINY+ mission is to investigate such cosmic dust particles and to determine whether the arrival of extraterrestrial dust particles on Earth may have played a role in the creation of life on our planet.” During its flyby the spacecraft will approach the asteroid down to a distance of approximately 500 kilometres, at which point the asteroid itself will be approximately 150 million kilometres from the Sun.

    German dust instrument DDA is key instrument for the mission

    The mission’s key instrument is the German DDA dust instrument. This high-resolution mass spectrometer will collect and analyse cosmic dust particles in the vicinity of Phaethon upon flyby and during its entire journey. The measurements will pin down the origin of each dust particle. Of particular interest is the proportion of organic matter; scientists suspect that organic compounds and the associated elements, such as carbon – the basic building block for all life forms on Earth – may have been delivered to our planet by such dust particles. A telescopic camera, TCAP, and a multiband camera, MCAP, on board the spacecraft are going to observe the surface of the celestial body during the flyby.

    JAXA is responsible for the development, construction and launch of the spacecraft and the subsequent operation of the mission. The German DDA instrument is being developed under the leadership of the Institute of Space Systems (IRS) at the University of Stuttgart (DE) in cooperation with the company von Hoerner & Sulger GmbH (DE). DDA is supported by the DLR Space Administration with funds from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie; BMWi).

    Contract signed as part of the DLR-JAXA Strategy Dialogue meeting

    The German-Japanese cooperation agreement for the DESTINY+ mission was signed during the recent DLR/JAXA Strategy Dialogue annual meeting, which was attended by Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla, Chair of the DLR Executive Board, Walther Pelzer, DLR Executive Board Member and Head of the DLR Space Administration, and Hansjörg Dittus, DLR Executive Board Member for Space Research and Technology. The online conference covered the entire spectrum of the now more than 60 joint collaborations with a view to stepping up the successful cooperation. In February 2016, DLR and JAXA signed a comprehensive joint strategy agreement in Tokyo.

    The aim of both partners is to coordinate their aerospace programmes more closely and to combine their expertise. An important topic in this context is the exploration of the Solar System. For example, together with French partners, DLR developed the asteroid lander MASCOT, which landed on asteroid Ryugu in autumn 2018 as part of JAXA’s Hayabusa2 mission. The landing of a JAXA capsule in Australia containing samples from Ryugu is expected on 6 December 2020. In the future, DLR and JAXA will work together on the MMX mission to explore the Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos. In addition, Germany and Japan make extensive use of the International Space Station (ISS) to address questions in the fields of medicine, materials development and basic research.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    DLR Center

    DLR DE is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport and security is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for the nation’s largest project management agency.

    DLR (DE) has approximately 8000 employees at 16 locations in Germany: Cologne (headquarters), Augsburg, Berlin, Bonn, Braunschweig, Bremen, Goettingen, Hamburg, Juelich, Lampoldshausen, Neustrelitz, Oberpfaffenhofen, Stade, Stuttgart, Trauen, and Weilheim. DLR also has offices in Brussels (BE) , Paris (FR), Tokyo (JP) and Washington D.C. (US).

     
  • richardmitnick 11:04 am on November 6, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Hubble telescope reveals asteroid Psyche’s rusty surface", Asteroids, , , , , ,   

    From NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope via EarthSky: “Hubble telescope reveals asteroid Psyche’s rusty surface” 

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope


    From NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    via

    1

    EarthSky

    November 6, 2020
    Amy Oliver

    Scientists already had Psyche classified as a metallic asteroid, but new observations with the Hubble telescope reveal its rusty surface and provide scientists with a unique view into what Earth-like planets are like during their formation.

    1
    This giant asteroid made of metal could offer a glimpse of what lies deep in the heart of our own planet. A massive asteroid located 230 million miles (370 million km) away from Earth. New ultraviolet observations of the asteroid and its surface revealed that it may be made entirely of nickel and iron, making it the perfect candidate to tell the tale of how Earth-like planets are formed [NASA/JPL Caltech]. It is thought to be the core of a failed planet formation. Credit: Arizona State University.

    A team of scientists led by Tracy Becker of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said on October 26, 2020, that the deepest-ever ultraviolet observations of the asteroid 16 Psyche have revealed a secret: the asteroid may be made entirely of iron and nickel, and its surface may be covered in rust. Psyche was already classified as an M-type asteroid, that is, an asteroid known to contain a significant percentage of metal. It’s one of the most massive objects currently known to be orbiting in the solar system’s asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Generally speaking, metal asteroids are rare, and the study revealed that Psyche may be the most “metal-like” of all known asteroids. Thus Psyche has a story to tell about solid planets like Earth and what happened when they were forming 4 1/2 billion years ago.

    These scientists’ paper is slated for publication in the December 2020 issue of the peer-reviewed Planetary Science Journal.

    At 140 miles (225 km) in diameter, Psyche spans roughly the distance between Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., and provides plenty of surface for scientists to observe and study. New ultraviolet (UV) observations of the massive asteroid have revealed that Psyche’s surface may be mostly made of iron, but scientists believe further study is required to confirm their findings, as lab models provided conflicting outcomes.

    Becker, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute, is the lead author on the paper. She told EarthSky:

    “The way that Psyche reflects UV light is very similar to the way iron and metallic meteorites reflect UV light; the UV spectrum of Psyche is similar to that of iron. But we note that in our computer models, we found we could reproduce the spectrum of Psyche with as little as 10% of iron mixed into other materials. So, we can’t conclude definitively just how much iron is on the surface, but it does look like some metals are there.”

    Scientists also found another way to detect iron on the surface: by looking for rust. After all, where there is iron, there may be rust, or something similar. To find it, Becker’s team focused their efforts on hunting for spectral evidence of iron oxide, which is typically observed on Earth and other bodies as rust. The scientists needed a way to ferret out iron oxide signatures. While unable to scoop up a sample from 230 million miles (370 million km) away, ultraviolet (UV) observations provided the solution. UV light is made up of short wavelengths that are invisible to the human eye but carry high energy, and are capable of damaging living tissue and causing sunburns and skin cancer. But in astronomy, these short wavelengths of light are beneficial and can help scientists understand chemical composition, density, and temperature. For these researchers, UV light was the key to help unveil iron oxide on the surface of Psyche.

    Becker said:

    “Recent laboratory work shows that you can see the iron oxide signatures in the UV better than at other wavelengths, so we wanted to look for those. The UV is also very sensitive to the uppermost layer of the planetary body, so we would be able to see how much of the asteroid’s surface has been [changed over time]”.

    Becker’s team engaged in patient observation of Psyche, taking UV measurements on both sides of the asteroid to get a complete picture of its surface. The team’s patience paid off when they saw evidence of iron oxide. Becker said in a statement:

    “We were able to identify, for the first time on any asteroid, what we think are iron oxide ultraviolet absorption bands. This is an indication that oxidation is happening on the asteroid, which could be a result of the solar wind hitting the surface.”

    Although this is the first time that scientists have observed evidence of iron oxide on an asteroid, it isn’t the first time that rust has been observed in our solar system. Mars – often referred to as the red planet due to its hue – is covered in rust particles, which are blown around on the planet as winds shape its surface. And while the appearance of rust on Psyche doesn’t necessarily mean that the asteroid is corroding, scientists did detect evidence of surface changes.

    During observations, Becker’s team noticed that Psyche’s uppermost layers appeared more reflective at deeper UV wavelengths. While Becker said this phenomenon requires further study, she noted that the observed brightening may be the result of further space weathering. She said:

    “All planetary bodies are exposed to space weathering by the sun, and other processing through small impacts by micrometeorites, that will change their surfaces. Characterizing space weathering is helpful for understanding how long the surface has been exposed to space.”

    Becker’s team carried out UV emission observations on Psyche using the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Before the study, no other previous UV observations of Psyche had been made, in part due to the difficulty of conducting studies using UV light. Becker said:

    “We cannot observe any objects in the ultraviolet from ground-based telescopes, since our atmosphere blocks UV light. The only way to observe solar system objects in the UV is with space-based telescopes, which are limited. Psyche hadn’t been observed at these wavelengths – mid- and far-UV – of light before. There had been near-UV observations from the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), but these HST observations go farther in the UV than ever before.”

    Before the new study, scientists already believed Psyche to be the leftover core of a protoplanet that never finished forming. The new observations, and the discovery of iron oxide signatures, have revealed the asteroid to be truly unique, and even more Earth-like than previously believed. Becker said:

    “We’ve seen meteorites that are mostly metal, but Psyche could be unique in that it might be an asteroid that is completely made of iron and nickel. Earth has a metal core, a mantle and a crust. It’s possible that as a Psyche protoplanet was forming, it was struck by another object in our solar system and lost its mantle and crust.”

    3
    NASA’s Psyche mission will launch toward the asteroid of the same name in 2022. Scientists hypothesize that this asteroid is actually the leftovers of a failed planet formation. New ultraviolet studies with Hubble have shown that Psyche is even more unique than that, as it may consist entirely of nickel and iron, and that the iron may be rusting. Image via NASA/ JPL-Caltech.

    The leftovers from this stellar hit-and-run have long sparked interest in Psyche. In 2017, NASA announced a mission to the asteroid, which will be the first such mission to an object not made of rock or ice. Set to launch in 2022, NASA’s orbiter will reach Psyche in 2026, and either confirm or deny scientists’ observations and theories. No matter the outcome, Becker is looking forward to seeing what secrets the mission will reveal. She said:

    “What makes Psyche and the other asteroids so interesting is that they’re considered to be the building blocks of the solar system. To understand what really makes up a planet and to potentially see the inside of a planet is fascinating. Once we get to Pysche, we’re finally going to understand if that’s the case, even if it doesn’t turn out as we expect. Any time there’s a surprise, it’s always exciting.”

    See the full article here .


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    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), is a free-standing science center, located on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University and operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) for NASA, conducts Hubble science operations.

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