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  • richardmitnick 5:05 pm on February 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "DART delayed to November launch as environmental testing begins", , change an asteroid’s orbit by a kinetic impact., JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, Mission to change an asteroid’s orbit by a kinetic impact., , NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Planetary defense   

    From NASA Spaceflight and From JHU Applied Physics Lab : “DART delayed to November launch as environmental testing begins” 

    NASA Spaceflight

    From NASA Spaceflight

    and

    JHUAPL

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc
    From JHU Applied Physics Lab

    February 19, 2021
    Lee Kanayama

    1
    NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft has been moved to its secondary launch window as it begins thermal and environmental testing. The new launch date of November 24, 2021 is a delay from an original target of July 21.

    DART is NASA’s first planetary defense demonstration, planned to change an asteroid’s orbit by a kinetic impact. DART is a simple technology demonstrator which will attempt to impact Dimorphos, a moonlet of the asteroid Didymos.

    NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) senior leadership requested a risk assessment to determine the viability of the primary and secondary launch windows. After this assessment was completed, teams determined the primary launch window was no longer viable and the DART team was told to pursue the secondary date.

    “At NASA, mission success and safety are of the utmost importance, and after a careful risk assessment, it became clear DART could not feasibly and safely launch within the primary launch window,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

    A part of the decision to move to the secondary date stems from the technical challenges of two main mission critical components: the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical-navigation (DRACO) imager and the roll-out solar arrays (ROSA). DRACO needs to be reinforced to handle the stress seen during launch and ROSA has had its delivery delayed due to supply chains impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    “To ensure DART is poised for mission success, NASA directed the team pursue the earliest possible launch opportunity during the secondary launch window to allow more time for DRACO testing and delivery of ROSA, and provide a safe working environment through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

    While not the sole factor, the pandemic has made a large impact to the safety of personnel. The delay allows extra flexibility for the remaining spacecraft testing schedule, prioritizing the safety of people alongside mission success.

    1
    NEXT-C ion engine lifted onto the spacecraft at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) .

    In the meantime, DART has completed major testing milestones. In November 2020, NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne personnel installed the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Next-Commercial (NEXT-C) ion engine onto the spacecraft at the John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL).

    “The biggest part of that process was lifting the thruster bracket assembly off of the assembly table and positioning it at the top of the spacecraft,” said APL’s Jeremy John, the lead propulsion engineer on DART.

    “This took some care as the thruster’s propellant lines extended below the bottom of the bracket ring and could have been damaged if the lift was not performed properly.”

    Once the engine was lowered onto DART’s central cylinders, fasteners were installed to secure the thruster to the spacecraft. This then allowed APL to connect the electrical harnesses and propellant lines between the thrusters bracket assembly and DART. Afterwards, APL spent several days preparing and testing critical components to ensure a good integration.

    With the NEXT-C engine installed, the spacecraft had both of its propulsion systems onboard. Along with the NEXT-C engine, it will use hydrazine thrusters as its primary propulsion system. The thrusters were installed in May 2020.

    More of DART’s final systems then underwent integration as the spacecraft was prepared for environmental testing. After a pre-environmental review was held in January, the DART team was approved to begin thermal vacuum testing.

    “We’ve worked very hard to get to this critical point in the mission, and we have a great idea of spacecraft performance going into our environmental tests,” said APL’s Elena Adams, DART mission systems engineer.

    “We have an experienced team that is confident with the spacecraft’s ability to withstand the rigors of testing in the next month,” added Ed Reynolds, DART project manager at APL.

    2
    Dart undergoes electromagnetic interference testing via JHUAPL.

    Thermal vacuum testing will be done throughout spring. Once testing is complete, the spacecraft will then be equipped with the ROSA and DRACO. After those are installed, additional vibration and shock testing will take place before it is delivered to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California for launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9.

    DART will launch from Space Launch Complex 4-East (SLC-4E) on a flight-proven Falcon 9, B1063. The booster first supported the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission in November 2020. B1063 may support other missions from Vandenberg prior to launching DART in November 2021.

    SpaceX’s Vandenberg manifest includes a pair of commercial launches: the SARah-1 mission for the German military, and the WorldView Legion Flight 1 launch as early as September.

    Additionally, SpaceX will launch their second dedicated rideshare mission for their smallsat rideshare program, Transporter-2, no earlier than June. The classified NROL-87 mission for the National reconnaissance Office is also scheduled for no earlier than June.

    Falcon 9 B1063 may support any of these missions prior to DART. It is also possible, but unlikely, that B1063 won’t fly any missions between Sentinel-6A and DART.

    No matter the scenario, B1063 will launch DART on a trajectory to the Didymos binary system. After liftoff, the booster will perform a Return to Launch Site (RTLS) landing at Landing Zone 4 (LZ-4), directly adjacent to the launch pad.

    DART is a demonstration mission for future technologies. It is a simple spacecraft that doesn’t include any scientific payloads. Weighing only 500 kilograms, it includes one main instrument, DRACO. DRACO is a camera which will help target the Didymos system while in coast.

    One of the technologies to be tested is the aforementioned NEXT-C ion engine. NEXT-C is based on the NASA Solar Technology Application Readiness (NSTAR) engine which was used on the Dawn and Deep Space 1 spacecrafts.

    NEXT-C was developed by the NASA Glenn Research Center and Aerojet Rocketdyne and designed to have improved performance, thrust, and fuel efficiency compared to other ion engines. NEXT-C is not the primary propulsion system, but its inclusion on DART will help demonstrate its potential for use on future deep-space missions.

    Another technology demonstration is the aforementioned ROSA solar arrays. ROSA is a new type of solar panel that is designed to be more efficient and less bulky than other standard solar panels.

    ROSA was first demonstrated on the International Space Station, after launch on the SpaceX CRS-11 mission in June 2017. It completed all but one of its mission objectives when the solar array failed to lock back in its stowed configuration.

    New, larger types of ROSAs will be launched in 2021 and 2022 on the SpaceX CRS-22, CRS-25, and CRS-26 missions. Called iROSA, six arrays will be launched to help power the ISS for many years to come.

    3
    Infographic of DART’S objectives via NASA/JHUAPL

    DART will also be equipped with thrusters, star trackers, and several sun trackers to help navigate itself to Didymos. Once it reaches the Didymos system, DART will then target and impact Dimorphos at 6.7km/s sometime in the first weeks of October 2022.

    Dimorphos is the moonlet of the asteroid Didymos (Greek for twin). The system was discovered in April 1996 by the Kitt Peak National Observatory, when the asteroid was in close proximity to Earth. Dimorphos was given its name in June 2020.

    Kitt Peak NOIRLab National Observatory of the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers 55 mi west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft), annotated.

    The system is currently in a 1 AU by 2.2 AU orbit around the Sun. The impact with Dimorphos should cause the speed to change by 0.5 millimeters per second and alter the orbit of Dimorphos around Didymos.

    DART will carry a CubeSat called Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids (LICIA) which will be released five days prior to impact to provide communications and images of the impact.

    DART itself is one of two missions in a joint NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) program called the Asteroid Impact & Deflection Assessment (AIDA). AIDA’s main objective is to understand the effects of an asteroid impact by a spacecraft.

    The ESA will conduct a follow-on mission called Hera, launching on Ariane 6 in 2024.

    Depiction of ESA’s proposed Hera spaceraft.

    Hera will arrive at the binary system in 2027 to observe the changes made by DART’s impact.

    Hera is also a simple spacecraft, weighing about 1,050 kilograms and equiped multiple cameras and a LIDAR Laser Altimeter to determine how effective the impact from DART was in changing Dimorphos’ orbit.

    Hera will also use new autonomous navigation systems while at Dimorphos to will test better and more efficient navigation methods for future interplanetary missions.

    Hera will also carry two CubeSats. The first CubeSat is the Asteroid Prospector Explorer (APEX). APEX will perform surface measurements of two asteroids. Once its main surface data is gathered, APEX will attempt to land for up-close observations of the surface.

    The second CubeSat is called Juventas and will line up with Hera to perform a satellite-to-satellite radio experiment and a low-frequency radar survey of the asteroid interior.

    Once Hera’s mission is complete, Hera will land on one of the two asteroids. The landing will provide insight into the surface material of the asteroid.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II—Applied Physics Lab -was created as part of a federal government effort to mobilize scientific resources to address wartime challenges.

    APL was assigned the task of finding a more effective way for ships to defend themselves against enemy air attacks. The Laboratory designed, built, and tested a radar proximity fuze (known as the VT fuze) that significantly increased the effectiveness of anti-aircraft shells in the Pacific—and, later, ground artillery during the invasion of Europe. The product of the Laboratory’s intense development effort was later judged to be, along with the atomic bomb and radar, one of the three most valuable technology developments of the war.

    On the basis of that successful collaboration, the government, The Johns Hopkins University, and APL made a commitment to continue their strategic relationship. The Laboratory rapidly became a major contributor to advances in guided missiles and submarine technologies. Today, more than seven decades later, the Laboratory’s numerous and diverse achievements continue to strengthen our nation.

    APL continues to relentlessly pursue the mission it has followed since its first day: to make critical contributions to critical challenges for our nation.

    Johns Hopkins Unversity campus.

    Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

    NASA Spaceflight , now in its eighth year of operations, is already the leading online news resource for everyone interested in space flight specific news, supplying our readership with the latest news, around the clock, with editors covering all the leading space faring nations.

    Breaking more exclusive space flight related news stories than any other site in its field, NASASpaceFlight.com is dedicated to expanding the public’s awareness and respect for the space flight industry, which in turn is reflected in the many thousands of space industry visitors to the site, ranging from NASA to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Space Alliance and commercial space flight arena.

    With a monthly readership of 500,000 visitors and growing, the site’s expansion has already seen articles being referenced and linked by major news networks such as MSNBC, CBS, The New York Times, Popular Science, but to name a few.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:14 pm on December 18, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New Exoplanet Research Method Could Uncover Thousands of Habitable Worlds", , , , , , JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, PIE-planetary infrared excess technique   

    From JHU Applied Physics Lab: “New Exoplanet Research Method Could Uncover Thousands of Habitable Worlds” 

    JHUAPL

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc

    From JHU Applied Physics Lab

    December 18, 2020
    Jeremy Rehm
    240-592-3997
    Jeremy.Rehm@jhuapl.edu

    1
    Artist’s illustration of two Earth-sized planets passing in front of their parent red dwarf star. Transiting planets such as these are one of two typical ways scientists study the atmospheres of exoplanets. Credit: NASA/ESA/STScI/J. de Wit (MIT).

    2
    Graphic of the planetary infrared excess technique, based on a star and non-transiting planet. Starlight is typically brightest at shorter wavelengths in the visible or ultraviolet regions and dimmer in the longer infrared region (0.75–1,000 micrometers), whereas planets are always brightest in the infrared. Scientists can use the shorter-wavelength region as a reference to fit a model of the star by itself and then extrapolate that model to the longer infrared wavelengths. Any light in the infrared region that’s above that expected from the star alone can then be attributed to a non-transiting planet, allowing scientists to deduce characteristics about the planet’s atmosphere and habitability. Because the planet’s light is much dimmer than the star’s, its brightness in this model-based graphic had to be multiplied by 1,000 to make the lines distinguishable. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL.

    How do you find and study the atmosphere of an exoplanet — a planet in another solar system — that, by all current methods, is undetectable?

    The question kept gnawing at Kevin Stevenson, an astrophysicist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. And he wasn’t alone. Many exoplanet researchers, trying to study these distant worlds’ atmospheres, have run into the same question because planetary atmospheres can reveal a lot about a planet, perhaps most importantly about its habitability and whether it’s inhabited. But current methods are limited.

    Studying an exoplanet’s atmosphere requires light, and right now it can be studied only if the planet is large, young and hot enough to produce light that can be directly imaged, or if it passes in front of its star (a transit) or behind its star (a secondary eclipse). Either way allows scientists to distinguish light that’s from the planet and light that’s from its star.

    But large, young and hot planets are usually Jupiter- or Neptune-sized gas giants — not ideal when looking for life. And, from Earth’s vantage, a majority of planets never pass in front of or behind their stars. In fact, for planets around red dwarf stars — which make up 75% of stars in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy — only 2% of potentially habitable exoplanets transit their star, Stevenson said. What if you could see the other 98%?

    Stevenson mulled over the problem for months, spitballing ideas with colleagues at conferences, until slowly, surely, he figured out a way. He dubbed it the planetary infrared excess technique, or PIE, which he wrote about in The Astrophysical Journal Letters earlier this year. And it could be a revolutionary fix-up for exoplanet research.

    “This method would reveal a huge swath of exoplanets that have previously been inaccessible in terms of atmospheric characterization,” Stevenson said, possibly multiplying the number of exoplanets that can be studied by 50 times.

    Rather than depending on a secondary eclipse to determine what light comes from the planet and what comes from the star, PIE relies on two points in wavelength space: one where the planet emits light because of heat and one where it does not. The method takes advantage of the fact that, at wavelengths of light where the planet is relatively bright, the star tends to be dimmer. And at wavelengths where the star is bright, the planet is dimmer.

    Take the Sun and Earth, for example. Although the Sun emits almost every wavelength of light, it most strongly gives off visible light, with a peak around 0.5 micrometers at blue-green light. At longer red and infrared wavelengths, however, the Sun’s emission tapers. But much cooler bodies, like planets, often peak in this region, including Earth, which peaks at 10 micrometers.

    Stevenson’s idea is to simultaneously collect wavelengths of light in a sweet spot from 1 to 20 micrometers, where scientists know all planets will emit light. Then they can model the star’s and the planet’s spectra for comparison.

    “We can use the shorter, bluer wavelength range as our reference point, which is where we could fit models to the star,” Stevenson said. “Then we could extrapolate those models to the longer, redder wavelengths. Any excess infrared light in that range we would attribute to the planet. That’s how, in theory, we could measure the brightness temperature of a planet that’s not transiting.”

    PIE will be the primary observational focus of an international team of scientists Stevenson will lead for the next three years, as they further develop the idea through NASA’s new Interdisciplinary Consortia for Astrobiology Research (ICAR), announced last month.

    The concept of infrared excess is used elsewhere in astrophysics research, such as distinguishing two stars in a binary star system. When the stars have different temperatures, their peak wavelengths differ, allowing each star to be distinguished by measuring the light it emits.

    “This method pushes that idea to an extreme,” Stevenson said.

    That extremity creates a few drawbacks. Because planets don’t emit much light, a planet’s peak signal will be very small relative to the star.

    As a result, Stevenson plans to look for planets around M-dwarf stars, such as TRAPPIST-1, where seven planets (including three potentially habitable worlds) were discovered in 2017.

    A size comparison of the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system, lined up in order of increasing distance from their host star. The planetary surfaces are portrayed with an artist’s impression of their potential surface features, including water, ice, and atmospheres. NASA.

    ESO Belgian robotic Trappist-South National Telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile, at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    ESO Belgian robotic Trappist-South National Telescope at Cerro La Silla, Chile, 600 km north of Santiago de Chile at an altitude of 2400 metres.

    M-dwarf stars are relatively small, weighing from 7.5% to 50% the mass of the Sun. That makes them thousands of degrees cooler and much dimmer, so the light of a planet won’t be washed out.

    People have talked about searching for life around M-dwarf stars because of this advantage, Stevenson said. “You just have more signal to work with from the planet.”

    The ICAR team Stevenson will lead plans to hone the PIE technique and test it on these M-dwarf stars by leveraging the infrared light-detecting capabilities of future space telescopes, particularly NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the conceptual Origins Space Telescope (OST).

    NASA James Webb Space Telescope annotated.

    3
    Origins Space Telescope (OST). https://spie.org/news/origins-space-telescope-wants-to-answer-the-big-questions

    Using models to simulate JWST’s capability to detect near-infrared wavelengths (0.8–2.5 micrometers), the team can determine the validity of the PIE technique and establish the wavelength range, power and precision necessary for its successful implementation.

    Stevenson expects JWST’s narrow reach into the infrared will limit it to studying non-transiting warm Neptunes and hot Jupiters, an ideal starting place to test the idea, he said. From there, they can model OST’s capability to look into the mid-infrared (1.3–3.0 micrometers), which could look at cooler, more Earth-like planets where life might be found.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    JHUAPL campus.

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II— the JHU Applied Physics Lab -was created as part of a federal government effort to mobilize scientific resources to address wartime challenges.

    APL was assigned the task of finding a more effective way for ships to defend themselves against enemy air attacks. The Laboratory designed, built, and tested a radar proximity fuze (known as the VT fuze) that significantly increased the effectiveness of anti-aircraft shells in the Pacific—and, later, ground artillery during the invasion of Europe. The product of the Laboratory’s intense development effort was later judged to be, along with the atomic bomb and radar, one of the three most valuable technology developments of the war.

    On the basis of that successful collaboration, the government, The Johns Hopkins University, and APL made a commitment to continue their strategic relationship. The Laboratory rapidly became a major contributor to advances in guided missiles and submarine technologies. Today, more than seven decades later, the Laboratory’s numerous and diverse achievements continue to strengthen our nation.

    APL continues to relentlessly pursue the mission it has followed since its first day: to make critical contributions to critical challenges for our nation.

    Johns Hopkins Unversity campus.

    Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:38 pm on December 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Surer signs of life", Enceladus is an ocean world where we have enough data to go beyond asking if it's habitable., JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, , Kate Craft and her colleague Chris Bradburne are trying to design an experimental instrument for a future mission to look for signs of life., There's always going to be some amount of uncertainty in search-for-life measurements., When NASA’s Viking landers imaged Mars’ surface they showed a barren land of rocks and dust.   

    From JHU HUB and JHU Applied Physics Lab: “Surer signs of life” 

    From JHU HUB

    and

    JHUAPL

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc
    From JHU Applied Physics Lab

    12.8.20
    Jeremy Rehm

    1

    Teams of civil space researchers at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab are developing a better class of tools for detecting signs of life on other planets and moons.

    When they reached Mars’ surface in 1976, NASA’s two Viking landers touched down with a gentle thud.

    NASA/Viking 1 Lander

    At 7 feet tall, 10 feet long, and weighing around 1,300 pounds, these spacecraft—the first U.S. mission to successfully land on the Martian surface—looked like overgrown pill bugs.

    What lay before them was a rusty, dusty wasteland littered with rocks under a tan-orange sky, far removed from the bustling alien metropolises science fiction writers and films had depicted. Scientists never expected alien cities, but they did suspect colonies of microbial aliens might be lurking in Martian soil. The landers were the first to search for extraterrestrial life.

    Both landers were equipped with three automated life-detection instruments, each of which incubated a sample from the surface, studying the air above for molecules such as carbon dioxide, which could indicate photosynthesis, or methane, which microbes might produce as they metabolize nutrients the landers provided.

    One of the instruments got a positive signal. The labeled release experiment, tracking radioactive carbon as it moved from digestible sugar to digested carbon dioxide, saw the tell-tale sign of living, metabolizing microbes.

    The two other experiments, however, never did.

    2
    When NASA’s Viking landers imaged Mars’ surface, they showed a barren land of rocks and dust. Credit: NASA/JPL/Johns Hopkins APL.

    That maybe-discovery sparked a debate that persists even today, with proponents insisting (and new research suggesting) that only something alive could have made that positive signal.

    But like many in the scientific community, Kate Craft, a planetary scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, remains skeptical. “It was a good experiment, but it was very limited in what it was able to detect,” she stated.

    For one, the Viking experiments assumed microbes on Mars would eat the nutrients we provided them, which isn’t necessarily true. And even if they did, it’s still hard to believe just one line of evidence. “We always want to have positives on multiple signatures,” she said.

    More problematic, though, is that scientists at the time didn’t know Mars’ surface is covered in perchlorate salts, minerals containing chlorine and oxygen that experiments show can destroy organic molecules and microbes when heated—producing chlorine gases, which the Viking landers in fact did detect. Nobody knew the salts were there until 2008, when NASA’s Phoenix lander discovered them.

    For Craft and her colleague Chris Bradburne, a biologist and senior scientist at APL, the Viking missions underscored the monstrous challenge scientists face to definitively say we’ve found life on another world. The type, surety, and repeatability of that evidence all matter. Numerous spacecraft since the Viking landers have returned to Mars, searching for organic molecules, which contain mostly carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They’re commonly associated with life but not sure indicators of it.

    But the revelation about salts on Mars highlighted a more salient, albeit somewhat uninspiring, point: The chances of detecting signs of life with even the best technology are likely slim if you don’t purify your samples first.

    Researchers have fixated on the detection side of the equation, but the sample preparation—an earlier step in the workflow—has gone mostly ignored. Salts are particularly worrying, since they can make analysis difficult, and the prime targets for future life-detection missions are places with salty, liquid water oceans beneath their surfaces—worlds like Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

    Since 2013, Bradburne, Craft, and a team of researchers at APL have been developing new, palm-sized microfluidic systems for future spacecraft to address that challenge. They can purify and isolate molecules that could be strong indicators of life—amino acids, proteins, RNA, DNA.

    “It’s much sexier to think about the detector,” Bradburne said. “But if you can’t prep your samples and optimize them so your sensor can detect what you’re after, they don’t do you any good.”

    But the team is pushing one of their instruments even further: a sequencer for space. It would not only prep and concentrate long-chain molecules like DNA and RNA but pump out their entire genetic code right at the destination. Additionally, it would detect these molecules whether they’re like terrestrial DNA and RNA or not, providing the ability to detect life with an entirely separate origin.

    “It could give you a really conclusive signal,” Bradburne said. You just have to figure out how to build it.

    The cleaning machines

    Craft and Bradburne had considered creating a sample preparation chip for DNA and RNA back in 2014, building off work that Bradburne started a few years earlier.

    As far as life indicators go, DNA and RNA sit relatively high on the list, since both form the backbone from which all Earth life has evolved. But it’s for that exact reason many scientists were skeptical of searching for DNA and RNA elsewhere in the solar system.

    For genetic material to pass down information between generations, they argued, organisms would already have had to evolve to some extent; a fairly unlikely possibility, Craft said. As such, many scientists considered DNA and RNA less important biosignatures and instead prioritized life’s other building blocks, such as amino acids—the constituents of all proteins and enzymes. “Life wouldn’t have to be ‘as evolved’ for those signatures,” Craft explained.

    So, the team switched gears to make a miniature sample preparation system for amino acids. APL chemist Jen Skerritt, chemical engineer Tess Van Volkenburg, and later Korine Ohiri, an expert in microfluidics, joined the team. Since 2018, they’ve been gradually perfecting the design.

    At about 4 inches wide, 4 inches long, and 2 inches tall, the system can easily fit in the palm of your hand. Yet it’s equipped with all the pumps and valves needed to push a sample through. The active region of the latest design is filled with tiny beads that attract amino acids in acidic solutions while salts and other gunk continue to flow out the other side into a waste deposit. After the sample passes through, the amino acids are stripped from the beads with a basic solution and shipped to whatever detector is attached to the chip.

    Designing a prep system for space hasn’t been easy, Ohiri said. The amount of available power is fractions of what can be used in the lab, and the materials need to withstand potentially extreme temperature and radiation. The team is currently making the amino acid purification system from common rapid prototyping materials, such as high-resolution resins used in 3D printing, but getting the material to be space-worthy while maintaining its performance, Ohiri said, remains challenging. “But that’s what’s so exciting about this project: There are so many aspects that are really at the leading edge.”

    3
    How to isolate and sequence DNA in space: Start with a disruption phase, using sound or other waves to pulse magnetically attractive beads so they crack open spores or cells and let the DNA out. The DNA attaches to the beads, which are then pulled toward a magnet during the purification step. The beads are then washed to remove the DNA, which is then sent to a nanopore sequencer. The sequencer then reads out the chain of molecules that make up DNA—C, A, T, and G. This set up should theoretically work for any long-chain molecule like DNA, including RNA, proteins, or something entirely new. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL.

    The tradeoff with amino acids, though, is that they’re everywhere—from meteorites to comets to interstellar clouds. Certain clues can indicate whether they’re biological or not. Amino acids come in two forms that are mirror images of each other: one considered left-handed, the other right-handed. Through some fluke of evolution, all life on Earth uses just the left-handed amino acids. So by extension, if one type appears more than the other in a sample from another world, it could be a sign of life.

    Bradburne, however, doesn’t completely buy it. “How do you know it’s not just contamination?” he asked, such as from a hitchhiking microbe that somehow escaped the deep cleaning process all spacecraft go through before launch. Detecting life in the universe, he says, comes down to not just detecting the molecules you’re looking for, but minimizing the chances of getting a false positive and making sure your experiments are repeatable.

    DNA and RNA aren’t necessarily better for addressing those problems unless you can sequence them. And that’s why, when nanopore sequencers were invented, the team saw a novel opportunity.

    The road to sequencing

    Nanopore sequencers are small, thumb-drive-size machines that can take a strand of DNA or RNA and read out the series of molecular building blocks that it’s made of. The strand moves through a pore that’s just billionths of an inch wide and that has an electric field passing through it. Each nucleotide uniquely disrupts that electric field as it moves through the pore. And a computer can interpret that disruption and say exactly which nucleotide just passed through.

    Besides being the ideal size for a spacecraft, Bradburne said, nanopore sequencers should, in theory, be able to interpret any type of long-chain molecule that comes through—DNA, RNA, proteins, or some unknown XNA. But they also shrink the chances that a signal isn’t just a stowaway microbe. Earth-stemmed organisms have recognizable strands, such as those that code for specific enzymes and other proteins common to living things on Earth. So if sequences seem to match those frequently found here on Earth, they’re likely a false positive.

    “The scientific returns would just be amazing,” Bradburne said.

    There are a slew of reasons, though, why current nanopore sequencers aren’t ready for space. For one, they’re made of materials that can’t withstand years of subfreezing temperatures and radiation; even on Earth, they only last about six months. Even more problematic is that they use proteins from staph bacteria for the pore, raising concern about accidentally introducing biological products from Earth.

    Those challenges have forced the team to instead start developing a novel sequencer and accompanying sample preparation system.

    “The idea is that, eventually, we’ll have a full instrument to prepare the sample the way we want it and then analyze it,” Craft said.

    The sample preparation component has made significant headway over the last year. The team is trying sound waves and other disruptive methods to break open cells and spores that may house the genetic material and magnetic beads to then hold onto the long-chain molecules.

    But designing the nanopore sequencer has been more challenging. A synthetic platform with nanopores pressed into it is the most ideal, but how to control the pores’ size and make them so they slow the molecule so the computer can register each molecule in the chain as it passes through remains uncertain. A Canadian collaborator even suggested making the pores when they reach the destination to mitigate issues with shelf life. “I’m not sure how we’d do that, but nothing’s off the table right now,” Bradburne said.

    Despite the obstacles, the team has wasted no time in talking about their tool with researchers developing concept missions. “We talk it up when we can,” Craft said, mostly to let people know that it’s an upcoming, viable instrument.

    And one recent concept, a mission to Saturn’s moon Enceladus, includes something very similar to it.

    Another search for life

    At 314 miles wide—about the width of Pennsylvania—and on average nine times farther from the Sun than Earth, Enceladus should have been just a frozen ball of ice.

    But in 2006, NASA’s Cassini mission revealed a tantalizing discovery: a plume of water vapor and ice spewing from four cavernous “tiger stripes” at Enceladus’ south pole. Various measurements indicate the faults link directly to a global liquid water ocean beneath the surface. The ocean may be interacting with the moon’s rocky core in a way similar to Earth’s deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where nearly 600 animal species live and thrive.

    4
    Image credit: Johns Hopkins APL.

    As Cassini passed through the plumes, it found molecules such as methane, carbon dioxide, and ammonia—suspected chemical fragments of more complex molecules with four of the six elements key to life: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen.

    “Enceladus is an ocean world where we have enough data to go beyond asking if it’s habitable,” said Shannon MacKenzie, a planetary scientist at APL. “At Enceladus, we are ready to take the next step and search for signs of life.”

    MacKenzie recently led the development of a mission concept that would do just that. It’s called the Enceladus Orbilander, and it would operate just how it sounds: part-orbiter, part-lander. Six instruments would conduct measurements on material gathered from Enceladus’ plume to search for several potential biosignatures—left- and right-handed amino acids, fats and other long-chained hydrocarbons, molecules capable of storing genetic information, and even cell-like structures.

    As a mission concept, the Orbilander study doesn’t identify specific instrument implementations like those that Craft and Bradburne’s team is producing, but it does include their conceptual ideas.

    “There’s always going to be some amount of uncertainty in search-for-life measurements,” MacKenzie said. “That’s why having a good sample prep step, which helps minimize the limit of detection, is so important, and why having instruments like the nanopore sequencer, which can offer both identification and characterization, are so critical.”

    With the chance of sampling an ocean moon, Craft and Bradburne’s team is trying to determine how much water is needed to detect those biosignatures. And of course, it’s not easy. “I thought that we could go to these ocean worlds, dip our toes in, and be able to see if life is there or not,” Craft said. But as she’s read research by oceanographers, she’s learned they have to filter liters of water to look for evidence of life—even here on Earth. “It’s just amazing. Because of all that water out there, it’s so dilute,” she said.

    How do you collect such large volumes of water and concentrate them on another world? How do you process them in a microchip and see if there are any important molecules there?

    “There are just a bunch of challenges that haven’t been addressed yet,” Craft said. The team keeps plugging away, though. Last month, they performed some experiments flushing various volumes of dilute amino acid samples spiked in ocean water through their sample chip. Initial results are promising, with the system capturing all amino acids at a range of efficiencies that will be reported in an upcoming science paper.

    If ever moved from concept to launchpad, Enceladus Orbilander wouldn’t lift off until the mid-2030s, giving Craft and Bradburne’s team some time to further develop its tools. But even if the technology isn’t ready for that mission, Ohiri, like others on the team, remains optimistic that the technology will one day fly.

    “My hope is that by the time the technology is mature enough, there will be a mission on the books, and we’ll be ready for it,” she said.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the Hub
    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    Johns Hopkins Unversity campus.

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:58 pm on November 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A Solar-Powered Rocket Might Be Our Ticket to Interstellar Space", , JHU Applied Physics Laboratory,   

    From JHU Applied Physics Lab via WIRED: “A Solar-Powered Rocket Might Be Our Ticket to Interstellar Space” 

    From Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

    JHUAPL

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc
    From JHU Applied Physics Lab

    via


    WIRED

    The idea for solar thermal propulsion has been around for decades, but researchers tapped by NASA just conducted a first test.

    1
    Credit: NASA.

    If Jason Benkoski is right, the path to interstellar space begins in a shipping container tucked behind a laboratory high bay in Maryland. The set up looks like something out of a low-budget sci-fi film: One wall of the container is lined with thousands of LEDs, an inscrutable metal trellis runs down the center, and a thick black curtain partially obscures the apparatus. This is the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory solar simulator, a tool that can shine with the intensity of 20 suns. On Thursday afternoon, Benkoski mounted a small black and white tile onto the trellis and pulled a dark curtain around the set-up before stepping out of the shipping container. Then he hit the light switch.

    Once the solar simulator was blistering hot, Benkoski started pumping liquid helium through a small embedded tube that snaked across the slab. The helium absorbed heat from the LEDs as it wound through the channel and expanded until it was finally released through a small nozzle. It might not sound like much, but Benkoski and his team just demonstrated solar thermal propulsion, a previously theoretical type of rocket engine that is powered by the sun’s heat. They think it could be the key to interstellar exploration.

    “It’s really easy for someone to dismiss the idea and say, ‘On the back of an envelope, it looks great, but if you actually build it, you’re never going to get those theoretical numbers,’” says Benkoski, a materials scientist at the Applied Physics Laboratory and the leader of the team working on a solar thermal propulsion system. “What this is showing is that solar thermal propulsion is not just a fantasy. It could actually work.”

    Only two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, have left our solar system.

    Heliosphere-heliopause showing positions of Voyager spacecraft. Credit: NASA.

    But that was a scientific bonus after they completed their main mission to explore Jupiter and Saturn. Neither spacecraft was equipped with the right instruments to study the boundary between our star’s planetary fiefdom and the rest of the universe. Plus, the Voyager twins are slow. Plodding along at 30,000 miles per hour, it took them nearly a half century to escape the sun’s influence.

    But the data they have sent back from the edge is tantalizing. It showed that much of what physicists had predicted about the environment at the edge of the solar system was wrong. Unsurprisingly, a large group of astrophysicists, cosmologists, and planetary scientists are clamoring for a dedicated interstellar probe to explore this new frontier.

    In 2019, NASA tapped the Applied Physics Laboratory to study concepts for a dedicated interstellar mission. At the end of next year, the team will submit its research to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Heliophysics decadal survey, which determines sun-related science priorities for the next 10 years. APL researchers working on the Interstellar Probe program are studying all aspects of the mission, from cost estimates to instrumentation. But simply figuring out how to get to interstellar space in any reasonable amount of time is by far the biggest and most important piece of the puzzle.

    The edge of the solar system—called the heliopause—is extremely far away. By the time a spacecraft reaches Pluto, it’s only a third of the way to interstellar space. And the APL team is studying a probe that would go three times farther than the edge of the solar system, a journey of 50 billion miles, in about half the time it took the Voyager spacecraft just to reach the edge. To pull off that type of mission, they’ll need a probe unlike anything that’s ever been built. “We want to make a spacecraft that will go faster, further, and get closer to the sun than anything has ever done before,” says Benkoski. “It’s like the hardest thing you could possibly do.”

    In mid-November, the Interstellar Probe researchers met online for a weeklong conference to share updates as the study enters its final year. At the conference, teams from APL and NASA shared the results of their work on solar thermal propulsion, which they believe is the fastest way to get a probe into interstellar space. The idea is to power a rocket engine with heat from the sun, rather than combustion. According to Benkoski’s calculations, this engine would be around three times more efficient than the best conventional chemical engines available today. “From a physics standpoint, it’s hard for me to imagine anything that’s going to beat solar thermal propulsion in terms of efficiency,” says Benkoski. “But can you keep it from exploding?”

    Unlike a conventional engine mounted on the aft end of a rocket, the solar thermal engine that the researchers are studying would be integrated with the spacecraft’s shield. The rigid flat shell is made from a black carbon foam with one side coated in a white reflective material. Externally it would look very similar to the heat shield on the Parker Solar Probe. The critical difference is the tortuous pipeline hidden just beneath the surface. If the interstellar probe makes a close pass by the sun and pushes hydrogen into its shield’s vasculature, the hydrogen will expand and explode from a nozzle at the end of the pipe. The heat shield will generate thrust.

    It’s simple in theory, but incredibly hard in practice. A solar thermal rocket is only effective if it can pull off an Oberth maneuver, an orbital mechanics hack that turns the sun into a giant slingshot. The sun’s gravity acts like a force multiplier that dramatically increases the craft’s speed if a spacecraft fires its engines as it loops around the star. The closer a spacecraft gets to the sun during an Oberth maneuver, the faster it will go. In APL’s mission design, the interstellar probe would pass just a million miles from its roiling surface.

    To put this in perspective, by the time NASA’s Parker Solar Probe makes its closest approach in 2025, it will be within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface and booking it at nearly 430,000 miles per hour. That’s about twice the speed the interstellar probe aims to hit and the Parker Solar Probe built up speed with gravity assists from the sun and Venus over the course of seven years. The Interstellar Probe will have to accelerate from around 30,000 miles per hour to around 200,000 miles per hour in a single shot around the sun, which means getting close to the star. Really close.

    Cozying up to a sun-sized thermonuclear explosion creates all sorts of materials challenges, says Dean Cheikh, a materials technologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory who presented a case study on the solar thermal rocket during the recent conference. For the APL mission, the probe would spend around two-and-a-half hours in temperatures around 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit as it completed its Oberth maneuver. That’s more than hot enough to melt through the Parker Solar Probe’s heat shield, so Cheikh’s team at NASA found new materials that could be coated on the outside to reflect away thermal energy. Combined with the cooling effect of hydrogen flowing through channels in the heat shield, these coatings would keep the interstellar probe cool while it blitzed by the sun. “You want to maximize the amount of energy that you’re kicking back,” says Cheikh. “Even small differences in material reflectivity start to heat up your spacecraft significantly.”

    A still greater problem is how to handle the hot hydrogen flowing through the channels. At extremely high temperatures, the hydrogen would eat right through the carbon-based core of the heat shield, which means the inside of the channels will have to be coated in a stronger material. The team identified a few materials that could do the job, but there’s just not a lot of data on their performance, especially extreme temperatures. “There’s not a lot of materials that can fill these demands,” says Cheikh. “In some ways that’s good, because we only have to look at these materials. But it’s also bad because we don’t have a lot of options.”

    The big takeaway from his research, says Cheikh, is there’s a lot of testing that needs to be done on heat shield materials before a solar thermal rocket is sent around the sun. But it’s not a dealbreaker. In fact, incredible advances in materials science make the idea finally seem feasible more than 60 years after it was first conceived by engineers in the US Air Force. “I thought I came up with this great idea independently, but people were talking about it in 1956,” says Benkoski. “Additive manufacturing is a key component of this, and we couldn’t do that 20 years ago. Now I can 3D-print metal in the lab.”

    Even if Benkoski wasn’t the first to float the idea of a solar thermal propulsion, he believes he’s the first to demonstrate a prototype engine. During his experiments with the channeled tile in the shipping container, Benkoski and his team showed that it was possible to generate thrust using sunlight to heat a gas as it passed through embedded ducts in a heat shield. These experiments had several limitations. They didn’t use the same materials or propellant that would be used on an actual mission, and the tests occurred at temperatures well below what an interstellar probe would experience. But the important thing, says Benkoski, is that the data from the low temperature experiments matched the models that predict how an interstellar probe would perform on its actual mission once adjustments are made for the different materials. “We did it on a system that would never actually fly. And now the second step is we start to substitute each of these components with the stuff that you would put on a real spacecraft for an Oberth maneuver,” Benkoski says.

    The concept has a long way to go before it’s ready to be used on a mission—and with only a year left in the Interstellar Probe study, there’s not enough time to launch a small satellite to do experiments in low Earth orbit. But by the time Benkoski and his colleagues at APL submit their report next year, they will have generated a wealth of data that lays the foundation for in-space tests. There’s no guarantee that the National Academies will select the interstellar probe concept as a top priority for the coming decade. But whenever we are ready to leave the sun behind, there’s a good chance we’ll have to use it for a boost on our way out the door.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    JHUAPL campus.

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II—Applied Physics Lab -was created as part of a federal government effort to mobilize scientific resources to address wartime challenges.

    APL was assigned the task of finding a more effective way for ships to defend themselves against enemy air attacks. The Laboratory designed, built, and tested a radar proximity fuze (known as the VT fuze) that significantly increased the effectiveness of anti-aircraft shells in the Pacific—and, later, ground artillery during the invasion of Europe. The product of the Laboratory’s intense development effort was later judged to be, along with the atomic bomb and radar, one of the three most valuable technology developments of the war.

    On the basis of that successful collaboration, the government, The Johns Hopkins University, and APL made a commitment to continue their strategic relationship. The Laboratory rapidly became a major contributor to advances in guided missiles and submarine technologies. Today, more than seven decades later, the Laboratory’s numerous and diverse achievements continue to strengthen our nation.

    APL continues to relentlessly pursue the mission it has followed since its first day: to make critical contributions to critical challenges for our nation.

    Johns Hopkins Unversity campus.

    Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:42 am on September 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Training a Dragon: Protecting Quantum Algorithms on “Noisy” Computers", Decoherence occurs when qubits — the building blocks of quantum computing — lose information to their environment., JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, Quantum computing systems are highly susceptible to decoherence (more commonly called noise in the quantum world)., The interns inspired the name of the effort: "How to Train Your Dragon"., The interns tested these methods on the IBM Q Experience- an online platform that offers public access to a set of prototype quantum processors., The work we’ve been doing at APL has been focusing on the characterization and control of quantum systems.   

    From Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab- “Training a Dragon: Protecting Quantum Algorithms on “Noisy” Computers” 

    From Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc
    From JHU Applied Physics Lab

    September 22, 2020
    Paulette Campbell
    240-228-6792
    Paulette.Campbell@jhuapl.edu

    Quantum computing has advanced to the point that both small- and intermediate-scale machines are publicly accessible through organizations such as IBM and Rigetti, enabling researchers to test out theories and perform experiments. But these systems are highly susceptible to decoherence (more commonly called noise in the quantum world), and quantum algorithms perform badly on noisy hardware.

    “Decoherence occurs when qubits — the building blocks of quantum computing — lose information to their environment,” explained Greg Quiroz, a theoretical physicist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Such processes create significant challenges when one tries to leverage quantum systems for dedicated tasks, like sensing magnetic fields or performing a quantum computation.”

    1
    Greg Quiroz (third from left) with interns Reem Larabi, Joseph Boen, Devon Williams, Jake Klein and Lina Tewala. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL/Craig Weiman.

    Some protocols for combating errors have been worked out theoretically. These ideas have gone through limited experimental testing in small-scale labs, but they can be applied broadly and will work on available quantum systems, providing an exciting test opportunity.

    APL has applied its engineering and physics expertise to reducing the effect of noise on quantum systems for years, exploring optimal device designs, understanding and reducing noise, and improving supporting infrastructure. Researchers are now testing strategies for combating errors to improve the performance of quantum algorithms on NISQ [noisy intermediate-scale quantum] computers.

    “We are using two different techniques in our investigation,” Quiroz explained. “We are mitigating errors using dynamical decoupling, which combats the error by effectively averaging out the environmental noise. We are also avoiding the errors altogether by creating a decoherence-free subspace that makes the system itself blind to the noise.”

    This research could lead to a significant improvement in the computational accuracy of quantum algorithms.

    Interns from APL’s Cohort-based Integrated Research Community for Undergraduate Innovation and Trailblazing — or CIRCUIT — program played a critical role in developing the theoretical techniques for mitigating noise on a quantum computer.

    “The work we’ve been doing at APL has been focusing on the characterization and control of quantum systems, and that means basically understanding the noise environment that a quantum system is susceptible to and then figuring out how to better control the system to perform computations while mitigating the noise that the systems sees,” Quiroz explained.

    “Theoretically, we know these algorithms should work, and we’ve done small-scale experiments to show that these methods work here,” he continued.

    The interns tested these methods on the IBM Q Experience, an online platform that offers public access to a set of prototype quantum processors. “It provides a nice playground to test new types of algorithms for near-term quantum computers, as well as to test theoretical techniques that we have for mitigating, avoiding or correcting errors,” Quiroz said.

    The interns helped move the needle on work APL had undertaken. In fact, they inspired the name of the effort: How to Train Your Dragon.

    “My kids were really into the ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ movie franchise when I learned about the CIRCUIT program,” explained APL quantum researcher Joan Hoffmann, the program manager for Alternative Computing Paradigms. “The gist of [that story] was that a younger generation of Vikings realized, with thoughtful determination, they could learn to control dragons, harnessing the special powers of the dragons for good. It was a fun analogy for what we could do by combining undergraduates in CIRCUIT with the IBM Quantum Experience.”

    The results are encouraging, Quiroz said. “They show us that a lot of these theoretical methods that have been developed may be useful for larger quantum computers and actually near-term quantum computers as methods for improving quality computations,” he said.

    The Laboratory’s work on error avoidance protocols has been funded through the Department of Energy’s Quantum Computing Applications Team program. The APL team is part of a multi-institutional effort led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory and includes collaborators from the University of Southern California and the University of Maryland.

    Quantum: Imagine the Impact Event

    Quantum computing will be the focus of APL’s third annual Research Frontiers Forum, “Quantum: Imagine the Impact.” The virtual event, set for Oct. 22 and 23, will grant attendees — from academia, industry and government — a perspective on quantum research, including basic science and application, and the policies that will connect them.

    Register here.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    JHUAPL campus.

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II—Applied Physics Lab -was created as part of a federal government effort to mobilize scientific resources to address wartime challenges.

    APL was assigned the task of finding a more effective way for ships to defend themselves against enemy air attacks. The Laboratory designed, built, and tested a radar proximity fuze (known as the VT fuze) that significantly increased the effectiveness of anti-aircraft shells in the Pacific—and, later, ground artillery during the invasion of Europe. The product of the Laboratory’s intense development effort was later judged to be, along with the atomic bomb and radar, one of the three most valuable technology developments of the war.

    On the basis of that successful collaboration, the government, The Johns Hopkins University, and APL made a commitment to continue their strategic relationship. The Laboratory rapidly became a major contributor to advances in guided missiles and submarine technologies. Today, more than seven decades later, the Laboratory’s numerous and diverse achievements continue to strengthen our nation.

    APL continues to relentlessly pursue the mission it has followed since its first day: to make critical contributions to critical challenges for our nation.

    Johns Hopkins Unversity campus.

    Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:56 am on July 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "10 cool things we've learned about Pluto", , , , , JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, , NASA Mariner 2 spacecraft, ,   

    From JHU HUB: “10 cool things we’ve learned about Pluto” 

    From JHU HUB

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    7.21.20
    Jeremy Rehm

    1
    Pluto. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute.

    Five years after the historic New Horizons spacecraft flyby of Pluto, scientists have learned that the planet is far from an inert ball of ice and is one of the most geologically active and exciting places in the solar system.

    Five years ago, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft—designed, built, and operated by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory—made history. After a voyage of nearly 10 years and more than 3 billion miles, the intrepid piano-sized probe flew within 7,800 miles of Pluto. For the first time ever, we saw the surface of this distant world in spectacular, colored detail.

    The encounter, which also included a detailed look at the largest of Pluto’s five moons, Charon, capped the initial reconnaissance of the planets started by NASA’s Mariner 2 mission more than ​50 years before.

    NASA Mariner 2 spacecraft

    It revealed an icy world replete with magnificent landscapes and geology—towering mountains, giant ice sheets, pits, scarps, valleys, and terrains seen nowhere else in the solar system.

    And that was only the beginning.

    “New Horizons transformed Pluto from a fuzzy, telescopic dot into a living world with stunning diversity and surprising complexity,” said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist at APL. “The Pluto encounter was exploration at its finest, a real tribute to the vision and persistence of the New Horizons team.”


    10 Cool Things About Pluto

    In the five years since that groundbreaking flyby, nearly every conjecture about Pluto possibly being an inert ball of ice has been thrown out the window or flipped on its head.

    “It’s clear to me that the solar system saved the best for last!” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “We could not have explored a more fascinating or scientifically important planet at the edge of our solar system. The New Horizons team worked for 15 years to plan and execute this flyby and Pluto paid us back in spades.”

    Scientists now know that, despite it being literally out in the cold, Pluto is an exciting, active, and scientifically valuable world. Incredibly, it even holds some of the keys to better understanding the other small planets in the far reaches of our solar system.

    Here are 10 of the coolest, weirdest, and most unexpected findings about the Pluto system that scientists have learned since 2015, thanks to data from New Horizons.

    1. Pluto has a “heart” that drives activity on the planet.

    One of the signature features New Horizons observed on approach and imaged in high resolution during the flyby was the planet’s heart—a vast, million-square-mile nitrogen glacier. The heart’s left ventricle, called Sputnik Planitia, literally forced the dwarf planet to reorient itself so the basin now faces almost squarely opposite Pluto’s moon Charon.

    2
    High-resolution view of Pluto’s Sputnik Planitia. The bright expanse is the western lobe of Pluto’s famous “heart,” which is rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ices. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute.

    “It’s a process called true polar wander—it’s when a planetary body changes its spin axis, usually in response to large geologic processes,” said James Tuttle Keane, a planetary scientist and New Horizons team member at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    Sputnik Planitia’s current position is no accident. It’s a cold trap, where nitrogen ices have accumulated to make an ice sheet that’s at least 2.5 miles (or 4 kilometers) thick. The constant imbalance of that hefty mass, combined with the tidal yanks and pulls of Charon as it orbited Pluto, literally tipped the dwarf planet so the basin aligned more closely with the tidal axis between Pluto and Charon.

    “That event was also likely responsible for cracking Pluto’s surface and creating the many gigantic faults in its crust that zigzag over large portions of Pluto,” Keane said.

    The basin is thought to have formed to the northwest of its present location, and closer to Pluto’s north pole. And should ices continue to accumulate on the basin, Pluto will continue to reorient itself.

    But there’s more to that story….

    2. There’s probably a vast liquid water ocean sloshing beneath Pluto’s surface.

    Gathered ices may not be the only thing that helped reorient Sputnik Planitia. New Horizons data from the basin indicated there may be a heavier mass beneath it that played a part, and scientists suspect that the heavier mass is a water ocean.

    “That was an astonishing discovery,” Keane said. “It would make Pluto an elusive ‘ocean world,’ in the same vein as Europa, Enceladus, and Titan.” Several other lines of evidence, including tectonic structures seen in New Horizons imagery, also point to an ocean beneath Pluto’s crust.

    Sputnik Planitia was likely created some 4 billion years ago by the impact of a Kuiper Belt object 30 to 60 miles (50 to 100 kilometers) across that carved out a massive chunk of Pluto’s icy crust and left only a thin, weak layer at the basin’s floor. A subsurface ocean likely intruded the basin from below by pushing up against the weakened crust, and later the thick layer of nitrogen ice seen there now was laid on top.

    Recent models based on images of the planet suggest that this liquid ocean may have arisen from a rapid, violent formation of Pluto.

    3. Pluto may still be tectonically active because that ocean is still liquid.

    Enormous faults stretch for hundreds of miles and cut roughly 2.5 miles into the icy crust covering Pluto’s surface. One of the only ways scientists reason Pluto got those fissures, though, is by the gradual freezing of an ocean beneath its surface.

    Water expands as it freezes, and under an icy crust, that expansion will push and crack the surface, just like an ice cube in your freezer. But if the temperature is low enough and the pressure high enough, water crystals can start to form a more compact crystal configuration and the ice will once again contract.

    3
    Illustration of Sputnik Planitia at Pluto. Image credit: James Tuttle Keane.

    Models using New Horizons data showed Pluto has the conditions for that type of contraction, but it doesn’t have any known geologic features that indicate that contraction has occurred. To scientists, that means the subsurface ocean is still in the process of freezing and potentially creating new faults on the surface today.

    “If Pluto is an active ocean world, that suggests that the Kuiper Belt may be filled with other ocean worlds among its dwarf planets, dramatically expanding the number of potentially habitable places in our solar system,” Keane said.

    But while Pluto’s liquid ocean likely still exists today, scientists suspect it’s isolated in most places (though not beneath Sputnik) by almost 200 miles (320 kilometers) of ice. That means it probably doesn’t contact the surface today; but in the past, it may have oozed through volcanic activity called cryovolcanism.

    4. Pluto was—and still may be—volcanically active.

    But maybe not “volcanic” in the way you might think.

    On Earth, molten lava spits, drools, bubbles, and erupts from underwater fissures through volcanoes sitting miles high in and protruding from the oceans, like on Hawaii. But on Pluto, there are numerous indications that a kind of cold, slushy cryolava has poured over the surface at various points.

    Scientists call that “cryovolcanism.”

    Wright Mons and Piccard Mons, two large mountains to the south of Sputnik Planitia, both bear deep central pits that scientists believe are likely the mouths of cryovolcanoes unlike any others found in the solar system.

    4
    Close-up view of Wright Mons, one of two potential cryovolcanoes spotted on the surface of Pluto by the passing New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute.

    To the west of Sputnik sits Viking Terra, with its long fractures and grabens that show evidence of once-flowing cryolavas all over the surface there too.

    And farther west of Sputnik Planitia is the Virgil Fossae region, where ammonia-rich cryolavas seem to have burst to the surface and coated an area of several thousand square kilometers in red-colored organic molecules no more than 1 billion years ago, if not even more recently.

    And speaking of recently…

    5. Glaciers cut across Pluto’s surface even today, and they’ve done so for billions of years.

    Pluto joins the ranks of Earth, Mars, and a handful of moons that have actively flowing glaciers.

    East of Sputnik Planitia are dozens of mostly nitrogen-ice glaciers that course down from pitted highlands into the basin, carving out valleys as they go. Scientists suspect seasonal and “mega-seasonal” cycles of nitrogen ices that sublimate from ice to vapor waft around the dwarf planet and then freeze back on the surface are the source of the glacier ice.

    But these glaciers are not like our own water-ice glaciers here on Earth. For one, any melt within them won’t fall toward the bottom of the glacier, it will rise to the top because liquid nitrogen is less dense than solid nitrogen. As that liquid nitrogen emerges on top of the glacier, it potentially even erupts as jets or geysers.

    Additionally, there is the fact that some of Pluto’s surface is composed of water ice, which is slightly less dense than nitrogen ice. As Pluto’s glaciers carve the surface, some of those water-ice “rocks” will rise up through the glacier and float like icebergs. Such icebergs are seen in several New Horizons images of Sputnik Planitia, the largest of Pluto’s known glaciers, which stretches more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) across—about the size of Oklahoma and Texas combined.

    6. Pluto has heat convection cells on its giant glacier Sputnik.

    Zoom in close to the surface of Sputnik Planitia [above] and you’ll see something unlike anywhere else in the solar system: a network of strange polygonal shapes in the ice, each at least 6 miles (10 kilometers) across, churning on the surface of the glacier.

    Although they resemble cells under a microscope, they’re actually evidence of Pluto’s internal heat trying to escape from underneath the glacier, forming bubbles of upwelling and downwelling nitrogen ice, something like a lava lamp.

    Warm ice rises up into the center of the cells while cold ice sinks along their margins. There’s nothing like it in any of Earth’s glaciers, or anywhere else in the solar system that we’ve explored.

    7. Pluto’s heart literally beats, controlling its atmosphere and climate.

    Cold and far-flung as Pluto may be, its icy “heart” still beats a daily, rhythmic drum that drives Pluto’s atmosphere and climate much in the way Greenland and Antarctica help control Earth’s climate.

    Nitrogen ices in Pluto’s heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio​ go through a cycle every day, subliming from ice to vapor in the daytime sunlight and condensing back on the surface during the frigid night. Each round acts like a heartbeat, driving nitrogen winds that circulate around the planet at up to 20 miles per hour.

    “Pluto’s heart actually controls its atmosphere circulation,” punned Tanguy Bertrand, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

    Sophisticated weather forecast models Bertrand has created using New Horizons data show that as these ices sublime in the northern reaches of Pluto’s icy heart and freeze out in the southern part, they drive brisk winds in a westward direction—curiously opposite Pluto’s eastward spin.

    Those westward winds, bumping up against the rugged topography at the fringes of Pluto’s heart, explain why there are wind streaks on the western edge of Sputnik Planitia, a remarkable finding considering Pluto’s atmosphere is only 1/100,000th that of Earth’s, Bertrand said. They also explain some other surprising desert-like features.

    Speaking of which…

    8. Pluto has dunes.

    It’s not the Sahara or the Gobi Desert, but hundreds of dunes stretch over at least 45 miles (75 kilometers) of the western edge of Sputnik Planitia, and scientists suspect they formed recently.

    Dunes require small particles and sustained, driving winds that can lift and blow the specks of sand or whatever else along. And despite its weak gravity, thin atmosphere, extreme cold, and entire surface composition of ices, Pluto apparently had (or still may have) everything needed to make dunes.

    Water-ice mountains on the northwest fringes of the Sputnik glacier may provide the particles, and Pluto’s beating nitrogen “heart” provides winds. Instead of quartz, basalt, and gypsum sands blown by sometimes gale-force winds on Earth, scientists suspect the dunes on Pluto are sand-sized grains of methane ice carried by winds that blow at no more than 20 miles per hour, although given the size of the dunes, the winds may have been stronger and atmosphere much thicker in the past.

    9. Pluto and Charon have almost no little craters, and that’s a big deal.

    Finding craters on the surface of planets is kind of the norm in space. But if there’s one abnormal thing about the Pluto system, it’s that neither Pluto nor Charon has many small craters—they’re almost all big.

    “That surprised us because there were fewer small craters than we expected, which means there are also fewer small Kuiper Belt objects than we expected,” said Kelsi Singer, a New Horizons deputy project scientist and coinvestigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    Analyses of crater images from New Horizons indicate that few objects less than about a mile in diameter bombarded either world. Because scientists have no reason to believe tectonic activity would have preferentially wiped the surface clean of these small craters, it could mean the Kuiper Belt is mostly devoid of very small objects.

    “These results give us clues about how the solar system formed because they tell us about the population of building blocks of larger objects, like Pluto and even perhaps Earth,” Singer said, adding: “Every time we go somewhere new in the solar system, we find surprises that challenge current theories. The New Horizons flyby did just that, and in many ways.”

    10. Charon had a volcanic past, and it could be key to understanding other icy worlds.

    New Horizons also captured stunning images of Pluto’s moon Charon, and they revealed some surprising geology there, too.

    On the side of Charon that New Horizons imaged in high resolution, Charon has two distinct terrain types: an immense, southward-stretching plain officially called Vulcan Planitia that’s at least the size of California, and a rugged terrain colloquially called Oz Terra that stretches northward to Charon’s north pole. Both seem to have formed from the freezing and expansion of (you guessed it!) an ancient ocean beneath Charon’s crust.

    Moderate expansion in the north created the rugged, mountainous terrain of Oz Terra seen today, whereas the expansion in the south forced its way through vents, cracks, and other openings as cryolava, spilling across the surface. In fact, Vulcan Planitia is thought to be a giant cryoflow that covered the entire region early in Charon’s history.

    Similar features exist on some icy satellites all around the solar system, including Neptune’s giant moon Triton, Saturn’s moons Tethys, Dione, and Enceladus, and Uranus’ moons Miranda and Ariel. And thanks to the detailed images of Charon from New Horizons, the models of Charon’s past maybe a Rosetta Stone to aid in understanding the volcanic and geologic activity of those other icy worlds, too.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the Hub
    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:35 am on June 15, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "MESSENGER Shows How a Spacecraft Could End Neutron Lifetime Stalemate", , , , , JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, MESSENGER carried a neutron spectrometer to detect neutrons scattered off hydrogen atoms in water molecules suspected (and later confirmed) to be frozen at Mercury’s poles., On its way to Mercury though MESSENGER also collected neutron data for the first time over cloud-strewn Venus.,   

    From JHU Applied Physics Lab: “MESSENGER Shows How a Spacecraft Could End Neutron Lifetime Stalemate” 


    From Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab bloc
    From JHU Applied Physics Lab

    June 11, 2020
    Jeremy Rehm
    240-592-3997
    Jeremy.Rehm@jhuapl.edu

    Neutrons aren’t a model of resilience when it comes to living a single life. Strip one from an atom’s nucleus and it will quickly disintegrate into an electron and a proton. But scientists can’t determine how quickly, despite decades of trying, and that’s problematic because knowing that lifetime is key to understanding the formation of the elements after the Big Bang.

    NASA Messenger satellite schematic, ended its mission in 2015 with a dramatic, but planned, event – crashing into the surface of the planet that it had been studying for over four years.


    NASA/Messenger satellite, ended its mission in 2015 with a dramatic, but planned, event – crashing into the surface of the planet that it had been studying for over four years.

    Now, a team of researchers from the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, and Durham University in England has provided a way that could end the decades-long stalemate. Using data from NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft, the team shows that the lifetime of a neutron can be measured from space. The findings were reported June 11 in the journal Physical Review Research.

    “This is the first time anyone has ever measured the neutron lifetime from space,” said Jack Wilson, a scientist at APL and the study’s lead author. “It proves the feasibility of this method, which could one day be the way to resolve this anomaly.”

    2
    Artist’s schematic of how MESSENGER provided data to estimate neutron lifetime. Cosmic rays striking Venus’ atmosphere eject neutrons that gradually fly into space. As neutrons move to higher altitudes, more time passes, and more neutrons radioactively decay. MESSENGER counted the number of neutrons at various altitudes, allowing scientists to compare neutron numbers across altitudes. Using models, researchers could then estimate the neutron lifetime. Credit: Johns Hopkins APL

    A Persisting Mystery

    Since the early 1990s, scientists have disagreed about how long lone neutrons last, mainly because the two methods used so far give highly precise results that don’t line up.

    The “bottle” method traps neutrons in a bottle and tracks how long they take to radioactively decay, which on average is around 14 minutes and 39 seconds. The “beam” technique instead fires a beam of neutrons and tallies the number of protons created from radioactive decay. On average, this takes about 14 minutes and 48 seconds — nine seconds longer than the bottle method.

    Nine seconds isn’t much, but relative to the uncertainty in either method’s measurements — at most two seconds — it’s enormous.

    Researchers using the bottle and beam measurements continue working to resolve the discrepancy with their techniques. But since 1990, researchers have discussed an alternative way to measure the neutron lifetime: from space.

    Cosmic rays colliding with atoms on a planet’s surface or atmosphere set loose neutrons that gradually wind into outer space against the pull of gravity. The farther the neutrons travel from the planet’s surface, the more time passes, and the more neutrons will radioactively decay. By comparing the number of neutrons at various altitudes, a spacecraft could estimate the neutron lifetime.

    No mission or instrument has ever been funded to put the idea into practice. But MESSENGER happened to have the right kind of tool that collected the right kind of data.

    “Of all past spacecraft measurements, MESSENGER’s are well suited to measuring the neutron lifetime,” said David Lawrence, an APL planetary scientist and study coauthor.

    The Spacecraft That Could

    MESSENGER carried a neutron spectrometer to detect neutrons scattered off hydrogen atoms in water molecules suspected (and later confirmed) to be frozen at Mercury’s poles. On its way to Mercury, though, MESSENGER also collected neutron data for the first time over cloud-strewn Venus.

    The spacecraft made observations over a large range of heights above Venus and Mercury. The low-energy neutrons emitted by Venus’ atmosphere move at a few kilometers per second. At MESSENGER’s altitude — a few hundred to a few thousand kilometers above the planet’s surface — the neutrons would have traveled for a time similar to the estimated neutron lifetime.

    “It’s like a large bottle experiment, but instead of using walls and magnetic fields, we use Venus’ gravity to confine neutrons for times comparable to their lifetime,” Wilson said.

    With funding from the United States Department of Energy Office of Science, the researchers used models to estimate the number of neutrons MESSENGER would detect above Venus for neutron lifetimes between about 10 and 17 minutes.

    When the scientists compared the actual number of detected neutrons with the modeled lifetimes, they found 13 minutes provided the best match.

    The team estimated that lifetime could be off by about two minutes due to statistical errors and other uncertainties, such as whether the number of neutrons changes during the day or at different latitudes. Yet within these uncertainties, their estimated neutron lifetime agrees with values from the bottle and beam methods.

    “This result shows that even using data from a mission designed to do something entirely different, it’s still possible to measure the neutron lifetime from space,” said Jacob Kegerreis, a researcher at Durham University and a coauthor on the study.

    The Future in Space

    The new technique clearly is a major departure from the relative ease of laboratory experiments. But because the uncertainties in space-based measurements are unrelated to those in the lab-based methods, the researchers contend the new technique provides a way to break the tie between the existing measurements.

    Making measurements that are more precise will require a dedicated space mission, possibly to Venus, since its thick atmosphere and large mass effectively trap neutrons around the planet, the researchers say. The team is working with internal APL support to understand how to accomplish such a mission.

    “We ultimately want to design and build a spacecraft instrument that can make a high-precision measurement of the neutron lifetime,” Wilson said, and perhaps finally settle this outstanding mystery.

    See the full article here .

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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab Campus

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II—Applied Physics Lab -was created as part of a federal government effort to mobilize scientific resources to address wartime challenges.

    APL was assigned the task of finding a more effective way for ships to defend themselves against enemy air attacks. The Laboratory designed, built, and tested a radar proximity fuze (known as the VT fuze) that significantly increased the effectiveness of anti-aircraft shells in the Pacific—and, later, ground artillery during the invasion of Europe. The product of the Laboratory’s intense development effort was later judged to be, along with the atomic bomb and radar, one of the three most valuable technology developments of the war.

    On the basis of that successful collaboration, the government, The Johns Hopkins University, and APL made a commitment to continue their strategic relationship. The Laboratory rapidly became a major contributor to advances in guided missiles and submarine technologies. Today, more than seven decades later, the Laboratory’s numerous and diverse achievements continue to strengthen our nation.

    APL continues to relentlessly pursue the mission it has followed since its first day: to make critical contributions to critical challenges for our nation.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:44 am on November 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, , , ,   

    From JHU HUB: “The fastest, hottest mission under the sun” Parker Solar Probe 

    Johns Hopkins

    From JHU HUB

    1
    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus named to honor Pioneering Physicist Eugene Parker.

    The Parker Solar Probe shatters records as it prepares for its first solar encounter.

    10.31.18
    Geoff Brown

    The Parker Solar Probe, designed, built, and operated by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, now holds two operational records for a spacecraft and will continue to set new records during its seven-year mission to the sun.

    The Parker Solar Probe is now the closest spacecraft to the sun—it passed the current record of 26.55 million miles from the sun’s surface at 1:04 p.m. on Monday, as calculated by the Parker Solar Probe team. As the mission progresses, the spacecraft will make a final close approach of 3.83 million miles from the sun’s surface, expected in 2024.

    Also on Monday, Parker Solar Probe surpassed a speed of 153,454 miles per hour at 10:54 p.m., making it the fastest human-made object relative to the sun. The spacecraft will also accelerate over the course of the mission, achieving a top speed of about 430,000 miles per hour in 2024.

    The previous records for closest solar approach and speed were set by the German-American Helios 2 spacecraft in April 1976.

    “It’s been just 78 days since Parker Solar Probe launched, and we’ve now come closer to our star than any other spacecraft in history,” said project manager Andy Driesman of APL’s Space Exploration Sector. “It’s a proud moment for the team, though we remain focused on our first solar encounter, which begins [today].”

    The Parker Solar Probe team periodically measures the spacecraft’s precise speed and position using NASA’s Deep Space Network, or DSN. The DSN sends a signal to the spacecraft, which then retransmits it back, allowing the team to determine the spacecraft’s speed and position based on the timing and characteristics of the signal. The Parker Solar Probe’s speed and position were calculated using DSN measurements made up to Oct. 24, and the team used that information along with known orbital forces to calculate the spacecraft’s speed and position from that point on.

    NASA Deep Space Network

    NASA Deep Space Network


    NASA Deep Space Network dish, Goldstone, CA, USA


    NASA Canberra, AU, Deep Space Network

    The Parker Solar Probe will begin its first solar encounter today, continuing to fly closer and closer to the sun’s surface until it reaches its first perihelion—the name for the point where it is closest to the sun—at approximately 10:28 p.m. on Nov. 5, at a distance of about 15 million miles from the sun.

    The spacecraft will face brutal heat and radiation while providing unprecedented, close-up observations of a star and helping us understand phenomena that have puzzled scientists for decades. These observations will add key knowledge to our understanding of the sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other planets.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the Hub

    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:16 am on July 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , JHU Applied Physics Laboratory, , , Touching the Sun   

    From JHU HUB: “A look behind the scenes at the Parker Solar Probe” 

    Johns Hopkins

    From JHU HUB

    1

    7.16.18

    Videographer Lee Hobson and photographer Ed Whitman spend their days documenting mankind’s mission to “touch” the sun.

    By Hub staff report / Published a day ago

    Lee Hobson and Ed Whitman flew to Florida in style three months ago, touching down in the Sunshine State in a Boeing C-17 loaded with priceless cargo: the Parker Solar Probe.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus

    Hobson, director of photography for the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, is the video documentary lead for the APL-led mission to “touch” the sun. He and Whitman, APL’s senior photographer, have spent the past four years painstakingly documenting the construction and testing of the probe, which is scheduled to launch in August. Flying through the sun’s corona, or atmosphere, and facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it, the Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to scientists’ ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.

    2
    Lee Hobson (left) and Ed Whitman inside the clean room at Cape Canaveral. Image credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

    The Hub caught up with Hobson and Whitman to talk about their work, the mission, and what it’s like to stand in the presence of the spacecraft that could change humanity’s understanding of Earth’s closest star.

    How did you get involved with APL and documenting its projects?

    Ed Whitman: As a kid, I was always fascinated with how things worked. There was nothing in my home that was safe from me and a screwdriver. I knew early on that I wanted to do photography, and I had my own company for many years, but when the opportunity at APL came up it just seemed like the right fit. I took the position and just loved it because, you know, I’m basically a frustrated engineer.

    Lee Hobson: I joined in 1988 as a staff photographer and then moved into the video sector in 1996. On any given day I could be working in air defense or force projections, or national security analysis and research, or of course space exploration. That’s what’s really cool about APL—there’s a lot of different things we work on.

    3
    “[W]e’re working next to the spacecraft that’s going to fly within 4 million miles of the sun, and I get to walk around the launchpad. That’s really cool,” says Hobson.
    Image credit: Ed Whitman / Applied Physics Laboratory

    What’s it like to document the Parker Solar Probe?

    LH: The average day is about 10 hours here, but it’s sometimes as long as 15 hours depending on what we’re doing. Ed and I are unique in that when the day’s operation is finished, we don’t go home, we come back to the office to edit footage. So it can be a really long day.

    EW: We do press releases for the public, and those are more like the milestone events when significant things happen. But day to day, I’m working with the mechanical team, shooting everything that’s being integrated into the spacecraft—every nut, every bolt, every process that takes place. And that’s helpful because if the mechanical team gets a faulty software reading or a piece of hardware that’s not functioning properly, they can go back through our photos and images and diagnose the problem.


    Video: Lee Hobson / Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

    What’s been your favorite experience documenting the Solar Probe?

    LH: I’ve really enjoyed writing and editing the Solar 60 video series. I wanted to come up with a way of telling a story through the eyes of our different technicians and scientists and engineers. They get to be the reporters, and they have great camera presence, and I get to be the producer and script writer. So that’s a lot of fun, getting to tell those stories. And, of course, the access that I have to the spacecraft. I mean, we’re working next to the spacecraft that’s going to fly within 4 million miles of the sun, and I get to walk around the launchpad. So that’s really cool.

    EW: For me, it’s interesting to see the process of building something that’s so highly engineered and thought out but is still a one-off that’s never been built before. And I got to integrate my photography with the mechanical team for a test they needed to conduct: They had to lift the spacecraft way up in the sky and then drop down this magnetometer boom, and they had to do it really carefully so they could see how things were working. As it was coming down, I was walking around taking photos in 360 degrees, and I was shooting the photos to the lead engineer using my iPad. I mean, this $2 billion spacecraft is dangling from this lift in front of me and from my photos, the engineer can see the boom harness and determine the clearance and how it interacts with the spacecraft.

    4
    Engineers created a bank of lasers to test the solar arrays that will power the spacecraft. “When we turned off the lights, magical things happened,” says Whitman. “Reflections and a purple glow everywhere… Visually, it was really incredible.” Image credit: Ed Whitman / Applied Physics Laboratory

    What’s the most surprising thing about your work with the Solar Probe?

    EW: The spacecraft is so light! It’s only 1,500 pounds, and it’s being launched in literally the biggest launch vehicle ever built, the Delta IV Heavy. It’s a monster! It stands in front of you like a building. You feel so tiny and insignificant when you look at it, and the spacecraft—they call it a hood ornament—it’s this tiny thing in this giant housing, but those are the things that are going to fall away during launch. It’s just mind-boggling to me.

    6
    “[The spacecraft is] being launched in literally the biggest launch vehicle ever built, the Delta IV Heavy. It’s a monster! It stands in front of you like a building,” says Whitman.
    Image credit: Ed Whitman / Applied Physics Laboratory

    How do you think you’ll feel when the Parker Solar Probe finally launches?

    EW: I’ll feel probably sad and elated. Happy that I was part of something that’s just so awesome, but sad in the sense that I don’t want it to end because it’s just so exciting and so interesting.

    LH: I’m always really proud when we have a successful launch, and we’ve gotten that telemetry maybe 20 minutes after launch that means it survived and that the engineers built a really good spacecraft. But also I’ll feel really proud when we start to get the data sent back. I mean, the Parker Solar Probe is going to rewrite the textbooks with new information about the sun and the corona, and I’ve touched it—the spacecraft that’s going to fly around our sun and give scientists information that they never knew before. That’s really exciting.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the Hub

    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    Johns Hopkins Campus

    The Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

     
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