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  • richardmitnick 9:38 am on May 7, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Jupiter, ,   

    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: “Old Data, New Tricks: Fresh Results from NASA’s Galileo Spacecraft 20 Years On” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    From NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    April 30, 2018
    Mara Johnson-Groh
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    Banner image: NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has caught Jupiter’s moon Ganymede playing a game of “peek-a-boo.” In this crisp Hubble image, Ganymede is shown just before it ducks behind the giant planet. This color image was made from three images taken on April 9, 2007, with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in red, green, and blue filters. The image shows Jupiter and Ganymede in close to natural colors. Credit: NASA, ESA and E. Karkoschka (University of Arizona)

    This image of Ganymede, one of Jupiter’s moons and the largest moon in our solar system, was taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft. Credits: NASA

    Far across the solar system, from where Earth appears merely as a pale blue dot, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft spent eight years orbiting Jupiter.

    NASA/Galileo 1989-2003

    During that time, the hearty spacecraft — slightly larger than a full-grown giraffe — sent back spates of discoveries on the gas giant’s moons, including the observation of a magnetic environment around Ganymede that was distinct from Jupiter’s own magnetic field. The mission ended in 2003, but newly resurrected data from Galileo’s first flyby of Ganymede is yielding new insights about the moon’s environment — which is unlike any other in the solar system.

    “We are now coming back over 20 years later to take a new look at some of the data that was never published and finish the story,” said Glyn Collinson, lead author of a recent paper about Ganymede’s magnetosphere at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We found there’s a whole piece no one knew about.”

    The new results showed a stormy scene: particles blasted off the moon’s icy surface as a result of incoming plasma rain, and strong flows of plasma pushed between Jupiter and Ganymede due to an explosive magnetic event occurring between the two bodies’ magnetic environments. Scientists think these observations could be key to unlocking the secrets of the moon, such as why Ganymede’s auroras are so bright.

    In 1996, shortly after arriving at Jupiter, Galileo made a surprising discovery: Ganymede had its own magnetic field.

    Magnetosphere of Ganymede based on model of Xianzhe Jia (JGR, 113, 6212, 2008), with location of auroral emissions (in blue).

    While most planets in our solar system, including Earth, have magnetic environments — known as magnetospheres — no one expected a moon to have one.

    Between 1996 and 2000, Galileo made six targeted flybys of Ganymede, with multiple instruments collecting data on the moon’s magnetosphere. These included the spacecraft’s Plasma Subsystem, or PLS, which measured the density, temperature and direction of the plasma — excited, electrically charged gas — flowing through the environment around Galileo. New results, recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, reveal interesting details about the magnetosphere’s unique structure.

    We know that Earth’s magnetosphere — in addition to helping make compasses work and causing auroras — is key to in sustaining life on our planet, because it helps protect our planet from radiation coming from space.

    Magnetosphere of Earth, original bitmap from NASA. SVG rendering by Aaron Kaase

    Some scientists think Earth’s magnetosphere was also essential for the initial development of life, as this harmful radiation can erode our atmosphere. Studying magnetospheres throughout the solar system not only helps scientists learn about the physical processes affecting this magnetic environment around Earth, it helps us understand the atmospheres around other potentially habitable worlds, both in our own solar system and beyond.

    This infographic describes Ganymede’s magnetosphere.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith

    Ganymede’s magnetosphere offers the chance to explore a unique magnetic environment located within the much larger magnetosphere of Jupiter. Nestled there, it’s protected from the solar wind, making its shape different from other magnetospheres in the solar system. Typically, magnetospheres are shaped by the pressure of supersonic solar wind particles flowing past them. But at Ganymede, the relatively slower-moving plasma around Jupiter sculpts the moon’s magnetosphere into a long horn-like shape that stretches ahead of the moon in the direction of its orbit.

    Flying past Ganymede, Galileo was continually pummeled by high-energy particles — a battering the moon is also familiar with. Plasma particles accelerated by the Jovian magnetosphere, continually rain down on Ganymede’s poles, where the magnetic field channels them toward the surface. The new analysis of Galileo PLS data showed plasma being blasted off the moon’s icy surface due to the incoming plasma rain.

    “There are these particles flying out from the polar regions, and they can tell us something about Ganymede’s atmosphere, which is very thin,” said Bill Paterson, a co-author of the study at NASA Goddard, who served on the Galileo PLS team during the mission. “It can also tell us about how Ganymede’s auroras form.”

    This visualization shows a simplified model of Jupiter’s magnetosphere, designed to illustrate the scale, and basic features of the structure and impacts of the magnetic axis (cyan arrow) offset from the planetary rotation axis (blue arrow). The semi-transparent gray mesh in the distance represents the boundary of the magnetosphere.
    Credits: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/JPL NAIF

    In this illustration, the moon Ganymede orbits the giant planet Jupiter. Ganymede is depicted with auroras, which were observed by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope.
    Credits: NASA/ESA

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    Ganymede has auroras, or northern and southern lights, just like Earth does. However, unlike our planet, the particles causing Ganymede’s auroras come from the plasma surrounding Jupiter, not the solar wind. When analyzing the data, the scientists noticed that during its first Ganymede flyby, Galileo fortuitously crossed right over Ganymede’s auroral regions, as evidenced by the ions it observed raining down onto the surface of the moon’s polar cap. By comparing the location where the falling ions were observed with data from Hubble, the scientists were able to pin down the precise location of the auroral zone, which will help them solve mysteries, such as what causes the auroras.

    As it cruised around Jupiter, Galileo also happened to fly right through an explosive event caused by the tangling and snapping of magnetic field lines. This event, called magnetic reconnection, occurs in magnetospheres across our solar system. For the first time, Galileo observed strong flows of plasma pushed between Jupiter and Ganymede due to a magnetic reconnection event occurring between the two magnetospheres. It’s thought that this plasma pump is responsible for making Ganymede’s auroras unusually bright.

    Future study of the PLS data from that encounter may yet provide new insights related to subsurface oceans previously determined to exist within the moon using data from both Galileo and the Hubble Space Telescope.

    The research was funded by NASA’s Solar System Workings program and the Galileo mission managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    Related Links

    Learn more about NASA’s Galileo mission
    “NASA’s Hubble Observations Suggest Underground Ocean on Jupiter’s Largest Moon” (March 12, 2015)

    See the full article here.

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

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

    NASA/Goddard Campus

  • richardmitnick 3:43 pm on December 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Jupiter, , NASA Solves How a Jupiter Jet Stream Shifts into Reverse, QQO-Jupiter’s cycle is called the quasi-quadrennial oscillation, Speeding through the atmosphere high above Jupiter’s equator is an east–west jet stream that reverses course on a schedule almost as predictable as a Tokyo train’s, Texas Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph at IRTF   

    From Goddard: “NASA Solves How a Jupiter Jet Stream Shifts into Reverse” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Dec. 18, 2017
    Elizabeth Zubritsky
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

    Illustration showing Jupiter and its moon Io. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/CI Lab

    Speeding through the atmosphere high above Jupiter’s equator is an east–west jet stream that reverses course on a schedule almost as predictable as a Tokyo train’s. Now, a NASA-led team has identified which type of wave forces this jet to change direction.

    Similar equatorial jet streams have been identified on Saturn and on Earth, where a rare disruption of the usual wind pattern complicated weather forecasts in early 2016. The new study combines modeling of Jupiter’s atmosphere with detailed observations made over the course of five years from NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, in Hawai’i.

    NASA Infrared Telescope facility Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA, 4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    The findings could help scientists better understand the dynamic atmosphere of Jupiter and other planets, including those beyond our solar system.

    New observations and modeling by a NASA-led team can help scientists understand a fast and furious jet stream high above Jupiter’s equator. This jet has a counterpart on Earth that seems to influence the transport of ozone, water vapor and pollution in the upper atmosphere, as well as the production of hurricanes.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio/Dan Gallagher

    “Jupiter is much bigger than Earth, much farther from the Sun, rotates much faster, and has a very different composition, but it turns out to be an excellent laboratory for understanding this equatorial phenomenon,” said Rick Cosentino, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author of the paper published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets.

    Earth’s equatorial jet stream was discovered after observers saw debris from the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano being carried by a westward wind in the stratosphere, the region of the atmosphere where modern airplanes achieve cruising altitude. Later, weather balloons documented an eastward wind in the stratosphere. Scientists eventually determined that these winds reversed course regularly and that both cases were part of the same phenomenon.

    The alternating pattern starts in the lower stratosphere and propagates down to the boundary with the troposphere, or lowest layer of the atmosphere. In its eastward phase, it’s associated with warmer temperatures. The westward phase is associated with cooler temperatures. The pattern is called Earth’s quasi-biennial oscillation, or QBO, and one cycle lasts about 28 months. The phase of the QBO seems to influence the transport of ozone, water vapor and pollution in the upper atmosphere as well as the production of hurricanes.

    Jupiter’s cycle is called the quasi-quadrennial oscillation, or QQO, and it lasts about four Earth years. Saturn has its own version of the phenomenon, the quasi-periodic oscillation, with a duration of about 15 Earth years. Researchers have a general understanding of these patterns but are still working out how much various types of atmospheric waves contribute to driving the oscillations and how similar the phenomena are to each other.

    Previous studies of Jupiter had identified the QQO by measuring temperatures in the stratosphere to infer wind speed and direction. The new set of measurements is the first to span one full cycle of the QQO and covers a much larger area of Jupiter. Observations extended over a large vertical range and spanned latitudes from about 40 degrees north to about 40 degrees south. The team achieved this by mounting a high-resolution instrument called TEXES, short for Texas Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph, on the IRTF.

    The TEXES (Texas Echelon Cross Echelle Spectrograph) at IRTF. http://bjm.scs.illinois.edu/astronomy/new_molecules.php

    “These measurements were able to probe thin vertical slices of Jupiter’s atmosphere,” said co-author Amy Simon, a Goddard scientist who specializes in planetary atmospheres. “Previous data sets had lower resolution, so the signals were essentially smeared out over a large section of the atmosphere.”

    The team found that the equatorial jet extends quite high into Jupiter’s stratosphere. Because the measurements covered such a large region, the researchers could eliminate several kinds of atmospheric waves from being major contributors to the QQO, leaving gravity waves as the primary driver. Their model assumes gravity waves are produced by convection in the lower atmosphere and travel up into the stratosphere, where they force the QQO to change direction.

    The results of simulations were an excellent match to the new set of observations, indicating that they correctly identified the mechanism. On Earth, gravity waves are considered most likely to be responsible for forcing the QBO to change direction, though they don’t appear to be strong enough to do the job alone.

    “Through this study we gained a better understanding of the physical mechanisms coupling the lower and upper atmosphere in Jupiter, and thus a better understanding of the atmosphere as a whole,” said Raúl Morales-Juberías, the second author on the paper and an associate professor at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. “Despite the many differences between Earth and Jupiter, the coupling mechanisms between the lower and upper atmospheres in both planets are similar and have similar effects. Our model could be applied to study the effects of these mechanisms in other planets of the solar system and in exoplanets.”

    More information about Jupiter:


    More information about NASA’s IRTF:


    See the full article here.

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

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

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  • richardmitnick 9:07 am on June 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Jupiter, Molybdenum isotopes serve as a marker of the source material for our Solar System, Tungsten acts as a timer for events early in the Solar System’s history, U Münster   

    From ars technica: “New study suggests Jupiter’s formation divided Solar System in two” 

    Ars Technica
    ars technica

    John Timmer


    Gas giants like Jupiter have to grow fast. Newborn stars are embedded in a disk of gas and dust that goes on to form planets. But the ignition of the star releases energy that drives away much of the gas within a relatively short time. Thus, producing something like Jupiter involved a race to gather material before it was pushed out of the Solar System entirely.

    Simulations have suggested that Jupiter could have won this race by quickly building a massive, solid core that was able to start drawing in nearby gas. But, since we can’t look at the interior or Jupiter to see whether it’s solid, finding evidence to support these simulations has been difficult. Now, a team at the University of Münster has discovered some relevant evidence [PNAS] in an unexpected location: the isotope ratios found in various meteorites. These suggest that the early Solar System was quickly divided in two, with the rapidly forming Jupiter creating the dividing line.


    Divide and conquer

    Based on details of their composition, we already knew that meteorites formed from more than one pool of material in the early Solar System. The new work extends that by looking at specific elements: tungsten and molybdenum. Molybdenum isotopes serve as a marker of the source material for our Solar System, determining what type of star contributed that material. Tungsten acts as a timer for events early in the Solar System’s history, as it’s produced by a radioactive decay with a half life of just under nine million years.

    While we have looked at tungsten and molybdenum in a number of meteorite populations before, the German team extended that work to iron-rich meteorites. These are thought to be fragments of the cores of planetesimals that formed early in the Solar System’s history. In many cases, these bodies went on to contribute to building the first planets.

    The chemical composition of meteorites had suggested a large number of different classes produced as different materials solidified at different distances from the Sun. But the new data suggests that, from the perspective of these isotopes, everything falls into just two classes: carbonaceous and noncarbonaceous.

    These particular isotopes tell us a few things. One is that the two populations probably have a different formation history. The molybdenum data indicates that material was added to the Solar System as it was forming, material that originated from a different type of source star. (One way to visualize this is to think of our Solar System as forming in two steps: first, from the debris of a supernova, then later we received additional material ejected by a red giant star.) And, because the two populations are so distinct, it appears that the later addition of material didn’t spread throughout the entire Solar System. If the later material had spread, you’d find some objects with intermediate compositions.

    A second thing that’s clear from the tungsten data is that the two classes of objects condensed at two different times. This suggests the noncarbonaceous bodies were forming from one to two million years into the Solar System’s history, while carbonaceous materials condensed later, from two to three million years.

    Putting it together

    To explain this, the authors suggest that the Solar System was divided early in its history, creating two different reservoirs of material. “The most plausible mechanism to efficiently separate two disk reservoirs for an extended period,” they suggest, “is the accretion of a giant planet in between them.” That giant planet, obviously, would be Jupiter.

    Modeling indicates that Jupiter would need to be 20 Earth masses to physically separate the two reservoirs. And the new data suggest that a separation had to take place by a million years into the Solar System’s history. All of which means that Jupiter had to grow very large, very quickly. This would be large enough for Jupiter to start accumulating gas well before the newly formed Sun started driving the gas out of the disk. By the time Jupiter grew to 50 Earth masses, it would create a permanent physical separation between the two parts of the disk.

    The authors suggest that the quick formation of Jupiter may have partially starved the inner disk of material, as it prevented material from flowing in from the outer areas of the planet-forming disk. This could explain why the inner Solar System lacks any “super Earths,” larger planets that would have required more material to form.

    Overall, the work does provide some evidence for a quick formation of Jupiter, probably involving a solid core. Other researchers are clearly going to want to check both the composition of additional meteorites and the behavior of planet formation models to see whether the results hold together. But the overall finding of two distinct reservoirs of material in the early Solar System seems to be very clear in their data, and those reservoirs will have to be explained one way or another.

    See the full article here .

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    Ars Technica was founded in 1998 when Founder & Editor-in-Chief Ken Fisher announced his plans for starting a publication devoted to technology that would cater to what he called “alpha geeks”: technologists and IT professionals. Ken’s vision was to build a publication with a simple editorial mission: be “technically savvy, up-to-date, and more fun” than what was currently popular in the space. In the ensuing years, with formidable contributions by a unique editorial staff, Ars Technica became a trusted source for technology news, tech policy analysis, breakdowns of the latest scientific advancements, gadget reviews, software, hardware, and nearly everything else found in between layers of silicon.

    Ars Technica innovates by listening to its core readership. Readers have come to demand devotedness to accuracy and integrity, flanked by a willingness to leave each day’s meaningless, click-bait fodder by the wayside. The result is something unique: the unparalleled marriage of breadth and depth in technology journalism. By 2001, Ars Technica was regularly producing news reports, op-eds, and the like, but the company stood out from the competition by regularly providing long thought-pieces and in-depth explainers.

    And thanks to its readership, Ars Technica also accomplished a number of industry leading moves. In 2001, Ars launched a digital subscription service when such things were non-existent for digital media. Ars was also the first IT publication to begin covering the resurgence of Apple, and the first to draw analytical and cultural ties between the world of high technology and gaming. Ars was also first to begin selling its long form content in digitally distributable forms, such as PDFs and eventually eBooks (again, starting in 2001).

  • richardmitnick 9:45 am on January 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Experiment resolves mystery about wind flows on Jupiter, Jupiter, ,   

    From UCLA: “Experiment resolves mystery about wind flows on Jupiter” 

    UCLA bloc


    January 23, 2017
    Katherine Kornei

    Views Jupiter’s south pole (upper left and lower right) and images from the lab experiment to re-create the planet’s winds (upper right and lower left). Jonathan Aurnou.

    Jupiter’s colorful, swirling winds known as “jets” have long puzzled astronomers.

    One mystery has been whether the jets exist only in the planet’s upper atmosphere — much like the Earth’s own jet streams — or whether they plunge into Jupiter’s gaseous interior. If the latter is true, it could reveal clues about the planet’s interior structure and internal dynamics.

    Now, UCLA geophysicist Jonathan Aurnou and collaborators in Marseille, France, have simulated Jupiter’s jets in the laboratory for the first time. Their work demonstrates that the winds likely extend thousands of miles below Jupiter’s visible atmosphere.

    This research is published online today in Nature Physics.

    “We can make these features in a computer, but we couldn’t make them happen in a lab,” said Aurnou, a UCLA professor of Earth, planetary and space sciences, who has spent the past decade studying computer models of swirling winds. “If we have a theoretical understanding of a system, we should be able to create an analog model.”

    The challenge to re-creating swirling winds in the lab was building a model of a planet with three key attributes believed to be necessary for jets to form: rapid rotation, turbulence and a “curvature effect” that mimics the spherical shape of a planet. Previous attempts to create jets in a lab often failed because researchers couldn’t spin their models fast enough or create enough turbulence, Aurnou said.

    The breakthrough for Aurnou’s team was a new piece of laboratory equipment. The researchers used a table built on air bearings that can spin at 120 revolutions per minute and support a load of up to 1,000 kilograms (about 2,200 pounds), meaning that it could spin a large tank of fluid at high speed in a way that mimics Jupiter’s rapid rotation.

    The scientists filled an industrial-sized garbage can with 400 liters (about 105 gallons) of water and placed it on the table. When the container spun, water was thrown against its sides, forming a parabola that approximated the curved surface of Jupiter.

    [No image of experimental equipment is available.]

    “The faster it went, the better we mimicked the massively strong effects of rotation and curvature that exists on planets,” Aurnou said. But the team found that 75 revolutions per minute was a practical limit: fast enough to force the liquid into a strongly curved shape but slow enough to keep water from spilling out.

    While the can was spinning, scientists used a pump below its false floor to circulate water through a series of inlet and outlet holes, which created turbulence — one of the three critical conditions for the experiment. That turbulent energy was channeled into making jets, and within minutes the water flow had changed to six concentric flows moving in alternating directions.

    “This is the first time that anyone has demonstrated that strong jets that look like those on Jupiter can develop in a real fluid,” Aurnou said.

    The researchers inferred that the jets were deep because they could see them on the surface of the water, even though they had injected turbulence at the bottom.

    The researchers are looking forward to testing their predictions with real data from Jupiter, and they won’t have to wait long: NASA’s Juno space probe is orbiting Jupiter right now, collecting data about its atmosphere, magnetic field and interior.


    Initial results from the Juno mission were presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in December in San Francisco, and Aurnou was there.

    “The Juno data from the very first flyby of Jupiter showed that structures of ammonia gas extended over 60 miles into Jupiter’s interior, which was a big shock to the Juno science team,” Aurnou said. “UCLA researchers will be playing an important role in explaining the data.”

    This year, Aurnou and his team will use supercomputers at Argonne National Laboratory in Argonne, Illinois, to simulate the dynamics of Jupiter’s interior and atmosphere.

    ANL Cray Aurora supercomputer
    Cray Aurora supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility

    MIRA IBM Blue Gene Q supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility
    MIRA IBM Blue Gene Q supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility

    They’ll also continue their work at the laboratory in Marseilles to make the spinning table simulation more complex and more realistic.

    One goal is to add a thin, stable layer of fluid on top of the spinning water, which would function like the thin outer layer of Jupiter’s atmosphere that’s responsible for the planet’s weather. The researchers believe this will help them simulate features like Jupiter’s famous Great Red Spot.

    The research was funded by the National Science Foundation Geophysics Program, the French Agence Nationale pour la Recherche and the Aix-Marseille University Foundation.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 10:49 am on December 11, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , CB chondrites, Grand Tack, Jupiter, Jupiter would have stirred up the asteroid belt enough to produce the high-impact velocities necessary to form these CB chondrites, NASA's Solar System Exploration Virtual Institute, Southwest Research Institute, Vaporizing iron requires really high-velocity impacts   

    From Brown: “Research offers clues about the timing of Jupiter’s formation” 

    Brown University
    Brown University

    December 9, 2016
    Kevin Stacey

    The new study shows that Jupiter had probably reached its present day size by about 5 million years after the first solids in the solar system formed.

    Jupiter is the king of the planets of our solar system. http://cosmobiologist.blogspot.com/2016/02/jupiter-king-of-worlds.html

    A peculiar class of meteorites has offered scientists new clues about when the planet Jupiter took shape and wandered through the solar system.

    Scientists have theorized for years now that Jupiter probably was not always in its current orbit, which is about five astronomical units from the sun (Earth’s distance from the sun is one astronomical unit). One line of evidence suggesting a Jovian migration deals with the size of Mars. Mars is much smaller than planetary accretion models predict. One explanation for that is that Jupiter once orbited much closer to the sun than it does now. During that time, it would have swept up much of the material needed to create supersized Mars.

    But while most scientists agree that giant planets migrate, the timing of Jupiter’s formation and migration has been a mystery. That’s where the meteorites come in.

    Meteorites known as CB chondrites were formed as objects in the early solar system—most likely in the present-day asteroid belt—slammed into each other with incredible speed. This new study, published in the journal Science Advances, used computer simulations to show that Jupiter’s immense gravity would have provided the right conditions for these hypervelocity impacts to occur. That in turn suggests that Jupiter was near its current size and sitting somewhere near the asteroid belt when the CB chondrules were formed, which was about 5 million years after formation of the first solar system solids.

    “We show that Jupiter would have stirred up the asteroid belt enough to produce the high-impact velocities necessary to form these CB chondrites,” said Brandon Johnson, a planetary scientist at Brown University who led the research. “These meteorites represent the first time the solar system felt the awesome power of Jupiter.”

    Strange structures

    Chondrites are a class of meteorites made up of chondrules, tiny spheres of previously molten material, and are among the most common meteorites found on Earth. The CB chondrites are a relatively rare subtype that have long fascinated meteoriticists. Part of what makes the CB chondrites so interesting is that their chondrules all date back to a very narrow window of time in the early solar system.

    “The chondrules in other meteorites give us a range of different ages,” Johnson said. “But those in the CB chondrites all date back to this brief period 5 million years after the first solar system solids.”

    Chondrules found in CB chondrites were formed in ultra-high-speed collisions.
    Alexander Krot, University of Hawai’i Manoa

    But to Johnson, who studies impact dynamics, there is something else interesting about CB chondrites: They contain metallic grains that appear to have been condensed directly from vaporized iron. “Vaporizing iron requires really high-velocity impacts,” Johnson said. “You need to have an impact speed of around 20 kilometers per second to even begin to vaporize iron, but traditional computer models of the early solar system only produce impact speeds of around 12 kilometers per second at the time when the CB chondrites were formed.”

    So Johnson worked with Kevin Walsh of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder to generate new computer models of the chondrule-forming period—models that include the presence of Jupiter near the present day position of the asteroid belt.

    Gravity boost

    Big planets generate lots of gravity, which can slingshot nearby objects at high speeds. NASA often takes advantage of this dynamic, swinging spacecraft around planets to generate velocity. Walsh and Johnson included in their simulations a scenario of Jupiter’s formation and migration considered likely by many planetary scientists.

    The scenario, known as the Grand Tack (a term taken from sailing), suggests that Jupiter formed somewhere in the outer solar system. But as it accreted its thick atmosphere, it changed the distribution of mass in the gassy solar nebula surrounding it. That change in mass density caused the planet to migrate, moving inward toward the sun to about where the asteroid belt is today. Later, the formation of Saturn created a gravitational tug that pulled both planets back out to where they are today.

    “When we include the Grand Tack in our model at the time the CB chondrites formed, we get a huge spike in impact velocities in the asteroid belt,” Walsh said. “The speeds generated in our models are easily fast enough to explain the vaporized iron in CB chondrites.”

    The most extreme collision in the model was an object with a 90-kilometer diameter slamming into a 300-kilometer body at a speed of around 33 kilometers per second. Such a collision would have vaporized 30 to 60 percent of the larger body’s iron core, providing ample material for CB chondrites.

    The models also show that the increase in impact velocities would have been short-lived, lasting only about 500,000 years or so (a blink of an eye on the cosmic timescale). That short timescale allowed the researchers to conclude that Jupiter formed and migrated at roughly the same time the CB chondrites formed.

    The researchers say that while the study is strong evidence for the Grand Tack migration scenario, it doesn’t necessarily preclude other migration scenarios. “It’s possible that Jupiter formed closer to the sun and then migrated outward, rather than the in then out migration of the Grand Tack,” Johnson said.

    Whatever the scenario, the study provides strong constraints on the timing of Jupiter’s presence in the inner solar system.

    “In retrospect, it seems obvious that you would need something like Jupiter to stir the asteroid belt up this much,” Johnson said. “We just needed to create these models and calculate the impact speeds to connect the dots.”

    Other co-authors on the paper were David Minton (Purdue University), Alexander Krot (University of Hawai’i, Mānoa) and Harold Levison (Southwest Research Institute). Funding was provided by NASA’s Solar System Exploration Virtual Institute (NNA14AB03A). Computer simulations were run on the National Science Foundation’s XSEDE computer cluster.

    See the full article here .

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    With its talented and motivated student body and accomplished faculty, Brown is a leading research university that maintains a particular commitment to exceptional undergraduate instruction.

    Brown’s vibrant, diverse community consists of 6,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, 400 medical school students, more than 5,000 summer, visiting and online students, and nearly 700 faculty members. Brown students come from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

    Undergraduates pursue bachelor’s degrees in more than 70 concentrations, ranging from Egyptology to cognitive neuroscience. Anything’s possible at Brown—the university’s commitment to undergraduate freedom means students must take responsibility as architects of their courses of study.

  • richardmitnick 10:42 am on September 19, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Jupiter,   

    From Weizmann: “Israeli Instrument Bound for Jupiter” 

    Weizmann Institute of Science logo

    Weizmann Institute of Science

    07.01.2016 [This just appeared in social media.]
    No writer credit found

    Sometime in the year 2030, if all goes according to plan, some dozen groups around the world will begin receiving unique data streams sent from just above the planet Jupiter. Their instruments, which will include a device designed and constructed in Israel, will arrive there aboard the JUICE (JUpiter ICy satellite Explorer) spacecraft, a mission planned by the European Space Agency (ESA) to investigate the properties of the Solar System’s largest planet and several of its moons.


    Among other things, the research groups participating in JUICE hope to discover whether the conditions for life exist anywhere in the vicinity of the planet.

    “This is the first time that an Israeli-built device will be carried beyond the Earth’s orbit,” says Dr. Yohai Kaspi of the Weizmann Institute’s Earth and Planetary Sciences Department, who is the principal investigator on this effort. The project, conducted in collaboration with an Italian team from the University of Rome, is called 3GM (Gravity & Geophysics of Jupiter and Galilean Moons).

    The Israeli contribution to the project is an atomic clock that will measure tiny vacillations in a radio beam provided by the Italian team. This clock must be so accurate it would lose less than a second in 100,000 years, so Kaspi has turned to the Israeli firm AccuBeat, which manufactures clocks that are used in high-tech aircraft, among other things. Its engineers, together with Kaspi and his team, including Dr. Eli Galanti and Dr. Marzia Parisi, have spent the last two years in research and development to design a device that should not only meet the strict demands of the experiment but survive the eight-year trip and function in the conditions of space. Their design was recently approved for flight by the European Space Agency. Israel’s Ministry of Science and Technology will fund the research, building and assembly of the device.

    For around two and a half years as JUICE orbits Jupiter, the 3GM team will investigate the planet’s atmosphere by intercepting radio waves traveling through the gas, timing them and measuring the angle at which the waves are deflected. This will enable them to decipher the atmosphere’s makeup.

    During flybys of three of the planet’s moons – Europa, Ganymede and Callisto – the 3GM instruments will help search for tides. Researchers observing these moons have noted fluctuations in the gravity of these moons, suggesting the large mass of Jupiter is creating tides in liquid oceans beneath their hard, icy exteriors. By measuring the variations in gravity, the researchers hope to learn how large these oceans are, what they are made of, and even whether their conditions might harbor life.

    The JUICE teams are preparing for a launch in 2022. That gives them three years to get the various instruments ready and another three to assemble and test the craft. In the long wait – eight years – from launch to arrival, Kaspi intends to work on building theoretical models that can be tested against the data they will receive from their instruments.

    See the full article here .

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    Weizmann Institute Campus

    The Weizmann Institute of Science is one of the world’s leading multidisciplinary research institutions. Hundreds of scientists, laboratory technicians and research students working on its lushly landscaped campus embark daily on fascinating journeys into the unknown, seeking to improve our understanding of nature and our place within it.

    Guiding these scientists is the spirit of inquiry so characteristic of the human race. It is this spirit that propelled humans upward along the evolutionary ladder, helping them reach their utmost heights. It prompted humankind to pursue agriculture, learn to build lodgings, invent writing, harness electricity to power emerging technologies, observe distant galaxies, design drugs to combat various diseases, develop new materials and decipher the genetic code embedded in all the plants and animals on Earth.

    The quest to maintain this increasing momentum compels Weizmann Institute scientists to seek out places that have not yet been reached by the human mind. What awaits us in these places? No one has the answer to this question. But one thing is certain – the journey fired by curiosity will lead onward to a better future.

  • richardmitnick 2:05 pm on August 26, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Jupiter, ,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Jupiter’s Extended Family? A Billion or More” 

    NASA JPL Banner


    August 26, 2016
    News Media Contact
    Preston Dyches
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

    Written by Pat Brennan
    NASA Exoplanet Program

    Comparing Jupiter with Jupiter-like planets that orbit other stars can teach us about those distant worlds, and reveal new insights about our own solar system’s formation and evolution. (Illustration) Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Our galaxy is home to a bewildering variety of Jupiter-like worlds: hot ones, cold ones, giant versions of our own giant, pint-sized pretenders only half as big around.

    Astronomers say that in our galaxy alone, a billion or more such Jupiter-like worlds could be orbiting stars other than our sun. And we can use them to gain a better understanding of our solar system and our galactic environment, including the prospects for finding life.

    It turns out the inverse is also true — we can turn our instruments and probes to our own backyard, and view Jupiter as if it were an exoplanet to learn more about those far-off worlds. The best-ever chance to do this is now, with Juno, a NASA probe the size of a basketball court, which arrived at Jupiter in July to begin a series of long, looping orbits around our solar system’s largest planet. Juno is expected to capture the most detailed images of the gas giant ever seen. And with a suite of science instruments, Juno will plumb the secrets beneath Jupiter’s roiling atmosphere.


    It will be a very long time, if ever, before scientists who study exoplanets — planets orbiting other stars — get the chance to watch an interstellar probe coast into orbit around an exo-Jupiter, dozens or hundreds of light-years away. But if they ever do, it’s a safe bet the scene will summon echoes of Juno.

    “The only way we’re going to ever be able to understand what we see in those extrasolar planets is by actually understanding our system, our Jupiter itself,” said David Ciardi, an astronomer with NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute (NExSci) at Caltech.


    Not all Jupiters are created equal

    Juno’s detailed examination of Jupiter could provide insights into the history, and future, of our solar system. The tally of confirmed exoplanets so far includes hundreds in Jupiter’s size-range, and many more that are larger or smaller.

    The so-called hot Jupiters acquired their name for a reason: They are in tight orbits around their stars that make them sizzling-hot, completing a full revolution — the planet’s entire year — in what would be a few days on Earth. And they’re charbroiled along the way.

    But why does our solar system lack a “hot Jupiter?” Or is this, perhaps, the fate awaiting our own Jupiter billions of years from now — could it gradually spiral toward the sun, or might the swollen future sun expand to engulf it?

    Not likely, Ciardi says; such planetary migrations probably occur early in the life of a solar system.

    “In order for migration to occur, there needs to be dusty material within the system,” he said. “Enough to produce drag. That phase of migration is long since over for our solar system.”

    Jupiter itself might already have migrated from farther out in the solar system, although no one really knows, he said.

    Looking back in time

    If Juno’s measurements can help settle the question, they could take us a long way toward understanding Jupiter’s influence on the formation of Earth — and, by extension, the formation of other “Earths” that might be scattered among the stars.

    “Juno is measuring water vapor in the Jovian atmosphere,” said Elisa Quintana, a research scientist at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California. “This allows the mission to measure the abundance of oxygen on Jupiter. Oxygen is thought to be correlated with the initial position from which Jupiter originated.”

    If Jupiter’s formation started with large chunks of ice in its present position, then it would have taken a lot of water ice to carry in the heavier elements which we find in Jupiter. But a Jupiter that formed farther out in the solar system, then migrated inward, could have formed from much colder ice, which would carry in the observed heavier elements with a smaller amount of water. If Jupiter formed more directly from the solar nebula, without ice chunks as a starter, then it should contain less water still. Measuring the water is a key step in understanding how and where Jupiter formed.

    That’s how Juno’s microwave radiometer, which will measure water vapor, could reveal Jupiter’s ancient history.

    “If Juno detects a high abundance of oxygen, it could suggest that the planet formed farther out,” Quintana said.

    A probe dropped into Jupiter by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 1995 found high winds and turbulence, but the expected water seemed to be absent. Scientists think Galileo’s one-shot probe just happened to drop into a dry area of the atmosphere, but Juno will survey the entire planet from orbit.

    NASA Galileo

    The chaotic early years

    Where Jupiter formed, and when, also could answer questions about the solar system’s “giant impact phase,” a time of crashes and collisions among early planet-forming bodies that eventually led to the solar system we have today.

    Our solar system was extremely accident-prone in its early history — perhaps not quite like billiard balls caroming around, but with plenty of pileups and fender-benders.

    “It definitely was a violent time,” Quintana said. “There were collisions going on for tens of millions of years. For example, the idea of how the moon formed is that a proto-Earth and another body collided; the disk of debris from this collision formed the moon.

    Theia collision with Earth
    Theia collision with Earth. William K. Hartmann

    And some people think Mercury, because it has such a huge iron core, was hit by something big that stripped off its mantle; it was left with a large core in proportion to its size.”

    Part of Quintana’s research involves computer modeling of the formation of planets and solar systems. Teasing out Jupiter’s structure and composition could greatly enhance such models, she said. Quintana already has modeled our solar system’s formation, with Jupiter and without, yielding some surprising findings.

    “For a long time, people thought Jupiter was essential to habitability because it might have shielded Earth from the constant influx of impacts [during the solar system’s early days] which could have been damaging to habitability,” she said. “What we’ve found in our simulations is that it’s almost the opposite. When you add Jupiter, the accretion times are faster and the impacts onto Earth are far more energetic. Planets formed within about 100 million years; the solar system was done growing by that point,” Quintana said.

    “If you take Jupiter out, you still form Earth, but on timescales of billions of years rather than hundreds of millions. Earth still receives giant impacts, but they’re less frequent and have lower impact energies,” she said.

    Getting to the core

    Another critical Juno measurement that could shed new light on the dark history of planetary formation is the mission’s gravity science experiment. Changes in the frequency of radio transmissions from Juno to NASA’s Deep Space Network will help map the giant planet’s gravitational field.

    NASA Deep Space Network Canberra, Australia
    “NASA Deep Space Network Canberra, Australia, radio telescopes on watch.

    Knowing the nature of Jupiter’s core could reveal how quickly the planet formed, with implications for how Jupiter might have affected Earth’s formation.

    And the spacecraft’s magnetometers could yield more insight into the deep internal structure of Jupiter by measuring its magnetic field.

    “We don’t understand a lot about Jupiter’s magnetic field,” Ciardi said. “We think it’s produced by metallic hydrogen in the deep interior. Jupiter has an incredibly strong magnetic field, much stronger than Earth’s.”

    Mapping Jupiter’s magnetic field also might help pin down the plausibility of proposed scenarios for alien life beyond our solar system.

    Earth’s magnetic field is thought to be important to life because it acts like a protective shield, channeling potentially harmful charged particles and cosmic rays away from the surface.

    Earth’s magnetic field, NASA

    “If a Jupiter-like planet orbits its star at a distance where liquid water could exist, the Jupiter-like planet itself might not have life, but it might have moons which could potentially harbor life,” he said.

    An exo-Jupiter’s intense magnetic field could protect such life forms, he said. That conjures visions of Pandora, the moon in the movie “Avatar” inhabited by 10-foot-tall humanoids who ride massive, flying predators through an exotic alien ecosystem.

    Juno’s findings will be important not only to understanding how exo-Jupiters might influence the formation of exo-Earths, or other kinds of habitable planets. They’ll also be essential to the next generation of space telescopes that will hunt for alien worlds. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) will conduct a survey of nearby bright stars for exoplanets beginning in June 2018, or earlier.


    The James Webb Space Telescope, expected to launch in 2018, and WFIRST (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope), with launch anticipated in the mid-2020s, will attempt to take direct images of giant planets orbiting other stars.

    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated
    NASA/ESA/CSA Webb Telescope annotated


    “We’re going to be able to image planets and get spectra,” or light profiles from exoplanets that will reveal atmospheric gases, Ciardi said. Juno’s revelations about Jupiter will help scientists to make sense of these data from distant worlds.

    “Studying our solar system is about studying exoplanets,” he said. “And studying exoplanets is about studying our solar system. They go together.”

    To learn more about a few of the known exo-Jupiters, visit:


    See the full article here .

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    NASA JPL Campus

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

    Caltech Logo


    NASA image

  • richardmitnick 6:32 am on July 28, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Jupiter,   

    From Science Alert: “Jupiter is so freaking massive, it doesn’t actually orbit the Sun” 


    Science Alert


    27 JUL 2016

    Jupiter, the fifth planet from the Sun, gas giant, and subject of the Juno mission, is huge. Huge.


    It’s so huge, in fact, that it doesn’t actually orbit the Sun. Not exactly. With 2.5 times the mass of all the other planets in the Solar System combined, it’s big enough that the centre of gravity between Jupiter and the Sun doesn’t actually reside inside the Sun – rather, at a point in space just above the Sun’s surface.

    Here’s how that works.

    When a small object orbits a big object in space, the less massive one doesn’t really travel in a perfect circle around the larger one. Rather, both objects orbit a combined centre of gravity.

    In situations we’re familiar with – like Earth orbiting the much-larger Sun – the centre of gravity resides so close to the centre of the larger object that the impact of this phenomenon is negligible. The bigger object doesn’t seem to move, and the smaller one draws a circle around it.

    But reality is always more complicated.

    For example: when the International Space Station (ISS) orbits Earth, both Earth and the space station orbit their combined centre of gravity. But that centre of gravity is so absurdly close to the centre of Earth that the planet’s motion around the point is impossible to spot – and the ISS follows a near-perfect circle around the whole planet.

    The same truth holds when most planets orbit the Sun. The Sun is just so much larger than Earth, Venus, Mercury, or even Saturn that their centres of mass with the Sun all lie deep within the star itself.

    Not so with Jupiter.

    The gas giant is so big that its centre of mass with the Sun, or barycenter, actually lies 1.07 solar radii from the middle of the Sun — or 7 percent of a Sun-radius above the Sun’s surface. Both the Sun and Jupiter orbit around that point in space.

    This not-to-scale gif from NASA illustrates the effect:

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:53 pm on July 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Jupiter   

    From GIZMODO: “Heating of Jupiter’s upper atmosphere above the Great Red Spot” 

    GIZMODO bloc


    Ria Misra

    Artist’s concept of heating above the Great Red Spot (Image: Karen Teramura, UH IfA with James O’Donoghue and Luke Moore)

    There’s a mystery above Jupiter. The planet is five times farther from the sun than Earth is—and yet has similar atmospheric temperatures to our own. So where’s all that extra heat coming from? It turns out, Jupiter may have a second heat source in its Big Red Spot.

    In a new paper out today in Nature, researchers from Boston University explain how they constructed a heat-map of the atmosphere using infrared emissions thrown off by the planet. With that heat map, researchers were able to trace the temperature spike to its source. The highest temperatures were consistently over the planet’s Great Red Spot, an ever-present storm system larger than two Earths.

    Researchers had previously flagged the turbulent storm as a potential heat source but, until this study, had no way to back up their hunch. Now that this team pinned the heat to a likely source, though, researchers have even more questions.

    The precise mechanism by which the storm system’s heat transfer works, for instance, has yet to be uncovered. Equally intriguing is the question of what will happen to Jupiter’s atmosphere as the Great Red Spot changes. This “perpetual hurricane,” as researchers describe it, has raged for centuries at least—but that doesn’t mean it’s going to keep on going forever. Previous studies have shown that the giant spot appears to be steadily shrinking with age.

    If the Great Red Spot is indeed one of the primary heat sources for the planet, then it would make sense to see Jupiter cool down as it shrinks. If nothing else, a gradual cooling of the planet’s temperature would confirm that scientists have indeed solved the mystery of Jupiter’s extra heat.

    See the full article here .

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    “We come from the future.”

    GIZMOGO pictorial

  • richardmitnick 2:37 pm on July 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Application Specific Integrated Circuits, , , Jupiter,   

    From Goddard: “Tiny Microchips Enable Extreme Science” 

    NASA Goddard Banner

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    July 12, 2016
    Lina Tran
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    The Application Specific Integrated Circuits, or ASICs, are integral to JEDI’s investigation of unique space environments like that surrounding Jupiter. They will measure the speed, energy and position of particles and photons in space with incredible accuracy.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Joy Ng

    As NASA spacecraft explore deeper into space, onboard computer electronics must not only be smaller and faster, but also be prepared for extreme conditions. A prime example is shown in these images: a family of Application Specific Integrated Circuits, or ASICs, microchips specifically designed to measure the particles in space – the very stuff that can create radiation hazards for satellite computers.

    These tiny, radiation-resistant chips play a crucial role in one of the instruments nestled inside the radiation-shielded electronics vault on NASA’s Juno spacecraft – which entered Jupiter’s orbit on July 4.


    The microchips aboard Juno are part of the Jupiter Energetic Particle Detector Instrument, or JEDI, a cutting-edge instrument that will measure the composition of the immense magnetic system surrounding the planet, called a magnetosphere.

    The image shows the magnetic field of Jupiter based on a realistic model[1] and co–rotation enforcing currents.[2] Positions of the Galilean moons are also shown. Ruslik0

    The ASICs measure the speed, energy and position of particles and photons in space with time accuracy down to a fraction of a billionth of a second. The largest chip is barely the size of a saltine cracker. Without these chips, satellite electronics would be much heavier and require substantially more shielding and power – potential problems for any satellites traveling into space.

    “Before my work, you had electronics that were very big – over two pounds,” said Nikolaos Paschalidis, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Paschalidis conceived of and first developed ASICs when he worked at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland. “A great deal of my early work was on miniaturization of space instruments and systems with advanced technologies like electronics onto a microchip.”

    Paschalidis is the chief technologist for heliophysics at Goddard. Heliophysics is the study of the sun and how it affects the particles and energy in space. Far from being empty, the space surrounding planets is filled with fast moving particles and a complex electromagnetic system often driven by the sun. Near Jupiter, this system includes intense aurora and giant radiation belts surrounding the gas giant. It’s the job of JEDI, led by Barry Mauk at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, to observe this complex system.

    Better understanding of a planet’s space environment helps us understand how it was formed and continues to evolve. Moreover, it helps us learn more about how to prepare spacecraft to travel through such harsh radiation conditions.

    Juno isn’t the first spacecraft to carry these microchips. ASICs have been incorporated in many other NASA missions to study a diverse range of space environments from close to the sun to the heart of Earth’s radiation belts to the edge of the solar system. However, the Juno mission required a significant advance in ASIC performance over prior spaceflight electronics: The Juno ASICs were specially developed to be radiation-hardened, enabling them to withstand the harsh, radiative environment of Jupiter’s magnetosphere where high-energy particles constantly bombard objects and deposit large doses of radiation.

    Goddard Heliophysicist Waits Nearly 10 Years for Pluto Flyby

    See the full article here.

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

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

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus

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