Tagged: NASA Goddard Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 1:59 pm on September 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA Goddard, UF-Radsat   

    From Goddard: “NASA Small Satellite Promises Big Discoveries” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Sept. 19, 2017
    Danny Baird
    daniel.s.baird@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.


    UF-Radsat, in a highly elliptical orbit, will communicate with the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) constellation and the Near Earth Network. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    Typically, NASA’s Near Earth Network (NEN) provides direct-to-ground communication for CubeSats. Communication only occurs when a satellite passes over one of the NEN antennas, located around the globe. A team of engineers and scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the University of Florida are collaborating on a 12U CubeSat that will be the first to interface with NASA’s Space Network, which provides continuous communications services. The University of Florida RadSat (UF-RadSat) is a collaborative design effort of NASA interns from several universities across the country, who have filed multiple invention disclosures for its technologies. The satellite will circle Earth in a geosynchronous transfer orbit, communicating with three Tracking and Data Relay Satellites (TDRS) and NEN ground stations. This methodology provides almost constant data coverage — an innovation that could be useful to many future CubeSat missions.

    “The purpose of our mission is to simultaneously provide critical engineering data to strengthen NASA missions while demonstrating the operational advantages of near-continuous communications between CubeSats and the TDRS constellation,” said Harry Shaw, a NASA co-investigator on the project. “The work we execute for our CubeSat mission will enable this communications option for other CubeSats.”

    UF-RadSat is more than just a communications demonstration. NASA will also run two radiation experiments aboard the CubeSat. The first experiment was created by a team at the University of Florida under the direction of Michele Manuel, department chair of Materials Science and Engineering. The team developed a magnesium and gadolinium alloy with radiation mitigating properties. The alloy, stronger and lighter than steel or aluminum, will be tested for its on-orbit effectiveness in trapping thermal neutrons, a radiation health hazard. The experiment will determine the metal’s usefulness in mitigating the risks posed by radiation to future human spaceflight endeavors.

    The second experiment aboard UF-RadSat originates at Goddard. Ray Ladbury and Jean-Marie Lauenstein, scientists from Goddard’s Radiation Effects Group, will assess the reliability of power metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) under the harsh radiation conditions of space. Spacecraft power systems use MOSFETs to amplify or switch electronic signals. They can be damaged or destroyed by the radiation environment in space. The experiment will contribute to assessing and improving MOSFETs on-orbit reliability and provide valuable insight into single-event gate rupture, a primary radiation-induced failure in MOSFETs.

    “Since its beginnings in the late 1950s, NASA has played a key and influential role in advancing space capabilities,” said Pat Patterson, the Small Satellite Conference committee chair. “The same can be said for NASA’s influence on the rise of small satellites, as NASA is now using these technologies to continue to advance scientific and human exploration, reduce the cost of new space missions, and expand access to space.”

    2
    UF-Radsat will deploy its parabolic mesh high-gain antenna once placed in orbit. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    The research aboard UF-RadSat continues NASA’s legacy in the small satellite community. Nanosatellites like UF-RadSat reflect NASA’s dedication to cost-effective research at the cutting edge of communications technology.

    NASA interns from University of Maryland, College Park; Morgan State University; University of Puerto Rico; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; University of Colorado; and University of Florida collaborated on UF-Radsat.

    Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA, including: planetary space exploration; Earth observations; fundamental Earth and space science; and developing precursor science instruments like cutting-edge laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities.

    To learn more about NASA’s CubeSats, visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cubesats/index.html

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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

    Advertisements
     
  • richardmitnick 7:55 am on September 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA Goddard, NASA IRTF, ,   

    From Goddard: “How Two Ground-based Telescopes Support NASA’s Cassini Mission” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Sept. 11, 2017
    Elizabeth Zubritsky
    elizabeth.a.zubritsky@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    When NASA’s Cassini spacecraft plunges into the atmosphere of Saturn on Sept. 15, ending its 20 years of exploration, astronomers will observe the giant planet from Earth, giving context to Cassini’s final measurements.

    “The whole time Cassini is descending, we’ll be on the ground, taking data and learning about conditions on Saturn,” said Don Jennings, a senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and a co-investigator for a Cassini instrument called the Composite Infrared Spectrometer.

    1
    The aftermath of a massive storm that erupted in Saturn’s northern hemisphere in December 2010 continues to be tracked by researchers, including observations planned using the new high-resolution iSHELL instrument at NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

    This farewell is fitting for a mission that has been supported by similar observations throughout its lifetime. NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, or IRTF, and the W. M. Keck Observatory, in which NASA is a partner, have provided crucial contributions from the summit of Maunakea in Hawaii. Other U.S. and international telescopes also have investigated the Saturn system, complementing and enhancing the mission.

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

    Keck Observatory, Maunakea, Hawaii, USA.4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

    “IRTF and other facilities have provided direct support to the Cassini–Huygens mission and made it possible to link that data to decades’ worth of earlier and ongoing ground-based studies,” said IRTF director John Rayner.

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft

    “Through its daytime observing capabilities IRTF is able to provide almost year-round monitoring of planets in support of NASA missions.”

    Ground-based observations of Titan, the giant planet’s largest moon, helped with preparations for the Huygens probe mission early in Cassini’s exploration of the Saturn system. The probe was released after Cassini entered Saturn orbit and descended through Titan’s thick atmosphere to land on the surface.

    A coordinated ground campaign was organized to study Titan’s atmosphere and surface, to measure the wind speed and direction, to look at atmospheric chemistry and to provide global imaging.

    Eight facilities worldwide participated, observing before, during and after the Huygens probe mission, led by the European Space Agency. These included the Keck Observatory, which captured high-resolution images of the atmospheric weather patterns on Titan, and the IRTF, which helped determine the direction of Titan’s winds.

    “Ground-based observing played a crucial role, because at that time, it was the only way to determine the direction of Titan’s winds, which had the potential to affect Huygens’ descent to the surface,” said Goddard’s Theodor (Ted) Kostiuk, who led those observations at the IRTF and is now an emeritus scientist. “The Voyager flyby provided some information about Titan, but wind direction was one thing it could not tell us.”

    IRTF continues to be used for long-term studies of Saturn and Titan and their atmospheres, and to investigate Saturn’s moons, extending and complementing Cassini findings. The facility’s recently installed high-resolution infrared instrument, called iSHELL, will be deployed for ongoing studies of the aftermath of a massive storm that broke out in Saturn’s northern hemisphere in 2010. With its very high spectral resolution, iSHELL has been optimized for the study of planetary atmospheres.

    Cassini also has received plenty of aloha from the Keck Observatory, which has provided many sharp images and spectra of Saturn’s most famous feature – its rings. These studies are made possible by the high spatial resolution of Keck’s large aperture combined with a state-of-the-art adaptive optics system to correct for distortions caused by Earth’s atmosphere.

    “It’s been exciting to be involved in ground support of the Cassini orbiter over these many years,” said Observing Support Manager Randy Campbell of Keck Observatory. “This mission has given us an opportunity to work together toward a better understanding of some of the most beautiful and enigmatic objects in the night sky, Saturn and its moons.”

    During the summer of 2017, the Cassini team used Keck Observatory to take near-infrared spectroscopic data of the regions near Saturn’s equator, just as Cassini was diving between Saturn and its rings during its final orbits. The team also took Keck data of the polar magnetic fields to better understand the planet’s auroras, which are similar to Earth’s northern and southern lights. The Keck Observatory data will be used to verify Cassini’s data to provide a sort of “ground-truth” calibration of some of the on-board instruments of the orbiter.

    After Cassini, ground-based studies will continue, building on everything the spacecraft observed, and keeping the discoveries coming.

    For more information about NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, visit:

    http://irtfweb.ifa.hawaii.edu/

    For more information about the Keck Observatory, visit:

    http://www.keckobservatory.org/

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 7:09 am on September 2, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: NASA Goddard, , Understand our near-Earth environment   

    From Goddard: “NASA’s Van Allen Probes Survive Extreme Radiation Five Years On” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Sept. 1, 2017
    Mara Johnson-Groh
    mara.johnson-groh@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    Most satellites, not designed to withstand high levels of particle radiation, wouldn’t last a day in the Van Allen Radiation belts. Trapped by Earth’s magnetic field into two giant belts around the planet, high-energy particles in the region can batter the spacecraft and even interfere with onboard electronics. But NASA’s Van Allen Probes have been traveling through this hazardous area since Aug. 30 2012 – they are now celebrating their fifth year in space studying this dynamic region.

    The Van Allen Probes mission is the second of NASA’s Living with a Star missions, which is tasked with understand our near-Earth environment. The two identical spacecraft, built with radiation-hardened components, study how high-energy particles are accelerated and lost from the belts. This information helps scientists understand and predict space weather, which, in addition to creating shimmering auroras, can disrupt power grids and GPS communications.

    “During its first five years, the Van Allen Probes have made enormously significant contributions to our understanding of radiation belt physics, including truly exceptional discoveries,” said Shri Kanekal, Van Allen Probes deputy mission scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    1
    The two Van Allen Probes work as a team, following one behind the other to uniquely observe changes in the belts. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/JHUAPL

    The Van Allen Probes mission has provided invaluable information about the very shape of the belts, discovering a third radiation belt that can appear during certain circumstances, and used uniquely capable instruments to unveil inner radiation belt features that were all but invisible to previous sensors. The mission has also extended beyond the practical considerations of the hazards of Earth’s space environment: Observations have found process that generate intense particle radiation inside the belts also occur across the universe, making the region a unique natural laboratory for developing our understanding of the particle energization processes.

    In celebration of the Van Allen Probes’ fifth year in space, here are five facts about the spacecraft.

    14+ gigabits – amount of data are downloaded daily from each spacecraft
    2,000 miles per hour – spacecrafts’ cruising speed
    164 feet – length of the longest instruments aboard the spacecraft
    3.8 square yards – size of solar panels used to power the instruments
    9 hours – time each spacecraft takes to encircle Earth

    Originally tasked with a two-year mission, the Van Allen Probes continue to make new discoveries five years on, continuing to solve scientific puzzles about the dynamic belt region around Earth.

    Related Links

    Learn more about the Van Allen Probes
    Learn more about the NASA’s Living with a Star Program

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 5:20 am on August 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , NASA Goddard, , NASA's Global Hawk autonomous aircraft, NASA-led Mission Studies Storm Intensification,   

    From JPL: “NASA-led Mission Studies Storm Intensification” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    August 16, 2017
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
    818-354-0474
    alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

    Kate Squires
    NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center
    661-276-2020
    Kate.k.squires@nasa.gov

    Written by Kate Squires
    NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center

    1
    NASA’s Global Hawk being prepared at Armstrong to monitor and take scientific measurements of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Credits: NASA Photo/Lauren Hughes.

    A group of NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists, including scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, are teaming up this month for an airborne mission focused on studying severe storm processes and intensification. The Hands-On Project Experience (HOPE) Eastern Pacific Origins and Characteristics of Hurricanes (EPOCH) field campaign will use NASA’s Global Hawk autonomous aircraft to study storms in the Northern Hemisphere to learn more about how storms intensify as they brew out over the ocean.

    The scope of the mission initially focused only on the East Pacific region, but was expanded to both the Gulf and Atlantic regions to give the science team broader opportunities for data collection.

    “Our key point of interest is still the Eastern Pacific, but if the team saw something developing off the East Coast that may have high impact to coastal communities, we would definitely recalibrate to send the aircraft to that area,” said Amber Emory, NASA’s principal investigator.

    Having a better understanding of storm intensification is an important goal of HOPE EPOCH. The data will help improve models that predict storm impact to coastal regions, where property damage and threat to human life can be high.

    NASA has led the campaign through integration of the HOPE EPOCH science payload onto the Global Hawk platform and maintained operational oversight for the six planned mission flights. NOAA’s role will be to incorporate data from dropsondes — devices dropped from aircraft to measure storm conditions — into NOAA National Weather Service operational models to improve storm track and intensity forecasts that will be provided to the public. NOAA first used the Global Hawk to study Hurricane Gaston in 2016.

    With the Global Hawk flying at altitudes of 60,000 feet (18,300 meters), the team will conduct six 24-hour-long flights, three of which are being supported and funded through a partnership with NOAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems program.

    NASA’s autonomous Global Hawk is operated from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California and was developed for the U.S. Air Force by Northrop Grumman. It is ideally suited for high-altitude, long-duration Earth science flights.

    The ability of the Global Hawk to autonomously fly long distances, remain aloft for extended periods of time and carry large payloads brings a new capability to the science community for measuring, monitoring and observing remote locations of Earth not feasible or practical with piloted aircraft or space satellites.

    The science payload consists of a variety of instruments that will measure different aspects of storm systems, including wind velocity, pressure, temperature, humidity, cloud moisture content and the overall structure of the storm system.

    Many of the science instruments have flown previously on the Global Hawk, including the High-Altitude MMIC Sounding Radiometer (HAMSR), a microwave sounder instrument that takes vertical profiles of temperature and humidity; and the Airborne Vertical Atmospheric Profiling System (AVAPS) dropsondes, which are released from the aircraft to profile temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction.

    New to the science payload is the ER-2 X-band Doppler Radar (EXRAD) instrument that observes vertical velocity of a storm system. EXRAD has one conically scanning beam as well as one nadir beam, which looks down directly underneath the aircraft. EXRAD now allows researchers to get direct retrievals of vertical velocities directly underneath the plane.

    The EXRAD instrument is managed and operated by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland; and the HAMSR instrument is managed by JPL. The National Center for Atmospheric Research developed the AVAPS dropsonde system, and the NOAA team will manage and operate the system for the HOPE EPOCH mission.

    Besides the scientific value that the HOPE EPOCH mission brings, the campaign also provides a unique opportunity for early-career scientists and project managers to gain professional development.

    HOPE is a cooperative workforce development program sponsored by the Academy of Program/Project & Engineering Leadership (APPEL) program and NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The HOPE Training Program provides an opportunity for a team of early-entry NASA employees to propose, design, develop, build and launch a suborbital flight project over the course of 18 months. This opportunity enables participants to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to manage NASA’s future flight projects.

    Emory started as a NASA Pathways Intern in 2009. The HOPE EPOCH mission is particularly exciting for her, as some of her first science projects at NASA began with the Global Hawk program.

    The NASA Global Hawk had its first flights during the 2010 Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP) campaign. Incidentally, the first EPOCH science flight targeted Tropical Storm Franklin as it emerged from the Yucatan peninsula into the Gulf of Campeche along a track almost identical to that of Hurricane Karl in 2010, which was targeted during GRIP and where Emory played an important role.

    “It’s exciting to work with people who are so committed to making the mission successful,” Emory said. “Every mission has its own set of challenges, but when people come to the table with new ideas on how to solve those challenges, it makes for a very rewarding experience and we end up learning a lot from one another.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 3:15 pm on August 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CubeSat UV Experiment, NASA Goddard,   

    From Goddard: “NASA Studies CubeSat Mission to Solve Venusian Mystery” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Aug. 15, 2017
    Lori Keesey
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    1
    The cloud-enshrouded Venus appears featureless, as shown in this image taken by NASA’s MESSENGER mission. In ultraviolet, however, the planet takes on a completely different appearance as seen below. Credits: NASA.

    NASA Messenger satellite

    2
    As seen in the ultraviolet, Venus is striped by light and dark areas indicating that an unknown absorber is operating in the planet’s top cloud layer. The image was taken by NASA’s Pioneer-Venus Orbiter in 1979. Credits: NASA

    3
    NASA’s Pioneer-Venus Orbiter

    Venus looks bland and featureless in visible light, but change the filter to ultraviolet, and Earth’s twin suddenly looks like a different planet. Dark and light areas stripe the sphere, indicating that something is absorbing ultraviolet wavelengths in the planet’s cloud tops.

    A team of scientists and engineers working at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, has received funding from the agency’s Planetary Science Deep Space SmallSat Studies, or PSDS3, program to advance a CubeSat mission concept revealing the nature of this mysterious absorber situated within the planet’s uppermost cloud layer.

    Called the CubeSat UV Experiment [no image available], or CUVE, the mission would investigate Venus’ atmosphere using ultraviolet-sensitive instruments and a novel, carbon-nanotube light-gathering mirror.

    Similar in structure and size to Earth, Venus spins slowly in the opposite direction of most planets. Its thick atmosphere, consisting mainly of carbon dioxide, with clouds of sulfuric acid droplets, traps heat in a runaway greenhouse effect, making it the hottest planet in our solar system with surface temperatures hot enough to melt lead.

    Although NASA and other international space programs have dispatched multiple missions to Venus, “the exact nature of the cloud top absorber has not been established,” said CUVE Principal Investigator Valeria Cottini, a researcher at the University of Maryland who is leading a team of experts in the composition, chemistry, dynamics, and radiative transfer of the planet’s atmosphere. “This is one of the unanswered questions and it’s an important one,” she added.

    Past observations of Venus show that half of the solar energy is absorbed in the ultraviolet by an upper layer of the sulfuric-acid clouds, giving the planet its striped dark and light features. Other wavelengths are scattered or reflected into space, which explains why the planet looks like a featureless, yellowish-white sphere in the optical — wavelengths visible to the human eye.

    Theories abound as to what causes these streaked, contrasting features, Cottini said. One explanation is that convective processes dredge the absorber from deep within Venus’ thick cloud cover, transporting the substance to the cloud tops. Local winds disperse the material in the direction of the wind, creating the long streaks. Scientists theorize the bright areas as observed in the ultraviolet are probably stable against convection and do not contain the absorber, while the dark areas do.

    “Since the maximum absorption of solar energy by Venus occurs in the ultraviolet, determining the nature, concentration, and distribution of the unknown absorber is fundamental,” Cottini said. “This is a highly-focused mission — perfect for a CubeSat application.”

    To learn more about the absorber, the CUVE team, which includes Goddard scientists as well researchers affiliated with the University of Maryland and Catholic University, is leveraging investments Goddard has made in miniaturized instruments and other technologies. In addition to flying a miniaturized ultraviolet camera to add contextual information and capture the contrast features, CUVE would carry a Goddard-developed spectrometer to analyze light over a broad spectral band — 190-570 nanometers — covering the ultraviolet and visible. The team also plans to leverage investments in CubeSat navigation, electronics, and flight software.

    “A lot of these concepts are driven by important Goddard research-and-development investments,” said Tilak Hewagama, a CUVE team member who has worked with Goddard scientists Shahid Aslam, Nicolas Gorius, and others to demonstrate a CubeSat-compatible spectrometer. “That’s what got us started.”

    One of the other novel CUVE adaptations is the potential use of a lightweight telescope equipped with a mirror made of carbon nanotubes in an epoxy resin. To date, no one has been able to make a mirror using this resin.

    Such optics offer several advantages. In addition to being lightweight and highly stable, they are relatively easy to reproduce. They do not require polishing — a time-consuming and often-times expensive process that assures a smooth, perfectly shaped surface.

    Developed by Goddard contractor Peter Chen, the mirror is made by pouring a mixture of epoxy and carbon nanotubes into a mandrel, or mold, fashioned to meet a specific optical prescription. Technicians then heat the mold to cure and harden the epoxy. Once set, the mirror is coated with a reflective material of aluminum and silicon dioxide.

    Study Objectives

    The team plans to further enhance the mission’s technologies and evaluate technical requirements to reach a polar orbit around Venus as a secondary payload. The team believes it would take CUVE one-and-a-half years to reach its destination. Once in orbit, the team would gather data for about six months.

    “CUVE is a targeted mission, with a dedicated science payload and a compact bus to maximize flight opportunities such as a ride-share with another mission to Venus or to a different target,” Cottini said. “CUVE would complement past, current, and future Venus missions and provide great science return at lower cost.”

    Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA, including: planetary space exploration; Earth observations; fundamental Earth and space science; and developing precursor science instruments like cutting-edge laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities.

    For more technology news, go to https://gsfctechnology.gsfc.nasa.gov/newsletter/Current.pdf

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 11:19 am on August 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: NASA Goddard, NASA Watches the Sun Put a Stop to Its Own Eruption,   

    From Goddard: “NASA Watches the Sun Put a Stop to Its Own Eruption” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Aug. 11, 2017
    Lina Tran
    kathalina.k.tran@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    On Sept. 30, 2014, multiple NASA observatories watched what appeared to be the beginnings of a solar eruption. A filament — a serpentine structure consisting of dense solar material and often associated with solar eruptions — rose from the surface, gaining energy and speed as it soared. But instead of erupting from the Sun, the filament collapsed, shredded to pieces by invisible magnetic forces.

    Because scientists had so many instruments observing the event, they were able to track the entire event from beginning to end, and explain for the first time how the Sun’s magnetic landscape terminated a solar eruption. Their results are summarized in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal on July 10, 2017.


    Watch the video to view the observations and models that enabled scientists to track the failed solar eruption from its onset up through the solar atmosphere — and ultimately understand why it faded away. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Genna Duberstein, producer.

    “Each component of our observations was very important,” said Georgios Chintzoglou, lead author of the paper and a solar physicist at Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. “Remove one instrument, and you’re basically blind. In solar physics, you need to have good coverage observing multiple temperatures — if you have them all, you can tell a nice story.”

    The study makes use of a wealth of data captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph, JAXA/NASA’s Hinode, and several ground-based telescopes in support of the launch of the NASA-funded VAULT2.0 sounding rocket.

    NASA/SDO

    JAXA/HINODE spacecraft

    Together, these observatories watch the Sun in dozens of different wavelengths of light that reveal the Sun’s surface and lower atmosphere, allowing scientists to track the eruption from its onset up through the solar atmosphere — and ultimately understand why it faded away.

    The day of the failed eruption, scientists pointed the VAULT2.0 sounding rocket — a sub-orbital rocket that flies for some 20 minutes, collecting data from above Earth’s atmosphere for about five of those minutes — at an area of intense, complex magnetic activity on the Sun, called an active region. The team also collaborated with IRIS to focus its observations on the same region.

    “We were expecting an eruption; this was the most active region on the Sun that day,” said Angelos Vourlidas, an astrophysicist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, principal investigator of the VAULT2.0 project and co-author of the paper. “We saw the filament lifting with IRIS, but we didn’t see it erupt in SDO or in the coronagraphs. That’s how we knew it failed.”

    The Sun’s landscape is controlled by magnetic forces, and the scientists deduced the filament must have met some magnetic boundary that prevented the unstable structure from erupting. They used these observations as input for a model of the Sun’s magnetic environment. Much like scientists who use topographical data to study Earth, solar physicists map out the Sun’s magnetic features, or topology, to understand how these forces guide solar activity.

    Chintzoglou and his colleagues developed a model that identified locations on the Sun where the magnetic field was especially compressed, since rapid releases of energy — such as those they observed when the filament collapsed — are more likely to occur where magnetic field lines are strongly distorted.

    “We computed the Sun’s magnetic environment by tracing millions of magnetic field lines and looking at how neighboring field lines connect and diverge,” said Antonia Savcheva, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and co-author of the paper. “The amount of divergence gives us a measure of the topology.”

    Their model shows this topology shapes how solar structures evolve on the Sun’s surface. Typically, when solar structures with opposite magnetic orientations collide, they explosively release magnetic energy, heating the atmosphere with a flare and erupting into space as a coronal mass ejection — a massive cloud of solar material and magnetic fields.

    But on the day of the Sept. 2014 near-eruption, the model indicated the filament instead pushed up against a complex magnetic structure, shaped like two igloos smashed against each other. This invisible boundary, called a hyperbolic flux tube, was the result of a collision of two bipolar regions on the sun’s surface — a nexus of four alternating and opposing magnetic fields ripe for magnetic reconnection, a dynamic process that can explosively release great amounts of stored energy.

    “The hyperbolic flux tube breaks the filament’s magnetic field lines and reconnects them with those of the ambient Sun, so that the filament’s magnetic energy is stripped away,” Chintzoglou said.

    This structure eats away at the filament like a log grinder, spraying chips of solar material and preventing eruption. As the filament waned, the model demonstrates heat and energy were released into the solar atmosphere, matching the initial observations. The simulated reconnection also supports the observations of bright flaring loops where the hyperbolic flux tube and filament met — evidence for magnetic reconnection.

    While scientists have speculated such a process exists, it wasn’t until they serendipitously had multiple observations of such an event that they were able to explain how a magnetic boundary on the Sun is capable of halting an eruption, stripping a filament of energy until it’s too weak to erupt.

    “This result would have been impossible without the coordination of NASA’s solar fleet in support of our rocket launch,” Vourlidas said.

    This study indicates the Sun’s magnetic topology plays an important role in whether or not an eruption can burst from the Sun. These eruptions can create space weather effects around Earth.

    “Most research has gone into how topology helps eruptions escape,” Chintzoglou said. “But this tells us that apart from the eruption mechanism, we also need to consider what the nascent structure encounters in the beginning, and how it might be stopped.”

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 10:55 am on August 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ECHOES, NASA Goddard, NASA IMAGE satellite   

    From Goddard: “NASA Team Miniaturizes Century-Old Technology for Use on CubeSats” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Aug. 3, 2017
    Lori Keesey
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    A century-old technology that scientists use to probe the ionosphere — the important atmospheric layer that can interfere with the transmission of radio waves — is getting smaller.

    A team of NASA scientists and engineers at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, is upgrading and miniaturizing the electronics on a prototype instrument, called the Concentration vs. Height for an Orbiting Electromagnetic Sounder, or ECHOES.

    1
    August 1960 – Project Echo Launched

    The device could be used to “sound” the ionosphere from either a ground-based observatory or ultimately a constellation of CubeSats.

    The ionospheric layer, which is electrically charged or ionized primarily by extreme-ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun during the day or by the bombardment of cosmic rays during the night, is of interest to scientists because of the role it plays in the transmission of radio waves.

    Depending on the concentration of electrons in the ionosphere and the frequency of the radio waves, the layer reflects radio waves to Earth, rather than allowing them to escape into space. However, solar flares, the spontaneous eruption of high-energy radiation from the surface of the sun, can cause a sharp increase in the number of ionized particles, thus changing the height and density of the particles.

    2
    Goddard’s Shing Fung (left), Mark Adrian (standing), and Damon Bradley (right) are miniaturizing a century-old technology for studying the ionosphere potentially from a constellation of CubeSats. Bradley is holding an electronics board that the team will migrate to the Goddard Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory later this year for testing. Credits: NASA/W. Hrybyk.

    “Gravity pulls the denser plasma (ionized gas) down toward Earth to lower altitudes that are less dense. This is an unstable configuration,” said ECHOES Principal Investigator and Goddard scientist Mark Adrian. “This motion leads to a turbulent mixing of the ionosphere, not unlike pouring cream into your morning coffee. This produces density irregularities or structures that reflect and refract radio waves — what we simply refer to as interference.”

    To determine the electron density vertically in the ionosphere, scientists have long used radio sounders — in essence, dedicated radio stations. A range of different radio frequencies are directed vertically to the ionosphere and a receiver then collects and measures the values of the returning signals or echoes.

    The immediate plan is to use ECHOES on the ground, contributing to a network of instruments that support space-weather prediction and real-time mapping of the ionosphere. However, the instruments also could fly in space, for example, in a constellation of CubeSats that would make simultaneous, multi-point soundings of the top-side of Earth’s enveloping ionosphere, which lies 46 to about 621 miles above Earth’s surface.

    The sounding technique is at least a century old. However, it wasn’t until the dawn of the space age that the technique was applied to sounding-rocket and full-fledged satellite missions, such as the Canadian-built and NASA-launched Alouette 1 in 1962. More recently, NASA launched the Radio Plasma Imager on a mission called the Imager for Magnetopause-to-Aurora Global Exploration, or IMAGE.

    NASA IMAGE satellite
    NASA IMAGE satellite
    2
    NASA IMAGE satellite schematic

    Also, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in collaboration with its European partners, provided another sounder, the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding, for the European Space Agency’s Mars Express mission.

    ESA/Mars Express Orbiter

    “Basically, what we’re doing is miniaturizing a 100-year-old radio receiver signal-processing technology,” said ECHOES co-Principal Investigator Damon Bradley, who led the development of the digital signal-processing system for the radiometer on NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive, or SMAP mission, which tracks global soil-moisture levels. “ECHOES is essentially a low-frequency radar that uses space-based digital-signal processing, as on SMAP, but for probing the ionosphere as opposed to mapping global soil-moisture levels.”

    Before the miniaturized instrument can fly in space, however, the team needs to prove that it’s capable of obtaining density measurements in a relevant environment. As part of its technology-development effort, the team plans to integrate ECHOES electronics and antenna systems with other instrument hardware and execute a test at the Goddard Geophysical and Astronomical Observatory later this year.

    “A successful proof-of-concept demonstration of the ECHOES instrument would place Goddard in a unique position to compete for other future Heliophysics or planetary opportunities, particularly those involved CubeSat or small-satellite platforms,” Adrian said.

    For more information about NASA’s Cubesats, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/cubesat

    For more technology news, go to https://gsfctechnology.gsfc.nasa.gov/newsletter/Current.pdf

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 5:13 pm on August 1, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA Goddard, ,   

    From Goddard: “NASA Continues to Study Pulsars, 50 Years After Their Chance Discovery” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    Aug. 1, 2017
    Clare Skelly
    clare.a.skelly@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

    A little bit of “scruff” in scientific data 50 years ago led to the discovery of pulsars – rapidly spinning dense stellar corpses that appear to pulse at Earth.

    Astronomer Jocelyn Bell made the chance discovery using a vast radio telescope in Cambridge, England. Although it was built to measure the random brightness flickers of a different category of celestial objects called quasars, the 4.5-acre telescope produced unexpected markings on Bell’s paper data recorder every 1.33730 seconds.

    1
    The 4.5 Acre Array. Reproduced with permission from 40 Years of Pulsars—Millisecond Pulsars, Magnetars, and More, edited by C. G. Bassa, Z. Wang, A. Gumming, and V. M. Kaspi. Copyright 2008, AIP Publishing LLC

    “The pulses were so regular, so much like a ticking clock, that Bell and her supervisor Anthony Hewish couldn’t believe it was a natural phenomenon,” said Zaven Arzoumanian of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Once they found a second, third and fourth they started to think differently.”

    The unusual stellar objects had been previously predicted but never observed. Today, scientists know of over 2,000 pulsars. These rotating “lighthouse” neutron stars begin their lives as stars between about seven and 20 times the mass of our sun. Some are found to spin hundreds of times per second, faster than the blades of a household blender, and they possess enormously strong magnetic fields.

    2
    Most known neutron stars are observed as pulsars, emitting narrow, sweeping beams of radiation. They squeeze up to two solar masses into a city-size volume, crushing matter to the highest possible stable densities. To explore these exotic states of matter, NICER measures X-ray emissions across the surfaces of neutron stars as they spin, ultimately confronting the predictions of nuclear physics theory.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    Technology advances in the past half-century allowed scientists to study these compact stellar objects from space using different wavelengths of light, especially those much more energetic than the radio waves received by the Cambridge telescope. Several current NASA missions continue to study these natural beacons.

    The Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer, or NICER, is the first NASA mission dedicated to studying pulsars.

    NASA NICER

    In a nod to the anniversary of Bell’s discovery, NICER observed the famous first pulsar, known today as PSR B1919+21.

    NICER launched to the International Space Station in early June and started science operations last month. Its X-ray observations – the part of the electromagnetic spectrum in which these stars radiate both from their million-degree solid surfaces and from their strong magnetic fields – will reveal how nature’s fundamental forces behave within the cores of these objects, an environment that doesn’t exist and can’t be reproduced anywhere else. “What’s inside a pulsar?” is one of many long-standing astrophysics questions about these ultra-dense, fast-spinning, powerfully magnetic objects.

    The “stuff” of pulsars is a collection of particles familiar to scientists from over a century of laboratory studies on Earth – neutrons, protons, electrons, and perhaps even their own constituents, called quarks. However, under such extreme conditions of pressure and density, their behavior and interactions aren’t well understood. New, precise measurements, especially of the sizes and masses of pulsars are needed to pin down theories.

    “Many nuclear-physics models have been developed to explain how the make-up of neutron stars, based on available data and the constraints they provide,” said Goddard’s Keith Gendreau, the principal investigator for NICER. “NICER’s sensitivity, X-ray energy resolution and time resolution will improve these by more precisely measuring their radii, to an order of magnitude improvement over the state of the art today.”

    3
    NICER is currently installed on the International Space Station. This turntable animation of the payload calls out the locations of NICER’s star tracker camera, electronics, space station attachment mechanism, 56 sunshields, pointing actuators and stow/deploy actuator.
    Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    The mission will also pave the way for future space exploration by helping to develop a Global Positioning System-like capability for the galaxy. The embedded Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology, or SEXTANT, demonstration will use NICER’s X-ray observations of pulsar signals to determine NICER’s exact position in orbit.

    “You can time the pulsations of pulsars distributed in many directions around a spacecraft to figure out where the vehicle is and navigate it anywhere,” said Arzoumanian, who is also the NICER science lead. “That’s exactly how the GPS system on Earth works, with precise clocks flown on satellites in orbit.”

    Scientists have tested this method using computer and lab simulations. SEXTANT will demonstrate pulsar-based navigation for the first time in space.

    NICER-SEXTANT is the first astrophysics mission dedicated to studying pulsars, 50 years after their discovery. “I think it is going to yield many more scientific discoveries than we can anticipate now,” said Gendreau.

    NICER-SEXTANT is a two-in-one mission. NICER is an Astrophysics Mission of Opportunity within NASA’s Explorer program, which provides frequent flight opportunities for world-class scientific investigations from space utilizing innovative, streamlined, and efficient management approaches within the heliophysics and astrophysics science areas. NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate supports the SEXTANT component of the mission, demonstrating pulsar-based spacecraft navigation.

    More about NICER: https://www.nasa.gov/nicer/

    Read about five famous pulsars from the past 50 years: https://nasa.tumblr.com/post/163637443034/five-famous-pulsars-from-the-past-50-years ­­­­

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 10:43 am on July 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Brown dwarf WISEA J110125.95+540052.8, , NASA Goddard   

    From Goddard: “NASA-funded Citizen Science Project Discovers New Brown Dwarf” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    July 17, 2017
    Raleigh McElvery
    raleigh.e.mcelvery@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    One night three months ago, Rosa Castro finished her dinner, opened her laptop, and uncovered a novel object that was neither planet nor star. Therapist by day and amateur astronomer by night, Castro joined the NASA-funded Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project when it began in February — not knowing she would become one of four volunteers to help identify the project’s first brown dwarf, formally known as WISEA J110125.95+540052.8.

    1
    This illustration shows the average brown dwarf is much smaller than our sun and low mass stars and only slightly larger than the planet Jupiter. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

    2
    The newly discovered brown dwarf WISEA J110125.95+540052.8 appears as a moving dot (indicated by the circle) in this animated flipbook from the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen science project. Credits: NASA/WISE.

    NASA/WISE Telescope

    After devoting hours to skimming online, publicly available “flipbooks” containing time-lapse images, she spotted a moving object unlike any other. The search process involves fixating on countless colorful dots, she explained. When an object is different, it simply stands out. Castro, who describes herself as extremely detail oriented, has contributed nearly 100 classifications to this specific project.

    A paper about the new brown dwarf was published on May 24 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Four citizen scientists are co-authors of the paper, including Castro. Since then, Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 has identified roughly 117 additional brown dwarf candidates.

    The collaboration was inspired by the recently proposed ninth planet, possibly orbiting at the fringes of our solar system beyond Pluto.

    “We realized we could do a much better job identifying Planet Nine if we opened the search to the public,” said lead researcher Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Along the way, we’re hoping to find thousands of interesting brown dwarfs.”

    It’s been roughly two decades since researchers first discovered brown dwarfs, and the scientific community opened its eyes to this new class of objects between stars and planets. Although they are as common as stars and form in much the same way, brown dwarfs lack the mass necessary to sustain nuclear fusion reactions. They therefore do not have the energy to maintain their luminosity, so they slowly cool over the course of their lifetimes. Their low temperatures also render them intrinsically dim.

    For years, Kuchner has been fascinated by infrared images of the entire sky captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), launched in 2009. The space telescope is specially designed to observe cold objects emitting light at long wavelengths — objects like brown dwarfs. With its initial mission complete, WISE was deactivated in 2011. It was then reactivated in 2013 as NEOWISE, a new mission funded by the NEO Observations Program with a different goal: to search for potentially hazardous near-Earth objects (NEOs).

    Previously, Kuchner had focused on stationary objects seen by WISE. But the Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 project shows the WISE and NEOWISE data in a way custom-tailored for finding fast-moving objects. His team layers many images of the same location to create a single, comprehensive snapshot. These are then combined with several similarly “co-added” pictures to form flipbooks that show motion over time.

    Anyone with internet access can scour these flipbooks and click on anomalies. If they would like to call the science team’s attention to an object they found, they can submit a report to the researchers or share their insights on a public forum. Kuchner and his colleagues then follow up the best candidates using ground-based telescopes to glean more information.

    According to Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 citizen scientist Dan Caselden, participants are free to dig as deep into the results as they choose. A security researcher by trade, Caselden developed a series of tools allowing fellow participants to streamline their searches and visualize their results, as well as aggregate various user statistics. He also helped identify several of the additional brown dwarf candidates while the first discovery was being confirmed.

    Kuchner and his co-author, Adam Schneider of Arizona State University, Tempe, agree WISEA J110125.95+540052.8 is an exciting discovery for several reasons. “What’s special about this object — besides the way it was discovered — is that it’s unusually faint,” Schneider said. “That means our citizen scientists are probing much deeper than anyone has before.”

    While computers efficiently sift through deluges of data, they can also get lost in details that human eyes and brains easily disregard as irrelevant.

    However, mining this information is extremely arduous for a single scientist or even a small group of researchers. That’s precisely why collaborating with an enthusiastic public is so effective — many eyes catch details that one pair alone could miss.

    While Kuchner is delighted by this early discovery, his ultimate goal for Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is to find the smallest and coldest brown dwarfs, called Y dwarfs. Some of these Y dwarfs many even be lurking closer to us than Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the sun.

    ESO Red Dots Campaign

    Their low temperatures make Y dwarfs extremely dim, according to Adam Burgasser at the University of California San Diego. “They’re so faint that it takes quite a bit of work to pull them from the images, that’s where Kuchner’s project will help immensely,” he said. “Anytime you get a diverse set of people looking at the data, they’ll bring unique perspectives that can lead to unexpected discoveries.”

    Kuchner anticipates the Backyard Worlds effort will continue for several more years — allowing more volunteers like Caselden and Castro to contribute.

    As Castro put it: “I am not a professional. I’m just an amateur astronomer appreciating the night sky. If I see something odd, I’ll admire and enjoy it.”

    Backyard Worlds: Planet 9 is a collaboration between NASA, UC Berkeley, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, Arizona State University, the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and Zooniverse, a collaboration of scientists, software developers and educators who collectively develop and manage citizen science projects on the internet.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the NEOWISE mission for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office within the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colorado, built the spacecraft. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    For more information about Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, visit:

    http://backyardworlds.org

    For more information about NASA’s WISE mission, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/wise

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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 3:55 pm on June 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Interstellar medium, NASA CHESS - Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph, NASA Goddard,   

    From Goddard: “NASA-Funded CHESS Mission Will Check Out the Space Between Stars” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

    June 23, 2017
    Lina Tran
    kathalina.k.tran@nasa.gov
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    Deep in space between distant stars, space is not empty. Instead, there drifts vast clouds of neutral atoms and molecules, as well as charged plasma particles called the interstellar medium — that may, over millions of years, evolve into new stars and even planets. These floating interstellar reservoirs are the focus of the NASA-funded CHESS sounding rocket mission, which will check out the earliest stages of star formation.

    CHESS — short for the Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph — is a sounding rocket payload that will fly on a Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket early in the morning of June 27, 2017. CHESS measures light filtering through the interstellar medium to study the atoms and molecules within, which provides crucial information for understanding the lifecycle of stars.

    1
    Floating clouds of the interstellar medium are the focus of the NASA-funded CHESS sounding rocket mission, which will check out the earliest stages of star formation. Here, the CHESS payload is integrated with the sounding rocket before launch.
    Credits: photo courtesy of Kevin France

    [NO IMAGES OF CHESS SATELLITE AVAILABLE]

    “The interstellar medium pervades the galaxy,” said Kevin France, the CHESS principle investigator at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

    “When massive stars explode as supernovae, they expel this raw material. It’s the insides of dead stars, turning into the next generation of stars and planets.”

    CHESS is a spectrograph, which provides information on how much of any given wavelength of light is present. It will train its eye at Beta Scorpii — a hot, brightly shining star in the Scorpius constellation well-positioned for the instrument to probe the material between the star and our own solar system. As light from Beta Scorpii streams toward Earth, atoms and molecules — including carbon, oxygen and hydrogen — block the light to varying degrees along the way.

    Scientists know which wavelengths are blocked by what, so by looking at how much light reaches the space around Earth, they can assess all sorts of details about the space it travelled through to get there. CHESS data provides observations such as which atoms and molecules are present in space, their temperatures and how fast they’re moving.

    The scientists also use CHESS data to evaluate how the interstellar cloud is structured, which can help them pinpoint where it stands in the process of star formation. It’s still not known exactly how long it takes for this material to be incorporated into new stars. But scientists know dense clouds can pave the way for the collapse at the very beginning of star formation.

    The flight of a sounding rocket is a short one; CHESS will fly for about 16 minutes total. Just six-and-a-half of those minutes are spent making observations between 90 and 200 miles above the surface — observations that can only be made in space, above the atmosphere, which the far-ultraviolet light that CHESS observes can’t penetrate. After the flight, the payload parachutes to the ground, where it can be recovered for future flights.

    This is the third flight for the CHESS payload in the past three years, and the mission’s most detailed survey yet. The scientists have used each to trial and improve the technology; the upcoming flight sports an upgraded diffraction grating, which reflects light and separates it into its different wavelengths.

    “A more efficient grating means the instrument is that many times more sensitive,” France said. “Compared to the first flight of CHESS, this third incarnation is about eight times more sensitive.”

    By flying rapidly developing instruments on relatively inexpensive sounding rockets, scientists are not only able to acquire high-quality science data, but also test and mature their instruments toward possible spaceflight. According to France, the CHESS instrument serves as a spectrograph prototype for NASA’s LUVOIR concept.

    “Supporting technology and suborbital flight projects today directly translates into lower risk and shorter development time for NASA’s large missions in the next two decades,” France said.

    The launch window for CHESS opens at 1:10 a.m. EDT at the White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Precise timing of the launch will depend on weather conditions.

    CHESS is supported through NASA’s Sounding Rocket Program conducted at the agency’s Wallops Flight Facility, which is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Orbital ATK provides mission planning, engineering services and field operations for the NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract. NASA’s Heliophysics Division manages the sounding rocket program for the agency.

    Related:

    More about NASA’s sounding rocket program
    Voyager 1 Helps Solver Interstellar Medium Mystery
    NASA’s IBEX Provides First View of the Solar System’s Tail

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    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

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: