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  • richardmitnick 11:45 am on March 26, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Kepler Beyond Planets: Finding Exploding Stars, NASA JPL - Caltech, , ,   

    From JPL-Caltech- “Kepler Beyond Planets: Finding Exploding Stars” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    March 26, 2018
    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-1821
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    Alison Hawkes
    Ames Research Center, California’s Silicon Valley
    650-604-0281
    alison.j.hawkesbak@nasa.gov

    Written by Elizabeth Landau
    NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program

    1
    A new study describes the most extreme known example of a “fast-evolving luminous transient” (FELT) supernova.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    Astronomer Ed Shaya was in his office looking at data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope in 2012 when he noticed something unusual: The light from a galaxy had quickly brightened by 10 percent. The sudden bump in light got Shaya instantly excited, but also nervous. The effect could be explained by the massive explosion of a star — a supernova! — or, more troublingly, a computer error.

    “I just remember on that day, not knowing whether I should believe it or not,” he remembers. Rather than celebrate, he thought, “Did I make a mistake? Am I doing this all wrong?”


    This animation shows a kind of stellar explosion called a Fast-Evolving Luminous Transient. In this case, a giant star “burps” out a shell of gas and dust about a year before exploding. Most of the energy from the supernova turns into light when it hits this previously ejected material, resulting in a short, but brilliant burst of radiation. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Stellar explosions forge and distribute materials that make up the world in which we live, and also hold clues to how fast the universe is expanding. By understanding supernovae, scientists can unlock mysteries that are key to what we are made of and the fate of our universe. But to get the full picture, scientists must observe supernovae from a variety of perspectives, especially in the first moments of the explosion. That’s really difficult — there’s no telling when or where a supernova might happen next.

    A small group of astronomers, including Shaya, realized Kepler could offer a new technique for supernova-hunting. Launched in 2009, Kepler is best known for having discovered thousands of exoplanets. But as a telescope that stares at single patches of space for long periods of time, it can capture a vast trove of other cosmic treasures –especially the kind that change rapidly or pop in and out of view, like supernovae.

    “Kepler opened up a new way of looking at the sky,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist, based at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “It was designed to do one thing really well, which was to find planets around other stars. In order to do that, it had to deliver high-precision, continuous data, which has been valuable for other areas of astronomy.”

    Originally, Shaya and colleagues were looking for active galactic nuclei in their Kepler data. An active galactic nucleus is an extremely bright area at the center of a galaxy where a voracious black hole is surrounded by a disk of hot gas. They had thought about searching for supernovae, but since supernovae are such rare events, they didn’t mention it in their proposal. “It was too iffy,” Shaya said.

    Unsure if the supernova signal he found was real, Shaya and his University of Maryland colleague Robert Olling spent months developing software to better calibrate Kepler data, taking into account variations in temperature and pointing of the instrument. Still, the supernova signal persisted. In fact, they found five more supernovae in their Kepler sample of more than 400 galaxies. When Olling showed one of the signals to Armin Rest, who is now an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltlimore, Rest’s jaw dropped. “I started to drool,” he said. The door had opened to a new way of tracking and understanding stellar explosions.

    Today, these astronomers are part of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey, a collaboration between seven scientists in the United States, Australia and Chile looking for supernovae and active galactic nuclei to explore the physics of our universe. To date, they have found more than 20 supernovae using data from the Kepler spacecraft, including an exotic type reported by Rest in a new study in Nature Astronomy. Many more are currently being recorded by Kepler’s ongoing observations.

    “We have some of the best-understood supernovae,” said Brad Tucker, astronomer at the Mt. Stromlo Observatory at the Australian National University, who is part of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey.


    This animation shows the explosion of a white dwarf, an extremely dense remnant of a star that can no longer burn nuclear fuel at its core. In this “type Ia” supernova, white dwarf’s gravity steals material away from a nearby stellar companion. When the white dwarf reaches an estimated 1.4 times the current mass of the Sun, it can no longer sustain its own weight, and blows up. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Why do we care about supernovae?

    A longstanding mystery in astrophysics is how and why stars explode in different ways. One kind of supernova happens when a dense, dead star called a white dwarf explodes. A second kind happens when a single gigantic star nears the end of its life, and its core can no longer withstand the gravitational forces acting on it. The details of these general categories are still being worked out.

    The first kind, called “type Ia” (pronounced as “one a”) is special because the intrinsic brightness of each of these supernovae is almost the same. Astronomers have used this standard property to measure the expansion of the universe and found the more distant supernovae were less bright than expected. This indicated they were farther away than scientists had thought, as the light had become stretched out over expanding space. This proved that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate and earned those researchers the Nobel Prize in 2011. The leading theory is that a mysterious force called “dark energy” is pushing everything in the universe apart from everything else, faster and faster.

    But as astronomers find more and more examples of type Ia explosions, including with Kepler, they realize not all are created equal. While some of these supernovae happen when a white dwarf robs its companion of too much matter, others are the result of two white dwarfs merging. In fact, the white dwarf mergers may be more common. More supernova research with Kepler will help astronomers on a quest to find out if different type Ia mechanisms result in some supernovae being brighter than others — which would throw a wrench into how they are used to measure the universe’s expansion.

    “To get a better idea of constraining dark energy, we have to understand better how these type Ia supernovae are formed,” Rest said.


    This animation shows the merger of two white dwarfs. A white dwarf is an extremely dense remnant of a star that can no longer burn nuclear fuel at its core. This is another way that a “type Ia” supernova occurs. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Another kind of supernova, the “core collapse” variety, happens when a massive star ends its life in an explosion. This includes “Type II” supernovae. These supernovae have a characteristic shockwave called the “shock breakout,” which was captured for the first time in optical light by Kepler. The Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey team, led by team member Peter Garnavich, an astrophysics professor at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, spotted this shock breakout in 2011 Kepler data from a supernova called KSN 2011d, an explosion from a star roughly 500 times the size of our Sun. Surprisingly, the team did not find a shock breakout in a smaller type II supernova called KSN 2011a, whose star was 300 times the size of the Sun — but instead found the supernova nestled in a layer of dust, suggesting that there is diversity in type II stellar explosions, too.

    Kepler data have revealed other mysteries about supernovae. The new study led by Rest in Nature Astronomy describes a supernova from data captured by Kepler’s extended mission, called K2, that reaches its peak brightness in just a little over two days, about 10 times less than others take. It is the most extreme known example of a “fast-evolving luminous transient” (FELT) supernova. FELTs are about as bright as the type Ia variety, but rise in less than 10 days and fade in about 30. It is possible that the star spewed out a dense shell of gas about a year before the explosion, and when the supernova happened, ejected material hit the shell. The energy released in that collision would explain the quick brightening.

    Why Kepler?

    Telescopes on Earth offer a lot of information about exploding stars, but only over short periods of time — and only when the Sun goes down and the sky is clear – so it’s hard to document the “before” and “after” effects of these explosions. Kepler, on the other hand, offers astronomers the rare opportunity to monitor single patches of sky continuously for months, like a car’s dashboard camera that is always recording. In fact, the primary Kepler mission, which ran from 2009 to 2013, delivered four years of observations of the same field of view, snapping a picture about every 30 minutes. In the extended K2 mission, the telescope is holding its gaze steady for up to about three months.


    This animation shows a gigantic star exploding in a “core collapse” supernova. As molecules fuse inside the star, eventually the star can’t support its own weight anymore. Gravity makes the star collapse on itself. Core collapse supernovae are called type Ib, Ic, or II depending on the chemical elements present. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    With ground-based telescopes, astronomers can tell the supernova’s color and how it changes with time, which lets them figure out what chemicals are present in the explosion. The supernova’s composition helps determine the type of star that exploded. Kepler, on the other hand, reveals how and why the star explodes, and the details of how the explosion progresses. Using the two datasets together, astronomers can get fuller pictures of supernovae behavior than ever before.

    Kepler mission planners revived the telescope in 2013, after the malfunction of the second of its four reaction wheels — devices that help control the orientation of the spacecraft. In the configuration called K2, it needs to rotate every three months or so — marking observing “campaigns.” Members of the Kepler Extra-Galactic Survey made the case that in the K2 mission, Kepler could still monitor supernovae and other exotic, distant astrophysical objects, in addition to exoplanets.

    The possibilities were so exciting that the Kepler team devised two K2 observing campaigns especially useful for coordinating supernovae studies with ground-based telescopes. Campaign 16, which began on Dec. 7, 2017, and ended Feb. 25, 2018,included 9,000 galaxies. There are about 14,000 in Campaign 17, which is just beginning now. In both campaigns, Kepler faces in the direction of Earth so that observers on the ground can see the same patch of sky as the spacecraft. The campaigns have excited a community of researchers who can advantage of this rare coordination between Kepler and telescopes on the ground.

    3
    Infographic

    A recent possible sighting got astronomers riled up on Super Bowl Sunday this year, even if they weren’t into the game. On that “super” day, the All Sky Automated Survey for SuperNovae (ASASSN) reported a supernova in the same nearby galaxy Kepler was monitoring. This is just one of many candidate events that scientists are excited to follow up on and perhaps use to better understand the secrets of the universe.

    A few more supernovae may come from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, (TESS) which is expected to launch on April 16. In the meantime, scientists will have a lot of work ahead of them once they receive the full dataset from K2’s supernova-focused campaigns.

    “It will be a treasure trove of supernova information for years to come,” Tucker said.

    Ames manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

    For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/kepler

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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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, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 7:39 pm on March 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , LBN 149.02-00.13 (or Sh2-205 in the Sharpless catalog of nebulas), NASA JPL - Caltech,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “LBN 149.02-00.13: A Celestial Shamrock” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    2011-03-17 [Just now in social media]
    No writer credit

    1
    NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

    Many consider the shamrock to be a symbol of rebirth and life, making it a fitting symbol for St. Patrick’s Day, which happens to occur around the same time as the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also fitting that today’s image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, features a region of star birth wrapped in a blanket of dust, colored green in this infrared view.

    NASA/WISE Telescope

    Designated as LBN 149.02-00.13 (or Sh2-205 in the Sharpless catalog of nebulas), this interstellar cloud of dust and gas is a classic example of what astronomers call an HII region, because of all the ionized hydrogen, or HII, within it. Ionized gases carry an electric charge.

    This stellar nursery is made up of a shell of ionized gas surrounding a void with an extremely hot, bright star in the middle. With strong stellar winds and intense ultraviolet radiation, the central star — CY Camelopardalis — both clears away nearby gas and dust and heats the remaining dust in the shell, causing it to glow in the infrared wavelengths that WISE detected. The dust in the surrounding shell, colored green in this image, is mostly made of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon grains, similar to soot. They are warmer in temperature than the more metallic dust grains seen glowing in red around CY Cam. The heavy elements in such dust particles are cooked up in previous generations of stars and then incorporated into the new stars that are born from the cloud. This really is a region of rebirth and life.

    Scattered throughout the region you can see small clusters of bright red objects, especially near the upper left portion of the image. These are likely “Young Stellar Objects,” surrounded by cocoons of dense dust. Young Stellar Objects are stars in their earliest stages of life, just coming together and beginning to start their nuclear fusion. The clouds of gas and dust surrounding each star provide the material from which future planets might possibly form. Perhaps we are seeing the birth of several new planetary systems in this one image alone.

    The colors used in this image represent specific wavelengths of infrared light. Blue and cyan (blue-green) represent light emitted at wavelengths of 3.4 and 4.6 microns, which is predominantly from stars. Green and red represent light from 12 and 22 microns, respectively, which is mostly emitted by dust.

    JPL manages the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The principal investigator, Edward Wright, is at UCLA. The mission was competitively selected under NASA’s Explorers Program managed by the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory, Logan, Utah, and the spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

    More information is online at http://www.nasa.gov/wise and http://wise.astro.ucla.edu.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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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, on the northwest border of Pasadena. JPL is managed by the nearby California Institute of Technology (Caltech) for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Laboratory’s primary function is the construction and operation of robotic planetary spacecraft, though it also conducts Earth-orbit and astronomy missions. It is also responsible for operating NASA’s Deep Space Network.

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  • richardmitnick 3:34 pm on March 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA JPL - Caltech,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “360 Video: Tour a Mars Robot Test Lab” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    March 8, 2018
    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    Engineers use a replica of NASA’s InSight lander, which will launch to Mars later this year, at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    NASA’s InSight lander looks a bit like an oversized crane game: when it lands on Mars this November, its robotic arm will be used to grasp and move objects on another planet for the first time.

    NASA Mars Insight Lander

    And like any crane game, practice makes it easier to capture the prize.

    Engineers and scientists have a replica of InSight at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. They use this testbed to simulate all the functions of the spacecraft, preparing for any scenario it might meet once it touches down on the Red Planet.

    InSight is unique in that it’s a lander rather than a rover; once it touches down, it can’t reposition itself. Its job is to stay very still and collect high-precision data. JPL’s testbed for the lander sits on piles of crushed garnet in a facility called the In-Situ Instrument Lab. This garnet simulates a mix of sand and gravel found on the Martian surface but has the benefit of being dust-free. The testbed’s legs are raised or lowered to test operations in an uneven landing area with up to 15 degrees of tilt.

    Engineers also pile garnet at different tilts in the testbed’s “workspace” — the area in front of the lander where it practices setting down three science tools: an ultra-sensitive seismometer; a shield that isolates the seismometer from wind and temperature swings; and a heat-flow probe. These three objects are formally called the Science Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS); the Wind and Thermal Shield (WTS); and the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Probe (HP3).

    2
    Insight’s tools

    All this practice ensures InSight can set these objects down safely no matter what surprises its landing site has in store.

    One challenge lies in the tethers that supply power to each science instrument, said Marleen Sundgaard of JPL, InSight’s testbed lead. Each tether unspools as the arm lifts an instrument off the lander.

    “We have multiple places where we could put each instrument down,” Sundgaard said. “There are scenarios where the tethers would cross each other, so we need to make sure they don’t snag.”

    Besides robotic operations, the testbed has to recreate Martian light. Special lights are also used to calibrate InSight’s cameras to the brightness and color of Martian sunlight.

    All this practice should pay off with some incredible new science. InSight will be the first mission dedicated to exploring the deep interior of Mars, including its core and mantle. The data it collects could help scientists understand how all rocky planets — including Mars and Earth — first formed.

    InSight will launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California. The launch window opens on May 5.

    For more information about InSight, go to:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

    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.

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  • richardmitnick 9:04 am on March 8, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA JPL - Caltech,   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA Juno Findings – Jupiter’s Jet-Streams Are Unearthly” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    March 7, 2018

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

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

    Laurie Cantillo
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1077
    laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov

    1
    A New View on Jupiter’s North Pole
    This composite image, derived from data collected by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter, shows the central cyclone at the planet’s north pole and the eight cyclones that encircle it. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM

    This computer-generated image is based on an infrared image of Jupiter’s north polar region that was acquired on February 2, 2017, by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard Juno during the spacecraft’s fourth pass over Jupiter.

    The image shows the structure of the cyclonic pattern observed over Jupiter’s North pole: a central cyclone surrounded by eight circumpolar cyclones with diameters ranging from 2,500 to 2,900 miles (4,000 to 4,600 kilometers) across.

    JIRAM is able to collect images in the infrared wavelengths around 5 micrometers (µm) by measuring the intensity of the heat coming out of the planet. The heat from a planet that is radiated into space is called the radiance.

    This image is an enhancement of the original JIRAM image. In order to give the picture a 3-D shape, the enhancement starts from the idea that where the radiance has its highest value, there are no clouds and JIRAM can see deeper into the atmosphere. Consequently, all the other areas of the image are originally shaded more or less by clouds of different thickness. Then, to create these pictures, the originals have been inverted to give the thicker clouds the whitish color and the third dimension as the clouds we normally see here in the Earth’s atmosphere.

    More information about Juno is online at http://www.nasa.gov/juno and http://missionjuno.swri.edu.

    Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.

    NASA /Juno

    Data collected by NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter indicate that the atmospheric winds of the gas-giant planet run deep into its atmosphere and last longer than similar atmospheric processes found here on Earth. The findings will improve understanding of Jupiter’s interior structure, core mass and, eventually, its origin.

    Other Juno science results released today include that the massive cyclones that surround Jupiter’s north and south poles are enduring atmospheric features and unlike anything else encountered in our solar system. The findings are part of a four-article collection on Juno science results being published in the March 8 edition of the journal Nature.

    “These astonishing science results are yet another example of Jupiter’s curve balls, and a testimony to the value of exploring the unknown from a new perspective with next-generation instruments. Juno’s unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. “Juno is only about one third the way through its primary mission, and already we are seeing the beginnings of a new Jupiter.”

    The depth to which the roots of Jupiter’s famous zones and belts extend has been a mystery for decades. Gravity measurements collected by Juno during its close flybys of the planet have now provided an answer.

    “Juno’s measurement of Jupiter’s gravity field indicates a north-south asymmetry, similar to the asymmetry observed in its zones and belts,” said Luciano Iess, Juno co-investigator from Sapienza University of Rome, and lead author on a Nature paper on Jupiter’s gravity field.

    On a gas planet, such an asymmetry can only come from flows deep within the planet; and on Jupiter, the visible eastward and westward jet streams are likewise asymmetric north and south. The deeper the jets, the more mass they contain, leading to a stronger signal expressed in the gravity field. Thus, the magnitude of the asymmetry in gravity determines how deep the jet streams extend.

    “Galileo viewed the stripes on Jupiter more than 400 years ago,” said Yohai Kaspi, Juno co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel, and lead author of a Nature paper on Jupiter’s deep weather layer. “Until now, we only had a superficial understanding of them and have been able to relate these stripes to cloud features along Jupiter’s jets. Now, following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds. It’s like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition.”

    The result was a surprise for the Juno science team because it indicated that the weather layer of Jupiter was more massive, extending much deeper than previously expected. The Jovian weather layer, from its very top to a depth of 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers), contains about one percent of Jupiter’s mass (about 3 Earth masses).


    For hundreds of years, this gaseous giant planet appeared shrouded in colorful bands of clouds extending from dusk to dawn, referred to as zones and belts. The bands were thought to be an expression of Jovian weather, related to winds blowing eastward and westward at different speeds. This animation illustrates a recent discovery by Juno that demonstrates these east-west flows, also known as jet-streams penetrate deep into the planet’s atmosphere, to a depth of about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers). Due to Jupiter’s rapid rotation (Jupiter’s day is about 10 hours), these flows extend into the interior parallel to Jupiter’s axis of rotation, in the form of nested cylinders. Below this layer the flows decay, possibly slowed by Jupiter’s strong magnetic field. The depth of these flows surprised scientists who estimate the total mass involved in these jet streams to be about 1% of Jupiter’s mass (Jupiter’s mass is over 300 times that of Earth). This discovery was revealed by the unprecedented accuracy of Juno’s measurements of the gravity field. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    “By contrast, Earth’s atmosphere is less than one millionth of the total mass of Earth,” said Kaspi “The fact that Jupiter has such a massive region rotating in separate east-west bands is definitely a surprise.”

    The finding is important for understanding the nature and possible mechanisms driving these strong jet streams. In addition, the gravity signature of the jets is entangled with the gravity signal of Jupiter’s core.

    Another Juno result released today suggests that beneath the weather layer, the planet rotates nearly as a rigid body. “This is really an amazing result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below,” said Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the Université Côte d’Azur, Nice, France, and lead author of the paper on Jupiter’s deep interior. “Juno’s discovery has implications for other worlds in our solar system and beyond. Our results imply that the outer differentially-rotating region should be at least three times deeper in Saturn and shallower in massive giant planets and brown dwarf stars.”

    A truly striking result released in the Nature papers is the beautiful new imagery of Jupiter’s poles captured by Juno’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument. Imaging in the infrared part of the spectrum, JIRAM captures images of light emerging from deep inside Jupiter equally well, night or day. JIRAM probes the weather layer down to 30 to 45 miles (50 to 70 kilometers) below Jupiter’s cloud tops.

    “Prior to Juno we did not know what the weather was like near Jupiter’s poles. Now, we have been able to observe the polar weather up-close every two months,” said Alberto Adriani, Juno co-investigator from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, Rome, and lead author of the paper. “Each one of the northern cyclones is almost as wide as the distance between Naples, Italy and New York City — and the southern ones are even larger than that. They have very violent winds, reaching, in some cases, speeds as great as 220 mph (350 kph). Finally, and perhaps most remarkably, they are very close together and enduring. There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system.”

    Jupiter’s poles are a stark contrast to the more familiar orange and white belts and zones encircling the planet at lower latitudes. Its north pole is dominated by a central cyclone surrounded by eight circumpolar cyclones with diameters ranging from 2,500 to 2,900 miles (4,000 to 4,600 kilometers) across. Jupiter’s south pole also contains a central cyclone, but it is surrounded by five cyclones with diameters ranging from 3,500 to 4,300 miles (5,600 to 7,000 kilometers) in diameter. Almost all the polar cyclones, at both poles, are so densely packed that their spiral arms come in contact with adjacent cyclones. However, as tightly spaced as the cyclones are, they have remained distinct, with individual morphologies over the seven months of observations detailed in the paper.

    “The question is, why do they not merge?” said Adriani. “We know with Cassini data that Saturn has a single cyclonic vortex at each pole. We are beginning to realize that not all gas giants are created equal.”

    Abstracts of the March 8 Juno papers can be found online:

    The measurement of Jupiter’s asymmetric gravity field:

    http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature25776

    Jupiter’s atmospheric jet-streams extending thousands of kilometers deep:

    http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature25793

    A suppression of differential rotation in Jupiter’s deep interior:

    http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature25775

    Clusters of Cyclones Encircling Jupiter’s Poles:

    http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nature25491

    To date, Juno has completed 10 science passes over Jupiter and logged almost 122 million miles (200 million kilometers), since entering Jupiter’s orbit on July 4, 2016. Juno’s 11th science pass will be on April 1.

    Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet’s cloud tops — as close as about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet’s origins, structure, weather layer and magnetosphere.

    https://www.nasa.gov/juno

    https://www.missionjuno.swri.edu

    The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

    https://www.facebook.com/NASAJuno

    More information on Jupiter can be found at:

    https://www.nasa.gov/jupiter

    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.

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  • richardmitnick 7:22 pm on February 22, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , NASA JPL - Caltech, NASA Mars Insight Lander   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Seven Ways Mars InSight is Different” 

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    JPL-Caltech

    February 22, 2018
    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    An artist’s rendition of the InSight lander operating on the surface of Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    NASA’s Mars InSight lander team is preparing to ship the spacecraft from Lockheed Martin Space in Denver, where it was built and tested, to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, where it will become the first interplanetary mission to launch from the West Coast. The project is led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.


    We know what “The Red Planet” looks like from the outside — but what’s going on under the surface of Mars? Find out more in the 60-second video from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

    NASA has a long and successful track record at Mars. Since 1965, it has flown by, orbited, landed and roved across the surface of the Red Planet. What can InSight — planned for launch in May — do that hasn’t been done before?

    InSight is the first mission to study the deep interior of Mars.

    A dictionary definition of “insight” is to see the inner nature of something. InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) will do just that. InSight will take the “vital signs” of Mars: its pulse (seismology), temperature (heat flow), and its reflexes (radio science). It will be the first thorough check-up since the planet formed 4.5 billion years ago.

    InSight will teach us about planets like our own.

    InSight’s team hopes that by studying the deep interior of Mars, we can learn how other rocky planets form. Earth and Mars were molded from the same primordial stuff more than 4 billion years ago, but then became quite different. Why didn’t they share the same fate?

    When it comes to rocky planets, we’ve only studied one in great detail: Earth. By comparing Earth’s interior to that of Mars, InSight’s team hopes to better understand our solar system. What they learn might even aid the search for Earth-like exoplanets, narrowing down which ones might be able to support life. So while InSight is a Mars mission, it’s also more than a Mars mission.

    InSight will try to detect marsquakes for the first time.

    One key way InSight will peer into the Martian interior is by studying motion underground — what we know as marsquakes. NASA has not attempted to do this kind of science since the Viking mission. Both Viking landers had their seismometers on top of the spacecraft, where they produced noisy data. InSight’s seismometer will be placed directly on the Martian surface, which will provide much cleaner data.

    Scientists have seen a lot of evidence suggesting Mars has quakes. But unlike quakes on Earth, which are mostly caused by tectonic plates moving around, marsquakes would be caused by other types of tectonic activity, such as volcanism and cracks forming in the planet’s crust. In addition, meteor impacts can create seismic waves, which InSight will try to detect.

    Each marsquake would be like a flashbulb that illuminates the structure of the planet’s interior. By studying how seismic waves pass through the different layers of the planet (the crust, mantle and core), scientists can deduce the depths of these layers and what they’re made of. In this way, seismology is like taking an X-ray of the interior of Mars.

    Scientists think it’s likely they’ll see between a dozen and a hundred marsquakes over the course of two Earth years. The quakes are likely to be no bigger than a 6.0 on the Richter scale, which would be plenty of energy for revealing secrets about the planet’s interior.

    First interplanetary launch from the West Coast

    All of NASA’s interplanetary launches to date have been from Florida, in part because the physics of launching off the East Coast are better for journeys to other planets. But InSight will break the mold by launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. It will be the first launch to another planet from the West Coast.

    InSight will ride on top of a powerful Atlas V 401 rocket, which allows for a planetary trajectory to Mars from either coast. Vandenberg was ultimately chosen because it had more availability during InSight’s launch period.

    A whole new region will get to see an interplanetary launch when InSight rockets into the sky. In a clear, pre-dawn sky, the launch may be visible in California from Santa Maria to San Diego.

    First interplanetary CubeSat

    The rocket that will loft InSight beyond Earth will also launch a separate NASA technology experiment: two mini-spacecraft called Mars Cube One, or MarCO. These briefcase-sized CubeSats will fly on their own path to Mars behind InSight.

    Their objective is to relay back InSight data as it enters the Martian atmosphere and lands. It will be a first test of miniaturized CubeSat technology at another planet, which researchers hope can offer new capabilities to future missions.

    If successful, the MarCOs could represent a new kind of data relay to Earth. InSight’s success is independent of its CubeSat tag-alongs.

    InSight could teach us how Martian volcanoes were formed.

    Mars is home to some impressive volcanic features. That includes Tharsis — a plateau with some of the biggest volcanoes in the solar system. Heat escaping from deep within the planet drives the formation of these types of features, as well as many others on rocky planets. InSight includes a self-hammering heat probe that will burrow down to 16 feet (5 meters) into the Martian soil to measure the heat flow from the planet’s interior for the first time. Combining the rate of heat flow with other InSight data will reveal how energy within the planet drives changes on the surface.

    Mars is a time machine

    Studying Mars lets us travel to the ancient past. While Earth and Venus have tectonic systems that have destroyed most of the evidence of their early history, much of the Red Planet has remained static for more than 3 billion years. Because Mars is just one-third the size of Earth and Venus, it contains less energy to power the processes that change a planet’s structure. That makes it a fossil planet in many ways, with the secrets of our solar system’s early history locked deep inside.

    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.

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  • richardmitnick 8:25 am on February 10, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Methane, NASA JPL - Caltech   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA-led Study Solves a Methane Puzzle” 

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    JPL-Caltech

    January 2, 2018
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
    818-354-0474
    Alan.Buis@jpl.nasa.gov

    Written by Carol Rasmussen
    NASA’s Earth Science News Team

    1
    A reduction in global burned area in the 2000s had an unexpectedly large impact on methane emissions. Credit: NASA/GSFC/SVS.

    A new NASA-led study has solved a puzzle involving the recent rise in atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas, with a new calculation of emissions from global fires. The new study resolves what looked like irreconcilable differences in explanations for the increase.

    Methane emissions have been rising sharply since 2006. Different research teams have produced viable estimates for two known sources of the increase: emissions from the oil and gas industry, and microbial production in wet tropical environments like marshes and rice paddies. But when these estimates were added to estimates of other sources, the sum was considerably more than the observed increase. In fact, each new estimate was large enough to explain the whole increase by itself.

    Scientist John Worden of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and colleagues focused on fires because they’re also changing globally. The area burned each year decreased about 12 percent between the early 2000s and the more recent period of 2007 to 2014, according to a new study using observations by NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer satellite instrument. The logical assumption would be that methane emissions from fires have decreased by about the same percentage. Using satellite measurements of methane and carbon monoxide, Worden’s team found the real decrease in methane emissions was almost twice as much as that assumption would suggest.

    When the research team subtracted this large decrease from the sum of all emissions, the methane budget balanced correctly, with room for both fossil fuel and wetland increases. The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

    Most methane molecules in the atmosphere don’t have identifying features that reveal their origin. Tracking down their sources is a detective job involving multiple lines of evidence: measurements of other gases, chemical analyses, isotopic signatures, observations of land use, and more. “A fun thing about this study was combining all this different evidence to piece this puzzle together,” Worden said.

    Carbon isotopes in the methane molecules are one clue. Of the three methane sources examined in the new study, emissions from fires contain the largest percentage of heavy carbon isotopes, microbial emissions have the smallest, and fossil fuel emissions are in between. Another clue is ethane, which (like methane) is a component of natural gas. An increase in atmospheric ethane indicates increasing fossil fuel sources. Fires emit carbon monoxide as well as methane, and measurements of that gas are a final clue.

    Worden’s team used carbon monoxide and methane data from the Measurements of Pollutants in the Troposphere instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite and the Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer instrument on NASA’s Aura to quantify fire emissions of methane. The results show these emissions have been decreasing much more rapidly than expected.

    Combining isotopic evidence from ground surface measurements with the newly calculated fire emissions, the team showed that about 17 teragrams per year of the increase is due to fossil fuels, another 12 is from wetlands or rice farming, while fires are decreasing by about 4 teragrams per year. The three numbers combine to 25 teragrams a year — the same as the observed increase.

    Worden’s coauthors are at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado; and the Netherlands Institute for Space Research and University of Utrecht, both in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

    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.

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  • richardmitnick 12:20 pm on February 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Deep Space Atomic Clock, NASA JPL - Caltech   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA Tests Atomic Clock for Deep Space Navigation” 

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    JPL-Caltech

    February 6, 2018

    News Media Contact
    Andrew Good
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-2433
    andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

    Written by Danny Baird
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    1
    A glimpse of the Deep Space Atomic Clock in the middle bay of the General Atomics Orbital Test Bed spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA.

    In deep space, accurate timekeeping is vital to navigation, but many spacecraft lack precise timepieces on board. For 20 years, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has been perfecting a clock. It’s not a wristwatch; not something you could buy at a store. It’s the Deep Space Atomic Clock (DSAC), an instrument perfect for deep space exploration.

    Currently, most missions rely on ground-based antennas paired with atomic clocks for navigation. Ground antennas send narrowly focused signals to spacecraft, which, in turn, return the signal. NASA uses the difference in time between sending a signal and receiving a response to calculate the spacecraft’s location, velocity and path.

    This method, though reliable, could be made much more efficient. For example, a ground station must wait for the spacecraft to return a signal, so a station can only track one spacecraft at a time. This requires spacecraft to wait for navigation commands from Earth rather than making those decisions on board and in real-time.

    “Navigating in deep space requires measuring vast distances using our knowledge of how radio signals propagate in space,” said Todd Ely of JPL, DSAC’s principal investigator. “Navigating routinely requires distance measurements accurate to a meter or better. Since radio signals travel at the speed of light, that means we need to measure their time-of-flight to a precision of a few nanoseconds. Atomic clocks have done this routinely on the ground for decades. Doing this in space is what DSAC is all about.”

    The DSAC project aims to provide accurate onboard timekeeping for future NASA missions. Spacecraft using this new technology would no longer have to rely on two-way tracking. A spacecraft could use a signal sent from Earth to calculate position without returning the signal and waiting for commands from the ground, a process that can take hours. Timely location data and onboard control allow for more efficient operations, more precise maneuvering and adjustments to unexpected situations.

    This paradigm shift enables spacecraft to focus on mission objectives rather than adjusting their position to point antennas earthward to close a link for two-way tracking.

    Additionally, this innovation would allow ground stations to track multiple satellites at once near crowded areas like Mars. In certain scenarios, the accuracy of that tracking data would exceed traditional methods by a factor of five.

    DSAC is an advanced prototype of a small, low-mass atomic clock based on mercury-ion trap technology. The atomic clocks at ground stations in NASA’s Deep Space Network are about the size of a small refrigerator. DSAC is about the size of a four-slice toaster, and could be further miniaturized for future missions.

    The DSAC test flight will take this technology from the laboratory to the space environment. While in orbit, the DSAC mission will use the navigation signals from U.S. GPS coupled with precise knowledge of GPS satellite orbits and clocks to confirm DSAC’s performance. The demonstration should confirm that DSAC can maintain time accuracy to better than two nanoseconds (.000000002 seconds) over a day, with a goal of achieving 0.3 nanosecond accuracy.

    Once DSAC has proved its mettle, future missions can use its technology enhancements. The clock promises increased tracking data quantity and improved tracking data quality. Coupling DSAC with onboard radio navigation could ensure that future exploration missions have the navigation data needed to traverse the solar system.

    Technologies aboard DSAC could also improve GPS clock stability and, in turn, the service GPS provides to users worldwide. Ground-based test results have shown DSAC to be upwards of 50 times more stable than the atomic clocks currently flown on GPS. DSAC promises to be the most stable navigation space clock ever flown.

    “We have lofty goals for improving deep space navigation and science using DSAC,” said Ely. “It could have a real and immediate impact for everyone here on Earth if it’s used to ensure the availability and continued performance of the GPS system.”

    DSAC is a partnership between NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and the Space Communications and Navigation program office, a program under the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. DSAC will launch in 2018 as a hosted payload on General Atomic’s Orbital Test Bed spacecraft aboard the U.S. Air Force Space Technology Program (STP-2) mission.

    For more information about DSAC, visit:

    https://nasa.gov/mission_pages/tdm/clock

    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.

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  • richardmitnick 8:28 am on January 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Explorer 1, NASA JPL - Caltech   

    From JPL-Caltech: “Explorer 1: The Beginning of American Space Science” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    January 23, 2018
    Alan Buis
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-0474
    alan.buis@jpl.nasa.gov

    Written by Preston Dyches

    1
    A vintage JPL graphic celebrating the Explorer 1 satellite. Image credit NASA/JPL-Caltech

    2
    Explorer 1 sits atop the Jupiter-C rocket (designated “Juno-1”) in the gantry as its launch date nears. Image credit: NASA

    Sixty years ago next week, the hopes of Cold War America soared into the night sky as a rocket lofted skyward above Cape Canaveral, a soon-to-be-famous barrier island off the Florida coast.

    The date was Jan. 31, 1958. NASA had yet to be formed, and the honor of this first flight belonged to the U.S. Army. The rocket’s sole payload was a javelin-shaped satellite built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Explorer 1, as it would soon come to be called, was America’s first satellite.


    Against the backdrop of the 1950s Cold War, after the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik, Americans were determined to launch their own Earth-orbiting satellite. Flash back to events leading up to the successful launch of America’s Explorer 1, and the beginnings of America’s Space Age, as told through newsreel and documentary clips of the time.

    “The launch of Explorer 1 marked the beginning of U.S. spaceflight, as well as the scientific exploration of space, which led to a series of bold missions that have opened humanity’s eyes to new wonders of the solar system,” said Michael Watkins, current director of JPL. “It was a watershed moment for the nation that also defined who we are at JPL.”

    In the mid-1950s, both the United States and the Soviet Union were proceeding toward the capability to put a spacecraft in orbit. Yet great uncertainty hung over the pursuit. As the Cold War between the two countries deepened, it had not yet been determined whether the sovereignty of a nation’s borders extended upward into space. Accordingly, then-President Eisenhower sought to ensure that the first American satellites were not perceived to be military or national security assets.

    In 1954, an international council of scientists called for artificial satellites to be orbited as part of a worldwide science program called the International Geophysical Year (IGY), set to take place from July 1957 to December 1958. Both the American and Soviet governments seized on the idea, announcing they would launch spacecraft as part of the effort. Soon, a competition began between the Army, Air Force and Navy to develop a U.S. satellite and launch vehicle capable of reaching orbit.

    At that time, JPL, which was part of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, primarily performed defense work for the Army. (The “jet” in JPL’s name traces back to rocket motors used to provide “jet assisted” takeoff for Army planes during World War II.) In 1954, the laboratory’s engineers began working with the Army Ballistic Missile Agency in Alabama on a project called “Orbiter.” The Army team included Wernher von Braun (who would later design NASA’s Saturn V rocket) and his team of engineers. Their work centered around the Redstone Jupiter-C rocket, which was derived from the V-2 missile Germany had used against Britain during the war.

    JPL’s role was to prepare the three upper stages for the launch vehicle, which included the satellite itself. These used solid rocket motors the laboratory had developed for the Army’s Sergeant guided missile. JPL would also be responsible for receiving and transmitting the orbiting spacecraft’s communications. In addition to JPL’s involvement in the Orbiter program, the laboratory’s then-director, William Pickering, chaired the science committee on satellite tracking for the U.S. launch effort overall.

    The Navy’s entry, called Vanguard, had a competitive edge in that it was not derived from a ballistic missile program — its rocket was designed, from the ground up, for civilian scientific purposes. The Army’s Jupiter-C rocket had made its first successful suborbital flight in 1956, so Army commanders were confident they could be ready to launch a satellite fairly quickly. Nevertheless, the Navy’s program was chosen to launch a satellite for the IGY.

    University of Iowa physicist James Van Allen, whose instrument proposal had been chosen for the Vanguard satellite, was concerned about development issues on the project. Thus, he made sure his scientific instrument payload — a cosmic ray detector — would fit either launch vehicle. Meanwhile, although their project was officially mothballed, JPL engineers used a pre-existing rocket casing to quietly build a flight-worthy satellite, just in case it might be needed.

    The world changed on Oct. 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union launched a 23-inch (58-centimeter) metal sphere called Sputnik. With that singular event, the space age had begun. The launch resolved a key diplomatic uncertainty about the future of spaceflight, establishing the right to orbit above any territory on the globe. The Russians quickly followed up their first launch with a second Sputnik just a month later. Under pressure to mount a U.S. response, the Eisenhower administration decided a scheduled test flight of the Vanguard rocket, already being planned in support of the IGY, would fit the bill. But when the Vanguard rocket was, embarrassingly, destroyed during the launch attempt on Dec. 6, the administration turned to the Army’s program to save the country’s reputation as a technological leader.

    Unbeknownst to JPL, von Braun and his team had also been developing their own satellite, but after some consideration, the Army decided that JPL would still provide the spacecraft. The result of that fateful decision was that JPL’s focus shifted permanently — from rockets to what sits on top of them.

    The Army team had its orders to be ready for launch within 90 days. Thanks to its advance preparation, 84 days later, its satellite stood on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

    The spacecraft was launched at 10:48 p.m. EST on Friday, Jan. 31, 1958. An hour and a half later, a JPL tracking station in California picked up its signal transmitted from orbit. In keeping with the desire to portray the launch as the fulfillment of the U.S. commitment under the International Geophysical Year, the announcement of its success was made early the next morning at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, with Pickering, Van Allen and von Braun on hand to answer questions from the media.

    Following the launch, the spacecraft was given its official name, Explorer 1. (In the following decades, nearly a hundred spacecraft would be given the designation “Explorer.”) The satellite continued to transmit data for about four months, until its batteries were exhausted, and it ceased operating on May 23, 1958.

    Later that year, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established by Congress, Pickering and Caltech worked to shift JPL away from its defense work to become part of the new agency. JPL remains a division of Caltech, which manages the laboratory for NASA.

    The beginnings of U.S. space exploration were not without setbacks — of the first five Explorer satellites, two failed to reach orbit. But the three that made it gave the world the first scientific discovery in space — the Van Allen radiation belts. These doughnut-shaped regions of high-energy particles, held in place by Earth’s magnetic field, may have been important in making Earth habitable for life. Explorer 1, with Van Allen’s cosmic ray detector on board, was the first to detect this phenomenon, which is still being studied today.

    In advocating for a civilian space agency before Congress after the launch of Explorer 1, Pickering drew on Van Allen’s discovery, stating, “Dr. Van Allen has given us some completely new information about the radiation present in outer space….This is a rather dramatic example of a quite simple scientific experiment which was our first step out into space.”

    Explorer 1 re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and burned up on March 31, 1970, after more than 58,000 orbits.

    For more information about Explorer 1 and the 60 years of U.S. space exploration that have followed it, visit:

    https://explorer1.jpl.nasa.gov

    See the full article here .

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

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  • richardmitnick 12:28 pm on January 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Galaxy SPT0615-JD, , NASA JPL - Caltech, , NASA's Great Observatories Team Up to Find Magnified and Stretched Image of Distant Galaxy   

    From JPL-Caltech: “NASA’s Great Observatories Team Up to Find Magnified and Stretched Image of Distant Galaxy” 

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    JPL-Caltech

    January 11, 2018
    Guy Webster
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-6278
    guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    Laurie Cantillo
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1077
    laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov

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

    1
    This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the farthest galaxy yet seen in an image that has been stretched and amplified by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. Credits: NASA , ESA, and B. Salmon (STScI)

    NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

    NASA/Spitzer Infrared Telescope

    An intensive survey deep into the universe by NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes has yielded the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack: the farthest galaxy yet seen in an image that has been stretched and amplified by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing.

    Gravitational Lensing NASA/ESA

    The embryonic galaxy named SPT0615-JD existed when the universe was just 500 million years old. Though a few other primitive galaxies have been seen at this early epoch, they have essentially all looked like red dots, given their small size and tremendous distances. However, in this case, the gravitational field of a massive foreground galaxy cluster not only amplified the light from the background galaxy but also smeared the image of it into an arc (about 2 arcseconds long).

    “No other candidate galaxy has been found at such a great distance that also gives you the spatial information that this arc image does. By analyzing the effects of gravitational lensing on the image of this galaxy, we can determine its actual size and shape,” said the study’s lead author, Brett Salmon of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. He is presenting his research at the 231st meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington.

    First predicted by Albert Einstein a century ago, the warping of space by the gravity of a massive foreground object can brighten and distort the images of far more distant background objects. Astronomers use this “zoom lens” effect to go hunting for amplified images of distant galaxies that otherwise would not be visible with today’s telescopes.

    SPT0615-JD was identified in Hubble’s Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey (RELICS) and companion S-RELICS Spitzer program. “RELICS was designed to discover distant galaxies like these that are magnified brightly enough for detailed study,” said Dan Coe, principal investigator of RELICS. RELICS observed 41 massive galaxy clusters for the first time in infrared with Hubble to search for such distant lensed galaxies. One of these clusters was SPT-CL J0615-5746, which Salmon analyzed to make this discovery. Upon finding the lens-arc, Salmon thought, “Oh, wow! I think we’re on to something!”

    By combining the Hubble and Spitzer data, Salmon calculated the lookback time to the galaxy of 13.3 billion years. Preliminary analysis suggests the diminutive galaxy weighs in at no more than 3 billion solar masses (roughly 1/100th the mass of our fully grown Milky Way galaxy). It is less than 2,500 light-years across, half the size of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way. The object is considered prototypical of young galaxies that emerged during the epoch shortly after the big bang.

    The galaxy is right at the limits of Hubble’s detection capabilities, but just the beginning for the upcoming NASA James Webb Space Telescope’s powerful capabilities, said Salmon. “This galaxy is an exciting target for science with the Webb telescope as it offers the unique opportunity for resolving stellar populations in the very early universe.” Spectroscopy with Webb will allow for astronomers to study in detail the firestorm of starbirth activity taking place at this early epoch, and resolve its substructure.

    NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:13 pm on January 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , NASA JPL - Caltech, NASA Space Telescopes Provide a 3-D Journey Through the Orion Nebula   

    From JPL: “NASA Space Telescopes Provide a 3-D Journey Through the Orion Nebula” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    JPL-Caltech

    January 11, 2018

    Elizabeth Landau
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California
    818-354-6425
    Elizabeth.R.Landau@jpl.nasa.gov

    Ann Jenkins
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4488
    jenkins@stsci.edu

    Ray Villard
    Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland
    410-338-4514
    villard@stsci.edu

    Written by Ann Jenkins

    1
    This image showcases both the visible and infrared visualizations of the Orion Nebula. Credits: NASA, ESA, F. Summers, G. Bacon, Z. Levay, J. DePasquale, L. Frattare, M. Robberto and M. Gennaro (STScI), and R. Hurt (Caltech/IPAC)

    Astronomers and visualization specialists from NASA’s Universe of Learning program have combined visible and infrared vision of the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to create an unprecedented, three-dimensional, fly-through view of the picturesque Orion Nebula, a nearby star-forming region.


    This visualization explores the Orion Nebula using both visible and infrared light. The sequence begins with a wide-field view of the sky showing the plane of our Milky Way Galaxy, then zooms down to the scale of the Orion Nebula. The visible light observation (from the Hubble Space Telescope) and the infrared light observation (from the Spitzer Space Telescope) are compared first in two-dimensional images, and then in three-dimensional models.

    Viewers experience this nearby stellar nursery “up close and personal” as the new digital visualization ferries them among newborn stars, glowing clouds heated by intense radiation, and tadpole-shaped gaseous envelopes surrounding protoplanetary disks.

    Using actual scientific imagery and other data, combined with Hollywood techniques, a team at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, and the Caltech/Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) in Pasadena, California, has created the best and most detailed multi-wavelength visualization yet of this photogenic nebula. The fly-through enables people to experience and learn about the universe in an exciting new way.

    The three-minute movie, which shows the Orion Nebula in both visible and infrared light, was released to the public today. It is available to planetariums and other centers of informal learning worldwide to help audiences explore fundamental questions in science such as, “How did we get here?”

    “Being able to fly through the nebula’s tapestry in three dimensions gives people a much better sense of what the universe is really like,” explained the Space Telescope Science Institute’s visualization scientist Frank Summers, who led the team that developed the movie. “By adding depth and structure to the amazing images, this fly-through helps elucidate the universe for the public, both educating and inspiring.”

    “Looking at the universe in infrared light gives striking context for the more familiar visible-light views. This movie provides a uniquely immersive chance to see how new features appear as we shift to wavelengths of light normally invisible to our eyes,” said Robert Hurt, lead visualization scientist at IPAC.

    One of the sky’s brightest nebulas, the Orion Nebula, is visible to the naked eye. It appears as the middle “star” in the sword of the constellation Orion, the Hunter, and is located about 1,350 light-years away. At only 2 million years old, the nebula is an ideal laboratory for studying young stars and stars that are still forming. It offers a glimpse of what might have happened when the Sun was born 4.6 billion years ago.

    The three-dimensional video provides a look at the fantastic topography of the nebula. A torrent of ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from the massive, central stars of the Trapezium star cluster has carved out a cavernous bowl-like cavity in the wall of a giant cloud of cold molecular hydrogen laced with dust.

    Astronomers and visualizers worked together to make a three-dimensional model of the depths of this cavernous region, like plotting mountains and valleys on the ocean floor. Colorful Hubble and Spitzer images were then overlaid on the terrain.

    The scientific visualization takes the viewer on a breathtaking flight through the nebula, following the contours of the gas and dust. By toggling between the Hubble and Spitzer views, the movie shows strikingly different details of the Orion Nebula.

    Hubble sees objects that glow in visible light, which are typically in the thousands of degrees. Spitzer is sensitive to cooler objects with temperatures of just hundreds of degrees. Spitzer’s infrared vision pierces through obscuring dust to see stars embedded deep into the nebula, as well as fainter and less massive stars, which are brighter in infrared than in visible light. The new visualization helps people experience how the two telescopes provide a more complex and complete picture of the nebula.

    The visualization is one of a new generation of products and experiences being developed by NASA’s Universe of Learning program. The effort combines a direct connection to the science and scientists of NASA’s astrophysics missions with attention to audience needs to enable youth, families and lifelong learners to explore fundamental questions in science, experience how science is done, and discover the universe for themselves.

    The three-dimensional interpretation is guided by scientific knowledge and scientific intuition. Starting with the two-dimensional Hubble and Spitzer images, Summers and Hurt worked with experts to analyze the structure inside the nebula. They first created a visible-light surface, and then an underlying structure of the infrared features.

    To give the nebula its ethereal feel, Summers wrote a special rendering code for efficiently combining the tens of millions of semi-transparent elements of the gas. The customized code allows Summers to run this and other visualizations on desktop workstations, rather than on a supercomputing cluster.

    The other components of the nebula were isolated into image layers and modeled separately. These elements included stars, protoplanetary disks, bow shocks, and the thin gas in front of the nebula called “the veil.” After rendering, these layers and the gaseous nebula are brought back together to create the visualization.

    The three-dimensional structures serve as scientifically reasonable approximations for imagining the nebula. “The main thing is to give the viewer an experiential understanding, so that they have a way to interpret the images from telescopes,” explained Summers. “It’s a really wonderful thing when they can build a mental model in their head to transform the two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional scene.”

    This movie demonstrates the power of multi-wavelength astronomy. It helps audiences understand how science is done — how and why astronomers use multiple regions of the electromagnetic spectrum to explore and learn about our universe. It is also whetting astronomers’ appetites for what they will see with NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which will show much finer details of the deeper, infrared features.

    More visualizations and connections between the science of nebulas and learners can be explored through other products produced by NASA’s Universe of Learning, such as ViewSpace. ViewSpace is a video exhibit currently at almost 200 museums and planetariums across the United States. Visitors can go beyond video to explore the images produced by space telescopes with interactive tools now available for museums and planetariums.

    NASA’s Universe of Learning materials are based upon work supported by NASA under award number NNX16AC65A to the Space Telescope Science Institute, working in partnership with Caltech/IPAC, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, and Sonoma State University.

    See the full article here .

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