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  • richardmitnick 4:17 pm on May 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Lunar Crater Radio Telescope: Illuminating the Cosmic Dark Ages", , DuAxel rovers would build the telescope., Even China's even FAST is not sensitive to radio wavelengths longer than about 14 feet (4.3 meters)., Measure the long-wavelength radio waves generated by the Cosmic Dark Ages., NASA JPL - Caltech, On the Moon’s far side there’s no atmosphere to reflect signals., , Radio telescopes on Earth can’t probe this mysterious period because the long-wavelength radio waves from that time are reflected by a layer of ions and electrons at the top of our atmosphere., The LCRT would be made of thin wire mesh in the center of the crater., The LCRT would need to be huge., There was ample hydrogen during the universe’s Dark Ages – hydrogen that would eventually serve as the raw material for the first stars., This class of radio telescope uses thousands of reflecting panels suspended inside the depression to make the entire dish’s surface reflective to radio waves.   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech : “Lunar Crater Radio Telescope: Illuminating the Cosmic Dark Ages” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    May 05, 2021

    Ian J. O’Neill
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-2649
    ian.j.oneill@jpl.nasa.gov

    Clare Skelly
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-4273
    clare.a.skelly@nasa.gov

    1
    Illustration of lunar crater radio telescope. Vladimir Vustyansky.

    2
    Wire mesh inside crater. Vladimir Vustyansky.

    3
    Lunar surface has plenty of craters.Vladimir Vustyansky.

    The early-stage NASA concept could see robots hang wire mesh in a crater on the Moon’s far side, creating a radio telescope to help probe the dawn of the universe.

    After years of development, the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope (LCRT) project has been awarded $500,000 to support additional work as it enters Phase II of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program. While not yet a NASA mission, the LCRT describes a mission concept that could transform humanity’s view of the cosmos.

    The LCRT’s primary objective would be to measure the long-wavelength radio waves generated by the cosmic Dark Ages – a period that lasted for a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, but before the first stars blinked into existence. Cosmologists know little about this period, but came the answers to some of science’s biggest mysteries may be locked in the long-wavelength radio emissions generated by the gas that would have filled the universe during that time.

    “While there were no stars, there was ample hydrogen during the universe’s Dark Ages – hydrogen that would eventually serve as the raw material for the first stars,” said Joseph Lazio, radio astronomer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and a member of the LCRT team. “With a sufficiently large radio telescope off Earth, we could track the processes that would lead to the formation of the first stars, maybe even find clues to the nature of dark matter.”

    Radio telescopes on Earth can’t probe this mysterious period because the long-wavelength radio waves from that time are reflected by a layer of ions and electrons at the top of our atmosphere, a region called the ionosphere. Random radio emissions from our noisy civilization can interfere with radio astronomy as well, drowning out the faintest signals.

    But on the Moon’s far side there’s no atmosphere to reflect these signals, and the Moon itself would block Earth’s radio chatter. The lunar far side could be prime real estate to carry out unprecedented studies of the early universe.

    “Radio telescopes on Earth cannot see cosmic radio waves at about 33 feet [10 meters] or longer because of our ionosphere, so there’s a whole region of the universe that we simply cannot see,” said Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a robotics technologist at JPL and the lead researcher on the LCRT project. “But previous ideas of building a radio antenna on the Moon have been very resource intensive and complicated, so we were compelled to come up with something different.”

    Building Telescopes With Robots

    To be sensitive to long radio wavelengths, the LCRT would need to be huge. The idea is to create an antenna over half-a-mile (1 kilometer) wide in a crater over 2 miles (3 kilometers) wide. The biggest single-dish radio telescopes on Earth – like the 1,600-foot (500-meter) Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China and the now-inoperative 1,000-foot-wide (305-meter-wide) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico – were built inside natural bowl-like depressions in the landscape to provide a support structure.

    This class of radio telescope uses thousands of reflecting panels suspended inside the depression to make the entire dish’s surface reflective to radio waves. The receiver then hangs via a system of cables at a focal point over the dish, anchored by towers at the dish’s perimeter, to measure the radio waves bouncing off the curved surface below. But despite its size and complexity, even FAST is not sensitive to radio wavelengths longer than about 14 feet (4.3 meters).

    With his team of engineers, roboticists, and scientists at JPL, Bandyopadhyay condensed this class of radio telescope down to its most basic form. Their concept eliminates the need to transport prohibitively heavy material to the Moon and utilizes robots to automate the construction process. Instead of using thousands of reflective panels to focus incoming radio waves, the LCRT would be made of thin wire mesh in the center of the crater. One spacecraft would deliver the mesh, and a separate lander would deposit DuAxel rovers to build the dish over several days or weeks.

    DuAxel, a robotic concept being developed at JPL, is composed of two single-axle rovers (called Axel) that can undock from each other but stay connected via a tether. One half would act as an anchor at the rim of the crater as the other rappels down to do the building.

    “DuAxel solves many of the problems associated with suspending such a large antenna inside a lunar crater,” said Patrick Mcgarey, also a robotics technologist at JPL and a team member of the LCRT and DuAxel projects. “Individual Axel rovers can drive into the crater while tethered, connect to the wires, apply tension, and lift the wires to suspend the antenna.”

    Identifying Challenges

    For the team to take the project to the next level, they’ll use NIAC Phase II funding to refine the capabilities of the telescope and the various mission approaches while identifying the challenges along the way.

    One of the team’s biggest challenges during this phase is the design of the wire mesh. To maintain its parabolic shape and precise spacing between the wires, the mesh must be both strong and flexible, yet lightweight enough to be transported. The mesh must also be able to withstand the wild temperature changes on the Moon’s surface – from as low as minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 173 degrees Celsius) to as high as 260 degrees Fahrenheit (127 degrees Celsius) – without warping or failing.

    Another challenge is to identify whether the DuAxel rovers should be fully automated or involve a human operator in the decision-making process. Might the construction DuAxels also be complemented by other construction techniques? Firing harpoons into the lunar surface, for example, may better anchor the LCRT’s mesh, requiring fewer robots.

    Also, while the lunar far side is “radio quiet” for now, that may change in the future. China’s space agency currently has a mission exploring the lunar far side, after all, and further development of the lunar surface could impact possible radio astronomy projects.

    For the next two years, the LCRT team will work to identify other challenges and questions as well. Should they be successful, they may be selected for further development, an iterative process that inspires Bandyopadhyay.

    “The development of this concept could produce some significant breakthroughs along the way, particularly for deployment technologies and the use of robots to build gigantic structures off Earth,” he said. “I’m proud to be working with this diverse team of experts who inspire the world to think of big ideas that can make groundbreaking discoveries about the universe we live in.”

    NIAC is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is responsible for developing the new cross-cutting technologies and capabilities needed by the agency.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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, 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

     
  • richardmitnick 3:21 pm on April 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "In a First Scientists Map Particle-Laden Rivers in the Sky", , Atmospheric rivers tend to move large amounts of aerosols in a limited number of extreme events instead of in a steady stream throughout the year., , MERRA-2: Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications Version 2, NASA JPL - Caltech, The shift from using atmospheric rivers to study the movement of water vapor to using them to study aerosol transport was something of a revelation., Windy regions high in the atmosphere can transport pollutants like dust or soot thousands of miles around the world and disrupt everyday life for thousands of people.   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech : “In a First Scientists Map Particle-Laden Rivers in the Sky” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    Apr 29, 2021

    Jane J. Lee
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-0307
    jane.j.lee@jpl.nasa.gov

    Ian J. O’Neill
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-2649
    ian.j.oneill@jpl.nasa.gov

    1
    An atmospheric river carrying dust particles blows across the North Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Caribbean in July 2018. Credit: Suomi/NPP satellite images from NASA Worldview website.

    Windy regions high in the atmosphere can transport pollutants like dust or soot thousands of miles around the world and disrupt everyday life for thousands of people.

    Last summer, “Godzilla” came for the Caribbean and the U.S. Gulf Coast. This particular monster wasn’t of the sci-fi variety, but, rather, a massive dust storm kicked up by winds from the Sahara Desert and carried an ocean away. The dust storm was an extreme example of a phenomenon that happens regularly: the global transport of dust, soot, and other airborne particles, collectively known as aerosols, by jets of winds in the atmosphere. The result is the formation of what are called aerosol atmospheric rivers.

    Gaining a better understanding of how these particles are transported around the globe is important because certain aerosols can nourish rainforest soil, help or hinder cloud formation, reduce visibility, or affect air quality – which can impact human health. But studies of aerosol transport have tended to focus on single events in a particular part of the world. There wasn’t really a way of looking at them in a holistic, global way.

    In a first, a recent study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters does just that. Five types of aerosols are of particular interest to researchers: dust, two kinds of carbon particles (soot and organic carbon), sulfate (emitted during events like volcanic eruptions or the burning of fossil fuels), and sea salt. The authors identified where aerosol atmospheric rivers tend to occur and how often extreme events, similar to the Godzilla dust storm, happen each year. To do this, they took a computer program they previously developed to detect atmospheric rivers around the world that move water vapor and produce precipitation, and they modified it to detect aerosol atmospheric rivers instead.

    The shift from using atmospheric rivers to study the movement of water vapor to using them to study aerosol transport was something of a revelation, because researchers only started to use the global detection framework of atmospheric rivers to look at the movement of extreme amounts of water vapor about six years ago. The concept of atmospheric rivers is only about 20 years old.

    “It took scientists time to recognize and leverage atmospheric rivers as a concept,” said Duane Waliser, one of the study’s co-authors and an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. And it wasn’t until Waliser was speaking to his colleague, Arlindo da Silva, an aerosol researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US) about the atmospheric river concept that a light went on for both of the researchers. “‘We should take our algorithm and apply it to your aerosol dataset,’” Waliser said.

    Location, Location, Location

    After modifying the atmospheric river algorithm for aerosol atmospheric rivers, the study’s authors applied it to a state-of-the-art reconstruction of Earth’s atmosphere called the Modern-Era Retrospective analysis for Research and Applications, Version 2 (MERRA-2) from NASA’s Global Modeling and Assimilation Office. It incorporates datasets from satellites, airborne instruments, and sensors on the ground from 1980 to the present to produce a representation of the structure of Earth’s atmosphere every six hours.

    MERRA-2 enabled the researchers to look back in time to analyze the location and frequency of aerosol atmospheric rivers around the world from 1997 to 2014. The study authors found that regions including the Sahara, Patagonia, Asian deserts, and Namibia are big sources of dust aerosol atmospheric rivers, while areas like the eastern U.S., the southern Amazon and Africa, and northern India tend to produce ones dominated by soot resulting from wildfires and the burning of fossil fuels.

    The analysis also showed these atmospheric rivers tend to move large amounts of aerosols in a limited number of extreme events instead of in a steady stream throughout the year.

    “We were astonished to find that a few major events a year can transport between 40% to 100% of the aerosols moved by the atmosphere,” said Sudip Chakraborty, an atmospheric scientist at JPL and a study co-author.

    Now that scientists have a way of looking at aerosol atmospheric rivers globally, the framework gives them a way to study how these particle-laden rivers in the sky affect Earth’s climate. This includes how aerosols interact with clouds to potentially supercharge storms, how they trap or reflect heat in the atmosphere, and whether phenomena like El Niño and La Niña affect atmospheric aerosol river pathways and frequency.

    The new approach also gives researchers insight into how aerosol atmospheric rivers could affect communities around the world, through their impacts on air quality and visibility and their ability to move plant pathogens that can affect crops. “When you realize a lot of the transport is happening in just a few big events, then you know to focus on those big events,” said da Silva.

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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, 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

     
  • richardmitnick 1:23 pm on April 23, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Astronomers Release New All-Sky Map of Milky Way's Outer Reaches", Although there are multiple theories about the nature of dark matter all of them indicate that it should be present in the Milky Way’s halo., , , , European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), NASA JPL - Caltech, , , The data for the new map comes from ESA’s Gaia mission and NASA’s Near Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer-or NEOWISE-which operated from 2009 to 2013 under the moniker WISE., The highlight of the new chart is a wake of stars stirred up by a small galaxy set to collide with the Milky Way. The map could also offer a new test of dark matter theories., The interaction between the dark matter and the Large Magellanic Cloud has big implications for our galaxy., The LMC is located about 160000 light-years from Earth and is less than one-quarter the mass of the Milky Way., The new map reveals how a small galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) has sailed through the Milky Way’s galactic halo like a ship through water.   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech : “Astronomers Release New All-Sky Map of Milky Way’s Outer Reaches” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    Apr 21, 2021

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    The highlight of the new chart is a wake of stars stirred up by a small galaxy set to collide with the Milky Way. The map could also offer a new test of dark matter theories.

    Astronomers using data from National Aeronautics Space Agency (US) and European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) telescopes have released a new all-sky map of the outermost region of our galaxy. Known as the galactic halo, this area lies outside the swirling spiral arms that form the Milky Way’s recognizable central disk and is sparsely populated with stars.

    1
    Images of the Milky Way and the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) are overlaid on a map of the surrounding galactic halo. The smaller structure is a wake created by the LMC’s motion through this region. The larger light-blue feature corresponds to a high density of stars observed in the northern hemisphere of our galaxy. Credit: NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech/Conroy et. al. 2021

    Though the halo may appear mostly empty, it is also predicted to contain a massive reservoir of Dark Matter, a mysterious and invisible substance thought to make up the bulk of all the mass in the universe.

    The data for the new map comes from ESA’s Gaia mission and NASA’s Near Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer-or NEOWISE-which operated from 2009 to 2013 under the moniker WISE.

    The study makes use of data collected by the spacecraft between 2009 and 2018.

    The new map reveals how a small galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) – so named because it is the larger of two dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way – has sailed through the Milky Way’s galactic halo like a ship through water-its gravity creating a wake in the stars behind it.

    The LMC is located about 160000 light-years from Earth and is less than one-quarter the mass of the Milky Way.


    A simulation of dark matter surrounding the Milky Way galaxy (small ring at center) and the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) reveals two areas of high density: the smaller of the two light blue areas is a wake created by the LMC’s motion through this region. The larger corresponds to an excess of stars in the Milky Way’s northern hemisphere. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/National Science Foundation (US)/R. Hurt/N. Garavito-Camargo & G. Besla.

    Though the inner portions of the halo have been mapped with a high level of accuracy, this is the first map to provide a similar picture of the halo’s outer regions, where the wake is found – about 200,000 light-years to 325,000 light-years from the galactic center. Previous studies have hinted at the wake’s existence, but the all-sky map confirms its presence and offers a detailed view of its shape, size, and location.

    This disturbance in the halo also provides astronomers with an opportunity to study something they can’t observe directly: dark matter. While it doesn’t emit, reflect, or absorb light, the gravitational influence of dark matter has been observed across the universe. It is thought to create a scaffolding on which galaxies are built, such that without it, galaxies would fly apart as they spin. Dark matter is estimated to be five times more common in the universe than all the matter that emits and/or interacts with light, from stars to planets to gas clouds.

    Although there are multiple theories about the nature of dark matter all of them indicate that it should be present in the Milky Way’s halo. If that’s the case, then as the LMC sails through this region, it should leave a wake in the dark matter as well. The wake observed in the new star map is thought to be the outline of this dark matter wake; the stars are like leaves on the surface of this invisible ocean, their position shifting with the dark matter.

    The interaction between the dark matter and the Large Magellanic Cloud has big implications for our galaxy. As the LMC orbits the Milky Way, the dark matter’s gravity drags on the LMC and slows it down. This will cause the dwarf galaxy’s orbit to get smaller and smaller, until the galaxy finally collides with the Milky Way in about 2 billion years. These types of mergers might be a key driver in the growth of massive galaxies across the universe. In fact, astronomers think the Milky Way merged with another small galaxy about 10 billion years ago.

    “This robbing of a smaller galaxy’s energy is not only why the LMC is merging with the Milky Way, but also why all galaxy mergers happen,” said Rohan Naidu, a doctoral student in astronomy at Harvard University (US) and a co-author of the new paper. “The wake in our map is a really neat confirmation that our basic picture for how galaxies merge is on point!”

    A Rare Opportunity

    The authors of the paper also think the new map – along with additional data and theoretical analyses – may provide a test for different theories about the nature of dark matter, such as whether it consists of particles, like regular matter, and what the properties of those particles are.

    “You can imagine that the wake behind a boat will be different if the boat is sailing through water or through honey,” said Charlie Conroy, a professor at Harvard University and an astronomer at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (US), who coauthored the study. “In this case, the properties of the wake are determined by which dark matter theory we apply.”

    Conroy led the team that mapped the positions of over 1,300 stars in the halo. The challenge arose in trying to measure the exact distance from Earth to a large portion of those stars: It’s often impossible to figure out whether a star is faint and close by or bright and far away. The team used data from ESA’s Gaia mission, which provides the location of many stars in the sky but cannot measure distances to the stars in the Milky Way’s outer regions.

    After identifying stars most likely located in the halo (because they were not obviously inside our galaxy or the LMC), the team looked for stars belonging to a class of giant stars with a specific light “signature” detectable by NEOWISE. Knowing the basic properties of the selected stars enabled the team to figure out their distance from Earth and create the new map. It charts a region starting about 200,000 light-years from the Milky Way’s center, or about where the LMC’s wake was predicted to begin, and extends about 125,000 light-years beyond that.

    Conroy and his colleagues were inspired to hunt for LMC’s wake after learning about a team of astrophysicists at the University of Arizona (US) that makes computer models predicting what dark matter in the galactic halo should look like. The two groups worked together on the new study.

    One model by the Arizona team, included in the new study, predicted the general structure and specific location of the star wake revealed in the new map. Once the data had confirmed that the model was correct, the team could confirm what other investigations have also hinted at: that the LMC is likely on its first orbit around the Milky Way. If the smaller galaxy had already made multiple orbits, the shape and location of the wake would be significantly different from what has been observed. Astronomers think the LMC formed in the same environment as the Milky Way and another nearby galaxy, Messier 31, and that it is close to completing a long first orbit around our galaxy (about 13 billion years). Its next orbit will be much shorter due to its interaction with the Milky Way.

    “Confirming our theoretical prediction with observational data tells us that our understanding of the interaction between these two galaxies, including the dark matter, is on the right track,” said University of Arizona doctoral student in astronomy Nicolás Garavito-Camargo, who led work on the model used in the paper.

    The new map also provides astronomers with a rare opportunity to test the properties of the dark matter (the notional water or honey) in our own galaxy. In the new study, Garavito-Camargo and colleagues used a popular dark matter theory called cold dark matter that fits the observed star map relatively well.

    Now the University of Arizona team is running simulations that use different dark matter theories to see which one best matches the wake observed in the stars.

    “It’s a really special set of circumstances that came together to create this scenario that lets us test our dark matter theories,” said Gurtina Besla, a co-author of the study and an associate professor at the University of Arizona. “But we can only realize that test with the combination of this new map and the dark matter simulations that we built.”

    Launched in 2009, the WISE spacecraft was placed into hibernation in 2011 after completing its primary mission. In September 2013, NASA reactivated the spacecraft with the primary goal of scanning for near-Earth objects, or NEOs, and the mission and spacecraft were renamed NEOWISE. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California managed and operated WISE for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The mission was selected competitively under NASA’s Explorers Program managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US). NEOWISE is a project of JPL, a division of California Institute of Technology (US), and the University of Arizona, supported by NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office.

    Science paper:
    All-sky dynamical response of the Galactic halo to the Large Magellanic Cloud
    Nature

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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, 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

     
  • richardmitnick 2:29 pm on March 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Serendipitous Juno Detections Shatter Ideas About Origin of Zodiacal Light", , , Data from the NASA spacecraft’s journey to Jupiter [Juno] suggests that Mars may be shedding dust into interplanetary space., NASA JPL - Caltech, , The researchers note that finding the true distribution and density of dust particles in the solar system will help engineers design spacecraft materials that can better withstand dust impacts.   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech : “Serendipitous Juno Detections Shatter Ideas About Origin of Zodiacal Light” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    Mar 09, 2021

    Written by Lonnie Shekhtman
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

    Coontacts:
    Rani C. Gran
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
    301-332-6975
    rani.c.gran@nasa.gov

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

    Deb Schmid
    Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio
    210-522-2254
    dschmid@swri.org

    1
    This photo shows the zodiacal light as it appeared on March 1, 2021, in Skull Valley, Utah. The Pleiades star cluster is visible near the top of the light column. Mars is just below that. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    NASA/Juno at Jupiter.

    Data from the NASA spacecraft’s journey to Jupiter [Juno] suggests that Mars may be shedding dust into interplanetary space.

    Look up to the night sky just before dawn, or after dusk, and you might see a faint column of light extending up from the horizon. That luminous glow is the zodiacal light, or sunlight reflected toward Earth by a cloud of tiny dust particles orbiting the Sun. Astronomers have long thought that the dust is brought into the inner solar system by a few of the asteroid and comet families that venture in from afar.

    But now, a team of Juno scientists argues that Mars may be the culprit. They published their finding in a March 9 paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. An instrument aboard the Juno spacecraft serendipitously detected dust particles slamming into the spacecraft during its journey from Earth to Jupiter. The impacts provided important clues to the origin and orbital evolution of the dust, resolving some mysterious variations of the zodiacal light.

    Though their discovery has big implications, the scientists who spent years studying cosmic debris did not set out to do so. “I never thought we’d be looking for interplanetary dust,” said John Leif Jørgensen, a professor at the Technical University of Denmark [Danmarks Tekniske Universitet](DK).

    Jørgensen designed the four star trackers that are part of Juno’s magnetometer investigation. These onboard cameras snap photos of the sky every quarter of a second to determine Juno’s orientation in space by recognizing star patterns in its images – an engineering task essential to the magnetometer’s accuracy.

    But Jørgensen hoped his cameras might also catch sight of an undiscovered asteroid. So he programmed one camera to report things that appeared in multiple consecutive images but weren’t in the catalog of known celestial objects.

    He didn’t expect to see much: Nearly all objects in the sky are accounted for in the star catalog. So when the camera started beaming down thousands of images of unidentifiable objects – streaks appearing then mysteriously disappearing – Jørgensen and his colleagues were baffled. “We were looking at the images and saying, ‘What could this be?’” he said.

    Jørgensen and his team considered many plausible and some implausible causes. There was the unnerving possibility that the star camera had caught a leaking fuel tank on Juno. “We thought, ‘Something is really wrong,’” Jørgensen said. “The images looked like someone was shaking a dusty tablecloth out their window.”

    It wasn’t until the researchers calculated the apparent size and velocity of the objects in the images that they finally realized something: Dust grains had smashed into Juno at about 10,000 miles (or 16,000 kilometers) per hour, chipping off submillimeter pieces of spacecraft. “Even though we’re talking about objects with only a tiny bit of mass, they pack a mean punch,” said Jack Connerney, Juno’s magnetometer investigation lead and the mission’s deputy principal investigator, who’s based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    As it turned out, the spray of debris was coming from Juno’s expansive solar panels – the biggest and most sensitive unintended dust detector ever built.

    “Each piece of debris we tracked records the impact of an interplanetary dust particle, allowing us to compile a distribution of dust along Juno’s path,” Connerney said. Juno launched in 2011. After a deep-space maneuver in the asteroid belt in 2012, it returned to the inner solar system for an Earth gravity assist in 2013, which catapulted the spacecraft towards Jupiter.

    Connerney and Jørgensen noticed that the majority of dust impacts were recorded between Earth and the asteroid belt, with gaps in the distribution related to the influence of Jupiter’s gravity. According to the scientists, this was a radical revelation. Before now, scientists have been unable to measure the distribution of these dust particles in space. Dedicated dust detectors have had limited collection areas and thus limited sensitivity to a sparse population of dust. They mostly count the more abundant and much smaller dust particles from interstellar space. In comparison, Juno’s expansive solar panels have 1,000 times more collection area than most dust detectors.

    Juno scientists determined that the dust cloud ends at Earth because Earth’s gravity sucks up all the dust that gets near it. “That’s the dust we see as zodiacal light,” Jørgensen said.

    As for the outer edge, around 2 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun (1 AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun), it ends just beyond Mars. At that point, the scientists report, the influence of Jupiter’s gravity acts as a barrier, preventing dust particles from crossing from the inner solar system into deep space. This same phenomenon, known as orbital resonance, also works the other way, where it blocks dust originating in deep space from passing into the inner solar system.

    The profound influence of the gravity barrier indicates that the dust particles are in a nearly circular orbit around the Sun, Jørgensen said. “And the only object we know of in almost circular orbit around 2 AU is Mars, so the natural thought is that Mars is a source of this dust,” he said.


    Look up to the night sky just before dawn, or after dusk, and you might see a faint column of light extending up from the horizon. Astronomers have long thought that the dust is brought into the inner solar system by a few of the asteroid and comet families that venture in from afar. But now, a team of Juno scientists argues that the planet Mars may be the culprit.
    Credit: NASA Goddard.

    “The distribution of dust that we measure better be consistent with the variation of zodiacal light that has been observed,” Connerney said. The researchers developed a computer model to predict the light reflected by the dust cloud, dispersed by gravitational interaction with Jupiter that scatters the dust into a thicker disk. The scattering depends only on two quantities: the dust inclination to the ecliptic and its orbital eccentricity. When the researchers plugged in the orbital elements of Mars, the distribution accurately predicted the telltale signature of the variation of zodiacal light near the ecliptic. “That is, in my view, a confirmation that we know exactly how these particles are orbiting in our solar system,” Connerney said, “and where they originate.”

    While there is good evidence now that Mars, the dustiest planet we know of, is the source of the zodiacal light, Jørgensen and his colleagues cannot yet explain how the dust could have escaped the grip of Martian gravity. They hope other scientists will help them.

    In the meantime, the researchers note that finding the true distribution and density of dust particles in the solar system will help engineers design spacecraft materials that can better withstand dust impacts. Knowing the precise distribution of dust may also guide the design of flight paths for future spacecraft in order to avoid the highest concentration of particles. Tiny particles traveling at such high velocities can gouge up to 1,000 times their mass from a spacecraft.

    Juno’s solar arrays escaped harm because the solar cells are well protected against impact on the back – or dark – side of the array by the support structure.

    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, 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 2:03 pm on January 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Juno mission at Jupiter, NASA Insight mission at Mars, NASA JPL - Caltech,   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech: “NASA Extends Exploration for Two Planetary Science Missions” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    January 8, 2021

    Grey Hautaluoma
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0668
    grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov

    Alana Johnson
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1501
    alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

    NASA/Juno at Jupiter.

    NASA/Mars InSight Lander.

    NASA has extended both the Juno mission at Jupiter through September 2025 (left) and the InSight mission at Mars through December 2022. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    As NASA prepares to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, the agency’s quest to seek answers about our solar system and beyond continues to inform those efforts and generate new discoveries. The agency has extended the missions of two spacecraft, following an external review of their scientific productivity.

    The missions – Juno and InSight – have each increased our understanding of our solar system, as well as spurred new sets of diverse questions.

    An independent review panel, composed of experts with backgrounds in science, operations, and mission management, found the Juno and InSight missions have “produced exceptional science” and recommended NASA continue both missions.

    The Juno spacecraft and its mission team have made discoveries about Jupiter’s interior structure, magnetic field, and magnetosphere, and have found its atmospheric dynamics to be far more complex than scientists previously thought. Extended through September 2025, or its end of life (whichever comes first), the mission will not only continue key observations of Jupiter, but also will expand its investigations to the larger Jovian system including Jupiter’s rings and large moons, with targeted observations and close flybys planned of the moons Ganymede, Europa, and Io.

    The InSight mission is extended for two years, running through December 2022. InSight’s spacecraft and team deployed and operated its highly sensitive seismometer to expand our understanding of Mars’ crust and mantle. Searching for and identifying Marsquakes, the mission team collected data clearly demonstrating the robust tectonic activity of the Red Planet, and enhanced our knowledge of the planet’s atmospheric dynamics, magnetic field, and interior structure. InSight’s extended mission will focus on producing a long-duration, high quality seismic dataset. Continued operation of its weather station and burial of the seismic tether using the spacecraft’s Instrument Deployment Arm (IDA), will contribute to the quality of this seismic dataset. The extended mission may continue deployment (at low priority) of the spacecraft’s Heat Probe and Physical Properties instrument (HP3), which remains close to the surface.

    “The Senior Review has validated that these two planetary science missions are likely to continue to bring new discoveries, and produce new questions about our solar system,” said Lori Glaze, director of the planetary science division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “I thank the members of the Senior Review panel for their comprehensive analysis and thank the mission teams as well, who will now continue to provide exciting opportunities to refine our understanding of the dynamic science of Jupiter and Mars.”

    Extended missions leverage NASA’s large investments, allowing continued science operations at a cost far lower than developing a new mission. In some cases, the extensions allow missions to continue to acquire valuable long-duration datasets, while in other cases, they allow missions to visit new targets, with entirely new science goals.

    NASA’s Planetary Science Division currently operates more than a dozen spacecraft across the solar system.

    The detailed reports from the 2020 Planetary Science Senior Review may be found at:

    https://www.lpi.usra.edu/NASA-academies-resources/

    More information about Juno is available at:

    https://www.nasa.gov/juno

    For more information about InSight, visit:

    https://mars.nasa.gov/insight

    See the full article here .


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    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 1:41 pm on December 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "An updated way to calculate the likelihood of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations", , , , , , , NASA JPL - Caltech, ,   

    From NASA JPL Caltech and From Caltech via phys.org: “An updated way to calculate the likelihood of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations” 

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    From NASA JPL-Caltech

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    phys.org

    December 22, 2020
    Bob Yirka , Phys.org

    1
    Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

    A small team of researchers from California Institute of Technology, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Santiago High School has developed an updated version of an old equation to calculate the likely existence of extraterrestrial civilizations. The team has uploaded their paper to the arXiv preprint server [A Statistical Estimation of the Occurrence of Extraterrestrial Intelligence in the Milky Way Galaxy].

    Over the span of human history, many have wondered if life exists on other planets—intelligent or otherwise. As new tools have been applied to the question, many space scientists have become convinced that the likelihood of extraterrestrial civilizations developing seems more probable than not given all that has been learned. As other exoplanet systems have been found, many circling stars very similar to our sun, it has become difficult to find anything unique about our own planet to justify a belief that Earth alone ever produced life. In this new effort, the researchers have expanded on research done by Frank Drake back in 1961.

    Frank Drake with his Drake Equation. Credit Frank Drake.


    Drake Equation, Frank Drake, Seti Institute.




    SETI Institute


    SETI/Allen Telescope Array situated at the Hat Creek Radio Observatory, 290 miles (470 km) northeast of San Francisco, California, USA, Altitude 986 m (3,235 ft), the origins of the Institute’s search.

    He and his colleagues developed an equation (now known as the Drake equation) to calculate the odds of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations—given all that was known about space and astronomical objects back then. The researchers factored in such variables as the number of believed exoplanets and star systems and how many of them were likely to be capable of supporting life.

    Space scientists have learned a lot more about space and celestial objects since Drake’s time—exoplanets have been observed, for example, some in their own Goldilocks zones, and scientists have learned more about the age of the universe and circumstances after the Big Bang. The researchers with this new effort took all the new factors into account and added something else not considered in 1961—the likelihood of other extraterrestrial civilizations arising and then unintentionally killing themselves off. Humans and other animals have a way of destroying their environment. Rats introduced to an island will eat every last scrap of food, for example, and then all of them will starve to death. Humans pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and confront a future in which the planet can no longer support life. The researchers suggest such evidence likely means that if extraterrestrial civilizations have arisen, most of them are probably gone by now due to their inability to prevent their own demise.

    The result of the team’s work is not an estimate of the likelihood of the existence of extraterrestrial civilizations, but a new formula that others can use to make their own calculations based on what they believe to be true.

    See the full article here .


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    The California Institute of Technology (commonly referred to as Caltech) is a private research university located in Pasadena, California, United States. Caltech has six academic divisions with strong emphases on science and engineering. Its 124-acre (50 ha) primary campus is located approximately 11 mi (18 km) northeast of downtown Los Angeles. “The mission of the California Institute of Technology is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. We investigate the most challenging, fundamental problems in science and technology in a singularly collegial, interdisciplinary atmosphere, while educating outstanding students to become creative members of society.”

    Caltech campus

    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 9:53 pm on December 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA Confirms New SIMPLEx Mission Small Satellite to Blaze Trails Studying Lunar Surface", , , , , , NASA JPL - Caltech   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech: “NASA Confirms New SIMPLEx Mission Small Satellite to Blaze Trails Studying Lunar Surface” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    December 2, 2020

    Grey Hautaluoma /
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0668 /
    grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov /

    Alana Johnson
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1501
    alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

    Ian J. O’Neill
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-354-2649
    ian.j.oneill@jpl.nasa.gov

    NASA Lunar Trailblazer depiction.


    Peering into the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions, Lunar Trailblazer will detect signatures of water ice in reflected light, and it will pinpoint the locations of micro-cold traps less than a football field in size. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

    Producing maps to locate ice or water trapped in rock at the Moon’s surface, Lunar Trailblazer will help support NASA’s efforts to establish a sustainable presence on the Moon.

    A small-satellite mission to understand the lunar water cycle – detecting and mapping water on the lunar surface in order to investigate how its form, abundance, and location relate to geology – has received NASA approval to proceed with the next phase of its development.

    On Nov. 24, the Lunar Trailblazer, a mission selected under NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program, passed its Key Decision Point-C (KDP-C) milestone, obtaining agency-level endorsement to begin final design of hardware and build. The milestone also provides the project’s official schedule and budget determination.

    “Lunar Trailblazer will confirm whether water on the Moon is tightly bound in crystalline rock, as recently suggested by NASA’s SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) observations, or loosely bound and mobile as a function of temperature,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “This SIMPLEx mission bolsters our portfolio of targeted science missions designed to test pioneering technologies while reducing overall costs using new streamlined processes.”

    Producing the highest-resolution basemaps to locate ice or water trapped in rock at the Moon’s surface, Lunar Trailblazer will help support NASA’s Artemis program, which includes establishing a sustainable presence on the Moon by the end of the decade and preparing for crewed missions to Mars.

    “We’re excited to help answer big planetary science questions with a small satellite by making the new maps of water on the Moon,” said Bethany Ehlmann, the mission’s principal investigator, of Caltech. “Given the importance of water on the Moon for future robotic and human missions, Lunar Trailblazer will provide critical basemaps to guide future exploration.”

    Peering into the Moon’s permanently shadowed regions, Lunar Trailblazer will detect signatures of ice in reflected light, and it will pinpoint the locations of micro-cold traps less than a football field in size. Collecting measurements at multiple times of day over sunlit regions, the mission will help scientists understand whether the water signature on the illuminated surface changes as the lunar surface temperature changes by hundreds of degrees over the course of a lunar day.

    “Lunar Trailblazer will vastly advance our understanding of water cycles on airless bodies like the Moon,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “By measuring both direct light and low levels of terrain-scattered light, Lunar Trailblazer will generate comprehensive maps of surface water ice, even in the Moon’s darkest regions.”

    Selected in 2019, Lunar Trailblazer is the second mission from the current round of programs to receive confirmation and plans to deliver its flight system in October 2022, with a launch currently planned for February 2025. The Janus mission received its confirmation in early September 2020 and will investigate the formation and evolution of small, deep-space “rubble pile” asteroids. The Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (EscaPADE) mission is still in formulation, with its KDP-C planned for summer of 2021.

    “Lunar Trailblazer has a talented, multi-institutional team whose collective effort resulted in a successful formulation phase and confirmation review,” said Calina Seybold, Lunar Trailblazer Project manager, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “I am thrilled that the team has earned the privilege of continuing to our final design and fabrication phase.”

    For information on NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer mission, visit:

    https://trailblazer.caltech.edu/

    For information on NASA’s small satellite activities, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/smallsat-institute

    Lunar Trailblazer is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington and guided by agency priorities and the Decadal Survey process of the National Academy of Sciences. Managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, JPL also provides system engineering and mission assurance as well as navigation. Lockheed Martin provides the spacecraft and integrates the flight system, under contract with Caltech.

    SIMPLEx mission investigations will be managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama as part of the Solar System Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters in Washington. The program conducts space science investigations in the Planetary Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters, guided by NASA’s agency priorities and the Decadal Survey process of the National Academy of Sciences.

    See the full article here .


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    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 1:42 pm on November 28, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Is Mars still volcanically active?", A new study of geologically young lava flows in Elysium Planitia suggests that Mars might still have residual volcanic activity below its surface., , , , , , , Mars has some of the largest volcanoes in the solar system but they’ve apparently been inactive for millions of years., , NASA JPL - Caltech, , Scientists at the University of Arizona (UA) have announced new evidence for recent – geologically speaking – explosive volcanism in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars.,   

    From University of Arizona and NASA via EarthSky: “Is Mars still volcanically active?” 

    From University of Arizona

    and

    NASA image
    NASA

    via

    1

    EarthSky

    November 23, 2020
    Paul Scott Anderson

    A new study of geologically young lava flows in Elysium Planitia suggests that Mars might still have residual volcanic activity below its surface. The finding could also correlate with seismic activity detected by the InSight lander in the same region and may have implications for possible Martian life.

    1
    Oblique view of Cerberus Fossae, a tectonic fracture in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars. A new study of young lava flows surrounding it suggests that this area might still be volcanically active today, underground. Image via ESA/ DLR/ FU Berlin.

    Mars has some of the largest volcanoes in the solar system, but they’ve apparently been inactive for millions of years. No plumes of ash or flowing streams of lava are seen on Mars today. But just how long ago were the last great Martian eruptions? That has been a matter of some debate among planetary geologists, and now scientists at the University of Arizona (UA) have announced new evidence for recent – geologically speaking – explosive volcanism in the Elysium Planitia region of Mars.

    1
    InSight’s Landing Site: Elysium Planitia. Elysium Planitia, a flat-smooth plain just north of the equator makes for the perfect location from which to study the deep Martian interior.

    Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, or InSight, is designed to study the deep interior of Mars. The mission seeks the fingerprints of the processes that formed the rocky planets of the solar system.

    Its landing site, Elysium Planitia, was picked from 22 candidates, and is centered at about 4.5 degrees north latitude and 135.9 degrees east longitude; about 373 miles (600 kilometers) from Curiosity’s landing site, Gale Crater. The locations of other Mars landers and rovers are labeled.

    InSight’s scientific success and safe landing depends on landing in a relatively flat area, with an elevation low enough to have sufficient atmosphere above the site for a safe landing. It also depends on landing in an area where rocks are few in number. Elysium Planitia has just the right surface for the instruments to be able to probe the deep interior, and its proximity to the equator ensures that the solar-powered lander is exposed to plenty of sunlight.

    JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the InSight Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, built the spacecraft. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

    For more information about the mission, go to: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight.

    Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    According to the new findings, eruptions there may have occurred as recently as 53,000 years ago, which is a blink of an eye relative to Mars’ total age of about 4.6 billion years (same as Earth’s). According to these scientists, this finding could mean Mars is still volcanically active even today, at least underground.

    Prior to this new work, the most recent eruptions known on Mars happened about 2.5 to 500 million years ago.

    The intriguing findings were submitted to arXiv on November 11, 2020, for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Icarus.

    3
    Overhead view of Cerberus Fossae, with the mantling unit of younger lava flows surrounding it. Credit: Horvath et al./ Cornell University.

    The evidence comes from the study of a volcanic lava deposit distributed symmetrically around a segment of the Cerberus Fossae fissure system in Elysium Planitia, called the “mantling unit.”

    The researchers say it is probably the youngest such deposit yet found on Mars. It is similar to pyroclastic flows – fluidized masses of rock – on the moon and Mercury, but sits on top of older lava flows and has a thickness of tens of centimeters.

    By counting the number of impact craters visible in the area, the researchers, led by David Horvath at UA, say these eruptions are estimated to have happened only 53,000 to 210,000 years ago. That’s like yesterday in geological terms.

    Elysium Planitia is also where NASA’s InSight lander touched down on November 26, 2018. Since then, the probe has recorded hundreds of marsquakes in the planet’s subsurface with its Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, proving that Mars is still seismically active. As of last February, it was reported that over 450 seismic signals had been detected, up to the equivalent of magnitude 4 on the earthly Richter Scale.

    Some of those quakes were detected near or at Cerberus Fossae, the location of the young lava deposits. Could there be a connection? Mars doesn’t have tectonic plates like Earth does, so those quakes are more similar to those in the middle of continents on Earth rather than at plate boundaries. Whether there is any relation to current volcanic activity isn’t known, but based on the new findings of young lava flows, it certainly seems possible. From the paper:

    “Given the young age of the deposit, it is possible that the deeper magma source that fed the deposit could still be active today and could generate seismicity observable by the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument on the Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport (InSight) lander (Lognonné et al., 2019). Seismicity related to magma transport and chamber pressurization has been linked to active volcanism on Earth (e.g., Battaglia et al., 2005; Grandin et al., 2012; Carrier et al., 2015). Magma-induced seismicity along rift zones can result in small to moderate earthquake magnitudes (Mw < 6). Dike-induced faulting and seismicity (Rubin & Gillard, 1998; Taylor et al., 2013) associated with this young magmatic activity is also possible."

    There is also a possibility that current volcanic activity, if proven, could help explain the presence of methane in Mars’ atmosphere. Various telescopes, orbiters and the Curiosity rover have all detected the gas in small quantities, which on Earth is produced mostly by microbes as well as some from geologic activity. Scientists still don’t know the source of the Martian methane, but even if it is only from geological activity, that could still have implications for biology, since it would require liquid water-related chemical reactions (serpentinization) below ground.

    5
    The landing site of NASA’s InSight lander in Elysium Planitia and its proximity to the tectonic fissure system Cerberus Fossae. The probe has detected hundreds of marsquakes, including near Cerberus Fossae, which may be related to subsurface volcanic activity. Credit: J.T. Keane/ Nature Geoscience/ NASA.

    6
    Landslides within Cerberus Fossae, caused by marsquakes. Credit: NASA/ JPL-Caltech/ University of Arizona.

    From the paper:

    “Geologically recent near-surface magmatic activity in Elysium Planitia, combined with evidence for recent groundwater-sourced floods (Burr et al., 2002; Head et al., 2003), which may have been triggered by dike intrusions (Hanna & Phillips, 2006), raises important implications regarding the subsurface habitability on Mars. Dike-induced melting of ground ice and hydrothermal circulation could generate favorable conditions for recent or even extant habitable environments in the subsurface. These environments would be analogous to locations on Earth where volcanic activity occurs in glacial environments such as Iceland, where chemotrophic and psychrophilic (i.e., cryophilic) bacteria thrive (Cousins & Crawford, 2011). Subsurface microbial communities found in basaltic lavas on Earth (McKinley et al., 2000) are also aided by hydrothermal circulation of groundwater through porous basalt (Storrie-Lombardi et al., 2009; Cousins & Crawford, 2011). Recent or ongoing magmatic activity on Mars could also provide a source of transient methane releases to the atmosphere (Formisano et al., 2004; Fonti & Marzo, 2010) through direct volcanic outgassing or, more likely, serpentinization reactions (Atreya et al., 2007).”

    The possibility that Mars is still volcanically active is exciting, since it would overturn long-held assumptions that the planet has been geologically dead for the most part for billions of years. It could also create habitable environments below the surface for Martian microorganisms, which would be even more exciting. Mars may not be as dead or dormant as we thought it was, perhaps in more ways than one.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra,Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

    The University of Arizona (UA) is a place without limits-where teaching, research, service and innovation merge to improve lives in Arizona and beyond. We aren’t afraid to ask big questions, and find even better answers.

    In 1885, establishing Arizona’s first university in the middle of the Sonoran Desert was a bold move. But our founders were fearless, and we have never lost that spirit. To this day, we’re revolutionizing the fields of space sciences, optics, biosciences, medicine, arts and humanities, business, technology transfer and many others. Since it was founded, the UA has grown to cover more than 380 acres in central Tucson, a rich breeding ground for discovery.

    U Arizona mirror lab-Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium?

    University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, located in the Sonoran desert. An entire ecosystem under a glass dome? Visit our campus, just once, and you’ll quickly understand why the UA is a university unlike any other.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:17 pm on November 9, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Europa Glows: Radiation Does a Bright Number on Jupiter's Moon", , , , , , Different salty compounds react differently to the radiation and emit their own unique glimmer., NASA JPL - Caltech,   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech: “Europa Glows: Radiation Does a Bright Number on Jupiter’s Moon” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    Nov. 9, 2020
    Gretchen McCartney
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    818-393-6215
    gretchen.p.mccartney@jpl.nasa.gov

    Grey Hautaluoma
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-0668
    grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov

    Alana Johnson
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-358-1501
    Alana.r.johnson@nasa.gov

    1
    This illustration of Jupiter’s moon Europa shows how the icy surface may glow on its nightside, the side facing away from the Sun. Variations in the glow and the color of the glow itself could reveal information about the composition of ice on Europa’s surface. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    2
    This image shows a view of the trailing hemisphere of Jupiter’s ice-covered satellite, Europa, in approximate natural color. Long, dark lines are fractures in the crust, some of which are more than 3,000 kilometers (1,850 miles) long. The bright feature containing a central dark spot in the lower third of the image is a young impact crater some 50 kilometers (31 miles) in diameter. This crater has been provisionally named “Pwyll” for the Celtic god of the underworld. Europa is about 3,160 kilometers (1,950 miles) in diameter, or about the size of Earth’s moon. This image was taken on September 7, 1996, at a range of 677,000 kilometers (417,900 miles) by the solid state imaging television camera onboard the Galileo spacecraft during its second orbit around Jupiter. The image was processed by Deutsche Forschungsanstalt fuer Luftund Raumfahrt e.V., Berlin, Germany.

    New lab experiments re-create the environment of Europa and find that the icy moon shines, even on its nightside. The effect is more than just a cool visual.

    As the icy, ocean-filled moon Europa orbits Jupiter, it withstands a relentless pummeling of radiation. Jupiter zaps Europa’s surface night and day with electrons and other particles, bathing it in high-energy radiation. But as these particles pound the moon’s surface, they may also be doing something otherworldly: making Europa glow in the dark.

    New research from scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California details for the first time what the glow would look like, and what it could reveal about the composition of ice on Europa’s surface. Different salty compounds react differently to the radiation and emit their own unique glimmer. To the naked eye, this glow would look sometimes slightly green, sometimes slightly blue or white and with varying degrees of brightness, depending on what material it is.

    Scientists use a spectrometer to separate the light into wavelengths and connect the distinct “signatures,” or spectra, to different compositions of ice. Most observations using a spectrometer on a moon like Europa are taken using reflected sunlight on the moon’s dayside, but these new results illuminate what Europa would look like in the dark.

    “We were able to predict that this nightside ice glow could provide additional information on Europa’s surface composition. How that composition varies could give us clues about whether Europa harbors conditions suitable for life,” said JPL’s Murthy Gudipati, lead author of the work published Nov. 9 in Nature Astronomy.

    That’s because Europa holds a massive, global interior ocean that could percolate to the surface through the moon’s thick crust of ice. By analyzing the surface, scientists can learn more about what lies beneath.

    Shining a Light

    Scientists have inferred from prior observations that Europa’s surface could be made of a mix of ice and commonly known salts on Earth, such as magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) and sodium chloride (table salt). The new research shows that incorporating those salts into water ice under Europa-like conditions and blasting it with radiation produces a glow.

    That much was not a surprise. It’s easy to imagine an irradiated surface glowing. Scientists know the shine is caused by energetic electrons penetrating the surface, energizing the molecules underneath. When those molecules relax, they release energy as visible light.

    “But we never imagined that we would see what we ended up seeing,” said JPL’s Bryana Henderson, who co-authored the research. “When we tried new ice compositions, the glow looked different. And we all just stared at it for a while and then said, ‘This is new, right? This is definitely a different glow?’ So we pointed a spectrometer at it, and each type of ice had a different spectrum.”

    To study a laboratory mockup of Europa’s surface, the JPL team built a unique instrument called Ice Chamber for Europa’s High-Energy Electron and Radiation Environment Testing (ICE-HEART). They took ICE-HEART to a high-energy electron beam facility in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and started the experiments with an entirely different study in mind: to see how organic material under Europa ice would react to blasts of radiation.

    They didn’t expect to see variations in the glow itself tied to different ice compositions. It was – as the authors called it – serendipity.

    “Seeing the sodium chloride brine with a significantly lower level of glow was the ‘aha’ moment that changed the course of the research,” said Fred Bateman, co-author of the paper. He helped conduct the experiment and delivered radiation beams to the ice samples at the Medical Industrial Radiation Facility at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Maryland.

    A moon that’s visible in a dark sky may not seem unusual; we see our own Moon because it reflects sunlight. But Europa’s glow is caused by an entirely different mechanism, the scientists said. Imagine a moon that glows continuously, even on its nightside – the side facing away from the Sun.

    “If Europa weren’t under this radiation, it would look the way our moon looks to us – dark on the shadowed side,” Gudipati said. “But because it’s bombarded by the radiation from Jupiter, it glows in the dark.”

    Set to launch in the mid-2020s, NASA’s upcoming flagship mission Europa Clipper will observe the moon’s surface in multiple flybys while orbiting Jupiter. Mission scientists are reviewing the authors’ findings to evaluate if a glow would be detectable by the spacecraft’s science instruments. It’s possible that information gathered by the spacecraft could be matched with the measurements in the new research to identify the salty components on the moon’s surface or narrow down what they might be.

    “It’s not often that you’re in a lab and say, ‘We might find this when we get there,'” Gudipati said. “Usually it’s the other way around – you go there and find something and try to explain it in the lab. But our prediction goes back to a simple observation, and that’s what science is about.”

    Missions such as Europa Clipper help contribute to the field of astrobiology, the interdisciplinary research on the variables and conditions of distant worlds that could harbor life as we know it. While Europa Clipper is not a life-detection mission, it will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Europa and investigate whether the icy moon, with its subsurface ocean, has the capability to support life. Understanding Europa’s habitability will help scientists better understand how life developed on Earth and the potential for finding life beyond our planet.

    More information about Europa and Europa Clipper can be found here:

    http://www.europa.nasa.gov

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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, 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 11:31 am on November 4, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA Contacts Voyager 2 Using Upgraded Deep Space Network Dish", DSS43 is the only dish in the Southern Hemisphere that has a transmitter powerful enough and that broadcasts the right frequency to send commands to the distant spacecraft., NASA JPL - Caltech   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech: “NASA Contacts Voyager 2 Using Upgraded Deep Space Network Dish” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech

    Nov. 2, 2020

    Calla Cofield
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
    626-808-2469
    calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov

    NASA/Voyager 2.

    1
    Crews conduct critical upgrades and repairs to the 70-meter-wide (230-foot-wide) radio antenna Deep Space Station 43 in Canberra, Australia. In this clip, one of the antenna’s white feed cones (which house portions of the antenna receivers) is being moved by a crane. Credits: CSIRO (AU).

    The only radio antenna that can command the 43-year-old spacecraft has been offline since March as it gets new hardware, but work is on track to wrap up in February.

    On Oct. 29, mission operators sent a series of commands to NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft for the first time since mid-March. The spacecraft has been flying solo while the 70-meter-wide (230-foot-wide) radio antenna used to talk to it has been offline for repairs and upgrades. Voyager 2 returned a signal confirming it had received the “call” and executed the commands without issue.

    The call to Voyager 2 was a test of new hardware recently installed on Deep Space Station 43, the only dish in the world that can send commands to Voyager 2. Located in Canberra, Australia, it is part of NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN), a collection of radio antennas around the world used primarily to communicate with spacecraft operating beyond the Moon.

    NASA Deep Space Network. Credit: NASA.

    NASA Deep Space Network Madrid Spain. Credit: NASA.

    NASA Canberra, AU, Deep Space Network. Credit: NASA.

    NASA Deep Space Network dish, Goldstone, CA, USA. Altitude 2,950 ft (900 m). Credit: NASA.

    Since the dish went offline, mission operators have been able to receive health updates and science data from Voyager 2, but they haven’t been able to send commands to the far-flung probe, which has traveled billions of miles from Earth since its 1977 launch.

    Among the upgrades to DSS43, as the dish is known, are two new radio transmitters. One of them, which is used to talk with Voyager 2, hasn’t been replaced in over 47 years. Engineers have also upgraded heating and cooling equipment, power supply equipment, and other electronics needed to run the new transmitters.

    The successful call to Voyager 2 is just one indication that the dish will be back online in February 2021.

    “What makes this task unique is that we’re doing work at all levels of the antenna, from the pedestal at ground level all the way up to the feedcones at the center of the dish that extend above the rim,” said Brad Arnold, the DSN project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Southern California. “This test communication with Voyager 2 definitely tells us that things are on track with the work we’re doing.”

    Worldwide Network

    The Deep Space Network consist of radio antenna facilities spaced equally around the globe in Canberra; Goldstone, California; and Madrid, Spain [all above]. The positioning of the three facilities ensures that almost any spacecraft with a line of sight to Earth can communicate with at least one of the facilities at any time.

    Voyager 2 is the rare exception. In order to make a close flyby of Neptune’s moon Triton in 1989, the probe flew over the planet’s north pole. That trajectory deflected it southward relative to the plane of the planets, and it has been heading in that direction ever since. Now more than 11.6 billion miles (18.8 billion kilometers) from Earth, the spacecraft is so far south that it doesn’t have a line of sight with radio antennas in the Northern Hemisphere.

    DSS43 is the only dish in the Southern Hemisphere that has a transmitter powerful enough and that broadcasts the right frequency to send commands to the distant spacecraft. Voyager 2’s faster-moving twin, Voyager 1, took a different path past Saturn and can communicate via antennas at the two DSN facilities in the Northern Hemisphere. The antennas must uplink commands to both Voyagers in a radio frequency range called S-band, and the antennas downlink data from the spacecraft in a range called X-band.

    While mission operators haven’t been able to command Voyager 2 since DSS43 went offline, the three 34-meter-wide (111-foot-wide) radio antennas at the Canberra facility can be used together to capture the signals that Voyager 2 sends to Earth. The probe is sending back science data from interstellar space, or the region outside our Sun’s heliosphere – the protective bubble of particles and magnetic fields created by the Sun that surrounds the planets and the Kuiper Belt (the collection of small, icy bodies beyond Neptune’s orbit).

    DSS43 began operating in 1972 (five years before the launch of Voyager 2 and Voyager 1) and was only 64 meters (210 feet) wide at the time. It was expanded to 70 meters (230 feet) in 1987 and has received a variety of upgrades and repairs since then. But the engineers overseeing the current work say this is one of the most significant makeovers the dish has received and the longest it’s been offline in over 30 years.

    “The DSS43 antenna is a highly specialized system; there are only two other similar antennas in the world, so having the antenna down for one year is not an ideal situation for Voyager or for many other NASA missions,” said Philip Baldwin, operations manager for NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) Program. “The agency made the decision to conduct these upgrades to ensure that the antenna can continue to be used for current and future missions. For an antenna that is almost 50 years old, it’s better to be proactive than reactive with critical maintenance.”

    The repairs will benefit other missions, including the Mars Perseverance rover, which will land on the Red Planet Feb. 18, 2021. The network will also play a critical role in Moon to Mars exploration efforts, ensuring communication and navigation support for both the precursor Moon and Mars missions and the crewed Artemis missions.

    The Deep Space Network is managed by JPL for the SCaN Program, located at NASA Headquarters within the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. The Canberra station is managed on NASA’s behalf by Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

    The Voyager spacecraft were built by JPL, which continues to operate both. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. For more information about the Voyager spacecraft, visit:

    https://www.nasa.gov/voyager

    https://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov

    See the full article here .


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

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    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, 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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