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  • richardmitnick 11:37 am on October 4, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "15 spectacular photos from the Dark Energy Camera", , , , , Photo Essay, ,   

    From “Symmetry”: “15 spectacular photos from the Dark Energy Camera” Photo Essay 

    Symmetry Mag

    From “Symmetry”

    Lauren Biron

    The Dark Energy Survey

    Dark Energy Camera [DECam] built at The DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

    NOIRLab National Optical Astronomy Observatory Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CL) Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the Dark-Energy-Camera – DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile at an altitude of 7200 feet.

    NOIRLabNSF NOIRLab NOAO Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory(CL) approximately 80 km to the East of La Serena, Chile, at an altitude of 2200 meters.

    The Dark Energy Survey is an international, collaborative effort to map hundreds of millions of galaxies, detect thousands of supernovae, and find patterns of cosmic structure that will reveal the nature of the mysterious dark energy that is accelerating the expansion of our Universe. The Dark Energy Survey began searching the Southern skies on August 31, 2013.

    According to Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, gravity should lead to a slowing of the cosmic expansion. Yet, in 1998, two teams of astronomers studying distant supernovae made the remarkable discovery that the expansion of the universe is speeding up.

    Nobel Prize in Physics for 2011 Expansion of the Universe

    4 October 2011

    The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has decided to award the Nobel Prize in Physics for 2011

    with one half to

    Saul Perlmutter
    The Supernova Cosmology Project
    The DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and The University of California-Berkeley,

    and the other half jointly to

    Brian P. SchmidtThe High-z Supernova Search Team, The Australian National University, Weston Creek, Australia.


    Adam G. Riess

    The High-z Supernova Search Team,The Johns Hopkins University and The Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD.

    Written in the stars

    “Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice…” *

    What will be the final destiny of the Universe? Probably it will end in ice, if we are to believe this year’s Nobel Laureates in Physics. They have studied several dozen exploding stars, called supernovae, and discovered that the Universe is expanding at an ever-accelerating rate. The discovery came as a complete surprise even to the Laureates themselves.

    In 1998, cosmology was shaken at its foundations as two research teams presented their findings. Headed by Saul Perlmutter, one of the teams had set to work in 1988. Brian Schmidt headed another team, launched at the end of 1994, where Adam Riess was to play a crucial role.

    The research teams raced to map the Universe by locating the most distant supernovae. More sophisticated telescopes on the ground and in space, as well as more powerful computers and new digital imaging sensors (CCD, Nobel Prize in Physics in 2009), opened the possibility in the 1990s to add more pieces to the cosmological puzzle.

    The teams used a particular kind of supernova, called Type 1a supernova. It is an explosion of an old compact star that is as heavy as the Sun but as small as the Earth. A single such supernova can emit as much light as a whole galaxy. All in all, the two research teams found over 50 distant supernovae whose light was weaker than expected – this was a sign that the expansion of the Universe was accelerating. The potential pitfalls had been numerous, and the scientists found reassurance in the fact that both groups had reached the same astonishing conclusion.

    For almost a century, the Universe has been known to be expanding as a consequence of the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago. However, the discovery that this expansion is accelerating is astounding. If the expansion will continue to speed up the Universe will end in ice.

    The acceleration is thought to be driven by dark energy, but what that dark energy is remains an enigma – perhaps the greatest in physics today. What is known is that dark energy constitutes about three quarters of the Universe. Therefore the findings of the 2011 Nobel Laureates in Physics have helped to unveil a Universe that to a large extent is unknown to science. And everything is possible again.

    *Robert Frost, Fire and Ice, 1920

    To explain cosmic acceleration, cosmologists are faced with two possibilities: either 70% of the universe exists in an exotic form, now called Dark Energy, that exhibits a gravitational force opposite to the attractive gravity of ordinary matter, or General Relativity must be replaced by a new theory of gravity on cosmic scales.

    The Dark Energy Survey is designed to probe the origin of the accelerating universe and help uncover the nature of Dark Energy by measuring the 14-billion-year history of cosmic expansion with high precision. More than 400 scientists from over 25 institutions in the United States, Spain, the United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, and Australia are working on the project. The collaboration built and is using an extremely sensitive 570-Megapixel digital camera, DECam, mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, high in the Chilean Andes, to carry out the project.

    Over six years (2013-2019), the Dark Energy Survey collaboration used 758 nights of observation to carry out a deep, wide-area survey to record information from 300 million galaxies that are billions of light-years from Earth. The survey imaged 5000 square degrees of the southern sky in five optical filters to obtain detailed information about each galaxy. A fraction of the survey time is used to observe smaller patches of sky roughly once a week to discover and study thousands of supernovae and other astrophysical transients.

    Photo by Reidar Hahn, Fermilab.

    The powerful camera built for the Dark Energy Survey has taken more than 1 million photos from its perch in Chile. Here are some of the best.

    From high atop a mountain in the Chilean Andes, the Dark Energy Camera has snapped more than one million exposures of the southern sky. The images have captured around 2.5 billion astronomical objects, including galaxies and galaxy clusters, stars, comets, asteroids, dwarf planets, and supernovae.

    Now 10 years since the Dark Energy Camera first saw stars, the impressive 570-megapixel camera was originally built at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory for the Dark Energy Survey. The international DES collaboration uses the deep-space data to investigate dark energy, a phenomenon that is accelerating the expansion of space.

    The Dark Energy Survey, whose scientists are now analyzing the data collected from 2013-2019, isn’t the only experiment to benefit from the powerful piece of equipment. Other research groups have also used the camera to conduct additional astronomical observations and surveys. Here are some of the many stellar photos created using the Dark Energy Camera.

    Acknowledgment: M. Soraisam (University of Illinois). Image processing: Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Mahdi Zamani & Davide de Martin CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA.

    The Southern Pinwheel Galaxy (also known as Messier 83 or NGC 5236) is about 15 million lightyears from Earth. It took DECam more than 11 hours of exposure time to capture this image. The camera is mounted on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, a program of NSF’s NOIRLab.

    Acknowledgments: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab) and D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab) Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA.

    The Dark Energy Survey imaged one-eighth of the sky, capturing light from galaxies up to 8 billion lightyears away. The survey repeatedly imaged 10 “deep fields” like the one shown here. By returning to certain sections of the sky, scientists are able to build up and collect different wavelengths of light to image incredibly distant galaxies and faint objects. These deep fields can be used to calibrate the rest of the DES data and to hunt for supernovae.

    Marty Murphy, Nikolay Kuropatkin, Huan Lin and Brian Yanny, Dark Energy Survey.

    While the Dark Energy Survey typically looks at objects millions or billions of lightyears away, sometimes closer objects come into view. In 2014, the Dark Energy Survey spotted Comet Lovejoy traveling about 51 million miles from Earth. Each rectangle in the image represents one of the 62 CCDs that DECam uses, each one a sophisticated sensor designed to capture light from distant galaxies.

    Dark Energy Survey.

    The spiral galaxy NGC 1566, sometimes called the Spanish Dancer, is about 69 million lightyears from Earth. Each photo from DECam is the result of choices made during image processing. The camera uses five filters that each record a different wavelength of light (between 400 and 1,080 nanometers) and can be combined to make color images.

    W. Clarkson (UM-Dearborn)/CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF /AURA/STScI, C. Johnson (STScI), and M. Rich (UCLA)

    This DECam photo, taken looking toward the center of our Milky Way galaxy, covers an area roughly twice as wide as the full moon and contains more than 180,000 stars. You can also see a wider version encompassing more of the Milky Way’s bulge. While beautiful, the stars and dust of the Milky Way block out distant galaxies needed to study dark energy—so the Dark Energy Survey typically aims the telescope in the opposite direction, away from the plane of our galaxy.

    Erin Sheldon, Dark Energy Survey.

    From our position on Earth, we see the spiral galaxy NGC 681 from the side (or edge-on). The galaxy, also known as the Little Sombrero Galaxy, is about 66.5 million lightyears away. To keep images of distant objects as sharp as possible, DECam uses a mechanism called a Hexapod, which uses six pneumatically driven pistons to align the camera’s many optical elements between exposures. In addition to the five light filters, DECam also has five optical lenses, the biggest of which is more than 3 feet wide and weighs 388 pounds.

    Image processing: Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Mahdi Zamani and Davide de Martin
    CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/SMASH/D. Nidever (Montana State University)

    This image shows a wide-angle view of the Small Magellanic Cloud. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds are dwarf satellite galaxies to the Milky Way, and their proximity makes them a valuable place to study star formation. The Dark Energy Camera captured deep looks at our galactic neighbors for the Survey of the Magellanic Stellar History, or SMASH.

    Image processing: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), J. Miller (Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani and D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab) Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/DECam/CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

    The large galaxy at the center of this image is NGC 1515, a spiral galaxy with several neighboring galaxies in the Dorado Group. When looking at the large-scale structure of the universe, astronomers find galaxies are not distributed randomly but instead cluster together, forming a sort of cosmic web. The Dark Energy Survey has made some of the most precise maps of the universe’s structure and its evolution over time.

    Robert Gruendl, Dark Energy Survey

    NGC 288 is a globular cluster of stars located about 28,700 lightyears from Earth. These stars are bound together by gravity and are concentrated toward the center of the sphere. Globular clusters are an interesting way to study how stars and our own Milky Way evolved, though the Dark Energy Survey looks at distant galaxies and galaxy clusters to better understand dark energy.

    PI: M. Soraisam (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign/NSF’s NOIRLab) Image processing: T.A. Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage/NSF’s NOIRLab), M. Zamani (NSF’s NOIRLab) and D. de Martin (NSF’s NOIRLab) CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA

    This Dark Energy Camera image shows light from Centaurus A, a galaxy more than 12 million lightyears away. It is partially obscured by dark bands of dust caused by the collision of two galaxies.

    Image processing: DES, Jen Miller (Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIRLab), Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Mahdi Zamani and Davide de Martin DES/DOE/Fermilab/NCSA and CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

    The Dark Energy Survey has found several new dwarf galaxies and used the data to limit how big potential dark matter particles could be. This irregular dwarf galaxy, IC 1613, is about 2.4 million lightyears away and contains around 100 million stars. Dwarf galaxies are considered small and faint by astronomical standards; for comparison, our Milky Way galaxy is estimated to contain between 100 and 400 billion stars.

    Rob Morgan, Dark Energy Survey

    The Helix Nebula (NGC 7293) is a planetary nebula about 650 lightyears from Earth. It is shown here extending over several of the Dark Energy Camera’s CCDs. Planetary nebulae, so named because they appeared round and sharp-edged like planets, are actually the remains of stars. Here, a dying star has ejected its outer layers, leaving a small white dwarf surrounded by gas. In billions of years, our own sun will experience a similar fate.

    Dark Energy Survey

    The spiral Sculptor Galaxy is about 11 million lightyears away. It’s one of more than 500 million galaxies imaged by the Dark Energy Survey across 5000 square degrees of sky. To optimize observations, DES used automated software to point the camera and capture exposures. The software could factor in what part of the sky was overhead, weather conditions, moonlight, and which areas had been recently imaged.

    Image processing: DES, Jen Miller (Gemini Observatory/NSF’s NOIRLab), Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Mahdi Zamani and Davide de Martin DES/DOE/Fermilab/NCSA and CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

    The wispy shells around elliptical galaxy NGC 474 (center) are actually hundreds of millions of stars. To the left is a spiral galaxy, and in the background there are thousands of other, more distant galaxies—visible in this zoomable version. DECam images contain vast amounts of information; each one is about a gigabyte in size. The Dark Energy Survey would take a few hundred images per session, producing up to 2.5 terabytes of data in a single night.

    Dark Energy Survey

    The Dark Energy Camera captured the barred spiral galaxy NGC 1365 in its very first photographs in 2012. The galaxy sits in the Fornax cluster, about 60 million lightyears from Earth. This close-up comes from the camera’s much wider field of view, which you can explore in the interactive DECam viewer.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 8:37 am on August 10, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Learning can be fun. Just ask these ‘Explorers’", , , , Photo Essay, , Young local students in Harvard program investigate how skeletons work and cook Ukrainian flatbread and create their own play.   

    From “The Harvard Gazette” : “Learning can be fun. Just ask these ‘Explorers’” Photo Essay 

    From “The Harvard Gazette”


    Harvard University

    Amy Kamosa


    Michelle Luo (from left), Maxwell Luo, and Mikael Eldfors search for examples of their skeletons while attending the “Ins and Outs of Skeletons” class at Harvard Museum of Natural History. The program was part of Harvard Summer Explorations.
    Photo by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Young local students in Harvard program investigate how skeletons work and cook Ukrainian flatbread and create their own play.

    Nearly 40 Allston-Brighton students in grades 2-8 spent time this summer immersed in hands-on activities through the Harvard Ed Portal’s Summer Explorations program. Now in its seventh year, the program offers Allston-Brighton students free, weeklong courses designed to keep them engaged in learning during the school break. Among this year’s highlights: students got a chemistry lesson by rolling out, frying, and fermenting Ukrainian flatbread ingredients in “Science of Cooking.” Some learned about bones via “Ins and Outs of Skeletons,” held at the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Others took to the stage in “Creative Drama: Ocean Explorations,” led by staff of the American Repertory Theater.

    Samuel Jackson shares information about his skeleton specimen in the classroom. Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Maxwell Luo (left) examines a frog skeleton during the class. Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Students closely examine a snapping turtle shell. Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Maxwell Luo (clockwise from left), Raymond Wang, Michelle Luo, and Alan Wang examine skeleton samples in the classroom.
    Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Regina Qu rolls out two pieces of Ukrainian flatbread. The Summer Explorations “Science of Cooking” class for sixth grade students was held at Harvard Ed Portal. Credit: Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Benedict Franks (from left), Gabe Watson, Luis Maggioli, and Ali Ahmad squeeze lemons to produce juice that will be added to mozzarella. Credit: Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Taught by Alissa Cordeiro and Donya Pooliyeganeh, “Ocean Explorations!” is part of the American Repertory Theater’s creative drama class. Oak Northcross Aquino (from left), Ronin Rodriguez, Pooliyeganeh, and Anna Toumilovich take the stage. Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Donya Pooliyeganeh (left) and Oak Northcross Aquino select costumes from the stage. Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    Ronin Rodriguez (from left), Maeve Connal, Oak Northcross Aquino, and Orla Strubel line up at snack time. Credit: Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Harvard University campus

    Harvard University is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States, established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It was named after the College’s first benefactor, the young minister John Harvard of Charlestown, who upon his death in 1638 left his library and half his estate to the institution. A statue of John Harvard stands today in front of University Hall in Harvard Yard, and is perhaps the University’s best-known landmark.

    Harvard University has 12 degree-granting Schools in addition to the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The University has grown from nine students with a single master to an enrollment of more than 20,000 degree candidates including undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. There are more than 360,000 living alumni in the U.S. and over 190 other countries.

    The Massachusetts colonial legislature, the General Court, authorized Harvard University’s founding. In its early years, Harvard College primarily trained Congregational and Unitarian clergy, although it has never been formally affiliated with any denomination. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century, Harvard University (US) had emerged as the central cultural establishment among the Boston elite. Following the American Civil War, President Charles William Eliot’s long tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard became a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900. James B. Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II; he liberalized admissions after the war.

    The university is composed of ten academic faculties plus the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Arts and Sciences offers study in a wide range of academic disciplines for undergraduates and for graduates, while the other faculties offer only graduate degrees, mostly professional. Harvard has three main campuses: the 209-acre (85 ha) Cambridge campus centered on Harvard Yard; an adjoining campus immediately across the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston; and the medical campus in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area. Harvard University’s endowment is valued at $41.9 billion, making it the largest of any academic institution. Endowment income helps enable the undergraduate college to admit students regardless of financial need and provide generous financial aid with no loans The Harvard Library is the world’s largest academic library system, comprising 79 individual libraries holding about 20.4 million items.

    Harvard University has more alumni, faculty, and researchers who have won Nobel Prizes (161) and Fields Medals (18) than any other university in the world and more alumni who have been members of the U.S. Congress, MacArthur Fellows, Rhodes Scholars (375), and Marshall Scholars (255) than any other university in the United States. Its alumni also include eight U.S. presidents and 188 living billionaires, the most of any university. Fourteen Turing Award laureates have been Harvard affiliates. Students and alumni have also won 10 Academy Awards, 48 Pulitzer Prizes, and 108 Olympic medals (46 gold), and they have founded many notable companies.


    Harvard University was established in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1638, it acquired British North America’s first known printing press. In 1639, it was named Harvard College after deceased clergyman John Harvard, an alumnus of the University of Cambridge(UK) who had left the school £779 and his library of some 400 volumes. The charter creating the Harvard Corporation was granted in 1650.

    A 1643 publication gave the school’s purpose as “to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.” It trained many Puritan ministers in its early years and offered a classic curriculum based on the English university model—many leaders in the colony had attended the University of Cambridge—but conformed to the tenets of Puritanism. Harvard University has never affiliated with any particular denomination, though many of its earliest graduates went on to become clergymen in Congregational and Unitarian churches.

    Increase Mather served as president from 1681 to 1701. In 1708, John Leverett became the first president who was not also a clergyman, marking a turning of the college away from Puritanism and toward intellectual independence.

    19th century

    In the 19th century, Enlightenment ideas of reason and free will were widespread among Congregational ministers, putting those ministers and their congregations in tension with more traditionalist, Calvinist parties. When Hollis Professor of Divinity David Tappan died in 1803 and President Joseph Willard died a year later, a struggle broke out over their replacements. Henry Ware was elected to the Hollis chair in 1805, and the liberal Samuel Webber was appointed to the presidency two years later, signaling the shift from the dominance of traditional ideas at Harvard to the dominance of liberal, Arminian ideas.

    Charles William Eliot, president 1869–1909, eliminated the favored position of Christianity from the curriculum while opening it to student self-direction. Though Eliot was the crucial figure in the secularization of American higher education, he was motivated not by a desire to secularize education but by Transcendentalist Unitarian convictions influenced by William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    20th century

    In the 20th century, Harvard University’s reputation grew as a burgeoning endowment and prominent professors expanded the university’s scope. Rapid enrollment growth continued as new graduate schools were begun and the undergraduate college expanded. Radcliffe College, established in 1879 as the female counterpart of Harvard College, became one of the most prominent schools for women in the United States. Harvard University became a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900.

    The student body in the early decades of the century was predominantly “old-stock, high-status Protestants, especially Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians.” A 1923 proposal by President A. Lawrence Lowell that Jews be limited to 15% of undergraduates was rejected, but Lowell did ban blacks from freshman dormitories.

    President James B. Conant reinvigorated creative scholarship to guarantee Harvard University’s preeminence among research institutions. He saw higher education as a vehicle of opportunity for the talented rather than an entitlement for the wealthy, so Conant devised programs to identify, recruit, and support talented youth. In 1943, he asked the faculty to make a definitive statement about what general education ought to be, at the secondary as well as at the college level. The resulting Report, published in 1945, was one of the most influential manifestos in 20th century American education.

    Between 1945 and 1960, admissions were opened up to bring in a more diverse group of students. No longer drawing mostly from select New England prep schools, the undergraduate college became accessible to striving middle class students from public schools; many more Jews and Catholics were admitted, but few blacks, Hispanics, or Asians. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, Harvard became more diverse.

    Harvard University’s graduate schools began admitting women in small numbers in the late 19th century. During World War II, students at Radcliffe College (which since 1879 had been paying Harvard University professors to repeat their lectures for women) began attending Harvard University classes alongside men. Women were first admitted to the medical school in 1945. Since 1971, Harvard University has controlled essentially all aspects of undergraduate admission, instruction, and housing for Radcliffe women. In 1999, Radcliffe was formally merged into Harvard University.

    21st century

    Drew Gilpin Faust, previously the dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, became Harvard University’s first woman president on July 1, 2007. She was succeeded by Lawrence Bacow on July 1, 2018.

  • richardmitnick 12:51 pm on June 27, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "NASA’s Search for Life-Astrobiology in the Solar System and Beyond", , , , , Photo Essay   

    From National Aeronautics Space Agency (US) : Photo Essay “NASA’s Search for Life-Astrobiology in the Solar System and Beyond” 

    From National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)

    Jun 25, 2021
    Editor: Bill Keeter

    Are we alone in the universe? So far, the only life we know of is right here on Earth. But here at NASA, we’re looking. Credit: NASA.

    NASA is exploring the solar system and beyond to help us answer fundamental questions about life beyond our home planet. From studying the habitability of Mars, probing promising “oceans worlds,” such as Titan and Europa, to identifying Earth-size planets around distant stars, our science missions are working together with a goal to find unmistakable signs of life beyond Earth (a field of science called astrobiology). 

    Through the study of astrobiology, NASA invests in understanding the origins, evolution, and limits of life on Earth. This work has been important in shaping ideas about where to focus search for life efforts. As NASA explores the solar system, our understanding of life on Earth and the potential for life on other worlds has changed alongside the many discoveries. The study of organisms in extreme environments on Earth, from the polar plateau of Antarctica to the depths of the ocean, have highlighted that life as we know it is highly adaptable, but not always easy to find. The search for life requires great care, and is based in the knowledge we gain by studying life on Earth through the lens of astrobiology. If there’s something out there, we may not yet know how to recognize it.

    Dive into the past, present, and future of NASA’s search for life in the universe. 

    Past Missions
    Viking 1 and 2

    Over 45 years ago, the Viking Project found a place in history when it became the first U.S. mission to land a spacecraft safely on the surface of Mars.  

    Viking 1 and 2, each consisting of an orbiter and a lander, were NASA’s first attempt to search for life on another planet and thus the first mission dedicated to astrobiology. The mission’s biology experiments revealed unexpected chemical activity in the Martian soil, but provided no clear evidence for the presence of living microorganisms near the landing sites.  


    NASA’s Galileo mission orbited Jupiter for almost eight years, and made close passes by all its major moons. Galileo returned data that continues to shape astrobiology science –– particularly the discovery that Jupiter’s icy moon Europa has evidence of a subsurface ocean with more water than the total amount of liquid water found on Earth. These findings also expanded the search for habitable environments outside of the traditional “habitable zone” of a system, the distance from a star at which liquid water can persist on the surface of a planet.


    For more than a decade, the Cassini spacecraft shared the wonders of Saturn and its family of icy moons –– taking us to astonishing worlds and expanding our understanding of the kinds of worlds where life might exist.

    For the first time, astrobiologists were able to see through the thick atmosphere of Titan and study the moon’s surface, where they found lakes and seas filled with liquid hydrocarbons. Astrobiologists are studying what these liquid hydrocarbons could mean for life’s potential on Titan. Cassini also witnessed icy plumes erupting from Saturn’s small moon Enceladus. When flying through the plumes, the spacecraft found evidence of saltwater and organic chemicals. This raised questions about whether habitable environments could exist beneath the surface of Enceladus.

    Spirit and Opportunity Mars Exploration Rovers 

    NASA’s twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, launched towards Mars in 2003 in search of answers about the history of water on Mars. Originally a three-month prime mission, both robotic explorers far outlasted their original missions and spent years collecting data at the surface of Mars.    

    Spirit and Opportunity were the first mission to prove liquid water, a key ingredient for life, had once flowed across the surface of Mars. Their findings shaped our understanding of Mars’ geology and past environments, and importantly suggested Mars’ ancient environments may once have been suitable for life. 

    Kepler and K2 

    NASA’s first planet-hunting mission, the Kepler Space Telescope, paved the way for our search for life in the solar system and beyond. An important part of Kepler’s work was the identification of Earth-size planets around distant stars. 

    After nine years in deep space, collecting data that indicate our sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets – more planets even than stars – the space telescope retired in 2018. Kepler left a legacy of more than 2,600 exoplanet discoveries, many of which could be promising places for life.


    Over its sixteen years in space, the Spitzer Space Telescope evolved into a premier tool for studying exoplanets, using its infrared view of the universe. Spitzer marked a new age in planetary science as one of the first telescopes to directly detect light from the atmospheres of planets outside the solar system, or exoplanets. This enabled scientists to study the composition of those atmospheres and even learn about the weather on these distant worlds. 

    Spitzer’s infrared instruments allowed scientists to peer into cosmic regions that are hidden from optical telescopes, including dusty stellar nurseries, the centers of galaxies, and newly forming planetary systems. Spitzer’s infrared eyes also enabled astronomers to see cooler objects in space, like failed stars (brown dwarfs), extrasolar planets, giant molecular clouds, and organic molecules that may hold the secret to life on other planets. 

    Current Missions 


    Since it launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has made immense contributions to astrobiology. Astronomers used Hubble to make the first measurements of the atmospheric composition of extrasolar planets, and Hubble is now vigorously characterizing exoplanet atmospheres with constituents such as sodium, hydrogen, and water vapor. Hubble observations are also providing clues about how planets form, through studies of dust and debris disks around young stars. 

    Not all of Hubble’s contributions involve distant targets. Hubble has also been used to study bodies within the solar system, including asteroids, comets, planets, and moons, such as the intriguing ocean-bearing icy moons Europa and Ganymede. Hubble has provided invaluable insight into life’s potential in the solar system and beyond. 


    NASA’s atmosphere-sniffing Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission launched in November 2013 and began orbiting Mars roughly a year later. Since that time, the mission has made fundamental contributions to understanding the history of the Martian atmosphere and climate.    

    Astrobiologists are working with this atmospheric data to better understand how and when Mars lost its water and identifying periods in Mars’ history when habitable environments were most likely to exist at the planet’s surface. 

    Mars Odyssey 

    For two decades, NASA’s Mars Odyssey – the longest-lived spacecraft at the Red Planet – has helped locate ice, assess landing sites, and study the planet’s mysterious moons.   

    Odyssey has provided global maps of chemical elements and minerals that make up the surface of Mars. These detailed maps are used by astrobiologists to determine the evolution of the Martian environment and its potential for life. 

    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter 

    NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is on a search for evidence that water persisted on the surface of Mars for a long period of time. While other Mars missions have shown that water flowed across the surface in Mars’ history, it remains a mystery whether water was ever around long enough to provide a habitat for life. 

    Data from MRO is essential to astrobiologists studying the potential for habitable environments on past and present Mars. Additionally, these studies are important in building climate models for Mars, and for use in comparative planetology studies for the potential habitability of exoplanets that orbit distant stars.    

    Curiosity Mars Rover 

    The Curiosity Mars rover is studying whether Mars ever had environments capable of supporting microbial life. In other words, its mission is to determine whether the planet had all of the ingredients life needs – such as water, carbon, and a source of energy – by studying its climate and geology.  

    It’s been nearly nine years since Curiosity touched down on Mars in 2012, and the robot geologist keeps making new discoveries. Curiosity provided evidence that freshwater lakes filled Gale Grater billions of years ago. Lakes and groundwater persisted for millions of years and contained all the key elements necessary for life, demonstrating Mars was once habitable.

    TESS Mission 

    The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is the next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system, including those that could support life. Launched in 2018, TESS is on a mission to survey the entire sky and is expected to discover and catalogue thousands of exoplanets around nearby bright stars. 

    To date, TESS has discovered more than 120 confirmed exoplanets and more than 2,600 planet candidates. The planet-hunter will continue to find exoplanets targets that NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will study in further detail. 

    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Massachusetts Institute of Technology (US) TESS

    Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Center for Astrophysics – Harvard and Smithsonian; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the NASA Space Telescope Science Institute (US) in Baltimore.

    Perseverance Mars Rover 

    NASA’s newest robot astrobiologist, the Perseverance Mars rover, touched down safely on Mars on February 18, 2021, and is kicking off a new era of exploration on the Red Planet. Perseverance will search for signs of ancient microbial life, which will advance the agency’s quest to explore the past habitability of Mars.   

    What really sets this mission apart is that the rover has a drill to collect core samples of Martian rock and soil, and will store them in sealed tubes for pickup by a future Mars Sample Return mission that would ferry them back to Earth for detailed analysis.  

    Upcoming Missions 

    James Webb Space Telescope 

    The James Webb Space Telescope (Webb), slated to launch in 2021, will be the premier space-based observatory of the next decade. Webb is a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror.  

    Webb observations will be used to study every phase in the history of the universe, including planets and moons in our solar system, and the formation of distant solar systems potentially capable of supporting life on Earth-like exoplanets. The Webb telescope will also be capable of making detailed observations of the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars, to search for the building blocks of life on Earth-like planets beyond our solar system. 

    Europa Clipper Mission 

    Jupiter’s moon Europa may have the potential to harbor life. The Europa Clipper mission will conduct detailed reconnaissance of Europa and investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life. Targeting a 2024 launch, the mission will place a spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter in order to perform a detailed investigation of Europa –– a world that shows strong evidence for an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust.   

    Europa Clipper is not a life-detection mission, though it will 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.

    Dragonfly Mission to Titan 

    The Dragonfly mission will deliver a rotorcraft to visit Saturn’s largest and richly organic moon, Titan. Slated for launch in 2027 and arrival in 2034, Dragonfly will sample and examine dozens of promising sites around Saturn’s icy moon and advance our search for the building blocks of life.    

    This revolutionary mission will explore diverse locations to look for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how prebiotic chemistry under these conditions may have progressed. 

    Nancy Grace Roman Telescope 

    Slated to launch in the mid-2020s, the Roman Space Telescope will have a field of view that is 200 times greater than the Hubble infrared instrument, capturing more of the sky with less observing time. In addition to ground-breaking astrophysics and cosmology, the primary instrument on Roman, the Wide Field Instrument, has a rich menu of exoplanet science. It will perform a microlensing survey of the inner Milky Way that will reveal thousands of worlds orbiting within the habitable zone of their star and farther out, while providing an additional bounty of more than 100,000 transiting exoplanets.

    The mission will also be fitted with “starglasses,” a coronagraph instrument that can block out the glare from a star and allow astronomers to directly image giant planets in orbit around it. The coronagraph will provide the first in-space demonstration of technologies needed for future missions to image and characterize smaller, rocky planets in the habitable zones of nearby stars. Roman coronagraph will make observations that could contribute to the discovery of new worlds beyond our solar system and advance the study of extrasolar planets that could be suitable for life. 

    Learn more about the NASA Astrobiology Program:


    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) (US) 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.

  • richardmitnick 11:06 am on March 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Meet the DC16 crew", , Photo Essay   

    From ESA Concordia: “Meet the DC16 crew” 

    European Space Agency
    From ESA Chronicles From Concordia

    ESA Concordia Sunrise Sunrise

    20 March 2020

    It takes a village to get through a period of isolation, especially at a remote base in Antarctica. From medical staff to mechanics, researchers to cooks, the 12-person winter-over crew spending nine months at Concordia research station are keeping the station running, the research going, and each other company.

    Who’s who at Concordia

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Alberto Salvati (4th Antarctic expedition)
    Nationality: Italian
    Role: Station leader and project manager of research in atmospheric physics and meteorology
    Hobbies: travelling, films, running, writing, hiking

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Andrea Ceinini (7th Antarctic expedition – 6 of them ‘traverses’)
    Nationality: Italian
    Role: Auto mechanic. Maintains and operates station mechanics, including the water flow and waste management systems.
    Hobbies: mountains and open-air sports, alpine guide

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Bastien Prat (5th Antarctic expedition, previous 4 at French base Dumond d’Urville)
    Nationality: French
    Role: Electrician. Installs and manages electrical systems, alarm systems and automatic control systems
    Hobbies: running, volleyball and paintball

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Camille Breant (2nd Antarctic expedition, first at French base Dumond d’Urville)
    Nationality: French
    Role: Glaciologist. Studies air impurities and water cycles to better understand human impact on the environment
    Hobbies: yoga, Pilates, gardening, knitting, cinema

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Elisa Calmon (1st Antarctic expedition)
    Nationality: French
    Role: Cook. Manages the kitchen and warehouse.
    Hobbies: music, reading, theatre, photography, and writing

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Ines Ollivier (2nd Antarctic expedition)
    Nationality: French
    Role: Glaciologist. Works on projects relating to snow, atmosphere and meteorology.
    Hobbies: skiing, hiking, swimming, playing rugby, taking pictures

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Loredana Faraldi (1st Antarctic expedition)
    Nationality: Italian
    Role: Station MD. Takes care of crew members and manages the base’s hospital. Responsible for internal medical emergency procedures.
    Hobbies: Travelling, diving, cycling, drawing, painting and cooking

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Luca Ianniello (1st Antarctic expedition)
    Nationality: Italian
    Role: ICT. Manages and maintains networks and systems, radio room control and satellite communications.
    Hobbies: snowboarding, flying drones, playing computer science, swimming and kite surfing

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Stijn Thoolen (1st Antarctic expedition)
    Nationality: Dutch
    Role: ESA research MD. Facilitates studies on the effects of extreme environments on the physical and mental health of the participants in the winter expedition
    Hobbies: running, music, travelling and reading

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Sylvain Guesnier (1st Antarctic expedition)
    Nationality: French
    Role: Central mechanic. Manages systems for generating electricity, fresh water and heating.
    Hobbies: hiking, running and kite surfing

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Vivien Koutcheroff (3rd Antarctic expedition)
    Nationality: French
    Role: Technical leader and plumber. Coordinates the technical team, manages and maintains the water, heating and recycling plants
    Hobbies: doing downhill, skiing and travelling

    Credits: IPEV/PNRA/S. Guesnier

    Name: Wenceslas Marie-Sainte (1st Antarctic expedition)
    Nationality: French
    Role: Electronics engineer working on atmospheric physics, seismology, geomagnetism and astronomy
    Hobbies: going to the gym, painting, drawing, listening to music, reading science fiction books, hiking

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    ESA Concordia Base

    Concordia research station in Antarctica is located on a plateau 3200 m above sea level. A place of extremes, temperatures can drop to –80°C in the winter, with a yearly average temperature of –50°C.

    As Concordia lies at the very southern tip of Earth, the Sun does not rise above the horizon in the winter and does not set in the summer. The crew must live without sunlight for four months of the year.

    The altitude and location mean that the air in Concordia is very thin and holds less oxygen. Venturing outside the base requires wearing layers of clothes and limits the time spent outdoors.

    During the harsh winter no outside help can be flown in or reach the base over land – the crew have to solve any problems on their own.

    In addition, Concordia sits in the largest desert in the world. The air is extremely dry, so the crew suffer from continuously chapped lips and irritated eyes.

    No animals can survive in this region – even bacteria find it hard coping with the extreme temperatures. The nearest human beings are stationed some 600 km away at the Russian Vostok base, making Concordia more remote than the International Space Station.

    In the great open landscape covered in darkness, colours, smells and sounds are almost non-existent, adding to the sense of loneliness.

    The isolation and sensory deprivation can wreak havoc on crewmembers’ biological clock, making it hard to get a good night’s sleep.

    Despite all these hardships, up to 16 people spend around a year at a time living in Concordia in the name of science. Far removed from civilisation, the white world of Antarctica offers researchers the opportunity to collect data and experiment like no other place on Earth.

    The base is so unlike anything found elsewhere in the world that ESA participates in the Italian-French base to research future missions to other planets, using the base as a model for extraterrestrial planets.

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

  • richardmitnick 5:17 pm on February 17, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Art and Science, , , Photo Essay,   

    From University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill: “Through a Different Lens” Photo Essay 

    From University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

    February 17th, 2020
    Megan May

    Laura Jones paints a relief-printed piece of fabric during her class “Art and Science: Merging Printmaking and Biology.” Jones’ depiction of flora historically used in women’s health was inspired by the drawings of Elizabeth Blackwell, one of the first female British botanical illustrators to gain notoriety.

    Laura Jones sits along the sprawling windows in the Hanes Art Center print studio, headphones plugged in and paintbrush in hand. In front of her lies an eight-foot piece of fabric, covered edge to edge with relief prints of a variety of plants. Jones carefully fills in each intricate part with homemade dyes made from organic matter like acorns and tea leaves.

    The biology undergrad with a studio art minor is working on her final project for the course “Art and Science: Merging Printmaking and Biology” led by art professor Beth Grabowski and biology professor Bob Goldstein. Made up of seven students with biology prerequisites and seven with art prerequisites, the course explores how these two disciplines can influence one another.

    Throughout the semester, students used science — like visually interpreting microscope slides and creating images from motion software — as inspiration for printmaking projects.

    “One of the lingering questions for us is: What does it mean to think like an artist and think like a scientist?” Grabowski says.

    The students, she explains, often find that similarities outweigh the differences.

    Ruth Moffatt, an art major, looks at a slide under a microscope. The students used images from the slides like those of human skin cells, soil, or an ant antenna as inspiration for later prints.

    A student uses a smart phone adapter to take photographs of a microscope slide. While the ways in which science can inspire art may be obvious, how art impacts science is more complex and a question the professors often pose to their students. “We definitely have discoveries in our lab that are based on things that maybe people had seen before but hadn’t really noticed,” Goldstein says. “I think looking and really thinking about what you’re looking at, like in art, I’m sure has subtle effects.”

    Aubrey Knier, a biology major with an art minor, and Luke Collins, a studio art major, look at microscope slides. One of the goals of the course is to bring together students from different disciplines. “They really inspire each other,” Grabowski says. “I think the science curiosity is upped in the art students and the art curiosity and risk taking is upped in the science students.”

    Kaylene Lu creates a screen print depicting apoptosis ­­­­— the process of cells dying as an organism develops. Grabowski notes depth of students’ projects due to a strong foundation in research throughout the art-making process. “I always talk about art making as being a conversation between intuition and intellect,” she says. “That intellectual exploration feeds the intuitive ‘well’ so you just have a lot more to draw on.”

    Beth Grabowski helps Emma Haseley use a Vandercook proof press, a machine used commercially from the early 1900s to the 1960s, to create a print about the sugar cane industry.

    Tosin Olayinka, a biology major, sketches a design based on the mathematical concept of cellular automata. Throughout the course Olayinka learned to approach scientific ideas through the eyes of an artist, thinking about biological terms in different ways. “A lot of biological artifacts are prints, in a sense,” he says, as an example. “Like fossils ­— they’re not actually the bones of the animal, they’re the result of rock formations onto bones. In a sense that’s a naturally occurring print.”

    Students admire Yichen Wu’s screen print. While biology and art students vary greatly in the content of their education, Grabowski finds common ground between the two in their process of exploration. “The creativity a scientist has and the creativity an artist has is very similar,” she says. “I guess they both have the ability to find a question that they don’t know they were looking for, that happens in both realms all the time.”

    A screen print dries on the window of the UNC Genome Sciences Building. Students have the freedom to go in any direction their inquiring mind takes them, guided by brainstorming sessions with Goldstein and Grabowski. “Because the learning is all based on the students’ curiosity it’s supposed to be really powerful. They learn much more effectively,” Goldstein says. “For example, with the final projects we have 14 students, so the science goes in 14 different directions.”

    Bob Goldstein and Emma Haseley help Mary Diaz (center) print directly onto the Genome Sciences Building windows, where the class also held a gallery showing projects throughout the semester. When creating the class, the professors wanted to include public presentations of student work. “We’ve thought about how to bring the art to scientists [outside of class],” Grabowski says, “to a different population than those who would naturally come to the Hanes Art Center.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NC bloc

    U NC campus
    UNC-University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
    Carolina’s vibrant people and programs attest to the University’s long-standing place among leaders in higher education since it was chartered in 1789 and opened its doors for students in 1795 as the nation’s first public university. Situated in the beautiful college town of Chapel Hill, N.C., UNC has earned a reputation as one of the best universities in the world. Carolina prides itself on a strong, diverse student body, academic opportunities not found anywhere else, and a value unmatched by any public university in the nation.

  • richardmitnick 9:32 am on January 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Photo Essay, Solar Orbiter Launch,   

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe: ESA Solar Orbiter- Photo Essay 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    From European Space Agency – United space in Europe

    United space in Europe

    Solar Orbiter launch

    Solar Orbiter launch – fairing separation

    Solar Orbiter separation

    Solar Orbiter solar array deployment

    Solar Orbiter antenna deployment

    Solar Orbiter Earth flyby

    See the full article here Launch .
    See the full article here Fairing Separation .
    See the full article here Separation .
    See the full article here Array Deployment.
    See the full article here Antenna Deployment.
    See the full article here Earth Flyby.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The European Space Agency (ESA), established in 1975, is an intergovernmental organization dedicated to the exploration of space, currently with 19 member states. Headquartered in Paris, ESA has a staff of more than 2,000. ESA’s space flight program includes human spaceflight, mainly through the participation in the International Space Station program, the launch and operations of unmanned exploration missions to other planets and the Moon, Earth observation, science, telecommunication as well as maintaining a major spaceport, the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, French Guiana, and designing launch vehicles. ESA science missions are based at ESTEC in Noordwijk, Netherlands, Earth Observation missions at ESRIN in Frascati, Italy, ESA Mission Control (ESOC) is in Darmstadt, Germany, the European Astronaut Centre (EAC) that trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany, and the European Space Astronomy Centre is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Spain.

    ESA50 Logo large

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