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  • richardmitnick 8:49 am on July 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Trace gas phosphine points to volcanic activity on Venus", , , Planetary Science, Science is pointing to a planet that has active explosive volcanism today or in the very recent past.   

    From Cornell Chronicle (US) : “Trace gas phosphine points to volcanic activity on Venus” 

    From Cornell Chronicle (US)

    July 12, 2021
    Blaine Friedlander

    Maat Mons, a large volcano on Venus, is shown in this 1991 simulated-color radar image from National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)’s Magellan spacecraft mission.

    Scientists last autumn revealed that the gas phosphine was found in trace amounts in Venus’ upper atmosphere. That discovery promised the slim possibility that phosphine serves as a biological signature for the hot, toxic planet.

    Now Cornell scientists say the phosphine’s chemical fingerprints support a different and important scientific find: evidence of explosive volcanoes on the mysterious planet.

    “The phosphine is not telling us about the biology of Venus,” said Jonathan Lunine, the David C. Duncan Professor in Physical Sciences and chair of the Department of Astronomy in the College of Arts and Sciences. “It’s telling us about the geology. Science is pointing to a planet that has active explosive volcanism today or in the very recent past.”

    Lunine and Ngoc Truong, a doctoral candidate in geology, have authored the study, “Volcanically Extruded Phosphides as an Abiotic Source of Venusian Phosphine,” published July 12 in the PNAS.

    Truong and Lunine argue that volcanism is the means for phosphine to get into Venus’ upper atmosphere, after examining observations from the ground-based, submillimeter-wavelength James Clerk Maxwell Telescope atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii, and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile.

    “Volcanism could supply enough phosphide to produce phosphine,” Truong said. “The chemistry implies that phosphine derives from explosive volcanoes on Venus, not biological sources.”

    Our planetary neighbor broils with an almost 900-degree Fahrenheit average surface temperature and features a carbon dioxide-filled atmosphere enveloped in sulfuric acid clouds, according to NASA.

    If Venus has phosphide – a form of phosphorous present in the planet’s deep mantle – and, if it is brought to the surface in an explosive, volcanic way and then injected into the atmosphere, those phosphides react with the Venusian atmosphere’s sulfuric acid to form phosphine, Truong said.

    He found published laboratory data confirming that the phosphide reacts with sulfuric acid to produce phosphines efficiently.

    Volcanism on Venus is not necessarily surprising, Lunine said. But while “our phosphine model suggests explosive volcanism occurring, radar images from the Magellan spacecraft in the 1990s show some geologic features could support this.”

    In 1978, on NASA’s Pioneer Venus orbiter mission, scientists uncovered variations of sulfur dioxide in Venus’ upper atmosphere, hinting at the prospect of explosive volcanism, Truong said, similar to the scale of Earth’s Krakatoa volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1883.

    Said Truong: “Confirming explosive volcanism on Venus through the gas phosphine was totally unexpected.”

    Funding for the research was provided by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (US) in Greenbelt, Maryland.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Once called “the first American university” by educational historian Frederick Rudolph, Cornell University represents a distinctive mix of eminent scholarship and democratic ideals. Adding practical subjects to the classics and admitting qualified students regardless of nationality, race, social circumstance, gender, or religion was quite a departure when Cornell was founded in 1865.

    Today’s Cornell reflects this heritage of egalitarian excellence. It is home to the nation’s first colleges devoted to hotel administration, industrial and labor relations, and veterinary medicine. Both a private university and the land-grant institution of New York State, Cornell University is the most educationally diverse member of the Ivy League.

    On the Ithaca campus alone nearly 20,000 students representing every state and 120 countries choose from among 4,000 courses in 11 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools. Many undergraduates participate in a wide range of interdisciplinary programs, play meaningful roles in original research, and study in Cornell programs in Washington, New York City, and the world over.

    Cornell University (US) is a private, statutory, Ivy League and land-grant research university in Ithaca, New York. Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, the university was intended to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge—from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied. These ideals, unconventional for the time, are captured in Cornell’s founding principle, a popular 1868 quotation from founder Ezra Cornell: “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.”

    The university is broadly organized into seven undergraduate colleges and seven graduate divisions at its main Ithaca campus, with each college and division defining its specific admission standards and academic programs in near autonomy. The university also administers two satellite medical campuses, one in New York City and one in Education City, Qatar, and Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute(US) in New York City, a graduate program that incorporates technology, business, and creative thinking. The program moved from Google’s Chelsea Building in New York City to its permanent campus on Roosevelt Island in September 2017.

    Cornell is one of the few private land grant universities in the United States. Of its seven undergraduate colleges, three are state-supported statutory or contract colleges through the SUNY – The State University of New York (US) system, including its Agricultural and Human Ecology colleges as well as its Industrial Labor Relations school. Of Cornell’s graduate schools, only the veterinary college is state-supported. As a land grant college, Cornell operates a cooperative extension outreach program in every county of New York and receives annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions. The Cornell University Ithaca Campus comprises 745 acres, but is much larger when the Cornell Botanic Gardens (more than 4,300 acres) and the numerous university-owned lands in New York City are considered.

    Alumni and affiliates of Cornell have reached many notable and influential positions in politics, media, and science. As of January 2021, 61 Nobel laureates, four Turing Award winners and one Fields Medalist have been affiliated with Cornell. Cornell counts more than 250,000 living alumni, and its former and present faculty and alumni include 34 Marshall Scholars, 33 Rhodes Scholars, 29 Truman Scholars, 7 Gates Scholars, 55 Olympic Medalists, 10 current Fortune 500 CEOs, and 35 billionaire alumni. Since its founding, Cornell has been a co-educational, non-sectarian institution where admission has not been restricted by religion or race. The student body consists of more than 15,000 undergraduate and 9,000 graduate students from all 50 American states and 119 countries.


    Cornell University was founded on April 27, 1865; the New York State (NYS) Senate authorized the university as the state’s land grant institution. Senator Ezra Cornell offered his farm in Ithaca, New York, as a site and $500,000 of his personal fortune as an initial endowment. Fellow senator and educator Andrew Dickson White agreed to be the first president. During the next three years, White oversaw the construction of the first two buildings and traveled to attract students and faculty. The university was inaugurated on October 7, 1868, and 412 men were enrolled the next day.

    Cornell developed as a technologically innovative institution, applying its research to its own campus and to outreach efforts. For example, in 1883 it was one of the first university campuses to use electricity from a water-powered dynamo to light the grounds. Since 1894, Cornell has included colleges that are state funded and fulfill statutory requirements; it has also administered research and extension activities that have been jointly funded by state and federal matching programs.

    Cornell has had active alumni since its earliest classes. It was one of the first universities to include alumni-elected representatives on its Board of Trustees. Cornell was also among the Ivies that had heightened student activism during the 1960s related to cultural issues; civil rights; and opposition to the Vietnam War, with protests and occupations resulting in the resignation of Cornell’s president and the restructuring of university governance. Today the university has more than 4,000 courses. Cornell is also known for the Residential Club Fire of 1967, a fire in the Residential Club building that killed eight students and one professor.

    Since 2000, Cornell has been expanding its international programs. In 2004, the university opened the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar. It has partnerships with institutions in India, Singapore, and the People’s Republic of China. Former president Jeffrey S. Lehman described the university, with its high international profile, a “transnational university”. On March 9, 2004, Cornell and Stanford University(US) laid the cornerstone for a new ‘Bridging the Rift Center’ to be built and jointly operated for education on the Israel–Jordan border.


    Cornell, a research university, is ranked fourth in the world in producing the largest number of graduates who go on to pursue PhDs in engineering or the natural sciences at American institutions, and fifth in the world in producing graduates who pursue PhDs at American institutions in any field. Research is a central element of the university’s mission; in 2009 Cornell spent $671 million on science and engineering research and development, the 16th highest in the United States. Cornell is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”.

    For the 2016–17 fiscal year, the university spent $984.5 million on research. Federal sources constitute the largest source of research funding, with total federal investment of $438.2 million. The agencies contributing the largest share of that investment are the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation(US), accounting for 49.6% and 24.4% of all federal investment, respectively. Cornell was on the top-ten list of U.S. universities receiving the most patents in 2003, and was one of the nation’s top five institutions in forming start-up companies. In 2004–05, Cornell received 200 invention disclosures; filed 203 U.S. patent applications; completed 77 commercial license agreements; and distributed royalties of more than $4.1 million to Cornell units and inventors.

    Since 1962, Cornell has been involved in unmanned missions to Mars. In the 21st century, Cornell had a hand in the Mars Exploration Rover Mission. Cornell’s Steve Squyres, Principal Investigator for the Athena Science Payload, led the selection of the landing zones and requested data collection features for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. NASA-JPL/Caltech(US) engineers took those requests and designed the rovers to meet them. The rovers, both of which have operated long past their original life expectancies, are responsible for the discoveries that were awarded 2004 Breakthrough of the Year honors by Science. Control of the Mars rovers has shifted between National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US)’s JPL-Caltech (US) and Cornell’s Space Sciences Building.

    Further, Cornell researchers discovered the rings around the planet Uranus, and Cornell built and operated the telescope at Arecibo Observatory located in Arecibo, Puerto Rico(US) until 2011, when they transferred the operations to SRI International, the Universities Space Research Association (US) and the Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico [Universidad Metropolitana de Puerto Rico](US).

    The Automotive Crash Injury Research Project was begun in 1952. It pioneered the use of crash testing, originally using corpses rather than dummies. The project discovered that improved door locks; energy-absorbing steering wheels; padded dashboards; and seat belts could prevent an extraordinary percentage of injuries.

    In the early 1980s, Cornell deployed the first IBM 3090-400VF and coupled two IBM 3090-600E systems to investigate coarse-grained parallel computing. In 1984, the National Science Foundation began work on establishing five new supercomputer centers, including the Cornell Center for Advanced Computing, to provide high-speed computing resources for research within the United States. As an National Science Foundation (US) center, Cornell deployed the first IBM Scalable Parallel supercomputer.

    In the 1990s, Cornell developed scheduling software and deployed the first supercomputer built by Dell. Most recently, Cornell deployed Red Cloud, one of the first cloud computing services designed specifically for research. Today, the center is a partner on the National Science Foundation XSEDE-Extreme Science Engineering Discovery Environment supercomputing program, providing coordination for XSEDE architecture and design, systems reliability testing, and online training using the Cornell Virtual Workshop learning platform.

    Cornell scientists have researched the fundamental particles of nature for more than 70 years. Cornell physicists, such as Hans Bethe, contributed not only to the foundations of nuclear physics but also participated in the Manhattan Project. In the 1930s, Cornell built the second cyclotron in the United States. In the 1950s, Cornell physicists became the first to study synchrotron radiation.

    During the 1990s, the Cornell Electron Storage Ring, located beneath Alumni Field, was the world’s highest-luminosity electron-positron collider. After building the synchrotron at Cornell, Robert R. Wilson took a leave of absence to become the founding director of DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory(US), which involved designing and building the largest accelerator in the United States.

    Cornell’s accelerator and high-energy physics groups are involved in the design of the proposed ILC-International Linear Collider(JP) and plan to participate in its construction and operation. The International Linear Collider(JP), to be completed in the late 2010s, will complement the CERN Large Hadron Collider(CH) and shed light on questions such as the identity of dark matter and the existence of extra dimensions.

    As part of its research work, Cornell has established several research collaborations with universities around the globe. For example, a partnership with the University of Sussex(UK) (including the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex) allows research and teaching collaboration between the two institutions.

  • richardmitnick 4:42 pm on July 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The mystery of what causes Jupiter’s X-ray auroras is solved", , Planetary Science   

    From European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne] [Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) : “The mystery of what causes Jupiter’s X-ray auroras is solved” 

    ESA Space For Europe Banner

    European Space Agency – United Space in Europe (EU)

    From European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne] [Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)

    Jupiter’s mysterious X-ray auroras explained.

    Jupiter’s mysterious X-ray auroras have been explained, ending a 40-year quest for an answer. For the first time, astronomers have seen the way Jupiter’s magnetic field is compressed, which heats the particles and directs them along the magnetic field lines down into the atmosphere of Jupiter, sparking the X-ray aurora. The connection was made by combining in-situ data from NASA’s Juno mission with X-ray observations from ESA’s XMM-Newton. © Yao/Dunn/ESA/National Aeronautics Space Agency (US).


    The 40-year-old mystery of what causes Jupiter’s X-ray auroras has been solved. For the first time, astronomers have seen the entire mechanism at work – and it could be a process occurring in many other parts of the Universe too.

    Planetary astronomers have studied Jupiter’s spectacular X-ray auroral emission for decades. The X-ray ‘colours’ of these auroras show that they are triggered by electrically charged particles called ions crashing into Jupiter’s atmosphere. But astronomers had no idea how the ions were able to get to the atmosphere in the first place.

    Jupiter’s mysterious X-ray auroras explained
    © Yao/Dunn/ESA/NASA

    Now, for the first time, they have seen the ions ‘surfing’ electromagnetic waves in Jupiter’s magnetic field, down into the atmosphere.

    The vital clues came from a new analysis of data from ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope and NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

    Situated in Earth’s orbit, XMM-Newton makes remote observations of Jupiter at X-ray wavelengths. Juno on the other hand circles the giant planet itself, taking in-situ readings from inside Jupiter’s magnetic field. But the question was: what should the team look for?

    The clue came when Zhonghua Yao, Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences [中国科学院](CN), Beijing, and lead author of the new study, realised that something didn’t make sense about Jupiter’s X-ray auroras.

    On Earth, auroras are visible only in a belt surrounding the magnetic poles, between 65 and 80 degrees latitude. Beyond 80 degrees, auroral emission disappears because the magnetic field lines here leave Earth and connect to the magnetic field in the solar wind, which is the constant flux of electrically charged particles ejected by the Sun. These are called open field lines and in the traditional picture, Jupiter and Saturn’s high-latitude polar regions are not expected to emit substantial auroras.

    However, Jupiter’s X-ray auroras are inconsistent with this picture. They exist poleward of the main auroral belt, pulsate regularly, and can sometimes be different at the north pole from the south pole. These are typical features of a ‘closed’ magnetic field, where the magnetic field line exits the planet at one pole and reconnects with the planet at the other.

    Using computer simulations, Zhonghua and colleagues previously found that the pulsating X-ray auroras could be linked to closed magnetic fields that are generated inside Jupiter and then stretch out millions of kilometres into space before turning back.

    On 16 and 17 July 2017, XMM-Newton observed Jupiter continuously for 26 hours and saw X-ray auroras pulsating every 27 minutes. Simultaneously, Juno had been travelling between 62 and 68 Jupiter radii above the planet’s pre-dawn areas. This was exactly the area that the team’s simulations suggested were important for triggering the pulsations. So, the team searched the Juno data for any magnetic processes that were occurring at the same rate.

    They found that the pulsating X-ray auroras are caused by fluctuations of Jupiter’s magnetic field. As the planet rotates, it drags around its magnetic field. The magnetic field is struck directly by the particles of the solar wind and compressed. These compressions heat particles that are trapped in Jupiter’s magnetic field. This triggers a phenomenon called electromagnetic ion cyclotron (EMIC) waves, in which the particles are directed along the field lines.

    The particles themselves are electrically charged atoms called ions. Guided by the field, the ions ‘surf’ the EMIC wave across millions of kilometres of space, eventually slamming into the planet’s atmosphere and triggering the X-ray aurora.

    “What we see in the Juno data is this beautiful chain of events. We see the compression happen, we see the EMIC wave triggered, we see the ions, and then we see a pulse of ions traveling along the field line. And then a few minutes later, XMM sees a burst of X-rays,” says William Dunn, Mullard Space Science Laboratory (UK), University College London (UK), who co-led the research.

    Now that the process responsible for Jupiter’s X-ray auroras has been identified for the first time, it opens up a wealth of possibilities for where it could be studied next. For example, at Jupiter, the magnetic field is filled with sulphur and oxygen ions that are spewed out by the volcanoes on the moon Io. At Saturn, the moon Enceladus jets water into space, filling Saturn’s magnetic field with water ions.

    “This is a fundamental process that’s applicable to Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and probably exoplanets as well,” says Zhonghua.

    It may be more widely applicable even than that because now that the process has been revealed, there is a striking similarity to the ion auroras that happen here on Earth. In the case of Earth, the ion responsible is a proton, which comes from a hydrogen atom, and the process is not energetic enough to create X-rays. Yet, the basic process is that same. So, Jupiter’s X-ray aurora is fundamentally an ion aurora, although at much higher energy than the proton aurora on Earth.

    “It could be that EMIC waves play an important role in transferring energy from one place to another across the cosmos,” says William.

    As for Jupiter itself, the study of its auroras will continue with ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer (Juice). Set to arrive by 2029, Juice will study the planet’s atmosphere, magnetosphere, and the effect that Jupiter’s four largest moons have on the auroras.

    Science paper:
    Science Advances

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU), 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 (NL) 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.

    ESA’s space flight programme includes human spaceflight (mainly through participation in the International Space Station program); the launch and operation of uncrewed exploration missions to other planets and the Moon; Earth observation, science and telecommunication; designing launch vehicles; and maintaining a major spaceport, the The Guiana Space Centre [Centre Spatial Guyanais; CSG also called Europe’s Spaceport) at Kourou, French Guiana. The main European launch vehicle Ariane 5 is operated through Arianespace with ESA sharing in the costs of launching and further developing this launch vehicle. The agency is also working with NASA to manufacture the Orion Spacecraft service module that will fly on the Space Launch System.

    The agency’s facilities are distributed among the following centres:

    ESA European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) (NL)in Noordwijk, Netherlands;
    ESA Centre for Earth Observation [ESRIN] (IT) in Frascati, Italy;
    ESA Mission Control ESA European Space Operations Center [ESOC](DE) is in Darmstadt, Germany;
    ESA -European Astronaut Centre [EAC] trains astronauts for future missions is situated in Cologne, Germany;
    European Centre for Space Applications and Telecommunications (ECSAT) (UK), a research institute created in 2009, is located in Harwell, England;
    ESA – European Space Astronomy Centre [ESAC] (ES) is located in Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain.
    European Space Agency Science Programme is a long-term programme of space science and space exploration missions.


    After World War II, many European scientists left Western Europe in order to work with the United States. Although the 1950s boom made it possible for Western European countries to invest in research and specifically in space-related activities, Western European scientists realized solely national projects would not be able to compete with the two main superpowers. In 1958, only months after the Sputnik shock, Edoardo Amaldi (Italy) and Pierre Auger (France), two prominent members of the Western European scientific community, met to discuss the foundation of a common Western European space agency. The meeting was attended by scientific representatives from eight countries, including Harrie Massey (United Kingdom).

    The Western European nations decided to have two agencies: one concerned with developing a launch system, ELDO (European Launch Development Organization), and the other the precursor of the European Space Agency, ESRO (European Space Research Organisation). The latter was established on 20 March 1964 by an agreement signed on 14 June 1962. From 1968 to 1972, ESRO launched seven research satellites.

    ESA in its current form was founded with the ESA Convention in 1975, when ESRO was merged with ELDO. ESA had ten founding member states: Belgium, Denmark, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. These signed the ESA Convention in 1975 and deposited the instruments of ratification by 1980, when the convention came into force. During this interval the agency functioned in a de facto fashion. ESA launched its first major scientific mission in 1975, Cos-B, a space probe monitoring gamma-ray emissions in the universe, which was first worked on by ESRO.

    ESA50 Logo large

    Later activities

    ESA collaborated with National Aeronautics Space Agency on the International Ultraviolet Explorer (IUE), the world’s first high-orbit telescope, which was launched in 1978 and operated successfully for 18 years.

    A number of successful Earth-orbit projects followed, and in 1986 ESA began Giotto, its first deep-space mission, to study the comets Halley and Grigg–Skjellerup. Hipparcos, a star-mapping mission, was launched in 1989 and in the 1990s SOHO, Ulysses and the Hubble Space Telescope were all jointly carried out with NASA. Later scientific missions in cooperation with NASA include the Cassini–Huygens space probe, to which ESA contributed by building the Titan landing module Huygens.

    As the successor of ELDO, ESA has also constructed rockets for scientific and commercial payloads. Ariane 1, launched in 1979, carried mostly commercial payloads into orbit from 1984 onward. The next two versions of the Ariane rocket were intermediate stages in the development of a more advanced launch system, the Ariane 4, which operated between 1988 and 2003 and established ESA as the world leader in commercial space launches in the 1990s. Although the succeeding Ariane 5 experienced a failure on its first flight, it has since firmly established itself within the heavily competitive commercial space launch market with 82 successful launches until 2018. The successor launch vehicle of Ariane 5, the Ariane 6, is under development and is envisioned to enter service in the 2020s.

    The beginning of the new millennium saw ESA become, along with agencies like National Aeronautics Space Agency(US), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Indian Space Research Organisation, the Canadian Space Agency(CA) and Roscosmos(RU), one of the major participants in scientific space research. Although ESA had relied on co-operation with NASA in previous decades, especially the 1990s, changed circumstances (such as tough legal restrictions on information sharing by the United States military) led to decisions to rely more on itself and on co-operation with Russia. A 2011 press issue thus stated:

    “Russia is ESA’s first partner in its efforts to ensure long-term access to space. There is a framework agreement between ESA and the government of the Russian Federation on cooperation and partnership in the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes, and cooperation is already underway in two different areas of launcher activity that will bring benefits to both partners.”

    Notable ESA programmes include SMART-1, a probe testing cutting-edge space propulsion technology, the Mars Express and Venus Express missions, as well as the development of the Ariane 5 rocket and its role in the ISS partnership. ESA maintains its scientific and research projects mainly for astronomy-space missions such as Corot, launched on 27 December 2006, a milestone in the search for exoplanets.

    On 21 January 2019, ArianeGroup and Arianespace announced a one-year contract with ESA to study and prepare for a mission to mine the Moon for lunar regolith.


    The treaty establishing the European Space Agency reads:

    The purpose of the Agency shall be to provide for and to promote, for exclusively peaceful purposes, cooperation among European States in space research and technology and their space applications, with a view to their being used for scientific purposes and for operational space applications systems…

    ESA is responsible for setting a unified space and related industrial policy, recommending space objectives to the member states, and integrating national programs like satellite development, into the European program as much as possible.

    Jean-Jacques Dordain – ESA’s Director General (2003–2015) – outlined the European Space Agency’s mission in a 2003 interview:

    “Today space activities have pursued the benefit of citizens, and citizens are asking for a better quality of life on Earth. They want greater security and economic wealth, but they also want to pursue their dreams, to increase their knowledge, and they want younger people to be attracted to the pursuit of science and technology. I think that space can do all of this: it can produce a higher quality of life, better security, more economic wealth, and also fulfill our citizens’ dreams and thirst for knowledge, and attract the young generation. This is the reason space exploration is an integral part of overall space activities. It has always been so, and it will be even more important in the future.”


    According to the ESA website, the activities are:

    Observing the Earth
    Human Spaceflight
    Space Science
    Space Engineering & Technology
    Telecommunications & Integrated Applications
    Preparing for the Future
    Space for Climate


    Copernicus Programme
    Cosmic Vision
    Horizon 2000
    Living Planet Programme


    Every member country must contribute to these programmes:

    Technology Development Element Programme
    Science Core Technology Programme
    General Study Programme
    European Component Initiative


    Depending on their individual choices the countries can contribute to the following programmes, listed according to:

    Earth Observation
    Human Spaceflight and Exploration
    Space Situational Awareness


    ESA has formed partnerships with universities. ESA_LAB@ refers to research laboratories at universities. Currently there are ESA_LAB@

    Technische Universität Darmstadt
    École des hautes études commerciales de Paris (HEC Paris)
    Université de recherche Paris Sciences et Lettres
    University of Central Lancashire

    Membership and contribution to ESA

    By 2015, ESA was an intergovernmental organisation of 22 member states. Member states participate to varying degrees in the mandatory (25% of total expenditures in 2008) and optional space programmes (75% of total expenditures in 2008). The 2008 budget amounted to €3.0 billion whilst the 2009 budget amounted to €3.6 billion. The total budget amounted to about €3.7 billion in 2010, €3.99 billion in 2011, €4.02 billion in 2012, €4.28 billion in 2013, €4.10 billion in 2014 and €4.33 billion in 2015. English is the main language within ESA. Additionally, official documents are also provided in German and documents regarding the Spacelab are also provided in Italian. If found appropriate, the agency may conduct its correspondence in any language of a member state.

    Non-full member states
    Since 2016, Slovenia has been an associated member of the ESA.

    Latvia became the second current associated member on 30 June 2020, when the Association Agreement was signed by ESA Director Jan Wörner and the Minister of Education and Science of Latvia, Ilga Šuplinska in Riga. The Saeima ratified it on July 27. Previously associated members were Austria, Norway and Finland, all of which later joined ESA as full members.

    Since 1 January 1979, Canada has had the special status of a Cooperating State within ESA. By virtue of this accord, the Canadian Space Agency takes part in ESA’s deliberative bodies and decision-making and also in ESA’s programmes and activities. Canadian firms can bid for and receive contracts to work on programmes. The accord has a provision ensuring a fair industrial return to Canada. The most recent Cooperation Agreement was signed on 15 December 2010 with a term extending to 2020. For 2014, Canada’s annual assessed contribution to the ESA general budget was €6,059,449 (CAD$8,559,050). For 2017, Canada has increased its annual contribution to €21,600,000 (CAD$30,000,000).


    After the decision of the ESA Council of 21/22 March 2001, the procedure for accession of the European states was detailed as described the document titled The Plan for European Co-operating States (PECS). Nations that want to become a full member of ESA do so in 3 stages. First a Cooperation Agreement is signed between the country and ESA. In this stage, the country has very limited financial responsibilities. If a country wants to co-operate more fully with ESA, it signs a European Cooperating State (ECS) Agreement. The ECS Agreement makes companies based in the country eligible for participation in ESA procurements. The country can also participate in all ESA programmes, except for the Basic Technology Research Programme. While the financial contribution of the country concerned increases, it is still much lower than that of a full member state. The agreement is normally followed by a Plan For European Cooperating State (or PECS Charter). This is a 5-year programme of basic research and development activities aimed at improving the nation’s space industry capacity. At the end of the 5-year period, the country can either begin negotiations to become a full member state or an associated state or sign a new PECS Charter.

    During the Ministerial Meeting in December 2014, ESA ministers approved a resolution calling for discussions to begin with Israel, Australia and South Africa on future association agreements. The ministers noted that “concrete cooperation is at an advanced stage” with these nations and that “prospects for mutual benefits are existing”.

    A separate space exploration strategy resolution calls for further co-operation with the United States, Russia and China on “LEO exploration, including a continuation of ISS cooperation and the development of a robust plan for the coordinated use of space transportation vehicles and systems for exploration purposes, participation in robotic missions for the exploration of the Moon, the robotic exploration of Mars, leading to a broad Mars Sample Return mission in which Europe should be involved as a full partner, and human missions beyond LEO in the longer term.”

    Relationship with the European Union

    The political perspective of the European Union (EU) was to make ESA an agency of the EU by 2014, although this date was not met. The EU member states provide most of ESA’s funding, and they are all either full ESA members or observers.


    At the time ESA was formed, its main goals did not encompass human space flight; rather it considered itself to be primarily a scientific research organisation for uncrewed space exploration in contrast to its American and Soviet counterparts. It is therefore not surprising that the first non-Soviet European in space was not an ESA astronaut on a European space craft; it was Czechoslovak Vladimír Remek who in 1978 became the first non-Soviet or American in space (the first man in space being Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union) – on a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft, followed by the Pole Mirosław Hermaszewski and East German Sigmund Jähn in the same year. This Soviet co-operation programme, known as Intercosmos, primarily involved the participation of Eastern bloc countries. In 1982, however, Jean-Loup Chrétien became the first non-Communist Bloc astronaut on a flight to the Soviet Salyut 7 space station.

    Because Chrétien did not officially fly into space as an ESA astronaut, but rather as a member of the French CNES astronaut corps, the German Ulf Merbold is considered the first ESA astronaut to fly into space. He participated in the STS-9 Space Shuttle mission that included the first use of the European-built Spacelab in 1983. STS-9 marked the beginning of an extensive ESA/NASA joint partnership that included dozens of space flights of ESA astronauts in the following years. Some of these missions with Spacelab were fully funded and organizationally and scientifically controlled by ESA (such as two missions by Germany and one by Japan) with European astronauts as full crew members rather than guests on board. Beside paying for Spacelab flights and seats on the shuttles, ESA continued its human space flight co-operation with the Soviet Union and later Russia, including numerous visits to Mir.

    During the latter half of the 1980s, European human space flights changed from being the exception to routine and therefore, in 1990, the European Astronaut Centre in Cologne, Germany was established. It selects and trains prospective astronauts and is responsible for the co-ordination with international partners, especially with regard to the International Space Station. As of 2006, the ESA astronaut corps officially included twelve members, including nationals from most large European countries except the United Kingdom.

    In the summer of 2008, ESA started to recruit new astronauts so that final selection would be due in spring 2009. Almost 10,000 people registered as astronaut candidates before registration ended in June 2008. 8,413 fulfilled the initial application criteria. Of the applicants, 918 were chosen to take part in the first stage of psychological testing, which narrowed down the field to 192. After two-stage psychological tests and medical evaluation in early 2009, as well as formal interviews, six new members of the European Astronaut Corps were selected – five men and one woman.

    Cooperation with other countries and organisations

    ESA has signed co-operation agreements with the following states that currently neither plan to integrate as tightly with ESA institutions as Canada, nor envision future membership of ESA: Argentina, Brazil, China, India (for the Chandrayan mission), Russia and Turkey.

    Additionally, ESA has joint projects with the European Union, NASA of the United States and is participating in the International Space Station together with the United States (NASA), Russia and Japan (JAXA).

    European Union
    ESA and EU member states
    ESA-only members
    EU-only members

    ESA is not an agency or body of the European Union (EU), and has non-EU countries (Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom) as members. There are however ties between the two, with various agreements in place and being worked on, to define the legal status of ESA with regard to the EU.

    There are common goals between ESA and the EU. ESA has an EU liaison office in Brussels. On certain projects, the EU and ESA co-operate, such as the upcoming Galileo satellite navigation system. Space policy has since December 2009 been an area for voting in the European Council. Under the European Space Policy of 2007, the EU, ESA and its Member States committed themselves to increasing co-ordination of their activities and programmes and to organising their respective roles relating to space.

    The Lisbon Treaty of 2009 reinforces the case for space in Europe and strengthens the role of ESA as an R&D space agency. Article 189 of the Treaty gives the EU a mandate to elaborate a European space policy and take related measures, and provides that the EU should establish appropriate relations with ESA.

    Former Italian astronaut Umberto Guidoni, during his tenure as a Member of the European Parliament from 2004 to 2009, stressed the importance of the European Union as a driving force for space exploration, “…since other players are coming up such as India and China it is becoming ever more important that Europeans can have an independent access to space. We have to invest more into space research and technology in order to have an industry capable of competing with other international players.”

    The first EU-ESA International Conference on Human Space Exploration took place in Prague on 22 and 23 October 2009. A road map which would lead to a common vision and strategic planning in the area of space exploration was discussed. Ministers from all 29 EU and ESA members as well as members of parliament were in attendance.

    National space organisations of member states:

    The Centre National d’Études Spatiales(FR) (CNES) (National Centre for Space Study) is the French government space agency (administratively, a “public establishment of industrial and commercial character”). Its headquarters are in central Paris. CNES is the main participant on the Ariane project. Indeed, CNES designed and tested all Ariane family rockets (mainly from its centre in Évry near Paris)
    The UK Space Agency is a partnership of the UK government departments which are active in space. Through the UK Space Agency, the partners provide delegates to represent the UK on the various ESA governing bodies. Each partner funds its own programme.
    The Italian Space Agency A.S.I. – Agenzia Spaziale Italiana was founded in 1988 to promote, co-ordinate and conduct space activities in Italy. Operating under the Ministry of the Universities and of Scientific and Technological Research, the agency cooperates with numerous entities active in space technology and with the president of the Council of Ministers. Internationally, the ASI provides Italy’s delegation to the Council of the European Space Agency and to its subordinate bodies.
    The German Aerospace Center (DLR)[Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e. V.] is the national research centre for aviation and space flight of the Federal Republic of Germany and of other member states in the Helmholtz Association. Its extensive research and development projects are included in national and international cooperative programmes. In addition to its research projects, the centre is the assigned space agency of Germany bestowing headquarters of German space flight activities and its associates.
    The Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (INTA)(ES) (National Institute for Aerospace Technique) is a Public Research Organization specialised in aerospace research and technology development in Spain. Among other functions, it serves as a platform for space research and acts as a significant testing facility for the aeronautic and space sector in the country.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency(US)

    ESA has a long history of collaboration with NASA. Since ESA’s astronaut corps was formed, the Space Shuttle has been the primary launch vehicle used by ESA’s astronauts to get into space through partnership programmes with NASA. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Spacelab programme was an ESA-NASA joint research programme that had ESA develop and manufacture orbital labs for the Space Shuttle for several flights on which ESA participate with astronauts in experiments.

    In robotic science mission and exploration missions, NASA has been ESA’s main partner. Cassini–Huygens was a joint NASA-ESA mission, along with the Infrared Space Observatory, INTEGRAL, SOHO, and others.

    Also, the Hubble Space Telescope is a joint project of NASA and ESA.

    Future ESA-NASA joint projects include the James Webb Space Telescope and the proposed Laser Interferometer Space Antenna.

    NASA has committed to provide support to ESA’s proposed MarcoPolo-R mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth for further analysis. NASA and ESA will also likely join together for a Mars Sample Return Mission. In October 2020 the ESA entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NASA to work together on the Artemis program, which will provide an orbiting lunar gateway and also accomplish the first manned lunar landing in 50 years, whose team will include the first woman on the Moon.

    Cooperation with other space agencies

    Since China has started to invest more money into space activities, the Chinese Space Agency(CN) has sought international partnerships. ESA is, beside the Russian Space Agency, one of its most important partners. Two space agencies cooperated in the development of the Double Star Mission. In 2017, ESA sent two astronauts to China for two weeks sea survival training with Chinese astronauts in Yantai, Shandong.

    ESA entered into a major joint venture with Russia in the form of the CSTS, the preparation of French Guiana spaceport for launches of Soyuz-2 rockets and other projects. With India, ESA agreed to send instruments into space aboard the ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 in 2008. ESA is also co-operating with Japan, the most notable current project in collaboration with JAXA is the BepiColombo mission to Mercury.

    Speaking to reporters at an air show near Moscow in August 2011, ESA head Jean-Jacques Dordain said ESA and Russia’s Roskosmos space agency would “carry out the first flight to Mars together.”

  • richardmitnick 4:06 pm on July 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Amateur Astronomer Discovers New Moon of Jupiter", , , , , It would bring the tally of Jovian satellites to 80., Planetary Science,   

    From Sky & Telescope : “Amateur Astronomer Discovers New Moon of Jupiter” 

    From Sky & Telescope

    July 8, 2021
    Jeff Hecht

    An amateur astronomer has discovered a new moon of Jupiter. While it hasn’t received official designation yet, it would bring the tally of Jovian satellites to 80.

    The amateur astronomer who last year recovered four lost Jovian moons has become the first amateur to discover a previously unknown moon. Kai Ly reported the discovery to the Minor Planet Mailing List on June 30th and has submitted it for publication as a Minor Planet Electronic Circular.

    Ly began planning the quest in May, but their real work began in June, when they began examining data taken in 2003 with the 3.6-meter Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT).

    David Jewitt and Scott Sheppard (University of Hawai‘i (US)) had led a group that used these images to discover 23 new moons. The images remain available online, and Sheppard and others later used them to discover other Jovian moons, including Valetudo, Ersa, and Pandia.

    Jupiter has 79 moons acknowledged by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center, but an amateur astronomer has just discovered another one (not shown here). Most of the planet’s prograde moons (purple, blue) orbit relatively close to Jupiter, while its retrograde moons (red) orbit farther out. One exceptions is Valetudo (green), a prograde-moving body discovered in 2018 that’s far out.
    Carnegie Inst. for Science (US) / Roberto Molar Candanosa.

    Pre-discovery images of those moons suggested that more undiscovered moons might be hiding in the 2003 data set. Ly started with images taken in February, when Jupiter was at opposition and the moons were brightest. They examined 19 of 36 image panels recorded on February 24th, and found three potential moons moving at 13 to 21 arcseconds per hour during the night.

    Ly could not recover two of the potential moons on other nights, but did find the third, temporarily designated EJc0061, on survey observations on February 25 to 27, and on images taken with the Subaru Telescope on February 5 and 6.

    That established a 22-day arc that suggested the object was bound to Jupiter.

    Ly thus had enough information to trace the moon’s orbit on survey images from March 12 to April 30. “From there on, the orbit and ephemeris quality was decent enough for me to begin searching observations beyond 2003,” Ly says. They found the moon near its predicted position in later images from the Subaru, CFHT, and Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory taken through early 2018.

    The faint moon ranges from magnitude 23.2 to 23.5.

    The end result was an arc of 76 observations over 15.26 years (5,574 days), enough for Ly to consider its orbit well-secured for decades. The data track the moon — provisionally designated S/2003 J 24 pending publication — through nearly eight 1.9-year orbits of Jupiter, says David Tholen (University of Hawai‘i), more than enough to show it’s a moon. Tholen has not checked the images, but says the evidence seems solid: “It would be nearly impossible for artifacts to fit a Jovicentric orbit over so many different nights using different cameras.”

    “I’m proud to say that this is the first planetary moon discovered by an amateur astronomer!” says Ly. But otherwise, they admit, “it’s just a typical member of the retrograde Carme group.” This group includes 22 other small moons orbiting Jupiter in the opposite direction of its spin with periods of around two years. Their orbits are similar enough to suggest they were all fragments from a single impact. They’re probably chips off Carme, the first of the group to be discovered and at 45 kilometers across, by far the largest.

    Such small retrograde Jovian moons may have plenty of company awaiting discovery. Last year, Edward Ashton, Matthew Beaudoin, and Brett J. Gladman (University of British Columbia (CA)) spotted some four dozen objects as small as 800 meters across that appeared to be orbiting Jupiter. They did not follow them long enough to prove the objects were Jovian moons, but from their preliminary observations, they suggested that Jupiter could have some 600 satellites at least 800 meters in diameter. The development of bigger and more sensitive telescopes will create room for new discoveries, Tholen says.

    Ly describes their moon-hunting as “a summer hobby before I return to school.” They hope to find more, but with more data than they can process by themselves from the February 2003 observations alone, they decided to publicize their results to raise interest.

    Amateur Sam Deen is “quite impressed” with Ly’s accomplishment. He adds that when observatories post survey data openly, it creates more opportunities for amateurs to make discoveries. “The main obstacle is just getting to know what you’re doing and having the tolerance to go looking through the data for hours before turning up anything worthwhile,” he says.

    Software and services can aid in interpreting the results, including the Find_Orb orbit determination software, the interactive Aladin Sky Atlas, the Minor Planet Center’s many services, and the Canadian Astronomical Data Center’s Solar System Object Image Search. The field is open for amateur astronomers to make their own discoveries.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Sky & Telescope, founded in 1941 by Charles A. Federer Jr. and Helen Spence Federer, has the largest, most experienced staff of any astronomy magazine in the world. Its editors are virtually all amateur or professional astronomers, and every one has built a telescope, written a book, done original research, developed a new product, or otherwise distinguished him or herself.

    Sky & Telescope magazine, now in its eighth decade, came about because of some happy accidents. Its earliest known ancestor was a four-page bulletin called The Amateur Astronomer, which was begun in 1929 by the Amateur Astronomers Association in New York City. Then, in 1935, the American Museum of Natural History opened its Hayden Planetarium and began to issue a monthly bulletin that became a full-size magazine called The Sky within a year. Under the editorship of Hans Christian Adamson, The Sky featured large illustrations and articles from astronomers all over the globe. It immediately absorbed The Amateur Astronomer.

    Despite initial success, by 1939 the planetarium found itself unable to continue financial support of The Sky. Charles A. Federer, who would become the dominant force behind Sky & Telescope, was then working as a lecturer at the planetarium. He was asked to take over publishing The Sky. Federer agreed and started an independent publishing corporation in New York.

    “Our first issue came out in January 1940,” he noted. “We dropped from 32 to 24 pages, used cheaper quality paper…but editorially we further defined the departments and tried to squeeze as much information as possible between the covers.” Federer was The Sky’s editor, and his wife, Helen, served as managing editor. In that January 1940 issue, they stated their goal: “We shall try to make the magazine meet the needs of amateur astronomy, so that amateur astronomers will come to regard it as essential to their pursuit, and professionals to consider it a worthwhile medium in which to bring their work before the public.”

  • richardmitnick 12:59 pm on July 9, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "This One Planetary Feature May Be Crucial For The Rise of Complex Life in The Universe", Biogeochemistry, Planetary Science, Purdue University (US), , The way a planet is tilted on its rotational axis with respect to its orbital plane around a star - what we know as 'axial tilt' - could be key to the emergence of complex life.   

    From Purdue University (US) via Science Alert (US) : “This One Planetary Feature May Be Crucial For The Rise of Complex Life in The Universe” 

    From Purdue University (US)



    Science Alert (US)

    9 JULY 2021

    Credit: Maksim Shutov/Unsplash

    The way a planet is tilted on its rotational axis with respect to its orbital plane around a star – what we know as ‘axial tilt’ – could be key to the emergence of complex life.

    According to a new study, a modest axial tilt, like Earth’s, helps increase the production of oxygen, which is vital for life as we know it – and planets with tilts that are too small or too large might not be able to produce enough oxygen for complex life to thrive.

    “The bottom line is that worlds that are modestly tilted on their axes may be more likely to evolve complex life,” said planetary scientist Stephanie Olson of Purdue University. “This helps us narrow the search for complex, perhaps even intelligent life in the Universe.”

    It’s possible that life may emerge outside the parameters we know here on Earth, of course, but this pale blue dot is the only world which we know for a certainty harbors life. Therefore, it’s expedient to model our searches accordingly.

    When looking for habitable worlds elsewhere in the galaxy, the first things we look for are: is it relatively small and rocky, like Earth? And does it orbit the star at a distance called the habitable zone, the Goldilocks region of not too hot, not too cold, where temperatures allow liquid water on the surface?

    Those questions are good, but the contributing factors to the emergence of life are likely a lot more complex.

    The presence of a magnetic field, for instance, is thought to be pretty important, because it protects the planetary atmosphere from stellar winds. The eccentricity of the planet’s orbit, and what kind of other planets are present in the system might also be key.

    Olson and her team went a little more granular, looking at the presence and production of oxygen; specifically, the conditions on the planet that may impact the amount of oxygen produced by photosynthetic life.

    Most organisms (although not all) on Earth require oxygen for respiration – we can’t live without it. Yet early Earth was low in oxygen. Our atmosphere only became rich in oxygen about 2.4 to 2 billion years ago, a period known as the Great Oxidation Event. It was triggered by a boom in cyanobacteria, which pumped out vast amounts of oxygen as a metabolic waste product, enabling the rise of multicellular life.

    An image of Cyanobacteria, Tolypothrix.

    Olson and her team sought to understand how the conditions arose in which cyanobacteria could thrive, using modelling.

    “The model allows us to change things such as day length, the amount of atmosphere, or the distribution of land to see how marine environments and the oxygen-producing life in the oceans respond,” Olson explained.

    Their model showed that several factors could have influenced the transport of nutrients in the oceans in a way that contributed to the rise of oxygen-producing organisms like cyanobacteria.

    Over time, Earth’s rotation slowed, its days lengthened, and the continents formed and migrated. Each of these changes could have helped increase the oxygen content, the researchers found.

    Then they factored in axial tilt. Earth’s axis isn’t exactly perpendicular to its orbital plane around the Sun; it’s tilted at an angle of 23.5 degrees from the perpendicular – think of a desktop globe.

    This tilt is why we have seasons – the tilt away from or towards the Sun influences seasonal variability. Seasonal temperature changes also influence the oceans, resulting in convective mixing and currents, and the availability of nutrients.

    So perhaps it’s not surprising that axial tilt had a significant effect on oxygen production in the team’s study.

    “Greater tilting increased photosynthetic oxygen production in the ocean in our model, in part by increasing the efficiency with which biological ingredients are recycled,” explained planetary scientist Megan Barnett of the University of Chicago (US).

    “The effect was similar to doubling the amount of nutrients that sustain life.”

    But there’s a limit. Uranus, for example, is tilted at 98 degrees from the perpendicular. Such an extreme tilt would result in seasonality that may be too extreme for life. A small tilt, also, might not produce enough seasonality to encourage the right level of nutrient availability. This suggests there may be a Goldilocks zone for axial tilt, too – neither too extreme, nor too small.

    It’s another parameter we can use to help narrow down planets elsewhere in the galaxy that are likely to harbor life as we know it.

    “This work reveals how key factors, including a planet’s seasonality, could increase or decrease the possibility of finding oxygen derived from life outside our Solar System,” said biogeochemist Timothy Lyons of the University of California-Riverside (US).

    “These results are certain to help guide our searches for that life.”

    The research has been presented at the 2021 Goldschmidt Geochemistry Conference.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Purdue University (US) is a public land-grant research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the flagship campus of the Purdue University system. The university was founded in 1869 after Lafayette businessman John Purdue donated land and money to establish a college of science, technology, and agriculture in his name. The first classes were held on September 16, 1874, with six instructors and 39 students.

    The main campus in West Lafayette offers more than 200 majors for undergraduates, over 69 masters and doctoral programs, and professional degrees in pharmacy and veterinary medicine. In addition, Purdue has 18 intercollegiate sports teams and more than 900 student organizations. Purdue is a member of the Big Ten Conference and enrolls the second largest student body of any university in Indiana, as well as the fourth largest foreign student population of any university in the United States.

    Purdue University is a member of the Association of American Universities (US) and is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. Purdue has 25 American astronauts as alumni and as of April 2019, the university has been associated with 13 Nobel Prizes.

    In 1865, the Indiana General Assembly voted to take advantage of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act of 1862 and began plans to establish an institution with a focus on agriculture and engineering. Communities throughout the state offered facilities and funding in bids for the location of the new college. Popular proposals included the addition of an agriculture department at Indiana State University, at what is now Butler University(US). By 1869, Tippecanoe County’s offer included $150,000 (equivalent to $2.9 million in 2019) from Lafayette business leader and philanthropist John Purdue; $50,000 from the county; and 100 acres (0.4 km^2) of land from local residents.

    On May 6, 1869, the General Assembly established the institution in Tippecanoe County as Purdue University, in the name of the principal benefactor. Classes began at Purdue on September 16, 1874, with six instructors and 39 students. Professor John S. Hougham was Purdue’s first faculty member and served as acting president between the administrations of presidents Shortridge and White. A campus of five buildings was completed by the end of 1874. In 1875, Sarah A. Oren, the State Librarian of Indiana, was appointed Professor of Botany.

    Purdue issued its first degree, a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, in 1875, and admitted its first female students that autumn.

    Emerson E. White, the university’s president, from 1876 to 1883, followed a strict interpretation of the Morrill Act. Rather than emulate the classical universities, White believed Purdue should be an “industrial college” and devote its resources toward providing a broad, liberal education with an emphasis on science, technology, and agriculture. He intended not only to prepare students for industrial work, but also to prepare them to be good citizens and family members.

    Part of White’s plan to distinguish Purdue from classical universities included a controversial attempt to ban fraternities, which was ultimately overturned by the Indiana Supreme Court, leading to White’s resignation. The next president, James H. Smart, is remembered for his call in 1894 to rebuild the original Heavilon Hall “one brick higher” after it had been destroyed by a fire.

    By the end of the nineteenth century, the university was organized into schools of agriculture, engineering (mechanical, civil, and electrical), and pharmacy; former U.S. President Benjamin Harrison served on the board of trustees. Purdue’s engineering laboratories included testing facilities for a locomotive, and for a Corliss steam engine—one of the most efficient engines of the time. The School of Agriculture shared its research with farmers throughout the state, with its cooperative extension services, and would undergo a period of growth over the following two decades. Programs in education and home economics were soon established, as well as a short-lived school of medicine. By 1925, Purdue had the largest undergraduate engineering enrollment in the country, a status it would keep for half a century.

    President Edward C. Elliott oversaw a campus building program between the world wars. Inventor, alumnus, and trustee David E. Ross coordinated several fundraisers, donated lands to the university, and was instrumental in establishing the Purdue Research Foundation. Ross’s gifts and fundraisers supported such projects as Ross–Ade Stadium, the Memorial Union, a civil engineering surveying camp, and Purdue University Airport. Purdue Airport was the country’s first university-owned airport and the site of the country’s first college-credit flight training courses.

    Amelia Earhart joined the Purdue faculty in 1935 as a consultant for these flight courses and as a counselor on women’s careers. In 1937, the Purdue Research Foundation provided the funds for the Lockheed Electra 10-E Earhart flew on her attempted round-the-world flight.

    Every school and department at the university was involved in some type of military research or training during World War II. During a project on radar receivers, Purdue physicists discovered properties of germanium that led to the making of the first transistor. The Army and the Navy conducted training programs at Purdue and more than 17,500 students, staff, and alumni served in the armed forces. Purdue set up about a hundred centers throughout Indiana to train skilled workers for defense industries. As veterans returned to the university under the G.I. Bill, first-year classes were taught at some of these sites to alleviate the demand for campus space. Four of these sites are now degree-granting regional campuses of the Purdue University system. On-campus housing became racially desegregated in 1947, following pressure from Purdue President Frederick L. Hovde and Indiana Governor Ralph F. Gates.

    After the war, Hovde worked to expand the academic opportunities at the university. A decade-long construction program emphasized science and research. In the late 1950s and early 1960s the university established programs in veterinary medicine, industrial management, and nursing, as well as the first computer science department in the United States. Undergraduate humanities courses were strengthened, although Hovde only reluctantly approved of graduate-level study in these areas. Purdue awarded its first Bachelor of Arts degrees in 1960. The programs in liberal arts and education, formerly administered by the School of Science, were soon split into an independent school.

    The official seal of Purdue was officially inaugurated during the university’s centennial in 1969.


    Consisting of elements from emblems that had been used unofficially for 73 years, the current seal depicts a griffin, symbolizing strength, and a three-part shield, representing education, research, and service.

    In recent years, Purdue’s leaders have continued to support high-tech research and international programs. In 1987, U.S. President Ronald Reagan visited the West Lafayette campus to give a speech about the influence of technological progress on job creation.

    In the 1990s, the university added more opportunities to study abroad and expanded its course offerings in world languages and cultures. The first buildings of the Discovery Park interdisciplinary research center were dedicated in 2004.

    Purdue launched a Global Policy Research Institute in 2010 to explore the potential impact of technical knowledge on public policy decisions.

    On April 27, 2017, Purdue University announced plans to acquire for-profit college Kaplan University and convert it to a public university in the state of Indiana, subject to multiple levels of approval. That school now operates as Purdue University Global, and aims to serve adult learners.


    Purdue’s campus is situated in the small city of West Lafayette, near the western bank of the Wabash River, across which sits the larger city of Lafayette. State Street, which is concurrent with State Road 26, divides the northern and southern portions of campus. Academic buildings are mostly concentrated on the eastern and southern parts of campus, with residence halls and intramural fields to the west, and athletic facilities to the north. The Greater Lafayette Public Transportation Corporation (CityBus) operates eight campus loop bus routes on which students, faculty, and staff can ride free of charge with Purdue Identification.

    Organization and administration

    The university president, appointed by the board of trustees, is the chief administrative officer of the university. The office of the president oversees admission and registration, student conduct and counseling, the administration and scheduling of classes and space, the administration of student athletics and organized extracurricular activities, the libraries, the appointment of the faculty and conditions of their employment, the appointment of all non-faculty employees and the conditions of employment, the general organization of the university, and the planning and administration of the university budget.

    The Board of Trustees directly appoints other major officers of the university including a provost who serves as the chief academic officer for the university, several vice presidents with oversight over specific university operations, and the regional campus chancellors.

    Academic divisions

    Purdue is organized into thirteen major academic divisions.

    College of Agriculture

    The university’s College of Agriculture supports the university’s agricultural, food, life, and natural resource science programs. The college also supports the university’s charge as a land-grant university to support agriculture throughout the state; its agricultural extension program plays a key role in this.

    College of Education

    The College of Education offers undergraduate degrees in elementary education, social studies education, and special education, and graduate degrees in these and many other specialty areas of education. It has two departments: (a) Curriculum and Instruction and (b) Educational Studies.

    College of Engineering

    The Purdue University College of Engineering was established in 1874 with programs in Civil and Mechanical Engineering. The college now offers B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees in more than a dozen disciplines. Purdue’s engineering program has also educated 24 of America’s astronauts, including Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan who were the first and last astronauts to have walked on the Moon, respectively. Many of Purdue’s engineering disciplines are recognized as top-ten programs in the U.S. The college as a whole is currently ranked 7th in the U.S. of all doctorate-granting engineering schools by U.S. News & World Report.

    Exploratory Studies

    The university’s Exploratory Studies program supports undergraduate students who enter the university without having a declared major. It was founded as a pilot program in 1995 and made a permanent program in 1999.

    College of Health and Human Sciences

    The College of Health and Human Sciences was established in 2010 and is the newest college. It offers B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in all 10 of its academic units.

    College of Liberal Arts

    Purdue’s College of Liberal Arts contains the arts, social sciences and humanities programs at the university. Liberal arts courses have been taught at Purdue since its founding in 1874. The School of Science, Education, and Humanities was formed in 1953. In 1963, the School of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Education was established, although Bachelor of Arts degrees had begun to be conferred as early as 1959. In 1989, the School of Liberal Arts was created to encompass Purdue’s arts, humanities, and social sciences programs, while education programs were split off into the newly formed School of Education. The School of Liberal Arts was renamed the College of Liberal Arts in 2005.

    Krannert School of Management

    The Krannert School of Management offers management courses and programs at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral levels.

    College of Pharmacy

    The university’s College of Pharmacy was established in 1884 and is the 3rd oldest state-funded school of pharmacy in the United States. The school offers two undergraduate programs leading to the B.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences (BSPS) and the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) professional degree. Graduate programs leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are offered in three departments (Industrial and Physical Pharmacy, Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, and Pharmacy Practice). Additionally, the school offers several non-degree certificate programs and post-graduate continuing education activities.

    Purdue Polytechnic Institute

    The Purdue Polytechnic Institute offers bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. degrees in a wide range of technology-related disciplines. With over 30,000 living alumni, it is one of the largest technology schools in the United States.

    College of Science

    The university’s College of Science houses the university’s science departments: Biological Sciences; Chemistry; Computer Science; Earth, Atmospheric, & Planetary Sciences; Mathematics; Physics & Astronomy; and Statistics. The science courses offered by the college account for about one-fourth of Purdue’s one million student credit hours.

    College of Veterinary Medicine

    The College of Veterinary Medicine is accredited by the AVMA to offer the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, associate’s and bachelor’s degrees in veterinary technology, master’s and Ph.D. degrees, and residency programs leading to specialty board certification. Within the state of Indiana, the Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine is the only veterinary school, while the Indiana University School of Medicine is one of only two medical schools (the other being Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine). The two schools frequently collaborate on medical research projects.

    Honors College

    Purdue’s Honors College supports an honors program for undergraduate students at the university.

    The Graduate School

    The university’s Graduate School supports graduate students at the university.


    The university expended $622.814 million in support of research system-wide in 2017, using funds received from the state and federal governments, industry, foundations, and individual donors. The faculty and more than 400 research laboratories put Purdue University among the leading research institutions. Purdue University is considered by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education to have “very high research activity”. Purdue also was rated the nation’s fourth best place to work in academia, according to rankings released in November 2007 by The Scientist magazine. Purdue’s researchers provide insight, knowledge, assistance, and solutions in many crucial areas. These include, but are not limited to Agriculture; Business and Economy; Education; Engineering; Environment; Healthcare; Individuals, Society, Culture; Manufacturing; Science; Technology; Veterinary Medicine. The Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP), a global research consortium focused on global economic governance challenges (trade, climate, resource use) is also coordinated by the University. Purdue University generated a record $438 million in sponsored research funding during the 2009–10 fiscal year with participation from National Science Foundation (US), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US), and the departments of Agriculture (US), Defense (US), Energy (US), and Health and Human Services (US). Purdue University was ranked fourth in Engineering research expenditures amongst all the colleges in the United States in 2017, with a research expenditure budget of 244.8 million.

    Purdue University established the Discovery Park to bring innovation through multidisciplinary action. In all of the eleven centers of Discovery Park, ranging from entrepreneurship to energy and advanced manufacturing, research projects reflect a large economic impact and address global challenges. Purdue University’s nanotechnology research program, built around the new Birck Nanotechnology Center in Discovery Park, ranks among the best in the nation.

    The Purdue Research Park which opened in 1961 was developed by Purdue Research Foundation which is a private, nonprofit foundation created to assist Purdue. The park is focused on companies operating in the arenas of life sciences, homeland security, engineering, advanced manufacturing and information technology. It provides an interactive environment for experienced Purdue researchers and for private business and high-tech industry. It currently employs more than 3,000 people in 155 companies, including 90 technology-based firms. The Purdue Research Park was ranked first by the Association of University Research Parks in 2004.

    Purdue’s library system consists of fifteen locations throughout the campus, including an archives and special collections research center, an undergraduate library, and several subject-specific libraries. More than three million volumes, including one million electronic books, are held at these locations. The Library houses the Amelia Earhart Collection, a collection of notes and letters belonging to Earhart and her husband George Putnam along with records related to her disappearance and subsequent search efforts. An administrative unit of Purdue University Libraries, Purdue University Press has its roots in the 1960 founding of Purdue University Studies by President Frederick Hovde on a $12,000 grant from the Purdue Research Foundation. This was the result of a committee appointed by President Hovde after the Department of English lamented the lack of publishing venues in the humanities. Since the 1990s, the range of books published by the Press has grown to reflect the work from other colleges at Purdue University especially in the areas of agriculture, health, and engineering. Purdue University Press publishes print and ebook monograph series in a range of subject areas from literary and cultural studies to the study of the human-animal bond. In 1993 Purdue University Press was admitted to membership of the Association of American University Presses. Purdue University Press publishes around 25 books a year and 20 learned journals in print, in print & online, and online-only formats in collaboration with Purdue University Libraries.


    Purdue’s Sustainability Council, composed of University administrators and professors, meets monthly to discuss environmental issues and sustainability initiatives at Purdue. The University’s first LEED Certified building was an addition to the Mechanical Engineering Building, which was completed in Fall 2011. The school is also in the process of developing an arboretum on campus. In addition, a system has been set up to display live data detailing current energy production at the campus utility plant. The school holds an annual “Green Week” each fall, an effort to engage the Purdue community with issues relating to environmental sustainability.


    In its 2021 edition, U.S. News & World Report ranked Purdue University the 5th most innovative national university, tied for the 17th best public university in the United States, tied for 53rd overall, and 114th best globally. U.S. News & World Report also rated Purdue tied for 36th in “Best Undergraduate Teaching, 83rd in “Best Value Schools”, tied for 284th in “Top Performers on Social Mobility”, and the undergraduate engineering program tied for 9th at schools whose highest degree is a doctorate.

  • richardmitnick 8:34 pm on July 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Planets with the Giant Diamonds Inside", , , Planetary Science   

    From Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab via Nautilus (US) : “The Planets with the Giant Diamonds Inside” 

    Johns Hopkins University

    From Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab


    Nautilus (US)

    July 7, 2021
    Corey S. Powell

    Mining the mysteries of Uranus and Neptune.

    Tilt: NASA Voyager’s instruments showed that Uranus’ magnetic field is tilted 60 degrees relative to its axis, as if your compass needle pointed to Houston instead of the north pole. This image shows the magnetic field. The yellow arrow points to the sun, the light blue arrow marks Uranus’ magnetic axis, and the dark blue arrow marks Uranus’ rotation axis. Credit: Tom Bridgman/ NASA Goddard Scientific Visualization Studio (US)

    On the dark night of March 13, 1781, William Herschel settled down in his garden observatory in Bath, England, for a routine night of observing stars, when he noticed something out of place in the heavens. Through the eyepiece of his homemade 7-foot telescope, he spied an interloper in the constellation Gemini: “a curious, either nebulous star or perhaps a comet,” as he recorded it. For weeks, he stalked the unknown object, monitoring its steady appearance and circular path around the sun until there could be no doubt about its true identity. He had discovered not a comet but a new planet, far more distant than any of the others.

    Stormy Weather: These images of Uranus, taken by the Keck II telescope in Hawaii, are the sharpest, most detailed pictures of the planet to date, according to NASA. The north pole (to the right) is characterized by a swarm of storm-like features, and an unusual scalloped pattern of clouds encircles the planet’s equator.Credit: Lawrence Sromovsky, Pat Fry, Heidi Hammel, Imke de Pater / University of Wisconsin-Madison (US).

    Being a politically astute fellow, Herschel proposed naming the planet Georgium Sidus, or “George’s star,” in honor of King George III. The ploy worked—he promptly was named the king’s astronomer and received a royal stipend—but his colleagues outside of England objected. They wanted a noble and politically neutral name like Urania, the Greek muse of astronomy. In the end, scientists settled on the even more dignified “Uranus,” the ancient Greek god of the sky and ancestor of the other deities. Centuries of snickering ensued.

    But seriously. Uranus orbits the sun at twice the distance of Saturn, so Herschel’s discovery instantly doubled the size of the known solar system. From a modern perspective, it’s hard to appreciate how shocking that was. At the time, the solar system was the only charted region of space; nobody yet had a clue about how far away even the nearest the stars were. In effect, Herschel had doubled the size of the entire known universe. He also brushed away the final traces of classical astronomy and astrology. Uranus is typically described as the first planet discovered since antiquity, but it’s more accurate to say it was the first planet to be discovered, period. All the others are readily visible to the naked eye, and so were known to all. Uranus shattered the common assumption that there were no more planets beyond the six classical ones, establishing an endless-frontier ethos that resonates through science and science fiction to this day.

    That ethos is part of daily life for Kirby Runyon, a young geomorphologist at Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab, who is developing new ways to study Uranus and its similar-but-bizarrely-different planetary sister, Neptune. Like the handful of others who study this distant duo, he is enthralled by the boundary-busting nature of the solar system’s outermost planets. “What brought me into space science as a professional was the chance to, as Star Trek says, ‘explore strange, new worlds’,” Runyon says. “If you like seat-of-your-pants, Captain Picard-style exploration, then Uranus and Neptune have to rank high in your list.”

    You have to admire Runyon’s passion. After all, who dreams of a space voyage to Uranus or Neptune? They are not brightly ringed like Saturn, nor do they hold the prospect of life like Mars. The two planets, though, still hold a special status as worlds on the edge. They formed in chaos, at the boundary between the inner, planetary part of our solar system and the outer zone filled with far-flung comets. In this transitional zone, they also took on transitional forms, with a size and composition that places them halfway between gas giant planets like Jupiter and rocky planets like Earth. Astronomers call these in-betweeners “ice giants,” and are now finding that such midsize worlds are extremely common around other stars. “Neptune and Uranus are the closest analogs in our solar system to the most populous type of planet that we know of,” says Heidi Hammel, a veteran researcher of the outer planets who is now at the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (US) in Washington, D.C.

    Uranus and Neptune are also fascinatingly odd in themselves. Their cloudy surfaces are marked with raging storms and the fastest winds recorded on any planet, while high above they have complex systems of moons, including ones that may harbor buried oceans. All the more shame, then, that only a single spacecraft has ever visited them—and that was more than three decades ago. “They’re enigmas because they are so far away,” Hammel says wistfully, “but they are such intriguing enigmas.”

    Long before anyone was poking rockets above Earth’s atmosphere, Uranus was already directing astronomers on a virtual voyage through the solar system and beyond. In the decades after Herschel’s discovery, observations of Uranus indicated that it was deviating from its expected orbit around the sun. By the 1820s, the discrepancy was undeniable: Either Newton’s theory of gravity was wrong, or there was some object beyond Uranus that was tugging it off course. “The Newtonian theory appeared to the great majority, perhaps nearly all, astronomers to be the impregnably true system of the world,” writes science historian Robert W. Smith.[1] At the same time, the discovery of Uranus had already demonstrated the possibility of more new worlds. Faith in the laws of physics dictated that there must be another, unseen planet out there.

    That faith paid off on Sept. 23, 1846, when German astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle—using calculations provided by French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier, in an act of trans-national nerd comity—spotted a new planet less than one degree from its predicted location. The orbital calculations pinpointing its location took years to complete; Galle’s visual search for the planet required all of one hour. Galle suggested naming it Janus, the two-faced Roman god, implying that it was facing outward toward the stars. The more optimistic Le Verrier objected. “Janus would indicate that this planet is the last of the solar system, which there is no reason to believe,” he wrote.[2] Instead, he proposed Neptune, the god of the sea.

    The discovery of Neptune was as transformative as that of Uranus, though in a quite different way. Uranus had already expanded the scale of the known universe. Neptune expanded the means by which we could get to know it. When Galle saw the planet exactly where Newton’s equations said it should be, he demonstrated that astronomers could detect celestial bodies by gravity alone. Now they could track down objects that had never been observed, perhaps even ones so dark or distant that they fundamentally could not be observed.

    Modern cosmologists use the term Dark Matter to refer to invisible mass that is thought to influence the formation and structure of galaxies across the universe; in that sense, the term traces back to a 1933 paper by the Swiss-American cosmologist Fritz Zwicky. But the concept of dark matter truly began with Neptune, the first celestial object ever discovered before it was seen. From there, things escalated quickly. German astronomer Frederick Bessell had been tracking the erratic motions of the bright stars Sirius and Procyon and deduced that they, like Uranus, were being pulled off-course by unseen objects. “The existence of numberless visible stars can prove nothing against the existence of numberless invisible ones,” Bessell wrote in 1844.[3] Invisible stars sounded like an oxymoron, but the discovery of Neptune made the outlandish idea seem more plausible. The reality of those dark companions was soon confirmed; in the 1910s the objects were identified as white dwarfs, the faint, collapsed corpses of stars like the sun. Similar detective work in the 1970s led to the discovery of black holes scattered across our galaxy.

    In all this excitement, Uranus and Neptune themselves largely got left behind. They languished in scientific obscurity for another century and a half, mostly because they are so damn hard to study. Uranus never comes within 1.6 billion miles of Earth, 40 times as far as Mars; Neptune is a billion miles farther still. Its apparent size in the sky is equivalent to a dime seen from a mile away. The development of deep-sky photography beginning in the late 19th century greatly boosted the study of our galaxy and led directly to the discovery of countless other galaxies beyond. For the ice giant planets, however, the new technology had an opposite effect. When astronomers stopped looking through the eyepiece and started focusing on photographic plates instead, the planets became even more obscure.

    Neptune’s Rings: NASA Voyager captured Neptune’s rings in 1989. The long-exposure images were taken while the rings were back-lighted by the sun, which enhances the visibility of dust. The bright glare in the center is due to over-exposure of the crescent of Neptune. The two gaps in the upper part of the outer ring (on the left) are due to blemish removal in the computer processing. NASA/JPL-Caltech (US)

    “Going back to the 1800s, early observers would look at Uranus and see bands and other features,” Hammel says. Their eyes were trained to pick out the fleeting moments when the air becomes steady and fine details pop into view. Photography and early forms of digital imaging couldn’t capture those split-seconds of clarity. Instead, they yielded blurry, long-exposure images that suggested the outermost planets were bland and unchanging. “The technology of the time smeared everything out, giving rise to this mythology that Uranus had no cloud features,” Hammel laments. “We had a hundred years of misinterpretation.”

    Then at long last humans developed the technology to visit the ice giants and see them up close … and the misinterpretations just kept coming. On Jan. 24, 1986, NASA’s Voyager 2 swooped over Uranus’s cloud tops and sent back picture after picture of a featureless blue-green orb.

    By bad luck, the spacecraft had arrived at the beginning of summer in the planet’s northern hemisphere, a time when the global weather turns hazy and bland. The Voyager 2 images cemented the idea of Uranus as a boring planet—a knock that still galls Hammel. “It was like, ‘Let me show you a picture of what I looked like on one day in 1986.’ That doesn’t give you an understanding of who I am as a person,” she says.

    The Voyager flyby did offer hints that there’s more to Uranus than meets the eye. The planet has a system of thin, dark rings, which turn out to contain large chunks—possibly the remains of a moon that was destroyed long ago. More surprising, Voyager’s instruments showed that Uranus’s magnetic field is tilted 60 degrees relative to its axis, as if your compass needle pointed to Houston instead of the north pole. There must be a huge, lopsided magnetic generator cranking away inside the planet, which leaves Hammel buzzing with questions: “What kind of internal structure can do that? Is it stable? Does it change over time?”

    But the reputation of the ice giants didn’t really recover until Voyager 2 reached Neptune on Aug. 25, 1989. Unlike its sibling, Neptune was a riot of activity. It seemed to be staring back at the spacecraft with its Great Dark Spot, an anticyclone storm (a hurricane in reverse, with a high-pressure eye) nearly as large as the entire Earth. The Spot was streaked with white clouds of methane ice and surrounded by smaller storms and dark bands circling the entire planet, all tinged a rich, deep blue by methane gas in Neptune’s atmosphere. Beautiful, complex, and not at all boring.

    The Voyager results revealed that weather operates differently on ice giants than it does here on Earth, for reasons that scientists are only starting to decipher. “Wind speeds increase as you go farther out from the sun, which is weird,” says Amy Simon, a Uranus and Neptune enthusiast at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. On Uranus, they blow at 550 mph, as fast as a jet airplane at cruising speed. On Neptune, the winds are even fiercer, averaging 700 mph and gusting to 1,500 mph around the Great Dark Spot. They manage to pick up tremendous energy, even though Neptune receives just 1/900th as much solar heat as Earth does.

    Seasons on the ice giants are also unlike anything seen on Earth or anywhere else. For one thing, the seasons are extreme, especially on Uranus: The planet is tipped sideways, so its poles spend half the time in perpetual sunshine and the other half in total darkness. For another, seasons take a long time to change, because the ice giants follow huge, lazy paths around the sun. Uranus takes 84 years to complete a single orbit, and Neptune takes 165 years. Neptune’s northern hemisphere was heading into winter when Voyager flew by in 1989.[4] Springtime won’t arrive until 2038. The ice giants have both the fastest and the slowest climates in the solar system, which makes them useful as extreme natural laboratories. “We run the same weather and climate codes we use on Earth, and we learn about unknown sensitivities or details that aren’t quite right,” Simon says. “And if someday we want to apply these codes to planets around other stars, they’d better work across our whole solar system first.”

    In 2014, belatedly acknowledging the mad complexity of weather on the ice giants, NASA greenlit the Outer Planet Atmospheres Legacy program, or OPAL, with Simon in charge; her glorious official title is Senior Scientist for Planetary Atmospheres Research. Once a year, OPAL takes over the Hubble Space Telescope and turns it into an outer-planet weather satellite, monitoring conditions on Uranus and Neptune (and Jupiter and Saturn, for good measure), with Simon as the interplanetary weathercaster.

    For the first time, scientists have both the time and the clarity of vision to learn the long-term personalities of Uranus and Neptune. Simon’s reserved demeanor lights up when she describes the quirks she has been observing on her planets. As Uranus has progressed from northern summer to late autumn, its weather has transitioned from hazy to crazy. “We see a polar cap that has gotten really bright and thick. And we’ve seen little storms. They tend to break apart really fast, on order of an hour, because the high winds shear things apart very quickly,” she says. Those changes demonstrate that even tiny variations in solar energy can transform the weather of a giant planet, nearly four times the size of Earth.

    On Neptune, the most significant finding from OPAL is that the activity just never ends. “The big thing we’ve found has been the dark spots. In our few years of monitoring, we’ve seen two more of them. One was already there when we started, and it disappeared over a couple of years. The other one formed in 2019. After they form, the dark spots start to drift in latitude, just like a hurricane on Earth, until eventually they break apart,” Simon says.

    It’s not clear what maintains all of this activity. One possible explanation, Hammel notes, is that the planets’ ultra-cold air is almost frictionless, so it takes very little kick to get big storm systems going. One important clue is that the two ice giants behave quite differently, despite being almost identical in mass, composition, and diameter. “Uranus and Neptune don’t look much alike at all. We see a lot more of the discrete storms on Neptune than on Uranus, and we don’t see much of a bright polar cap,” Simon says.

    The disparity hints at stark differences deep inside the two ice giants. Voyager measurements showed that Neptune emits 2.7 times as much heat as it receives from the sun, apparently retaining a lot of energy from the time of its formation. Uranus, in contrast, sheds just a trickle of additional warmth. “Internal heat’s got to be a much bigger factor than the sunlight in driving the weather, but we’re still trying to puzzle some of that out,” says Simon. If anything, it adds another layer of mystery: Why is Neptune so much hotter under the collar than Uranus? One hypothesis is that Uranus had a near-fatal encounter with a huge proto-planet, twice as massive as Earth, some 4.5 billion years ago. The collision could have knocked it over, explaining its sideways tilt, while scrambling its interior in a way that allowed its primordial warmth to escape: one tidy explanation for two major oddities.

    “It’s a nice idea, but it seems a bit contrived,” Simon says, her measured tone returning. “Every time we think we understand these planets, we realize we don’t.”

    One way to learn more about the ice giants is to get under their skin, by recreating them in the lab. Based on what they can measure and infer about their overall composition, planetary scientists have deduced that both Uranus and Neptune must contain vast quantities of water, ammonia, and methane on the inside. In everyday life, we’d call that combination “Windex and natural gas.” Inside the ice giants, however, these molecules mingle together into a slush that astronomers refer to generically as “ice”—hence the term ice giants. Recent experiments show that it is not like any ice you have ever seen, however.

    Dominik Kraus, a physicist at the University of Rostock [Universität Rostock] (DE) in Germany, leads a group of researchers who have been shooting X-ray lasers at simulated bits of ice-giant material, heating and compressing it to match conditions in the planets’ interiors. He finds that the carbon atoms spontaneously break free of their molecules and arrange themselves into diamonds. Inside Uranus and Neptune, such diamonds could grow to the size of a person, slowly raining down toward the core of the planet. The diamond rain would release energy and stir up huge currents, possibly explaining the unusual magnetic fields of Uranus and Neptune.

    In parallel work, Marius Millot at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (US) and his colleagues subjected water molecules to similarly extreme conditions and found that it turns into previously unseen material, “superionic ice”—a hot, black, crystalline version of water, also known as Ice XVIII. It sounds exotic, but maybe it shouldn’t. Given how much water is inside the ice giants, and given how many ice giants astronomers are finding around other stars, superionic ice may actually be the most common form of water in the universe. Black ice and diamond rain could be the norm; lakes and rivers and lumps of coal may be the cosmic oddities.

    Another way to know more about the ice giants is to look at the company they keep—the large systems of moons that orbit Uranus and Neptune. Like Uranus itself, its moons are tilted at a rakish, 98-degree angle. No other planet is oriented that way. Whatever knocked the planet over evidently took its moons along for the ride. “If a large impact tipped the whole planet on its side, then the gravitational excess from Uranus’s equatorial bulge would have pulled its whole system of moons to be on its side as well,” says Runyon.

    The moons of Neptune document a whole other style of disaster, one that spared the planet but unleashed pandemonium around it. Neptune’s system of moons is overwhelmingly dominated by a single large one, Triton, surrounded by 13 much smaller bodies, mostly in irregular, looping orbits. Triton orbits the planet in a clockwise direction, the opposite of every other planet and major moon, indicating that it formed separately and later got snared by Neptune. When that happened, it must have rolled through the Neptunian system like a bowling ball, as Runyon explains: “The gravitational interactions from Triton probably scattered Neptune’s original system of moons. If there were rings, it would have scattered them, too.” The current moons either reassembled from the wreckage or were captured afterward. Triton also left behind a set of thin, clumpy rings that bunch together in arcs, unlike any other formation in the solar system.

    The Voyager 2 flybys of the 1980s unveiled the ice-giant moons as a set of distinctive worlds. The five main moons of Uranus display ancient chasms, ripples, and hints of volcanic flows—all made of frozen water and other ices instead of rock. The two largest, Ariel and Titania, appear to have been geologically active for an extended period of time. The smallest, Miranda, is a jumble of formations that looks like a jigsaw puzzle that was put together by an inattentive child; nobody knows how it got that way. But the true marvel is Triton, a geologically youthful world that resembles a cantaloupe, its surface sculpted by “cryovolcanic” eruptions of water-ammonia lava. Triton is also dotted with active geysers, likely caused by the explosive defrosting of underground nitrogen. To the amazement of mission scientists, Voyager 2 sent back images of sooty plumes shooting 5 miles into the air and trailing for hundreds of miles.

    Triton broadly resembles Pluto, but it is in many ways the wilder and more exciting of the duo (not to keep dumping on the dwarf planet, but facts are facts). It is about 15 percent larger than Pluto and, more significantly, it is more geologically active, with liquid water sloshing away underground. That’s right: A moon around the coldest, most distant planet in the solar system contains a huge, underground ocean. “Triton is exchanging gravitational energy with Neptune, so it’s warm and gooey on the inside,” Runyon says. “On Earth, living things like warm, gooey places. If you put Earth microbes in that warm, gooey Triton ocean, they would probably survive and proliferate. Which raises the possibility, since we don’t really know how things go from non-life to life, that Triton could be a habitable and inhabited world.”

    He’s not saying aliens, mind you. He’s just saying there could be aliens.

    Despite all of these insights, we are in many ways still at the handshake stage of getting to know the ice giants. The OPAL program watches the planets for less than one day a year. Voyager 2 gathered only limited information about the planet’s composition and internal structure. The flybys happened so quickly that the spacecraft saw just one side of the Uranian and Neptunian moons. “There’s that whole unexplored other half. We don’t know what the heck is happening on the rest of Triton,” Simon says.

    The yearning for deeper familiarity is even more acute now that astronomers recognize Uranus and Neptune as prototypes of billions of similar worlds all across our galaxy. Right now, these exoplanets—planets around other stars—are true cyphers. Astronomers can deduce their sizes, masses, densities, and not much else. Still, that’s enough to tell that many of them seem like slightly shrunken versions of Neptune, with thick, toxic atmospheres. Others, just a wee bit smaller, seem to be rocky “super-Earths.” Nobody knows why this dividing line exists, or whether super-Earths could be habitable. For that matter, nobody yet knows whether ocean moons like Triton can support life. When you’re dealing with ice giants, you get used to the three-word mantra: We don’t know.

    That mantra explains why Runyon just completed an intense round of work as project scientist on Neptune Odyssey, a proposed flagship—that is, multi-billion-dollar—NASA mission that would perform an extended survey of Neptune and Triton while dropping a probe into Neptune’s atmosphere.

    The technology exists to mount an ambitious expedition like this. Even the sober analysts at the National Academy of Sciences have identified an ice-giant mission as a high scientific priority. Unfortunately, these kinds of projects keep getting shot down. Earlier this year, NASA came close to approving Trident, a stripped-down mission to Triton, but passed it over in favor of a pair of probes to Venus.

    A big part of the problem is the waiting. It took Voyager 2 a dozen years to reach Neptune. If Trident had been approved, it wouldn’t have reached its destination until 2038—and even then, it would have sent back just another snapshot. If you want to study the ice giants, you have to adapt to their pace of doing things. No one researcher is going to live long enough to witness a full cycle of seasons on Uranus, much less on Neptune. The last mission to an ice giant happened 32 years ago, and realistically the next one is not likely to arrive until the 2040s at the earliest; this is inevitably going to be a multi-generational effort. Heidi Hammel (age 0.37 Neptune years) has been at it so long that she has largely moved on to administrative work. “This is sad to say, Corey, but I kind of don’t do astronomy anymore,” she confesses. But she’s encouraged to see people like Kirby Runyon (a spritely 0.21 Neptune years) entering the field.

    Until someone invents warp drive or the like, there is no way to overcome the obstacle of time. The only path forward is embracing extreme patience as the cost—or the joy—of pressing into the unknown. After he discovered Uranus, Herschel explained it was not luck but persistence that brought the planet into view. “I examined every star of the heavens,” he wrote. That night in 1783 was Uranus’ “turn to be discovered.” Perhaps now it is the ice giants’ turn to be truly known, in all of their weird and wonderful glory.


    1. Smith, R.W. The Cambridge network in action: The discovery of Neptune. Isis 80, 395-422 (1989) https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/355082.

    2. Kollerstrom, N. The naming of Neptune. Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage 12, 66-71 (2009).

    3. Bessell, F. Extract from the translation of a letter from Professor Bessel, dated Kronigsberg, 10th of August, 1844. On the variations of the proper motions of Procyon and Sirius. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 6, 136-141 (1844). https://academic.oup.com/mnras/article/6/11/136/964304

    4. Meeus, J. Equinoxes and solstices on Uranus and Neptune. Journal of the British Astronomical Association 107, 332 (1997).

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    JHUAPL campus.

    Founded on March 10, 1942—just three months after the United States entered World War II—Applied Physics Lab -was created as part of a federal government effort to mobilize scientific resources to address wartime challenges.

    APL was assigned the task of finding a more effective way for ships to defend themselves against enemy air attacks. The Laboratory designed, built, and tested a radar proximity fuze (known as the VT fuze) that significantly increased the effectiveness of anti-aircraft shells in the Pacific—and, later, ground artillery during the invasion of Europe. The product of the Laboratory’s intense development effort was later judged to be, along with the atomic bomb and radar, one of the three most valuable technology developments of the war.

    On the basis of that successful collaboration, the government, The Johns Hopkins University, and APL made a commitment to continue their strategic relationship. The Laboratory rapidly became a major contributor to advances in guided missiles and submarine technologies. Today, more than seven decades later, the Laboratory’s numerous and diverse achievements continue to strengthen our nation.

    APL continues to relentlessly pursue the mission it has followed since its first day: to make critical contributions to critical challenges for our nation.

    Johns Hopkins Unversity campus.

    Johns Hopkins University opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

    The Johns Hopkins University (US) is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named for its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur and philanthropist Johns Hopkins. His $7 million bequest (approximately $147.5 million in today’s currency)—of which half financed the establishment of the Johns Hopkins Hospital—was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States up to that time. Daniel Coit Gilman, who was inaugurated as the institution’s first president on February 22, 1876, led the university to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. by integrating teaching and research. Adopting the concept of a graduate school from Germany’s historic Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, [Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg] (DE), Johns Hopkins University is considered the first research university in the United States. Over the course of several decades, the university has led all U.S. universities in annual research and development expenditures. In fiscal year 2016, Johns Hopkins spent nearly $2.5 billion on research. The university has graduate campuses in Italy, China, and Washington, D.C., in addition to its main campus in Baltimore.

    Johns Hopkins is organized into 10 divisions on campuses in Maryland and Washington, D.C., with international centers in Italy and China. The two undergraduate divisions, the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering, are located on the Homewood campus in Baltimore’s Charles Village neighborhood. The medical school, nursing school, and Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center are located on the Medical Institutions campus in East Baltimore. The university also consists of the Peabody Institute, Applied Physics Laboratory, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, School of Education, Carey Business School, and various other facilities.

    Johns Hopkins was a founding member of the American Association of Universities (US). As of October 2019, 39 Nobel laureates and 1 Fields Medalist have been affiliated with Johns Hopkins. Founded in 1883, the Blue Jays men’s lacrosse team has captured 44 national titles and plays in the Big Ten Conference as an affiliate member as of 2014.


    The opportunity to participate in important research is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Hopkins’ undergraduate education. About 80 percent of undergraduates perform independent research, often alongside top researchers. In FY 2013, Johns Hopkins received $2.2 billion in federal research grants—more than any other U.S. university for the 35th consecutive year. Johns Hopkins has had seventy-seven members of the Institute of Medicine, forty-three Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators, seventeen members of the National Academy of Engineering, and sixty-two members of the National Academy of Sciences. As of October 2019, 39 Nobel Prize winners have been affiliated with the university as alumni, faculty members or researchers, with the most recent winners being Gregg Semenza and William G. Kaelin.

    Between 1999 and 2009, Johns Hopkins was among the most cited institutions in the world. It attracted nearly 1,222,166 citations and produced 54,022 papers under its name, ranking No. 3 globally [after Harvard University (US) and the Max Planck Society (DE) in the number of total citations published in Thomson Reuters-indexed journals over 22 fields in America.

    In FY 2000, Johns Hopkins received $95.4 million in research grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US), making it the leading recipient of NASA research and development funding. In FY 2002, Hopkins became the first university to cross the $1 billion threshold on either list, recording $1.14 billion in total research and $1.023 billion in federally sponsored research. In FY 2008, Johns Hopkins University performed $1.68 billion in science, medical and engineering research, making it the leading U.S. academic institution in total R&D spending for the 30th year in a row, according to a National Science Foundation (US) ranking. These totals include grants and expenditures of JHU’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

    The Johns Hopkins University also offers the “Center for Talented Youth” program—a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying and developing the talents of the most promising K-12 grade students worldwide. As part of the Johns Hopkins University, the “Center for Talented Youth” or CTY helps fulfill the university’s mission of preparing students to make significant future contributions to the world. The Johns Hopkins Digital Media Center (DMC) is a multimedia lab space as well as an equipment, technology and knowledge resource for students interested in exploring creative uses of emerging media and use of technology.

    In 2013, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships program was established by a $250 million gift from Michael Bloomberg. This program enables the university to recruit fifty researchers from around the world to joint appointments throughout the nine divisions and research centers. Each professor must be a leader in interdisciplinary research and be active in undergraduate education. Directed by Vice Provost for Research Denis Wirtz, there are currently thirty two Bloomberg Distinguished Professors at the university, including three Nobel Laureates, eight fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (US), ten members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and thirteen members of the National Academies.

  • richardmitnick 10:31 am on July 8, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Are Earth-like biospheres rare?", , , , , , Planetary Science, University of Naples Federico II [Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II] (IT)   

    From University of Naples Federico II [Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II] (IT) via EarthSky : “Are Earth-like biospheres rare?” 

    From University of Naples Federico II [Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II] (IT)




    July 8, 2021
    Paul Scott Anderson

    The new study was led by Giovanni Covone at the University of Naples Federico II [Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II] (IT) in Italy.

    Artist’s concept of Kepler-442b (left) in contrast to Earth. This potentially habitable rocky exoplanet is about twice the mass of Earth. It’s the only world found so far that might be able to sustain a life-supporting surface, atmosphere, and hydrosphere similar to that of Earth. Image via Ph03nix1986/ Wikimedia Commons.

    With its amazing diversity of life, Earth is unique in our solar system. But how rare is Earth’s biosphere – the thin layer of our world that supports life, extending high into our atmosphere and deep into our oceans – in our Milky Way galaxy? Astronomers are now finding exoplanets, or worlds orbiting distant stars, by the thousands. They estimate that there are billions of exoworlds in our galaxy alone. Surely, the galaxy must be teeming with life. Or is it? Researchers at the University of Naples Federico II [Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II] (IT) in Italy suggest otherwise. Their new study suggests that that Earth-like biospheres on potentially habitable exoplanets might be rare.

    The researchers published their peer-reviewed results in May in the MNRAS.

    Oxygen-based Earth-like biospheres

    The study focuses on Earth-like conditions where oxygen-based photosynthesis can occur. As we know from our own world, those conditions can also allow more complex life to develop. This process is called oxygenic photosynthesis, where plants on Earth convert light and carbon dioxide into oxygen and nutrients. As outlined in the paper:

    “…Oxygenic photosynthesis is the most important biochemical process in Earth biosphere and likely very common on other habitable terrestrial planets, given the general availability of its input chemical ingredients and of light as source of energy. It is therefore important to evaluate the effective possibility of oxygenic photosynthesis on planets around stars as a function of their spectral type and the planet–star separation….”

    This is the current list of most likely potentially habitable exoplanets, from the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog (total of all potentially habitable exoplanets stands at 60). Right now, only Kepler-442b is thought to possibly receive enough energy from its star for an Earth-like biosphere. Image via Planetary Habitability Laboratory/ University of Puerto Rico Arecibo [Universidad de Puerto Rico en Arecibo] (PR).

    Not enough stellar radiation

    But how easily could this occur on other potentially habitable worlds? It all has to do with how much stellar radiation – called photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) – the planet receives from its star. If there’s too little radiation, it makes photosynthesis a lot more difficult to start. From the paper:

    “…We aim at estimating the photon flux, the exergy, and the exergetic efficiency of the radiation in the wavelength range useful for the oxygenic photosynthesis as a function of the host star effective temperature and planet–star separation. We compute analytically these quantities and compare our results with the estimates for the small sample of known Earth-like planets, and find that exergy is an increasing function of the star effective temperature, within the range 2600–7200 K [2300-7000 Celsius or 3700-12,500 Fahrenheit]. It depends both on the star–planet separation and the star effective temperature. Biospheres on exoplanets around cool stars might be generally light-limited. So far, we have not observed terrestrial planets comparable to Earth in terms of useful photon flux, exergy, and exergetic efficiency….”

    The planet needs to receive enough stellar radiation for living organisms to be able to efficiently produce nutrients and molecular oxygen. Stars that are only about half the temperature of the sun don’t produce enough radiation. Photosynthesis on planets orbiting such stars could still occur, but the growth of the biosphere would be limited.

    Cooler and hotter stars have problems, too

    The prospects for vibrant biospheres would dim further for red dwarf stars, which are only about a third as hot as our sun. In this scenario, there wouldn’t be enough stellar radiation for even photosynthesis to get a kick-start. According to Giovanni Covone of the University of Naples, lead author of the study:

    “…Since red dwarfs are by far the most common type of star in our galaxy, this result indicates that Earth-like conditions on other planets may be much less common than we might hope….”

    Stars that are hotter than our sun produce plenty of the needed radiation, but don’t live as long as our sun. This therefore limits the amount of time available for life to evolve on any planets.

    Suitable worlds for Earth-like biospheres may be few and far between.

    Right now, scientists only know of one potentially habitable exoplanet that comes close to receiving enough stellar radiation: Kepler-442b. This planet is about twice the mass of Earth, and is 1,200 light-years away. This is from the known rocky and potentially habitable exoplanets that have been found so far (currently 60). It should be noted, however, that many more rocky worlds like these are expected to be discovered, as the technology improves to find them. For the most part, larger gas giant-type planets are still the easiest to detect.

    Earth has a rich and diversified biosphere, thanks to enough energy from the sun to support photosynthesis and more advanced life processes. Image via Encyclopedia Britannica.

    Covone added:

    “…This study puts strong constraints on the parameter space for complex life, so unfortunately it appears that the “sweet spot” for hosting a rich Earth-like biosphere is not so wide….”

    Other kinds of biospheres

    The overall results suggest that planets capable of sustaining Earth-like biospheres may few and far between. Of course, that is based on life as we know it, what we know about how life evolved on Earth and the role of photosynthesis. It’s possible, however, that there could exist alien biospheres that don’t resembles ours. There may be ones that use photosynthesis in ways not found on our planet, or don’t use photosynthesis at all.

    See the full article here.
    See also from RAS an article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

  • richardmitnick 12:15 pm on July 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Methane in the Plumes of Saturn's Moon Enceladus: Possible Signs of Life?", , , Planetary Science,   

    From University of Arizona (US) : “Methane in the Plumes of Saturn’s Moon Enceladus: Possible Signs of Life?” 

    From University of Arizona (US)


    Media contact(s)
    Daniel Stolte
    Science Writer, University Communications

    Researcher contact(s)
    Régis Ferrière
    Associate Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

    A study published in Nature Astronomy concludes that known geochemical processes can’t explain the levels of methane measured by the Cassini spacecraft on Saturn’s icy moon.

    This artist’s impression depicts NASA’s Cassini spacecraft flying through a plume of presumed water erupting from the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus. Credit: National Aeronautics Space Agency (US).

    An unknown methane-producing process is likely at work in the hidden ocean beneath the icy shell of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, suggests a new study published in Nature Astronomy by scientists at the University of Arizona and Paris Sciences et Lettres University [Université Paris Sciences et Lettres Université PSL] (FR).

    Giant water plumes erupting from Enceladus have long fascinated scientists and the public alike, inspiring research and speculation about the vast ocean that is believed to be sandwiched between the moon’s rocky core and its icy shell. Flying through the plumes and sampling their chemical makeup, the Cassini spacecraft detected a relatively high concentration of certain molecules associated with hydrothermal vents on the bottom of Earth’s oceans, specifically dihydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide. The amount of methane found in the plumes was particularly unexpected.

    “We wanted to know: Could Earthlike microbes that ‘eat’ the dihydrogen and produce methane explain the surprisingly large amount of methane detected by Cassini?” said Régis Ferrière, an associate professor in the University of Arizona Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and one of the study’s two lead authors. “Searching for such microbes, known as methanogens, at Enceladus’ seafloor would require extremely challenging deep-dive missions that are not in sight for several decades.”

    Ferrière and his team took a different, easier route: They constructed mathematical models to calculate the probability that different processes, including biological methanogenesis, might explain the Cassini data.

    The authors applied new mathematical models that combine geochemistry and microbial ecology to analyze Cassini plume data and model the possible processes that would best explain the observations. They conclude that Cassini’s data are consistent either with microbial hydrothermal vent activity, or with processes that don’t involve life forms but are different from the ones known to occur on Earth.

    This cutaway view of Saturn’s moon Enceladus is an artist’s rendering that depicts possible hydrothermal activity that may be taking place on and under the seafloor of the moon’s subsurface ocean, based on results from NASA’s Cassini mission. NASA JPL-Caltech.

    On Earth, hydrothermal activity occurs when cold seawater seeps into the ocean floor, circulates through the underlying rock and passes close by a heat source, such as a magma chamber, before spewing out into the water again through hydrothermal vents. On Earth, methane can be produced through hydrothermal activity, but at a slow rate. Most of the production is due to microorganisms that harness the chemical disequilibrium of hydrothermally produced dihydrogen as a source of energy, and produce methane from carbon dioxide in a process called methanogenesis.

    The team looked at Enceladus’ plume composition as the end result of several chemical and physical processes taking place in the moon’s interior. First, the researchers assessed what hydrothermal production of dihydrogen would best fit Cassini’s observations, and whether this production could provide enough “food” to sustain a population of Earthlike hydrogenotrophic methanogens. To do that, they developed a model for the population dynamics of a hypothetical hydrogenotrophic methanogen, whose thermal and energetic niche was modeled after known strains from Earth.

    The authors then ran the model to see whether a given set of chemical conditions, such as the dihydrogen concentration in the hydrothermal fluid, and temperature would provide a suitable environment for these microbes to grow. They also looked at what effect a hypothetical microbe population would have on its environment – for example, on the escape rates of dihydrogen and methane in the plume.

    “In summary, not only could we evaluate whether Cassini’s observations are compatible with an environment habitable for life, but we could also make quantitative predictions about observations to be expected, should methanogenesis actually occur at Enceladus’ seafloor,” Ferrière explained.

    The results suggest that even the highest possible estimate of abiotic methane production – or methane production without biological aid – based on known hydrothermal chemistry is far from sufficient to explain the methane concentration measured in the plumes. Adding biological methanogenesis to the mix, however, could produce enough methane to match Cassini’s observations.

    “Obviously, we are not concluding that life exists in Enceladus’ ocean,” Ferrière said. “Rather, we wanted to understand how likely it would be that Enceladus’ hydrothermal vents could be habitable to Earthlike microorganisms. Very likely, the Cassini data tell us, according to our models.

    “And biological methanogenesis appears to be compatible with the data. In other words, we can’t discard the ‘life hypothesis’ as highly improbable. To reject the life hypothesis, we need more data from future missions,” he added.

    The authors hope their paper provides guidance for studies aimed at better understanding the observations made by Cassini and that it encourages research to elucidate the abiotic processes that could produce enough methane to explain the data.

    For example, methane could come from the chemical breakdown of primordial organic matter that may be present in Enceladus’ core and that could be partially turned into dihydrogen, methane and carbon dioxide through the hydrothermal process. This hypothesis is very plausible if it turns out that Enceladus formed through the accretion of organic-rich material supplied by comets, Ferrière explained.

    “It partly boils down to how probable we believe different hypotheses are to begin with,” he said. “For example, if we deem the probability of life in Enceladus to be extremely low, then such alternative abiotic mechanisms become much more likely, even if they are very alien compared to what we know here on Earth.”

    According to the authors, a very promising advance of the paper lies in its methodology, as it is not limited to specific systems such as interior oceans of icy moons and paves the way to deal with chemical data from planets outside the solar system as they become available in the coming decades.

    A full list of authors and funding information can be found in the paper.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    As of 2019, the University of Arizona (US) enrolled 45,918 students in 19 separate colleges/schools, including the UArizona College of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix and the James E. Rogers College of Law, and is affiliated with two academic medical centers (Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix). UArizona is one of three universities governed by the Arizona Board of Regents. The university is part of the Association of American Universities and is the only member from Arizona, and also part of the Universities Research Association(US). The university is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity”.

    Known as the Arizona Wildcats (often shortened to “Cats”), the UArizona’s intercollegiate athletic teams are members of the Pac-12 Conference of the NCAA. UArizona athletes have won national titles in several sports, most notably men’s basketball, baseball, and softball. The official colors of the university and its athletic teams are cardinal red and navy blue.

    After the passage of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, the push for a university in Arizona grew. The Arizona Territory’s “Thieving Thirteenth” Legislature approved the UArizona in 1885 and selected the city of Tucson to receive the appropriation to build the university. Tucson hoped to receive the appropriation for the territory’s mental hospital, which carried a $100,000 allocation instead of the $25,000 allotted to the territory’s only university (Arizona State University(US) was also chartered in 1885, but it was created as Arizona’s normal school, and not a university). Flooding on the Salt River delayed Tucson’s legislators, and by they time they reached Prescott, back-room deals allocating the most desirable territorial institutions had been made. Tucson was largely disappointed with receiving what was viewed as an inferior prize.

    With no parties willing to provide land for the new institution, the citizens of Tucson prepared to return the money to the Territorial Legislature until two gamblers and a saloon keeper decided to donate the land to build the school. Construction of Old Main, the first building on campus, began on October 27, 1887, and classes met for the first time in 1891 with 32 students in Old Main, which is still in use today. Because there were no high schools in Arizona Territory, the university maintained separate preparatory classes for the first 23 years of operation.


    UArizona is classified among “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity”. UArizona is the fourth most awarded public university by National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US) for research. UArizona was awarded over $325 million for its Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) to lead NASA’s 2007–08 mission to Mars to explore the Martian Arctic, and $800 million for its OSIRIS-REx mission, the first in U.S. history to sample an asteroid.

    The LPL’s work in the Cassini spacecraft orbit around Saturn is larger than any other university globally. The UArizona laboratory designed and operated the atmospheric radiation investigations and imaging on the probe. UArizona operates the HiRISE camera, a part of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. While using the HiRISE camera in 2011, UArizona alumnus Lujendra Ojha and his team discovered proof of liquid water on the surface of Mars—a discovery confirmed by NASA in 2015. UArizona receives more NASA grants annually than the next nine top NASA/JPL-Caltech(US)-funded universities combined. As of March 2016, the UArizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is actively involved in ten spacecraft missions: Cassini VIMS; Grail; the HiRISE camera orbiting Mars; the Juno mission orbiting Jupiter; Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO); Maven, which will explore Mars’ upper atmosphere and interactions with the sun; Solar Probe Plus, a historic mission into the Sun’s atmosphere for the first time; Rosetta’s VIRTIS; WISE; and OSIRIS-REx, the first U.S. sample-return mission to a near-earth asteroid, which launched on September 8, 2016.

    UArizona students have been selected as Truman, Rhodes, Goldwater, and Fulbright Scholars. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, UArizona is among the top 25 producers of Fulbright awards in the U.S.

    UArizona is a member of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy(US), a consortium of institutions pursuing research in astronomy. The association operates observatories and telescopes, notably Kitt Peak National Observatory(US) just outside Tucson. Led by Roger Angel, researchers in the Steward Observatory Mirror Lab at UArizona are working in concert to build the world’s most advanced telescope. Known as the Giant Magellan Telescope(CL), it will produce images 10 times sharper than those from the Earth-orbiting Hubble Telescope.

    Giant Magellan Telescope, 21 meters, to be at the NOIRLab(US) National Optical Astronomy Observatory(US) Carnegie Institution for Science’s(US) Las Campanas Observatory(CL), some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high.

    The telescope is set to be completed in 2021. GMT will ultimately cost $1 billion. Researchers from at least nine institutions are working to secure the funding for the project. The telescope will include seven 18-ton mirrors capable of providing clear images of volcanoes and riverbeds on Mars and mountains on the moon at a rate 40 times faster than the world’s current large telescopes. The mirrors of the Giant Magellan Telescope will be built at UArizona and transported to a permanent mountaintop site in the Chilean Andes where the telescope will be constructed.

    Reaching Mars in March 2006, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter contained the HiRISE camera, with Principal Investigator Alfred McEwen as the lead on the project. This National Aeronautics and Space Administration(US) mission to Mars carrying the UArizona-designed camera is capturing the highest-resolution images of the planet ever seen. The journey of the orbiter was 300 million miles. In August 2007, the UArizona, under the charge of Scientist Peter Smith, led the Phoenix Mars Mission, the first mission completely controlled by a university. Reaching the planet’s surface in May 2008, the mission’s purpose was to improve knowledge of the Martian Arctic. The Arizona Radio Observatory(US), a part of UArizona Department of Astronomy Steward Observatory(US), operates the Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham.

    The National Science Foundation(US) funded the iPlant Collaborative in 2008 with a $50 million grant. In 2013, iPlant Collaborative received a $50 million renewal grant. Rebranded in late 2015 as “CyVerse”, the collaborative cloud-based data management platform is moving beyond life sciences to provide cloud-computing access across all scientific disciplines.
    In June 2011, the university announced it would assume full ownership of the Biosphere 2 scientific research facility in Oracle, Arizona, north of Tucson, effective July 1. Biosphere 2 was constructed by private developers (funded mainly by Texas businessman and philanthropist Ed Bass) with its first closed system experiment commencing in 1991. The university had been the official management partner of the facility for research purposes since 2007.

    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 1:15 pm on July 5, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Europa Clipper to determine whether icy moon has ingredients necessary for life", , Johns Hopkins University (US), , Planetary Science   

    From Johns Hopkins University (US) via phys.org : “Europa Clipper to determine whether icy moon has ingredients necessary for life” 

    From Johns Hopkins University (US)



    July 5, 2021
    Ashley Stimpson, Johns Hopkins University

    Credit: Eric Nyquist.

    In 1610, Galileo peered through his telescope and spotted four bright moons orbiting Jupiter, dispelling the long-held notion that all celestial bodies revolved around the Earth. In 2024, when scientists expect to send the Europa Clipper spacecraft to investigate one of those moons, they too may find evidence that fundamentally alters our understanding of the solar system.

    Europa is the sixth nearest moon to Jupiter and is roughly the same size as our own. Thanks to data retrieved by the Galileo space probe—launched in 1989 and named to honor the Italian astronomer—and the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists are almost sure that a salty, liquid ocean is hidden beneath Europa’s icy surface, one so large that astronomers believe it could contain two times the water in all of Earth’s oceans combined.

    Europa itself has been around for 4.5 billion years, but its surface is geologically young, only about 60 million years old, suggesting that it has been continually resurfaced, perhaps through a process much like Earth’s shifting plate tectonics. As Europa travels around Jupiter, its elliptical orbit and the planet’s strong gravitational pull cause the moon to flex like a rubber ball, producing heat that’s capable of maintaining an ocean’s liquid state. Hydrothermal energy at the moon’s core, left over from its formation, may also heat the ocean at the seafloor.

    These unique characteristics have led NASA to deem Europa “the most promising place in our solar system to find present-day environments suitable for some form of life beyond Earth.” But in order for life to exist, it needs more than just water and energy. It also needs essential chemicals like hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen. While Europa seems to check the first two boxes, its composition remains a mystery. Confirming all three of these ingredients for life will determine whether Europa is habitable.

    “That’s the $4 billion question,” says Haje Korth, a space physicist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and deputy project scientist for the Europa Clipper mission. He and his colleagues at NASA and its California-based Jet Propulsion Lab are gearing up to investigate whether Europa might contain the ingredients necessary for life somewhere in its vast ocean.

    In late 2024, they will send the orbiter into the skies above Cape Canaveral, where it will begin its five-and-a-half-year journey to Europa. During that time it will fly by both Mars and Earth, using the planets’ gravity to slingshot itself 484 million miles toward Jupiter, arriving by 2030. Kate Craft, one of the mission’s project staff scientists, warns the long journey will precede even greater challenges.

    “The radiation from Jupiter is really harsh,” she says. “Our instruments have to be able to survive that.”

    Alien Ocean: NASA’s Mission to Europa. Credit: JHU.

    Roughly the size of a basketball court, the Europa Clipper will carry an impressive suite of 10 separate instruments. Korth says getting all those gadgets to work simultaneously—in the frigid temperatures of outer space, no less—will be another test.

    Two cameras, so powerful they will be able to pick up features just a few feet long, will map the moon’s surface in color and from multiple angles. Spectrometers will study the chemical makeup of Europa’s surface as well as the particles that hover above it. A magnetometer will be able to determine the depth and salinity of Europa’s ocean.

    Two more instruments, a thermal emission imaging system and an ultraviolet spectrograph, will look for areas where Europa’s ocean may have spilled out onto the surface via eruptions or plumes. If scientists find such a location, they would be able to analyze the composition of Europa’s ocean without ever touching down on its surface.

    “These would be the most pristine samples of the ocean underneath,” Korth says. “This is not a plume-hunting mission, but we’ll certainly take that opportunity.”

    Clipper will spend three and a half years in orbit around Jupiter, performing a flyby of Europa every two to three weeks from as close as 16 miles away, sending back observations that will reach Earth in as little as a week. Between flybys, scientists will pore over this cache of data, adjusting the observations if they see something that sparks their interest—a plume, for example—or necessitates further investigation. Right now, the mission team has planned 45 flybys, but the tour could be extended if funding allows.

    While launch is still more than three years away, Craft is already part of multiple studies determining the feasibility and logistics of a Europa Lander mission, the next logical step if Europa Clipper finds the moon to be habitable. A lander could be delivered to Europa from a sky crane—much like the recent Mars Perseverance—and house a cryobot designed to drill through the icy shell and into the ocean below.

    Europa’s subsurface waters aren’t the only outer-space oceans that APL has its eyes on. In October 2020, the Lab announced it would pitch NASA on the Enceladus Orbilander, a spacecraft designed to orbit and land on Saturn’s sixth-largest moon to search for signs of life hidden in its ocean.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Johns Hopkins Unversity campus.

    The Johns Hopkins University (US) opened in 1876, with the inauguration of its first president, Daniel Coit Gilman. “What are we aiming at?” Gilman asked in his installation address. “The encouragement of research … and the advancement of individual scholars, who by their excellence will advance the sciences they pursue, and the society where they dwell.”

    The mission laid out by Gilman remains the university’s mission today, summed up in a simple but powerful restatement of Gilman’s own words: “Knowledge for the world.”

    What Gilman created was a research university, dedicated to advancing both students’ knowledge and the state of human knowledge through research and scholarship. Gilman believed that teaching and research are interdependent, that success in one depends on success in the other. A modern university, he believed, must do both well. The realization of Gilman’s philosophy at Johns Hopkins, and at other institutions that later attracted Johns Hopkins-trained scholars, revolutionized higher education in America, leading to the research university system as it exists today.

    The Johns Hopkins University (US) is a private research university in Baltimore, Maryland. Founded in 1876, the university was named for its first benefactor, the American entrepreneur and philanthropist Johns Hopkins. His $7 million bequest (approximately $147.5 million in today’s currency)—of which half financed the establishment of the Johns Hopkins Hospital—was the largest philanthropic gift in the history of the United States up to that time. Daniel Coit Gilman, who was inaugurated as the institution’s first president on February 22, 1876, led the university to revolutionize higher education in the U.S. by integrating teaching and research. Adopting the concept of a graduate school from Germany’s historic Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg, [Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg] (DE), Johns Hopkins University is considered the first research university in the United States. Over the course of several decades, the university has led all U.S. universities in annual research and development expenditures. In fiscal year 2016, Johns Hopkins spent nearly $2.5 billion on research. The university has graduate campuses in Italy, China, and Washington, D.C., in addition to its main campus in Baltimore.

    Johns Hopkins is organized into 10 divisions on campuses in Maryland and Washington, D.C., with international centers in Italy and China. The two undergraduate divisions, the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and the Whiting School of Engineering, are located on the Homewood campus in Baltimore’s Charles Village neighborhood. The medical school, nursing school, and Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Johns Hopkins Children’s Center are located on the Medical Institutions campus in East Baltimore. The university also consists of the Peabody Institute, Applied Physics Laboratory, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, School of Education, Carey Business School, and various other facilities.

    Johns Hopkins was a founding member of the American Association of Universities (US). As of October 2019, 39 Nobel laureates and 1 Fields Medalist have been affiliated with Johns Hopkins. Founded in 1883, the Blue Jays men’s lacrosse team has captured 44 national titles and plays in the Big Ten Conference as an affiliate member as of 2014.


    The opportunity to participate in important research is one of the distinguishing characteristics of Hopkins’ undergraduate education. About 80 percent of undergraduates perform independent research, often alongside top researchers. In FY 2013, Johns Hopkins received $2.2 billion in federal research grants—more than any other U.S. university for the 35th consecutive year. Johns Hopkins has had seventy-seven members of the Institute of Medicine, forty-three Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators, seventeen members of the National Academy of Engineering, and sixty-two members of the National Academy of Sciences. As of October 2019, 39 Nobel Prize winners have been affiliated with the university as alumni, faculty members or researchers, with the most recent winners being Gregg Semenza and William G. Kaelin.

    Between 1999 and 2009, Johns Hopkins was among the most cited institutions in the world. It attracted nearly 1,222,166 citations and produced 54,022 papers under its name, ranking No. 3 globally [after Harvard University (US) and the Max Planck Society (DE)] in the number of total citations published in Thomson Reuters-indexed journals over 22 fields in America.

    In FY 2000, Johns Hopkins received $95.4 million in research grants from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (US), making it the leading recipient of NASA research and development funding. In FY 2002, Hopkins became the first university to cross the $1 billion threshold on either list, recording $1.14 billion in total research and $1.023 billion in federally sponsored research. In FY 2008, Johns Hopkins University performed $1.68 billion in science, medical and engineering research, making it the leading U.S. academic institution in total R&D spending for the 30th year in a row, according to a National Science Foundation (US) ranking. These totals include grants and expenditures of JHU’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland.

    The Johns Hopkins University also offers the “Center for Talented Youth” program—a nonprofit organization dedicated to identifying and developing the talents of the most promising K-12 grade students worldwide. As part of the Johns Hopkins University, the “Center for Talented Youth” or CTY helps fulfill the university’s mission of preparing students to make significant future contributions to the world. The Johns Hopkins Digital Media Center (DMC) is a multimedia lab space as well as an equipment, technology and knowledge resource for students interested in exploring creative uses of emerging media and use of technology.

    In 2013, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professorships program was established by a $250 million gift from Michael Bloomberg. This program enables the university to recruit fifty researchers from around the world to joint appointments throughout the nine divisions and research centers. Each professor must be a leader in interdisciplinary research and be active in undergraduate education. Directed by Vice Provost for Research Denis Wirtz, there are currently thirty two Bloomberg Distinguished Professors at the university, including three Nobel Laureates, eight fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (US), ten members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and thirteen members of the National Academies.

  • richardmitnick 12:39 pm on July 3, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Why Does Mercury Have Such a Big Iron Core? Magnetism!", , , , Planetary Science,   

    From University of Maryland Computer Mathematics and Natural Sciences (US): “Why Does Mercury Have Such a Big Iron Core? Magnetism!” 

    From University of Maryland Computer Mathematics and Natural Sciences (US)

    July 2, 2021
    Kimbra Cutlip

    New research from the University of Maryland shows that proximity to the sun’s magnetic field determines a planet’s interior composition.

    New research shows the sun’s magnetic field drew iron toward the center of our solar system as the planets formed. That explains why Mercury, which is closest to the sun has a bigger, denser, iron core relative to its outer layers than the other rocky planets like Earth and Mars. (Image Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (US).)

    A new study disputes the prevailing hypothesis on why Mercury has a big core relative to its mantle (the layer between a planet’s core and crust). For decades, scientists argued that hit-and-run collisions with other bodies during the formation of our solar system blew away much of Mercury’s rocky mantle and left the big, dense, metal core inside. But new research reveals that collisions are not to blame—the sun’s magnetism is.

    William McDonough, a professor of geology at the University of Maryland, and Takashi Yoshizaki from Tohoku University [東北大学] (JP) developed a model showing that the density, mass and iron content of a rocky planet’s core are influenced by its distance from the sun’s magnetic field. The paper describing the model was published on July 2, 2021, in the journal Progress in Earth and Planetary Science.

    “The four inner planets of our solar system—Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars—are made up of different proportions of metal and rock,” McDonough said. “There is a gradient in which the metal content in the core drops off as the planets get farther from the sun. Our paper explains how this happened by showing that the distribution of raw materials in the early forming solar system was controlled by the sun’s magnetic field.”

    McDonough previously developed a model for Earth’s composition that is commonly used by planetary scientists to determine the composition of exoplanets. (His seminal paper on this work has been cited more than 8,000 times.)

    McDonough’s new model shows that during the early formation of our solar system, when the young sun was surrounded by a swirling cloud of dust and gas, grains of iron were drawn toward the center by the sun’s magnetic field. When the planets began to form from clumps of that dust and gas, planets closer to the sun incorporated more iron into their cores than those farther away.

    The researchers found that the density and proportion of iron in a rocky planet’s core correlates with the strength of the magnetic field around the sun during planetary formation. Their new study suggests that magnetism should be factored into future attempts to describe the composition of rocky planets, including those outside our solar system.

    The composition of a planet’s core is important for its potential to support life. On Earth, for instance, a molten iron core creates a magnetosphere that protects the planet from cancer-causing cosmic rays. The core also contains the majority of the planet’s phosphorus, which is an important nutrient for sustaining carbon-based life.

    Using existing models of planetary formation, McDonough determined the speed at which gas and dust was pulled into the center of our solar system during its formation. He factored in the magnetic field that would have been generated by the sun as it burst into being and calculated how that magnetic field would draw iron through the dust and gas cloud.

    As the early solar system began to cool, dust and gas that were not drawn into the sun began to clump together. The clumps closer to the sun would have been exposed to a stronger magnetic field and thus would contain more iron than those farther away from the sun. As the clumps coalesced and cooled into spinning planets, gravitational forces drew the iron into their core.

    When McDonough incorporated this model into calculations of planetary formation, it revealed a gradient in metal content and density that corresponds perfectly with what scientists know about the planets in our solar system. Mercury has a metallic core that makes up about three-quarters of its mass. The cores of Earth and Venus are only about one-third of their mass, and Mars, the outermost of the rocky planets, has a small core that is only about one-quarter of its mass.

    This new understanding of the role magnetism plays in planetary formation creates a kink in the study of exoplanets, because there is currently no method to determine the magnetic properties of a star from Earth-based observations. Scientists infer the composition of an exoplanet based on the spectrum of light radiated from its sun. Different elements in a star emit radiation in different wavelengths, so measuring those wavelengths reveals what the star, and presumably the planets around it, are made of.

    “You can no longer just say, ‘Oh, the composition of a star looks like this, so the planets around it must look like this,’” McDonough said. “Now you have to say, ‘Each planet could have more or less iron based on the magnetic properties of the star in the early growth of the solar system.’”

    The next steps in this work will be for scientists to find another planetary system like ours—one with rocky planets spread over wide distances from their central sun. If the density of the planets drops as they radiate out from the sun the way it does in our solar system, researchers could confirm this new theory and infer that a magnetic field influenced planetary formation.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Maryland Campus

    About University of Maryland Computer Mathematics and Natural Sciences (US)

    The thirst for new knowledge is a fundamental and defining characteristic of humankind. It is also at the heart of scientific endeavor and discovery. As we seek to understand our world, across a host of complexly interconnected phenomena and over scales of time and distance that were virtually inaccessible to us a generation ago, our discoveries shape that world. At the forefront of many of these discoveries is the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS).

    CMNS is home to 12 major research institutes and centers and to 10 academic departments: astronomy, atmospheric and oceanic science, biology, cell biology and molecular genetics, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science, entomology, geology, mathematics, and physics.

    Our Faculty

    Our faculty are at the cutting edge over the full range of these disciplines. Our physicists fill in major gaps in our fundamental understanding of matter, participating in the recent Higgs boson discovery, and demonstrating the first-ever teleportation of information between atoms. Our astronomers probe the origin of the universe with one of the world’s premier radio observatories, and have just discovered water on the moon. Our computer scientists are developing the principles for guaranteed security and privacy in information systems.

    Our Research

    Driven by the pursuit of excellence, the University of Maryland has enjoyed a remarkable rise in accomplishment and reputation over the past two decades. By any measure, Maryland is now one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities and on a path to become one of the world’s best. To fulfill this promise, we must capitalize on our momentum, fully exploit our competitive advantages, and pursue ambitious goals with great discipline and entrepreneurial spirit. This promise is within reach. This strategic plan is our working agenda.

    The plan is comprehensive, bold, and action oriented. It sets forth a vision of the University as an institution unmatched in its capacity to attract talent, address the most important issues of our time, and produce the leaders of tomorrow. The plan will guide the investment of our human and material resources as we strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs and expand research, outreach and partnerships, become a truly international center, and enhance our surrounding community.

    Our success will benefit Maryland in the near and long term, strengthen the State’s competitive capacity in a challenging and changing environment and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of the region. We will be a catalyst for progress, the State’s most valuable asset, and an indispensable contributor to the nation’s well-being. Achieving the goals of Transforming Maryland requires broad-based and sustained support from our extended community. We ask our stakeholders to join with us to make the University an institution of world-class quality with world-wide reach and unparalleled impact as it serves the people and the state of Maryland.

    Our researchers are also at the cusp of the new biology for the 21st century, with bioscience emerging as a key area in almost all CMNS disciplines. Entomologists are learning how climate change affects the behavior of insects, and earth science faculty are coupling physical and biosphere data to predict that change. Geochemists are discovering how our planet evolved to support life, and biologists and entomologists are discovering how evolutionary processes have operated in living organisms. Our biologists have learned how human generated sound affects aquatic organisms, and cell biologists and computer scientists use advanced genomics to study disease and host-pathogen interactions. Our mathematicians are modeling the spread of AIDS, while our astronomers are searching for habitable exoplanets.

    Our Education

    CMNS is also a national resource for educating and training the next generation of leaders. Many of our major programs are ranked among the top 10 of public research universities in the nation. CMNS offers every student a high-quality, innovative and cross-disciplinary educational experience that is also affordable. Strongly committed to making science and mathematics studies available to all, CMNS actively encourages and supports the recruitment and retention of women and minorities.

    Our Students

    Our students have the unique opportunity to work closely with first-class faculty in state-of-the-art labs both on and off campus, conducting real-world, high-impact research on some of the most exciting problems of modern science. 87% of our undergraduates conduct research and/or hold internships while earning their bachelor’s degree. CMNS degrees command respect around the world, and open doors to a wide variety of rewarding career options. Many students continue on to graduate school; others find challenging positions in high-tech industry or federal laboratories, and some join professions such as medicine, teaching, and law.

  • richardmitnick 10:05 am on June 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Is Venus still geologically active? Stanford expert explains technology powering NASA’s quest to understand Earth’s twin", , NASA VERITAS mission to Venus, Planetary Science,   

    From Stanford University (US) : “Is Venus still geologically active? Stanford expert explains technology powering NASA’s quest to understand Earth’s twin” 

    Stanford University Name

    From Stanford University (US)

    June 29, 2021
    Josie Garthwaite

    Much about Earth’s closest planetary neighbor, Venus, remains a mystery. Algorithms and techniques pioneered by Stanford Professor Howard Zebker’s research group will help to guide a search for active volcanoes and tectonic plate movements as part of a recently announced National Aeronautics Space Agency (US) mission to Venus.

    The Ring of Fire – a string of volcanoes including Indonesia’s Mount Bromo (pictured) and seismic activity around the edges of the Pacific Ocean – results largely from Earth’s plate tectonics.

    Rimg of Fire.

    Existing imagery of Venus suggests the planet’s volcanoes are scattered more randomly than those on Earth, but more advanced radar imagery may be able to ascertain how blocks of Venus’ crust have moved over time. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

    One day toward the end of this decade, a NASA spacecraft orbiting Venus is slated to begin sending radar signals through the planet’s thick, yellowish shroud of corrosive sulfuric acid clouds to measure the rise and fall of the planet’s hellish surface, centimeter by centimeter.

    Venus is often called Earth’s sister planet or twin because the two worlds are of similar size and density. Yet the second rock from the sun is hot and inhospitable in the extreme. “That’s one of the reasons we know so little about the surface,” said Stanford University Professor Howard Zebker. “If you send a spacecraft to the surface of Venus, which has been done several times, they only last a few minutes until the hot acid burns them up.”

    Zebker is a member of the science team for VERITAS, one of three missions to Venus announced in June 2021 by NASA and the European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU).

    VERITAS spacecraft.

    As part of the VERITAS mission – which is expected to launch around 2028-2030 – instruments aboard the spacecraft will measure how long it takes radar signals to bounce back from a series of precise locations at different times. This will yield pairs of images that can be combined to reveal changes in altitude at the surface using a technique known as interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR.

    Algorithms and techniques pioneered by Zebker will help to guide these measurements and translate them into high-resolution 3D maps of any ongoing deformation of Venus’ outermost layer. On Earth, InSAR has been used to map uplift and subsidence related to groundwater pumping; to detect sinkholes; and to study glacier movements, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and more. But this is the first time the techniques will be used by spacecraft to identify active fault movements beyond our world.

    While NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (US) will manage the VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography & Spectroscopy) mission, students working in Zebker’s lab at Stanford will help to refine algorithms for the mission over the next several years and work to interpret the data that come in once VERITAS makes it into orbit.

    Zebker is a professor of geophysics and electrical engineering. Here, he discusses his role in the VERITAS mission; how InSAR will help to answer key questions about volcanic activity and tectonic plates on Venus; why our hothouse twin may hold insights relevant to modeling of climate change on our own planet; and paths for interested students to get involved.

    What questions about Venus will you be helping to answer?

    VERITAS is primarily studying the surface and the interior of Venus. My part of this is in a search for what we call active crustal deformation, which tells us whether or not Venus is geologically active: Does it have active volcanoes, moving tectonic plates and earthquakes?

    We know from the last radar mission, which flew in 1988, that there are structures on Venus that look like volcanoes and a few things that look like plate boundaries. The volcano-like structures don’t seem to be organized quite as neatly as they are on the Earth. But it could be that we just don’t know what to look for, and maybe our pictures were too blurry. And we have no idea if they are presently active or if they’ve been sitting dormant for a billion years. If Venus is currently active, this mission will help to determine whether Venus is active in the same way that Earth’s surface is active.

    On Earth, we have geologic activity mainly because we have a very hot core. That heat generates a flow of material that causes the tectonic plates on the surface to move past each other. Where they move past each other in fits and starts, we call those earthquakes. And when they just generate a lot of heat and that melts a rock into magma, and that comes squirting out, we call that a volcano. You have hot junk under the surface, it comes to the top and then it can cool off.

    If we find absolutely no indication of current plate tectonics on Venus, that will tell us there has to be some other process for heat to escape the planet’s interior. It’s possible heat just builds up for a long time – a billion years, perhaps – and then all of a sudden, the entire surface is destroyed in a big cataclysm and everything turns over and melts and reforms.

    What technology will you use in the search for geological activity?

    We’ll use a radar instrument in a mode called interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR, which is my research group’s specialty. We will send radio waves from this instrument onboard the VERITAS spacecraft, and record subtle differences in the time it takes for those waves to bounce back from hard surfaces on Venus. With InSAR, we make multiple measurements of the same spot on the surface and we look for any kind of a change that occurred between those measurements, down to some fraction of a centimeter.

    What are some of the key challenges you anticipate in collecting these images from Venus, and how can they be overcome?

    Part of it is just unfamiliarity with what we’re looking for. We know how to operate InSAR to find an Earth-like volcano or earthquake fault. Maybe that’s what they’re going to look like on Venus, and maybe that’s the right way to process the data – but maybe it’s not.

    The atmosphere for Venus is also much thicker than we have on Earth, and that will interfere with our radar signals. We don’t know how much buffeting the spacecraft will undergo. We’ll have to develop some algorithms that make it possible to take multiple measurements from the exact same spot – even in the presence of a largely turbulent and obstructing atmosphere – and without GPS, because nobody’s put GPS receivers or transmitters in orbit around Venus yet. Over the next several years, we will refine the techniques we have on Earth and study analogs to what we think some of the Venus features might be.

    The data rate is another big issue. We can’t measure the full surface of Venus using InSAR because it’s very data intensive. We’ll pick the five or 10 percent of the surface that we think is most likely to have volcanoes and plate boundaries, and we’ll start looking there. Much of our work over the next seven years will be in trying to understand how to find the best targets for imaging.

    How might this mission deliver insights about climate change on Earth?

    Venus is an extreme example of what can happen to the Earth. The two planets are similar enough in distance from the sun, but Venus is much hotter because it has a runaway greenhouse effect. Radiation from the sun gets trapped in its atmosphere, which is where we’re headed with global warming.

    The greenhouse effect on Venus is so extreme that it’s not an analog to Earth in that sense. However, in science, one of the ways we learn the most about things is by looking to see what happens in extreme cases. Because even if your model is only off by a little bit, when you go to the extreme case, then it’s off by a lot. And so, if we can actually constrain the models on that very hot, super runaway end, and you extrapolate it back to the conditions that we have on the Earth, it might very well help us say something about the likely impacts of continued warming on the Earth, now caused by changes in the gas mixture of the atmosphere.

    What are the pathways for future undergraduate and graduate students to get involved with this type of project?

    It helps to have people who think space is cool. That’s probably the first requirement.

    Then the path is to begin preparing themselves for doing quantitative scientific data analysis. Practically, it means they need to understand basic math and physics. We really do build on the basic principles that students start to learn in high school physics and coding classes. There are some specialized things they will learn at the graduate level. For undergraduates, it would be helpful to get exposure to working with and analyzing real data, whether that’s through geophysics, applied physics, math or engineering.

    I’m hoping to have one graduate student and then a couple of summer undergraduate researchers over the next seven years until we get to our launch, and then we’ll ramp up because we’ll actually have data to work with. We’ll try to write some codes to anticipate interference we’ll encounter on Venus. Students will need to learn how to make code reliable and robust.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Stanford University campus. No image credit

    Stanford University (US)

    Leland and Jane Stanford founded the University to “promote the public welfare by exercising an influence on behalf of humanity and civilization.” Stanford opened its doors in 1891, and more than a century later, it remains dedicated to finding solutions to the great challenges of the day and to preparing our students for leadership in today’s complex world. Stanford, is an American private research university located in Stanford, California on an 8,180-acre (3,310 ha) campus near Palo Alto. Since 1952, more than 54 Stanford faculty, staff, and alumni have won the Nobel Prize, including 19 current faculty members.

    Stanford University, officially Leland Stanford Junior University, is a private research university located in Stanford, California. Stanford was founded in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford in memory of their only child, Leland Stanford Jr., who had died of typhoid fever at age 15 the previous year. Stanford is consistently ranked as among the most prestigious and top universities in the world by major education publications. It is also one of the top fundraising institutions in the country, becoming the first school to raise more than a billion dollars in a year.

    Leland Stanford was a U.S. senator and former governor of California who made his fortune as a railroad tycoon. The school admitted its first students on October 1, 1891, as a coeducational and non-denominational institution. Stanford University struggled financially after the death of Leland Stanford in 1893 and again after much of the campus was damaged by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Following World War II, provost Frederick Terman supported faculty and graduates’ entrepreneurialism to build self-sufficient local industry in what would later be known as Silicon Valley.

    The university is organized around seven schools: three schools consisting of 40 academic departments at the undergraduate level as well as four professional schools that focus on graduate programs in law, medicine, education, and business. All schools are on the same campus. Students compete in 36 varsity sports, and the university is one of two private institutions in the Division I FBS Pac-12 Conference. It has gained 126 NCAA team championships, and Stanford has won the NACDA Directors’ Cup for 24 consecutive years, beginning in 1994–1995. In addition, Stanford students and alumni have won 270 Olympic medals including 139 gold medals.

    As of October 2020, 84 Nobel laureates, 28 Turing Award laureates, and eight Fields Medalists have been affiliated with Stanford as students, alumni, faculty, or staff. In addition, Stanford is particularly noted for its entrepreneurship and is one of the most successful universities in attracting funding for start-ups. Stanford alumni have founded numerous companies, which combined produce more than $2.7 trillion in annual revenue, roughly equivalent to the 7th largest economy in the world (as of 2020). Stanford is the alma mater of one president of the United States (Herbert Hoover), 74 living billionaires, and 17 astronauts. It is also one of the leading producers of Fulbright Scholars, Marshall Scholars, Rhodes Scholars, and members of the United States Congress.

    Stanford University was founded in 1885 by Leland and Jane Stanford, dedicated to Leland Stanford Jr, their only child. The institution opened in 1891 on Stanford’s previous Palo Alto farm.

    Jane and Leland Stanford modeled their university after the great eastern universities, most specifically Cornell University. Stanford opened being called the “Cornell of the West” in 1891 due to faculty being former Cornell affiliates (either professors, alumni, or both) including its first president, David Starr Jordan, and second president, John Casper Branner. Both Cornell and Stanford were among the first to have higher education be accessible, nonsectarian, and open to women as well as to men. Cornell is credited as one of the first American universities to adopt this radical departure from traditional education, and Stanford became an early adopter as well.

    Despite being impacted by earthquakes in both 1906 and 1989, the campus was rebuilt each time. In 1919, The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace was started by Herbert Hoover to preserve artifacts related to World War I. The Stanford Medical Center, completed in 1959, is a teaching hospital with over 800 beds. The DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory(US)(originally named the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center), established in 1962, performs research in particle physics.


    Most of Stanford is on an 8,180-acre (12.8 sq mi; 33.1 km^2) campus, one of the largest in the United States. It is located on the San Francisco Peninsula, in the northwest part of the Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley) approximately 37 miles (60 km) southeast of San Francisco and approximately 20 miles (30 km) northwest of San Jose. In 2008, 60% of this land remained undeveloped.

    Stanford’s main campus includes a census-designated place within unincorporated Santa Clara County, although some of the university land (such as the Stanford Shopping Center and the Stanford Research Park) is within the city limits of Palo Alto. The campus also includes much land in unincorporated San Mateo County (including the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve), as well as in the city limits of Menlo Park (Stanford Hills neighborhood), Woodside, and Portola Valley.

    Non-central campus

    Stanford currently operates in various locations outside of its central campus.

    On the founding grant:

    Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve is a 1,200-acre (490 ha) natural reserve south of the central campus owned by the university and used by wildlife biologists for research.
    SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory is a facility west of the central campus operated by the university for the Department of Energy. It contains the longest linear particle accelerator in the world, 2 miles (3.2 km) on 426 acres (172 ha) of land.
    Golf course and a seasonal lake: The university also has its own golf course and a seasonal lake (Lake Lagunita, actually an irrigation reservoir), both home to the vulnerable California tiger salamander. As of 2012 Lake Lagunita was often dry and the university had no plans to artificially fill it.

    Off the founding grant:

    Hopkins Marine Station, in Pacific Grove, California, is a marine biology research center owned by the university since 1892.
    Study abroad locations: unlike typical study abroad programs, Stanford itself operates in several locations around the world; thus, each location has Stanford faculty-in-residence and staff in addition to students, creating a “mini-Stanford”.

    Redwood City campus for many of the university’s administrative offices located in Redwood City, California, a few miles north of the main campus. In 2005, the university purchased a small, 35-acre (14 ha) campus in Midpoint Technology Park intended for staff offices; development was delayed by The Great Recession. In 2015 the university announced a development plan and the Redwood City campus opened in March 2019.

    The Bass Center in Washington, DC provides a base, including housing, for the Stanford in Washington program for undergraduates. It includes a small art gallery open to the public.

    China: Stanford Center at Peking University, housed in the Lee Jung Sen Building, is a small center for researchers and students in collaboration with Beijing University [北京大学](CN) (Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University(CN) (KIAA-PKU).

    Administration and organization

    Stanford is a private, non-profit university that is administered as a corporate trust governed by a privately appointed board of trustees with a maximum membership of 38. Trustees serve five-year terms (not more than two consecutive terms) and meet five times annually.[83] A new trustee is chosen by the current trustees by ballot. The Stanford trustees also oversee the Stanford Research Park, the Stanford Shopping Center, the Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Stanford University Medical Center, and many associated medical facilities (including the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital).

    The board appoints a president to serve as the chief executive officer of the university, to prescribe the duties of professors and course of study, to manage financial and business affairs, and to appoint nine vice presidents. The provost is the chief academic and budget officer, to whom the deans of each of the seven schools report. Persis Drell became the 13th provost in February 2017.

    As of 2018, the university was organized into seven academic schools. The schools of Humanities and Sciences (27 departments), Engineering (nine departments), and Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (four departments) have both graduate and undergraduate programs while the Schools of Law, Medicine, Education and Business have graduate programs only. The powers and authority of the faculty are vested in the Academic Council, which is made up of tenure and non-tenure line faculty, research faculty, senior fellows in some policy centers and institutes, the president of the university, and some other academic administrators, but most matters are handled by the Faculty Senate, made up of 55 elected representatives of the faculty.

    The Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) is the student government for Stanford and all registered students are members. Its elected leadership consists of the Undergraduate Senate elected by the undergraduate students, the Graduate Student Council elected by the graduate students, and the President and Vice President elected as a ticket by the entire student body.

    Stanford is the beneficiary of a special clause in the California Constitution, which explicitly exempts Stanford property from taxation so long as the property is used for educational purposes.

    Endowment and donations

    The university’s endowment, managed by the Stanford Management Company, was valued at $27.7 billion as of August 31, 2019. Payouts from the Stanford endowment covered approximately 21.8% of university expenses in the 2019 fiscal year. In the 2018 NACUBO-TIAA survey of colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, only Harvard University(US), the University of Texas System(US), and Yale University(US) had larger endowments than Stanford.

    In 2006, President John L. Hennessy launched a five-year campaign called the Stanford Challenge, which reached its $4.3 billion fundraising goal in 2009, two years ahead of time, but continued fundraising for the duration of the campaign. It concluded on December 31, 2011, having raised a total of $6.23 billion and breaking the previous campaign fundraising record of $3.88 billion held by Yale. Specifically, the campaign raised $253.7 million for undergraduate financial aid, as well as $2.33 billion for its initiative in “Seeking Solutions” to global problems, $1.61 billion for “Educating Leaders” by improving K-12 education, and $2.11 billion for “Foundation of Excellence” aimed at providing academic support for Stanford students and faculty. Funds supported 366 new fellowships for graduate students, 139 new endowed chairs for faculty, and 38 new or renovated buildings. The new funding also enabled the construction of a facility for stem cell research; a new campus for the business school; an expansion of the law school; a new Engineering Quad; a new art and art history building; an on-campus concert hall; a new art museum; and a planned expansion of the medical school, among other things. In 2012, the university raised $1.035 billion, becoming the first school to raise more than a billion dollars in a year.

    Research centers and institutes

    DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory(US)
    Stanford Research Institute, a center of innovation to support economic development in the region.
    Hoover Institution, a conservative American public policy institution and research institution that promotes personal and economic liberty, free enterprise, and limited government.
    Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, a multidisciplinary design school in cooperation with the Hasso Plattner Institute of University of Potsdam [Universität Potsdam](DE) that integrates product design, engineering, and business management education).
    Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute, which grew out of and still contains the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project.
    John S. Knight Fellowship for Professional Journalists
    Center for Ocean Solutions
    Together with UC Berkeley(US) and UC San Francisco(US), Stanford is part of the Biohub, a new medical science research center founded in 2016 by a $600 million commitment from Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg and pediatrician Priscilla Chan.

    Discoveries and innovation

    Natural sciences

    Biological synthesis of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) – Arthur Kornberg synthesized DNA material and won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1959 for his work at Stanford.
    First Transgenic organism – Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer were the first scientists to transplant genes from one living organism to another, a fundamental discovery for genetic engineering. Thousands of products have been developed on the basis of their work, including human growth hormone and hepatitis B vaccine.
    Laser – Arthur Leonard Schawlow shared the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics with Nicolaas Bloembergen and Kai Siegbahn for his work on lasers.
    Nuclear magnetic resonance – Felix Bloch developed new methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements, which are the underlying principles of the MRI.

    Computer and applied sciences

    ARPANETStanford Research Institute, formerly part of Stanford but on a separate campus, was the site of one of the four original ARPANET nodes.

    Internet—Stanford was the site where the original design of the Internet was undertaken. Vint Cerf led a research group to elaborate the design of the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP/IP) that he originally co-created with Robert E. Kahn (Bob Kahn) in 1973 and which formed the basis for the architecture of the Internet.

    Frequency modulation synthesis – John Chowning of the Music department invented the FM music synthesis algorithm in 1967, and Stanford later licensed it to Yamaha Corporation.

    Google – Google began in January 1996 as a research project by Larry Page and Sergey Brin when they were both PhD students at Stanford. They were working on the Stanford Digital Library Project (SDLP). The SDLP’s goal was “to develop the enabling technologies for a single, integrated and universal digital library” and it was funded through the National Science Foundation, among other federal agencies.

    Klystron tube – invented by the brothers Russell and Sigurd Varian at Stanford. Their prototype was completed and demonstrated successfully on August 30, 1937. Upon publication in 1939, news of the klystron immediately influenced the work of U.S. and UK researchers working on radar equipment.

    RISCARPA funded VLSI project of microprocessor design. Stanford and UC Berkeley are most associated with the popularization of this concept. The Stanford MIPS would go on to be commercialized as the successful MIPS architecture, while Berkeley RISC gave its name to the entire concept, commercialized as the SPARC. Another success from this era were IBM’s efforts that eventually led to the IBM POWER instruction set architecture, PowerPC, and Power ISA. As these projects matured, a wide variety of similar designs flourished in the late 1980s and especially the early 1990s, representing a major force in the Unix workstation market as well as embedded processors in laser printers, routers and similar products.
    SUN workstation – Andy Bechtolsheim designed the SUN workstation for the Stanford University Network communications project as a personal CAD workstation, which led to Sun Microsystems.

    Businesses and entrepreneurship

    Stanford is one of the most successful universities in creating companies and licensing its inventions to existing companies; it is often held up as a model for technology transfer. Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing is responsible for commercializing university research, intellectual property, and university-developed projects.

    The university is described as having a strong venture culture in which students are encouraged, and often funded, to launch their own companies.

    Companies founded by Stanford alumni generate more than $2.7 trillion in annual revenue, equivalent to the 10th-largest economy in the world.

    Some companies closely associated with Stanford and their connections include:

    Hewlett-Packard, 1939, co-founders William R. Hewlett (B.S, PhD) and David Packard (M.S).
    Silicon Graphics, 1981, co-founders James H. Clark (Associate Professor) and several of his grad students.
    Sun Microsystems, 1982, co-founders Vinod Khosla (M.B.A), Andy Bechtolsheim (PhD) and Scott McNealy (M.B.A).
    Cisco, 1984, founders Leonard Bosack (M.S) and Sandy Lerner (M.S) who were in charge of Stanford Computer Science and Graduate School of Business computer operations groups respectively when the hardware was developed.[163]
    Yahoo!, 1994, co-founders Jerry Yang (B.S, M.S) and David Filo (M.S).
    Google, 1998, co-founders Larry Page (M.S) and Sergey Brin (M.S).
    LinkedIn, 2002, co-founders Reid Hoffman (B.S), Konstantin Guericke (B.S, M.S), Eric Lee (B.S), and Alan Liu (B.S).
    Instagram, 2010, co-founders Kevin Systrom (B.S) and Mike Krieger (B.S).
    Snapchat, 2011, co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy (B.S).
    Coursera, 2012, co-founders Andrew Ng (Associate Professor) and Daphne Koller (Professor, PhD).

    Student body

    Stanford enrolled 6,996 undergraduate and 10,253 graduate students as of the 2019–2020 school year. Women comprised 50.4% of undergraduates and 41.5% of graduate students. In the same academic year, the freshman retention rate was 99%.

    Stanford awarded 1,819 undergraduate degrees, 2,393 master’s degrees, 770 doctoral degrees, and 3270 professional degrees in the 2018–2019 school year. The four-year graduation rate for the class of 2017 cohort was 72.9%, and the six-year rate was 94.4%. The relatively low four-year graduation rate is a function of the university’s coterminal degree (or “coterm”) program, which allows students to earn a master’s degree as a 1-to-2-year extension of their undergraduate program.

    As of 2010, fifteen percent of undergraduates were first-generation students.


    As of 2016 Stanford had 16 male varsity sports and 20 female varsity sports, 19 club sports and about 27 intramural sports. In 1930, following a unanimous vote by the Executive Committee for the Associated Students, the athletic department adopted the mascot “Indian.” The Indian symbol and name were dropped by President Richard Lyman in 1972, after objections from Native American students and a vote by the student senate. The sports teams are now officially referred to as the “Stanford Cardinal,” referring to the deep red color, not the cardinal bird. Stanford is a member of the Pac-12 Conference in most sports, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in several other sports, and the America East Conference in field hockey with the participation in the inter-collegiate NCAA’s Division I FBS.

    Its traditional sports rival is the University of California, Berkeley, the neighbor to the north in the East Bay. The winner of the annual “Big Game” between the Cal and Cardinal football teams gains custody of the Stanford Axe.

    Stanford has had at least one NCAA team champion every year since the 1976–77 school year and has earned 126 NCAA national team titles since its establishment, the most among universities, and Stanford has won 522 individual national championships, the most by any university. Stanford has won the award for the top-ranked Division 1 athletic program—the NACDA Directors’ Cup, formerly known as the Sears Cup—annually for the past twenty-four straight years. Stanford athletes have won medals in every Olympic Games since 1912, winning 270 Olympic medals total, 139 of them gold. In the 2008 Summer Olympics, and 2016 Summer Olympics, Stanford won more Olympic medals than any other university in the United States. Stanford athletes won 16 medals at the 2012 Summer Olympics (12 gold, two silver and two bronze), and 27 medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics.


    The unofficial motto of Stanford, selected by President Jordan, is Die Luft der Freiheit weht. Translated from the German language, this quotation from Ulrich von Hutten means, “The wind of freedom blows.” The motto was controversial during World War I, when anything in German was suspect; at that time the university disavowed that this motto was official.
    Hail, Stanford, Hail! is the Stanford Hymn sometimes sung at ceremonies or adapted by the various University singing groups. It was written in 1892 by mechanical engineering professor Albert W. Smith and his wife, Mary Roberts Smith (in 1896 she earned the first Stanford doctorate in Economics and later became associate professor of Sociology), but was not officially adopted until after a performance on campus in March 1902 by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
    “Uncommon Man/Uncommon Woman”: Stanford does not award honorary degrees, but in 1953 the degree of “Uncommon Man/Uncommon Woman” was created to recognize individuals who give rare and extraordinary service to the University. Technically, this degree is awarded by the Stanford Associates, a voluntary group that is part of the university’s alumni association. As Stanford’s highest honor, it is not conferred at prescribed intervals, but only when appropriate to recognize extraordinary service. Recipients include Herbert Hoover, Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard, Lucile Packard, and John Gardner.
    Big Game events: The events in the week leading up to the Big Game vs. UC Berkeley, including Gaieties (a musical written, composed, produced, and performed by the students of Ram’s Head Theatrical Society).
    “Viennese Ball”: a formal ball with waltzes that was initially started in the 1970s by students returning from the now-closed Stanford in Vienna overseas program. It is now open to all students.
    “Full Moon on the Quad”: An annual event at Main Quad, where students gather to kiss one another starting at midnight. Typically organized by the Junior class cabinet, the festivities include live entertainment, such as music and dance performances.
    “Band Run”: An annual festivity at the beginning of the school year, where the band picks up freshmen from dorms across campus while stopping to perform at each location, culminating in a finale performance at Main Quad.
    “Mausoleum Party”: An annual Halloween Party at the Stanford Mausoleum, the final resting place of Leland Stanford Jr. and his parents. A 20-year tradition, the “Mausoleum Party” was on hiatus from 2002 to 2005 due to a lack of funding, but was revived in 2006. In 2008, it was hosted in Old Union rather than at the actual Mausoleum, because rain prohibited generators from being rented. In 2009, after fundraising efforts by the Junior Class Presidents and the ASSU Executive, the event was able to return to the Mausoleum despite facing budget cuts earlier in the year.
    Former campus traditions include the “Big Game bonfire” on Lake Lagunita (a seasonal lake usually dry in the fall), which was formally ended in 1997 because of the presence of endangered salamanders in the lake bed.

    Award laureates and scholars

    Stanford’s current community of scholars includes:

    19 Nobel Prize laureates (as of October 2020, 85 affiliates in total)
    171 members of the National Academy of Sciences
    109 members of National Academy of Engineering
    76 members of National Academy of Medicine
    288 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    19 recipients of the National Medal of Science
    1 recipient of the National Medal of Technology
    4 recipients of the National Humanities Medal
    49 members of American Philosophical Society
    56 fellows of the American Physics Society (since 1995)
    4 Pulitzer Prize winners
    31 MacArthur Fellows
    4 Wolf Foundation Prize winners
    2 ACL Lifetime Achievement Award winners
    14 AAAI fellows
    2 Presidential Medal of Freedom winners

    Stanford University Seal

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