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  • richardmitnick 3:44 pm on October 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Using 'Charon-light' Researchers Capture Pluto's Dark Side", , , , , , , SwRI-Southwest Research Institute,   

    From Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab : “Using ‘Charon-light’ Researchers Capture Pluto’s Dark Side” 

    The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

    From Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

    October 27, 2021

    NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft made history by returning the first close-up images of Pluto and its moons.

    National Aeronautics Space Agency(USA) New Horizons(US) spacecraft

    Engineered by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) and The Southwest Research Institute (US) for The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (US).

    Now, through a series of clever methods, researchers led by Tod Lauer of the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab in Tucson, Arizona, on the New Horizons team have expanded that photo album to include the portion of Pluto’s landscape that wasn’t directly illuminated by sunlight — what the team calls Pluto’s “dark side.”

    National Science Foundation(US) NOIRLab NOAO Kitt Peak National Observatory on the Quinlan Mountains in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert on the Tohono O’odham Nation, 88 kilometers (55 mi) west-southwest of Tucson, Arizona, Altitude 2,096 m (6,877 ft).

    After flying within 7,800 miles (12,550 kilometers) of Pluto’s icy surface on July 14, 2015, New Horizons continued at a rapid 9 miles per second (14.5 kilometers per second) on to the Kuiper Belt Object Arrokoth and beyond. But while departing Pluto, the spacecraft looked back at the dwarf planet and captured a series of images of its dark side.

    Backlit by the distant Sun, Pluto’s hazy atmosphere stood out as a brilliant ring of light encircling the Pluto’s dark side.

    The image shows the dark side of Pluto surrounded by a bright ring of sunlight scattered by haze in its atmosphere. But for a dark crescent zone to the left, the terrain is faintly illuminated by sunlight reflected by Pluto’s moon Charon. Researchers on the New Horizons team were able to generate this image using 360 images that New Horizons captured as it looked back on Pluto’s southern hemisphere. A large portion of the southern hemisphere was in seasonal darkness similar to winters in the Arctic and Antarctica on Earth, and was otherwise not visible to New Horizons during its 2015 flyby encounter of Pluto. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/ The Southwest Research Institute (US)/NOIRLab

    From its vantage point when this experiment was conducted, New Horizons was mainly able to see Pluto’s southern hemisphere, a large portion of which was transitioning to its winter seasonal darkness — something much like the dark, months-long Arctic and Antarctic winters on Earth, except on Pluto each season lasts 62 Earth years.

    Fortunately, a portion of Pluto’s dark southern hemisphere was illuminated by the faint sunlight reflecting off the icy surface of Pluto’s largest moon, Charon, which is about the size of Texas. That bit of “Charon-light” was just enough for researchers to tease out details of Pluto’s southern hemisphere that could not be obtained any other way.

    “In a startling coincidence, the amount of light from Charon on Pluto is close to that of the Moon on Earth, at the same phase for each,” said Tod Lauer, an astronomer at the National Science Foundation’s National Optical Infrared Astronomy Research Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, and the study’s lead author. “At the time, the illumination of Charon on Pluto was similar to that from our own Moon on Earth when in its first-quarter phase.”

    The researchers published the resulting image and the scientific interpretation of it on Oct. 20 in The Planetary Science Journal.

    Recovering details on Pluto’s surface in faint moonlight wasn’t easy. When looking back at Pluto with the New Horizons Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), scattered light from the Sun (which was nearly directly behind Pluto) produced a complex pattern of background light that was 1,000 times stronger than the signal produced by Charon-reflected light, according to New Horizons coinvestigator and Project Scientist Hal Weaver, at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. In addition, the bright ring of atmospheric haze surrounding Pluto was itself heavily over-exposed, producing additional artifacts in the images.

    “The problem was a lot like trying to read a street sign through a dirty windshield when driving towards the setting Sun, without a sun visor,” said John Spencer, New Horizons co-investigator and planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, a study co-author.

    It took the combination of 360 images of Pluto’s dark side, and another 360 images taken with the same geometry but without Pluto in the picture, to produce the final image with the artifacts subtracted out leaving only the signal produced by Charon-reflected light. Alan Stern, the New Horizons principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute, added that “the image processing work that Tod Lauer led was completely state of the art, and it allowed us to learn some fascinating things about a part of Pluto we otherwise would not have known.”

    The resulting map, while still containing digital noise, shows a few prominent features on Pluto’s shadowed surface. The most prominent of these is a dark crescent zone to the west, where neither sunlight nor Charon-light was falling when New Horizons took the images. Also conspicuous is a large, bright region midway between Pluto’s south pole and its equator. The team suspects it may be a deposit of nitrogen or methane ice similar to Pluto’s icy “heart” on its opposite side.

    Pluto’s south pole and the region of the surface around it appears to be covered in a dark material, starkly contrasting with the paler surface of Pluto’s northern hemisphere. The researchers suspect that difference could be a consequence of Pluto having recently completed its southern summer (which ended 15 years before the flyby). During the summer, the team suggests that nitrogen and methane ices in the south may have sublimated from the surface, turning directly from solid to vapor, while dark haze-particles settled over the region. Future Earth-based instruments could eventually verify the team’s image and confirm their other suspicions, but it would require Pluto’s southern hemisphere to be in sunlight — something that won’t happen for nearly 100 years. “The easiest way to confirm our ideas is to send a follow-on mission,” Lauer said.

    See the full article here .


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    Johns Hopkins University campus

    JHUAPL campus

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

    The Applied Physics Lab 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.

    The Applied Physics Lab 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 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 4:50 pm on March 17, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "SwRI researcher theorizes worlds with underground oceans may be more conducive to life than worlds with surface oceans like Earth", Exopanet Science, Interior water ocean worlds are better suited to provide many kinds of environmental stability and are less likely to suffer threats to life., IWOWs are impervious to such threats because their oceans are protected by a roof of ice and rock., IWOWs may also help crack the so-called Fermi Paradox- where are they?, IWOWs- interior water ocean worlds, , SwRI-Southwest Research Institute, The same layer of rock and ice that protects the oceans on IWOWs also conceals life from being detected by virtually all astronomical techniques.   

    From Southwest Research Institute: “SwRI researcher theorizes worlds with underground oceans may be more conducive to life than worlds with surface oceans like Earth” 

    SwRI bloc

    From Southwest Research Institute

    March 16, 2021
    Deb Schmid
    +1 210 522 2254

    March 16, 2021

    One of the most profound discoveries in planetary science over the past 25 years is that worlds with oceans beneath layers of rock and ice are common in our solar system. Such worlds include the icy satellites of the giant planets like Europa; Titan; Enceladus; and distant planets like Pluto.

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

    Titan’s atmosphere makes Saturn’s largest moon look like a fuzzy orange ball in this natural color view from the Cassini spacecraft.
    Titan’s north polar hood is visible at the top of the image, and a faint blue haze also can be detected above the south pole at the bottom of this view. This view looks toward the anti-Saturn side of Titan (3,200 miles, or 5,150 kilometers across). North is up. Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were obtained with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera on Jan. 30, 2012 at a distance of approximately 119,000 miles (191,000 kilometers) from Titan. Image scale is 7 miles (11 kilometers) per pixel. Credit: National Aeronautics Space Agency(USA)

    In a report presented at the 52nd annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC 52) this week, Southwest Research Institute planetary scientist S. Alan Stern writes that the prevalence of interior water ocean worlds (IWOWs) in our solar system suggests they may be prevalent in other star systems as well, vastly expanding the conditions for planetary habitability and biological survival over time.

    It has been known for many years that worlds like Earth, with oceans that lie on their surface, must reside within a narrow range of distances from their stars to maintain the temperatures that preserve those oceans. However, IWOWs are found over a much wider range of distances from their stars. This greatly expands the number of habitable worlds likely to exist across the galaxy.

    Worlds like Earth, with oceans on their exterior, are also subject to many kinds of threats to life, ranging from asteroid and comet impacts, to stellar flares with dangerous radiation, to nearby supernova explosions and more. Stern’s paper points out that IWOWs are impervious to such threats because their oceans are protected by a roof of ice and rock, typically several to many tens of kilometers thick, that overlie their oceans.

    “Interior water ocean worlds are better suited to provide many kinds of environmental stability and are less likely to suffer threats to life from their own atmosphere, their star, their solar system, and the galaxy, than are worlds like Earth, which have their oceans on the outside,” said Stern.

    He also points out that the same layer of rock and ice that protects the oceans on IWOWs also conceals life from being detected by virtually all astronomical techniques. If such worlds are the predominant abodes of life in the galaxy and if intelligent life arises in them — both big “ifs,” Stern emphasizes — then IWOWs may also help crack the so-called Fermi Paradox. Posed by Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi in the early 1960s, the Fermi Paradox questions why we don’t see obvious evidence of life if it’s prevalent across the universe.

    “The same protective layer of ice and rock that creates stable environments for life also sequesters that life from easy detection,” said Stern.

    In 2015, NASA created the Ocean Worlds Exploration Program, which seeks to explore an ocean world to determine habitability and seek life. Moons that harbor oceans under a shell of ice, such as Europa and Titan, are already the targets of NASA missions to study the habitability of these worlds.

    What You Need to Know About Ocean Worlds

    Ocean Worlds: The Search for Life

    See the full article here .


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    Stem Education Coalition

    SwRI Campus

    Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is an independent, nonprofit applied research and development organization. The staff of nearly 2,800 specializes in the creation and transfer of technology in engineering and the physical sciences. SwRI’s technical divisions offer a wide range of technical expertise and services in such areas as engine design and development, emissions certification testing, fuels and lubricants evaluation, chemistry, space science, nondestructive evaluation, automation, mechanical engineering, electronics, and more.

    Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is one of the oldest and largest independent, nonprofit, applied research and development (R&D) organizations in the United States. Founded in 1947 by oil businessman Tom Slick, SwRI provides contract research and development services to government and industrial clients.

    The institute consists of nine technical divisions that offer multidisciplinary, problem-solving services in a variety of areas in engineering and the physical sciences. The Center for Nuclear Waste Regulatory Analyses, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, also operates on the SwRI grounds. More than 4,000 projects are active at the institute at any given time. These projects are funded almost equally between the government and commercial sectors. At the close of fiscal year 2019, the staff numbered approximately 3,000 employees and research volume was almost $674 million. The institute provided more than $8.7 million to fund innovative research through its internally sponsored R&D program.

    A partial listing of research areas includes space science and engineering; automation; robotics and intelligent systems; avionics and support systems; bioengineering; chemistry and chemical engineering; corrosion and electrochemistry; earth and planetary sciences; emissions research; engineering mechanics; fire technology; fluid systems and machinery dynamics; and fuels and lubricants. Additional areas include geochemistry and mining engineering; hydrology and geohydrology; materials sciences and fracture mechanics; modeling and simulation; nondestructive evaluation; oil and gas exploration; pipeline technology; surface modification and coatings; and vehicle, engine, and powertrain design, research and development. In 2019, staff members published 673 papers in the technical literature; made 618 presentations at technical conferences, seminars and symposia around the world; submitted 48 invention disclosures; filed 33 patent applications; and received 41 U.S. patent awards.

    SwRI research scientists have led several National Aeronautics Space Agency(USA) missions, including the New Horizons mission to Pluto; the Juno mission to Jupiter; and the Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission(US) to study the Earth’s magnetosphere.

    SwRI initiates contracts with clients based on consultations and prepares a formal proposal outlining the scope of work. Subject to client wishes, programs are kept confidential. As part of a long-held tradition, patent rights arising from sponsored research are often assigned to the client. SwRI generally retains the rights to institute-funded advancements.

    The institute’s headquarters occupy more than 2.3 million square feet of office and laboratory space on more than 1,200 acres in San Antonio. SwRI has technical offices and laboratories in Boulder, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Warner-Robins, Georgia; Ogden, Utah; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Rockville, Maryland; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Beijing, China; and other locations.

    Technology Today, SwRI’s technical magazine, is published three times each year to spotlight the research and development projects currently underway. A complementary Technology Today podcast offers a new way to listen and learn about the technology, science, engineering, and research impacting lives and changing our world.

  • richardmitnick 4:10 pm on December 16, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Data models point to a potentially diverse metabolic menu at Enceladus", , , , , , , SwRI-Southwest Research Institute   

    From Southwest Research Institute via phys.org: “Data models point to a potentially diverse metabolic menu at Enceladus” 

    SwRI bloc

    From Southwest Research Institute



    December 16, 2020

    This figure illustrates a cross-section of Enceladus, showing a summary of the processes SwRI scientists modeled in the Saturn moon. Oxidants produced in the surface ice when water molecules are broken apart by radiation can combine with reductants produced by hydrothermal activity and other water-rock reactions, creating an energy source for potential life in the ocean. Credit: SwRI.

    Using data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, scientists at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) modeled chemical processes in the subsurface ocean of Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

    NASA/ESA/ASI Cassini-Huygens Spacecraft.

    The studies indicate the possibility that a varied metabolic menu could support a potentially diverse microbial community in the liquid water ocean beneath the moon’s icy facade.

    Prior to its deorbit in September of 2017, Cassini sampled the plume of ice grains and water vapor erupting from cracks on the icy surface of Enceladus, discovering molecular hydrogen, a potential food source for microbes. A new paper published in the planetary science journal Icarus explores other potential energy sources.

    “The detection of molecular hydrogen (H2) in the plume indicated that there is free energy available in the ocean of Enceladus,” said lead author Christine Ray, who works part time at SwRI as she pursues a Ph.D. in physics from The University of Texas at San Antonio. “On Earth, aerobic, or oxygen-breathing, creatures consume energy in organic matter such as glucose and oxygen to create carbon dioxide and water. Anaerobic microbes can metabolize hydrogen to create methane. All life can be distilled to similar chemical reactions associated with a disequilibrium between oxidant and reductant compounds.”

    This disequilibrium creates a potential energy gradient, where redox chemistry transfers electrons between chemical species, most often with one species undergoing oxidation while another species undergoes reduction. These processes are vital to many basic functions of life, including photosynthesis and respiration. For example, hydrogen is a source of chemical energy supporting anaerobic microbes that live in the Earth’s oceans near hydrothermal vents. At Earth’s ocean floor, hydrothermal vents emit hot, energy-rich, mineral-laden fluids that allow unique ecosystems teeming with unusual creatures to thrive. Previous research found growing evidence of hydrothermal vents and chemical disequilibrium on Enceladus, which hints at habitable conditions in its subsurface ocean.

    “We wondered if other types of metabolic pathways could also provide sources of energy in Enceladus’ ocean,” Ray said. “Because that would require a different set of oxidants that we have not yet detected in the plume of Enceladus, we performed chemical modeling to determine if the conditions in the ocean and the rocky core could support these chemical processes.”

    For example, the authors looked at how ionizing radiation from space could create the oxidants O2 and H2O2, and how abiotic geochemistry in the ocean and rocky core could contribute to chemical disequilibria that might support metabolic processes. The team considered whether these oxidants could accumulate over time if reductants are not present in appreciable amounts. They also considered how aqueous reductants or seafloor minerals could convert these oxidants into sulfates and iron oxides.

    “We compared our free energy estimates to ecosystems on Earth and determined that, overall, our values for both aerobic and anaerobic metabolisms meet or exceed minimum requirements,” Ray said. “These results indicate that oxidant production and oxidation chemistry could contribute to supporting possible life and a metabolically diverse microbial community on Enceladus.”

    “Now that we’ve identified potential food sources for microbes, the next question to ask is ‘what is the nature of the complex organics that are coming out of the ocean?'” said SwRI Program Director Dr. Hunter Waite, a coauthor of the new paper, referencing an online Nature paper authored by Postberg et al. in 2018. “This new paper is another step in understanding how a small moon can sustain life in ways that completely exceed our expectations!”

    The paper’s findings also have great significance for the next generation of exploration.

    “A future spacecraft could fly through the plume of Enceladus to test this paper’s predictions on the abundances of oxidized compounds in the ocean,” said SwRI Senior Research Scientist Dr. Christopher Glein, another coauthor. “We must be cautious, but I find it exhilarating to ponder whether there might be strange forms of life that take advantage of these sources of energy that appear to be fundamental to the workings of Enceladus.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SwRI Campus

    Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is an independent, nonprofit applied research and development organization. The staff of nearly 2,800 specializes in the creation and transfer of technology in engineering and the physical sciences. SwRI’s technical divisions offer a wide range of technical expertise and services in such areas as engine design and development, emissions certification testing, fuels and lubricants evaluation, chemistry, space science, nondestructive evaluation, automation, mechanical engineering, electronics, and more.

  • richardmitnick 9:14 am on November 1, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Juno Data Indicates 'Sprites' or 'Elves' Frolic in Jupiter's Atmosphere", , , , , , , SwRI-Southwest Research Institute   

    From NASA JPL-Caltech and Southwest Research Institute: “Juno Data Indicates ‘Sprites’ or ‘Elves’ Frolic in Jupiter’s Atmosphere” 

    NASA JPL Banner

    From NASA JPL-Caltech


    SwRI bloc

    Southwest Research Institute

    Oct. 27, 2020
    DC Agle
    Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

    Alana Johnson
    NASA Headquarters, Washington
    202-672-4780 / 202-358-0668

    Deb Schmid
    Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio

    This illustration shows what a sprite could look like in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Named after a mischievous, quick-witted character in English folklore, sprites last for only a few milliseconds. They feature a central blob of light with long tendrils of light extending down toward the ground and upward. In Earth’s upper atmosphere, their interaction with nitrogen give sprites a reddish hue. At Jupiter, where the predominance of hydrogen in the upper atmosphere would likely give them a blue hue. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI.

    An instrument on the spacecraft may have detected transient luminous events – bright flashes of light in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere.

    New results from NASA’s Juno mission at Jupiter suggest that either “sprites” or “elves” could be dancing in the upper atmosphere of the solar system’s largest planet. It is the first time these bright, unpredictable and extremely brief flashes of light – formally known as transient luminous events, or TLE’s – have been observed on another world. The findings were published on Oct. 27, 2020, in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets.

    The south pole of Jupiter and a potential transient luminous event – a bright, unpredictable, and extremely brief flash of light – is seen in this annotated image of data acquired on April 10, 2020, from Juno’s UVS instrument.
    The south pole of Jupiter is seen in this annotated image of data from the ultraviolet spectrograph (UVS) instrument aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft. Bands of bright white and blue near the south pole are Jupiter’s southern aurora. But researchers also noticed an unusual bright flash of light well away from the auroral region, highlighted here by the yellow circle at about the 10 o’clock position (between longitudinal lines 270 and 240). Juno scientists believe it could be an indication of a bright, unpredictable, and extremely brief flash of light — known as a transient luminous event — that was triggered by lightning discharges from thunderstorms far below. The data for this UVS image was acquired on April 10, 2020.Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI.

    Scientists predicted these bright, superfast flashes of light should also be present in Jupiter’s immense roiling atmosphere, but their existence remained theoretical. Then, in the summer of 2019, researchers working with data from Juno’s ultraviolet spectrograph instrument (UVS) discovered something unexpected: a bright, narrow streak of ultraviolet emission that disappeared in a flash.

    “UVS was designed to characterize Jupiter’s beautiful northern and southern lights,” said Giles, a Juno scientist and the lead author of the paper. “But we discovered UVS images that not only showed Jovian aurora, but also a bright flash of UV light over in the corner where it wasn’t supposed to be. The more our team looked into it, the more we realized Juno may have detected a TLE on Jupiter.”

    Brief and Brilliant

    Named after a mischievous, quick-witted character in English folklore, sprites are transient luminous events triggered by lightning discharges from thunderstorms far below. On Earth, they occur up to 60 miles (97 kilometers) above intense, towering thunderstorms and brighten a region of the sky tens of miles across, yet last only a few milliseconds (a fraction of the time it takes you to blink an eye).

    Almost resembling a jellyfish, sprites feature a central blob of light (on Earth, it’s 15 to 30 miles, or 24 to 48 kilometers, across), with long tendrils extending both down toward the ground and upward. Elves (short for Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources) appear as a flattened disk glowing in Earth’s upper atmosphere. They, too, brighten the sky for mere milliseconds but can grow larger than sprites – up to 200 miles (320 kilometers) across on Earth.

    Their colors are distinctive as well. “On Earth, sprites and elves appear reddish in color due to their interaction with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere,” said Giles. “But on Jupiter, the upper atmosphere mostly consists of hydrogen, so they would likely appear either blue or pink.”

    Location, Location, Location

    The occurrence of sprites and elves at Jupiter was predicted by several previously published studies. Synching with these predictions, the 11 large-scale bright events Juno’s UVS instrument has detected occurred in a region where lightning thunderstorms are known to form. Juno scientists could also rule out that these were simply mega-bolts of lightning because they were found about 186 miles (300 kilometers) above the altitude where the majority of Jupiter’s lightning forms – its water-cloud layer. And UVS recorded that the spectra of the bright flashes were dominated by hydrogen emissions.

    A rotating, solar-powered spacecraft, Juno, arrived at Jupiter in 2016 after making a five-year journey. Since then, it has made 29 science flybys of the gas giant, each orbit taking 53 days.

    “We’re continuing to look for more telltale signs of elves and sprites every time Juno does a science pass,” said Giles. “Now that we know what we are looking for, it will be easier to find them at Jupiter and on other planets. And comparing sprites and elves from Jupiter with those here on Earth will help us better understand electrical activity in planetary atmospheres.”

    More About the Mission

    JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

    More information about Juno is available at:



    Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:


    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA JPL Campus

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

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  • richardmitnick 9:56 am on July 22, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "10 cool things we've learned about Pluto", , , , , , , NASA Mariner 2 spacecraft, , SwRI-Southwest Research Institute   

    From JHU HUB: “10 cool things we’ve learned about Pluto” 

    From JHU HUB

    NASA/New Horizons spacecraft

    Jeremy Rehm

    Pluto. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute.

    Five years after the historic New Horizons spacecraft flyby of Pluto, scientists have learned that the planet is far from an inert ball of ice and is one of the most geologically active and exciting places in the solar system.

    Five years ago, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft—designed, built, and operated by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory—made history. After a voyage of nearly 10 years and more than 3 billion miles, the intrepid piano-sized probe flew within 7,800 miles of Pluto. For the first time ever, we saw the surface of this distant world in spectacular, colored detail.

    The encounter, which also included a detailed look at the largest of Pluto’s five moons, Charon, capped the initial reconnaissance of the planets started by NASA’s Mariner 2 mission more than ​50 years before.

    NASA Mariner 2 spacecraft

    It revealed an icy world replete with magnificent landscapes and geology—towering mountains, giant ice sheets, pits, scarps, valleys, and terrains seen nowhere else in the solar system.

    And that was only the beginning.

    “New Horizons transformed Pluto from a fuzzy, telescopic dot into a living world with stunning diversity and surprising complexity,” said Hal Weaver, New Horizons project scientist at APL. “The Pluto encounter was exploration at its finest, a real tribute to the vision and persistence of the New Horizons team.”

    10 Cool Things About Pluto

    In the five years since that groundbreaking flyby, nearly every conjecture about Pluto possibly being an inert ball of ice has been thrown out the window or flipped on its head.

    “It’s clear to me that the solar system saved the best for last!” said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute, Boulder, Colorado. “We could not have explored a more fascinating or scientifically important planet at the edge of our solar system. The New Horizons team worked for 15 years to plan and execute this flyby and Pluto paid us back in spades.”

    Scientists now know that, despite it being literally out in the cold, Pluto is an exciting, active, and scientifically valuable world. Incredibly, it even holds some of the keys to better understanding the other small planets in the far reaches of our solar system.

    Here are 10 of the coolest, weirdest, and most unexpected findings about the Pluto system that scientists have learned since 2015, thanks to data from New Horizons.

    1. Pluto has a “heart” that drives activity on the planet.

    One of the signature features New Horizons observed on approach and imaged in high resolution during the flyby was the planet’s heart—a vast, million-square-mile nitrogen glacier. The heart’s left ventricle, called Sputnik Planitia, literally forced the dwarf planet to reorient itself so the basin now faces almost squarely opposite Pluto’s moon Charon.

    High-resolution view of Pluto’s Sputnik Planitia. The bright expanse is the western lobe of Pluto’s famous “heart,” which is rich in nitrogen, carbon monoxide, and methane ices. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute.

    “It’s a process called true polar wander—it’s when a planetary body changes its spin axis, usually in response to large geologic processes,” said James Tuttle Keane, a planetary scientist and New Horizons team member at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

    Sputnik Planitia’s current position is no accident. It’s a cold trap, where nitrogen ices have accumulated to make an ice sheet that’s at least 2.5 miles (or 4 kilometers) thick. The constant imbalance of that hefty mass, combined with the tidal yanks and pulls of Charon as it orbited Pluto, literally tipped the dwarf planet so the basin aligned more closely with the tidal axis between Pluto and Charon.

    “That event was also likely responsible for cracking Pluto’s surface and creating the many gigantic faults in its crust that zigzag over large portions of Pluto,” Keane said.

    The basin is thought to have formed to the northwest of its present location, and closer to Pluto’s north pole. And should ices continue to accumulate on the basin, Pluto will continue to reorient itself.

    But there’s more to that story….

    2. There’s probably a vast liquid water ocean sloshing beneath Pluto’s surface.

    Gathered ices may not be the only thing that helped reorient Sputnik Planitia. New Horizons data from the basin indicated there may be a heavier mass beneath it that played a part, and scientists suspect that the heavier mass is a water ocean.

    “That was an astonishing discovery,” Keane said. “It would make Pluto an elusive ‘ocean world,’ in the same vein as Europa, Enceladus, and Titan.” Several other lines of evidence, including tectonic structures seen in New Horizons imagery, also point to an ocean beneath Pluto’s crust.

    Sputnik Planitia was likely created some 4 billion years ago by the impact of a Kuiper Belt object 30 to 60 miles (50 to 100 kilometers) across that carved out a massive chunk of Pluto’s icy crust and left only a thin, weak layer at the basin’s floor. A subsurface ocean likely intruded the basin from below by pushing up against the weakened crust, and later the thick layer of nitrogen ice seen there now was laid on top.

    Recent models based on images of the planet suggest that this liquid ocean may have arisen from a rapid, violent formation of Pluto.

    3. Pluto may still be tectonically active because that ocean is still liquid.

    Enormous faults stretch for hundreds of miles and cut roughly 2.5 miles into the icy crust covering Pluto’s surface. One of the only ways scientists reason Pluto got those fissures, though, is by the gradual freezing of an ocean beneath its surface.

    Water expands as it freezes, and under an icy crust, that expansion will push and crack the surface, just like an ice cube in your freezer. But if the temperature is low enough and the pressure high enough, water crystals can start to form a more compact crystal configuration and the ice will once again contract.

    Illustration of Sputnik Planitia at Pluto. Image credit: James Tuttle Keane.

    Models using New Horizons data showed Pluto has the conditions for that type of contraction, but it doesn’t have any known geologic features that indicate that contraction has occurred. To scientists, that means the subsurface ocean is still in the process of freezing and potentially creating new faults on the surface today.

    “If Pluto is an active ocean world, that suggests that the Kuiper Belt may be filled with other ocean worlds among its dwarf planets, dramatically expanding the number of potentially habitable places in our solar system,” Keane said.

    But while Pluto’s liquid ocean likely still exists today, scientists suspect it’s isolated in most places (though not beneath Sputnik) by almost 200 miles (320 kilometers) of ice. That means it probably doesn’t contact the surface today; but in the past, it may have oozed through volcanic activity called cryovolcanism.

    4. Pluto was—and still may be—volcanically active.

    But maybe not “volcanic” in the way you might think.

    On Earth, molten lava spits, drools, bubbles, and erupts from underwater fissures through volcanoes sitting miles high in and protruding from the oceans, like on Hawaii. But on Pluto, there are numerous indications that a kind of cold, slushy cryolava has poured over the surface at various points.

    Scientists call that “cryovolcanism.”

    Wright Mons and Piccard Mons, two large mountains to the south of Sputnik Planitia, both bear deep central pits that scientists believe are likely the mouths of cryovolcanoes unlike any others found in the solar system.

    Close-up view of Wright Mons, one of two potential cryovolcanoes spotted on the surface of Pluto by the passing New Horizons spacecraft in July 2015. Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Southwest Research Institute.

    To the west of Sputnik sits Viking Terra, with its long fractures and grabens that show evidence of once-flowing cryolavas all over the surface there too.

    And farther west of Sputnik Planitia is the Virgil Fossae region, where ammonia-rich cryolavas seem to have burst to the surface and coated an area of several thousand square kilometers in red-colored organic molecules no more than 1 billion years ago, if not even more recently.

    And speaking of recently…

    5. Glaciers cut across Pluto’s surface even today, and they’ve done so for billions of years.

    Pluto joins the ranks of Earth, Mars, and a handful of moons that have actively flowing glaciers.

    East of Sputnik Planitia are dozens of mostly nitrogen-ice glaciers that course down from pitted highlands into the basin, carving out valleys as they go. Scientists suspect seasonal and “mega-seasonal” cycles of nitrogen ices that sublimate from ice to vapor waft around the dwarf planet and then freeze back on the surface are the source of the glacier ice.

    But these glaciers are not like our own water-ice glaciers here on Earth. For one, any melt within them won’t fall toward the bottom of the glacier, it will rise to the top because liquid nitrogen is less dense than solid nitrogen. As that liquid nitrogen emerges on top of the glacier, it potentially even erupts as jets or geysers.

    Additionally, there is the fact that some of Pluto’s surface is composed of water ice, which is slightly less dense than nitrogen ice. As Pluto’s glaciers carve the surface, some of those water-ice “rocks” will rise up through the glacier and float like icebergs. Such icebergs are seen in several New Horizons images of Sputnik Planitia, the largest of Pluto’s known glaciers, which stretches more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) across—about the size of Oklahoma and Texas combined.

    6. Pluto has heat convection cells on its giant glacier Sputnik.

    Zoom in close to the surface of Sputnik Planitia [above] and you’ll see something unlike anywhere else in the solar system: a network of strange polygonal shapes in the ice, each at least 6 miles (10 kilometers) across, churning on the surface of the glacier.

    Although they resemble cells under a microscope, they’re actually evidence of Pluto’s internal heat trying to escape from underneath the glacier, forming bubbles of upwelling and downwelling nitrogen ice, something like a lava lamp.

    Warm ice rises up into the center of the cells while cold ice sinks along their margins. There’s nothing like it in any of Earth’s glaciers, or anywhere else in the solar system that we’ve explored.

    7. Pluto’s heart literally beats, controlling its atmosphere and climate.

    Cold and far-flung as Pluto may be, its icy “heart” still beats a daily, rhythmic drum that drives Pluto’s atmosphere and climate much in the way Greenland and Antarctica help control Earth’s climate.

    Nitrogen ices in Pluto’s heart-shaped Tombaugh Regio​ go through a cycle every day, subliming from ice to vapor in the daytime sunlight and condensing back on the surface during the frigid night. Each round acts like a heartbeat, driving nitrogen winds that circulate around the planet at up to 20 miles per hour.

    “Pluto’s heart actually controls its atmosphere circulation,” punned Tanguy Bertrand, a planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

    Sophisticated weather forecast models Bertrand has created using New Horizons data show that as these ices sublime in the northern reaches of Pluto’s icy heart and freeze out in the southern part, they drive brisk winds in a westward direction—curiously opposite Pluto’s eastward spin.

    Those westward winds, bumping up against the rugged topography at the fringes of Pluto’s heart, explain why there are wind streaks on the western edge of Sputnik Planitia, a remarkable finding considering Pluto’s atmosphere is only 1/100,000th that of Earth’s, Bertrand said. They also explain some other surprising desert-like features.

    Speaking of which…

    8. Pluto has dunes.

    It’s not the Sahara or the Gobi Desert, but hundreds of dunes stretch over at least 45 miles (75 kilometers) of the western edge of Sputnik Planitia, and scientists suspect they formed recently.

    Dunes require small particles and sustained, driving winds that can lift and blow the specks of sand or whatever else along. And despite its weak gravity, thin atmosphere, extreme cold, and entire surface composition of ices, Pluto apparently had (or still may have) everything needed to make dunes.

    Water-ice mountains on the northwest fringes of the Sputnik glacier may provide the particles, and Pluto’s beating nitrogen “heart” provides winds. Instead of quartz, basalt, and gypsum sands blown by sometimes gale-force winds on Earth, scientists suspect the dunes on Pluto are sand-sized grains of methane ice carried by winds that blow at no more than 20 miles per hour, although given the size of the dunes, the winds may have been stronger and atmosphere much thicker in the past.

    9. Pluto and Charon have almost no little craters, and that’s a big deal.

    Finding craters on the surface of planets is kind of the norm in space. But if there’s one abnormal thing about the Pluto system, it’s that neither Pluto nor Charon has many small craters—they’re almost all big.

    “That surprised us because there were fewer small craters than we expected, which means there are also fewer small Kuiper Belt objects than we expected,” said Kelsi Singer, a New Horizons deputy project scientist and coinvestigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

    Kuiper Belt. Minor Planet Center

    Analyses of crater images from New Horizons indicate that few objects less than about a mile in diameter bombarded either world. Because scientists have no reason to believe tectonic activity would have preferentially wiped the surface clean of these small craters, it could mean the Kuiper Belt is mostly devoid of very small objects.

    “These results give us clues about how the solar system formed because they tell us about the population of building blocks of larger objects, like Pluto and even perhaps Earth,” Singer said, adding: “Every time we go somewhere new in the solar system, we find surprises that challenge current theories. The New Horizons flyby did just that, and in many ways.”

    10. Charon had a volcanic past, and it could be key to understanding other icy worlds.

    New Horizons also captured stunning images of Pluto’s moon Charon, and they revealed some surprising geology there, too.

    On the side of Charon that New Horizons imaged in high resolution, Charon has two distinct terrain types: an immense, southward-stretching plain officially called Vulcan Planitia that’s at least the size of California, and a rugged terrain colloquially called Oz Terra that stretches northward to Charon’s north pole. Both seem to have formed from the freezing and expansion of (you guessed it!) an ancient ocean beneath Charon’s crust.

    Moderate expansion in the north created the rugged, mountainous terrain of Oz Terra seen today, whereas the expansion in the south forced its way through vents, cracks, and other openings as cryolava, spilling across the surface. In fact, Vulcan Planitia is thought to be a giant cryoflow that covered the entire region early in Charon’s history.

    Similar features exist on some icy satellites all around the solar system, including Neptune’s giant moon Triton, Saturn’s moons Tethys, Dione, and Enceladus, and Uranus’ moons Miranda and Ariel. And thanks to the detailed images of Charon from New Horizons, the models of Charon’s past maybe a Rosetta Stone to aid in understanding the volcanic and geologic activity of those other icy worlds, too.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    About the Hub
    We’ve been doing some thinking — quite a bit, actually — about all the things that go on at Johns Hopkins. Discovering the glue that holds the universe together, for example. Or unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease. Or studying butterflies in flight to fine-tune the construction of aerial surveillance robots. Heady stuff, and a lot of it.

    In fact, Johns Hopkins does so much, in so many places, that it’s hard to wrap your brain around it all. It’s too big, too disparate, too far-flung.

    We created the Hub to be the news center for all this diverse, decentralized activity, a place where you can see what’s new, what’s important, what Johns Hopkins is up to that’s worth sharing. It’s where smart people (like you) can learn about all the smart stuff going on here.

    At the Hub, you might read about cutting-edge cancer research or deep-trench diving vehicles or bionic arms. About the psychology of hoarders or the delicate work of restoring ancient manuscripts or the mad motor-skills brilliance of a guy who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in under eight seconds.

    There’s no telling what you’ll find here because there’s no way of knowing what Johns Hopkins will do next. But when it happens, this is where you’ll find it.

    The 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.

  • richardmitnick 12:24 pm on August 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , livescience.com, , SwRI-Southwest Research Institute   

    From Southwest Research Institute via livescience.com: “Astrophysicists Just Saw an Amazing Structure in the Sun’s Outer Atmosphere” 

    SwRI bloc

    From Southwest Research Institute




    New research reveals fine details of the structures inside the sun’s corona. Credit: Craig DeForest/SwRI

    July 31, 2018
    Jeanna Bryner

    The sun is a giant, churning ball of gases, with an atmosphere that flings streamers and blobs of particles into space. Now, astrophysicists have found that inside the sun’s atmosphere, what may seem like cosmic clutter hides some beautiful order.

    Particularly, they found and imaged finely detailed streamers, blobs and puffs that pop up in the outer corona, a layer of the sun’s atmosphere that begins about 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers) from the sun’s surface and extends some 10 million miles (16 million km), according to their study published July 18 in The Astrophysical Journal.

    Scientists knew a bit about the structure, or lack thereof, found inside the corona. “Anyone who has seen an eclipse knows that the corona is not homogeneous in the way that Earth’s atmosphere is: There are dense regions and rarefied regions all over,” said lead study researcher Craig DeForest, a solar physicist at the Southwest Research Institute’s branch in Boulder, Colorado.

    And those different densities are driven by the sun’s magnetic field, he added. Beyond that low-resolution understanding, however, they were sort of left in the dark.

    Until now. “By looking through coronagraphs (ordinary visible-light cameras with special bits of metal in front, to block out direct sunlight), we can see individual structures in the corona,” DeForest wrote in an email to Live Science, referring to the COR2 instrument aboard NASA’s STEREO-A spacecraft, which orbits the sun between Earth and Venus.

    NASA/STEREO spacecraft

    One of the main reasons DeForest and his colleagues observed the relatively fine details inside the corona had to do with the advanced processing they used to eliminate any noise in the data — such as that from the light of background stars — used to create the images. And what they saw was somewhat mind-blowing.

    Here’s what they found: Once they got rid of the “noise,” the team found structures within the corona’s streamers — the streams of dense solar wind leaving the sun — that were just 12,500 miles (20,000 km) wide. “When we made the very best measurements we could using the COR2 instrument, eliminating the noise, we found that each bright streamer is made of myriad smaller, fiber-like strands,” DeForest said. “Those strands are the ‘structure’ we talk about in the paper.”

    And, DeForest said, those “fibers” could be even smaller, so much so that the instrument couldn’t resolve them.

    They also found a lot of blobs, and yes, that is a technical word. It was coined in the 1990s by Neil Sheeley, of the Naval Research Laboratory, who saw the relatively small clouds of charged gas and created time-lapse movies of the phenomenon.

    “They are tiny (compared to the corona, but large compared to Earth) puffs of plasma that are released by the sun,” DeForest said. “They are common enough that you can usually find at least a few in a coronagraph movie, but rare enough that they are usually only in one or two features in the corona.”

    In this new study, he added, “We showed that the visible ones to date are just the large-scale tail of a wide distribution of them. Blobs, puffs and similar compact dense features are everywhere.”

    Beyond showing some pretty cool features of the sun’s corona, the research could shed light on one of many solar mysteries.

    “The outer part of the corona — the transition from the sun’s atmosphere to the solar wind that fills the interplanetary void — is almost the last unexplored part of our solar system,” DeForest said. “Nobody really knows how the corona disconnects from the sun.”

    For instance, deep in space, the solar wind can gust in wildly violent storms. But scientists don’t know what triggers this “turbulence” in the first place.

    If the sun is generating that turbulence, then the resulting complex structures should be visible from the very start of the solar wind’s journey. But until now, scientists didn’t have a sharp enough view of the corona to know one way or another.

    The new view could provide the answers. “What we found is that each bright streamer in the outer corona is made of myriad smaller, fiber-like strands, down to sizes well under one-tenth of the smallest objects we could see before,” DeForest said. “That is interesting because it means the outer corona is every bit as weird and inhomogeneous as the inner corona. That, in turn, gives new insight into the big questions of solar physics, like how the solar wind gets accelerated out into the void.”

    The Parker Solar Probe, which will begin a seven-year mission this month, will probe even deeper into this mystery and others, including why the sun’s corona is 300 times hotter than the lower atmosphere, called the photosphere.

    NASA Parker Solar Probe Plus

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    SwRI Campus

    Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is an independent, nonprofit applied research and development organization. The staff of nearly 2,800 specializes in the creation and transfer of technology in engineering and the physical sciences. SwRI’s technical divisions offer a wide range of technical expertise and services in such areas as engine design and development, emissions certification testing, fuels and lubricants evaluation, chemistry, space science, nondestructive evaluation, automation, mechanical engineering, electronics, and more.

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