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  • richardmitnick 12:25 pm on July 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Project POEM - Project-Based Learning Opportunities and Exploration of Mentorship for Students With Visual Impairments in STEM, U Arizona, U Arizona NASA Mars Reconnaisance HIRISE Camera, UA Trains Visually Impaired Youth for STEM   

    From U Arizona: “UA Trains Visually Impaired Youth for STEM” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    July 5, 2017
    La Monica Everett-Haynes

    1
    Images and data from the UA’s Mars HiRISE camera are being used to help visually impaired students gain interest in scientific exploration and study. No image credit.

    U Arizona NASA Mars Reconnaisance HIRISE Camera

    The NSF-funded Project POEM was launched to better understand and advance the awareness and persistence toward STEM-related careers by middle and high school students with visual impairments.

    Using images and data from the University of Arizona’s Mars HiRISE camera, Sunggye Hong and Stephen Kortenkamp are creating educational experiences and tactile tools about the Red Planet to help students gain insight and interest in scientific exploration and study — and motivate students to imagine their future as scientists.

    Their interdisciplinary work at the UA has gained the attention of the National Science Foundation, which has provided a grant at more than $1 million to fund a research and engagement project.

    “Opening up STEM careers through better awareness among pre-college-age students is a real need,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “I very much admire that UA faculty in the College of Education are helping create this awareness for students with visual impairments through their engaging approach to learning. This project and the NSF’s support for it are outstanding examples of what the UA can do for students through collaboration and the creativity of our faculty members.”

    Called Project POEM, short for Project-Based Learning Opportunities and Exploration of Mentorship for Students With Visual Impairments in STEM, the effort will involve 35 middle and high school students with visual impairments in a 14-month program meant to train them toward the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

    “Mars is one of the most fascinating topics in the world of science today. If a student has an opportunity to study and to analyze data collected from Mars, that would be a very exciting and motivational component to helping students’ interest in science,” said Hong, associate professor in the UA College of Education’s Department of Disability and Psychoeducational Studies and principal investigator on the NSF grant.

    Other Project POEM collaborators are the UA Sky School, the UA Department of Mining and Geological Engineering, the UCAR Center for Science Education, the American Printing House for the Blind and Denver-based educational consultant McREL International.

    In developing the program, Hong and his partners were attentive and responsive to the Next Generation Science Standards, a multistate effort developed by a team of researchers commissioned by the Carnegie Foundation.

    Mentors to Lend Support

    As such, the program will be project-based, rich in content and complemented by the support of mentors — UA undergraduate and graduate students and also STEM industry professionals who have visual impairments.

    The educational tools being designed also address the problem of students with visual impairments having too little access to the types of resources that can help them understand complex scientific topics and drive their interests in science.

    “Much of the STEM curricula is so visual, so you must make appropriate adaptations and modifications for the materials to be used,” Hong said.

    “We know that there are these difficulties, but there are also techniques we can use to navigate such barriers,” he said. “If students are frustrated with not having properly modified materials, they can talk through problems with people who have gone through the same frustrations, and students with visual impairments can figure out ways to overcome those difficulties.”

    Using images and data from Mars sourced by the UA’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, the team led by Hong is also creating tactile, 3-D models of the surface of Mars that students can use to study the planet’s physical characteristics.

    Over the course of the program, the middle and high school students will learn about STEM concepts and Mars through learning models and other forms of engagement. They then will work alongside their mentors to develop and execute a research project about Mars, relying on adapted images and also data from the UA’s HiRISE camera currently operating on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    The project draws heavily on the child education expertise of Kortenkamp, associate professor of practice in the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in the College of Science, who also written and published children’s books on topical issues related to science.

    Kortenkamp also said he is especially dedicated to improving resources for students with visual impairments after having worked early in his UA career with a student who was blind.

    “Astronomy is such a visual field, so it became a challenge for me in how I was teaching the course,” Kortenkamp said. He began to more readily employ audio components and also introduced tactile tools — resources he would use for years.

    “Finding other ways of presenting the material, rather than just lecturing, is so fascinating. And putting that extra effort of finding materials and presenting them — whether your student can see them or not — helps to show that you are truly invested in learning,” Kortenkamp said.

    Also motivating Hong and Kortenkamp is the need for improved STEM-related educational resources and the problem of underemployment among individuals with disabilities, especially in STEM fields.

    Creating a ‘Set of Experiences’

    Individuals with visual impairments are highly underemployed, with the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Foundation for the Blind reporting that only 30 to 38 percent of that adult population is employed.

    “When you see 70 percent of a population unemployed, that is a huge problem,” Hong said. “Our idea was that if we could create a set of experiences for students with visual impairments to give them knowledge about STEM fields and find ways to keep them motivated in considering the STEM field as a potential occupation, we could raise their persistence toward STEM.”

    Ultimately, the team plans to develop curricula that K-12 teachers may use to replicate the program in other parts of Arizona and the nation.

    “Students with visual impairments are capable of becoming successful scientists — if all the pieces of the puzzle are given appropriately,” Hong said. “It is not the limitation of an individual, it is more about awareness of the public and working to bring STEM experiences to people with visual impairments.”

    Also, a research initiative is embedded within the project, and the team will be evaluating best approaches and methods for designing the effective and immersive experience to actively engage students.

    “Not everyone will become a scientist. But if they can gain interest in these technical areas, they may take a different route in life or have a deeper appreciation for the field and become more technologically savvy,” Kortenkamp said. “It never hurts to have some of that background, or at least be comfortable around science and math.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

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

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

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? 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 11:23 am on June 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Age-related macular degeneration, , L-dopa, , RPE - retinal pigment epithelium, U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “Quest to End Macular Degeneration Continues With $1.7M Grant” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    6.27.17
    Jean Spinelli

    1
    Age-related macular degeneration is more common in people with light-colored eyes, according to Prevent Blindness. No image credit.

    The UA’s Brian McKay will continue his work showing that l-dopa — used to treat Parkinson’s disease — can delay or prevent the sight-destroying eye disease.

    1
    Brian S. McKay (Photo: Kris Hanning/UAHS BioCommunications)

    After showing that individuals who take levodopa, or l-dopa, for movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease are protected from developing macular degeneration, University of Arizona researcher Brian S. McKay is taking the next step in his quest to prevent the blinding eye disease, thanks to a $1.7 million grant from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

    Macular degeneration, also known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a degenerative disease of the retina that causes loss of central vision. L-dopa is a naturally occurring molecule made in all pigmented tissues, including the retinal pigment epithelium, or RPE, of the eye, where it has a role in maintaining a healthy macula — the part of the eye’s retina that provides the most high-acuity color vision.

    McKay’s discovery that the RPE expresses a receptor for l-dopa, and that this signaling pathway fosters the survival of the retina, led to a collaborative observational study that found that patients who take a synthesized form of l-dopa, a common treatment for Parkinson’s, were far less likely to develop macular degeneration. And if they did develop the disease, the onset was delayed by nearly 10 years.

    “We will follow up this critical observation with cell biological studies to determine how l-dopa’s effect occurs,” said McKay, associate professor of ophthalmology and vision science at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. “This grant will help us determine whether we can repurpose l-dopa to halt the epidemic that age-related macular degeneration has become.”

    AMD is the most common cause of blindness in individuals older than 55 in developed countries, and more than 10 million people in the United States have AMD, according to the Foundation Fighting Blindness. AMD is particularly prevalent in the Southwest with its large retired population.

    “The cause of AMD isn’t known, so it’s difficult to develop strategies to prevent it,” McKay said. “There is no cure, and there are no treatments for early AMD, also known as ‘dry’ AMD. For the roughly 10 percent of AMD patients who develop ‘wet’ AMD, where abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina, there is an effective treatment. However, it requires repeated intraocular injections, which are expensive and associated with risks — and don’t stop the progression of the underlying disease.”

    McKay will test whether intersecting pathways related to dopamine signaling may be the actual driving force behind l-dopa’s protective effect rather than l-dopa itself.

    “This is a critical set of experiments because l-dopa is converted to dopamine in neurons and retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells,” McKay said. “Both RPE cells and the retinal neurons have dopamine receptors. We identified a signaling molecule, GPR143, that controls two RPE activities likely to protect from AMD, and showed that l-dopa could drive both activities.

    “The research will test whether GPR143 or other dopamine-related receptors bring about the protection from AMD in those taking l-dopa. Once the responsible receptors are identified, they can be targeted to develop new drugs or combination therapies to protect people from developing AMD.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

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

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

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? 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 11:10 am on June 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Develop effective interventions for age-related cognitive decline or even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, , Reduced capacity refers to what can happen in organ systems throughout the body when they are deprived of exercise, The link between exercise and the brain is a product of our evolutionary history and our past as hunter-gatherers, U Arizona, UA Research: Brains Evolved to Need Exercise   

    From U Arizona- “UA Research: Brains Evolved to Need Exercise” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    6.27.17
    Alexis Blue

    1
    No image caption or credit

    Exercise significantly benefits brain structure and function, likely because of how we evolved as physically active hunter-gatherers, according to a new model proposed by UA researchers.

    In a new article published in the journal Trends in Neurosciences, University of Arizona researchers suggest that the link between exercise and the brain is a product of our evolutionary history and our past as hunter-gatherers.

    UA anthropologist David Raichlen and UA psychologist Gene Alexander, who together run a research program on exercise and the brain, propose an “adaptive capacity model” for understanding, from an evolutionary neuroscience perspective, how physical activity impacts brain structure and function.

    Their argument: As humans transitioned from a relatively sedentary apelike existence to a more physically demanding hunter-gatherer lifestyle, starting around 2 million years ago, we began to engage in complex foraging tasks that were simultaneously physically and mentally demanding, and that may explain how physical activity and the brain came to be so connected.

    “We think our physiology evolved to respond to those increases in physical activity levels, and those physiological adaptations go from your bones and your muscles, apparently all the way to your brain,” said Raichlen, an associate professor in the UA School of Anthropology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    “It’s very odd to think that moving your body should affect your brain in this way — that exercise should have some beneficial impact on brain structure and function — but if you start thinking about it from an evolutionary perspective, you can start to piece together why that system would adaptively respond to exercise challenges and stresses,” he said.

    Having this underlying understanding of the exercise-brain connection could help researchers come up with ways to enhance the benefits of exercise even further, and to develop effective interventions for age-related cognitive decline or even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

    Notably, the parts of the brain most taxed during a complex activity such as foraging — areas that play a key role in memory and executive functions such as problem solving and planning — are the same areas that seem to benefit from exercise in studies.

    “Foraging is an incredibly complex cognitive behavior,” Raichlen said. “You’re moving on a landscape, you’re using memory not only to know where to go but also to navigate your way back, you’re paying attention to your surroundings. You’re multitasking the entire time because you’re making decisions while you’re paying attention to the environment, while you are also monitoring your motor systems over complex terrain. Putting all that together creates a very complex multitasking effort.”

    The adaptive capacity model could help explain research findings such as those published by Raichlen and Alexander last year showing that runners’ brains appear to be more connected than brains of non-runners.

    The model also could help inform interventions for the cognitive decline that often accompanies aging — in a period in life when physical activity levels tend to decline as well.

    “What we’re proposing is, if you’re not sufficiently engaged in this kind of cognitively challenging aerobic activity, then this may be responsible for what we often see as healthy brain aging, where people start to show some diminished cognitive abilities,” said Alexander, a UA professor of psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience and physiological sciences. “So the natural aging process might really be part of a reduced capacity in response to not being engaged enough.”

    Reduced capacity refers to what can happen in organ systems throughout the body when they are deprived of exercise.

    “Our organ systems adapt to the stresses they undergo,” said Raichlen, an avid runner and expert on running. “For example, if you engage in exercise, your cardiovascular system has to adapt to expand capacity, be it through enlarging your heart or increasing your vasculature, and that takes energy. So if you’re not challenging it in that way — if you’re not engaging in aerobic exercise — to save energy, your body simply reduces that capacity.”

    In the case of the brain, if it is not being stressed enough it may begin to atrophy. This may be especially concerning, considering how much more sedentary humans’ lifestyles have become.

    “Our evolutionary history suggests that we are, fundamentally, cognitively engaged endurance athletes, and that if we don’t remain active we’re going to have this loss of capacity in response to that,” said Alexander, who studies brain aging and Alzheimer’s disease as a member of the UA’s Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute. “So there really may be a mismatch between our relatively sedentary lifestyles of today and how we evolved.”

    Alexander and Raichlen say future research should look at how different levels of exercise intensity, as well as different types of exercise, or exercise paired specifically with cognitive tasks, affect the brain.

    For example, exercising in a novel environment that poses a new mental challenge, may prove to be especially beneficial, Raichlen said.

    “Most of the research in this area puts people in a cognitively impoverished environment. They put people in a lab and have them run on a treadmill or exercise bike, and you don’t really have to do as much, so it’s possible that we’re missing something by not increasing novelty,” he said.

    Alexander and Raichlen say they hope the adaptive capacity model will help advance research on exercise and the brain.

    “This evolutionary neuroscience perspective is something that’s been generally lacking in the field,” Alexander said. “And we think this might be helpful to advance research and help develop some new specific hypotheses and ways to identify more universally effective interventions that could be helpful to everyone.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

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

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

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? 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 8:49 am on June 8, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Arizona, UA Research Says H. Pylori Needs Much Closer Attention   

    From U Arizona: “UA Research Says H. Pylori Needs Much Closer Attention” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    June 6, 2017
    Robin Tricoles

    1
    Gastritis resulting from infection by the H. pylori bacterium. No image credit.

    If the bacterium involved in a host of digestive maladies isn’t eradicated after treatment, that could indicate a resistance to antibiotics — and that’s worrisome.

    It was long thought that gastric ulcers and other digestive woes were brought about by stress. But in 2005, clinical fellow Barry J. Marshall and pathologist J. Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for recognizing the role of Helicobacter pylori in gastritis and peptic ulcer disease.

    Now physicians can point their collective fingers at H. pylori when it comes to a host of gastric maladies in their patients.

    With this in mind, researchers from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman School of Public Health at the University of Arizona conducted a study into whether U.S. physicians consistently adhere to American College of Gastroenterology guidelines for caring for and managing patients with H. pylori infections. Guidelines include when and how to test for H. pylori, as well as when and how to treat the pathogen once someone has been infected.

    Caring for and managing these patients is important not only because of the serious potential morbidity associated with H. pylori infections, but also because these infections are linked to gastric cancer.

    Through an online survey of gastroenterologists in the U.S., the researchers found that physicians’ adherence to a number of the current ACG guidelines was low. The results were published online April 27 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

    Eyal Oren, UA assistant professor of epidemiology and one of the senior authors of the study, says that most physicians followed the guidelines for testing patients they suspected of having H. pylori infection when the patients came to them with likely risk factors, such as a previously diagnosed peptic ulcer or dyspepsia.

    “You shouldn’t be testing everybody, but if there are reasons to believe that a test for H. pylori may come back positive, and it does come back positive, you should go on to treat,” says Dr. Traci Murakami, previous gastroenterology fellow at the UA and graduate of the clinical and translational research graduate certificate at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman School of Public Health, now an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, and lead author of the study.

    In fact, the researchers found that a higher proportion of physicians than in years past treat patients after a positive H. pylori test, with 84 percent of the respondents indicating they would do so, Oren says.

    However, only 58 percent of physicians checked to ensure that the bacterium has been eradicated after treatment, according to the study. This finding is of particular concern, Murakami says, because if the bacterium is not eradicated after the recommended therapy, it could indicate potential resistance to drugs of choice.

    “Only half of gastroenterology physicians check for eradication,” Murakami says. “I think that’s key because knowing if a patient eradicated the H. pylori versus whether they still have the infection may indicate that they may have a more resistant type of H. pylori that didn’t respond to the initial antibiotic and would require different antibiotics to eradicate it.”

    Also of concern, the study found that 6 percent of physicians weren’t asking patients about antibiotics that they previously had taken. That information could alert the clinician to the potential for drug resistance. Nor were physicians testing for resistance, according to the study. However, testing for drug resistance is not cheap or simple, so it’s not routinely done, Oren says.

    Given that H. pylori is a human pathogen and linked to an increase in gastric cancer risk, some have called for its global eradication. However, some people are colonized with H. pylori from birth and experience no ill effects from it until much later in life, if at all.

    No matter, the researchers concluded that the “adaptation of a ‘test, treat and retest strategy’ to confirm eradication after treatment is an area that could be improved.”

    H. pylori is a risk factor and designated as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization.

    “If we could identify it early and identify it in more people, we might be able to reduce the risk of people developing stomach cancer in the future,” Murakami says.

    The research was funded by the Art Chapa Foundation for Gastric Cancer Prevention.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

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

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

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? 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 7:16 am on May 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , or, TEM-Hitachi transmission electron microscope, U Arizona, UA Has the Tools to Analyze Asteroid's Dirt   

    From U Arizona: “UA Has the Tools to Analyze Asteroid’s Dirt” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    May 26, 2017
    Emily Litvack

    1
    In the basement of a building constructed with NASA funds in the early 1960s, scientists already are preparing to study the sample from OSIRIS-REx, a first-of-its-kind mission.

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    NASA OSIRIS REX FEROS

    NASA OSIRIS REX OTES

    NASA OSIRIS-REX OVIRS

    NASA OSIRIS REX OLA

    In the year 2023, priceless property will land somewhere in the Utah desert. And when it does, a team of engineers and scientists will be waiting on the ground. Thousands will watch the landing with eyes glued to smartphones and televisions. Headlines around the world will tell of the journey.

    The property? Between 2 and 70 ounces of asteroid dirt.

    This 4.5-billion-year-old sample, formally known as regolith, will look like a small pile of dusty rubble, gleaned in the five-second moment during which NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft vacuumed the surface of a carbon-rich, near-Earth asteroid called Bennu.

    The sample’s encapsulated landing at the Utah Test and Training Range, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, will begin a new phase in its existence: analysis. After being transported to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, the dirt will be removed from its capsule and allocated to scientists for study.

    1
    Tom Zega sits at the Hitachi transmission electron microscope, or TEM, in the Kuiper Space Sciences Building. The TEM was funded jointly by the National Science Foundation and NASA. (Photo: Mari Cleven/UA Office of Research, Discovery and Innovation)

    OSIRIS-REx is the first U.S. mission to return an asteroid sample to Earth, but for scientists such as Tom Zega, the return is just the beginning. Zega is a sample scientist at the University of Arizona. As a collaborator on the UA-led OSIRIS-REx mission, he will be one of the first scientists to analyze regolith from Bennu.

    One of the main goals of the OSIRIS-REx mission, Zega says, is understanding the earliest history of our solar system and the origins of life. Pristine regolith from an asteroid might be our best shot, untouched and uncontaminated by our atmosphere.

    “Sample return is great because otherwise you’re at the mercy of what falls from the sky,” Zega said. “Sample return is a treasure trove of information. You’re getting samples that are older than Earth. I can literally hold in my hand a piece of the origins of our solar system that predated Earth, predated human beings, predated everything we know.

    “These are atoms that assembled four and a half billion years ago and became the building blocks of our planet.”

    The question, then, is what to do with such a scientifically valuable pile of dirt.

    Building a Lab Fit for Analysis

    Analysis means two things — both of which require large equipment in a stable environment. The first: high-resolution imaging. The second: measuring chemistry. Respectively, those answer the questions “What does it look like?” and “What is it made of?”

    “We’re sort of like forensic scientists,” Zega says. “Nature grew these materials, and we’re analyzing it at a fundamental level to figure out under what conditions.”

    Zega does his work in the 5,000-square-foot basement of the Kuiper Space Sciences Building, constructed at the UA in 1964 with funds from NASA. The basement once was a mirror lab for telescopes and a publications vault. Telescopes got bigger, and so did the lab, which now lives beneath Arizona Stadium. Publications went online. Now the UA’s collection of high-tech electron microscopes — to be used for studying the returned asteroid dirt — lives here.

    Sensitive to stimulus, electron microscopes need a place with minimal vibrations, minimal electromagnetic interference and good acoustics. As it turns out, basements make good places for these microscopes. As of today, the lab is “ready to hit the ground running” when the sample from OSIRIS-REx shows up, according to Zega.

    In fact, the lab is in the process of studying a sample from Hayabusa 1, an asteroid sample return mission by JAXA, the Japanese equivalent of NASA. Like OSIRIS-REx, Hayabusa 2 is now cruising toward its target, which is the asteroid Ryugu.

    Zega opens the two frosted doors of the laboratory, revealing a long, clean, fluorescent-lit corridor.

    At the end of the corridor in a room on the left is where the asteroid sample’s time in the lab will truly begin. After it’s mounted on a glass slide and polished smooth, Zega will place the sample in an electron microprobe.

    “The microprobe gives us the most context, and a lay of the land,” Zega says.

    It allows him to photograph the entire sample in high resolution and map out its chemistry, element by element. Those elements, such as iron and nickel and magnesium, show up as colors on a computer screen.

    “You want to sit down and really process that data,” Zega says. “You might want to play around with the maps and overlay them onto the high-res images that you also created before you decide what the next step is. That can take some time.

    “You really want to take your time here before going on to a more detailed level of analysis.”

    Then, all the way at the other end of the corridor, near the doorway, there are two scanning electron microscopes. Like the microprobe, they also image and chemically map the sample, but at an even more detailed level. Here, Zega can look at the dirt in micrometers and nanometers — a billionth of a meter. A single sheet of paper is about 100,000 nanometers thick.

    In the room next door, a focused-ion-beam scanning-electron microscope can look at the sample in even greater detail. It also can drill a hole in a piece of dust from the asteroid by shooting gallium ions at it, like tiny bullets.

    Atoms With Stories to Tell

    “Every atom has something to tell us,” says Zega, walking toward the final destination for the asteroid sample: the transmission electron microscope, or TEM. It’s a towering box of off-white and blue, about 12 feet tall. There’s an innate humor in its size, because a TEM is the only machine in the world that can see something as tiny as an individual atom.

    The TEM, purchased from Hitachi High Technologies in 2016, was shipped by boat from Japan months ago. A team of engineers from the company’s headquarters outside of Tokyo have been here since November, installing and calibrating the microscope. They are expected to head home in June.

    “Looking at microstructures is useful for figuring out origins,” Zega explains.

    Which atoms of an element are next to, or layered on top of, which other atoms is critically important when you want to determine how something formed.

    In the best-case scenario, analyzing the asteroid dirt means “we rewrite the textbooks on our understanding of the origins of our solar system,” Zega says. “I think that’s the neatest thing about a mission like this. It can be full of surprises.

    “Scientist or not, we all look to the stars and ask ‘How?’ and ‘Why?’ We wonder how it all came to be,” he says. “The work that we do here at the University of Arizona contributes to answering those questions.”

    TEM and FIB analyses are carried out at the University of Arizona Kuiper Core Imaging and Characterization Facility supported in part by NSF Grant 1531243 and NASA Grants NNX15AJ22G and NNX12AL47G.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

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

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

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? 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 4:18 am on May 23, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Students Build Telescopes to Track Satellites, U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “Students Build Telescopes to Track Satellites” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    May 22, 2017
    Emily Litvack

    1
    No image credit or caption

    Using less than a third of the money it would take to buy them off the shelf, five UA undergraduates constructed two telescopes for satellite observation — one of which will live in a once-abandoned observatory.

    2
    Lindsie Jeffries

    3
    Ryan Bronson

    4
    Sameep Arora

    5
    Damon Marco Colpo

    6
    Evelyn Hunten

    Why should you buy what you can make for yourself?

    That’s the principle that drove five undergraduate students from the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering, led by assistant professor Vishnu Reddy of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, to build two telescopes from the ground up to track satellites and space junk.

    Reddy joined the UA faculty eight months ago, offering expertise in space situational awareness. A large part of SSA involves tracking satellites and space junk around Earth. Federal entities such as the U.S. Department of Defense do so on a regular basis. It’s work that requires a large amount of observing time on small telescopes.

    While the UA runs more than 20 large telescopes across the globe, few of them are suited for tracking satellites. Having a telescope on campus provides an easy opportunity for student access without a trip to Kitt Peak or Mount Lemmon.

    Reddy identified the perfect — and conveniently vacant — space for a small telescope. In the 1990s, a room on the sixth floor of the Kuiper Space Sciences Building was transformed into a small observatory, complete with a retractable roof, so that Bob McMillan, Reddy’s colleague in the Lunar and Planetary Lab, could observe stars. The room was last used for observation in 1995, later becoming a storage facility.

    Instead of buying the telescopes off the shelf for upward of $50,000 apiece, Reddy recruited five undergraduate engineers to build them through the Engineering Design Program. The program, aimed at preparing the students for careers in engineering, requires all engineering students at the UA to spend their senior year designing, building and testing technologies in teams of four to six, culminating in an annual Engineering Design Day, which this year was held on May 1.

    Reddy’s team included Lindsie Jeffries, senior in biomedical engineering and mathematics; Sameep Arora, senior in mechanical engineering; Ryan Bronson, senior in optical sciences and mathematics; Damon Marco Colpo, senior in optical sciences and mathematics; and Evelyn Hunten, senior in electrical and computer engineering.

    Asked if anything about the project surprised him, Reddy responded unequivocally.

    “(It’s) the students,” he said. “Undergrads are some of the most optimistic people on campus. They’re full of life, they feel positive about the future, and they inspire me to be enthusiastic.”

    Hunten, who landed a post-graduation position at IBM, said she loves space science and exploration.

    “This project was the one I wanted to work on,” she said. “It was my first choice. I love the instrumentation behind scientific discoveries.”

    Together, the students built two 24-inch telescopes in seven months for $30,000 total. The mirrors they installed in the new telescopes were recycled from the telescope in the old Kuiper observatory. Written off as junk, the mirrors were headed for the UA’s Surplus Store.

    A local astronomy business, Starizona, was instrumental in training the students and testing the telescopes’ optics, Reddy said.

    Starting June 20, after a first light ceremony at 6 p.m., one of the telescopes will run autonomously each night in the place where the old one once stood. It’s the first time that a telescope has been installed on campus since the 1990s. The location for the second telescope has yet to be determined, but Biosphere 2 has been discussed as a possibility.

    Arora, who designed the telescope model in SolidWorks, a design program, said that making “an actual product that will be used for science” — rather than a prototype — was a rewarding experience.

    Jeffries, who will pursue a graduate degree in biomechanical engineering at Stanford University, said, “It was exciting putting the telescope together and confirming that everything fit and worked. I also enjoyed getting to know my teammates. They were all hard workers who cared about the project and pushed me to do my best.”

    While the team was building the telescopes, Reddy was writing a proposal to the Air Force Research Laboratory, requesting funding for a spectroscopic survey of satellites in the geostationary orbit. Satellites in geostationary orbit revolve around Earth at the same rate that Earth rotates on its axis. This makes them hover above the same location on Earth.

    Because their rotation matches ours — moving from west to east — they appear as fixed in space when we look at them from telescopes on Earth. More than 500 such satellites are in orbit today.

    Rather than tracking satellites as mere nondescript dots in space — which is not uncommon — Reddy will be able to use the telescopes to identify some unique color signatures of satellites, to find out exactly which one is which.

    “The UA is going to be a leader in space situational awareness, and we really want to capitalize on our exceptional undergraduate students,” Reddy said. “This is also workforce development. We need an American workforce that can rise to the challenges of our national security needs, and the needs of our nation.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

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

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

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? 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 10:07 am on April 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Everywhere!, Hydrogen, U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “Hydrogen, Hydrogen, Everywhere!” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    April 18, 2017
    Daniel Stolte

    1
    What our Milky Way might look like to alien astronomers: This image of NGC 2683, a spiral galaxy also known as the “UFO Galaxy” due to its shape, was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Since trying to find out what the Milky Way looks like is a bit like trying to picture an unfamiliar house while being confined to a room inside, studies like this one help us gain a better idea of our cosmic home. (Image: NASA/ESA/Hubble)

    UA astronomers Huanian Zhang and Dennis Zaritsky are lifting the veil of our galactic home by providing the first detections of diffuse hydrogen wafting about in a vast halo surrounding the Milky Way.

    3
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2208485/Nasa-Milky-Way-Galaxy-The-stunning-image-revealing-massive-halo-hot-gas-envelops-universe.html

    1
    The spectra used in this study cover large portions of the sky, depicted here as a map wrapping around the observer. The colors code for spectral emissions from diffuse hydrogen gas in the Milky Way’s halo: While the degrees of brightness vary, they are remarkably uniform across the sky, indicating a rather uniform distribution of hydrogen as would be expected in a galactic halo. (Image: H. Zhang and D. Zaritsky)

    Sometimes it takes a lot of trees to see the forest. In the case of the latest discovery made by astronomers at the University of Arizona, exactly 732,225. Except that in this case, the “forest” is a veil of diffuse hydrogen gas enshrouding the Milky Way, and each “tree” is another galaxy observed with the 2.5-meter telescope of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

    SDSS Telescope at Apache Point Observatory, NM, USA

    After combining this staggering number of spectra — recorded patterns of wavelengths revealing clues about the nature of a cosmic target — UA astronomers Huanian Zhang and Dennis Zaritsky report the first detections of diffuse hydrogen wafting about in a vast halo surrounding the Milky Way. Such a halo had been postulated based on what astronomers knew about other galaxies, but never directly observed.

    Astronomers have long known that the most prominent features of a typical spiral galaxy such as our Milky Way — a central bulge surrounded by a disk and spiral arms — account only for the lesser part of its mass.

    Milky Way NASA/JPL-Caltech /ESO R. Hurt

    The bulk of the missing mass is suspected to lie in so-called dark matter, a postulated but not yet directly observed form of matter believed to account for the majority of matter in the universe. Dark matter emits no electromagnetic radiation of any kind, nor does it interact with “normal” matter (which astronomers call baryonic matter), and is therefore invisible and undetectable through direct imaging.

    The dark matter of a typical galaxy is thought to reside in a more or less spherical halo that extends 10 to 30 times farther out than the distance between the center of our galaxy and the sun, according to Zaritsky, a professor in the UA’s Department of Astronomy and deputy director of the UA’s Steward Observatory.

    U Arizona Steward Observatory at Kitt Peak, AZ, USA

    “We infer its existence through dynamical simulations of galaxies,” Zaritsky explains. “And because the ratio of normal matter to dark matter is now very well known, for example from measuring the cosmic microwave background, we have a pretty good idea of how much baryonic matter should be in the halo. But when we add all the things we can see with our instruments, we get only about half of what we expect, so there has to be a lot of baryonic matter waiting to be detected.”

    By combining such a large number of spectra, Zaritsky and Zhang, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Astronomy/Steward Observatory, covered a large portion of space surrounding the Milky Way and found that diffuse hydrogen gas engulfs the entire galaxy, which would account for a large part of the galaxy’s baryonic mass.

    “It’s like peering through a veil,” Zaritsky said. “We see diffuse hydrogen in every direction we look.”

    He pointed out that this is not the first time gas has been detected in halos around galaxies, but in those instances, the hydrogen is in a different physical state.

    “There are cloudlets of hydrogen in the galaxy halo, which we have known about for a long time, called high-velocity clouds,” Zaritsky said. “Those have been detected through radio observations, and they’re really clouds — you see an edge, and they’re moving. But the total mass of those is small, so they couldn’t be the dominant form of hydrogen in the halo.”

    Since observing our own galaxy is a bit like trying to see what an unfamiliar house looks like while being confined to a room inside, astronomers rely on computer simulations and observations of other galaxies to get an idea of what the Milky Way might look like to an alien observer millions of light-years away.

    For their study, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the researchers sifted through the public databases of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and looked for spectra taken by other scientists of galaxies outside our Milky Way in a narrow spectral line called hydrogen alpha. Seeing this line in a spectrum tells of the presence of a particular state of hydrogen that is different from the vast majority of hydrogen found in the universe.

    Unlike on Earth, where hydrogen occurs as a gas consisting of molecules of two hydrogen atoms bound together, hydrogen exists as single atoms in outer space, and those can be positively or negatively charged, or neutral. Neutral hydrogen constitutes a small minority compared to its ionized (positive) form, which constitutes more than 99.99 percent of the gas spanning the intergalactic gulfs of the universe.

    Unless neutral hydrogen atoms are being energized by something, they are extremely difficult to detect and therefore remain invisible to most observational approaches, which is why their presence in the Milky Way’s halo had eluded astronomers until now. Even in other galaxies, halos are difficult to pin down.

    “You don’t just see a pretty picture of a halo around a galaxy,” Zaritsky said. “We infer the presence of galactic halos from numerical simulations of galaxies and from what we know about how they form and interact.”

    Zaritsky explained that based on those simulations, scientists would have predicted the presence of large amounts of hydrogen gas stretching far out from the center of the Milky Way, but remaining associated with the galaxy, and the data collected in this study confirm the presence of just that.

    “The gas we detected is not doing anything very noticeable,” he said. “It is not spinning so rapidly as to indicate that it’s in the process of being flung out of the galaxy, and it does not appear to be falling inwards toward the galactic center, either.”

    One of the challenges in this study was to know whether the observed hydrogen was indeed in a halo outside the Milky Way, and not just part of the galactic disk itself, Zaritsky said.

    “When you see things everywhere, they could be very close to us, or they could be very far away,” he said. “You don’t know.”

    The answer to this question, too, was in the “trees,” the more than 700,000 spectral analyses scattered across the galaxy. If the hydrogen gas were confined to the disk of the galaxy, our solar system would be expected to “float” inside of it like a ship in a slowly churning maelstrom, orbiting the galactic center. And just like the ship drifting with the current, very little relative movement would be expected between our solar system and the ocean of hydrogen. If, on the other hand, it surrounded the spinning galaxy in a more or less stationary halo, the researchers expected that wherever they looked, they should find a predictable pattern of relative motion with respect to our solar system.

    “Indeed, in one direction, we see the gas coming toward us, and the opposite direction, we see it moving away from us,” Zaritsky said. “This tells us that the gas is not in the disk of our galaxy, but has to be out in the halo.”

    Next, the researchers want to look at even more spectra to better constrain the distribution around the sky and the motions of the gas in the halo. They also plan to search for other spectral lines, which may help better understand the physical state such as temperature and density of the gas.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

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

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

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? 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 7:55 am on April 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Biosphere 2, U Arizona, UA Researchers Plant Seeds to Make Renewable Energy More Efficient   

    From U Arizona: “UA Researchers Plant Seeds to Make Renewable Energy More Efficient” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    4.18.17
    Robin Tricoles

    1
    Researcher Greg Barron-Gafford and undergraduate research assistant Dan Blackett tend to the greens at the agrivoltaic test site st Biosphere 2. (Photo: Bob Demers/UANews)

    Agrivoltaics, an experiment in combining agriculture with energy efficiency, involves growing plants beneath solar panels.

    Greg Barron-Gafford kneels amid chard, kale, cabbage and onions growing lush beneath a solar panel. An iPad in hand, he checks and records the plants’ carbon dioxide uptake and the soil’s moisture. He makes note of the plants’ growth and appearance.

    Barron-Gafford is a University of Arizona assistant professor in Biogeography and Ecosystem Science, and today he is working just outside the west entrance of Biosphere 2, located in the Sonoran desert. He’s focusing on something known as agrivoltaics, a new way of “doing agriculture in the dry lands of the world,” says Barron-Gafford.

    University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, located in the Sonoran desert

    This new way of doing agriculture that Barron-Gafford is focusing on involves growing plants beneath solar panels, an experiment in co-locating renewable energy with agriculture — in this case, positioning elevated solar panels over an understory of plants.

    His quest for co-location started a year and a half ago, when Barron-Gafford and his colleagues set out to measure the environmental impact of renewable energy — specifically solar panels. He and his collaborators used a series of instruments that measured air temperature over the canopy of the ecosystem in the desert versus the temperatures under a solar array.

    After a year of measurements, the researchers found that the solar array created a locally warmer environment than normal. “We call it a solar heat-island effect,” says Barron-Gafford.

    “It’s much like the urban heat-island effect, where you’ve transformed the landscape to a built environment and it changes how sun energy moves through the system. It creates a net warming effect, especially at night,” he says. “Even though we don’t believe that the heat island extends too far beyond the solar panel arrays, we thought that we needed to dig into this problem and find out first what’s the cause, and if there’s something we can do about it.”

    Barron-Gafford suspected that the heat-island effect was being fueled by “transforming who is in this ecosystem.” That is, in a normal environment, there would be a mix of soil and plants in the open air that would allow the air to circulate unencumbered. What’s more, the plants would take up carbon for photosynthesis by opening up their pores, or stomata, while letting water escape from their leaves.

    “They end up being little evaporative coolers on the landscape,” says Barron-Gafford.

    2
    Barron-Gafford calibrates what he refers to as the Mini-Biosphere 2, a field unit that replicates the climate testing and control technology used in the Biosphere 2. (Photo: Bob Demers/UANews)

    “So think about it, if you get rid of all the plants when you put in renewable energy, you’ve gotten rid of that cooling potential, and you get a warmer environment. We wanted to see if you put the cooling effect back into the system, you can actually cool those panels back down and mitigate that heat island effect.”

    When solar panels get too warm, they start to lose their energy efficiency. If they can be cooled down, though, they’ll retain efficiency, which makes for more renewable energy per parcel of land.

    In addition, the solar panels shade the plants, reducing evaporation of water, and, in turn, requiring less water to grow the same crops.

    “We’re co-locating the two and taking the benefits of each, hoping that there’s an additive effect,” says Barron-Gafford.

    He says his next experiment will focus on trying to reduce water use even more by taking advantage of the shade gleaned from the solar panels. If we can reduce the water it takes to keep plants happy and productive, we’re being smarter with the use of our water.

    After that, he and his collaborators plan to take this system to rural Arizona and northern Mexico, where there’s no reliable water or power.

    “This is the ultimate goal of this work,” says Barron-Gifford. “Part of it is making renewable energy better. Part of it is bringing a new dimension to community agriculture, but a big part of it is reaching into those rural landscape where a simple idea like growing your plants under solar panels can solve some important problems. This work truly is at the nexus of food, energy, and water science.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

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

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

    Where else in the world can you find an astronomical observatory mirror lab under a football stadium? 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 5:09 pm on March 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory, , , U Arizona   

    From SRON: “Dutch ‘cameras’ on NASA Science Mission ‘First complete study of all phases of the stellar life cycle’ “ 

    sron-bloc
    SRON

    1
    GUSTO: Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory

    Dutch ‘cameras’ on NASA Science Mission
    ‘First complete study of all phases of the stellar life cycle’

    NASA has selected a science mission that will measure emissions from cosmic material between stars (the interstellar medium) with Dutch Far-Infrared (FIR) ‘cameras’. The balloon telescope mission GUSTO will provide the first complete study of all phases of the stellar life cycle, from the formation of molecular clouds, through star birth and evolution, to the formation of gas clouds and the re-initiation of the cycle. SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research and the TU Delft develop the key detector technologies.

    GUSTO stands for Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory. The observatory consists of a telescope of one meter in diameter, and three observation instruments carried by an Ultra-long Duration Balloon (ULDB). GUSTO will fly on an altitude of 40 km above Antarctica, at the edge of space. SRON and TU Delft contribute hot electron bolometer multi-pixel camera’s, operating at three Terahertz frequencies, and also a local oscillator and a novel phase grating that helps the detectors determine the exact color of the light. Last December GUSTO’s precursor STO2 was launched as a pathfinder, demonstrating the Dutch key detector technologies from SRON and TU Delft.

    GUSTO detects carbon, oxygen and nitrogen emission lines. The unique and novel combination of data will provide information needed to untangle the complexities of the interstellar medium, and map out large sections of our Milky Way galaxy and the nearby galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud.

    “NASA has a great history of launching observatories in the Astrophysics Explorers Program with new and unique observational capabilities. GUSTO continues that tradition”, says Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director in NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
    NASA determined that out of eight proposals of which two were further studied since 2014, GUSTO has the best potential for excellent science return with a feasible development plan.

    The GUSTO mission is targeted for launch in 2021 from McMurdo, Antarctica, and is expected to stay in the air between 100 to 170 days, depending on weather conditions. It will cost approximately $40 million, including the balloon launch funding and the cost of post-launch operations and data analysis.

    The University of Arizona in Tucson will provide the actual GUSTO telescope and instruments, with technology from SRON, TU Delft, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and the Arizona State University in Tempe. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, provides the mission operations, and the gondola where the instruments are mounted.

    The principal investigator of the mission is Christopher Walker from the University of Arizona. Jian-Rong Gao (SRON & TU Delft) will lead the project in the Netherlands. Floris van der Tak (SRON & University Groningen) and Xander Tielens (University Leiden) will contribute to the science team.

    See the full article here .

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    sron-campus

    How did the Earth and life on it evolve? How do stars and planets evolve? How did the universe evolve? What is the position of the Earth and humankind in that immense universe? These are fundamental questions that have always intrigued humankind. Moreover, people have always possessed an urge to explore and push back the boundaries of science and technology.

    Science

    Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, Dutch astronomers have seen the added value of space missions for science. Reaching beyond the Earth’s atmosphere would open up new windows on the universe and provide fantastic views of our home planet. It would at last be possible to pick up cosmic radiation that never normally reached the Earth’s surface, such as X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared radiation. A wealth of scientific information from every corner of the universe would then become available.

    The first Dutch scientific rocket experiments and contributions to European and American satellites in the early 1960s, formed the start of an activity in which a small country would develop an enviable reputation: scientific space research.

    Groundbreaking technology

    Nowadays we take for granted images of the Earth from space, beautiful photos from the Hubble Space Telescope or landings of space vehicles on nearby planets. Yet sometimes we all too easily forget that none of these scientific successes would have been possible without the people who developed groundbreaking technology. Technology that sooner or later will also prove useful to life on Earth.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:57 am on March 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory (STO), U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “NASA Selects Airborne Observatory for Funding” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    March 24, 2017
    Christopher Walker
    UA Steward Observatory
    520-621-8783
    cwalker@as.arizona.edu

    1
    Christopher Walker’s team successfully launched the Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory (STO) from McMurdo in Antarctica on Dec 8, 2016. (Photo: Brian Duffy and Christopher Walker)

    From a pool of eight proposed missions competing for funding in NASA’s Explorer category, the space agency has selected to fund the UA-led GUSTO mission. The goal of the $40 million endeavor is to send a balloon to near-space, carrying a telescope that will study the interstellar medium — the gas and dust between the stars, from which all stars and planets originate.

    Circling Antarctica in a balloon at an elevation between 110,000 and 120,000 feet, or 17 miles above a typical airliner’s cruising altitude, the Galactic/Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory, or GUSTO, will study the interstellar medium in our Milky Way and beyond by observing the sky above most of the atmospheric water vapor that otherwise would obscure its view.

    Scheduled for launch on Dec. 15, 2021, the high-altitude, Ultralong-Duration Balloon, or ULDB, balloon will silently rise into the cold, dry air above Antarctica with an airborne observatory in tow. GUSTO’s science payload consists of a 1-meter telescope and various instruments mounted to a platform known as the gondola. The GUSTO payload will weigh close to 2 tons and run on about 1 kilowatt of electrical power generated by its solar panels.

    Christopher Walker, a professor of astronomy in the UA’s Steward Observatory with joint appointments in the UA’s Colleges of Optical Sciences and Engineering, is the principal investigator of the GUSTO mission. The mission’s science aims at measuring emissions from the interstellar medium. The data will help scientists determine the life cycle of interstellar gas in our Milky Way galaxy, witness the formation and destruction of star-forming clouds, and understand the dynamics and gas flow in the vicinity of the center of our galaxy.

    2
    The GUSTO mission will untangle the complexities of the interstellar medium, and map out large sections of the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and a nearby galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud. (Credits: NASA, ESA and Hubble Heritage Team)

    “If we want to understand where we came from, we have to understand the interstellar medium,” Walker said, “because 4.6 billion years ago, we were interstellar medium.”

    The interstellar medium, it turns out, is the stuff from which most of the observable universe is made: stars, planets, rocks, oceans and all living creatures, and GUSTO is uniquely equipped to probe the conditions inside it.

    The telescope is outfitted with carbon, oxygen and nitrogen emission line detectors. This unique combination of data will provide the spectral and spatial resolution information needed for Walker and his team to untangle the complexities of the interstellar medium, and map out large sections of the plane of our Milky Way galaxy and the nearby galaxy known as the Large Magellanic Cloud.

    Walker, who is a longtime amateur radio (ham) operator, explains that carbon atoms, nitrogen atoms and oxygen atoms in the interstellar medium act like tiny, very-high-frequency radio transmitters, and GUSTO is engineered to listen to what they have to say.

    “We do this by using cutting-edge superconducting detectors and other instruments that allow us to listen in at these very high frequencies,” Walker explained.

    In December, his team successfully launched the Stratospheric Terahertz Observatory, or STO, which served as a pathfinder mission for GUSTO, in Antarctica. Carried by stable, circumpolar winds, the airborne observatory completed a three-week flight and collected data from a portion of the Milky Way.

    3
    STO’s gondola carrying the telescope and other scientific instruments (Photo: Christopher Walker)

    “With STO, we proved our team is capable of making a balloon payload capable of mapping the interstellar medium on a much larger scale,” Walker said.

    GUSTO will map the Milky Way and also the Large Magellanic Cloud, which has hallmarks of a galaxy more commonly found in the early universe, Walker said.

    “Our measurements will provide the data to help develop a model for early galaxies and our own Milky Way, which together will serve as bookends to understand the evolution of stars and galaxies through cosmic time,” he said.

    “GUSTO will provide the first complete study of all phases of the stellar life cycle, from the formation of molecular clouds, through star birth and evolution, to the formation of gas clouds and the re-initiation of the cycle,” added Paul Hertz, astrophysics division director in the Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “NASA has a great history of launching observatories in the Astrophysics Explorers Program with new and unique observational capabilities. GUSTO continues that tradition.”

    Launched from McMurdo, Antarctica, GUSTO is expected to stay in the air between 100 to 170 days, depending on weather conditions. It will cost approximately $40 million, including the balloon launch funding and the cost of post-launch operations and data analysis.

    NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program requested proposals for mission of opportunity investigations in September 2014. A panel of NASA and other scientists and engineers reviewed two mission of opportunity concept studies selected from the eight proposals submitted at that time, and NASA has determined that GUSTO has the best potential for excellent science return with a feasible development plan.

    “This work is an example of the innovative cutting-edge ideas that our faculty are turning into reality every day,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, the UA’s senior vice president for research. “We very much appreciate the support from NASA and confidence in Dr. Walker and his team to deliver this next generation space technology. Utilizing the stratosphere holds great promise to transform our approach to imaging and observing, and the UA researchers are leading the way forward.”

    The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, is providing the mission operations and the gondola. The UA will provide the GUSTO telescope and instrument, which will incorporate detector technologies from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge; Arizona State University; and SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research.

    NASA’s Explorers Program is the agency’s oldest continuous program and is designed to provide frequent, low-cost access to space using principal investigator-led space science investigations relevant to the astrophysics and heliophysics programs in the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. The program has launched more than 90 missions. It began in 1958 with the Explorer 1, which discovered the Earth’s radiation belts, now called the Van Allen belt, named after the principal investigator. Another Explorer mission, the Cosmic Background Explorer, led to a Nobel Prize. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the program for the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Arizona campus

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

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

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

     
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