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  • 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 .

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    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.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:35 pm on February 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Earth-Trojan asteroid search, , , , U Arizona   

    From Spaceflight Insider: “OSIRIS-REx begins search for Earth-Trojan asteroids” 

    1

    Spaceflight Insider

    February 15th, 2017
    Jim Sharkey

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft
    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    1
    An artist’s rendering of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft’s survey pattern during its Earth-Trojan asteroid search (not to scale). The search started on Feb. 9, 2017, and will continue until Feb. 20, 2017, as the spacecraft transits the Earth’s L4 Lagrangian region. Image Credit: University of Arizona

    On Feb. 9, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft began searching for an elusive type of near-Earth object known as Earth-Trojan asteroids. The spacecraft, currently on a two-year outbound journey to the asteroid Bennu, will spend nearly two weeks looking for evidence of these small bodies.

    2
    OSIRIS-REX searches for elusive Earth-Trojan asteroids in Earth’s L4 Lagrange point. Image Credit: NASA

    Trojan asteroids are trapped inside stable gravity wells called Lagrange points, which precede or follow a planet as it orbits the Sun. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is currently traveling through Earth’s fourth Lagrange point (L4), which is approximately 90 million miles (150 million kilometers) away.

    The mission team will take multiple images of the area with OSIRIS-REx’s MapCam camera in the hope of detecting Earth-Trojan asteroids in the region.

    While researchers have discovered only one Earth-Trojan to date, asteroid 2010 TK7, thousands of Trojan asteroids have been found accompanying other planets, mostly around Jupiter. Researchers predict that there should be more Trojans sharing Earth’s orbit, but they are hard to find from Earth because they appear near the Sun on the horizon.

    “Because the Earth’s fourth Lagrange point is relatively stable, it is possible that remnants of the material that built Earth are trapped within it,” said Dante Lauretta. “So this search gives us a unique opportunity to explore the primordial building blocks of Earth.”

    Each day during the search, OSIRIS-REx’s MapCam will take 135 survey images that will be processed and analyzed by the mission’s imaging team at the University of Arizona, Tuscon. During the survey, MapCam will also image Jupiter, several galaxies, and main belt asteroids 55 Pandora, 47 Aglaja, and 12 Victoria.

    The search will continue until Feb. 20.

    The survey will be beneficial even if no new asteroids are discovered as the operations involved in searching for Trojans are similar to those required to search for natural satellites and other hazards around Bennu when the spacecraft approaches it in 2018.

    Practicing these kinds of mission-critical operations in advance will help OSIRIS-REx once the spacecraft arrives at Bennu.


    Video courtesy of NASA / University of Arizona

    See the full article here .

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    SpaceFlight Insider reports on events taking place within the aerospace industry. With our team of writers and photographers, we provide an “insider’s” view of all aspects of space exploration efforts. We go so far as to take their questions directly to those officials within NASA and other space-related organizations. At SpaceFlight Insider, the “insider” is not anyone on our team, but our readers.

    Our team has decades of experience covering the space program and we are focused on providing you with the absolute latest on all things space. SpaceFlight Insider is comprised of individuals located in the United States, Europe, South America and Canada. Most of them are volunteers, hard-working space enthusiasts who freely give their time to share the thrill of space exploration with the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:20 am on January 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Robert N. Shelton, U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “Ex-President Shelton to Oversee GMT Buildout” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    Jan. 23, 2017
    Daniel Stolte

    1
    Robert Shelton, who served as the UA’s 19th president from 2006 until 2011, will lead the Giant Magellan Telescope Organization behind the development of the world’s largest telescope. (Image: GMTO)

    The Giant Magellan Telescope, in which the UA has a large stake, is positioned to be the world’s largest astronomical telescope when it comes online in 2025.

    Giant Magellan Telescope, Las Campanas Observatory, to be built  some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile
    Giant Magellan Telescope, Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile

    The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization has announced the appointment of physicist Robert N. Shelton to the position of president, effective Feb. 20. Shelton, who served as the 19th president of the University of Arizona from 2006 until 2011, will lead the organization behind the development of the 24.5-meter Giant Magellan Telescope, which is poised to be the world’s largest astronomical telescope when it comes online early in the next decade.

    Shelton will work closely with the GMTO board of directors, the leadership at the partner institutions and the GMT team to complete construction of the observatory, slated to come online in 2025 as the first of a new crop of Extremely Large Telescopes.

    _____________________________________________________________________
    Extra Info

    The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization manages the GMT project on behalf of its international partners: Astronomy Australia Ltd., Australian National University, Carnegie Institution for Science, Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP), Harvard University, Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute, Smithsonian Institution, Texas A&M University, University of Texas at Austin, University of Chicago and the UA.

    _____________________________________________________________________

    “With the UA being one of the founders of GMTO, and all the mirrors for the telescope being fabricated at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab, the UA really is at the core of making GMTO a success,” Shelton said.

    Shelton said the GMT would be an incredible asset to the future of scientific discovery and our understanding of the universe.

    “This observatory will have resolving power like nothing before — greater than the Hubble Space Telescope, greater than any other ground-based observatory,” he explained. “This allows us to look back in time, because the farther you can look into the recesses of the universe, the farther you can look back in time. And that goes into some fundamental questions about the origin of the universe, the questions of energy and matter — and that, I think, intrigues all human beings.”

    GMT’s assignments will range from studies of the first stars and galaxies in the universe to the exploration of planets orbiting other stars. Developed by an international consortium of universities and research institutions in the U.S., Australia, Brazil, and Korea, the telescope will be located at the Las Campanas Observatory high in the Andes mountains of northern Chile. Dark skies, a dry climate and smooth airflow make Las Campanas one of the world’s premier astronomical observing sites. Construction is underway at the observatory site in Chile, and the giant mirrors at the heart of the telescope are being polished at the Mirror Lab.

    “GMT will help answer questions about our fundamental humanity, and why we’re here on Earth, and what we’re going to do in our time to make the earth and the world around us better,” Shelton said.

    Among its peers, which are optimized to narrow their focus far into the distant universe, GMT will stand out with its ability to do just that, using its very high-angular resolution mode. But it also will employ a wide-field mode to examine relatively large patches of sky, explained Patrick McCarthy, who has served as GMTO’s interim president.

    “That’s really important when you look back at the early universe and want to understand how galaxies form and evolve,” McCarthy said. “In order to build proper samples that are statistically valid, having a larger patch of sky to look at is an advantage.”

    About Shelton’s appointment, McCarthy said: “Our group is just thrilled to have him come on board. His experience and leadership will have a catalyzing impact on us and our ability to move forward. We are a hundred percent behind him and we are committed to his success, because his success is our success, and we view this as a big step forward.”

    Shelton joins GMTO from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, where he has been president since March 2014 and leads the vision and direction of America’s first foundation dedicated solely to funding science. In addition to his tenure at the UA, Shelton has been executive director of the Arizona Sports Foundation and provost and executive vice chancellor of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, among many other notable leadership and academic positions at renowned public research universities. He also brings experience as a distinguished experimental condensed-matter physicist focusing on collective electron effects in novel materials, totaling more than 240 refereed publications, 50 invited talks and 100 contributed papers at professional meetings.

    Given the “unique combination” of his familiarity with the Mirror Lab and the UA’s decades-long track record in astronomy, Shelton called the move “a natural next step for somebody with UA leadership experience being privileged to now take on leadership of GMTO.”

    Buell Jannuzi, director of UA’s Steward Observatory, said: “I am very grateful to Robert Shelton for agreeing to bring his extensive scientific, administrative, philanthropic and leadership experience to a project that aspires to transform our understanding of the universe — from characterizing the nearest extra-solar planet, Proxima b, to trying to understand how the first galaxies formed. With the outstanding team assembled by the founding institutions, and under Robert’s leadership, I’m excited about the prospects for GMTO.”

    “The GMT is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me,” Shelton said. “I think the UA should be very proud of the central role it has played in moving the project this far, and the role it will play in bringing it to closure.”

    “Expert leadership is critical to transforming the GMT from a bold vision into a world-leading research facility,” said Walter E. Massey, chair of the GMTO board of directors and chancellor of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. “Dr. Shelton brings the skills and experience that we need at this critical time in the development of the GMT. The GMTO board looks forward to working with Robert on this exciting project.”

    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 3:12 pm on January 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , The most successful phyla have species that live on land and have a skeleton and are parasites, Three Ways to Be a Winner in the Game of Evolution, U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “Three Ways to Be a Winner in the Game of Evolution” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    1
    Jellyfish, polyps and the like belong to a phylum called Cnidaria, one of about 30 major groups that make up the animal kingdom. (Photo: Chai Seamaker/Shutterstock)

    A new UA study reveals the key traits associated with high species diversity: The most successful phyla have species that live on land, have a skeleton and are parasites.

    A new study by University of Arizona biologists helps explain why different groups of animals differ dramatically in their number of species, and how this is related to differences in their body forms and ways of life.

    For millennia, humans have marveled at the seemingly boundless variety and diversity of animals inhabiting the Earth. So far, biologists have described and catalogued about 1.5 million animal species, a number that many think might be eclipsed by the number of species still awaiting discovery.

    All animal species are divided among roughly 30 phyla, but these phyla differ dramatically in how many species they contain, from a single species to more than 1.2 million in the case of insects and their kin. Animals have incredible variation in their body shapes and ways of life, including the plantlike, immobile marine sponges that lack heads, eyes, limbs and complex organs, parasitic worms that live inside other organisms (nematodes, platyhelminths), and phyla with eyes, skeletons, limbs and complex organs that dominate the land in terms of species numbers (arthropods) and body size (chordates).

    Amid this dazzling array of life forms, one question has remained as elusive as it is obvious: Why is it that some groups on the evolutionary tree of animals have branched into a dizzying thicket of species while others split into a mere handful and called it a day?

    From the beginnings of their discipline, biologists have tried to find and understand the patterns underlying species diversity. In other words, what is the recipe that allows a phylum to diversify into many species, or, in the words of evolutionary biologists, to be “successful”? A fundamental but unresolved problem is whether the basic biology of these phyla is related to their species numbers. For example, does having a head, limbs and eyes allow some groups to be more successful and thus have greater species numbers?

    2
    A simplified evolutionary tree of six representative animal phyla, illustrating differences in body form, habitat, and species numbers among them. (Image: T. Jezkova/Shutterstock/Aaron Ambos/J. Wiens)

    3
    This colorful chocolate chip sea star, along with sea cucumbers and sea urchins, belongs to the Echinoderms, the only phylum with a five-symmetrical body plan. (Photo: Ethan Daniels/Shutterstock)

    n the new study, Tereza Jezkova and John Wiens, both in the University of Arizona’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, have helped resolve this problem. They assembled a database of 18 traits, including traits related to anatomy, reproduction and ecology. They then tested how each trait was related to the number of species in each phylum, and how quickly species in each phylum multiplied over time (diversification). The results are published in the journal American Naturalist.

    Jezkova and Wiens found that just three traits explained most variation in diversification and species numbers among phyla: the most successful phyla have a skeleton (either internal or external), live on land (instead of in the ocean) and parasitize other organisms. Other traits, including those that might seem more dramatic, had surprisingly little impact on diversification and species numbers: Evolutionary accomplishments such as having a head, limbs and complex organ systems for circulation and digestion don’t seem to be primary accessories in the evolutionary “dress for success.”

    “Parasitism isn’t correlated with any of the other traits, so it seems to have a strong effect on its own,” Wiens said.

    He explained that when a host species splits into two species, it takes its parasite population(s) with it.

    “You can have a number of parasite species living inside the same host,” he said. “For example, there could be 10 species of nematodes in one host species, and if that host species splits into two, there are 20 species of nematodes. So that really multiplies the diversity.”

    The researchers used a statistical method called multiple regression analysis to tease out whether a trait such as parasitic lifestyle is a likely driver of species diversification.

    “We tested all these unique traits individually,” Wiens explained. “For example, having a head, having eyes, where the species in a phylum tend to live, whether they reproduce sexually or asexually, whether they undergo metamorphosis or not. And from that we picked six traits that each had a strong effect on their own. We then fed those six traits into a multiple regression model. And then we asked, ‘What combination of traits explains the most variation without including any unnecessary variables?’ — and from that we could reduce it down to three key variables.”

    The authors point out that the analysis does not make any assumptions about the fossil record, which is not a true reflection of past biodiversity, as it does not reveal most soft-bodied animals or traits like a parasitic lifestyle.

    “We wanted to know what explains the pattern of diversity in the species we see today,” Wiens said. “Who are the winners, and who are the losers?”

    Marine biodiversity is in jeopardy from human activities such as acidification from carbon emissions, posing an existential threat to many marine animals, Wiens said.

    “Many unique products of animal evolution live only in the oceans and could easily be lost, so groups that have survived for hundreds of millions of years could disappear in our lifetime, which is terrible,” he said. “Many of the animals’ phyla that are losers in terms of present-day species numbers tend to be in the ocean, and because of human activity, they may go completely extinct.”

    The study also suggests that man-made extinction may wage a heavy toll on Earth’s biodiversity because of the effect of secondary extinctions, Wiens explained.

    “When a species goes extinct, all its associated species that live in it or on it are likely to go extinct as well,” he said.

    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 3:57 pm on September 3, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , The Supernova That Wasn't: A Tale of 3 Cosmic Eruptions, U Arizona   

    From U Arizona- “The Supernova That Wasn’t: A Tale of 3 Cosmic Eruptions” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    Sept. 1, 2016
    Daniel Stolte

    1
    Huge, billowing gas and dust clouds are captured in this stunning NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the supermassive star Eta Carinae. (Image: Nathan Smith/UA and NASA)

    Combining images taken with Hubble Space Telescope over more than 20 years, a team of UA researchers has discovered that Eta Carinae, a very massive star system that has puzzled astronomers since it erupted in a supernova-like event in the mid-19th century, has a past that’s much more violent than they thought. The findings help rewrite the story of how this iconic and mysterious star system came to be and present a critical piece of the puzzle of how very massive stars die.

    In the mid-1800s, astronomers surveying the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere noticed something strange: Over the course of a few years, a previously inconspicuous star named Eta Carinae grew brighter and brighter, eventually outshining all other stars except Sirius, before fading again over the next decade, becoming too dim to be seen with the naked eye.

    What had happened to cause this outburst? Did 19th-century astronomers witness some strange type of supernova, a star ending its life in a cataclysmic explosion?

    2
    This animated view of Hubble Space Telescope images taken between 1993 and 2014 reveals how much the mass ejections from Eta Carinae have moved outward into space, some at a speed of 2 million miles per hour. The outermost ejecta visible in this image stem from previously unknown eruptions predating the Great Eruption of the 1840s. (Image: Kiminki et al./NASA)

    “Not quite,” says Megan Kiminki, a doctoral student in the University of Arizona’s Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory. “Eta Carinae is what we call a supernova impostor. The star became very bright as it blew off a lot of material, but it was still there.”

    Indeed, in the mid-20th century Eta Carinae began to brighten again.

    The aftermath of the “Great Eruption” of the mid-1800s, which is now readily visible through a small telescope if you happen to be in the Southern Hemisphere, made Eta Carinae a celebrity among objects in the universe known for their bizarre beauty. An hourglass-shaped, billowing cloud of glowing gas and dust enshrouds the star and its companion. Known as the Homunculus nebula, the cloud consists of stellar material hurled into space during the Great Eruption, drifting away at 2 million miles per hour.

    3
    Zooming in on the “N bow,” a massive protrusion of gas and dust jutting out from the central portion of the Homunculus nebula. The feature is long enough to accommodate about 250 solar systems, lined up side by side and arbitrarily defined by Pluto’s orbit. In this image, the light is inverted, rendering bright areas dark and vice versa. (Image: Megan Kiminki et al.)

    By carefully analyzing images of Eta Carinae taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, Kiminki and her team were surprised to discover that the Great Eruption was only the latest in a series of massive outbursts launched by the star system since the 13th century. Published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the paper was co-authored by Nathan Smith, associate professor in the UA’s Department of Astronomy, and Megan Reiter, who obtained her Ph.D. from the same department last year and is now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan.

    The expansion rate of gas that was far outside the Homunculus indicated that it was moving slowly and must have been ejected centuries before the observed 19th-century brightening. In fact, the motions of the outer material point to two separate eruptions in the mid-13th and mid-16th centuries.

    For scientists trying to piece together what makes star systems such as Eta Carinae tick, the findings are like the stereotypical smoking gun in a detective story.

    “From the first reports of its 19th-century outburst up to the most recent data obtained with advanced capabilities on modern telescopes, Eta Carinae continues to baffle us,” Smith says. “The most important unsolved problem has always been the underlying cause of its eruption, and now we find that there were multiple previous eruptions. This is a bit like reconstructing the eruption history of a volcano by discovering ancient lava flows.”

    Although the glowing gases of the Homunculus nebula prevent astronomers from getting a clear look at what’s inside, they have figured out that Eta Carinae is a binary system of two very massive stars that orbit each other every 5.5 years. Both are much bigger than our sun and at least one of them is nearing the end of its life.

    4
    Here, color-coded arrows trace the observed proper motions of 792 features in the ejecta of Eta Carinae. Until now, only one eruption was known (red arrows). Blue and green arrows mark previous eruptions (mid-13th and mid-16th centuries, respectively). (Image: Kiminki et al./NASA)

    “These are very large stars that appear very volatile, even when they’re not blowing off nebulae,” Kiminki says. “They have a dense core and very fluffy envelopes. If you replaced our sun by the larger of the two, which has about 90-100 solar masses, it could very well extend into the orbit of Mars.”

    Because the Homunculus nebula is such an iconic and visually stunning object, it has been a popular target of astronomical observations. A total of eight images, taken over the course of two decades with Hubble, turned out to be a treasure trove for Kiminki and her co-authors.

    The original goal of the team’s observing program was to measure proper motions of stars and protostellar jets — fast streams of matter ejected by young stars during formation — in the Carina Nebula, but the same data also provided a powerful way to measure the motion of debris ejected by Eta Carinae itself.

    “As I was aligning the images, I noticed that the one that Eta Carinae in it was more difficult to align,” Kiminki says. “We can only use objects as alignment points that aren’t moving, and I thought, ‘Wow, a lot of this stuff is really moving.’ And then we decided to take a closer look.”

    By aligning the multi-epoch images of the nebula, the team was able to track the movement of more than 800 blobs of gas Eta Carinae had ejected over time and derived a likely ejection date for each. The analyses showed that the Homunculus nebula and the observed 19th-century brightening tell only part of the story. Measuring the speed with which wisps of ejected material expand outward into space revealed that they must have resulted from two separate eruptions that occurred about 600 and 300 years before the Great Eruption of the 19th century.

    In addition to having a separate origin in time, the older material also showed a very different geometry from the Homunculus, where material was ejected out from the star’s poles and appears symmetric about its rotation axis.

    “We found one of the prior eruptions was similarly symmetric, but at a totally different angle from the axis of the Great Eruption,” Kiminki explains. “Even more surprising was that the oldest eruption was very one-sided, suggesting two stars were involved, because it would be very unlikely for one star to blow material out toward just one side.”

    Though perplexing, the findings are a big step forward for astronomers trying to understand what causes the frequent outbursts.

    “We don’t really know what’s going on with Eta Carinae,” Kiminki says. “But knowing that Eta Carinae erupted at least three times tells us that whatever causes those eruptions must be a recurring process, because it wouldn’t be very likely that each eruption is caused by a different mechanism.”

    “Even though we still have not figured out the underlying physical mechanism that caused the 19th-century eruption, we now know that it isn’t a one-time event,” Smith says. “That makes it harder to understand, but it is also a critical piece of the puzzle of how very massive stars die. Stars like Eta Carinae apparently refuse to go quietly into the night.”

    Eta Carinae’s eruptions provide unique insights into the last unstable phases of a very massive star’s life. Researchers who study supernovae have identified a subclass of supernova explosions that appear to suffer violent eruptions shortly before they finally explode. Smith notes that Eta Carinae might be our nearest example of this.

    Because it takes light 7,000 years to travel from Eta Carinae to Earth, much could have happened in the meantime, Kiminki says. “Eta Carinae may have gone supernova by now, and we wouldn’t know until 7,000 years from now.”

    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 7:14 am on August 30, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , OSIRIS-REx mission, U Arizona   

    From U Arizona: “OSIRIS-REx Interest Grows as Launch Day Nears” 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    Aug. 29, 2016
    Doug Carroll

    If the questions posed at Saturday’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory open house were any indication, then Tucsonans are impressively up to speed on the OSIRIS-REx mission and eagerly anticipating the spacecraft’s launch on Sept. 8 in Florida.

    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft
    NASA OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft

    A near-capacity auditorium crowd of all ages at the Kuiper Space Sciences building wanted to know about everything from the spacecraft’s solar panels to the pressurized nitrogen that will be used in collecting a sample from the near-Earth asteroid Bennu.

    University of Arizona scientists Bashar Rizk, Carl Hergenrother and Michael Nolan shared their perspective in a panel discussion on various aspects of the mission. They were followed by the mission’s deputy principal investigator, Ed Beshore, whose hourlong overview filled in any gaps.

    The result was a wealth of information that could be appreciated by laypeople and space geeks alike. But it’s what the scientists don’t know or expect that really fires the imagination — both theirs and ours.

    The billion-dollar NASA mission, on the drawing boards at the UA since 2004, is certain to yield unexpected results, according to Nolan, an asteroid scientist.

    “In any mission, you have to predict what you will find,” Nolan said, “and we predict we’ll find pristine material related to the origin of life.

    “However, in every other mission, we’ve predicted and been wrong on things — and that’s why we do this. We’ll be finding things we don’t know anything about.”

    The sample will be the grand prize, and Beshore called it “a gift to future scientists (who will be) using techniques we haven’t dreamed of yet.” The mission represents “a turning of the corner” in the way that the planets are investigated, he said.

    Rizk noted that the weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the installation and integration of the UA-designed OSIRIS-REx Camera Suite, or OCAMS, which will be the spacecraft’s eyes in the sky.

    The three cameras are known informally as PolyCam, a “spyglass” that will spot Bennu from hundreds of thousand of miles and investigate its surface features; MapCam, which will map the entire surface of the asteroid from about three miles, in color; and SamCam, the spacecraft’s “peripheral vision” that will image the actual sample event, expected to occur in July 2020.

    “We’re hoping this asteroid will surprise us in the way that so many images have in the past,” said Rizk, who was the lead on OCAMS.

    Hergenrother, the astronomy lead, detailed the process of elimination that fixed on Bennu as the target. The asteroid, which is 148 million miles away, was chosen because of its carbonaceous composition (“Material that has had a minimal amount of change,” he said), Earth-like orbit, moderate rotation and size.

    “We’re going to learn so much about asteroids that we’ll be able to apply to other (space) objects,” Hergenrother said.

    The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will have three tries to retrieve the sample, expected to yield between 60 grams and a couple of pounds of Bennu’s regolith, or loose surface material. An instrument known as TAGSAM — which stands for Touch-and-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism — will be used for the collection. If all goes well, the sample will return to Earth at the Utah Test and Training Range, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City, in September 2023.

    What happens, one questioner wanted to know, if TAGSAM muffs the first try?

    “We’ll have to go to Washington and show them a lot of PowerPoint,” Beshore said, his sense of humor still intact with less than two weeks to go before launch.

    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 7:03 am on July 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Erin Ratcliff, Organic Semiconductor Research Could Boost Electronics, U Arizona,   

    From U Arizona: Women in Science – “Organic Semiconductor Research Could Boost Electronics” Erin Ratcliff 

    U Arizona bloc

    University of Arizona

    July 22, 2016
    Jill Goetz

    1
    Erin Ratcliff

    Erin Ratcliff, assistant professor in the UA College in Engineering, has received grant funding to work toward making environmentally sustainable devices more stable and commercially viable.

    Most people aren’t accustomed to hearing “organic” and “semiconductor” in the same sentence. But the words flow naturally for Erin Ratcliff, a University of Arizona assistant professor with a chemistry background in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

    Ratcliff is co-principal investigator on a new research project funded by the National Science Foundation to better understand and improve the viability of organic semiconductor materials, which are being used more and more in the manufacturing of digital display screens and new electronic devices.

    The $590,000, three-year award teams Ratcliff with Jeanne Pemberton, a UA Regents’ Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Science and principal investigator on the study.

    “I’m incredibly excited to receive this award and to have Jeanne Pemberton as my co-investigator,” said Ratcliff, who joined the UA faculty in 2014. “Her research and discoveries in analytical chemistry have led to major advancements in the field.”

    The NSF project, which started July 1, is also a boon for UA undergraduate and graduate students in engineering and science. Besides working in the Ratcliff and Pemberton labs, participating graduate students will have six-week internships at Next Energy Technologies Inc., a startup based in Santa Barbara, California, that is developing organic semiconductor materials for the solar industry. Ratcliff also is developing a new course, Organic Electronics, for upper-level undergraduate and graduate students at the UA.

    Organic semiconductor materials are carbon-based molecules and polymers with electrical conductivity. They are used to make organic light-emitting diode, digital display screens for mobile phones, TVs and tablets. Future prospects for organic semiconductor materials include solar energy technologies and wearable devices.

    The global market for all types of organic light-emitting diode displays is expected to grow from nearly $16 billion this year to $57 billion in 2026, according to market research firm IDTechEx. Ultrathin flexible organic light-emitting diode screen displays reflect the latest trend, with revenues forecast to grow from $2 billion to $18 billion by 2020.

    Benefits of organic semiconductor materials over their inorganic counterparts, such as silicon, include greater transparency and flexibility, reduced cost and fewer adverse environmental effects.

    However, the degradability of organic semiconductor materials that makes them easier on the environment can also make them less stable and more likely to degrade in operando — that is, when they are used in a device.

    In their study, In Operando Characterization of Degradation Processes in Organic Semiconductor Materials, Ratcliff, Pemberton and UA graduate and undergraduate students in engineering and chemistry are using spectroscopy and other tools to measure and analyze OSCs exposed to different levels of light, heat, gases, moisture and electrical charges under varied conditions to better understand and manipulate the degradation process.
    “Organic semiconductors hold exceptional promise in a number of existing and emerging electronics and other technologies,” Ratcliff said. “But degradation is a major problem for using them commercially. This research project will set a foundation for better understanding and solving this complicated issue.”

    As a collaboration of chemists and engineers, the project stands apart from previous studies of OSC degradation, Ratcliff emphasized.

    “Chemistry researchers have approached the problem by looking only at molecular chemistry,” she said. “Engineering researchers have focused on device functionality. By combining the skills, expertise and perspectives of chemists and engineers, our project will provide the most complete picture of OSC degradation in operando to date.”

    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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