Tagged: U Colorado Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 11:18 am on June 6, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Colorado, Wasteful’ galaxies launch heavy elements into surrounding halos and deep space   

    From U Colorado Boulder: “‘Wasteful’ galaxies launch heavy elements into surrounding halos and deep space, CU-Boulder study finds” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    June 6, 2016
    No writer credit

    1
    Spiral galaxies like the Milky Way are shown in the center, surrounded by the circumgalactic medium, which appears as black to our eyes. However, the circumgalactic medium contains very hot gas, shown in red, orange, and white that outweighs the central galaxies. The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope is an ultra-violet spectrograph that can probe these gaseous filaments and clumps. Credit: Adrien Thob, LJMU [phys.org for caption]

    Galaxies “waste” large amounts of heavy elements generated by star formation by ejecting them up to a million light years away into their surrounding halos and deep space, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.

    The research, which was recently published* online in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, shows that more oxygen, carbon and iron atoms exist in the sprawling, gaseous halos outside of galaxies than exist within the galaxies themselves, leaving the galaxies with fewer raw materials needed to build stars, planets, and life itself.

    “Previously, we thought that these heavier elements would be recycled in to future generations of stars and contribute to forming planetary systems and providing the building blocks of life,” said Benjamin Oppenheimer, a research associate in the Center for Astrophysics & Space Astronomy (CASA) at CU-Boulder and lead author of the study. “As it turns out, galaxies aren’t very good at recycling.”

    The near-invisible reservoir of gas that surrounds a galaxy, known as the circumgalactic medium (CGM), is thought to play a central role in cycling elements in and out of the galaxy, but the exact mechanisms of this relationship remain elusive. A typical galaxy ranges in size from 30,000 to 100,000 light years while the CGM can span up to a million light years.

    The researchers used data from the Cosmic Origin Spectrograph (COS), a $70 million instrument designed at CU-Boulder and built by Boulder, Colorado-based Ball Aerospace Technology Corp., to study the composition of the CGM.

    NASA Hubble Cosmic Origins Spectrograph
    “NASA/ESA Hubble Cosmic Origins Spectrograph

    COS is installed on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and uses ultraviolet spectroscopy to study the evolution of the universe.

    Spiral galaxies like the Milky Way actively form stars and have a blueish color while elliptical galaxies have little star formation and appear red. Both types of galaxies contain tens to hundreds of billions of stars that create heavy elements.

    After running a series of simulations, the researchers found that the CGMs in both types of galaxies contained more than half of a galaxy’s heavier elements, suggesting that galaxies are not as efficient at retaining their raw materials as previously thought.

    “The remarkable similarity of the galaxies in our simulations to those targeted by the COS team enables us to interpret the observations with greater confidence,” said Robert Crain, a Royal Society University Research Fellow at Liverpool John Moores University and a co-author of the study.

    The new simulations also explain the puzzling COS observation that there appears to be less oxygen around elliptical than spiral galaxies.

    “The CGM of the elliptical galaxies is hotter,” said Joop Schaye, a professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands and a co-author of the study. “The high temperatures, topping over one million degrees Kelvin, reduce the fraction of the oxygen that is five times ionized, which is the ion observed by COS.”

    By contrast, the temperature of the CGM gas in spiral galaxies is 300,000 degrees Kelvin, or around fifty times hotter than the surface of the Sun.

    “It takes massive amounts of energy from exploding supernovae and supermassive black holes to launch all these heavy elements into the CGM,” said Oppenheimer. “This is a violent and long-lasting process that can take over 10 billion years, which means that in a galaxy like the Milky Way, this highly ionized oxygen we’re observing has been there since before the Sun was born.”

    *Science paper:
    Bimodality of low-redshift circumgalactic O VI in non-equilibrium EAGLE zoom simulations

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:24 am on March 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Colorado   

    From U Colorado: “More surprises in store for the New Horizons spacecraft?” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    March 17, 2016
    No writer credit found

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft
    NASA/New Horizons

    Students at CU-Boulder, who built a dust counter for the New Horizons mission to Pluto, have been eyeing the data for decade now. And the results are showing the solar system really is pretty barren if you put aside the planets, rings, moons, comets and asteroids.

    The Student Dust Counter (SDC) found only a handful of dust grains, the building blocks of planets, when the spacecraft whipped by Pluto at 31,000 miles per hour last July. Data show the space environment around Pluto and its moons contains only about six dust particles per cubic mile, says Professor Fran Bagenal, who leads the New Horizons Particles and Plasma Team.

    “The bottom line is that space is mostly empty,” explains Bagenal, a faculty member at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). “Any debris created when Pluto’s moons were captured or created during impacts has long since been removed by planetary processes.”

    Since its launch in 2006, SDC has identified a few thousand microscopic dust particles, the building blocks of both our solar system and the universe and which can give researchers clues about how the solar system was formed billions of years ago and how it works today.

    “CU-Boulder is the only place in the world where students could have built an instrument that eventually flew off to another planet,” says Bagenal.

    A lot of dust is on the horizon for New Horizons, which is now on the edge of the Kuiper Belt, a vast region thought to span more than a billion miles beyond Neptune’s orbit.

    Kuiper Belt
    Known objects in the Kuiper belt beyond the orbit of Neptune. (Scale in AU; epoch as of January 2015.)

    the Kuiper Belt is believed to harbor at least 70,000 objects more than 60 miles in diameter and contain samples of ancient material created during the solar system’s violent formation some 4.5 billion years ago.

    “Now we are now starting to see seeing a slow but steady increase in the impact rate of larger particles, possibly indicating that we already have entered the inner edge of the Kuiper Belt,” says physics Professor Mihaly Horanyi, the principal investigator for the SDC.

    A new study involving Bagenal, Horanyi, CU-Boulder doctoral student Marcus Piquette and Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) postdoctoral researcher Jamey Szalay, who received his doctorate in physics from CU-Boulder last year, was just published in Science.

    The CU-Boulder dust counter is a thin film resting on a honeycombed aluminum structure the size of a cake pan mounted on the spacecraft’s exterior. A small electronic box functions as the instrument’s “brain” to assess each individual dust particle that strikes the detector, allowing the students to infer the mass of each particle.

    A revolving cast of more than 20 CU-Boulder students, primarily undergraduates, worked on designing and building the SDC for New Horizons between 2002 and 2005. Several students and researchers are now assessing data from the flyby.

    “Our instrument has been soaring through our solar system’s dust disk and gathering data since launch,” said Szalay, who works at SwRI headquarters in San Antonio. “It’s going to be very exciting to get into the Kuiper Belt and see what we find there.”

    New Horizons is traveling at a mind-blowing 750,000 miles a day. Images from closest approach were taken from roughly 7,700 miles above Pluto’s surface. The spacecraft, about the size of a baby grand piano, carries six other instruments.

    The next and final target of New Horizons is a 30-mile-in diameter Kuiper Belt object named 2014 MU69, which the spacecraft is expected to pass in January 2019.

    Funding for student dust counter came primarily through the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, which manages New Horizons, and SwRI. LASP also has contributed funds to help pay students working on SDC.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:02 pm on January 5, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Colorado   

    From U Colorado: “Galactic merger reveals an unusual star-deprived black hole” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    January 5, 2016
    Julie Comerford, 303-242-2181
    julie.comerford@colorado.edu

    Trent Knoss, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-735-0528
    trent.knoss@colorado.edu

    1
    Image of the galaxy SDSS J1126+2944 taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory. The arrow points to the black hole that lost most of its stars due to gravitational stripping processes.

    In a season of post-holiday gym memberships, an unusually star-deprived black hole at the site of two merged galaxies is showing that these massive gravitational voids can shed weight too.

    The recently discovered black hole, which does not have the expected number of stars surrounding it, could provide new insight into black hole evolution and behavior, according to recently published research from the University of Colorado Boulder.

    The findings were announced today during a news briefing at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) being held this week in Kissimmee, Florida.

    Supermassive black holes exist at the centers of all massive galaxies, including the Milky Way, and contain a mass of between 1 million and 1 billion times that of the sun. The mass of a black hole tends to scale with the mass of its galaxy, and each black hole is typically embedded within a large sphere of stars.

    The galaxy SDSS J1126+2944 is the result of a merger between two smaller galaxies, which brought together a pair of supermassive black holes. One of the black holes is surrounded by a typical amount of stars, but the other black hole is strangely “naked” and has a much lower number of associated stars than expected.

    “One black hole is starved of stars, and has 500 times fewer stars associated with it than the other black hole,” said Julie Comerford, an assistant professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences and the lead investigator of the new research. “The question is why there’s such a discrepancy.”

    One possibility, said Comerford, is that extreme gravitational and tidal forces simply stripped away most of the stars from one of the black holes over the course of the galactic merger.

    The other possibility, however, is that the merger actually reveals a rare “intermediate” mass black hole, with a mass of between 100 and 1 million times that of the sun. Intermediate mass black holes are predicted to exist at the centers of dwarf galaxies and thus have a lower number of associated stars. These intermediate mass black holes can grow and one day become supermassive black holes.

    “Theory predicts that intermediate black holes should exist, but they are difficult to pinpoint because we don’t know exactly where to look,” said Scott Barrows, a postdoctoral researcher at CU-Boulder who co-authored the study. “This unusual galaxy may provide a rare glimpse of one of these intermediate mass black holes.”

    If galaxy SDSS J1126+2944 does indeed contain an intermediate black hole, it would provide researchers with an opportunity to test the theory that supermassive black holes evolve from these lower-mass ‘seed’ black holes.

    Images of the galaxy SDSS J1126+2944 were taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, a NASA-operated orbital X-ray telescope.

    NASA Hubble Telescope
    NASA/ESA Hubble

    NASA Chandra Telescope
    NASA/Chandra

    Details of the research were recently published in The Astrophysical Journal. The article is also publicly available at arXiv.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:23 am on December 24, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Colorado,   

    From U Colorado: “CU-Boulder study reveals evolutionary arms race between Ebola virus, bats” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder.

    December 22, 2015
    Sara Sawyer, 303-735-0531
    ssawyer@colorado.edu

    Trent Knoss, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-735-0528
    trent.knoss@colorado.edu

    Temp 1
    The Ebola virus, isolated in November 2014 from patient blood samples obtained in Mali. The virus was isolated on Vero cells in a BSL-4 suite at Rocky Mountain Laboratories. Credit: NIAID

    The Ebola virus and fruit bats have been waging a molecular battle for survival that may have started at least 25 million years ago, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, Albert Einstein College of Medicine and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).

    The findings, published today in the journaleLife [no link], shed new light on the biological factors that determine which bat species may harbor the virus in between outbreaks in humans and how bats may transmit the virus to people.

    The researchers showed that a single amino acid change in the Ebola virus could overcome the resistance of the African straw-colored fruit bat cells to infection. These findings hint at one way in which Ebola and other highly infectious filoviruses can evolve to better infect a host.

    “There seems to be a low barrier for Ebola virus to establish itself in this type of bat,” said co-lead author Sara Sawyer, an associate professor in CU-Boulder’s Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology and the BioFrontiers Institute. “One has to wonder why that has not happened yet.”

    To learn more, the researchers exposed cells from four types of African bats (two of them previously linked to Ebola) to several filoviruses, including Ebola. Cells from only one type of bat proved resistant to Ebola virus infection: the African straw-colored fruit bat, which is commonly hunted for bushmeat in West Africa and migrates long distances.

    Outbreaks of Ebola virus disease among humans are thought to begin when a person comes into contact with a wild animal carrying Ebola virus.

    “We knew from our previous research that Ebola virus infects host cells by attaching its surface glycoprotein to a host cell receptor called NPC1,” said Kartik Chandran, an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and a co-lead author of the study. “Here, we show how bats have evolved to resist Ebola infection and how, in turn, the virus could have evolved to overcome that resistance.”

    “Identifying potential animal reservoir hosts for Ebola virus will provide a crucial guide for public health prevention and response programs going forward,” said Maryska Kaczmarek, a graduate researcher in Sawyer’s lab at CU-Boulder and a co-author of the study.

    There are currently no FDA-approved treatments or vaccines for the Ebola virus. The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa was the world’s deadliest to date, infecting an estimated 28,000 people and killing more than 11,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The study was co-authored by Melinda Ng, Esther Ndungo, Rohit Jangra and Rohan Biswas, all at Albert Einstein; John Hawkins and Ann Demogines, all at University of Texas at Austin; Andrew Herbert, Ana Kuehne and Rebekah James, all at USAMRIID; Tabea Binger and Marcel Müller at University of Bonn Medical Center; Robert Gifford at University of Glasgow; Meng Yu and Lin-Fa Wang at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School; Thijn Brummelkamp at Netherlands Cancer Institute; Christian Drosten at the German Centre for Infectious Diseases Research; and Jens Kuhn at the National Institutes of Health’s Integrated Research Facility at Fort Detrick.

    This research was supported by grants from National Institutes of Health, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, European Union FP-7 Antigone, the EBOKON Project, and the National Research Foundation Singapore.

    See the full article here .

    If you want to help in the fight against Ebola, join World Community Grid [WCG]and attach to the Outsmart Ebola Together project running at the Scripps Institute. WCG runs on BOINC software from UC Berkeley.

    WCGLarge

    Outsmart Ebola Together

    Scripps

    BOINC WallPaper

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:48 pm on December 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Colorado   

    From U Colorado: “The passionate researcher: “Natasha Powell (MCDBio, Biochem, Neuro’16) gets hands-on with cancer research” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    1

    December 21, 2015
    Kenna Bruner

    When Natasha Powell emailed Tom Cech asking to work in his lab as an undergraduate research assistant, she had no idea that Cech just happens to be a Nobel laureate.

    After Cech, a distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at CU-Boulder, offered her the position, a Google search revealed to Powell that her new boss was a world renowned researcher recognized for his discovery of the ribozyme.

    Powell, now a junior, has worked in Cech’s lab since she was a freshman. She is triple majoring in neuroscience; molecular, cellular and developmental biology; and biochemistry. Powell is also minoring in French and dance with an emphasis on classical ballet.

    “CU has a phenomenal undergraduate research reputation and that definitely drew me here,” she said. “When I decided on CU, I started looking for professors who were doing interesting work. That’s how I stumbled across Tom and his work in telomeres.”

    Powell emailed Cech about her interest in cancer research and her desire to work with him, although at the time she didn’t know he was a Nobel laureate.

    “I’m so happy and lucky he responded,” said Powell. “He’s the most down-to-earth person you’ll ever meet. I love working for him and the rest of his team.”

    To say that Powell is focused and driven is a bit of an understatement. She’s been interested in science for as long as she can remember. While in high school in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota she wanted to pursue a career in pediatric neurosurgery. She attended a talk given by Dr. John Ohlfest, a researcher at the University of Minnesota, who was a pioneer in the treatment of glioblastomas—malignant brain tumors—using gene therapy and novel immunotherapies. Fascinated with his research, Powell approached him after the talk to ask about working in his lab despite being in high school.

    During the time that Powell was working in his lab, Ohlfest was diagnosed with malignant melanoma that had metastasized to his lungs. He died a few months later. That experience for Powell became a turning point in her life.

    “His death had a huge impact on me,” said Powell. “I was mad at myself because I couldn’t save him. I decided that I need to save people and that I needed to pursue this area. His death lit a fire under me. That’s how I got into cancer research.”

    Powell then worked for Dr. David Largaespada at the University of Minnesota, who was conducting similar cancer research as Ohlfest. By the time Powell graduated early from high school, she had more than a year of hands-on cancer research under her belt and was looking at universities where she could get into research as an undergraduate. That led her to CU-Boulder.

    One of the projects Powell worked on with Cech’s team was examining mutations in the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene promoter. They looked at 23 urothelial (bladder) cancers. Their data confirmed that a finding of high telomerase levels could predict whether a patient’s bladder cancer was fatal or survivable. Using their research could give medical diagnostic companies the knowledge to develop a test that could be used in a doctor’s office. The data from their latest research was published in February 2015 in Science, one of the top scientific journals in the world.

    “Natasha and our other undergrad researchers bring a special energy, enthusiasm and talent to our lab,” said Cech. “Seeing such students struggle, grow and triumph makes being a professor a very special career for me. Bringing undergrads like Natasha into our research group is the best education we provide at CU. It’s open-ended and exploratory, the answers are unknown, and the process is at the cutting edge of biomedical science.”

    Powell’s advice to students, regardless of major, is to take advantage of professors’ office hours.

    “That’s where you get to know your professors,” she said. “Even if you don’t have a question or a problem, just go introduce yourself; let them know you’re interested in their work. I promise it will help you. It’s phenomenal the resources that are available to undergraduates that help prepare you for a career.”

    Powell’s plans after graduating from CU in December 2016 are to get a doctorate and conduct immunotherapy-based cancer research focusing on glioblastomas and melanomas. It’s no surprise that she’s busy planning her next academic steps.

    “For graduate school I’d like to go to The Rockefeller University in New York City,” she said. “There’s a professor there I want to work for. I’ve already scoped him out.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 8:21 pm on December 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Colorado   

    From U Colorado: “Tiny satellites, big opportunity” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    December 3, 2015
    No writer credit

    1
    No image credit

    From the moment he arrived at the University of Colorado Boulder, Colden Rouleau wanted to make a difference in aerospace engineering technology. He didn’t have to wait long.

    Rouleau, a first-year PhD student in CU-Boulder’s Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences (AES), is one of over 40 students who helped design and build the Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS), a tiny cube satellite measuring roughly the size of a loaf of bread and weighing about as much as a gallon of milk.

    2
    MinXSS family of cubesats

    The MinXSS, which launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Dec. 3, will study how powerful electromagnetic emissions from the sun impact the Earth’s atmosphere, an effect known as space weather.

    And contrary to the notion that satellite building is only for pros, the MinXSS was built by AES students in collaboration with researchers at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP). The mission continues a successful tradition of CU-Boulder students designing and flying CubeSats, including the Colorado Student Space Weather Experiment, which launched in September 2012.

    “I came to the University of Colorado Boulder to tie science and engineering together and it’s amazing how much I’ve gotten to do already,” said Rouleau. “CubeSats are going to revolutionize how we do science in space.”

    Over the past two decades, CU-Boulder has become a world leader in the development of CubeSats, which are low-cost, short lifespan satellites built to take specific scientific observations and measurements.

    “We have a wonderful asset in the Aerospace Engineering Sciences department here at the University of Colorado Boulder,” said Scott Palo, a professor and associate dean for research in AES. “It’s a top-ranked program, ranked tenth by U.S. News and World Report and third by the National Research Council. The students who come in to work on CubeSats get tremendous experience doing hands-on work, designing and building hardware.”

    Industry collaborations

    The MinXSS mission is just the latest example of CU-Boulder’s commitment to advancing CubeSat technology through productive partnerships with industry and government.

    For example, CubeSats don’t have propulsion systems of their own, so they need to hitch a ride to space. Enter United Launch Alliance (ULA), which will give the MinXSS a ride to the International Space Station (ISS) via one of its Atlas V rockets. In November, the Centennial, Colorado-based ULA announced that CU-Boulder will also receive a free CubeSat ride to space in 2017 as part of the aerospace company’s new initiative to make CubeSat launches more affordable and accessible to academic institutions nationwide.

    Another collaboration comes via Blue Canyon Technologies (BCT), a Boulder, Colorado-based aerospace company founded by CU-Boulder graduate George Stafford. To keep itself orientated toward the Sun correctly, the MinXSS will incorporate an XACT attitude determination and control system built by BCT.

    “The collaboration between BCT and CU-Boulder is great for both sides,” said Matt Carton, an engineer at Blue Canyon Technologies and a CU-Boulder graduate. “It has been a dream come true to continue to work with my old colleagues, through BCT, on MinXSS and the design of future CubeSats.”

    The MinXSS will be the first CubeSat to use the full XACT system and there are approximately 10 other CubeSats planning to launch in 2016 with an XACT onboard, said Carton.

    Once delivered to the ISS, the MinXSS CubeSat will be deployed into space in January 2016 and operate for up to 12 months. CubeSat deployments from the ISS via a specially designed CubeSat deployer are made possible through a Space Act Agreement between NASA and NanoRacks LLC.

    All in all, it adds up to a successful aerospace engineering program that will only continue to grow.

    “CU-Boulder is recognized as a leader in CubeSat development,” said James Mason, a graduate researcher at LASP and a co-investigator on the MinXSS project. “The mass, volume, power, schedule and cost constraints of CubeSats have pushed us to develop new techniques, new technologies and a new mentality for working on satellites.”

    As a student on the front lines of this CubeSat revolution, Rouleau is grateful for the chance to dive in. “CU-Boulder has given me the opportunity to make significant contributions on flight-ready projects immediately,” he said. “I’m getting the hands-on experience I need to be successful going forward.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:17 am on April 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Colorado   

    From U Colorado: “After successful mission to Mercury, spacecraft on a crash course with history” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    April 16, 2015
    William McClintock, 303-492-8407
    william.mcclintock@lasp.colorado.edu

    Daniel Baker, 303-492-0591
    daniel.baker@lasp.colorado.edu

    Gregory Holsclaw, 303-735-0480
    gregory.holsclaw@colorado.edu

    Jim Scott, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3114
    jim.scott@colorado.edu

    NASA Messenger satellite
    MESSENGER

    NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury carrying an $8.7 million University of Colorado Boulder instrument is slated to run out of fuel and crash into the planet in the coming days after a wildly successful, four-year orbiting mission chock full of discoveries.

    The mission began in 2004, when the MESSENGER spacecraft launched from Florida on a seven year, 4.7 billion mile journey that involved 15 loops around the sun before the spacecraft settled in Mercury’s orbit in March 2011. Since then the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS), built by CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), has been making measurements of Mercury’s surface and its tenuous atmosphere, called the exosphere.

    U ColoradoMASCS
    MASCS

    “The spacecraft is finally running out of fuel, and at this point it’s just sort of skimming the planet’s surface,” said Senior Research Scientist William McClintock of LASP, the principal investigator of the MASCS instrument for the mission. It could crash onto Mercury’s surface or run into towering cliff-like features known as scarps that are evidence of a planet-wide contraction as the object cooled, he said.

    “A lot of people didn’t give this spacecraft much of a chance of even getting to Mercury, let alone going into orbit and then gathering data for four years instead of the original scheduled one-year mission.” said McClintock. “In the end, most of what we considered to be gospel about Mercury turned out to be a little different than we thought.”

    Mercury is about two-thirds of the way closer to the sun than Earth and has been visited by only one other spacecraft, NASA’s Mariner 10, in 1974 and 1975.

    NASA Mariner 10
    Mariner 10

    About half the size of a compact car, MESSENGER is equipped with a large sunshade and is toting a camera, a magnetometer, an altimeter and four spectrometers.

    One surprise to the CU-Boulder scientists was the behavior of the thin, tenuous atmosphere of Mercury known as the exosphere. “We thought the exosphere would be highly variable and episodic, and we discovered quite the opposite,” said McClintock. “We found it was very seasonal, like our climate on Earth. We saw the same patterns year after year, which was a big surprise.”

    A number of wild discoveries have come from the MESSENGER mission: Mercury may have as much as 1 trillion metric tons of ice tucked in the dark recesses of its craters, despite its 800 degree Fahrenheit surface temperatures; dust from comets may have painted its surface dark with carbon; some of its craters were once filled with lava; it has a lopsided magnetic field and a gigantic iron core.

    Despite the large iron core, very little of the element was found on the surface, said Greg Holsclaw, a LASP researcher who helped develop the MASCS instrument. “Despite clear evidence of volcanic activity, the abundance of iron was found to be very low,” he said. “This, combined with the presence of materials that vaporize at relatively low temperatures, indicates Mercury experienced a formation history unlike any other planet.”

    During the mission, McClintock and his colleagues used MASCS to make the first detection of magnesium in the planet’s exosphere. The team also determined magnesium, calcium and sodium, the major elements observed with MASCS, show distinctive and different spatial patterns that repeat every Mercury year.

    LASP Director Daniel Baker, also a co-investigator on the MESSENGER mission, is studying Mercury’s magnetic field and its interaction with the solar wind including violent “sub-storms” that occur in the planet’s vicinity. “MESSENGER has taught us more in four years of orbiting our sun’s nearest neighbor than we’ve learned in the prior several centuries put together,” Baker said. “We have come to understand much more deeply the geology, chemistry, atmospheric aspects and the space environment of a truly fascinating ‘miniature’ world.”

    Baker said CU-Boulder’s involvement in the MESSENGER mission has helped attract bright and energetic faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students. Even undergraduates have been participating in the mission including senior Ryan Dewey, a 2014 Goldwater Scholarship winner who sought out Baker as a sophomore because he wanted to be at the forefront of the MESSENGER discoveries.

    “Ryan is an exceptional student who has worked on Mercury science at a level often reserved for advanced graduate students,” said Baker, noting Dewey was lead author on a 2013 scientific paper dealing with the interactions of Mercury’s magnetosphere and its space environment. “I know this work will serve him well as he moves on to graduate school and a professional career after that.”

    The fate of MESSENGER is not in doubt, said McClintock. “Before long it’s going to be in pieces scattered across the surface of Mercury. But I don’t think anyone who has worked on the project will ever forget it,” he said. “It has been an extremely exciting mission, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

    CU-Boulder’s LASP has designed and built instruments that have visited or are en route to every planet in the solar system. As the MESSENGER mission to Mercury winds down, LASP has a student-built dust counter on NASA’s New Horizons mission, which launched in 2006 and will make its closest flyby of Pluto — 7,000 miles — on July 14. LASP also built instruments for NASA spacecraft now at Mars and Saturn.

    NASA New Horizons spacecraft
    New Horizons

    The Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University manages the MESSENGER mission for NASA. Sean Solomon from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, is the MESSENGER principal investigator. For more information about MESSENGER visit http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/. For more information about LASP, visit http://lasp.colorado.edu/.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
  • richardmitnick 4:16 pm on April 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Colorado   

    From U Colorado Boulder: “New study hints at spontaneous appearance of primordial DNA” 

    U Colorado

    University of Colorado Boulder

    April 6, 2015
    Noel Clark, 303-492-6420
    noel.clark@colorado.edu
    Jim Scott, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3114
    jim.scott@colorado.edu

    1
    The image shows a droplet of condensed nano-DNA and within it smaller drops of its liquid crystal phase which show up in polarized light on the left. The liquid crystal droplets act as “micro-reactors” where short DNA can join together into long polymer chains without the aid of biological mechanisms. Image courtesy Noel Clark, University of Colorado

    The self-organization properties of DNA-like molecular fragments four billion years ago may have guided their own growth into repeating chemical chains long enough to act as a basis for primitive life, says a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder and the University of Milan.

    While studies of ancient mineral formations contain evidence for the evolution of bacteria from 3.5 to 3.8 billion years ago — just half a billion years after the stabilization of Earth’s crust — what might have preceded the formation of such unicellular organisms is still a mystery. The new findings suggest a novel scenario for the non-biological origins of nucleic acids, which are the building blocks of living organisms, said CU-Boulder physics Professor Noel Clark, a study co-author.

    A paper on the subject led by Tommaso Bellini of the University of Milan was published in a recent issue of Nature Communications. Other CU-Boulder co-authors of the study include Professor David Walba, Research Associate Yougwooo Yi and Research Assistant Gregory P. Smith. The study was funded by the Grant PRIN Program of the Italian Ministries of Education, Universities and Research and by the U.S. National Science Foundation.

    The discovery in the 1980’s of the ability of RNA to chemically alter its own structure by CU-Boulder Nobel laureate and Distinguished Professor Tom Cech and his research team led to the development of the concept of an “RNA world” in which primordial life was a pool of RNA chains capable of synthesizing other chains from simpler molecules available in the environment. While there now is consensus among origin-of-life researchers that RNA chains are too specialized to have been created as a product of random chemical reactions, the new findings suggest a viable alternative, said Clark.

    The new research demonstrates that the spontaneous self-assembly of DNA fragments just a few nanometers in length into ordered liquid crystal phases has the ability to drive the formation of chemical bonds that connect together short DNA chains to form long ones, without the aid of biological mechanisms. Liquid crystals are a form of matter that has properties between those of conventional liquids and those of a solid crystal — a liquid crystal may flow like a liquid, for example, but its molecules may be oriented more like a crystal.

    “Our observations are suggestive of what may have happened on the early Earth when the first DNA-like molecular fragments appeared,” said Clark.

    For several years the research group has been exploring the hypothesis that the way in which DNA emerged in the early Earth lies in its structural properties and its ability to self-organize. In the pre-RNA world, the spontaneous self-assembly of fragments of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) may have acted as a template for their chemical joining into polymers, which are substances composed of a large number of repeating units.

    “The new findings show that in the presence of appropriate chemical conditions, the spontaneous self assembly of small DNA fragments into stacks of short duplexes greatly favors their binding into longer polymers, thereby providing a pre-RNA route to the RNA world,” said Clark.

    The CU-Boulder authors are part of the Soft Materials Research Center (SMRC) headquartered on campus, one of 12 Materials Research and Science Engineering Centers selected by the National Science Foundation for funding in February 2015. The CU-Boulder center was founded with a $12 million NSF grant over six years. Clark is the SMRC center director and Walba is the associate director.

    Other paper co-authors include the University of Milan’s Tommaso P. Fraccia, Giuliano Zanchetta and Elvezia Paraboschi and the University of Parma’s Giorgio Dieci. Parma University is located in Parma, Italy.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Colorado Campus

    As the flagship university of the state of Colorado, CU-Boulder is a dynamic community of scholars and learners situated on one of the most spectacular college campuses in the country. As one of 34 U.S. public institutions belonging to the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU) – and the only member in the Rocky Mountain region – we have a proud tradition of academic excellence, with five Nobel laureates and more than 50 members of prestigious academic academies.

    CU-Boulder has blossomed in size and quality since we opened our doors in 1877 – attracting superb faculty, staff, and students and building strong programs in the sciences, engineering, business, law, arts, humanities, education, music, and many other disciplines.

    Today, with our sights set on becoming the standard for the great comprehensive public research universities of the new century, we strive to serve the people of Colorado and to engage with the world through excellence in our teaching, research, creative work, and service.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: