NASA, ESA Telescopes Give Shape to Furious Black Hole Winds


Supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies blast out radiation and ultra-fast winds, as illustrated in this artist’s conception. NASA’s NuSTAR and ESA’s XMM-Newton telescopes show that these winds, containing highly ionized atoms, blow in a nearly spherical fashion. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Our Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and ESA’s (European Space Agency) XMM-Newton telescope are showing that fierce winds from a supermassive black hole blow outward in all directions — a phenomenon that had been suspected, but difficult to prove until now.

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Van Allen Probes spacecraft catch a solar shockwave in the act


Earth’s magnetosphere is depicted with the high-energy particles of the Van Allen radiation belts (shown in red) and various processes responsible for accelerating these particles to relativistic energies indicated. The effects of an interplanetary shock penetrate deep into this system, energizing electrons to ultra-relativistic energies in a matter of seconds. Courtesy of NASA

Scientists at MIT’s Haystack Observatory, the University of Colorado, and elsewhere have analyzed data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes, and observed a sudden and dramatic effect in the aftermath of a solar shockwave: The resulting magnetosonic pulse, lasting just 60 seconds, reverberated through the Earth’s radiation belts, accelerating certain particles to ultrahigh energies.

The complete story, courtesy of MIT News is found here:


MAVEN Completes First Deep Dip Campaign

Maven over Mars

This image shows an artist concept of the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around Mars. (Courtesy NASA/GSFC)

The MAVEN spacecraft has completed the first of five deep-dip maneuvers designed to gather measurements closer to the lower end of the ‪#‎Martian‬upper atmosphere.

“During normal science mapping, we make measurements between an altitude of about 150 km and 6,200 km (93 miles and 3,853 miles) above the surface,” said Bruce Jakosky, MAVEN principal investigator at the University of Colorado Boulder‘s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. “During the deep-dip campaigns, we lower the lowest altitude in the orbit, known as periapsis, to about 125 km (78 miles) which allows us to take measurements throughout the entire upper atmosphere.”

The 25 km (16 miles) altitude difference may not seem like much, but it allows scientists to make measurements down to the top of the lower atmosphere. At these lower altitudes, the atmospheric densities are more than ten times what they are at 150 km (93 miles).

NASA Goddard
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Lockheed Martin
UC Berkeley

Read the full release here:, courtesy of University of Colorado, LASP



MAVEN Deep Dip Science Measurements Starting

Mars Atmosphere

Photo Courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars posts

The Second walk-in maneuver of the deep-dip campaign completed successfully

The second #MAVEN deep-dip maneuver was executed yesterday (Feb. 11, 2015), with a delta-v (∆V) of 0.6 m/sec., which lowered the periapsis of the spacecraft by another 4 km. The first maneuver was carried out on Tuesday (Feb. 10) and lowered the periapsis by about 20 km.

The MAVEN spacecraft now has a periapsis altitude of ~130 km, where Mars’ atmosphere has an estimated density of 2.0 kg/km³

With Thursday February 12th’s start of the deep-dip science measurements, the MAVEN team is one step closer to solving the mystery of #Mars‘ climate history. — at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Post courtesy of
NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars

MAVEN spacecraft ready for first “deep-dip” of the mission

MAVEN Deep Dip

Photo from NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars Post 

The ‪#‎MAVEN‬ navigation team has given the green light for today’s initial “walk down,” which will lower the periapsis of the spacecraft by about 20 km and begin a transition into an area of Mars’ upper atmosphere known as the “homopause.” This region of Mars’ atmosphere is about 30 times more dense than the area explored by MAVEN during its primary science mapping operations, with a density between 2.0 – 3.5 kg/km³.

The first maneuver of this initial “deep-dip” campaign will be carried out this afternoon (Feb. 10, 2015) and will lower the periapsis altitude to about 133 km. It is the first of three maneuvers that will “walk” the MAVEN spacecraft into the deep-dip density corridor.

Last week, mission operators successfully ran the full sequences for a “deep-dip demo,” which included everything except having the lower periapsis. The instruments were in their deep-dip modes and the spacecraft was in its deep-dip orientation for the test.

The first of five planned deep-dip campaigns will begin with a two-day “walk-down” into the target density corridor, which will be followed by five days with a periapsis in this corridor (~125 km), and then another two days of periapsis raising maneuvers to bring the spacecraft back into its nominal science mapping orbit.

For more information about MAVEN’s science mapping orbit, visit:



MAVEN will begin first “deep” campaign on February 10th

Periapsis Path

MAVEN’s primary mission includes five 5-day “deep-dip” campaigns, in which the periapsis (lowest point in the orbit) is lowered from about 93 miles (150 km) to about 77 miles (125 km). The first “deep dip” maneuver will begin on Tuesday, February 10, 2015, with a two-day “walk down” into the target density corridor of 2.0 – 3.5 kg/km3. The density of Mars’ atmosphere in the current science-mapping orbit is about 0.12 kg/km3.

At altitude of 77 miles (125 km), Mars’ atmosphere is around 30 times more dense than it is at MAVEN’s nominal science mapping periapsis of 93 miles (150 km). To accommodate for the increase in atmospheric density, the spacecraft’s solar panels are bent at a 20° angle, which shifts the center of air pressure away from the center of gravity, providing self-stabilization.

The “deep dip” campaigns will provide data from the boundary where Mars’ upper and lower atmospheres meet—also referred to as the “homopause”—enabling the spacecraft to sample the entire upper atmosphere of Mars for the first time.

Thanks to NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars

SSL Instruments

MAVEN’s Suite of Instruments to study the Atmosphere of Mars, photos courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars

Mars Atmosphere

MAVEN’s path as it dips through the Atmosphere of Mars as part of the Deep Dip Campaign. Photo courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars

MAVEN SWIA instrument lead Jasper Halekas on Iowa Public Radio

SWIA Science

The Solar Wind and its Interaction with Mars’ Ionosphere Illustration (not to scale) showing the ability of the upstream bow shock and the magnetic field induced in the ionosphere to push the solar wind around the planet. As a result, the solar wind should not hit the ionosphere directly or penetrate deeply into the upper atmosphere. MAVEN’s orbit early in the mission is shown schematically. (Image credit: NASA/GSFC)

The MAVEN Solar Wind Ion Analyzer (SWIA) is a part of the spacecraft’s Particles and Fields Package. SWIA measures the solar wind and magnetosheath proton flow around ‪#‎Mars‬ and constrains the nature of solar wind interactions with the upper atmosphere.

Jasper Halekas, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Iowa, talks with Iowa Public Radio’s Ben Kieffer about the instrument and how it measures the constant stream of energy from the sun as it bombards Mars’ upper atmosphere.

To listen to the full interview, (Jasper’s segment covers about the first 15 minutes of the interview).

Learn more about the SWIA instrument.

Iowa Public Radio


The SWIA instrument measures the solar wind and ion density and velocity in the magnetosheath of Mars. (Courtesy UCB/SSL – Greg Dalton)