TBT: UC Berkeley researchers build part of solar probe launched by NASA



The Parker Solar Probe, or PSP, was launched into space Aug. 12. Two of its four instruments, FIELDS and SWEAP, were built by campus researchers.

The PSP will come closer than any other spacecraft has ever been to the sun by entering the sun’s corona, the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere.

According to Stuart Bale, a campus physics professor and the principal investigator for FIELDS, the purpose of the PSP is to learn why the sun’s corona is much hotter than its surface.

“The photosphere (of the sun) is 6,000 degrees Celsius,” Bale said. “But the corona is a couple million degrees Celsius and so hot it escapes the sun’s gravity and becomes solar wind.”

The PSP project started when NASA announced in 2009 that anyone could submit a proposal to be a part of the project, Bale said. Davin Larson, the principal investigator for SWEAP and a UC Berkeley physicist, added that the different groups could apply for different “elements of science” for the PSP project, and his and Bale’s teams were selected to each develop a separate PSP instrument.

The Complete Article

Courtesy of The Daily Californian, Yao Huang

NASA Launches ICESat and CHIPS Satellites from VAFB OTD, Jan 12, 2003

#OTD, This cool pic from the archives shows NASA’s original ICESat satellite being launched on this date in 2003 aboard our Delta II rocket. The final Delta II launched ICESat-2 last September to continue mapping the changes in Earth’s environment. Aerial photo by United States Air Force.

CHIPS will study the gas and dust in space, which are believed to be the basic building blocks of stars and planets. The CHIPS satellite, the first NASA University-Class Explorer (UNEX) mission, weighs 131 pounds (60 kilograms) and is the size of a large suitcase. It will orbit above the Earth at about 350 miles (590 kilometers) altitude and is expected to operate for one year.

CHIPS is sponsored by the Office of Space Science, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. The project is managed at the Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., and Goddard through the NASA Explorers Program. The CHIPS instrument was built at the Space Science Laboratory of the University of California, Berkeley, and SpaceDev, Inc. of Poway, Calif., built the spacecraft bus. For detailed information about CHIPS and its mission, go to: http://chips.ssl.berkeley.edu

Holy Cow! Mysterious Blast Studied with NASA Telescopes


AT2018cow erupted in or near a galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, which is located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. This zoomed-in image shows the location of the “Cow” in the galaxy. Credit: Sloan Digital Sky Survey

A brief and unusual flash spotted in the night sky on June 16, 2018, puzzled astronomers and astrophysicists across the globe. The event – called AT2018cow and nicknamed “the Cow” after the coincidental final letters in its official name – is unlike any celestial outburst ever seen before, prompting multiple theories about its source.

Over three days, the Cow produced a sudden explosion of light at least 10 times brighter than a typical supernova, and then it faded over the next few months. This unusual event occurred inside or near a star-forming galaxy known as CGCG 137-068, located about 200 million light-years away in the constellation Hercules. The Cow was first observed by the NASA-funded Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System telescope in Hawaii.

So exactly what is the Cow? Using data from multiple NASA missions, including the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), two groups are publishing papers that provide possible explanations for the Cow’s origins. One paper argues that the Cow is a monster black hole shredding a passing star. The second paper hypothesizes that it is a supernova – a stellar explosion – that gave birth to a black hole or a neutron star.

Researchers from both teams shared their interpretations at a panel discussion on Thursday, Jan. 10, at the 233rd American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Watch what scientists think happens when a black hole tears apart a hot, dense white dwarf star. A team working with observations from NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory suggests this process explains a mysterious outburst known as AT2018cow, or “the Cow.” Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

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Courtesy of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory



Parker Solar Probe takes its first up-close look at the sun

Weeks after Parker Solar Probe made the closest-ever approach to a star, the science data from the first solar encounter is just making its way into the hands of the mission’s scientists. It’s a moment many in the field have been anticipating for years, thinking about what they’ll do with such never-before-seen data, which has the potential to shed new light on the physics of our star, the Sun. Read about what scientists hope to learn from the mission: https://go.nasa.gov/2EspRgQ

This image from Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument shows a coronal streamer, seen over the east limb of the Sun on Nov. 8, 2018, at 1:12 a.m. EST. Coronal streamers are structures of solar material within the Sun’s atmosphere, the corona, that usually overlie regions of increased solar activity. The fine structure of the streamer is very clear, with at least two rays visible. Parker Solar Probe was about 16.9 million miles from the Sun’s surface when this image was taken. The bright object near the center of the image is Jupiter, and the dark spots are a result of background correction.

There goes the fastest, hottest mission under the Sun! ☀️🛰

This video made with images from the APL-designed-and-built Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory Ahead (#STEREO-A) spacecraft, shows the location of the #ParkerSolarProbe (also designed and built by #JHUAPL) as it flies through the Sun’s outer atmosphere during its first solar encounter phase in November 2018. (Credit: #NASA/STEREO)

Eavesdropping in Space: How NASA records eerie sounds around Earth


Space isn’t silent. It’s abuzz with charged particles that — with the right tools — we can hear. Which is exactly what NASA scientists with the Van Allen Probes mission are doing. The sounds recorded by the mission are helping scientists better understand the dynamic space environment we live in so we can protect satellites and astronauts.

To some, it sounds like howling wolves or chirping birds or alien space lasers. But these waves aren’t created by any such creature – instead they are made by electric and magnetic fields.

If you hopped aboard a spacecraft and stuck your head out the window, you wouldn’t be able to hear these sounds like you do sounds on Earth. That’s because unlike sound — which is created by pressure waves — this space music is created by electromagnetic waves known as plasma waves.

Plasma waves lace the local space environment around Earth, where they toss magnetic fields to and fro. The rhythmic cacophony generated by these waves may fall deaf to our ears, but NASA’s Van Allen Probes were designed specifically to listen for them.

Read and Hear the sounds of space

Courtesy of Mara Johnson-Groh
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA Sounding Rockets Carry TRICE-2 over Norwegian Sea

The two TRICE-2 Black Brant XII sounding rockets are seen in this time-lapse photograph soaring into space over the Norwegian Sea. Credits: NASA/Jamie Adkins

Two NASA sounding rockets successfully flew over the Norwegian Sea early in the morning December 8 carrying an experiment to study the electrodynamics of the polar cusp.

The Twin Rockets to Investigate Cusp Electrodynamics or TRICE-2 were launched at 3:26 and 3:28 a.m. EST from the Andoya Space Center in Andenes, Norway. The first rocket flew to an altitude 646 miles and the second flew to 469 miles.

Preliminary data show that the two four-stage Black Brant XII rockets performed nominally and good science data was received from both flights.

The Whole Storythanks to Keith Koehler, Wallops Flight Facility

NASA-funded Twin Rockets, TRICE-2, to Tag Team the Cusp

The two rockets for the Twin Rockets to Investigate Cusp Electrodynamics, or TRICE-2, are in the launch position during a dress rehearsal at the Andøya Space Center in Norway,

In early December, observers in northern Norway will be treated to an unusual show: a sounding rocket double feature. Arcing up over the Norwegian sea, the first rocket will blast off to an altitude of more than 600 miles high, headed due north. Approximately two minutes later, at a lower altitude, another rocket will follow its path.

These twin rockets are chasing down a mystery about magnetic reconnection, the explosive process that allows charged particles from space to stream into Earth’s atmosphere. Carefully observing anomalies in this stream of particles, scientists have wondered about the processes that let them in: Does magnetic reconnection turn on and off, like a faucet, or do particles course in from separate locations, like the distinct streams of a sprinkler?

Armed with two rockets and a clever experimental design, the scientists behind the TRICE-2 mission, short for Twin Rockets to Investigate Cusp Electrodynamics-2, hope to uncover an answer. The results promise to shed light on the fundamental process of magnetic reconnection and, in the long run, help us better predict how and when Earth’s magnetic shield can suddenly become porous and let outside particles in.

The Complete Article and Video


“Magnetic Mars” Engages Public Audiences in Science

The MAVEN communications and outreach team has developed a variety of resources to help communicate the discoveries of the mission to a broad public audience. An article describing these resources published today in the American Geophysical Union (AGU) journal EOS (Earth and Space Science News).

Visitors to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry can check out the Invisible Mars Science on a Sphere exhibit, part of an effort by NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission team to bring Mars research to the general public. Credit: OMSI

For a cold little planet, Mars remains a hot topic: The general public wants to know more about this alien world and hear from the scientists who study it. Recent findings that highlight tantalizing clues to Mars’s wetter past have piqued this interest still further.

For example, because Mars lacks a global magnetic field, the planet has lost much of its ancient, thicker atmosphere, and much of its carbon dioxide has been lost to space. How habitable was the Red Planet, and what does its history tell us about habitability of other alien worlds?

Read the complete EOS article by Christine Shupla, , Tom Mason, and Bruce Jakosky