A program for providing travel funds for post-doctoral researchers at the Space Sciences Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley has been established in honor of Professor Kinsey Anderson, a guiding figure behind the establishment and early growth of the Space Sciences Laboratory. Read more.
Did you miss today’s news about what happened to Mars’ atmosphere? Here’s the recap video:
NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars has identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today. The Martian atmosphere was stripped by solar wind. Details
Mars is a cold and barren desert today, but scientists think that in the ancient past it was warm and wet. The loss of the early Martian atmosphere may have led to this dramatic change, and one of the prime suspects is the solar wind.
NASA will provide details of key science findings from the agency’s ongoing exploration of #Mars during a news briefing at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Nov. 5 in the James Webb Auditorium at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
The event will be broadcast live on NASA Television and the agency’s website: http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv.
The news conference participants will be:
— Michael Meyer, lead scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters
— Bruce Jakosky, #MAVEN principal investigator at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder
— Jasper Halekas, MAVEN Solar Wind Ion Analyzer instrument lead at the University of Iowa
— Yaxue Dong, MAVEN science team member at LASP
— Dave Brain, MAVEN co-investigator at LASP
A brief question-and-answer session will take place during the event with media on site and by phone. Members of the public also can ask questions during the briefing on social media using #askNASA.
How do supermassive black holes flare? New observations from our Explorer missions Swift and the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), may shed light on the answer. Learn more:
On October 19, 2014, comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) traveled from the most distant region of our solar system, called the Oort Cloud, and made a close approach, within about 87,000 miles (or 139,500 km) of the Red Planet. This is less than half the distance between Earth and our moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.
The #MAVEN spacecraft, which only arrived at #Mars a month earlier, detected the comet encounter in two ways. The remote-sensing Imaging UltraViolet Spectrograph (IUVS) observed intense ultraviolet emission from magnesium and iron ions high in the atmosphere in the aftermath of the meteor shower. Not even the most intense meteor storms on Earth have produced as strong a response as this one. The emission dominated Mars’ ultraviolet spectrum for several hours after the encounter and then dissipated over the next two days.
In the image above, the MAVEN spacecraft obtained an ultraviolet image of hydrogen surrounding comet Siding Spring on Friday, October 17th, two days before the comet’s closest approach to Mars. The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument imaged the comet at a distance of 5.3 million miles (8.5 million kilometers).
The image shows sunlight that has been scattered by atomic hydrogen, and is shown as blue in this false-color representation. Comets are surrounded by a huge cloud of atomic hydrogen because water (H2O) vaporizes from the icy nucleus, and solar ultraviolet light breaks it apart into hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen atoms scatter solar ultraviolet light, and it was this light that was imaged by the IUVS. Two observations were combined to create this image, after removing the foreground signal that results from sunlight being scattered from hydrogen surrounding Mars.
The bulk of the scattered sunlight shows a cloud that was about a half degree across on the “sky” background, comparable in size to the Earth’s Moon as seen from Earth. Hydrogen was detected to as far as 93,000 miles (150,000 kilometers) away from the comet’s nucleus. The distance is comparable to the distance of the comet from Mars at its closest approach. Gas from the comet is likely to have hit Mars, and would have done so at a speed of 125,000 miles per hour (56 kilometers/second). This gas may have disturbed the Mars atmosphere.
Read more about the IUVS observations of Siding Spring: http://bit.ly/1ZR2BLG (PDF)
MAVEN also was able to directly sample and determine the composition of some of the comet dust in Mars’ atmosphere. Analysis of these samples by the spacecraft’s Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) detected eight different types of metal ions, including sodium, magnesium and iron. These are the first direct measurements of the composition of dust from an Oort Cloud comet. The Oort Cloud, well beyond the outer-most planets that surround our sun, is a spherical region of icy objects believed to be material left over from the formation of the solar system.
Read more about the NGIMS observations of Siding Spring: http://bit.ly/1ZR2IGV (PDF)
Read more about how the NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration and ESA – European Space Agency suite of Mars spacecraft observed the Comet: http://lasp.colorado.edu/…/mars-spacecraft-reveal-comet-fly…
As of today, MAVEN has been in orbit around Mars for one Earth year! And it’s been an action-packed year.
Some of the highlights include:
– Getting into orbit!
– Surviving the encounter with Comet Siding Spring
– Commissioning the spacecraft
– Carrying out ten months (so far) of observations during our primary mission
– Carrying out four deep-dip campaigns
The success of the mission so far is a direct result of the incredibly hard work of everybody who works (and has worked) on MAVEN. This one year at Mars reflects the tremendous efforts over the preceding dozen years. And the mission continues—we still have two months to go in our primary mission, and then we begin our extended mission. We’re obtaining an incredibly rich data set that is on track to answer the questions we originally posed for MAVEN and that will serve the community for a long time to come.
I hope everybody is as proud of what we’ve accomplished as I am! And here’s to the next year of exciting observations, analyses, and results!
— MAVEN Principal Investigator, Bruce Jakosky
MAVEN has successfully entered the fourth deep-dip campaign of the mission. Two maneuvers executed over the past two days have placed the #MAVEN spacecraft into a deep-dip corridor, with a periapsis altitude of 121.2 km (75.3 mi), where #Mars‘ atmospheric density is 2.2 kg/km³. At a periapsis latitude of 65.7ºS, this deep-dip campaign will provide coverage of Mars’ south polar region.
This animation depicts MAVEN maneuvering from its normal science orbit to the deep dip orbit and back.
(Video credit: NASA Goddard)