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) 

NASA’s ICON Mission a Go for 2017


When NASA’s Pegasus rocket lifts off in June 2017, it will carry scientific equipment and technology that might help researchers better understand space variations that contribute to disruptions in communications equipment, radar and Global Positioning Systems here on Earth.

NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) mission will study what happens in Earth’s upper atmosphere and the connections to environmental conditions on the planet, says Thomas Immel, ICON mission lead with the University of California, Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory.

Read more at SIGNAL Online

NuSTAR – Will the real monster black hole please stand up?

NuSTAR 2 galaxies

The real monster black hole is revealed in this new image from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array of colliding galaxies Arp 299. In the center panel, the NuSTAR high-energy X-ray data appear in various colors overlaid on a visible-light image from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC

Will the real monster black hole please stand up? A new high-energy X-ray image from Our NuSTAR Satellite has pinpointed the true monster of a galactic mashup. The image shows two colliding galaxies, collectively called Arp 299, located 134 million light-years away. Each of the galaxies has a supermassive black hole at its heart. More Details


MAVEN’s STATIC instrument measures escape of particles from Mars’ upper atmosphere


Photo Credit – NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars and Jim McFadden/UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab. The STATIC instrument can be seen on the right side of the MAVEN APP, Articulated Payload Platform

‪#‎MAVEN‬’s Suprathermal and Thermal Ion Composition (STATIC) instrument is measuring the composition and energy of ions as the spacecraft passes through various layers of Mars’ upper atmosphere.

The series of graphs presented here shows the composition and energy of ions as the MAVEN spacecraft moved from low (~250 km) to higher (~500 km) altitudes. At the higher altitudes, the ions have been accelerated, as indicated by their higher energy. We are seeing the acceleration from low-energy to higher energy as the ions are driven to escape speeds.

For all the latest released results from the #MAVEN mission.


Image credit: Jim McFadden/UC Berkeley-Space Sciences Laboratory


A solar “WIND” workhorse mission marks 20 years of science discoveries

Wind Spacecraft

The Wind spacecraft has spent much of its 20 years in space out in front of the magnetic fields – the magnetosphere – that surrounds Earth, observing the constant stream of particles flowing by from the solar wind. Image Credit: NASA

The end of 2014 marks two decades of data from a NASA mission called Wind. Wind — along with 17 other missions – is part of what’s called the Heliophysics Systems Observatory, a fleet of spacecraft dedicated to understanding how the sun and its giant explosions affect Earth, the planets and beyond.

Wind launched on Nov. 1, 1994, with the goal of characterizing the constant stream of particles from the sun called the solar wind. With particle observations once every 3 seconds, and 11 magnetic measurements every second, Wind measurements were – and still are – the highest cadence solar wind observations for any near-Earth spacecraft.

The complete Story

Sun Sizzles in High-Energy X-Rays


X-rays stream off the sun in this image showing observations from by NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, overlaid on a picture taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC

For the first time, a mission designed to set its eyes on black holes and other objects far from our solar system has turned its gaze back closer to home, capturing images of our sun. NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has taken its first picture of the sun, producing the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.

The complete story, courtesy of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab is here:


MAVEN Identifies Links in Chain Leading to Atmospheric Loss

Maven over Mars

Image Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Early discoveries by NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s newest ‪#‎Mars‬ orbiter are starting to reveal key features about the loss of the planet’s atmosphere to space over time.  The STATIC and SWIA Instruments, developed at UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab are both prominently mentioned in the article.

To read the full story, please visit