Space Tsunami Causes Third Van Allen Belt

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Earth’s magnetosphere, the region of space dominated by Earth’s magnetic field, protects our planet from the harsh battering of the solar wind. Like a protective shield, the magnetosphere absorbs and deflects plasma from the solar wind which originates from the Sun. When conditions are right, beautiful dancing auroral displays are generated. But when the solar wind is most violent, extreme space weather storms can create intense radiation in the Van Allen belts and drive electrical currents which can damage terrestrial electrical power grids. Earth could then be at risk for up to trillions of dollars of damage.

Announced today in Nature Physics, a new discovery led by researchers at the University of Alberta shows for the first time how the puzzling third Van Allen radiation belt is created by a “space tsunami.” Intense so-called ultra-low frequency (ULF) plasma waves, which are excited on the scale of the whole magnetosphere, transport the outer part of the belt radiation harmlessly into interplanetary space and create the previously unexplained feature of the third belt. “Remarkably, we observed huge plasma waves,” says Ian Mann, physics professor at the University of Alberta, lead author on the study and former Canada Research Chair in Space Physics. “Rather like a space tsunami, they slosh the radiation belts around and very rapidly wash away the outer part of the belt, explaining the structure of the enigmatic third radiation belt.”

The complete article courtesy of Ross Lockwood, University of Alberta, here.

MAVEN Deep Dip #5 Has Begun

Photo Courtesy of NASA's MAVEN Mission to Mars

Photo Courtesy of NASA’s MAVEN Mission to Mars

#MAVEN began its fifth “deep dip” campaign of the mission this week. Three maneuvers were successfully carried out to lower the periapsis (or lowest) altitude of the spacecraft by approximately 29 km, placing MAVEN into the targeted density corridor, where the average density of Mars’ atmosphere is 3.0 kg/km³.

The fifth deep dip for MAVEN is uniquely located over the solar terminator (the boundary between dayside and nightside), close to the ecliptic plane, and at a #Martian latitude of 35ºN.

The three maneuvers—carried out on June 7 & 8—required a total ∆V of 4.6 m/s and resulted in a periapsis altitude of ~119 km (74 miles).

The purpose of the MAVEN deep dip campaigns is to sample a full range of altitudes within the upper atmosphere of Mars, providing complete coverage. At 119 km, MAVEN reaches the Martian homopause, which is the lower, well-mixed region of Mars’ upper atmosphere, where the density is about thirty times greater than at periapsis during a typical science orbit.

NASA Goddard
NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Lockheed Martin
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

COSI Super Pressure Balloon Circles Globe in 14 Days

After 14 days, 13 hours and 17 minutes of flight, NASA's super pressure balloon completed its first circumnavigation.

After 14 days, 13 hours and 17 minutes of flight, NASA’s super pressure balloon completed its first circumnavigation.

NASA’s 18.8 million-cubic-foot super pressure balloon hit another milestone at 9:17 a.m. EDT Tuesday, May 31, crossing the 169.24 east longitude line, officially completing its first circumnavigation of the globe.

The balloon, flying the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) payload, achieved the milestone 14 days, 13 hours and 17 minutes after launching from Wanaka Airport, New Zealand. At the moment the balloon crossed the meridian, it was flying at an altitude of 110,170 feet heading northeast at 53.85 knots.

The COSI science team continues to collect and transmit data back to the payload’s control center at the University of California, Berkeley. On May 30, the COSI team had a significant breakthrough in detecting and localizing their first gamma ray burst, GRB 160530A (recorded in Gamma-ray Coordinates Network Circular 19473). Gamma ray bursts are comprised of the most energetic form of light and can last anywhere from milliseconds to several minutes. The phenomenon is associated with many types of deep space astrophysical sources, such as supernovas and the formation of black holes. The COSI gamma ray telescope observed the burst for nearly 10 seconds.

The complete article courtesy of NASA is here: 

NASA’s Van Allen Probes Reveal Behavior of Earth’s Ring Current

 diagram showing Earth's ring current in periods with (right) and without (left) geomagnetic storms During periods when there are no geomagnetic storms affecting the area around Earth (left image), high-energy protons (with energy of hundreds of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in orange) carry a substantial electrical current that encircles the planet, also known as the ring current. During periods when geomagnetic storms affect Earth (right), new low-energy protons (with energy of tens of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in magenta) enter the near-Earth region, enhancing the pre-existing ring current. Credits: Johns Hopkins APL


diagram showing Earth’s ring current in periods with (right) and without (left) geomagnetic storms
During periods when there are no geomagnetic storms affecting the area around Earth (left image), high-energy protons (with energy of hundreds of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in orange) carry a substantial electrical current that encircles the planet, also known as the ring current. During periods when geomagnetic storms affect Earth (right), new low-energy protons (with energy of tens of thousands of electronvolts, or keV; shown here in magenta) enter the near-Earth region, enhancing the pre-existing ring current.
Credits: Johns Hopkins APL

New findings based on a year’s worth of observations from NASA’s Van Allen Probes have revealed that the ring current – an electrical current carried by energetic ions that encircles our planet – behaves in a much different way than previously understood.

The ring current has long been thought to wax and wane over time, but the new observations show that this is true of only some of the particles, while other particles are present consistently. Using data gathered by the Radiation Belt Storm Probes Ion Composition Experiment, or RBSPICE, on one of the Van Allen Probes, researchers have determined that the high-energy protons in the ring current change in a completely different way from the current’s low-energy protons. Such information can help adjust our understanding and models of the ring current – which is a key part of the space environment around Earth that can affect our satellites.

The findings were published in Geophysical Research Letters, here:

NASA Launches Super Pressure Balloon from Wanaka, New Zealand

NASA successfully launched a super pressure balloon (SPB) from Wanaka Airport, New Zealand, at 11:35 a.m. Tuesday, May 17, (7:35 p.m. EDT Monday, May 16) on a potentially record-breaking, around-the-world test flight. The purpose of the flight is to test and validate the SPB technology with the goal of long-duration flight (100+ days) at mid-latitudes. In addition, the gondola is carrying the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) gamma-ray telescope as a mission of opportunity. The science and engineering communities have previously identified long-duration balloon flights at constant altitudes as playing an important role in providing inexpensive access to the near-space environment for science and technology. The current record for a NASA super pressure balloon flight is 54 days As the balloon travels around the Earth, it may be visible from the ground, particularly at sunrise and sunset, to those who live in the southern hemisphere’s mid-latitudes, such as Argentina and South Africa. Anyone may track the progress of the flight, which includes a map showing the balloon’s real-time location.

Article Courtesy of NASA Wallops Flight Facility

The COSI balloon was designed and built here at UC Berkeley Space Science Lab under the direction of Professor Steve Boggs.

COSI is a balloon-borne soft gamma-ray (0.2-10 MeV) telescope designed to study astrophysical sources of nuclear line emission and gamma-ray polarization. NASA successfully launched this super pressure balloon (SPB) from Wanaka Airport, New Zealand, at 11:35 a.m. Tuesday, May 17, (7:35 p.m. EDT Monday, May 16) on a potentially record-breaking, around-the-world test flight.

See the video in Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfvMS76whEU

Live trajectory: http://www.csbf.nasa.gov/newzealand/wanaka.htm

A post in the NASA-Wallops-Flight-Facility webpage: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/wallops/home

COSI official web-page: http://cosi.ssl.berkeley.edu

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May 11th, 2009, STS-125 Atlantis Launches for Final Hubble Servicing Mission

Launch of STS-125 for Final Hubble Servicing Mission. Photo Credit: Chris Scholz

Servicing Mission 4 (SM4), launched on May 11, 2009, was the culmination of a long effort to provide the telescope with one more servicing mission.

Originally scheduled for 2004, SM4 was postponed and then cancelled after the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia. Following the successful recovery of the shuttle program and a re-examination of SM4 risks, NASA approved another mission. SM4, also known as STS-125, was perhaps Hubble’s most challenging and intense servicing mission, with a multitude of tasks to be completed over the course of five spacewalks.

New Instruments

Astronauts, carried to Hubble by the Space Shuttle Atlantis, installed two new instruments on Hubble during Servicing Mission 4: Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS).

COS Lift to A-Sipe

COS – Cosmic Origins Spectrograph gets lifted into its SIPE or Scientific Instrument Protective Enclosure, which gets placed into the Orbiter Bay for delivery to the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo Courtesy of NASA

WFC3 sees three different kinds of light: near-ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared, though not simultaneously. The camera’s resolution and field of view is much greater than that of previous instruments. Astronauts removed Hubble’s Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) to make room for WFC3.

COS, a spectrograph that breaks light into its component colors, revealing information about the object emitting the light, sees exclusively in ultraviolet light. COS improves Hubble’s ultraviolet sensitivity at least 10 times, and up to 70 times when observing extremely faint objects.

COS took the place of the device installed in Hubble during the first servicing mission to correct Hubble’s flawed mirror, the Corrective Optics Space Telescope Axial Replacement (COSTAR). Since the first servicing mission, all of Hubble’s replacement instruments have had technology built into them to correct Hubble’s marred vision, making COSTAR no longer necessary.

The Detector and Electronics package were built by UC Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab and developed for and with the collaboration of CASA out of the University of Colorado Boulder for Instrument Scientist James Green. This is the seven year anniversary of the launch, the five year mission goal has been reached and extended and all instruments continue to work well and collect data for scientists.

The complete article is thanks to the HubbleSite.org