Exploring Ancient and Modern Mars with the MAVEN and the MSL Missions

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In his presentation from June 21, 2015, Dr. Paul Mahaffy, planetary scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and instrument lead for the MAVEN NGIMS and the Mars Science Laboratory SAM instruments, focuses on current and past measurements of isotopes and volatile gases in the Martian surface and atmosphere during the final day of the 2015 MAVEN New Media Professional Development Workshop.

During the presentation and discussion, Dr. Mahaffy demonstrates the compelling case that NASA’s Mars missions are making for long-lasting water on the surface of the Red Planet and what that means for potential past and present habitability.

View all of the videos from the workshop in one playlist, here:

(Video credit: Tom Mason/University of Colorado Boulder-LASP)

Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
NASA Goddard
NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover

‪#‎MAVENnm‬

NuSTAR – “biggest and baddest” black holes are actually buried under thick blankets of gas and dust

NuSTAR Discovery

A montage of images showing an artist’s concept of NuSTAR (top); a color image of one of the galaxies targeted by NuSTAR (lower left); and artist’s concept of a hidden black hole. Credits: Top: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Lower-left: Hubble Legacy Archive, NASA, ESA. Bottom-right: NASA/ESA

Did you know that some of the “biggest and baddest” black holes are actually buried under thick blankets of gas and dust? Their hidden nature makes observing them a challenge, but our NuSTAR Satellite recently caught a glimpse of five of these supermassive black holes. More:

NASA Signs Scientific and Education Agreements with Brazil

Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) President José Raimundo Braga Coelho, left,  and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden sign agreements to further research into heliophysics and space weather and to enhance global climate study and educational opportunities, Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) President José Raimundo Braga Coelho, left, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden sign agreements to further research into heliophysics and space weather and to enhance global climate study and educational opportunities, Tuesday, June 30, 2015 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Brazilian Space Agency (AEB) President José Raimundo Braga Coelho have signed agreements to further research into heliophysics and space weather and to enhance global climate study and educational opportunities.

“I am delighted to expand our relationship with our long time exploration partner Brazil through these agreements,” Bolden said. “This partnership encompasses critical work not only to understand our planet, but also to help develop the leaders of tomorrow, and we look forward to many positive outcomes.”

“Brazil has an incredibly talented group of researchers and young people that are eager to participate in and enrich the unique scientific and educational opportunities that NASA affords,” Coelho said. “I am happy that the NASA-Brazil partnership continues to grow through these activities that promise to be fruitful for our two agencies and nations.”

Building on the Framework Agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Federative Republic of Brazil on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the two space agencies finalized an implementing arrangement that will enable Brazil to acquire and process space weather data from NASA’s Van Allen Probes mission. In addition, the agreement enables Brazilian participation in missions studying the sun’s impacts on Earth’s space environment such as the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission.

Brazil also will now be the newest partner in the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program. The environmental science and education program brings together teachers, students and scientists to use Earth and space-based observations to study the global environment and promotes understanding of our planet as a system.

NASA and AEB also will partner to increase opportunities for Brazilian undergraduate and graduate students to participate in an internship at a NASA center through the NASA International Internship Program. The new agreement, signed separately by NASA and AEB on June 18 will provide a unique educational experience for Brazilian students while providing U.S. students an opportunity to work on international teams.

Atmospheric Escape Processes at Mars

Dave Brain—”MAVEN Measurements of Drivers, Response, and Escape

SWIA Science

In this presentation from June 20, 2015, Dr. David Brain, assistant professor of Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences – CU Boulder and MAVEN science team co-investigator, focuses on atmospheric escape processes at Mars during the second day of the 2015 ‪#‎MAVEN‬ New Media Professional Development Workshop.

The presentation and related discussion covered some of the early results from the nine instruments onboard the MAVEN spacecraft and the model predictions of what the early data indicate about Mars’ atmospheric and climate evolution.

View all of the videos from the workshop in one playlist, here:

(Video credit: Tom Mason/University of Colorado – LASP)

Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics
‪#‎MAVENnm‬

MAVEN Early Results

Principal Investigator, Bruce Jakosky—”MAVEN Early Results”

Maven 1000 Orbits

In this presentation from June 20, 2015, Dr. Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator for the MAVEN mission and Professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder, opened the second day of the 2015 MAVEN New Media Professional Development Workshop with a presentation and discussion about some of the early results from the first mission devoted entirely to investigating Mars’ upper atmosphere.

You can view all of the videos from the workshop in one playlist, here: 

(Video credit: Tom Mason/University of Colorado – LASP)

Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics

ICON EUV Alignment and Calibration has begun

EUV Alignment

The toroidal mirror near the center of the image, focuses light to a line on the glass screen.

ICON passes its Critical Design Review 

During the review, each instrument and system were reviewed, and plans for integration of these systems onto a unified payload finalized. The team was successful in demonstrating their ability to complete these tasks on schedule. All instruments will be delivered to Utah for integration by the end of the calendar year, before delivery to Orbital ATK in Virginia by May 2016, in preparation for launch in June 2017.

Project Manager Bill Craig said “One of the key strengths was the consistency of the team; we were compared to the high quality expected of a Class B mission; a standard we set for ourself at PDR” and P.I. Thomas Immel complemented the team on an outstanding job in preparing and delivering a very successful review.

After Passing CDR, Alignment and Calibration of the EUV Instrument Begins

ICON’s Extreme Ultraviolet (EUV) instrument is an “imaging spectrometer”. Its 2 dimensional detector records spectral information over the range 58.4 to 83.4 nm in the one direction, and records 12 degree wide x 1/4 degree high slices of the sky over a 16 degree field of view in the other direction.

In preparation for alignment of the toroidal grating used in the EUV instrument, an optical system has been setup to simulate the cylindrical wavefront. This simulates the instrument’s view for each slice of sky while in orbit. The optical set up consists of a convex sphere and a concave toroid that produces a line image on the EUV entrance slit to simulate what EUV will observe in space. This optics pair will be used to first align the EUV instrument using visible light, then the final alignment will take place in a vacuum chamber using EUV radiation, since EUV light is not transmitted in air.

Articles Courtesy of UC Berkeley’s Claire Rafferty

MAVEN Results Find Mars Behaving Like a Rock Star

Mars Rockstar

Computer simulation of the interaction of the solar wind with electrically charged particles (ions) in Mars’ upper atmosphere. The lines represent the paths of individual ions and the colors represent their energy, and show that the polar plume (red) contains the most-energetic ions. (Courtesy X. Fang, University of Colorado, and the MAVEN science team)

If planets had personalities, Mars would be a rock star according to recent preliminary results from the MAVEN spacecraft. ‪#‎Mars‬ sports a “Mohawk” of escaping atmospheric particles at its poles, “wears” a layer of metal particles high in its atmosphere, and lights up with aurora after being smacked by solar storms. MAVEN is also mapping out the escaping atmospheric particles. The early results are being discussed at a MAVEN-sponsored “new media” workshop held in Berkeley, California, on June 19-21. (‪#‎MAVENnm‬)

APOD – Astronomy Picture of the Day, turns 20 Years Old

Image Credit & Copyright: Apologies to: Vermeer's Astronomer and Geographer; Image Pixelation: Rob Stevenson

Image Credit & Copyright: Apologies to: Vermeer’s Astronomer and Geographer; Image Pixelation: Rob Stevenson

Welcome to the vicennial year of the Astronomy Picture of the Day! Perhaps a source of web consistency for some, APOD is still here. As during each of the 20 years of selecting images, writing text, and editing the APOD web pages, the occasionally industrious Robert Nemiroff (left) and frequently persistent Jerry Bonnell (right) are pictured above plotting to highlight yet another unsuspecting image of our cosmos. Although the featured image may appear similar to the whimsical Vermeer composite that ran on APOD’s fifth anniversary, a perceptive eye might catch that it has been digitally re-pixelated using many of the over 5,000 APOD images that have appeared over APOD’s tenure. (Can you find any notable APOD images?) Once again, we at APOD would like to offer a sincere thank you to our readership for continued interest, support, and many gracious communications. If you consider yourself a fan of APOD, you might want to consider joining the Friends of APOD.

20th Anniversary Interview: An oral history of Astronomy Picture of the Day