Image Credit: NASA/Christopher Perry
On March 3, 2014, at 6:09 a.m. EST, a NASA-funded sounding rocket launched straight into an aurora over Venetie, Alaska. The Ground-to-Rocket Electrodynamics – Electron Correlative Experiment (GREECE) sounding rocket mission, which launched from Poker Flat Research Range in Poker Flat, Alaska, will study classic curls in the aurora in the night sky.
The GREECE mission seeks to understand what combination of events sets up these auroral curls as they’re called, in the charged, heated gas – or plasma – where aurorae form. This is a piece of information, which in turn, helps paint a picture of the sun-Earth connection and how energy and particles from the sun interact with Earth’s own magnetic system, the magnetosphere.
“The conditions were optimal,” said Marilia Samara, principal investigator for the mission at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas. “We can’t wait to dig into the data.” Other Co-I’s, were Robert Michell and Keiichi Ogasawara for Particles and Imaging and our own John Bonnell for Fields. Dr. Bonnell notes that this flight was a successful re-entry of SSL into the auroral sounding rocket business and bodes well for future efforts along the same lines.
To planetary scientists, the Martian atmosphere presents an intriguing mystery: today it’s a thin, cold wisp of carbon dioxide with just one percent the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere, but long ago it was thick and warm enough to support lakes and rivers on the Martian surface. How did Mars lose so much of its early atmosphere? Scientists think that the solar wind may be responsible, and the MAVEN spacecraft is designed to find out.
The instruments of MAVEN’s Particles & Fields package will study the interaction of the solar wind with Mars’s upper atmosphere, helping scientists to better understand hoMars became the freeze-dried planet that we see today.
In this video, produced by NASA Goddard, Robert Lin, the late director of the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory, discusses how MAVEN will study the interaction of the Martian atmosphere with the solar wind.
(Video credit: National Aeronautics and Space Administration – NASA/GSFC)
Speakers: Jon Arons (UC Berkeley) and Roger Blandford (Stanford)
Title: Gamma Rays from the Flares in the Crab Nebula and other Ultrarelativistic Sources
Friday, March 7th, 2014, 3 pm in the SSL Addition conference room
NuSTAR was launched on June 13, 2012 from the south pacific atoll of Kwajalein on a Pegasus rocket. New observations from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, are filling in the missing pieces in the puzzle of how massive stars explode.
Image credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/JPL-Caltech
The illustrations above show the progression of a supernova blast. A massive star (left), which has created elements as heavy as iron in its interior, blows up in a tremendous explosion (middle), scattering its outer layers in a structure called a supernova remnant (right). The supernova explosion itself also creates many elements, including those heavier than iron, such as gold.
In addition new data from NuSTAR suggests that exploding stars slosh around before detonating and this Caltech simulation shows how scientist are rethinking pre launch models of what happens when a star explode.
photos courtesy of NASA
On February 17th 2007, a Delta II Rocket lifted off of launch pad 17B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base. Atop the rocket were a cluster of five identical satellites destined for a 2-year mission to study the violent colorful eruptions of Auroras.
The missions aim was to try and resolve one of the oldest mysteries in space physics, namely to determine what physical process in near-Earth space initiates the violent eruptions of the aurora that occur during substorms in the Earth’s magnetosphere.
After finishing their primary science mission, two of the THEMIS satellites were renamed and retasked. Their journey to the moon started on July 20, 2009, the 40th anniversary of the first manned lunar landing. The UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab MOC or mission operations center, maneuvered the spacecraft, on a long and complex transfer trajectory out of earth orbit and transitioned the pair of satellites into a lunar orbit. By mid 2011 the two ARTEMIS satellites had been inserted into lunar orbit and had begun making observations to study how solar wind electrifies, alters and erodes the moon’s surface.
University of California President Janet Napolitano visited the lab today.
UC President Janet Napolitano in the Mission Operations Center
In the Stardust Lab
Bill Nye, “The Science Guy” is a guest speaker at the Kennedy Visitor Center on November 17th to discuss MAVEN and its mission to Mars. The spacecraft launched the next day atop an Atlas Centaur rocket and is scheduled for Mars Orbit Insertion, MOI, planned for September 22, 2014
Here is a photo of Bill Nye preparing to debate Ken Ham about evolution vs creationism on February 4, 2014. A closer look shows that Bill’s laptop proudly displays the MAVEN mission sticker. In the opposite corner is the JUNO mission sticker.
The MAVEN spacecraft and all of its science instruments have completed their initial checkout, and all of them are working as expected. This means that MAVEN is on track to carry out its full science mission as originally planned. This was a major milestone for all our scientists and engineers here at SSL and across the country. There are many events down the line before we arrive at Mars for orbit insertion in the late summer/early fall timeframe.