Featured Event

The Real Dark Side of the Moon

Event Date: Wednesday, Oct 03, 2018

A common misconception in astronomy is that part of the Moon remains continuously shadowed, popularized by legendary rock band Pink Floyd’s 1973 album, “Dark Side of the Moon.” Watching the Moon change phases confirms that, in fact, there is no dark side – all sides see the Sun at different times during the month. Yet, a peculiar feature of the lunar orbit produces shadows in craters at its poles, which have remained in darkness for billions of years. So, there really is a dark side of the Moon!

What surprises lurk within the Moon’s perpetual shadows? Recent observations from orbiting spacecraft such as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Indian Chandrayaan-1 mission have revealed the presence of vast ice deposits, which may provide rocket fuel and drinking water for astronauts on future deep space missions. Scientific interest in these ice deposits is also high: they may record a billion-year history of comet impacts, solar wind, and perhaps even a short-lived lunar atmosphere produced by volcanic eruptions.

In this presentation, Dr. Hayne will take us on a journey to the coldest, darkest reaches of our Solar System – the Moon’s permanently shadowed craters. Here, we will find remnants of the Moon’s violent past. We will also discuss LASP’s involvement in NASA’s upcoming lunar exploration program, including the recently announced Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, and CubeSat missions such as Lunar Flashlight.

Features & News

MAVEN Selfie Marks Four Years in Orbit at Mars

September 20

Today, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft celebrates four years in orbit studying the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet and how it interacts with the Sun and the solar wind. To mark the occasion, the team has released a selfie image of the spacecraft at Mars.

MAVEN’s selfie was made by looking at ultraviolet wavelengths of sunlight reflected off of components of the spacecraft. The image was obtained with the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument, built at LASP, that normally looks at ultraviolet emissions from the Martian upper atmosphere. The IUVS instrument is mounted on a platform at the end of a 1.2-m boom (its own “selfie stick”), and by rotating around the boom can look back at the spacecraft. The selfie was made from 21 different images, obtained with the IUVS in different orientations, that have been stitched together.

NASA’s GOLD instrument captures its first image of the Earth

September 17

NASA’s Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, instrument powered on and opened its cover to scan the Earth for the first time, resulting in a “first light” image of the Western Hemisphere in the ultraviolet. GOLD will provide unprecedented global-scale imaging of the temperature and composition at the dynamic boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.

The instrument was launched from Kourou, French Guiana, on Jan. 25, 2018, onboard the SES-14 satellite and reached geostationary orbit in June 2018. After checkout of the satellite and communications payload, GOLD commissioning—the period during which the instrument performance is assessed—began on Sept. 4.

Team scientists conducted one day of observations on Sept. 11, during instrument checkout, enabling them to produce GOLD’s “first light” image. Commissioning will run through early October, as the team continues to prepare the instrument for its planned two-year science mission.

LASP director receives AGU’s highest honor

September 4

The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has selected LASP Director Daniel Baker as its 2018 William Bowie Medal recipient. AGU’s highest honor, the William Bowie Medal, is given annually to one honoree in recognition of “outstanding contributions for fundamental geophysics and for unselfish cooperation in research.”

Baker is one of 33 individuals to be recognized this year for their dedication to science for the benefit of humanity and their achievements in Earth and space science. Baker will receive his award during the Honors Tribute at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting, which will take place on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, in Washington, D.C.