Features & News

LASP sounding rocket takes a second look at the Sun

June 15

LASP Associate Director Tom Woods knows about space gunk.

As the principal investigator for the Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, he’s all too familiar with the ways that exposure to the harsh space environment can lead to a spacecraft instrument’s degradation.

GOES-17 shares first data from EXIS instrument

May 31

NOAA’s GOES-17 satellite has transmitted its first data from the LASP-built Extreme ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) space weather monitoring instrument.

EXIS continually monitors the brightness of the Sun. Every 30 seconds, EXIS will create a picture of the Sun’s output in the part of the spectrum which includes X-ray and ultraviolet light—wavelengths that are absorbed by the outermost layers of our Earth’s atmosphere and ionosphere.

Microbes living in a toxic volcanic lake could hold clues to life on Mars

May 2

LASP-led research has discovered microbes living in a toxic volcanic lake that may rank as one of the harshest environments on Earth. Their findings, published recently online, could guide scientists looking for signs of ancient life on Mars.

The team, led by LASP planetary scientist Brian Hynek, braved second-degree burns, sulfuric acid fumes, and the threat of eruptions to collect samples of water from the aptly-named Laguna Caliente. Nestled in Costa Rica’s Poás Volcano, this body of water is 10 million times more acidic than tap water and can reach near boiling temperatures. It also resembles the ancient hot springs that dotted the surface of early Mars, Hynek said.

The Costa Rican lake supports living organisms—but only one. Hynek and his colleagues found microbes belonging to just a single species of bacteria in the lake water, a rock-bottom level of diversity.