In recognition of his accomplishments and exceptional scientific contributions, LASP research associate W.K. (Bill) Peterson has been elected as a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Peterson is being recognized by his peers in the scientific community for his outstanding work in Earth and space sciences with an honor that is bestowed upon no more than 0.1% of the AGU membership annually.
In 1930, an object smaller than our moon was discovered, labeled the ninth planet from the sun, and named Pluto at the suggestion of 11-year-old British girl Venetia Burney. The name was adopted because it was thought to be fitting as Pluto is the Roman God of the Underworld who is able to make himself invisible.
Invisible no longer.
6/4/2009 – Observing cloud climate feedbacks in the Earth’s Radiation Budget with the help of blackbodies, the Sun & Moon and ice particles on the edge of space.Jul 10, 2015
Abstract:It is essential to maintain global measurements of the Earth’s Radiation Budget (ERB) from space, which are the scattered solar and emitted thermal radiative fluxes leaving the planet. These are required for purposes of validating current climate model predictions of our planet’s future response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing. The measurement accuracy and calibration stability […]
“Self-organising plasmas” – or “complex plasmas” consist of electrons, ions and charged microparticles. The charged microparticles can be visualised individually, allowing full kinetic access to the plasma distribution function for the first time. Complex plasmas can self-organise spontaneously to assume liquid and even crystalline states – these are new states of “soft matter”, which were […]
Abstract: The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 1:26:03 PDT on April 25, 2007 becoming the first satellite mission dedicated to the study of noctilucent clouds. A Pegasus XL rocket launched the satellite into a near perfect 600 km, noon – midnight, sun […]
Following the New Horizons’ encounter with Jupiter, there has been a flurry of debate in the literature regarding the fundamental nature of Jupiter’s magnetosphere. The observation of large plasmoids filling Jupiter’s magnetotail prompted the suggestion by McComas and Bagenal  that Jupiter has “a fundamentally different interaction with the solar wind”. At Earth, there is […]
Monitoring perturbations in the long-term balance between Earth’s absorption of radiative energy from the Sun and its emission of infrared radiation to space is one of the primary objectives behind the Decadal Survey Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) mission. Through on-orbit traceability of measurements to SI standards, CLARREO will initiate benchmark climate data […]
In situ measurements of total and gas phase water as well as ice crystals have been obtained during several airborne field experiments in the Arctic, at midlatitudes and in the tropics. From the data set obtained in these experiments, the ice water content (IWC) in cirrus clouds is derived as a function of temperature for […]
The recent verification that small asteroids are rubble piles and are subject the YORP effect (i.e, that solar radiation pressure makes asteroid spin rates change over relatively short time spans) has wide-ranging consequences for the life cycles of these bodies. As the spin rate of an asteroid changes, its minimum energy configuration can change and […]
3/16/2009 – “Calculation Challenges from Cassini CAPS: Thermal Ion Flow Velocities in Saturn’s Magnetosphere Moments”Jul 10, 2015
The motion of thermal ions is surprisingly unresolved at Saturn. Due to Saturn’s strong magnetic field it is expected that plasma close to planet will co-rotate with the magnetic field, but where does this break down? The two Voyager fly-bys suggest this happens around 6 Saturn radii from the planet, although the passes were non- […]
Recent satellite measurements have enabled discovery of a recurrent ‘breathing’, or expansion and contraction, of the Earth’s upper atmosphere at periods of several days. Evidence of this ‘breathing’ is found in upper atmospheric density, composition, and in gases responsible for cooling the upper atmosphere. The discovery of multi-day periodicities in the upper atmosphere is shown […]
The AIM (Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere) spacecraft was launched on 25 April 2007. AIM is currently producing all planned observations. Some days after launch, however, AIM began to exhibit a problem in which it would not always achieve proper receiver uplink communications lock. During several periods from May 2007 to present there have […]
2/19/2009 – Some applications of the GRACE satellite mission, including monitoring changes in the polar ice sheets.Jul 10, 2015
NASA and the German Space Agency launched the GRACE satellite gravity mission in 2002. The mission is projected to last through 2013. GRACE provides highly accurate solutions for the Earth’s global gravity field every month. Differences between fields for different months provide information about time-variability in the gravity field, and so about month-to-month fluctuations in […]
The simple molecular ion H3+ has been known in the laboratory since 1911, when it was discovered by JJ Thomson while carrying out experiments on “rays of positive electricity”. It is stable, but highly reactive, making it an initiator chemical changes in mixed gases such as planetary atmospheres and the interstellar medium. The enormous anharmonicity […]
During MESSENGER’s second flyby of Mercury on October 6, 2008, very intense reconnection was observed between the planet’s magnetic field and a steady southward interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The dawn magnetopause was threaded by a strong magnetic field normal to its surface, ~ 14 nT, that implies a rate of reconnection ~10 times the typical […]
1/8/2009 – Spectral resolution and spatial structure: Why are they necessary for accurate climate-relevant observations?Jul 10, 2015
Both spectral and spatial resolution of space- and airborne radiometers have increased tremendously over the last two decades. At the same time, climate, cloud, and radiative transfer models became considerably more accurate due to growing computing capabilities. The question arises: How much resolution and accuracy is needed for which application? In this context, “prioritization” of […]
Solar flares and CMEs cause dramatic effects at the Earth, including damage to satellite electronics, loss of airline communications, and degradation, or even complete loss, of GPS. These effects become more disruptive as we become increasingly reliant on highly sophisticated technology. However, it is very difficult to predict when and where these events will occur […]
There has been much evidence indicating dust levitation and transport on or near the lunar surface. Dust mobilization is likely to be caused by electrostatic forces acting on small lunar dust particles that are charged by UV radiation and solar wind plasma. Laboratory studies are needed for understanding physics of dust charging and dynamics on […]
Since the discovery of the F ring by Pioneer 11 it has been known as one of the most dynamic planetary rings in the Solar system. Located just outside Saturn’s main rings with its orbit right between those of the two shepherding moons Prometheus and Pandora, it is divided into the dense F ring core […]
In the light of the Cassini mission to Saturn, the moon Enceladus turned out to be one of the most intriguing bodies in the solar system. Data returned by several instruments on the spacecraft provide compelling evidence that this moon is unusually active and is capable of maintaining a pronounced ice volcanism. In particular, measurements […]
3/25/2010 – Sources or Losses? The cause and effect of ultra low-frequency magnetospheric pulsations in the Van Allen radiation belts.Jul 10, 2015
Geomagnetic activity is capable of dramatically affecting the relativistic electrons that comprise the outer zone of the Van Allen radiation belts, with approximately half of geomagnetic storms producing enhancements in the intensity of radiation in the belts, and the remainder either reducing relativistic electron fluxes or having no overall effect. Which of these outcomes will […]
Dusty plasmas, or often called ”complex plasmas” have been studied for decades mainly related to plasma processing or astrophysical environments. 1994 an unfamiliar, ordered state of micro particles in a low temperature plasma environment, the so called ”plasma crystal” was discovered. As a result, the investigation of dusty plasmas was strongly intensified. The behavior of […]
This will be a two-part talk focusing on both the basic and applied research programs at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) – and a couple at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). The ONR basic research portfolio is aimed at improved understanding of the ionosphere and thermosphere (I/T) and developing new sensors and models for […]
Solar system terrestrial planets were exposed to strong (10~100 times present levels) soft X-ray and EUV radiation from the young Sun for several hundred million years after their formation. Planetary upper atmospheres expanded to several planetary radii under such XUV radiation and fast escape of major atmosphere gases occurred. The radial outflow, as a result […]
After a nine-year journey of 3 billion miles, a piano-sized, power-packed NASA spacecraft has an upcoming date with history that some University of Colorado Boulder students, faculty and alumni wouldn’t miss for the world.
2/25/2010 – Exploring Mercury’s Surface-bound Exosphere With the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer: Results from the Three MESSENGER FlybysJul 10, 2015
The planet Mercury is surrounded by a tenuous surface-bounded exosphere whose composition and structure are controlled by interactions among the surface, magnetosphere, solar wind, and sunlight. One of the scientific goals of the MErcury: Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, Ranging (MESSENGER) mission is to understand the nature of those interactions in order to identify the important […]
2/18/2010 – Active and passive remote sensing of the Mesopause region: What do we learn from observing NoctiLucent Clouds (NLC)Jul 10, 2015
Active remote sensing by lidar allows to study processes in the middle atmosphere from small (
2/4/2010 – Enhanced Thermospheric Density: The Roles of East-West and Northward Interplanetary Magnetic FieldJul 10, 2015
During 2005 solar EUV energy input to the thermosphere waned as Solar Cycle 23 declined. The reduction allowed a clearer delineation of episodic density disturbances caused by geomagnetic storms. We show new views of these disturbances based on Poynting flux calculations from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) F-series satellites, as well as from 1) […]
Over the past decade, the recommended solar oxygen abundance has declined rather precipitously, from a high of 850 ppm in the late 1970’s to the current value of around 450 ppm. At the rate of decline since 2001, in fact, the Sun will run out of oxygen circa 2016. Some might call this as a […]
Previous workers have suggested that chaotic terrain formation on Mars occurred in zones of elevated hydraulic head within a global hydrosphere.Our results indicate that chaotic terrain formation in the region of southern circum-Chryse may have resulted from the disruption of thick sedimentary deposits that contained large numbers of buried impact craters. The presented model suggests […]
While greenhouse gases are critical in climate studies, the main driver of Earth’s climate – by nearly a factor of 10,000 – is the incident total solar irradiance, which LASP is and will be measuring with the Total Irradiance Monitor instruments on the SORCE, Glory, and NPOESS missions. Water vapor and other greenhouse gases, aerosols, […]
Jupiter’s and Saturn’s immense magnetospheres differ considerably from Earth’s. These magnetospheres are generated in part by a strong planetary dynamo and by rapid rotation (~10 hour period). However, key differences lie in the internal sources of plasma (100s kg/s) provided by Io and Enceladus. Centrifugal stresses acting on the corotating, low-beta plasma in the inner […]
The heliospheric magnetic field (HMF) is hemispherically asymmetric so that the field dominant in the northern hemisphere is weaker but has a larger area than in the south. As a consequence, the heliospheric current sheet (HCS) is shifted southwards. This asymmetry, also called the bashful ballerina, typically persists during three-year intervals in the late declining […]
9/23/2010 – Formation of the Ganymede/Callisto Dichotomy and Titan’s Interior State from Impacts During the Late Heavy BombardmentJul 10, 2015
Despite their similar sizes and compositions, Ganymede and Callisto have followed different evolutionary pathways. Ganymede has experienced extensive geological activity and has a large rock core. Callisto’s surface is ancient. Core formation in Callisto has apparently been incomplete; its interior has layers of mixed ice and rock. The Ganymede/Callisto dichotomy could have arisen during an […]
The Extreme ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) aboard the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) was launched on 11 February 2010. The EVE instruments measure the solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) irradiance from 0.1 to 105 nm with unprecedented spectral resolution (0.1 nm), temporal cadence (10 sec minimum), and accuracy (20% or better). This seminar will discuss some […]
10/8/2010 – Reconstructing Pre-Historic Temperatures from Natural Proxies: Statistical Methods in Paleoclimate ResearchJul 10, 2015
The instrumental temperature record covers at most 150 years. Because a longer record is needed to characterize the natural variability of the climate system, it is necessary to call upon climate proxy data, which are noisy and sparsely distributed in space. Information about pre-historic temperatures can be derived from elements of the natural world sensitive […]
Oort cloud comets are currently believed to have formed in the Sun’s proto-planetary disk, and to have been ejected to large heliocentric orbits by the giant planets. I will review the evolution of our understanding of Oort cloud formation. I will present the currently best models and show that they fail to reproduce all of […]
The Antarctic “Ozone Hole” was first reported in the literature 25 years ago by Farman et al. . Despite intense research in the ensuing years into the chemical, microphysical and dynamical processes that create this phenomenon, there remain sufficient gaps in our knowledge that we cannot say with certainty when in the future the “ozone […]
Prior to the Apollo era the lunar atmosphere was thought to be a collision-less, ballistic conduit for thermal evaporation that balances the inflow of solar wind ions with their loss as neutrals. However, the first atmospheric species to be identified on the moon was radiogenic argon-40, and its identification was the indirect result of a […]
11/11/2010 – The nature of Turbulence in Circumstellar disks: Magnetorotational and Baroclinic InstabilityJul 10, 2015
Turbulence in circumstellar disks diffuses small solid material, leads to collisions among larger objects, concentrates boulders promoting planetesimal formation via gravity and also has an impact on planet migration. Despite the importance of turbulence, its nature is not completely understood so far. In certain regions of the disk the gas is sufficiently ionized for magneto-hydrodynamics […]
Results from two recent papers discussing changes in stratospheric constituents driven by changes in the circulation and some associated impacts on climate will be presented. In the first paper (Solomon et al., 2010), we show that a significant decrease in stratospheric water vapor a consequence of an increase in the mass flux into the tropical […]
After 6 years of Cassini mission the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) instrument recorded more than hundred stellar occultations by Saturn’s rings. Most of the observed occultations have excellent resolution on the order of ten meters or even better. In this talk we give overview of UVIS results on the rings small scale structure. The high […]
12/3/2010 – Towards an improved understanding of the Tropical Tropopause Transition Layer, TC4, ATTREX and SEAC4RSJul 09, 2015
The talk will describe some of the scientific issues that are driving research in this area, results from recent studies, and plans for future field missions.
12/9/2010 – Development of the approach for comprehensive retrieval of aerosol properties from enhanced satellite observationsJul 09, 2015
We propose to enhance aerosol retrievals by emphasizing statistical optimization in inversion of advanced satellite observations. The concept improves retrieval accuracy relying on pronounced data redundancy (excess of the measurements number over number of unknowns). The concept has been successfully adopted and refined in the operational AERONET algorithm retrieving the detailed aerosol properties from ground-based […]
12/10/2010 – The retrievals of detailed aerosol from AERONET sun/sky-radiometers: Overview of inversion principles, products and advances.Jul 09, 2015
The AERONET operational retrievals rely on the algorithm by Dubovik and King . This algorithm is based on the principles of optimized statistical estimations and derives detailed size distribution and spectral complex refractive index by fitting measurements of both direct and diffuse radiation. It also provides such radiative characteristics as aerosol spectral single scattering albedo […]
1/14/2011 – Deepwater Horizon atmospheric emissions constrain air-water partitioning, hydrocarbon fate, and leak rateJul 09, 2015
The fate of deepwater releases of gas and oil is initially determined by solubility and volatility of individual hydrocarbon species; these attributes determine partitioning between air and water. Quantifying this air-water partitioning is necessary to constrain simulations of gas and oil transport, to predict marine bioavailability of different fractions of the gas-oil mixture, and to […]
We explore the underlying principles of self-organization behind closed- and open-cellular mesoscale cloud structures in cloud fields off the west coast of continents. Early surface observations in the 1930s drew parallels to Rayleigh-Benard convection but it was only with the advent of meteorological satellites that observations of mesoscale cellular organization became commonplace. Recent evidence has […]
2/10/2011 – Radar observation of meteor generated plasmas: understanding the impacts billions of sand and dust sized meteoroidsJul 09, 2015
Over 100 kilotons of meteoric material hits the Earth every year, yet the average mass, velocity (15-55 km/s), and chemical composition of the particles comprising this mass flux remain poorly constrained. This is because the vast majority of this flux is composed of particles of micron size that are no larger than a grain of […]
Prior to the Apollo era the lunar atmosphere was thought to be a collision-less, ballistic conduit for thermal evaporation that balances the inflow of solar wind ions with their loss as neutrals. However, the first atmospheric species to be identified on the moon was radiogenic argon-40, and its identification was the indirect result of a […]
NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft is now well into its primary mission to initiate a new era in our understanding of the innermost planet. MESSENGER became the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury on 18 March 2011. MESSENGER’s Mercury Dual Imaging System is acquiring a global monochrome image mosaic at better […]
Polypyrrole is an air-stable organic conducting polymer. It can be easily prepared in the form of microscopic particles or alternatively deposited as an ultrathin overlayer on either polymer latex particles or mineral grains. Its conductivity is sufficiently high to enable the efficient accumulation of surface charge and hence acceleration of such colloidal particles up to […]
The Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) mission has been remotely observing the global interaction of our heliosphere with the local interstellar medium for over two and a half years. Initially, IBEX generated the first all-sky maps of Energetic Neutral Atoms (ENAs) emanating in from the boundaries of our heliosphere over the energy range from ~0.1-6 keV. […]
Saturn’s ice moon Enceladus turned out to be one of the most intriguing bodies in the solar system. Data returned by several instruments on the Cassini spacecraft provide compelling evidence that this moon is unusually active and is capable of maintaining a pronounced ice volcanism. In particular, measurements of the spatial distribution of the plume […]
Earth provides a testbed for fine tuning crewed and robotic mission concepts prior to their launch. I have been participating in several NASA-funded projects that assess the scientific return from various mission scenarios. For example, last month we assessed the potential for quality science data for a proposed crewed landing on an asteroid. In this […]
10/18/2011 – Multi-Model Comparisons of the Sensitivity of the Atmospheric Response to the SORCE Solar Irradiance Data SetJul 09, 2015
Uncertainties in the solar irradiance could have a large impact on simulations of the climate system, since the response of the atmosphere strongly depends on the spectral distribution of the solar irradiance. Most (chemistry) climate models today use the standard NRLSSI (Lean) spectral variability to study the effect of the 11-year solar cycle on climate. […]
How well do we know how much energy is coming in to the Earth’s climate system? And — although a much more difficult measurement — how much of that is lost to space? Climate-quality data require more stringent measurement accuracies and stabilities than needed for shorter-term studies. LASP is helping improve the measurements of both […]
In collisionless space plasmas, the Hall physics plays a significant role in magnetic reconnection. In this talk, I will show the evidence for the Hall electromagnetic field for a reconnection event seen by Cluster in the magnetotail. And I will talk about the newly developed reconstruction method, which is used to produce 2-D maps of […]
There is abundant evidence that the ancient Martian climate was different from the present one. Liquid water was present, leaving behind both geological and geochemical evidence. But the present climate is cold and dry, unable to support sustained liquid water at the surface. I’ll discuss the evidence for climate change and the processes that might […]
The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) on the 2001 Mars Odyssey Spacecraft has provided thermal infrared (IR) spectra of materials dispersed throughout the low albedo Noachian and Hesperian-aged southern highlands plains units that show a featureless slope towards longer wavelengths. Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) visible/near infrared spectral observations for the sites indicate […]
If planets had personalities, Mars would be a rock star according to recent preliminary results from NASA’s 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.
The moon is engulfed in a permanent but lopsided dust cloud that increases in density when annual events like the Geminids spew shooting stars, according to a new study led by LASP scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder.
The cloud is made up primarily of tiny dust grains kicked up from the moon’s surface by the impact of high-speed, interplanetary dust particles, said CU-Boulder physics Professor and LASP research associate Mihály Horányi. A single dust particle from a comet striking the moon’s surface lofts thousands of smaller dust specks into the airless environment, and the lunar cloud is maintained by regular impacts from such particles, said Horányi.
An instrument to be designed and built at LASP has been selected to fly on a NASA mission to Jupiter’s icy moon, Europa, which is believed to harbor a subsurface ocean that may provide conditions suitable for life.
The LASP instrument, known as the SUrface Dust Mass Analyzer (SUDA), will be used to measure the composition of solid particles released from Europa’s surface due to meteoroid bombardment. The instrument also will be able to measure the properties of small, solid particles believed to be spewing from a hidden ocean within the moon, said University of Colorado Boulder Assistant Professor of Physics, Sascha Kempf, who will serve as principal investigator on the project.
Watching the sun is dangerous work for a telescope. Solar instruments in space naturally degrade over time, bombarded by a constant stream of solar particles that can cause a film of material to adhere to the optics. Decades of research and engineering skill have improved protecting such optics, but one crucial solution is to regularly recalibrate the instruments to accommodate such changes.
In mid-May, the seventh calibration mission for an instrument on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, will launch into space onboard a sounding rocket for a 15-minute flight. The instrument to be calibrated is called EVE, short for the EUV Variability Experiment, where EUV stands for extreme ultraviolet. EVE’s job is to observe the total energy output of the sun in EUV light waves. The calibration mission is scheduled to launch on May 21, 2015, on a Terrier-Black Brant suborbital sounding rocket around 3 pm EDT from White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.
A mission to study dynamic changes in the atmosphere of Mars over days and seasons led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) involves the University of Colorado Boulder as the leading U.S. scientific-academic partner.
Known as the Emirates Mars Mission, the project is being designed to observe weather phenomena like Martian clouds and dust storms as well as changes in temperature, water vapor and other and gases throughout the layers of the atmosphere. The CU-Boulder part of the mission will be undertaken at LASP.
The mission will be headquartered at and controlled from the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre in Dubai, which is affiliated with the Emirates Institution for Advanced Science and Technology. According to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of Dubai, the new Mars probe will be named Hope.
LASP is a world-renowned space science research institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder. CU receives more NASA funding than any public university. LASP has been growing consistently and is currently at its highest level of activity with multiple complex programs totaling over $60 million in expenses per year. The increase in workload and […]
NASA 36.300 – Launching May 21, 2015 Date: Thursday, May 21, 2015 Time: 1:00 – 1:30 pm (MDT). This launch window is near local noon to minimize the atmospheric absorption of the solar EUV radiation during the rocket observations. Location: White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), NASA’s sounding rocket facility in New Mexico. NASA Sounding Rocket […]
The University of Colorado announced today that it has awarded a five-year contract to SES Government Solutions (SES GS), of Reston, Va., to host a NASA-funded science instrument on board SES-14, a communications satellite to be stationed over the Americas.
The Global-Scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission, a NASA Explorers mission led from the University of Central Florida and built and operated at the University of Colorado (CU-Boulder), will collaborate with SES GS to place a science instrument on a commercial satellite as a hosted payload. This is the first time a university and a commercial spacecraft operator have teamed to host a NASA science mission. At a cost of roughly 10% of a traditional science satellite, working with a communications satellite represents the most cost-effective way to reach geostationary orbit.
NASA’s MESSENGER mission to Mercury, carrying an instrument designed and built at LASP, is slated to run out of fuel and crash into the planet in the coming days after a wildly successful, four-year orbiting mission chock-full of discoveries.
The mission began in 2004, when the MESSENGER spacecraft launched from Florida on a 7-year, 4.7 billion mile journey that involved 15 loops around the sun before the spacecraft settled into orbit around Mercury in March 2011. LASP provided the Mercury Atmospheric and Surface Composition Spectrometer (MASCS), which has been successfully making measurements of Mercury’s surface and its tenuous atmosphere, called the exosphere, since orbit insertion.
LASP Director and University of Colorado Boulder Distinguished Professor, Daniel Baker, was awarded the Vikram A. Sarabhai Professorship and Prize for 2015, which honors internationally distinguished scholars and is named for the founder of India’s space program.
As part of the award, Baker traveled to the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, in February to work with scientists and students and give seminars and lectures. His primary research interests include the study of physical and energetic particle phenomena in the plasma of planetary magnetospheres.
The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission, part of the NASA Explorers Program, passed a rigorous examination on March 5th at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, enabling the mission to move into the final design and fabrication phase.
At any given moment, our sun emits a range of light waves far more expansive than what our eyes alone can see: from visible light to extreme ultraviolet to soft and hard X-rays. Different wavelengths can have different effects at Earth and, what’s more, when observed and analyzed correctly, those wavelengths can provide scientists with information about events on the sun. In 2012 and 2013, a detector was launched on a sounding rocket for a 15 minute trip to look at a range of sunlight previously not well-observed: soft X-rays.
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has observed two unexpected phenomena in the Martian atmosphere: an unexplained high-altitude dust cloud and aurora that reaches deep into the Martian atmosphere.
The presence of dust at orbital altitudes from about 93 miles (150 kilometers) to 190 miles (300 kilometers) above the surface was not predicted. Although the source and composition of the dust are unknown, there is no hazard to MAVEN and other spacecraft orbiting Mars.
Following a successful launch at 8:44 p.m. MDT Thursday, NASA’s four Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft are positioned in Earth’s orbit to begin the first space mission dedicated to the study of a phenomenon called magnetic reconnection. This process is thought to be the catalyst for some of the most powerful explosions in our solar system.
The spacecraft, positioned one on top of the other on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-421 rocket, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. After reaching orbit, each spacecraft deployed from the rocket’s upper stage sequentially, in five-minute increments, beginning at 10:16 p.m., with the last separation occurring at 10:32 p.m. NASA scientists and engineers were able to confirm the health of all separated spacecraft at 10:40 p.m.
Comprised of four identical, octagonal spacecraft flying in a pyramid formation, the MMS mission is designed to better understand the physical processes of geomagnetic storms, solar flares, and other energetic phenomena throughout the universe.
Scientists with NASA’s Cassini mission, led by LASP and University of Colorado postdoctoral researcher, Sean Hsu, have found that microscopic grains of rock detected near Saturn imply hydrothermal activity is taking place within the moon Enceladus.
This is the first clear indication of an icy moon having hydrothermal activity—in which seawater infiltrates and reacts with a rocky crust, emerging as a heated, mineral-laden solution. The finding adds to the tantalizing possibility that Enceladus, which displays remarkable geologic activity including geysers, could contain environments suitable for living organisms.
The results were published today in the journal Nature.
After a decade-long voyage through the solar system, NASA’s New Horizons mission is scheduled to fly by Pluto in July 2015, carrying with it the LASP-built Student Dust Counter (SDC). The New Horizons mission also involves LASP scientists and CU-Boulder students, who await data from the unprecedented approach and close encounter of the dwarf planet and its five known moons.
In preparation for the July encounter, LASP Office of Communications and Outreach staff recently traveled to two rural Colorado communities and delivered Pluto-related programming to students and their families. Accompanying them was Fran Bagenal, LASP planetary scientist, CU-Boulder professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences, and New Horizons mission co-investigator. Bagenal served as the New Horizons and Pluto science expert during the school visits and gave public presentations to both communities.
LASP will serve as the Science Operations Center for a NASA mission launching this month to better understand the physical processes of geomagnetic storms, solar flares and other energetic phenomena throughout the universe.
The $1.1 billion Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission will be comprised of four identical, octagonal spacecraft flying in a pyramid formation, each carrying 25 instruments. The goal is to study in detail magnetic reconnection, the primary process by which energy is transferred from the solar wind to Earth’s protective magnetic space environment known as the magnetosphere, said LASP Director Daniel Baker, Science Operations Center (SOC) lead scientist for MMS.
Final preparations are underway for the launch of NASA’s quartet of Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) spacecraft, which constitute the first space mission dedicated to the study of magnetic reconnection. This fundamental process occurs throughout the universe where magnetic fields connect and disconnect with an explosive release of energy.
The launch of MMS, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, is scheduled for 8:44 p.m. MDT on Thursday, March 12 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
When NASA’s napping New Horizon’s spacecraft awakens later this week in preparation for its July 2015 encounter with Pluto, a University of Colorado Boulder student instrument onboard already will have been up for years.
The instrument, the Student Dust Counter (SDC), was designed and built to detect dust both on the interplanetary journey to Pluto and beyond, said CU-Boulder physics Professor and LASP research scientist Mihaly Horanyi, principal investigator on the effort. The SDC has been on for most of the mission—even as the other instruments primarily napped—measuring dust grains that are the building blocks of the solar system’s planets, he said.
Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) Director, Dan Baker, was appointed a University of Colorado Distinguished Professor at a Board of Regents meeting on November 20th. Baker is one of six faculty members within the four university campuses to receive the award this year and takes a place among the 79 faculty members who have earned this distinction since its inception in 1977. Nominations for the award were made by a committee of current Distinguished Professors, reviewed by university president, Bruce Benson, and voted for approval by the Board of Regents.
Selection criteria are based on outstanding contributions of university faculty members to their academic disciplines, including creativity and research, teaching or supervision of student learning, and service to the university and affiliated institutions. Baker, director of LASP for two decades, was recognized for his leadership in the space science community and influence on space policy at the federal level. Baker was also lauded for enabling hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students to conduct authentic research at the lab.
Two NASA and one European spacecraft, including NASA’s MAVEN mission—led by LASP—have gathered new information about the basic properties of a wayward comet that buzzed by Mars Oct. 19, directly detecting its effects on the Martian atmosphere.
Data from observations carried out by MAVEN, NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft revealed that debris from the comet, known officially as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring, caused an intense meteor shower and added a new layer of ions, or charged particles, to the ionosphere. The ionosphere is an electrically charged region in the atmosphere that reaches from about 75 miles (120 kilometers) to several hundred miles above the Martian surface.
Using the observations, scientists were able to make a direct connection between the input of debris from the meteor shower to the subsequent formation of the transient layer of ions—the first time such an event has been observed on any planet, including Earth, said the MAVEN research team.
NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has provided scientists their first look at a storm of energetic solar particles at Mars and produced unprecedented ultraviolet images of the tenuous oxygen, hydrogen and carbon coronas surrounding the Red Planet, said LASP Associate Director for Science and University of Colorado Boulder Professor Bruce Jakosky, the mission’s principal investigator.
In addition, the new observations allowed scientists to make a comprehensive map of highly variable ozone in the Martian atmosphere underlying the coronas, he said. The spacecraft entered Mars’ orbit Sept. 21 and is in the process of lowering its orbit and testing its instruments. The $671 million Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission, or MAVEN, was launched toward Mars on Nov. 18, 2013, to help solve the mystery of how the Red Planet lost most of its atmosphere.
NASA will host a news teleconference at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 14, to announce early science results from the LASP-led Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission.
Launched in November 2013, the spacecraft entered orbit around Mars on Sept. 21 completing an interplanetary journey of 10 months and 442 million miles (711 million kilometers). MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to exploring and understanding the Martian upper atmosphere to help scientists understand climate change over the Red Planet’s history.
NASA has awarded a team led by the University of Colorado Boulder, which includes LASP scientists, more than $7 million to study aspects of the origins, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.
The team, led by CU-Boulder Professor Alexis Templeton of the geological sciences department, will be researching what scientists call “rock-powered life.” Rocky planets store enormous amounts of chemical energy, that, when released through the interaction of rocks and water, have the ability to power living systems on Earth as well as on other planets like Mars, said Templeton, principal investigator on the effort.
The LASP-led Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has obtained its first observations of the extended upper atmosphere surrounding Mars.
The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument obtained these false-color images eight hours after the successful completion of Mars orbit insertion by the spacecraft at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21 after a 10-month journey.
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft successfully entered Mars’ orbit at 10:24 p.m. EDT Sunday, Sept. 21, where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere as never done before. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.
In New Mexico on the morning of Aug. 18, a high-altitude balloon successfully carried the HyperSpectral Imager for Climate Science (HySICS) instrument to an altitude of 123,000 feet, above most of the Earth’s atmosphere, to reach space-like conditions and demonstrate new technologies for acquiring high-accuracy science measurements of the Earth.
Scientists use outgoing shortwave radiance, or the amount of sunlight scattered from Earth’s surface and atmosphere and reflected back toward space, as one of the key metrics for studying our planet’s dynamic climate. Watching these radiances over time helps researchers monitor and better understand the causes of environmental changes and global warming.
A NASA mission to Mars led by LASP is set to slide into orbit around the red planet on Sept. 21 to investigate how its climate has changed over the eons, completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles.
The orbit-insertion maneuver will begin with six thruster engines firing to shed some of the velocity from the spacecraft, known as the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN mission. The thruster engines will ignite and burn for 33 minutes to slow the spacecraft, allowing it to be captured into an elliptical orbit around Mars.
The importance of Mars exploration and how the aerospace industry partners with university researchers to advance one of Colorado’s leading economic sectors will be featured at a free program Monday, Sept. 8, in south Denver.
Aerospace leaders will discuss the importance of Mars exploration and the role of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN mission, the involvement of Colorado companies in space exploration and the value of public/private partnerships involving university-based research. Speakers will include Jim Green, director of NASA planetary science; Nick Schneider, MAVEN co-investigator and professor in the CU-Boulder Department of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences; Guy Beutelschies, space exploration systems director, Lockheed Martin; Jim Sponnick, vice president of Atlas and Delta programs, United Launch Alliance; and Patrick Carr, vice president and general manager of command, control and communications systems, Exelis.
A NASA-funded miniature satellite built by University of Colorado Boulder students to scrutinize solar flares erupting from the sun’s surface is the latest example of the university’s commitment to advancing aerospace technology and space science through strong partnerships with industry and government.
The $1 million Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS), led by CU-Boulder faculty in the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, recently was selected by NASA for launch in January 2015 from the International Space Station.
Based on a recommendation from NASA’s 2014 Senior Review of its operating missions, the planet hunting Kepler space telescope has received a two-year extension to operate in a new two-wheel mode.
The approval allows the K2 mission to continue exoplanet discovery using two of its four original reaction wheels, and introduces new scientific observation opportunities to observe notable star clusters, young and old stars, active galaxies and supernovae.
At the conclusion of a highly successful 130-day mission, the NASA Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is planned to impact the surface of the moon on April 21, 2014. LADEE carries the Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX), which is the latest in a series of dust detectors designed and built at LASP.
A new study led by LASP research scientist Stuart Robbins indicates that volunteer “citizen scientists” counted lunar craters at rates comparable to professional scientists. Using images from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, volunteers for CosmoQuest, which contributes real science data to NASA missions, analyzed the high-resolution photos of the Moon for impact craters. Robbins and his co-authors then compared the volunteers’ results to those of eight professional planetary crater-counters.
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.
The mission is designed to explore Mars’ upper atmosphere. It will determine the role that escape of gas from the atmosphere to space has played in changing the climate throughout the planet’s history. MAVEN was launched on November 18, 2013, and will go into orbit around Mars on the evening of Sept. 21, 2014 (10 p.m. EDT).
After a 5-week commissioning phase in orbit, during which it will get into its science-mapping orbit, deploy its booms, and do a final checkout of the science instruments, it will carry out a one-Earth-year mission. It will observe the structure and composition of the upper atmosphere, determine the rate of escape of gas to space today and the processes controlling it, and make measurements that will allow it to determine the total amount of gas lost to space over time.
NASA has approved a 28-day mission extension for the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). LASP provided the Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) onboard the satellite, which launched on September 6, 2013 and is now expected to impact the surface of the moon in late April 2014.
Due to accurate and efficient propulsion and guidance over the course of the mission to date, the spacecraft has more fuel remaining than mission operators originally expected. The extra propellant will provide an opportunity for LADEE to gather an additional full lunar cycle worth of very low-altitude data to help scientists unravel the mysteries of the moon’s tenuous atmosphere and dust environment.
As 2013 draws to a close, it is amazing to reflect on all of LASP’s accomplishments in its 65th year! The last four months of the year were punctuated by launches to the moon, and Earth and Mars orbits for the LDEX, TCTE, and MAVEN instruments that LASP designed, built, and now operates.
On November 19, an instrument to monitor solar energy, built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) launched into orbit around Earth to help determine the effects of solar radiation on Earth’s climate. This Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) will mitigate a gap in an otherwise continuous 35-year climate data record following the loss […]
A LASP-led mission that will investigate how Mars lost its atmosphere and abundant liquid water launched into space on November 18 at 11:28 a.m. MST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft separated from an Atlas V Centaur rocket’s second stage 53 minutes after launch. The solar arrays deployed approximately one hour after launch and currently power the spacecraft. MAVEN now is embarking on a 10-month interplanetary cruise before arriving at Mars next September.
MAVEN is set to launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket Nov. 18. The two-hour launch window extends from 1:28 to 3:28 p.m. EST. Liftoff will occur from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41.
Launch commentary coverage, as well as prelaunch media briefings, will be carried live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
The following is a list of MAVEN launch-related briefings, events, and activities.
A LASP proposal has been selected by NASA’s new Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI).
LASP’s proposal outlines the creation of the Institute for Modeling Plasma, Atmospheres, and Cosmic Dust (IMPACT). IMPACT focuses on experimental and theoretical investigations of: the effects of high-speed dust impacts, plasma charging, mobilization and transport of dust due to human and/or robotic activities, as well as natural processes; and the near-surface plasma environment of airless bodies in the solar system, including our Moon, Near Earth Objects, and the moons of Mars Phobos and Deimos.