New research led by LASP scientist Brian Toon uses a three-dimensional (3-D) model of Earth’s climate to assess the role of various factors in influencing historic global temperatures and resulting sea ice formation and change. Toon, along with doctoral student Eric Wolf, adapted the 3-D model to incorporate the complex and dynamic interactions between the atmosphere, cloud formation, energy radiation, land and ice cover, and the hydrological cycle to demonstrate how the Earth maintained a global mean temperature hospitable to life. The model attempts to solve the “faint young sun paradox” of the Archean Eon—from about 3.8 billion to 2.5 billion years ago—when the Sun was up to 30 percent less active, but geologic evidence points to a climate as warm or warmer than today.
In 1977, Jimmy Carter was sworn in as president, Elvis died, Virginia park ranger Roy Sullivan was hit by lightning a record seventh time and two NASA space probes destined to turn planetary science on its head launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The identical spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were launched in the summer and programmed to pass by Jupiter and Saturn on different paths. Voyager 2 went on to visit Uranus and Neptune, completing the “Grand Tour of the Solar System,” perhaps the most exciting interplanetary mission ever flown. University of Colorado Boulder scientists, who designed and built identical instruments for Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, were as stunned as anyone when the spacecraft began sending back data to Earth.
Using data from the NASA Cassini mission, a team of scientists led by LASP researcher Sean Hsu, has successfully modeled dust streams being expelled from Saturn at speeds of more than 62 miles (100 km) per second. The data, taken from the Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) and the magnetometer on board Cassini, provide new information about the sources of the dust, as well as interactions within the mix of subatomic particles in which the charged dust is immersed, called dusty plasma.
As part of the upcoming American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in San Francisco, LASP director, Dan Baker, will serve as a panelist for a workshop on space weather. The workshop, titled, “Getting Ready for Solar Max: Separating Space Weather Fact from Fiction,” will be held on Tuesday, December 6, at 10 a.m. PT. Baker will begin the workshop with an overview of our current understanding of the Sun-Earth system, including solar variability and its interaction with Earth’s magnetosphere.
LASP Science Division personnel are moving to a new location on the CU Research Campus beginning October 14. According to LASP Director, Dan Baker, the benefits of the move are two-fold. Baker said, “LASP is a growing presence on campus. We are excited by the opportunity to expand our physical space to better address our current needs, while consolidating our science staff for more fluid collaboration.”
LASP scientist and CU-Boulder Department of Geological Sciences Assistant Professor, Brian Hynek, led a recent study detailing the earliest history of the development of the Tharsis volcanoes on Mars. The Tharsis region, one of the most prominent features on Mars, covers one quarter of the planet, rises 10 km above the surrounding flatlands, and has had near-continuous volcanic activity for roughly 4 billion years.
In recognition of his accomplishments and groundbreaking insights in the field of atmospheric science, LASP scientist and CU-Boulder Professor Peter Pilewskie has been named a recipient of the prestigious Humboldt Research Award. Pilewskie has been at LASP since 2004, where he performs research on the effects of clouds and aerosols on solar energy in the Earth’s atmosphere. He is also a professor in the Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences and serves as the director of the collaborative LASP/NASA Goddard Sun-Climate Research Center.
CU-Boulder has announced its selection as the upcoming host for the National Solar Observatory headquarters. A team led by Russell Moore, CU-Boulder Provost, and including LASP researchers, submitted the bid to serve as the NSO’s new headquarters location.
NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission has achieved another significant milestone on its way towards launch in November 2013. Lockheed Martin has completed building the primary structure of the MAVEN spacecraft at its Space Systems Company facility near Denver.
NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), launched in September 1991 and deployed from the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-48), is re-entering Earth’s atmosphere and will complete its decent on Friday, September 23. LASP designed and built the Solar Stellar Irradiance Comparison Experiment (SOLSTICE) on board UARS and operated the instrument after launch. Throughout 14 years of successful operations, SOLSTICE made precise measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet and far ultraviolet spectral irradiance.
September 2011 marks a significant milestone for LASP, as our Mission Operations and Data Systems (MODS) team celebrates 15 years of continuous spacecraft operations. From long-standing science missions, such as ICESat, which have brought in important data over years—to newer missions, such as Kepler’s exciting search for Earth-like planets—LASP MODS has offered reliable spacecraft operations to agencies including NASA.
The Sun is the dominant source of energy for Earth’s atmosphere. Scientists are interested in determining how the Sun’s output affects Earth’s climate and the ways specific events can disrupt space weather applications, space-based technologies, and radio communications. New observations of solar extreme ultraviolet (EUV) irradiance from the LASP-designed and built EUV Variability Experiment (EVE) on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) are adding another piece to this complicated puzzle that may help scientists more accurately predict space weather events.
In recognition of his innovative work on the effects of aerosols on clouds and climate, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has awarded LASP scientist Brian Toon the 2011 Revelle Medal. Toon has been at LASP since 1997, where his research is focused on radiative transfer, cloud physics, and atmospheric chemistry as well as the search for parallels between the Earth and the terrestrial planets.
Several LASP scientists are involved in NASA’s upcoming Juno mission to Jupiter. Scheduled to launch on August 5, 2011, the mission will improve understanding of our solar system origins by revealing details about the formation and evolution of the gas giant. The spacecraft will embark on a five-year, 400-million-mile voyage to Jupiter, where it will orbit the planet 33 times, collecting data for more than one Earth year.
The CU/LASP-led mission to Mars, devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere, reached a major milestone last week when it successfully completed its Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. An independent review board, comprised of reviewers from NASA and several external organizations, met from July 11-15 to validate the system design of the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission.
A study published in the journal Nature and co-authored by LASP scientist Sascha Kempf indicates that samples of water vapor and ice particles coming from Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus demonstrate evidence for a large, subterranean salt-water reservoir. The Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) on board the NASA Cassini spacecraft measured the composition of plumes—emanating from fractures called tiger stripes—and found that ice grains close to the moon are salt rich, unlike those that make up the planet’s E Ring.
LASP/CU-Boulder students are designing and building a satellite that will study space weather—changes in near-Earth space conditions that adversely affect Earth-orbiting spacecraft and communication technologies. The Colorado Student Space Weather Experiment (CSSWE) is an $840,000 CubeSat mission funded by the National Science Foundation. CSSWE is scheduled to launch into low-Earth polar orbit in June 2012 as a secondary payload under NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.
A new video that introduces the unique story of LASP student involvement in a NASA satellite instrument is now available. The video features students involved in the design, production, and operation of the Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter (SDC), an instrument aboard the NASA New Horizons mission to Pluto. Under the supervision of professional education staff, LASP undergraduate student Alex Thom compiled the video from archived mission footage and interviews.
CU-Boulder has announced its selection as a finalist to host the National Solar Observatory headquarters. A team led by Russell Moore, CU-Boulder Provost, and including LASP researchers submitted the bid to serve as the NSO’s new headquarters location. The NSO’s mission is to advance knowledge of the sun both as an astronomical object and as [...]
A study published in Geophysical Research Letters and co-authored by LASP scientist Tom Woods has found that total solar irradiance (TSI)—a measure of the Sun’s energy output—may not be as low during the Little Ice Age as previously understood. Low total solar irradiance has been thought to be a cause of the Little Ice Age, a time in the 17th Century coinciding with a period of unusually low sunspot activity known as the Maunder Minimum.
Federally funded laboratories in Colorado, a group that includes LASP, contributed $1.5 billion to the state economy in fiscal year 2010 and accounted for more than 16,000 direct and indirect jobs, a new survey shows. The study, Impact of Federal Research Laboratories in Colorado, 2009-2010, was done at the behest of CO‐LABS, a consortium of [...]
At approximately 7 p.m. MT on Thursday, March 17, after more than six and a half years and a nearly 5 billion mile journey, NASA’s MESSENGER mission became the first spacecraft to enter into orbit around the planet Mercury.
On March 23, 2011, LASP launched a sounding rocket intended to calibrate the Extreme ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) on the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The rocket carries an almost exact replica instrument as the satellite version SDO EVE instrument, which will help to determine any long-term degradation of the EVE optical system and will enable EVE to obtain the most accurate measurements possible of solar irradiance.
NASA’s Glory mission failed to reach orbit due to a failure of the Taurus XL rocket’s fairing to separate. The Glory satellite was designed to help scientists determine how much energy from the sun reaches Earth and how solar variability influences Earth’s long-term climate. Designed and built at LASP, the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) instrument on board, was aimed at measuring the intensity of solar radiation at the top of Earth’s atmosphere.X Earth’s Climate X Glory
LASP scientist Eberhard Grün has been awarded the 2011 Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) Gold Medal for Geophysics.
At Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, engineers are preparing the next Earth-observing NASA mission, Glory, which is slated to launch in late February. Glory carries the LASP-built Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) instrument, which will be directed towards the sun and will measure the intensity of solar radiation that enters the Earth’s atmosphere.
LASP graduate student Andrew Poppe was recognized for his outstanding contributions to the Student Dust Counter instrument on board the New Horizons mission to Pluto.
New research led by CU-Boulder/LASP scientist Greg Kopp will advance scientists’ understanding of the contribution of natural versus anthropogenic causes of climate change. The research improves the accuracy of the continuous, 32-year record of the sun’s energy output, which scientists call total solar irradiance (TSI). Energy from the sun is the primary energy input driving [...]
Sophomore and junior undergraduate students are invited to apply for the LASP NSF-funded Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Applications are due January 28, 2011. Foreign students may apply. Students will work with scientists at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) or at the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) [...]