Posts Tagged: atmosphere

Using a Sounding Rocket to Help Calibrate NASA’s SDO

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.

CU-Boulder hitches a ride to space on commercial satellite

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.

Mars spacecraft, including MAVEN, reveal comet flyby effects on Martian atmosphere

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.

MAVEN on Track to Carry Out its Science Mission

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.

MAVEN haiku selected for travel to Mars

Haiku recognized in the LASP-led MAVEN message-to-Mars contest were announced today on the Going to Mars campaign website. Haiku authors from around the world—including Palestine, India, Australia, and Europe—entered the contest. The top five winners—all those whose haiku received 1,000 votes or more—include popular British blogger Benedict Smith and well-known American poet Vanna Bonta. Other entries receiving special recognition include MAVEN team selections in categories ranging from haiku specifically about MAVEN to humorous haiku.

MAVEN arrives in Florida for launch preparations

The LASP-led Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft has arrived in Florida to begin final preparations for launch this November. The spacecraft was shipped from Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colo., to the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Friday.

Study shows how early Earth could support life

A new study by LASP research scientist Brian Toon and doctoral student Eric Wolf indicates that explaining Earth’s early conditions, which were warm enough to support life despite a 20-percent dimmer Sun, may be simpler than believed. The study,  published in the July issue of Astrobiology, indicates that the Archean eon, 2.8 billion years ago,… Read more »

LASP-built space weather instrument ready for delivery

A multimillion dollar LASP instrument package to study space weather has passed its pre-installation testing and is ready to be incorporated onto a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite for a 2015 launch.

PRESS RELEASE: LASP will partner on NASA mission to study Earth’s upper atmosphere

NASA has announced that LASP will collaborate on a $55 million project to build and launch an instrument to provide unprecedented imaging of the Earth’s upper atmosphere from a geostationary orbit.

The kind of information the Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission will collect will have a direct impact on man’s understanding of space weather and its impact on communication and navigation satellites.

Local students send a bit of dessert into the atmosphere

A group of Longmont middle school students successfully sent a scientific balloon carrying edible treats into the sky last Saturday as an atmospheric physics experiment. Guided by LASP scientists and education/outreach staff, the Trail Ridge Middle School eighth grade Earth Explorers class launched a balloon platform carrying a container of Jell-O and a marshmallow into… Read more »

LASP scientists elected as AGU fellows

In recognition of their accomplishments and exceptional scientific contributions, two LASP scientists have been elected as fellows of the American Geophysical Union (AGU). Bruce Jakosky and Cora Randall have been recognized by their peers for their outstanding work in Earth and space sciences with an honor that is bestowed upon not more than 0.1% of the AGU membership annually.

LASP Director to lead AGU workshop on space weather

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 scientist receives Humboldt Research Award

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.

Countdown to Glory launch underway

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.

PRESS RELEASE: Collaborative LASP/Goddard Sun-Climate Research Center Announced

The University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center announced the formation of a new collaborative research center dedicated to the study of the Sun’s effect on Earth’s climate. The center, called the Sun-Climate Research Center (SCRC), will be directed by Peter Pilewskie, a LASP research scientist… Read more »

AIM a success according to 2010 NASA Senior Review

The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) mission, which studies polar mesospheric clouds(PMCs) and the atmosphere, was recently evaluated in the 2010 Senior Review of the NASA Heliophysics Mission Operations and Data Analysis program.  The AIM mission received an  “excellent” rating in both of the two categories evaluated—scientific merit and contribution to heliophysics goals…. Read more »