Public Lectures  -  Fall 2019 / Spring 2020

Rediscovering the Earth’s Radiation Belts: What We Learned From the Van Allen Probes Mission

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Speaker:   Dan Baker
Date:   Wednesday, Mar 04, 2020
Time:   7:30-8:30pm (Doors open at 7:00 and close at 7:35)
Location:   SPSC-W120 (3665 Discovery Drive)

Abstract:
 

In addition to explaining the complex physical structure of the Earth’s radiation belts, a major achievement of the NASA Van Allen Probes mission has been to understand how highly-energetic particles are accelerated deep inside the Van Allen Belts. These new studies show that electrons and protons in the magnetosphere can be energized on timescales of just a few minutes. This work also shows that strong solar storms (e.g., coronal mass ejections) almost always change the radiation belts in dramatic ways.

In this presentation, LASP Director Dan Baker describes the Van Allen Probes observations from September 2012 to October 2019. He will highlight data from the LASP-built Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) that portray the acceleration, transport, and loss characteristics of Earth’s radiation belts. This analysis includes innovative display methods that highlight spatial features of the time variability of the outer Van Allen Belt and emphasizes the remarkable dynamics of the “cosmic accelerator” operating just a few thousand kilometers above our heads.

On the Drift: Exploring the Tropical Gateway to the Stratosphere with Super Pressure Balloons

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Speaker:   Doug Goetz
Date:   Wednesday, Feb 12, 2020
Time:   7:30 -8:30 PM (doors open at 7:00 and close at 7:35 or at capacity)
Location:   SPSC-W120 (3665 Discovery Drive)

Abstract:
 

High-altitude balloons have been important research platforms for real-time investigation of the Earth’s stratosphere and as testbeds for satellite sensors and telescopes since the 1950s. Recently, there has been a surge of interest in ballooning for telecommunications and even space tourism due to technological advances (e.g. projects like the Google Loon and World View Voyager). Capitalizing on such advances, the France/USA collaborative Stratéole 2 project seeks to study the tropical tropopause layer (TTL), or “gateway to stratosphere”, with a series of drifting superpressure balloons. These balloons will circumnavigate the globe over the course of 90 days. The drifting balloons will make high-frequency measurements of meteorological variables, water vapor, ozone, clouds and aerosols and will advance our knowledge of cloud formation, transport processes, and equatorial waves in the TTL. The first of three flight windows began in November 2019 with the launch of eight payloads from the Seychelles.

In this presentation, LASP research scientist, Doug Goetz, will discuss the current state of stratospheric ballooning, give an overview of the Stratéole 2 project, provide first hand insight into the LASP developed Stratéole 2 instruments, and give some preliminary results from the ongoing flight campaign.

NOTES:
This February LASP Public Lecture will be held the second Wednesday, February 12 (rather than the first Wednesday, February 5).

LASP Public Lectures have been moved from the LASP Technology Building (LSTB) building to the Space Science (SPSC) building at 3665 Discovery Drive. (Behind LSTB, link to map above.)

Peculiar Role of Io in the Magnetic Environment of Jupiter

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Speaker:   Fran Bagenal
Date:   Wednesday, Dec 04, 2019
Time:   7:30 -8:30 PM (doors open at 7:00 and close at 7:35)
Location:   SPSC-W120 (3665 Discovery Drive)

Abstract:
 

In the 60s and 70s ground-based observations–many made here in Boulder–indicated that Jupiter’s moon Io was peculiar. The innermost Galilean moon triggered radio emissions, appeared to brighten on emerging from eclipse, and optical emissions indicated clouds of sodium atoms and sulfur ions around Io. Further hints of Io’s peculiarity were indicated by the first spacecrafts to visit Jupiter, the Pioneers in 1973-1974. Such strange behavior became understandable when Voyager 1 and 2 flybys of Jupiter in 1979 revealed Io’s remarkable volcanism. When Voyager 1 passed close to Io, perturbations in the plasma and magnetic field showed Io generating magnetic waves propagating away from the moon, carrying electrical currents towards Jupiter. Over the past 40 years the Io-Jupiter system has been explored with telescopes and spacecraft but a major breakthrough came this year when the Juno spacecraft flew directly through Io’s current system.

In this presentation, LASP research scientist and retired CU professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences, Fran Bagenal, will discuss how Io’s strange behavior has been revealed over the years and present the latest results from Juno.

Watch the Public Lecture on YouTube

Science with a Shoebox: How Small Space Telescopes Can Impact Astronomy in a Big Way

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Speaker:   Brian Fleming
Date:   Wednesday, Oct 02, 2019
Time:   7:30 PM (doors at 7:00 PM)
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)

Abstract:
 

The ultraviolet (UV) portion of the electromagnetic spectrum provides some of the most powerful diagnostics to shape our understanding of stars, planets, galaxies, and all the material in-between, but it has long been one of the most difficult regions to explore. The principal go-to observatory for astronomers is the venerable Hubble Space Telescope—the most sensitive ultraviolet eyes into the universe we have ever known. NASA is now studying a behemoth space observatory as a potential successor to Hubble to answer the pressing questions of the future, the Large UltraViolet/Optical/InfraRed Observatory (LUVOIR). At a massive 50 feet in diameter, LUVOIR would be more than 40 times larger than Hubble and 150 times more sensitive, but it’s more than a decade from being built.

Recent advances in technology have opened up a new and perhaps unexpected dimension in UV space astronomy that will fill the gap between Hubble and a possible LUVOIR: small satellites. At sizes ranging from a shoebox to a mini-fridge, these tiny spacecraft have the potential to do science that is exceedingly difficult even for Hubble, and outside the capabilities of other space astronomy missions.

In this talk, Dr. Brian Fleming will tell us what has changed to make a shoebox satellite suddenly have outsized potential, and highlight some exciting science that will be carried out by LASP scientists with the first batch of astrophysics CubeSats in the coming years.

Watch the Public Lecture on YouTube

Can we terraform Mars?

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Speaker:   Bruce Jakosky
Date:   Wednesday, Nov 06, 2019
Time:   7:30 -8:30 PM (doors open at 7:00 and close at 7:35)
Location:   LSTB-299 (1234 Innovation Drive)

Abstract:
 

People have been talking recently about “terraforming” Mars—making the environment more Earth-like by raising the atmospheric pressure so that people wouldn’t need spacesuits, and raising the temperature to allow liquid water to be stable at the surface. If this could be done at all, it would require using carbon dioxide (CO2), which is an effective and naturally occurring greenhouse gas. We would need to find sinks where the CO2 on Mars has gone and figure out how to put the CO2 back into the atmosphere. Is there enough CO2 on Mars to allow this? How easy would it be to mobilize the CO2 and put it back into the atmosphere?

In this presentation, LASP’s associate director for science and principal investigator for NASA’s MAVEN Mars orbiter, Bruce Jakosky, will discuss how much CO2 was ever present on Mars, where it went, and whether it’s possible to put it back into the atmosphere to terraform the planet. He’ll also talk about future exploration plans for Mars, using both robotic and human missions, and the potential for colonizing Mars.

Watch the Public Lecture on YouTube