Features & News
LASP planetary scientist and diversity advocate Fran Bagenal inducted into the National Academy of SciencesMay 17, 2022
Fran Bagenal, a senior research scientist at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder and professor emeritus of the university’s Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Department, has been inducted into the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) is renowned for being the world’s only academic research institute to explore every planet in our solar system (and beyond). But the planet that we study most closely is actually our home planet! About one-third of LASP’s current $1 billion research portfolio relates to studying Earth’s atmosphere… Read more »
The GOES satellite, scheduled to launch on March 1, will carry a state-of-the-art solar monitor built at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU Boulder to protect our national technology assets from space weather hazards.
Dr. Adam Kowalski is the 2022 recipient of the Karen Harvey Prize awarded by the American Astronomical Society’s Solar Physics Division (AAS/SPD). This honor recognizes Dr. Kowalski’s early career contributions to the study of the Sun.
Brian Toon, a researcher at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, has been elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Libera, a new NASA mission to measure Earth’s outgoing radiative energy, has passed a major milestone. It has successfully completed Key Decision Point C, one of several links in the chain of go/no go decisions that the space agency makes for every major mission.
LASP and Aerospace Engineering researchers will use the funds to advance their concept of a futuristic swarm of satellites to shed new light on how the solar wind affects Earth’s upper atmosphere. A team from the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder has been awarded a prestigious research grant to study a futuristic space-technology concept. Marcin… Read more »
This week the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder welcomed members of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology along with Colorado’s congressional delegation to our institute. Their visit showcased LASP’s transformational research and innovative engineering solutions resulting from federal partnerships with NASA, NOAA, NSF,… Read more »
The spacecraft constellation will make the first global measurements of the coupling between the magnetosphere and the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The results will help detect and predict extreme conditions in space that can impact society and future exploration. An instrument to be jointly designed and built at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) and… Read more »
The Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) is renowned for being the world’s only academic research institute to explore every planet in our solar system (and beyond). But the planet that we study most closely is actually our home planet! About one-third of LASP’s current $1 billion research portfolio relates to studying Earth’s atmosphere… Read more »
Earth’s primary source of energy is incoming radiation from our Sun. This “income” side of our planet’s energy budget sets the baseline for determining how quickly Earth is warming. When combined with measurements of the total amount of energy that’s emitted and reflected from our planet back into space, this information allows scientists to calculate… Read more »
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California has selected the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) to lead the operations for NEO Surveyor, a space-based telescope that will use infrared bands to detect, track, and characterize Near Earth Objects (NEOs)—asteroids and comets that come within 48 million kilometers (30 million miles) of Earth’s orbit.
Colorado is at the forefront of America’s aerospace industry, and the University of Colorado plays a fundamental role in ensuring the state remains there. Representatives from LASP and other university affiliates are representing CU at the international meeting hosted in Colorado Springs this week.
In time for Valentine’s Day, NASA’s IXPE (Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer), which launched Dec. 9, 2021, has sent down its first science image to its mission operations center located at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder.
A new publication in Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Science led by Justin Wang, a graduate student at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder, illustrates how life finds a way in one of the most hostile habitats on Earth, the hydrothermal crater lake of the Poás volcano in Costa Rica. These conditions are similar to those of Mars’ early history, giving clues to the possibly habitability of the planet.
Two new CubeSats, to be built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, will provide first-of-their-kind measurements of gravity waves in Earth’s upper atmosphere and explosions in the Sun’s corona.
For years, amateur aurora watchers from Canada have noticed mysterious streaks of pale purple and green light that seemed to dance across the nighttime sky. But it wasn’t until 2016 that they shared their colorful images with scientists, who soon identified the lightshow as a new type of upper-atmosphere phenomenon that was jokingly named STEVE.
Which planets beyond our solar system are most likely to host life? By extrapolating the current scientific understanding of Mars, a multi-disciplinary team, including researchers from LASP, are helping to identify alien planets that may be habitable.
NASA has funded a new LASP instrument package, the Occultation Wave Limb Sounder (OWLS), which will fly in 2024 on the International Satellite Program in Research and Education (INSPIRESat-3) satellite.
After years of preparation, LASP’s mission operations team, comprised of students and professionals, will assume control of NASA’s IXPE mission shortly after it launches from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday December 8th at 11:00pm MST.
The word “maven” means an expert or connoisseur, an appellation that also appropriately describes Bruce Jakosky and his knowledge of—and affinity for—the planet Mars. He has dedicated the last 18 years to making the MAVEN mission to Mars a success. This year, Jakosky decided to step down as the mission’s principal investigator to focus more of his time on scientific research.
The Parker Solar Probe spacecraft, NASA’s newest and most ambitious effort to study the Sun, has broken a lot of records: it has gotten closer to the Sun than any other spacecraft to date, its instruments have operated at the hottest temperatures, and the probe is the fastest human-made object ever. But those records come at a cost: The spacecraft is moving so fast that running into even a tiny grain of dust can lead to serious damage.
NASA announced today that the next mission in its Explorers Program will be a spacecraft that studies cosmic explosions and their elemental debris. The space agency selected the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI), to be built at the University of California Berkeley, in place of the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) concept, ESCAPE.
When William Shatner, the actor who played the series’ swashbuckling Captain James T. Kirk, takes his seat on a space tourism flight this week, it will highlight the real-world technological advances that have occurred since 1966. LASP has played a staring role in the development of some of the latest technologies in space research.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Space Agency is embarking on a new space mission in collaboration with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder. The mission will build on the success of the UAE’s ongoing Emirates Mars Mission to visit a much more ambitious target: the asteroid belt.
Xinlin Li, a researcher at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and a professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences (AES) at the University of Colorado Boulder, has been elected a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
The CUTE smallsat designed and built by LASP researchers and engineers is slated to launch Sept. 27th as a rideshare on the NASA/USGS Landsat 9 mission.
A research team from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics and led by former undergraduate student Anna Pusack discovered a dusty mystery in a newly explored region around Earth’s Sun.
Dr. Shannon Curry, a planetary scientist and the Deputy Assistant Director of Planetary Science at the Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) at the University of California, Berkeley, has assumed leadership of NASA’s MAVEN mission.
The SDO/EVE rocket launch window opens at 11:25am MDT on Sept. 9th, 2021 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The measurements will provide necessary instrument calibrations for NASA’s study of the Sun.
This week leaders from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and other University of Colorado (CU) affiliates participated in the 36th Space Symposium.
The Rocky Mountain Section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the world’s largest aerospace technical society, has selected researcher Scott Piggott as its 2020–2021 Professional Engineer of the Year.
A new Nature Astronomy study led by Michael Chaffin, a researcher at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, indicates that regional dust storms can play a significant role in drying out the Red Planet.
The lack of a uniform definition of where space begins has scientific and engineering implications that extend well beyond which billionaire gets there first.
The Emirates Ultraviolet Spectrometer (EMUS) took its first science images on February 20th, 2021, providing information on the composition of Mars’ upper atmosphere.
2021 is a good year to be a Mars researcher like Bruce Jakosky at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at CU Boulder.
The first science image of the Martian planet was taken by the Emirates eXploration Imager (EXI) on February 10, 2021, one day after orbit insertion.
After launching 7 months ago, the Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, is scheduled to reach Mars’ orbit on February 9, 2021 at 8:41 a.m. MST. It will spend one Martian Year (about two Earth years) orbiting the red planet gathering crucial science data.
New research appears today in the Journal Nature Astronomy that may help resolve a long-standing mystery about the Sun: Why the solar atmosphere is millions of degrees hotter than the surface.
Hidden pockets of water ice could be much more common on the surface of the moon than scientists once suspected, according to new research led by the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU Boulder. In some cases, these tiny patches of ice might exist in permanent shadows no bigger than a penny. “If you can… Read more »
When volcanos erupt, these geologic monsters produce tremendous clouds of ash and dust—plumes that can blacken the sky, shut down air traffic and reach heights of roughly 25 miles above Earth’s surface. A new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder suggests that such volcanic ash may also have a larger influence on the… Read more »
CU on the Air Podcast: LASP Director Dan Baker talks with CU president Mark Kennedy about the Hope Mars Mission and the future of Space Research at CUSeptember 14, 2020
Podcast Link: Summary of Podcast United Arab Emirates sent its first mission to Mars, the Hope Mars Mission, on July 19. And although the launch was more than 6,000 miles from Colorado, the University of Colorado Boulder played a major role in putting Hope into orbit. CU Boulder Professor Dan Baker and CU President Mark… Read more »
LASP researchers Xu Wang and Mihály Horányi were part of a study to develop a method to clean lunar dust particles off of surfaces.
Vast areas of the Martian night sky pulse in ultraviolet light, according to images from NASAʼs MAVEN spacecraft. The results are being used to illuminate complex circulation patterns in the Martian atmosphere.
In a new study, a team led by astrophysicist Allison Youngblood at CU Boulder set out to achieve something new in planetary photography: The group used the Hubble Space Telescope to try to view Earth as if it were an exoplanet—or a world orbiting a star many light years from our own.
The Emirates Mars Mission, the first interplanetary exploration undertaken by an Arab nation, is scheduled to launch this week on Mitsubishi H-IIA launch platform from Tanegashima, Japan and arrive at Mars in February 2021, coinciding with The Emirates’ 50th anniversary as a nation.
ESCAPE is one of two candidates vying to be the next satellite to launch under NASA’s ambitious Explorers Program. NASA has given the team funding to develop their concept further with the agency making its final decision in 2021. If selected, ESCAPE would survey the radiation streaming from more than 200 stars to make a road map of the most promising habitable worlds.
NASA has awarded a sole source contract to the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder for the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor-2 (TSIS-2). The new sensor provides continuity to data delivered by TSIS-1, which launched in December 2017. LASP will receive funding to build two instruments, the Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) and Spectral Irradiance Monitor (SIM) and will operate the spacecraft after it launches in 2023.
This week, NASA announced that it has given the green light to Libera, a new space mission that will record how much energy leaves our planet’s atmosphere on a day-by-day basis—data that can provide crucial information about how Earth’s climate is evolving over time.
A type of Martian aurora first identified by NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft in 2016 is actually the most common form of aurora occurring on the Red Planet, according to new results from the mission. The aurora is known as a proton aurora and can help scientists track water loss from Mars’ atmosphere and sheds light on Mars’ changing climate.
Over the past year, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe came closer to the sun than any other object designed and developed by humans—and CU Boulder scientists have been along for the ride. David Malaspina, a LASP Space plasma researcher, is part of a team of CU Boulder scientists who contributed to those early insights. The group designed a signal processing electronics board that is integral to the FIELDS experiment, one of four suites of instruments onboard Parker Solar Probe.
A new study conducted by researchers from CU Boulder and Rutgers University examines how such a hypothetical future conflict would have consequences that could ripple across the globe. LASP atmospheric scientist Brian Toon, who led the research published this work in the journal Science Advances.
In a paper published in Nature Astronomy and presented at the EPSC-DPS Joint Meeting 2019 in Geneva, the authors, including LASP research associate, Sean Hsu, suggest that processes that preferentially eject dusty and organic material out of Saturn’s rings could make the rings look much younger than they actually are.
Early one morning in late August 2019, Colorado photographer Glenn Randall hiked several miles to a stream flowing into Lake Isabelle in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. He set up his camera near the stream and began photographing about 20 minutes before sunrise when a golden glow developed at the horizon. It wasn’t until Randall was back at home, however, that he noticed something odd: The sky above the golden glow and its reflection in the water were both a deep violet.
He’s not alone. Photographers across the country have noticed that sunrises and sunsets have become unusually purple this summer and early fall.
Now, LASP researchers have collected new measurements that help to reveal the cause of those colorful displays: an eruption that occurred thousands of miles away on a Russian volcano called Raikoke.
LASP scientists Robert Ergun and Richard Eastes have been recognized by NASA for their enduring contributions to their respective fields in recent ceremonies at the agency’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
Ergun, also a professor in the CU Boulder Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences Department, was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal for designing and building innovative electric field instruments for many NASA flight missions, including the MAVEN Mars mission and the Parker Solar Probe, currently making record-breaking close-in orbits of the Sun. The Distinguished Public Service Medal is NASA’s highest form of recognition awarded to a non-government individual whose service, ability, or vision has personally contributed to NASA’s advancement of the U.S.’s interests.
Eastes, who currently serves as the principal investigator for the LASP-built GOLD instrument, was recognized with the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal for his work on GOLD and a career devoted to better understanding the complex dynamics of the Earth’s near-space boundary. The Exceptional Public Service Medal is awarded to a non-government individual for sustained performance that embodies multiple contributions on NASA projects, programs, or initiatives.
NASA’s Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission has observed dramatic and unexplained shifts in the location of features in the Earth’s ionosphere surrounding the equator. Unanticipated changes in the nighttime ionosphere can lead to disruptions in communication and navigation that depend on satellites, such as GPS.
GOLD is an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph that was designed and built at LASP and is hosted on the SES-14 communications satellite. The latest discoveries from the mission are challenging mission scientists and were published last week in Geophysical Research Letters.
Since reaching orbit in October 2018, GOLD has been making observations of the Equatorial Ionization Anomaly (EIA), regions of the ionosphere with enhanced electron density north and south of the magnetic equator. One of the primary goals of the mission is to better understand the behavior of the EIA and the instabilities within it. GOLD presents a new ability to image the variability of ionospheric plasma and, ultimately, to understand its causes.
For Nick Schneider, teaching isn’t just something that he has to do—it’s his passion. And one that’s being recognized by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) with this year’s Richard H. Emmons award.
This award, which recognizes extraordinary teaching in astronomy, is the only such award given at the national level, and Schneider is the first recipient to focus on planetary science, rather than astrophysics, since the award’s inception in 2006.
A first-of-its-kind camera developed in partnership between CU Boulder and Ball Aerospace will soon be landing on the moon.
NASA announced today that it has selected a scientific instrument, called the Lunar Compact Infrared Imaging System (L-CIRiS), for its Commercial Lunar Payload Services program. The camera will ride along with one of three robotic landers that will touch down on the lunar surface in the next several years—a key step in NASA’s goal of sending people back to the moon by 2024.
LASP planetary scientist Paul Hayne, who is leading the development of the instrument, said that the goal is to collect better maps of the lunar surface to understand how it formed and its geologic history. L-CIRiS will use infrared technology to map the temperatures of the shadows and boulders that dot the lunar surface in greater detail than any images to date.
NASA has selected eight teams to collaborate on research into the intersection of space science and human space exploration as part of the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI). Among the teams is the CU Boulder and LASP-led Institute for Modeling Plasmas, Atmospheres, and Cosmic Dust (IMPACT).
The IMPACT center, led by LASP scientist and CU Boulder professor of physics, Mihály Horányi, is an international collaboration that includes partners from the CU Boulder departments of physics and aerospace engineering sciences, LASP, and the Colorado School of Mines. The focus of IMPACT center research is the dusty plasma environments around the moon and other airless bodies in the solar system.
How did the Red Planet get all of its clouds? LASP scientists may have discovered the secret: just add meteors.
Astronomers have long observed clouds in Mars’ middle atmosphere, which begins about 18 miles (30 kilometers) above the surface, but have struggled to explain how they formed.
Now, a new study, published on June 17 in the journal Nature Geoscience, examines those wispy accumulations and suggests that they owe their existence to a phenomenon called “meteoric smoke”—essentially, the icy dust created by space debris slamming into the planet’s atmosphere.
Astronomers probing the edges of the Milky Way have in recent years observed some of the most brilliant pyrotechnic displays in the galaxy: superflares.
These events occur when stars, for reasons that scientists still don’t understand, eject huge bursts of energy that can be seen from hundreds of light years away. Until recently, researchers assumed that such explosions occurred mostly on stars that, unlike Earth’s, were young and active.
Now, new research shows with more confidence than ever before that superflares can occur on older, quieter stars like our own—albeit more rarely, or about once every few thousand years.
For more than four years, NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission has explored the mysteries of the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere. More recently, the spacecraft has gotten up close and personal with that same expanse of gas.
Earlier this year, MAVEN dipped into the highest reaches of Mars’ atmosphere over a two-month “aerobraking” campaign, using the resistance there to slow itself down in space and shift the dynamics of its orbit.
Those maneuvers ushered in a new era for MAVEN and for LASP, which leads the overall mission and the science operations for MAVEN, and built two of its instruments.
In the wake of an unfortunate event, two University of Colorado Boulder (CU) graduate students have accomplished a remarkable feat in space science: they’ve designed and built a new satellite instrument in less than three months.
Bennet Schwab, a graduate student in the Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences, and Robert Sewell, a graduate student in the Department of Physics, have been on an emotional roller coaster ride over the past few months. One extended peak in that ride came during the preparation and launch of the NASA Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer, or MinXSS-2, CubeSat on December 3, 2018, and the subsequent successful observations of X-rays from the Sun. This initial success was soon followed by a setback, when there was a loss of communication with the CubeSat on January 7, 2019.
In one of the spacecraft operations centers inside LASP’s Space Technology Building, a woman’s calm voice pipes in over a speaker:
“Loss of signal, MMS-4,” the voice reports.
The room looks like a smaller version of the NASA flight control centers that show up in every space movie. The announcement is a routine cue that one of the four spacecraft that make up the Magnetospheric MultiScale (MMS) mission has finished its latest round of transmitting data back to Earth.
Often the first person to hear such alerts isn’t a grizzled mission control veteran, but rather a CU Boulder student. That’s because LASP employs student “command controllers” to help operate the space missions under its supervision.
LASP scientists spent the first hours of 2019 in a Maryland operations center watching NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft shoot past a minor planet more than 4 billion miles from Earth—the farthest object that any spacecraft has ever explored.
That icy object, an elongated body about 19 miles tall, is called 2014 MU69 or Ultima Thule, a Latin phrase that means “beyond the known world.”
CU Boulder researchers and students are playing an important role in this brush with the unknown, which took place on Jan. 1. As New Horizons zips through the outermost regions of our solar system, it will collect and analyze specks of dust using an instrument designed by students at LASP.
NASA will soon have new eyes on the Sun. Two miniature satellites designed and built at LASP are scheduled to launch later this month on Spaceflight’s SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission onboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The new missions—called the Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer-2 (MinXSS-2) and the Compact Spectral Irradiance Monitor (CSIM)—will collect data on the physics of the Sun and its impact on life on Earth.
These “CubeSats,” which are smaller than a microwave oven, are set to blast into a near-Earth orbit alongside more than 60 other spacecraft. According to Spaceflight, SSO-A is the largest dedicated rideshare mission from a U.S.-based launch vehicle to date.
Has NASA’s famed planet-hunting spacecraft met its end? Not so fast, say LASP researchers.
NASA recently announced that the Kepler Space Telescope, which searched for planets orbiting stars far away from Earth, had run out of fuel and would finish its nine-year mission. In response, many news outlets reported that Kepler was dead
But Lee Reedy, flight director for Kepler at LASP, said that the mission’s legacy is far from over. To date, Kepler has found a confirmed 2,662 planets beyond our solar system.
After nine years in deep space collecting data that indicate our sky to be filled with billions of hidden planets—more planets even than stars—NASA’s Kepler space telescope has run out of fuel needed for further science operations. NASA has decided to retire the spacecraft within its current, safe orbit, away from Earth. Kepler leaves a legacy of more than 2,600 planet discoveries from outside our solar system, many of which could be promising places for life.
Kepler, which was operated from LASP since its launch in March 2009, has opened our eyes to the diversity of planets that exist in our galaxy. The most recent analysis of Kepler’s discoveries concludes that 20 to 50 percent of the stars visible in the night sky are likely to have small, possibly rocky, planets similar in size to Earth, and located within the habitable zone of their parent stars. That means they’re located at distances from their parent stars where liquid water—a vital ingredient to life as we know it—might pool on the planet surface.
The most common size of planet Kepler found doesn’t exist in our solar system—a world between the size of Earth and Neptune—and we have much to learn about these planets. Kepler also found nature often produces jam-packed planetary systems, in some cases with so many planets orbiting close to their parent stars that our own inner solar system looks sparse by comparison.
The European Geosciences Union (EGU) has named LASP Director Daniel Baker as the recipient of the 2019 Hannes Alfvén Medal. The medal was established in 1997 in recognition of the scientific achievements of Hannes Alfvén and is awarded for outstanding scientific contributions towards the understanding of plasma processes in the solar system and other cosmical plasma environments.
Baker is one of 45 individuals to be recognized this year for their important contributions to and leadership in the Earth, planetary, and space sciences. Baker will receive his award during the EGU 2019 General Assembly, which will take place from April 7-12, 2019, in Vienna, Austria.
On its last orbits in 2017, the long-running Cassini spacecraft dove between Saturn’s rings and its upper atmosphere and bathed in a downpour of dust that astronomers call “ring rain.”
In research published today in Science, LASP research associate Hsiang-Wen (Sean) Hsu and his colleagues report that they successfully collected microscopic material streaming from the planet’s rings.
The findings, which were made with Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer and Radio and Plasma Wave Science instruments, come a little more than a year after the spacecraft burned up in Saturn’s atmosphere. They stem from the mission’s “grand finale,” in which Cassini completed a series of risky maneuvers to zip under the planet’s rings at speeds of 75,000 miles per hour.
Today, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft celebrates four years in orbit studying the upper atmosphere of the Red Planet and how it interacts with the Sun and the solar wind. To mark the occasion, the team has released a selfie image of the spacecraft at Mars.
MAVEN’s selfie was made by looking at ultraviolet wavelengths of sunlight reflected off of components of the spacecraft. The image was obtained with the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) instrument, built at LASP, that normally looks at ultraviolet emissions from the Martian upper atmosphere. The IUVS instrument is mounted on a platform at the end of a 1.2-m boom (its own “selfie stick”), and by rotating around the boom can look back at the spacecraft. The selfie was made from 21 different images, obtained with the IUVS in different orientations, that have been stitched together.
NASA’s Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, instrument powered on and opened its cover to scan the Earth for the first time, resulting in a “first light” image of the Western Hemisphere in the ultraviolet. GOLD will provide unprecedented global-scale imaging of the temperature and composition at the dynamic boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space.
The instrument was launched from Kourou, French Guiana, on Jan. 25, 2018, onboard the SES-14 satellite and reached geostationary orbit in June 2018. After checkout of the satellite and communications payload, GOLD commissioning—the period during which the instrument performance is assessed—began on Sept. 4.
Team scientists conducted one day of observations on Sept. 11, during instrument checkout, enabling them to produce GOLD’s “first light” image. Commissioning will run through early October, as the team continues to prepare the instrument for its planned two-year science mission.
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has selected LASP Director Daniel Baker as its 2018 William Bowie Medal recipient. AGU’s highest honor, the William Bowie Medal, is given annually to one honoree in recognition of “outstanding contributions for fundamental geophysics and for unselfish cooperation in research.”
Baker is one of 33 individuals to be recognized this year for their dedication to science for the benefit of humanity and their achievements in Earth and space science. Baker will receive his award during the Honors Tribute at the 2018 AGU Fall Meeting, which will take place on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, in Washington, D.C.
After three weeks of hard work, nine aspiring young scientists sat eagerly around a table and watched robots they created complete a racecourse. The students, aged 11 to 15 years old, had spent many hours assembling, computer coding and programming their robots to steer around a tabletop course drawn onto paper.
This hands-on learning experience is part of the Institute for Modeling Plasma, Atmospheres, and Cosmic Dust (IMPACT) Junior Aerospace Engineering Camp, a summer program offered by LASP’s Office of Communications and Outreach (OCO).
Now in its fifth year, the NASA-supported program is held at Casa de la Esperanza, a housing community and learning center in Longmont, Colorado, designed to support agricultural migrant workers and their families. The IMPACT camp is one of several educational services that the facility offers to residents.
On August 11, LASP research scientist, David Malaspina, will have a front-row seat for the launch of NASA’s newest mission, the Parker Solar Probe.
The event, which is scheduled to take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, will be a must-see for scientists who have spent their careers watching the Sun. Over its seven-year mission, the Parker Solar Probe will fly closer to our home star than any spacecraft in history, dipping to within four million miles of the surface and grazing the Sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona.
Science fiction writers have long featured terraforming, the process of creating an Earth-like or habitable environment on another planet, in their stories. Scientists themselves have proposed terraforming to enable the long-term colonization of Mars. A solution common to both groups is to release carbon dioxide gas trapped in the Martian surface to thicken the atmosphere and act as a blanket to warm the planet.
However, Mars does not retain enough carbon dioxide that could practically be put back into the atmosphere to warm Mars, according to a NASA-sponsored study led by LASP Associate Director for Science Bruce Jakosky. Transforming the inhospitable Martian environment into a place astronauts could explore without life support is not possible without technology well beyond today’s capabilities.
Researchers at CU Boulder will soon set their sights on the heliosphere, a massive bubble in space that surrounds our solar system and shields it from incoming radiation.
NASA’s recently announced Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) mission, which is slated to launch in 2024, will hover close to one million miles from Earth where it will observe the outermost edges of the solar system—the limits of our Sun’s influence on space.
LASP will play a major role in the nearly $500 million mission by leading IMAP’s scientific operations and designing an instrument that will fly on the spacecraft, detecting tiny particles of dust that flow through space.
Auroras appear on Earth as ghostly displays of colorful light in the night sky, usually near the poles. Our rocky neighbor Mars has auroras too, and NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft just found a new type of Martian aurora, according to a study led by LASP scientists. This phenomenon occurs over much of the day side of the Red Planet, where auroras are very hard to see.
Auroras flare up when energetic particles plunge into a planet’s atmosphere, bombarding gases and making them glow. While electrons generally cause this natural phenomenon, sometime protons can elicit the same response, although it’s more rare. Now, the MAVEN team has learned that protons were doing at Mars the same thing as electrons usually do at Earth—create aurora.
New data collected from the Cassini spacecraft have revealed complex organic molecules originating from Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus, strengthening the idea that this ocean world hosts conditions suitable for life.
LASP research scientists Sascha Kempf and Sean Hsu co-authored a new study, published in Nature, based on the data.
Very little was known about Enceladus prior to 2005—the year when Cassini first flew by. Since then, it has become a continuous source of surprises, with secrets still being revealed even now, after the end of the mission.
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.
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.
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.
NASA will launch a LASP-built astronomy experiment to study the chemistry involved in the formation of stars and planets in the Milky Way galaxy. The Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph, or CHESS 4, is scheduled for launch on April 13 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands on a NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket.
The CHESS-4 mission will study the interstellar medium, the matter between stars. The mission focuses on translucent clouds of gas that provide the fundamental building blocks for stars and planets. These clouds have very low densities and the only way to study them is to measure how a cloud is affected by a star—and its associated outpouring of stellar material, the stellar wind—moving through it. CHESS will point at the star Gamma Ara, in the constellation Ara.
NASA has powered on its latest space payload to continue long-term measurements of the Sun’s incoming energy. The LASP-built Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1), installed on the International Space Station, is now fully operational with all instruments collecting science data.
TSIS-1 was launched from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 15, 2017. After a two-week pause, the instrument suite was extracted from the trunk of the SpaceX Dragon capsule and integrated onto its permanent home on the space station.
A NASA-funded CubeSat, built and operated at LASP, will study the inner radiation belt of Earth’s magnetosphere, providing new insight into the energetic particles that can disrupt satellites and threaten spacewalking astronauts.
The $4 million Cubesat: Inner Radiation Belt Experiment (CIRBE) mission, tentatively slated for a 2021 launch, will provide some of the first advanced resolution of one of Earth’s two Van Allen belts, a zone that traps energetic particles in the planet’s magnetic field. This powerful radiation, known to physicists since the late 1950s, poses a hazard to solar panels, electronic circuitry, and other hardware onboard spacecraft traveling at and beyond low-Earth orbit.
A LASP instrument package designed to help scientists better understand potentially damaging space weather launched successfully aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) satellite on Thursday, March 1, 2018.
Built at LASP, the instrument suite known as the Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) is the second of four identical packages that will fly on NOAA’s next-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R Series (GOES-R). As part of the NOAA weather forecasting satellite series, EXIS measures energy output from the Sun that can affect satellite operations, telecommunications, GPS navigation, and power grids on Earth.
NASA’s Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) instrument, designed and built by LASP, launched today from Kourou, French Guiana aboard SES-14, a commercial communications satellite built by Airbus Defence and Space. GOLD will investigate the dynamic intermingling of space and Earth’s uppermost atmosphere—and is the first NASA science mission to fly an instrument as a commercially hosted payload.
Space is not completely empty: It’s teeming with fast-moving charged particles and electric and magnetic fields that guide their motion. At the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, the charged particles— called the ionosphere—co-exist with the upper reaches of the neutral atmosphere, called the thermosphere. The two commingle and influence one another constantly. This interplay—and the role terrestrial weather, space weather and Earth’s own magnetic field each have in it—is the focus of GOLD’s mission.
NASA’s Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, instrument has successfully completed environmental testing at Airbus in Toulouse, France, in preparation for its groundbreaking mission to observe the nearest reaches of space. Scheduled for launch in late January 2018, GOLD will measure densities and temperatures in Earth’s thermosphere and ionosphere.
GOLD is a NASA Mission of Opportunity that will fly an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph on the SES-14 geostationary commercial communications satellite, built by Airbus for SES. The two-channel imaging spectrograph—designed and built at LASP—will explore the boundary between Earth and space, a dynamic area of near-Earth space that responds both to space weather from above and to weather in the atmosphere from below.
A 60-year-old mystery regarding the source of some energetic and potentially damaging particles in Earth’s radiation belts is now solved using data from a shoebox-sized satellite built and operated by University of Colorado Boulder students at LASP.
The results from the new study indicate energetic electrons in Earth’s inner radiation belt—primarily near its inner edge—are created by cosmic rays born from explosions of supernovas, said the study’s lead author, LASP scientist Xinlin Li. Earth’s radiation belts, known as the Van Allen belts, are layers of energetic particles held in place by Earth’s magnetic field.
How long might a rocky, Mars-like planet be habitable if it were orbiting a red dwarf star? It’s a complex question but one that NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission can help answer.
“The MAVEN mission tells us that Mars lost substantial amounts of its atmosphere over time, changing the planet’s habitability,” said David Brain, a MAVEN co-investigator at LASP. “We can use Mars, a planet that we know a lot about, as a laboratory for studying rocky planets outside our solar system, which we don’t know much about yet.”
At the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Dec. 13, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana, Brain, also a professor in the CU Boulder astrophysical and planetary sciences department, described how insights from the LASP-led MAVEN mission could be applied to the habitability of rocky planets orbiting other stars.
A solar instrument package designed and built by LASP to help monitor the planet’s climate is now set for launch Dec. 12 (no earlier than 11:20 AM MT) aboard a SpaceX rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The instrument suite is called the Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) and was designed and built by LASP for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The contract value to LASP is $90 million and includes the instrument suite and an associated mission ground system in the LASP Space Technology Building on the CU Boulder East Campus Research Park.
We live on a solar-powered planet. As we wake up in the morning, the Sun peeks over the horizon to shed light on us, blanket us with warmth, and provide cues to start our day. At the same time, our Sun’s energy drives our planet’s ocean currents, seasons, weather, and climate. Without the Sun, life on Earth would not exist.
For nearly 40 years, NASA has been measuring how much sunshine powers our home planet. This December, NASA is launching a dual-instrument package to the International Space Station to continue monitoring the Sun’s energy input to the Earth system. The LASP-built Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) will precisely measure total solar irradiance, a measurement required for establishing Earth’s total energy input. These data will give us a better understanding of Earth’s primary energy supply and help improve models simulating Earth’s climate.
LASP research associate Nick Schneider has been awarded NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal for his contributions to the success of NASA’s orbiting MAVEN mission now at Mars.
Schneider, also a University of Colorado Boulder professor of astrophysical and planetary sciences, is the lead scientist on the LASP-built Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) riding on NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft that arrived at Mars in 2014. LASP Associate Director for Science, Bruce Jakosky, is the principal investigator for the MAVEN mission.
NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal is given for individual efforts that have resulted in key scientific discoveries or contributions of fundamental importance in the field. Schneider was presented with the medal in a ceremony Oct. 31 at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
A team led by LASP scientists, engineers, and students has been selected to build a tiny orbiting satellite to study the evaporating atmospheres of gigantic “hot Jupiters”—distant gaseous planets orbiting scorchingly close to their parent stars.
To date more than 100 gas giants have been discovered orbiting very close to their parent stars, said LASP planetary scientist, Kevin France, principal investigator on the four-year, $3.3 million effort funded by NASA. France and his colleagues believe the new study of hot Jupiters—some of which are so close to parent stars they orbit them in a matter of days—will help planetary scientists better understand the evolution of our own solar system.
The University of Colorado Boulder’s cross-campus Grand Challenge initiative this week announced the selection of three new additions to its portfolio starting this fall. The call for proposals, which was announced in June, funded one large research initiative at approximately $1 million per year and two smaller projects at $250,000 per year, each for at least three years. LASP will collaborate on the research initiative and on one of the two smaller projects.
The selections augment the current Grand Challenge portfolio, building on the accomplishments of Earth Lab, Integrated Remote and In Situ Sensing (IRISS), the university’s space minor, and the Center for the Study of Origins.
LASP planetary scientist Larry Esposito has been eying the fabulous rings of Saturn for much of his career, beginning as a team scientist on NASA’s Pioneer 11 mission when he discovered the planet’s faint F ring in 1979.
He followed that up with observations of Jupiter’s and Saturn’s rings from the Voyager and Galileo spacecraft, which carried instruments designed and built at LASP. Now, as the principal investigator for the Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph (UVIS) on the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, Esposito and his Cassini colleagues are feeling a bit somber as the mission nears its end. The spacecraft has run out of fuel and will disintegrate in Saturn’s dense atmosphere early on the morning of Sept. 15.
In 1977, two NASA space probes destined to forever upend our view of the solar system launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The identical spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, took off in in August and September 40 years ago and were programmed to pass by Jupiter and Saturn on different paths. Voyager 2 went on to visit Uranus and Neptune, completing NASA’s “Grand Tour of the Solar System,” perhaps the most exhilarating interplanetary mission ever flown.
CU Boulder scientists at LASP, 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.
LASP has joined forces with universities and space agencies from around the world in an international effort to design and build small satellites as a way to train future scientists and engineers.
The project, known as the International Satellite Program in Research and Education (INSPIRE), so far involves seven nations—the U.S., France, Taiwan, Japan, India, Singapore and Oman—says Project Manager and LASP engineer Amal Chandran.
The aim of INSPIRE is to establish a long-term academic program for developing a constellation of small satellites and a global network of ground stations, Chandran explains.
A solar instrument package designed and built by LASP, considered a key tool to help monitor the planet’s climate, has arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a targeted November launch.
The instrument suite is called the Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) and was built for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The contract value to LASP is $90 million and includes the dual instrument suite and an associated ground system to manage TSIS mission operations.
Deep in space between distant stars, space is not empty. Instead, there drifts vast clouds of neutral atoms and molecules, as well as charged plasma particles called the interstellar medium—that may, over millions of years, evolve into new stars and even planets. These floating interstellar reservoirs are the focus of the NASA-funded CHESS sounding rocket mission, which will check out the earliest stages of star formation.
CHESS—short for the Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph—is a sounding rocket payload that will fly on a Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket late in the night on June 26, 2017. CHESS measures light filtering through the interstellar medium to study the atoms and molecules within, which provides crucial information for understanding the lifecycle of stars.
NASA’s MAVEN mission to Mars led by LASP and the University of Colorado Boulder will hit a happy milestone on Saturday, June 17: 1,000 days of orbiting the Red Planet.
Since its launch in November 2013 and its orbit insertion in September 2014, the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) has been exploring the upper atmosphere of Mars, said LASP associate director and CU Boulder Professor Bruce Jakosky, principal investigator of the mission. MAVEN is bringing insight into how the sun stripped Mars of most of its atmosphere, turning a planet once possibly habitable to microbial life into a barren desert world.
Humans have long been shaping Earth’s landscape, but now scientists know we can shape our near-space environment as well. A certain type of communications—very low frequency, or VLF, radio communications—have been found to interact with particles in space, affecting how and where they move. At times, these interactions can create a barrier around Earth against natural high energy particle radiation in space. These results, part of a comprehensive paper on human-induced space weather, were recently published in Space Science Reviews.
“Our recent work with the LASP Van Allen Probes instruments has shown compelling evidence that the radiation belts are quite subject to human-made waves emanating from ground-based radio transmitters. Thus, humans have not only been affecting the oceans and atmosphere of Earth, but have also been affecting near-Earth space,” said Dan Baker, LASP director and co-author of the paper.
A LASP-built instrument that will provide unprecedented imaging of the Earth’s upper atmosphere has been successfully installed on the commercial satellite that will carry it into geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles above the Earth.
The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission, led by the University of Central Florida (UCF) and built and operated by LASP, features a collaboration with satellite owner-operator SES Government Solutions (SES GS) to place an ultraviolet instrument as a hosted payload on a commercial satellite.
Toting an ultraviolet instrument designed and built by LASP, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft made the first of 22 dives between the rings of Saturn and the gaseous planet today, the beginning of the end for one of NASA’s most successful missions ever.
Launched in 1997 and pulling up at Saturn in 2004 for the first of hundreds of orbits through the Jovian system, the Cassini-Huygens mission has fostered scores of dazzling discoveries. These include in-depth studies that date and even weigh the astonishing rings; the discovery of methane lakes on the icy moon Titan; hot water plumes found squirting from the moon Enceladus; and closeup views of the bright auroras at the planet’s poles.
The European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft spent nearly two years orbiting Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, most of it at distances that allowed instruments to monitor and characterize the comet’s surface at unprecedented spatial scales.
Some of the more remarkable changes documented during Rosetta’s mission have been published today in the journal Science.
On January 21, 2017, the LASP-built Extreme Ultraviolet and X-Ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) GOES-16 satellite observed solar flares.
Solar flares are huge eruptions of energy on the sun and often produce clouds of plasma traveling more than a million miles an hour. When these clouds reach Earth they can cause radio communications blackouts, disruptions to electric power grids, errors in GPS navigation, and hazards to satellites and astronauts.
A NASA instrument that will study the upper atmosphere and the impact of space weather on Earth is a step closer on its journey into space.
The Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) mission, led by University of Central Florida (UCF) scientist Richard Eastes, is scheduled to launch in late 2017 from Florida. Earlier this month, the LASP-built instrument was shipped to Airbus Defence and Space in Toulouse, France, for integration on the SES-14 communications satellite, on which it will be launched into space.
LASP researchers have discovered an atmospheric escape route for hydrogen on Mars, a mechanism that may have played a significant role in the planet’s loss of liquid water.
The findings describe a process in which water molecules rise to the middle layers of the planet’s atmosphere during warmer seasons of the year and then break apart, triggering a large increase in the rate of hydrogen escape from the atmosphere to space in a span of just weeks.
University of Colorado Boulder students and LASP professionals will operate an upcoming NASA mission that will investigate the mysterious aspects of some of the most extreme and exotic astronomical objects like stellar and supermassive black holes, neutron stars and pulsars.
Objects such as black holes can heat surrounding gases to more than a million degrees, causing high-energy emissions in the X-ray portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The high-energy X-ray radiation from this gas can be polarized, which causes it to vibrate in a particular direction.
The NASA Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission will fly three space telescopes with cameras capable of measuring the polarization of cosmic X-rays, allowing astronomers to answer fundamental questions about such turbulent environments.
A multimillion dollar CU-Boulder/LASP instrument package expected to help scientists better understand potentially damaging space weather is now slated to launch aboard a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Designed and built at LASP, the instrument suite known as the Extreme Ultraviolet and X-ray Irradiance Sensors (EXIS) is the first of four identical packages that will fly on four NOAA weather satellites in the coming decade. EXIS will measure energy output from the sun that can affect satellite operations, telecommunications, GPS navigation and power grids on Earth as part of NOAA’s next-generation Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites-R Series (GOES-R).
Today, the LASP-led MAVEN mission has completed one Mars year of science observations. One Mars year is just under two Earth years.
The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft launched on Nov. 18, 2013, and went into orbit around Mars on Sept. 21, 2014. During its time at Mars, MAVEN has answered many questions about the Red Planet.
A bread loaf-sized satellite, designed and built by University of Colorado students, has been collecting data since its deployment from the International Space Station on May 16 and is providing observations of the sun at unprecedented wavelengths and resolution.
The Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS)—a 30cm x 10cm x 10 cm, 3-unit satellite—is the first ever science CubeSat launched for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate and has already met its minimum mission science criteria for data and observations.
Based on years of dedication to studying the sun and its effects on space-borne and Earth-based technological systems, and under strong leadership from LASP director Dan Baker, a team of LASP scientists and engineers is being recognized for research into this ever present threat to modern society. CO-LABS announced today four winners of their 2016 Governor’s Award for High-Impact Research, with the LASP team winning in the Earth Systems and Space Sciences category.
CO-LABS is a non-profit consortium of federal research labs, research universities, businesses, and economic development organizations with a mission to support and expand the positive impacts of Colorado’s science and technology resources. Since 2009, the Governor’s Award for High-Impact Research has honored Colorado scientists and engineers from the state’s federally funded research laboratories for outstanding achievements.
Wearing latex gloves and focused expressions, a group of middle school students gathered around a large cardboard tube recently at the CU Boulder Engineering Center then carefully began wrapping it in fiberglass. All the while, an undergraduate with the CU Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (CU SEDS) organization explained how rockets are designed and built.
Soon, these same students will travel to southern Colorado to launch a rocket they helped assemble as part of a CU Junior Aerospace Engineering Camp. This camp, in particular, brought students to campus from Casa de la Esperanza, a housing community in Longmont for agricultural workers and their families.
A group of LASP scientists and students are anxiously awaiting the arrival of NASA’s Juno spacecraft at Jupiter July 4, a mission expected to reveal the hidden interior of the gas giant as well as keys to how our solar system formed.
Launched in 2011, the spacecraft is slated to orbit Jupiter’s poles 37 times roughly 3,000 miles (4,828 kilometers) above its cloud tops to better understand the origin and evolution of the largest planet in the solar system. Scientists hope to determine if Jupiter has a solid core, measure the planet’s magnetic fields, hunt for water vapor and observe the polar auroras.
Three planetary scientists from LASP and five University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) students are part of the Juno mission.
A team of LASP scientists, led by University of Colorado physics professor Mihály Horányi, has conducted laboratory experiments that may bring closure to a long-standing issue of electrostatic dust transport, explaining a variety of unusual phenomena on the surfaces of airless planetary bodies, including observations from the Apollo era and the recent Rosetta mission to Comet 67P.
Satellites provide data daily on our own planet, our sun and the universe around us. The instruments on these spacecraft are constantly bombarded with solar particles and intense light, not to mention the normal wear and tear from operating in space.
If it were a car that’s a few years old, you would take it to the mechanic for a tune-up to make sure it continues running smoothly. However, with a spacecraft it’s not that easy. Thus, scientists may turn to calibration flights to make sure the instruments are kept up to snuff and providing validated data.
One such flight will be the Extreme UltraViolet (EUV) Variability Experiment, or EVE, from the University of Colorado, Boulder, to observe the sun from a NASA Black Brant IX sounding rocket at 3:02 p.m. EDT May 25 at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The bread loaf-sized Miniature X-Ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS) CubeSat will be deployed from an airlock on the International Space Station (ISS) at 4 a.m. MDT on Monday, May 16, beginning its journey into space where it will study emissions from the sun that can affect ground-based communications systems.
The NASA-funded MinXSS, designed, built, and operated by University of Colorado Boulder students and faculty at LASP and CU-Boulder’s Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department (AES), will operate in Earth’s orbit for up to 12 months. The CubeSat will be deployed from the ISS via a special deployer designed by NanoRacks, LLC.
The MinXSS will observe soft X-rays from the sun, which can disrupt Earth’s upper atmosphere and hamper radio and GPS signals traveling through the region. The intensity of the soft x-ray emissions emitted from the sun is continuously changing over a large range—with peak emission levels occurring during large eruptions on the sun called solar flares.
Planetary scientists are a step closer to understanding changes in the puzzling jets of gas and dust grains observed shooting into space from cracks on the icy surface of Enceladus, a moon of Saturn.
First observed in 2005 by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft as it orbited the ringed planet, the plume is coming from a subterranean, salty ocean beneath the moon’s surface. The latest observations with NASA’s Cassini spacecraft now at Saturn by a team including Larry Esposito, LASP planetary scientist and University of Colorado Boulder professor, indicate at least some of the narrow jets there blast with increased fury when the moon is farther from Saturn.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has detected the faint but distinct signature of dust coming from beyond our solar system. The research, led by a team that includes scientists at the University of Colorado and LASP, will be published in the journal Science on Friday, April 15, 2016.
Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004, studying the giant planet, its rings, and its moons. The spacecraft has also sampled millions of ice-rich dust grains with its Cosmic Dust Analyzer (CDA) instrument. LASP research scientists Sascha Kempf, Sean Hsu, and Eberhard Grün are all co-investigators for the Cassini CDA instrument and co-authors of the paper.
A LASP-led and University of Colorado Boulder student-built instrument riding on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft found only a handful of dust grains, the building blocks of planets, when it whipped by Pluto at 31,000 miles per hour last July.
Data downloaded and analyzed by the New Horizons team indicated the space environment around Pluto and its moons contained only about six dust particles per cubic mile, said LASP planetary scientist and CU-Boulder Professor Fran Bagenal, who leads the New Horizons Particles and Plasma Team.
“The bottom line is that space is mostly empty,” said Bagenal. “Any debris created when Pluto’s moons were captured or created during impacts has long since been removed by planetary processes.”
To the casual onlooker, the space between the stars is benign and inactive. However, this space, also called the interstellar medium, is very active and contains the raw materials for future solar systems.
On February 21, 2016, the Colorado High-resolution Echelle Stellar Spectrograph (CHESS) will fly on a NASA suborbital sounding rocket on its second flight in two years to study the atoms and molecules in the interstellar medium.
LASP Director, Dan Baker, has been elected Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) for its class of 2016. AIAA Fellows are elected based on their notable and valuable contributions to the arts, sciences or technology of aeronautics and astronautics.
In addition to his role as LASP director, Baker is a faculty member in the departments of Physics and Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder. Baker, who chaired the National Research Council’s 2012 Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics, is currently involved in a number of NASA missions, including the MAVEN mission to Mars, the Van Allen Probes mission, and the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission.
AIAA is the largest aerospace professional society in the world, serving a diverse range of more than 30,000 individual members from 88 countries, and 95 corporate members. The induction ceremony for the new Fellows will take place at the AIAA Aerospace Spotlight Awards Gala on June 15, 2016 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.
A NASA-funded miniature satellite built by LASP and University of Colorado Boulder students will launch at 5:55 p.m. EST on Thursday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the start of a six-month-long mission to study solar flares and the powerful X-rays emitted by the sun.
The Miniature X-ray Solar Spectrometer (MinXSS) CubeSat, which was built by students in CU-Boulder’s Department of Aerospace Engineering (AES) in collaboration with LASP researchers, will help shed light on how powerful electromagnetic emissions from the sun impact the Earth’s atmosphere, an effect known as space weather.
Michael King and Cora Randall of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Colorado Boulder, have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as a AAAS Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.
Scientists involved in NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission, which is being led by the LASP team at the University of Colorado Boulder, have identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today.
MAVEN data have enabled researchers to determine the rate at which the Martian atmosphere currently is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind. The findings reveal that the erosion of Mars’ atmosphere increases significantly during solar storms. The scientific results from the mission appear in the Nov. 5 issues of the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters.
LASP director Daniel Baker has received the 2015 Shen Kuo Award from the International Association of Geomagnetism and Aeronomy (IAGA), the top award for interdisciplinary achievements given every four years by the organization.
Baker, a University of Colorado Boulder Distinguished Professor, was presented with the award at the 26th General Assembly of the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) held in Prague in the Czech Republic. IAGA is a constituent organization of IUGG and is dedicated to advancing, promoting and communicating knowledge of the Earth system, its space environment, and the dynamical processes causing change.
Mars turned cold and dry long ago, but LASP-led research at the University of Colorado Boulder has unveiled evidence of an ancient lake that likely represents some of the last potentially habitable surface water ever to exist on the Red Planet.
The study, published Thursday in the journal Geology, examined an 18-square-mile chloride salt deposit (roughly the size of the city of Boulder) in the planet’s Meridiani region near the Mars Opportunity rover’s landing site. As seen on Earth in locations such as Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats, large-scale salt deposits are considered to be evidence of evaporated bodies of water.
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.
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.
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.
By Fran Bagenal, CU-Boulder Professor of Astrophysical and Planetary Sciences and New Horizons co-investigator
I admit that I love giving presentations on New Horizons to public audiences. It’s the killer combination of Pluto and space exploration. Everyone digs it. The best are astronomy clubs—just bursting with enthusiasm. And my favorite group of all time is the Rocky Mountain Star Stare (RMSS). Based in Colorado Springs, RMSS meets every year on a piece of land close to the Colorado–New Mexico border that is far from city lights. The trek is worth it—the Milky Way blazes across the sky.And these guys have brought along the most amazing astro-geek equipment.
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.
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.
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.
On Sept. 29, 2013, a scientific balloon launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, NM, flying an instrument that scientists hope will eventually establish a new long-term benchmark data set pertaining to climate change on the Earth.
The instrument, funded by a $4.7 million NASA Earth Science Technology Office Instrument Incubator Program contract, is intended to acquire extremely accurate radiometric measurements of Earth relative to the incident sunlight. Over time, such measurements can tell scientists about changes in land-use, vegetation, urban landscape use, and atmospheric conditions on our planet. Such long-term radiometric measurements from the HyperSpectral Imager for Climate Science (HySICS) instrument can then help scientists identify the drivers of climate change.
Professor Brian Toon of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics has been selected to present the 2013 CU-Boulder Distinguished Research Lecture, an award that is among the highest honors bestowed by the faculty upon a faculty member at CU-Boulder. Each year, the Office of the Vice… Read more »
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.
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.
LASP director and research scientist Dan Baker is co-author of new research that indicates that a massive particle accelerator exists in the Van Allen radiation belts, a harsh band of super-energetic, charged particles surrounding our planet. The results were published in Science magazine today.
The LASP-led MAVEN Going to Mars campaign has opened public voting on submissions to the message to Mars contest. Messages are in the form of three-line poems called haiku. The public will select the top three haiku via open voting on an online interface. Winning haiku will be announced on the MAVEN website on August… Read more »
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 »
The winner of the LASP-run MAVEN student art contest turns out be the work of more than a single young person. The First Place entry, selected by online public vote, was the work of a Colorado-based Kindergarten Enrichment class.
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.
The MAVEN mission is inviting people from all over the world to submit their names and a unique message online. Participants’ names and the top-voted messages will be burned to a specially-designed DVD and sent to the Red Planet aboard the MAVEN spacecraft, scheduled to launch in November, 2013.
The LASP-operated NASA Kepler spacecraft has discovered two planetary systems that include three super-Earth-sized planets in the “habitable zone,” where the surface temperature of a planet may sustain liquid water.
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.
LASP is participating in the National Space Symposium, this week, as part of our effort to reach out to space industry audiences attending this important annual conference. Visitors can find us at Exhibit Booth #506, which we are sharing with the University of Colorado Boulder Department of Aerospace Engineering Sciences (AES). We are leaders in… Read more »
Members of the worldwide public are invited to participate in NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission through a new Education & Public Outreach (E/PO) effort called the Going to Mars campaign. MAVEN, which is the first mission devoted to understanding the Martian upper atmosphere, has a robust E/PO program designed to engage a variety of audiences in the mission.
The Van Allen Probes mission has revealed a third radiation belt encircling Earth, dispelling a long-held theory that only two of these hazardous charged particle layers exist in Earth’s magnetic field. This discovery is based on data collected from the LASP-built Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) experiment, published today in the journal Science online, at the Science Express website.
The LASP-led Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) mission spacecraft is now fully assembled and ready to begin its environmental testing phase. For the next six months, the spacecraft will undergo numerous, intensive tests that simulate the harsh space environments that it will encounter once it launches this November.
The Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) has seen a lot for a ten-year-old. Launched into Earth’s orbit on January 25, 2003, SORCE’s four LASP-built instruments have spent the past decade measuring solar energy in Earth’s atmosphere to help understand how the Sun affects climate change. SORCE has observed a gamut of solar events during… Read more »
LASP physicist Dr. John “Jack” Gosling has received the U.S. National Academy of Sciences 2013 Arctowski Medal for his outstanding contributions to the field of solar physics. Gosling has received the award for his extensive research on energetic solar events and their effects on Earth. He will be formally honored at a ceremony on Sunday,… Read more »
A new survey, led by LASP Director Daniel Baker, brings the next decade of solar and space physics closer to home. The National Research Council (NRC) 10-year plan recommends that heliophysics research focus on the near-Earth environment in order to better understand how the Sun and space weather impact phenomena on Earth. Baker chaired the… Read more »
Launch update: After a few postponements, RBSP launched successfully at 4:05 a.m. EDT on Thursday, August 30. On August 24, the NASA Radiation Belt and Storm Probes (RBSP) mission will launch into orbit to study the forbidding belts of radiation that encircle Earth, which are trapped here by our planet’s magnetic field. Dual spacecraft will… Read more »
The American Geophysical Union (AGU) has invited LASP Director Daniel Baker to deliver a Bowie lecture at its 2012 Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California, this December. Designation as a Bowie lecturer is the highest honor in each of the AGU scientific sections. Baker will deliver the Van Allen lecture in the Space Physics and… Read more »
An estimated 350 people gathered at LASP Sunday night for activities surrounding the landing of the NASA Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover on Mars. The late-night public event brought local citizens, LASP staff, and space industry experts together to witness and celebrate Curiosity’s dramatic landing on the surface of the Red Planet. A number… Read more »
UPDATE: After some range issues and weather setbacks, CSSWE launched successfully on Thursday, September 13, at 3:39 p.m. MT. It was deployed three hours later, and made its first pass over the LASP ground station at approximately 4:14 a.m. MT on Friday, September 14, when the first beacons were received. A CubeSat mission designed, built,… Read more »
A group of New Media communicators gathered at LASP this past weekend to discuss the most up-to-date issues surrounding lunar and small bodies science and exploration with experts in the field. Sponsored by the LASP Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies (CCLDAS), the weekend-long workshop offered professional development for bloggers, podcasters, and other… Read more »
An instrument to monitor solar energy, built by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, will be launched into orbit in 2013 to help determine the effects of solar radiation on Earth’s climate. This Total Irradiance Monitor (TIM) will mitigate a potential and likely upcoming gap in an… Read more »
The University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) will conduct mission operations and data processing for the first privately funded deep-space mission, whose goal will be to spot near-Earth objects that could be in a dangerous trajectory with Earth. The mission will be led by the B612 Foundation. The Sentinel mission… Read more »
LASP scientists will launch a sounding rocket this Saturday, June 23, from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, to check the performance of the EUV Variability Experiment (EVE) onboard the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The scientific rocket will carry a near-replica of the SDO EVE satellite and will calibrate the EVE optical… Read more »
The American Astronomical Society (AAS) presented LASP Director Dr. Daniel Baker with the distinguished 2012 Popular Writing Award on June 12 in Anchorage, Alaska. Baker shares the honor with Dr. James Green, director of the NASA Solar System Exploration Division. To encourage solar research education, the AAS Solar Physics Division offers its annual monetary award… Read more »
LASP welcomes applications for our upcoming expenses-paid professional development workshop for bloggers, podcasters, and other science communicators. Attendees may or may not be formally trained in journalism or science. The workshop will be held July 20-22 on the CU-Boulder campus near the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and will feature a prestigious line-up of space… Read more »
An extensive new database details over 635,000 Martian impact craters, providing unprecedented information about Mars’ battered surface. Compiled by LASP scientists, the catalog will help researchers date various regions of the Red Planet, study its volcanic water history, and investigate its past potential to harbor life. The database details Martian impact craters, likely created by… Read more »
The mass viewing of Sunday evening’s solar eclipse at CU-Boulder broke world records, with close to 10,000 attendees filling the stands at Folsom Field. Organized by Fiske Planetarium and co-sponsored by the two NASA Lunar Institute teams from CU—the LASP Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies (CCLDAS) and Lunar University Network for Astrophysics… Read more »
Forty years after the NASA Apollo 16 mission, a dusty video has given scientists fresh perspective on the surface of the Moon. Scientists with the LASP Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies (CCLDAS) analyzed Apollo 16 video images of dust clouds kicked up by the rover to show that they followed ballistic trajectories,… Read more »
Children of LASP staff learned about space exploration during a series of activities held at the LASP Space Technology Building this morning. The children built Mars rovers out of candy, created and decorated a spectrograph, and dressed in “bunny suits”—the outerwear that employees don to help ensure that instruments destined for space are built in… Read more »
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 »
NASA has extended the Kepler mission through fiscal year 2016, adding four years to Kepler’s search for Earth-like planets in the Milky Way galaxy and allowing LASP to continue our work operating the spacecraft. A team of 20 University of Colorado students and 16 LASP professionals control the Kepler spacecraft from the LASP Mission Operations… Read more »
The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum presented the 2012 Trophy for Current Achievement, its highest group award, to the NASA Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn on March 21 in Washington, D.C. The Cassini spacecraft carries the LASP-built Ultraviolet Imaging Spectrograph Subsystem (UVIS), which measures ultraviolet light in Saturn’s system to better understand the planet’s atmospheres,… Read more »
The NASA Kepler Mission won the highest honor for space programs at the 2012 Aviation Week Laureate Awards on March 7 in Washington, D.C. Students and professionals in the LASP Mission Operations Center control the Kepler spacecraft, which is surveying our region of the Milky Way galaxy for Earth-like planets. The Laureate Awards recognize individuals… Read more »
CU-Boulder students, working under the guidance of LASP scientists and engineers, have finished building a satellite to study space weather and have sent it to California Polytechnic Institute to begin integration with launch vehicle systems. More than 50 graduate and undergraduate students have contributed to designing and building the Colorado Student Space Weather Experiment (CSSWE), an $840,000 CubeSat mission funded by the National Science Foundation. The satellite is scheduled to launch into low-Earth polar orbit in early August 2012 as a secondary payload under NASA’s Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) program.
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.
Using data from the NASA New Horizons mission to Pluto, LASP scientists have made new measurements of interplanetary dust density. The data, collected from the CU-Boulder student-built Student Dust Counter (SDC) and the meteoroid detector on the Pioneer 10 spacecraft, represent measurements of the micro-sized dust grains from the Earth out to the present position of the SDC, at approximately 20 Astronomical Units (AU). One AU is equal to the average distance from the Sun to the Earth, or approximately 93 million miles (149.5 million km).
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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… Read more »
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)… Read more »
A new National Research Council report, co-chaired by Daniel Baker of CU/LASP and D. James Baker of the William J. Clinton Foundation, concludes that cooperation among federal agencies on space programs leads to costlier programs with greater risk and complexity. Daniel Baker said, “In many cases, an individual agency would do well to consider alternatives… Read more »
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 »
A recent study co-authored by LASP researcher Brian Toon used models to predict which regions on Mars could have ice caves. Ice caves are sometimes found on Earth in lava tubes left over from previous volcanic activity; on Mars, these ice caves could allow ice to exist in middle latitudes, where many lava tubes have… Read more »
The Venetia Burney Student Dust Counter (SDC), a CU/LASP-built instrument aboard the NASA New Horizons mission to Pluto, just became the record-holder for the most distant functioning space dust detector ever in space. On October 10, the SDC surpassed the previous record when it flew beyond 18 astronomical units—one unit is the distance between the… Read more »
NASA announced today that the CU/LASP-led mission to Mars to investigate how the planet lost much of its atmosphere eons ago has been approved by the space agency to move into the development stage.
LASP atmospheric researchers Linnea Avallone and Lars Kalnajs are currently at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, where they are participating in the Concordiasi campaign, a French-led project to study the Antarctic “ozone hole” using instrumentation on long-duration, super-pressure balloons.
A team of experts from LASP at CU-Boulder has been awarded $6.7 million from NASA to design, develop, and test instruments for the fastest space probe ever built. The probe will orbit 22 times closer to the sun than Earth, and well inside the orbit of Mercury, to better understand how the sun ticks. Robert… Read more »
University of Colorado at Boulder (CU) Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) professionals and students have completed their role operating the NASA ICESat mission, one of five missions operated at LASP. ICESat reached the end of its productive seven-year life in June, when NASA began decommissioning the satellite because of instrument failure. The remaining… Read more »
NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered the first confirmed planetary system with more than one planet crossing in front of, or transiting, the same star.
The transit signatures of two distinct planets were seen in the data for the sun-like star designated Kepler-9. The planets were named Kepler-9b and 9c. The discovery incorporates seven months of observations of more than 156,000 stars as part of an ongoing search for Earth-sized planets outside our solar system. The findings will be published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science.
LASP scientist and CU professor Tom Woods contributed to a study indicating that large changes in the sun’s energy output may drive unexpectedly dramatic fluctuations in Earth’s outer atmosphere. The study, published today in Geophysical Research Letters, links a recent, temporary shrinking of a high atmospheric layer with a sharp drop in the sun’s ultraviolet… Read more »
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 »
Analysis of data from the third and final fly-by of the MESSENGER spacecraft in September 2009 has revealed a treasure trove of new information on the solar system’s innermost planet. MESSENGER is on its way to Mercury, where it will settle into orbit in March 2011 and help scientists answer crucial questions about Mercury’s geology, density, structure, and magnetic field. Three fly-bys of the planet, spaced over twenty months, have been necessary to guide the spacecraft into its upcoming orbit around Mercury beginning in March 2011.
The NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at CU-LASP came to an end on August 6th. Each year, the eight-week program brings students from all over the country to complete a summer-long research project working directly with scientists. This year, 16 students spent 8 weeks at either LASP, NCAR/HAO, NOAA/SWPC, or SwRI conducting research,… Read more »
CU professor and LASP scientist Nick Schneider, together with three colleagues, have recently published the sixth edition of The Cosmic Perspective, a textbook used in introductory astronomy courses. The book covers a comprehensive survey of modern astronomy, from the universality of physics to our solar system and beyond. The book is used at CU and… Read more »
LASP scientist Glen Stewart recently co-authored a study published in The Astrophysical Journal concerning the formation of large moons around Jupiter and Saturn. The study shows that the differences between the satellites of Jupiter and Saturn—Jupiter has four large moons while Saturn has only one large moon and many small icy moons—informs how the moons were formed.
According to Cora Randall, CU professor and LASP research associate, the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) Cloud Imaging and Particle Size (CIPS) instrument saw this season’s first polar mesospheric clouds on May 28. Polar mesospheric clouds, also called noctilucent or “night shining” clouds, form at about 50 miles above Earth’s surface and can be seen when they reflect light after sunset. The Northern Hemisphere cloud season generally begins in late May and lasts until late August; in the Southern Hemisphere, the season goes from late November to late February.
In an op-ed published in The New York Times on May 27th, LASP Director Dan Baker explored the value of Global Positioning System (GPS) sensors, which are commonly used for navigation. Developed by the military and implemented in 1973, GPS has been a significant advance in space technology. Sensors on each satellite, the Nuclear Detonation… Read more »
A vast ocean likely covered one-third of the surface of Mars some 3.5 billion years ago, according to a new study conducted by LASP scientists, further supporting the idea of a sustained sea on the Red Planet.
The study, authored by Gaetano Di Achille and Brian Hynek, is the first to combine the analysis of water-related features, including scores of delta deposits and thousands of river valleys to test for the occurrence of an ocean sustained by a global hydrosphere on early Mars.
A LASP-built instrument launched aboard a sounding rocket on May 3 with the goal of providing calibration data for a twin instrument already in flight aboard NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The “rocket-based” Extreme ultraviolet Variability Experiment, or EVE, was launched from the Air Force’s White Sands Missile Range near Las Cruces, New Mex.
If you are a frequent visitor to the LASP website, you will notice that things have changed. LASP is currently updating its more than 300 web pages across the site, beginning with a new home page and top-level pages. Updates to secondary pages will follow and still currently maintain the older look and feel. Below… Read more »
NASA recently unveiled initial images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, including images from a powerful ultraviolet instrument built at LASP. Launched on Feb. 11, SDO is the most advanced spacecraft ever launched to study the sun and its dynamic behavior. The spacecraft will provide images with clarity ten times better than high definition… Read more »
On Friday, April 16th, Dr. Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), will be honored at the 2010 Distinguished Research Lecture and Reception. The event will be held on the CU-Boulder campus at 3 p.m. in room 100 of the Mathematics building and is free and open to the public…. Read more »
LASP scientist Mihaly Horanyi is an international leader in the study of lunar dust. Now Horanyi and his CU Boulder-based team are working to establish the Colorado Center for Lunar Dust and Atmospheric Studies, which will conduct both experimental and modeling research into the nature of dust on the moon and its impact for human exploration of the moon.
The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) announced on Feb. 17, 2010, that Dr. Daniel N. Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, was elected as a new academy member. Baker was honored for his leadership in the study of, and for his development of predictive tools for, the Earth’s radiation environment. He… Read more »
Event Date: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 Join Us at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) for the launch of the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) which includes the LASP-built instrument Extreme ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE). SDO is NASA’s first satellite in the Living With a Star program. 7:30 am — Doors open 7:45 am… Read more »
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) has awarded University of Colorado at Boulder Professor Daniel N. Baker with the prestigious James A. Van Allen Space Environments Award for excellence and leadership in space research. Baker, director of CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), received the award of excellence with emphasis “in… Read more »
The discovery of noctilucent (night shining) clouds in 1885 revealed an atmosphere which extended far higher than expected. Since then, these clouds have challenged scientists around the world to find out why they form and vary. Because they scatter solar light, they shimmer at altitudes far above the typical cloud (~51 miles) which makes them… Read more »
A University of Colorado at Boulder research team has discovered the first definitive evidence of shorelines on Mars, an indication of a deep, ancient lake there and a finding with implications for the discovery of past life on the Red Planet. Estimated to be more than 3 billion years old, the lake appears to have… Read more »
Gliding over the battered surface of Mercury for the second time this year, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft has revealed even more previously unseen real estate on the innermost planet, sending home hundreds of photos and measurements of its surface, atmosphere, and magnetic field. The probe flew by Mercury shortly after 4:40 a.m. EDT on October 6,… Read more »
In the largest research contract ever awarded to the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics has been selected by NASA to lead a $485 million orbiting space mission slated to launch in 2013 to probe the past climate of Mars, including its potential for harboring life over the ages…. Read more »
The University of Colorado at Boulder took an unusual step today by returning nearly $3 million in cost savings to NASA for an award-winning satellite mission designed, built and controlled by the university to study how the sun’s variation influences Earth’s climate and atmosphere. Known as the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment, or SORCE, the… Read more »
A $34 million solar instrument package to be built by the University of Colorado at Boulder, considered a crucial tool to help monitor global climate change, has been restored to a U.S. government satellite mission slated for launch in 2013. The package will be built by CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics for the… Read more »
Press Release for 2007 DPS Meeting Saturn’s rings may be more massive than previously thought. Both Cassini observations and theoretical simulations of Saturn’s rings point towards extensive particle clumping in Saturn’s rings. Our simulations of the rings show that the surface density of particles can be substantially larger than one would infer from a uniform… Read more »
Fred Wilshusen, rocket pioneer, died today at the age of 84. Born in 1925 in Boulder, Colorado, Fred served in the Navy as a radar technician, patrolling the pacific coast for Japanese submarines in torpedo bombers, during WWII. After the war, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder…. Read more »
NASA has selected a team led by the University of Colorado at Boulder as one of two finalists for an orbiting space mission slated to launch in 2011 to probe the past climate of Mars, including its potential for harboring life over the eons. The team, led by CU-Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics,… Read more »
Dr. Dan Baker, LASP’s director and an internationally known space weather expert, has been elected a Fellow of the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for 2006. He was cited for outstanding research and leadership in solar-terrestrial physics, including the dynamics of Earth’s radiation belts and their effects on technologies. A principal… Read more »
The University of Colorado at Boulder received $256.5 million in sponsored research awards for the 2006 fiscal year, nearly two-thirds of it from four of the largest federal agencies. As in recent years, CU-Boulder’s leading funding agencies for 2006 were NASA ($48.9 million), the Department of Health and Human Services ($43 million), the National Science… Read more »
Four university teams will share $100 million to provide experiments and supporting hardware for a future NASA mission to study near-Earth space radiation. This type of radiation is hazardous to astronauts, orbiting satellites and aircraft flying high altitude polar routes. The teams will initially use $4.2 million to perform a one-year cost, management and technical… Read more »