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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 »
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 »