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March 9, 2018 – When the Sun flared dramatically last September, causing geomagnetic storms and radio blackouts on Earth, a new NOAA solar telescope captured the drama from a different perspective. Now, NOAA has released these new images to the scientific community—images that scientists from CIRES and NCEI have played a key role in capturing.

“The Solar Ultraviolet Imager, or SUVI for short, is seeing big extended structures that we never knew were there, so we can address science questions that haven’t been explored before,” said Dan Seaton, a CIRES scientist working in NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) in Boulder, Colorado. “SUVI complements what other solar imagers can do, adding the additional element of what’s happening high above the Sun.”

Launched November 19, 2016, on the GOES-16 satellite, SUVI is the first in a line of four identical instruments that plan to image the Sun’s atmosphere in the extreme ultraviolet for the next 20 years. The second SUVI instrument is on the GOES-S satellite, which launched on March 1. SUVI’s primary mission is to support space weather forecasting operations at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, but its unique properties offer several opportunities for new research.

SUVI has a larger field of view than existing solar imagers, so it can image solar phenomena at greater heights above the surface of the sun. SUVI also has six wavelength channels, or passbands, that capture simultaneous images of the solar chromosphere and corona—the Sun’s outer atmosphere—at different temperature ranges.

The solar ultraviolet imager (SUVI) is flying on the GOES-R (formerly GOES-16) satellite. SUVI is located on the satellite’s solar-pointing platform, which provides a stable foundation and will track the sun’s daily and seasonal movement. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

Last September, while it was still undergoing calibration and testing, SUVI observed two of the largest events in the current solar cycle—an 11-year cycle which began in December, 2008, reached its maximum in 2014, and is now declining. Both the September 6 event and the September 10 event produced large solar flares that triggered radio blackouts on Earth. The September 6 event also produced a strong geomagnetic storm on Earth, while the September 10 event produced a strong solar radiation event — and was where SUVI really showed its stuff. “SUVI observations of this event are really novel,” said Seaton. “The earlier event happened in place on the Sun that other imagers can capture, so SUVI adds some value, but nothing like the September 10 event.”

That day, the solar flare released as much energy in a few minutes as all of humanity has ever produced, typical of the largest flares in any given solar cycle, according to Seaton. SUVI’s observations of that event revealed a number of unique features: The telescope captured the onset of the solar eruption, followed by a powerful extreme-ultraviolet (EUV) wave that disrupted much of the corona and was visible to heights approaching twice the Sun’s radius. “This is one of the first clear detections of an EUV wave at large heights,” said Seaton.

NCEI SUVI 195 G16 DYNAMIC 20170910 - YouTube

SUVI also captured images of the September 10 solar flare at different temperatures. Scientists need to see what’s happening at a range of temperatures to really understand solar activity. “The process by which we see light from the corona is determined by temperature—for example, plasma in the Sun’s corona emits light at specific ultraviolet wavelengths,” said Seaton.

So the telescope is equipped with six filters that view the Sun’s corona at various temperature bands, from 50,000 to 20 million degrees Kelvin. “By looking at a bunch of different wavelengths and putting them together, we can get a picture of the entire corona and see phenomena at different temperatures,” said Seaton.

SUVI’s view of the corona just after the onset of the event on September 10, 2017, as seen at different temperatures, or wavelengths. The bright flare at the upper right part of the Sun is most clearly visible in the top middle frame (as hot as 10 million degrees k), while the flux rope accelerating into a coronal mass ejection is best seen in the first two frames of the bottom row (102 million degrees k). Image Credit: Dan Seaton/CIRES/NCEI

Observations like those SUVI can make will help scientists model solar eruptions and related phenomena. “There’s so much we don’t understand about solar physics,” said Seaton. “We have models, but not enough observations to help us validate some of them. With SUVI, we can really see processes that have long been predicted, and take that back to the models and start to refine them.” And the discoveries made with SUVI could in turn improve predictions and drive the development of new instruments. “SUVI is showing us a lot about what we’re missing, such as how physics happening in one part of the Sun’s atmosphere matters to whole Sun,” Seaton said.

Observations from SUVI, along with other solar-pointing and space weather instruments on the GOES-16 satellite, will help NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center significantly improve space weather forecasts and provide early warning of possible impacts to Earth’s space environment and potentially disruptive events on the ground.

“SUVI’s new data products will combine all the wavelength information, updated every few seconds, to show how solar features evolve,” said Steve Goodman, chief program scientist for the NOAA satellite program from 2008-2017. “With the most up-to-date situational awareness—on coronal holes, solar flares, and coronal mass ejections—forecasters will be able to watch these trends in real time and issue more timely and accurate warnings.”

Preliminary SUVI images are available from NCEI for the September 6 and 10 solar flares. Seaton, along with his CIRES and NCEI colleague Jonathan Darnel, published a paper about these events in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. More instrument data will follow during the first half of 2018, once scientists have done additional model calibration and testing. CIRES and NCEI scientists are leading those efforts, as well as the processing and archiving of SUVI data.

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Image Credit: NASA

March 9, 2018 – Capturing images of our home planet from the perspective of faraway spacecraft has become a tradition at NASA, ever since Voyager, 28 years ago, displayed our “pale blue dot” in the vastness of space. But the view of Earth from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope is quite something else.

This Kepler image of Earth was recently beamed back home. Captured on December 10, 2017 after the spacecraft adjusted its telescope to a new field of view, Earth’s reflection as it slipped past was so extraordinarily bright that it created a saber-like saturation bleed across the instrument’s sensors, obscuring the neighboring Moon.

At 94 million miles away, Kepler’s interpretation of Earth as a bright flashlight in a dark sea of stars demonstrates the capabilities of its highly sensitive photometer, which is designed to pick up the faint dips in brightness of planets crossing distant stars. Some stars in this image are hundreds of light years away.

The scientific community celebrated Earth’s transit across Kepler’s field of view by using #WaveAtKepler on social media. As Kepler only takes pictures in black and white, some in the science community have taken the data and used color to highlight details in grayscale images.

The mission marks its nine-year anniversary in space on March 7. More than 2,500 planets have been found in the Kepler data so far, as well as many other discoveries about stars, supernovae and other astrophysical phenomena. The mission is in its second extended operating phase and is known to have a limited lifetime. Its scientific success in discovering distant planets has paved the way for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which is launching on April 16. TESS will monitor more than 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars outside our solar system for transiting planets.

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Image Credit: NASA

March 9, 2018 – NASA is looking at how the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway can create value for both robotic and human exploration in deep space.

In late 2017, the agency asked the global science community to submit ideas leveraging the gateway in lunar orbit to advance scientific discoveries in a wide range of fields. NASA received more than 190 abstracts covering topics human health and performance, Earth observation, astrophysics, heliophysics, and lunar and planetary sciences, as well as infrastructure suggestions to support breakthrough science.

Although it is too early to select specific research for the gateway, the workshop marks the first time in more than a decade the agency’s human spaceflight program brought scientists from a variety of disciplines together to discuss future exploration.

“We are in the early design and development stages for the gateway, and we were curious about the level of interest in using this platform for science including the scale and scope of instrumentation scientists might want to see onboard,” said Jason Crusan, director, Advanced Exploration Systems at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “We were impressed by the breadth of the abstract responses and invited scientists and engineers to a workshop to learn more.”

Gateway assembly is targeted to begin in 2022, with the launch of the power and propulsion element. Habitation, logistics, and airlock capabilities would follow incrementally and establish the gateway’s core functionalities. Initially, NASA will send crew to the gateway once per year, so most investigations will require high levels of autonomy, and/or teleoperations.

Most concepts were based on the gateway’s location in lunar orbit, outside of Earth’s magnetosphere. This locale permits interesting observations, not possible in Earth orbit, in the fields of astrophysics, heliophysics, and Earth science. At the same time, exposure to the deep space environment introduces risk to astronauts, electronics, and hardware, due to high-energy radiation and space debris exposure. Understanding and mitigating these risks was a topic often discussed across scientific domains.

Science Opportunities Abound

“Science investigations are a critical element of our agency-wide exploration initiatives to the Moon,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve studied our Earth companion for decades with robotic spacecraft and we’re eager for new innovative lunar research opportunities that also will help us learn more about our solar system and beyond.”

Scientists identified a broad range of instruments that could be used inside the gateway, as well as attached to the outside of the spacecraft, or free-flying nearby. Inside, the gateway could be outfitted with instruments to evaluate radiation effects on electronics and other susceptible materials. Monitors could be activated during crew visits, to evaluate behavioral health, neurocognitive functions, and radiation and microgravity effects. Robotic helpers were discussed to support visiting crews, and also maintain operations when the gateway is uncrewed.

Outside the gateway, scientists suggested materials research platforms as permanent, fixed panels that could host interchangeable experiments with standardized attachments. Earth observation experts saw opportunities to use Earth as proxy for exoplanet detection, and noted the capability for “full disk” imaging of Earth, as well as regular views of polar regions. With a view to the Sun, advanced solar activity characterizations are possible, and could improve our understanding of solar cycles and their effects on Earth as well as the possible risks to astronauts and spacecraft systems.

The gateway also could be used to deploy increasingly more capable CubeSats to conduct a multitude of experiments. The gateway’s infrastructure could support nearby spacecraft servicing, wide-aperture telescope assembly, and serve as a communications relay for large data returns to Earth from small probes or satellites in the lunar environment.

Other ideas included robotically collecting lunar samples to investigate aboard the gateway or preserve for return to Earth, and astronauts aboard the gateway could remotely operate rovers on the surface to characterize resources, or venture to the never-before explored lunar far side.

All-in-all, the workshop provided NASA’s human spaceflight team what they needed: a basic understanding of the science that could be conducted from the vantage point of lunar orbit, and the potential spacecraft resources that would be required to do so.

“The gateway will help us return humans to the lunar surface, and expand human presence into the solar system. We now see the endless opportunities for it to play an important role for science in cislunar space as well,” said Crusan. “The enthusiasm from this workshop was awesome, and we look forward to keeping the conversation going.”

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March 9, 2018 – York Space Systems, an aerospace company specializing in complete space segment customer solutions and the manufacture of standardized spacecraft platforms, today announced the successful completion of the Harbinger Mission Critical Design Review (CDR) leveraging the company’s industrial-grade S-CLASS spacecraft platform.

“We’re delighted to pass another critical milestone in our march forward towards rapid and affordable deployment of space missions. We look forward to continuing to deploy complete turn-key solutions for our customers,” said Robert Baltrum, Vice President of Engineering at York Space Systems.

The detailed technical review, conducted by representatives from the Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) and the Air Force, took place at York Space Systems’ brand-new spacecraft design and production facility in Denver. The review included a tour of Metropolitan State University’s Advanced Manufacturing Institute capabilities, which are being used to accelerate the production of the S-CLASS platform. The spacecraft is currently being constructed at York’s facility and will be demonstrated for government customers with its Multi-Mission Operations Center, located in the same building.

The rapid completion of the CDR demonstrates York’s ability to efficiently execute under accelerated schedule timelines. The S-CLASS platform is the backbone for three additional constellation missions performing earth observation, celestial monitoring, and national defense.

“The York team continues to demonstrate their ability to execute quickly and efficiently. The success of this CDR marks a significant milestone for the S-CLASS platform and the capabilities the Harbinger Mission will demonstrate for the Army. We are happy to be a part of this mission and are eager to help ensure mission success,” said John London III, Chief Engineer for Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) Space and Strategic Systems Directorate.

York Space Systems’ S-CLASS platform is a critical and enabling part of the space segment infrastructure, which is required to support the rapid launch cadence now being demonstrated. With monthly and weekly launches planned by a wide variety of launch providers, York is well-positioned to meet this demand through its cutting-edge production processes and real-time availability, without which, rapid and affordable launches of satellites is not possible.

“Completing this successful technical review with such positive comments from our customer and partner network is another huge step towards the cost revolution for space businesses,” said Charles Beames, Executive Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer for York Space Systems. “York’s ability to deploy this mission, and others already under contract, from a singular platform represents a sorely needed capability for customers across all segments. The S-CLASS platform’s ability to conduct virtually any low Earth orbit mission at a significantly lower price point, makes it a key enabler for the resiliency desperately needed by operators everywhere. The Board of Directors, our strategic partners, and the rest of York Space Systems are all tremendously proud of the team and their execution against the Army’s pressing launch schedule.”

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Colorado Space News by Bdingman - 4M ago

Space Foundation Invites Public To Attend The Women’s Global Gathering At The 34th Space Symposium

March 8, 2018 – The public is invited to register now to attend the Women’s Global Gathering, an event at the 34th Space Symposium that will be open to the public, without Symposium registration. This motivational luncheon and networking opportunity is open to men and women, and to Symposium registrants and non-registrants. Read More

John Hopkins University Performs First Lab Simulation Of Exoplanet Atmospheric Chemistry

Lead author Sarah Hörst, right, and assistant research scientist Chao He examine samples of simulated atmospheres in a dry nitrogen glove box, where they are stored to avoid contamination from Earth’s atmosphere. Image Credit: Will Kirk/JHU

March 8, 2018 – Scientists have conducted the first lab experiments on haze formation in simulated exoplanet atmospheres, an important step for understanding upcoming observations of planets outside the solar system with the James Webb Space Telescope. The simulations are necessary to establish models of the atmospheres of far-distant worlds, models that can be used to look for signs of life outside the solar system. Read More

Hubble Finds Huge System Of Dusty Material Enveloping The Young Star HR 4796A

This is a Hubble Space Telescope photo of a vast, complex dust structure, about 150 billion miles across, enveloping the young star HR 4796A. A bright, narrow inner ring of dust is already known to encircle the star and may have been corralled by the gravitational pull of an unseen giant planet. This newly discovered huge dust structure around the system may have implications for what this yet-unseen planetary system looks like around the 8-million-year-old star, which is in its formative years of planet construction. The debris field of very fine dust was likely created from collisions among developing infant planets near the star, evidenced by a bright ring of dusty debris seen 7 billion miles from the star. The pressure of starlight from the star, which is 23 times more luminous than the Sun, then expelled the dust far into space. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Schneider (University of Arizona)

March 8, 2018 – Astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to uncover a vast, complex dust structure, about 150 billion miles across, enveloping the young star HR 4796A. A bright, narrow, inner ring of dust is already known to encircle the star and may have been corralled by the gravitational pull of an unseen giant planet. This newly discovered huge structure around the system may have implications for what this yet-unseen planetary system looks like around the 8-million-year-old star, which is in its formative years of planet construction. Read More

Lockheed Martin Begins Assembly Of JCSAT-17 Commercial Communications Satellite

Lockheed Martin technicians begin assembly on the JCSAT-17 commercial communications satellite in a clean room near Denver. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

March 8, 2018 – The assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) team at Lockheed Martin has started production of a new commercial satellite, JCSAT-17, that will deliver flexible, high-bandwidth communications to users in Japan and the surrounding region. The JCSAT-17 satellite, manufactured for the SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation (SJC), has entered the assembly and test cycle after completing a rigorous design and engineering phase. Read More

More News:

Unveiling The Depths Of Jupiter’s Winds
Source: Weizmann Institute of Science

Three papers published tomorrow in Nature answer a question that scientists have been asking ever since Galileo first observed the famous stripes of Jupiter: Are the colorful bands just a pretty surface phenomenon, or are they a significant stratum of the planet?

Giant Cyclones Dot Jupiter’s Poles
Source: Planetary Science Institute

Large cyclones have been discovered clustered around Jupiter’s poles by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, a new Nature paper says. The circumpolar cyclones were discovered on Juno’s first pass over Jupiter’s poles, and subsequent data has revealed how remarkably stable they are. The circumpolar cyclones ring a single cyclone at each pole.

NASA Juno Findings – Jupiter’s Jet-Streams Are Unearthly
Source: NASA

Data collected by NASA’s Juno mission to Jupiter indicate that the atmospheric winds of the gas-giant planet run deep into its atmosphere and last longer than similar atmospheric processes found here on Earth. The findings will improve understanding of Jupiter’s interior structure, core mass and, eventually, its origin.

First Look At Jupiter’s Poles Show Strange Geometric Arrays Of Storms
Source: University of Chicago

Jupiter’s got no sway. The biggest planet in the solar system has no tilt as it moves, so its poles have never been visible from Earth. But in the past two years, with NASA’s Juno spacecraft, scientists have gotten a good look at the top and bottom of the planet for the first time. What they found astounded them: bizarre geometric arrangements of storms, each arrayed around one cyclone over the north and south poles–unlike any storm formation seen in the universe.

360 Video: Tour A Mars Robot Test Lab
Source: NASA/JPL

NASA’s InSight lander looks a bit like an oversized crane game: when it lands on Mars this November, its robotic arm will be used to grasp and move objects on another planet for the first time. And like any crane game, practice makes it easier to capture the prize. Engineers and scientists have a replica of InSight at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. They use this testbed to simulate all the functions of the spacecraft, preparing for any scenario it might meet once it touches down on the Red Planet.

NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP Satellite Sees Tropical Cyclone Hola Over Vanuatu
Source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

When NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite passed over the South Pacific Ocean it captured a visible image of Tropical Cyclone Hola over Vanuatu. On Mar. 8 at 0230 UTC (Mar. 7 at 9:30 p.m. EST) the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument aboard NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite showed the center of Hola was located southwest of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

NASA Awards $96 Million To U.S. Businesses For Technology Development
Source: NASA

NASA has selected 128 proposals from American small businesses to advance research and technology in Phase II of its 2017 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. These selections support NASA’s future space exploration missions, while also benefiting the U.S. economy.

McDonald Observatory To Train National Park Service In Skywatching Programs For Visitors
Source: McDonald Observatory

The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory has entered into a partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) to train park rangers in bringing the wonders of the night sky to their visitors. The observatory also will create outreach programs for the park service.

Space Foundation Welcomes Brooke Owens Fellows To 34th Space Symposium
Source: Space Foundation

During its annual Space Symposium, the Space Foundation recognizes a select number of outstanding New Generation space professionals, age 35 and younger, by including them in main agenda activities, either on a panel or as a Master Moderator for the day. This year, the Space Foundation will highlight its support of the Brooke Owens Fellowship program by inviting two Brooke Owens Fellows to participate in the 34th Space Symposium.

A Peculiar Galactic Clash
Source: ESA

Galaxies are not static islands of stars — they are dynamic and ever-changing, constantly on the move through the darkness of the Universe. Sometimes, as seen in this spectacular Hubble image of Arp 256, galaxies can collide in a crash of cosmic proportions.

Denver Metro May Soon Be The Gateway To Space Thanks To Spaceport Colorado
Source: Denver7

The Denver metro may soon be the gateway to space. The Front Range Airport in Adams County has applied to be home to Spaceport Colorado and the FAA just began reviewing its bid. Five years from now could be the earliest we see Spaceport Colorado’s first launch.

House Members Question Balance Of NASA Programs In 2019 Budget Proposal
Source: SpaceNews

Members of the House space subcommittee raised concerns about elements of NASA’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal during a March 7 hearing, from the cancellation of a space telescope to restructuring of the agency’s technology programs.

Blue Origin Job Listings Signal It Could Soon Be Signing Up Astronauts
Source: GeekWire

Some of the nearly 200 job opportunities posted by Blue Origin suggest Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture is preparing to sign up passengers for its New Shepard suborbital spaceflights. One listing is looking for an astronaut experience manager to help create “a highly differentiated offering that culminates in the customer becoming an astronaut.”

Amazing Universe Captured With The Subaru Telescope “HSC” Viewer Released To The Public
Source: National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ)

The first dataset from the Hyper Suprime-Cam Subaru Strategic Plan (HSC-SSP) can be seen easily with the “HSC Viewer” on your PC or tablet. The HSC Viewer is the user-friendly website to display the HSC-SSP data.

Video: Are We Alone? LASP Prepares For Future NASA Missions To Discover Life Beyond The Solar System
Source: Spaceflight Now

The success of exoplanet detection in recent years has demonstrated that, on average, every star in the Milky Way hosts a planetary system. With so many planets now discovered, the challenge of the next three decades is characterizing those planets to assess their potential habitability and search for the signs of active biology. NASA is currently developing the concept for a “Super-Hubble Space Telescope,” the Large Ultraviolet/Optical/InfraRed Surveyor (LUVOIR), to discover ‘Pale Blue Dots’ around Sun-like stars beyond our solar system and probe their atmospheres for the signs of life. LASP is playing a leading role in the scientific and technical development of LUVOIR.

Europe’s ExoMars Orbiter Nears Start Of Methane-Sniffing Science Mission
Source: Spaceflight Now

Nearly a year-and-a-half after arriving at the red planet, Europe’s ExoMars orbiter is finally approaching a planned perch around 250 miles over the rust-colored world after repeatedly dipping into the Martian atmosphere to lower its orbit.

Vector To Conduct Dedicated Launch Of Alba Orbital PocketQube Satellites On First Orbital Attempt
Source: Vector

Vector, a nanosatellite launch company comprised of new-space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced it will conduct a dedicated launch of two PocketQube satellites using an Alba Orbital deployer (AlbaPOD) on the Vector-R launch vehicle later this year from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA) in Kodiak.

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March 8, 2018 – The public is invited to register now to attend the Women’s Global Gathering, an event at the 34th Space Symposium that will be open to the public, without Symposium registration. This motivational luncheon and networking opportunity is open to men and women, and to Symposium registrants and non-registrants.

Scheduled for the last day of the 34th Space Symposium on Thursday, April 19, from 12:15 to 1:45 p.m., at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, the Gathering will include a panel discussion by women who have excelled in the space industry. Sponsorship for the Women’s Global Gathering is provided by BAE Systems, Inc., with corporate host David Logan, Vice President and General Manager, C4ISR Systems.

The panel will be moderated by Katy George, Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company, and will focus on broad workforce issues affecting women. The panelists will discuss evolution of the workplace through their careers, challenges and opportunities and thoughts for young professionals as they face the future. The wide range of professional experience and current responsibilities of the panelists promise a stimulating dialog.

The panelists include:

  • Jenny Barna, Director of Launch, Spire Global, Inc.

  • Lisa S. Disbrow, former Under Secretary of the U.S. Air Force

  • Carol Hibbard, Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer, Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS)

  • Shelly O’Neill Stoneman, Vice President, Executive Branch and International Government Relations, BAE Systems, Inc.

  • Purchase luncheon tickets now at http://bit.ly/34SS_WGG.

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    Lead author Sarah Hörst, right, and assistant research scientist Chao He examine samples of simulated atmospheres in a dry nitrogen glove box, where they are stored to avoid contamination from Earth’s atmosphere. Image Credit: Will Kirk/JHU

    March 8, 2018 – Scientists have conducted the first lab experiments on haze formation in simulated exoplanet atmospheres, an important step for understanding upcoming observations of planets outside the solar system with the James Webb Space Telescope.

    The simulations are necessary to establish models of the atmospheres of far-distant worlds, models that can be used to look for signs of life outside the solar system. Results of the studies appeared this week in Nature Astronomy.

    “One of the reasons why we’re starting to do this work is to understand if having a haze layer on these planets would make them more or less habitable,” said the paper’s lead author, Sarah Hörst, assistant professor of Earth and planetary sciences at the Johns Hopkins University.

    With telescopes available today, planetary scientists and astronomers can learn what gases make up the atmospheres of exoplanets.

    “Each gas has a fingerprint that’s unique to it,” Hörst said. “If you measure a large enough spectral range, you can look at how all the fingerprints are superimposed on top of each other.”

    Current telescopes, however, do not work as well with every type of exoplanet. They fall short with exoplanets that have hazy atmospheres. Haze consists of solid particles suspended in gas, altering the way light interacts with the gas. This muting of spectral fingerprints makes measuring the gas composition more challenging.

    Hörst believes this research can help the exoplanet science community determine which types of atmospheres are likely to be hazy. With haze clouding up a telescope’s ability to tell scientists which gases make up an exoplanet’s atmosphere – if not the amounts of them – our ability to detect life elsewhere is a murkier prospect.

    Planets larger than Earth and smaller than Neptune, called super-Earths and mini-Neptunes, are the predominant types of exoplanets, or planets outside our solar system. As this class of planets is not found in our solar system, our limited knowledge makes them more difficult to study.

    With the coming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists hope to be able to examine the atmospheres of these exoplanets in greater detail. JWST will be capable of looking back even further in time than Hubble with a light collecting area around 6.25 times greater. Orbiting around the sun a million miles from Earth, JWST will help researchers measure the composition of extrasolar planet atmospheres and even search for the building blocks of life.

    “Part of what we’re trying to help people figure out is basically where you would want to look,” said Hörst of future uses of the James Webb Space Telescope.

    Given that our solar system has no super-Earths or mini-Neptunes for comparison, scientists don’t have “ground truths” for the atmospheres of these exoplanets. Using computer models, Hörst’s team was able to put together a series of atmospheric compositions that model super-Earths or mini-Neptunes. By varying levels of three dominant gases (carbon dioxide, hydrogen, gaseous water), four other gases (helium, carbon monoxide, methane, nitrogen) and three sets of temperatures, they assembled nine different “planets.”

    The computer modeling proposed different percentages of gases, which the scientists mixed in a chamber and heated. Over three days, the heated mixture flowed through a plasma discharge, a setup that initiated chemical reactions within the chamber.

    “The energy breaks up the gas molecules that we start with. They react with each other and make new things and sometimes they’ll make a solid particle [creating haze] and sometimes they won’t,” Hörst said. “The fundamental question for this paper was: Which of these gas mixtures – which of these atmospheres – will we expect to be hazy?”

    The researchers found that all nine variants made haze in varying amounts. The surprise lay in which combinations made more. The team found the most haze particles in two of the water-dominant atmospheres.

    “We had this idea for a long time that methane chemistry was the one true path to make a haze, and we know that’s not true now,” said Hörst, referring to compounds abundant in both hydrogen and carbon.

    Furthermore, the scientists found differences in the colors of the particles, which could affect how much heat is trapped by the haze.

    “Having a haze layer can change the temperature structure of an atmosphere,” said Hörst. “It can prevent really energetic photons from reaching a surface.”

    Like the ozone layer that now protects life on Earth from harmful radiation, scientists have speculated a primitive haze layer may have shielded life in the very beginning. This could be meaningful in our search for external life.

    For Hörst’s group, the next steps involve analyzing the different hazes to see how the color and size of the particles affect how the particles interact with light. They also plan to try other compositions, temperatures, energy sources and examine the composition of the haze produced.

    “The production rates were the very, very first step of what’s going to be a long process in trying to figure out which atmospheres are hazy and what the impact of the haze particles is,” Hörst said.

    The co-authors of the paper include Chao He, assistant research scientist at the Johns Hopkins University, and Nikole K. Lewis, associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins with an appointment at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Other co-authors were Eliza M.-R. Kempton of Grinnell College, Mark S. Marley of the NASA Ames Research Center, Caroline V. Morley of Harvard University, Julianne I. Moses of the Space Science Institute in Colorado, Jeff A. Valenti of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Véronique Vuitton of the Université Grenoble Alpes in France.

    NASA Exoplanets Research Program grant NNX16AB45G paid for the study. The Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Foundation supported Chao He.

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    This is a Hubble Space Telescope photo of a vast, complex dust structure, about 150 billion miles across, enveloping the young star HR 4796A. A bright, narrow inner ring of dust is already known to encircle the star and may have been corralled by the gravitational pull of an unseen giant planet. This newly discovered huge dust structure around the system may have implications for what this yet-unseen planetary system looks like around the 8-million-year-old star, which is in its formative years of planet construction. The debris field of very fine dust was likely created from collisions among developing infant planets near the star, evidenced by a bright ring of dusty debris seen 7 billion miles from the star. The pressure of starlight from the star, which is 23 times more luminous than the Sun, then expelled the dust far into space. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and G. Schneider (University of Arizona)

    March 8, 2018 – Astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to uncover a vast, complex dust structure, about 150 billion miles across, enveloping the young star HR 4796A. A bright, narrow, inner ring of dust is already known to encircle the star and may have been corralled by the gravitational pull of an unseen giant planet. This newly discovered huge structure around the system may have implications for what this yet-unseen planetary system looks like around the 8-million-year-old star, which is in its formative years of planet construction.

    The debris field of very fine dust was likely created from collisions among developing infant planets near the star, evidenced by a bright ring of dusty debris seen 7 billion miles from the star. The pressure of starlight from the star, which is 23 times more luminous than the Sun, then expelled the dust far into space.

    But the dynamics don’t stop there. The puffy outer dust structure is like a donut-shaped inner tube that got hit by a truck. It is much more extended in one direction than in the other and so looks squashed on one side even after accounting for its inclined projection on the sky. This may be due to the motion of the host star plowing through the interstellar medium, like the bow wave from a boat crossing a lake. Or it may be influenced by a tidal tug from the star’s red dwarf binary companion (HR 4796B), located at least 54 billion miles from the primary star.

    “The dust distribution is a telltale sign of how dynamically interactive the inner system containing the ring is,” said Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who used Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) to probe and map the small dust particles in the outer reaches of the HR 4796A system, a survey that only Hubble’s sensitivity can accomplish.

    “We cannot treat exoplanetary debris systems as simply being in isolation. Environmental effects, such as interactions with the interstellar medium and forces due to stellar companions, may have long-term implications for the evolution of such systems. The gross asymmetries of the outer dust field are telling us there are a lot of forces in play (beyond just host-star radiation pressure) that are moving the material around. We’ve seen effects like this in a few other systems, but here’s a case where we see a bunch of things going on at once,” Schneider further explained.

    Though long hypothesized, the first evidence for a debris disk around any star was uncovered in 1983 with NASA’s Infrared Astronomical Satellite. Later photographs revealed an edge-on debris disk around the southern star Beta Pictoris. In the late 1990s, Hubble’s second-generation instruments, which had the capability of blocking out the glare of a central star, allowed many more disks to be photographed. Now, such debris rings are thought to be common around stars. About 40 such systems have been imaged to date, largely by Hubble.

    Schneider’s paper appears in the February 2018 Astronomical Journal.

    The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

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    Lockheed Martin technicians begin assembly on the JCSAT-17 commercial communications satellite in a clean room near Denver. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

    March 8, 2018 – The assembly, test and launch operations (ATLO) team at Lockheed Martin has started production of a new commercial satellite, JCSAT-17, that will deliver flexible, high-bandwidth communications to users in Japan and the surrounding region. The JCSAT-17 satellite, manufactured for the SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation (SJC), has entered the assembly and test cycle after completing a rigorous design and engineering phase.

    Atsushi Mamiya, JCSAT-17 project manager at SJC said, “Lockheed Martin has done a great job so far. SJC maintains good cooperation with Lockheed Martin and the whole team as they work toward the successful and scheduled launch of this excellent satellite.”

    Built on Lockheed Martin’s new advanced LM2100 bus, the satellite’s payload incorporates S-band transponders with a flexible processor along with 18m mesh reflector, enabling assured communications continuity during disaster relief efforts and other high-volume events. It will also carry C- band and Ku-band.

    “JCSAT-17’s cutting-edge flexible payload processor means that SJC can move bandwidth where it’s needed, when it’s needed, ensuring that this satellite stays agile, ready and relevant for years to come,” said Sam Basuthakur, Lockheed Martin JCSAT-17 program manager. “This is the third modernized and first Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) built on the new LM2100 platform, scheduled for launch in 2019 on Ariane-5. Both Lockheed Martin and SJC are excited to start assembly and integration of this innovative spacecraft employing LM2100 best practices and streamlined ATLO process, which will provide critical MSS communications to SJC and to the people of Japan.”

    A critical stage in the program, ATLO begins with the satellite’s assembly, then moves through the environmental testing and concludes with its launch. Over the next nine months, the ATLO team will integrate subsystem equipment onto the satellite structure, including power, attitude control, propulsion, thermal control, telemetry tracking and control, mechanisms, RF payload and antennas,

    JCSAT-17 is the eighth satellite built by Lockheed Martin for SJC, beginning with NSAT-110, JCSAT-9 through JCSAT-13 and JCSAT-110R.

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    Colorado Space News by Bdingman - 4M ago

    United Launch Alliance Names Gary Wentz Vice President Of Government And Commercial Programs

    ULA has named Gary Wentz, vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. Image Credit: United Launch Alliance

    March 6, 2018 – United Launch Alliance (ULA) has named Gary Wentz, vice president of Government and Commercial Programs. In this role Wentz will lead the mission management, hardware integration, program management and launch services for ULA’s government and commercial customers, as well as the team responsible for ULA’s role in returning human spaceflight to American soil on The Boeing Company’s CST-100 Starliner capsule. Read More

    NASA, Partners Seek Input On Standards For Deep Space Technologies

    Image Credit: NASA

    March 6, 2018 – In order to maximize investment in, and benefits of, future deep space exploration platforms and technologies, NASA and its International Space Station partners have collaborated to draft standards that address seven priority areas in which technology compatibility is crucial for global cooperation. Read More

    NASA Team Outfits Orion For Abort Test With Lean Approach

    Technicians lower the crew module for Ascent Abort-2 onto a stand at Johnson Space Center in Houston on March 2. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Markowitz

    March 6, 2018 – With the arrival of the Orion crew module to be used in the Ascent Abort-2 test at Johnson Space Center in Houston, the team is already at work with a lean, iterative development approach to minimize cost and ensure the flight test stays on schedule. Read More

    Michael Meyer, NASA Lead Scientist For Mars Exploration, To Address Mars Society Convention

    Image Credit: The Mars Society/NASA

    March 6, 2018 – The Mars Society has announced that Dr. Michael Meyer, Lead Scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program, will give a plenary talk about the agency’s current and future planning for Mars missions at the 21st Annual International Mars Society Convention, scheduled for August 23-26, 2018 at the Pasadena Convention Center, California. Read More

    Bioserve Engineer Earns NASA Silver Snoopy Award

    Astronaut Jack Fischer presents the Silver Snoopy Award to Shankini Doraisingam. Image Credit: University of Colorado Boulder

    March 6, 2018 – Shankini Doraisingam has been awarded the Silver Snoopy Award for her work with astronauts aboard the International Space Station. Doraisingam is an engineer with the University of Colorado Boulder’s Bioserve Space Technologies, a center that has designed, built and flown microgravity life science research and hardware on dozens of space missions. Read More

    Far Northern Permafrost May Unleash Carbon Within Decades

    Tundra polygons on Alaska’s North Slope. As permafrost thaws, this area is likely to be a source of atmospheric carbon before 2100. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Charles Miller

    March 6, 2018 – Permafrost in the coldest northern Arctic — formerly thought to be at least temporarily shielded from global warming by its extreme environment — will thaw enough to become a permanent source of carbon to the atmosphere in this century, with the peak transition occurring in 40 to 60 years, according to a new NASA-led study. Read More

    Author Margot Lee Shetterly To Receive Space Foundation’s Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award

    March 6, 2018 – With her book Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race, author Margot Lee Shetterly made the world aware of the major contributions of three NASA mathematicians, who were also female and African-American, during the early years of the U.S. space program. Known as “human computers,” Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson contributed important work, such as calculating rocket trajectories for Mercury and Apollo missions. Shetterly became familiar with the women through her father, who was a research scientist at NASA-Langley Research Center. Read More

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    Source: The Washington Post

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    DoD Delivers Report To Congress On Space Reforms: Air Force Acquisition System A Big Problem
    Source: SpaceNews

    In a report to the congressional defense committees last week, Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan provided lawmakers a preview of how the department plans to reorganize national security space programs and offices.

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    Source: Daily Mail

    Fascinating retro photographs that take you on a journey from the first brave space pioneers through to the incredible technological advances of today have been revealed in a new book. The incredible pictures are part of a new book called ‘Space Exploration’ by Colorado-based writer and producer Carolyn Collins Petersen.

    NASA FDL 2018 Summer Program: Call For Applicants
    Source: SETI Institute

    NASA Frontier Development Lab (FDL) is an applied Artificial Intelligence research accelerator that pairs researchers from the space sciences with data scientists for an intense 8-week concentrated study to apply AI to challenges important to space exploration and humankind. FDL runs between June 25th – August 17, 2018.

    Send Your Name To The Sun
    Source: NASA

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    World-First Firing Of An Air-Breathing Electric Thruster
    Source: ESA

    In a world-first, an ESA-led team has built and fired an electric thruster to ingest scarce air molecules from the top of the atmosphere for propellant, opening the way to satellites flying in very low orbits for years on end.

    MATISSE Instrument Sees First Light On ESO’s Very Large Telescope Interferometer
    Source: European Southern Observatory (ESO)

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    Source: AAS Nova

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    Lockheed Martin CEO: Building Bridges To A Brighter Future
    Source: Lockheed Martin

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    Source: NASASpaceFlight.com

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    Source: Space.com

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    Source: Nature

    When Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan stepped off the Moon in December 1972, it marked the end of US researchers’ access to the lunar surface. Since then, no US mission has touched down there to collect scientific data. That could soon change.

    US Scientists Plot Return To The Moon’s Surface
    Source: Nature

    When Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan stepped off the Moon in December 1972, it marked the end of US researchers’ access to the lunar surface. Since then, no US mission has touched down there to collect scientific data. That could soon change.

    Comet “Chury’s” Late Birth
    Source: University of Bern

    Comets which consist of two parts, like Chury, can form after a catastrophic collision of larger bodies. Such collisions may have taken place in a later phase of our solar system, which suggests that Chury can be much younger than previously assumed. This is shown through computer simulations by an international research group with the participation of the University of Bern.

    Here Are Colorado’s Top 20 High Schools For STEM
    Source: Denver Business Journal

    Colorado industries like cybersecurity, financial services and IT are projected to lead growth in 2018. Those are industries that require a background in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), something that lawmakers and educators have over the last few years made a top priority for the state. So which high schools are ahead of the curve when it comes to STEM education?

    Launch Of First Chinese Space Station Module Delayed To 2020
    Source: GBTIMES

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    Source: Leonard David’s Inside Outer Space

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    Colorado Springs Resident James Reilly Faces First Hearing To Lead U.S. Geological Survey
    Source: Colorado Springs Gazette

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    What The Dust Blowing Around Colorado Looks Like From Space
    Source: 9News.com

    If you drove near Denver International Airport on Monday afternoon, you might have noticed quite a bit of blowing dust. Wind gusts reached 60 miles per hour near the airport, with more than 70 mph gusts reported north of Fort Collins. The GOES16 satellite was able to capture images of the dust, which raced southeast across the Colorado plains.

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