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  • ExMASS Research Program Announces Student Winners
    Research Virtual Institute SSERVI has concluded the first year of the Exploration of the Moon and Asteroids by Secondary Students ExMASS program The ExMASS program supports student scientists in their quest to understand the Moon and asteroids as they are immersed in the process of science and exposed to science careers The program s predecessor the High School Lunar Research Projects supported lunar research conducted by high school students from 2009 to 2013 This year 11 high school teams comprising 43 students from across the nation embarked on a standards based data rich authentic lunar asteroid science research project that aligns with CLSE research objectives and the National Research Council science priorities Bellaire High School students Sue Anne Davis Kevin Nguyen Jennifer Wang Afton Widdershins and Steven Zhou Wright presented their research entitled Hypothesizing Existence of Zhuque Family in the 5 2 Kirkwood Gap to a panel of planetary scientists Their project ranked highest on presentation and research among all competing schools As a result of their top score the students and their teacher Jimmy Newland are invited to attend and present their research at the NASA Exploration Science Forum at NASA Ames Research Center in July 2015 The team

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/050115/exmass/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Dawn Glimpses Ceres’ North Pole
    framing camera took these images The spacecraft was maneuvering toward its first science orbit which it will enter on April 23 Credit NASA JPL Caltech UCLA MPS DLR IDA After spending more than a month in orbit on the dark side of dwarf planet Ceres NASA s Dawn spacecraft has captured several views of the sunlit north pole of this intriguing world These images were taken on April 10 from a distance of 21 000 miles 33 000 kilometers and they represent the highest resolution views of Ceres to date Subsequent images of Ceres will show surface features at increasingly better resolution Dawn arrived at Ceres on March 6 marking the first time a spacecraft has orbited a dwarf planet Previously the spacecraft explored giant asteroid Vesta for 14 months from 2011 to 2012 Dawn has the distinction of being the only spacecraft to orbit two extraterrestrial targets Ceres with an average diameter of about 950 kilometers 590 miles is the largest body in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter Dawn has been using its ion propulsion system to maneuver to its first science orbit at Ceres which it will reach on April 23 The spacecraft will remain

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/041715/dawn/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Icy Tendrils Reaching into Saturn Ring Traced to Their Source
    Cassini in 2005 are jets of tiny water ice particles water vapor and simple organic compounds Under certain lighting conditions Cassini s wide view images showing icy material erupting from Enceladus reveal faint finger like features dubbed tendrils by the imaging team The tendrils reach into Saturn s E ring the ring in which Enceladus orbits extending tens of thousands of kilometers or miles away from the moon Since the tendrils were discovered scientists have thought they were the result of the moon s geysering activity and the means by which Enceladus supplies material to the E ring But the ghostly features had never before been traced directly to geysers on the surface Because the team was able to show that tendril structures of different shapes correspond to different sizes of geyser particles the team was able to zero in on the sizes of the particles forming them They found the tendrils are composed of particles with diameters no smaller than about a hundred thousandth of an inch a size consistent with the measurements of E ring particles made by other Cassini instruments As the researchers examined images from different times and positions around Saturn they also found that the detailed appearance of the tendrils changes over time It became clear to us that some features disappeared from one image to the next said John Weiss an imaging team associate at Saint Martin s University in Lacey Washington and an author on the paper The authors suspect that changes in the tendrils appearance likely result from the cycle of tidal stresses squeezing and stretching of the moon as it orbits Saturn and its control of the widths of fractures from which the geysers erupt The stronger the tidal stresses raised by Saturn at any point on the fractures the wider

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/041715/cassini/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA Spacecraft Achieves Unprecedented Success Studying Mercury
    was known about the planet prior to the MESSENGER mission For the first time in history we now have real knowledge about the planet Mercury that shows it to be a fascinating world as part of our diverse solar system said John Grunsfeld associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington While spacecraft operations will end we are celebrating MESSENGER as more than a successful mission It s the beginning of a longer journey to analyze the data that reveals all the scientific mysteries of Mercury The spacecraft traveled more than six and a half years before it was inserted into orbit around Mercury on March 18 2011 The prime mission was to orbit the planet and collect data for one Earth year The spacecraft s healthy instruments remaining fuel and new questions raised by early findings resulted in two approved operations extensions allowing the mission to continue for almost four years and resulting in more scientific firsts One key science finding in 2012 provided compelling support for the hypothesis that Mercury harbors abundant frozen water and other volatile materials in its permanently shadowed polar craters Data indicated the ice in Mercury s polar regions if spread over an area the size of Washington would be more than 3 2 kilometers 2 miles thick For the first time scientists began seeing clearly a chapter in the story of how the inner planets including Earth acquired water and some of the chemical building blocks for life A dark layer covering most of the water ice deposits supports the theory that organic compounds as well as water were delivered from the outer solar system to the inner planets and may have led to prebiotic chemical synthesis and thus life on Earth The water now stored in ice deposits

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/041715/messenger/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Curiousity Rover Eyes Prominent Mineral Veins on Mars
    locations The dark material preserved here presents an opportunity to learn more Kah said At least two secondary fluids have left evidence here We want to understand the chemistry of the different fluids that were here and the sequence of events How have later fluids affected the host rock Some of the sequence is understood Mud that formed lake bed mudstones Curiosity examined near its 2012 landing site and after reaching Mount Sharp must have dried and hardened before the fractures formed The dark material that lines the fracture walls reflects an earlier episode of fluid flow than the white calcium sulfate rich veins do although both flows occurred after the cracks formed Garden City is about 12 meters 39 feet higher than the bottom edge of the Pahrump Hills outcrop of the bedrock forming the basal layer of Mount Sharp at the center of Mars Gale Crater The Curiosity mission spent about six months examining the first 10 meters 33 feet of elevation at Pahrump Hills climbing from the lower edge to higher sections three times to vertically profile the rock structures and chemistry and to select the best targets for drilling We investigated Pahrump Hills the way a field geologist would looking over the whole outcrop first to choose the best samples to collect and it paid off said David Blake of NASA s Ames Research Center Moffett Field California principal investigator for the Chemistry and Mineralogy CheMin analytical laboratory instrument inside the rover Analysis is still preliminary but the three drilled samples from Pahrump Hills have clear differences in mineral ingredients The first Confidence Hills had the most clay minerals and hematite both of which commonly form under wet conditions The second Mojave had the most jarosite an oxidized mineral containing iron and sulfur that forms in

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/040615/curiousity/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Opportunity Mars Rover Passes Marathon Distance
    on March 24 42 195 kilometers 26 219 miles with a finish time of roughly 11 years and 2 months This is the first time any human enterprise has exceeded the distance of a marathon on the surface of another world said John Callas Opportunity project manager at NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory JPL in Pasadena California A first time happens only once The rover team at JPL plans a marathon length relay run at the laboratory next week to celebrate The long lived rover surpassed the marathon mark during a drive of 46 5 meters 153 feet Last year Opportunity became the long distance champion of all off Earth vehicles when it topped the previous record set by the former Soviet Union s Lunokhod 2 Moon rover This mission isn t about setting distance records of course it s about making scientific discoveries on Mars and inspiring future explorers to achieve even more said Steve Squyres Opportunity principal investigator at Cornell University in Ithaca New York Still running a marathon on Mars feels pretty cool Opportunity s original three month prime mission in 2004 yielded evidence of environments with liquid water soaking the ground and flowing on planet s

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/032715/opportunity/ (2016-02-15)
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  • LPI Announces Planetary Science Summer Interns
    on one with scientists at the LPI and the NASA Johnson Space Center JSC on a project of current interest in planetary science This year s program will run from June 1 through August 7 The students below were selected from an applicant pool of nearly 400 students and we look forward to their arrival in June as they begin what promises to be a very rewarding summer For more information about the program visit the summer intern webpage Student Mya Ann Habermann University of Georgia Advisors Asmaa Boujibar Kevin Righter and Lisa Danielson JSC Student Christopher Donaldson University of Colorado Boulder Advisor Paul Niles JSC Student Timothy Cao University of California Merced Advisors Aaron Burton and Keiko Nakamura Messenger JSC Student Eleanor Carmen McIntosh University of South Carolina Advisors Jennifer Rapp and Dave Draper JSC Student Allison Vance Beloit College Advisors Roy Christoffersen and Lindsay Keller JSC Student Joanna Szczeszek Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań Advisors Paul Byrne Francesca Scipioni Trudi Hoogenboom and Paul Schenk LPI Student Robert Trevor Goldman Pomona College Advisor Walter Kiefer LPI Student Malgorzata Urszula Sliz The University of Manchester Advisor Paul Spudis LPI Student Christian Tai Udovicic University of Toronto Advisors Georgiana Kramer LPI

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/030915/lpi_intern/ (2016-02-15)
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  • “Bright Spot” on Ceres Has Dimmer Companion
    miles from Ceres reveal that a bright spot that stands out in previous images lies close to yet another bright area Ceres bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness but apparently in the same basin This may be pointing to a volcano like origin of the spots but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations said Chris Russell principal investigator for the Dawn mission based at the University of California Los Angeles Using its ion propulsion system Dawn will enter orbit around Ceres on March 6 As scientists receive better and better views of the dwarf planet over the next 16 months they hope to gain a deeper understanding of its origin and evolution by studying its surface The intriguing bright spots and other interesting features of this captivating world will come into sharper focus The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with our camera but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres This is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us said Andreas Nathues lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/022715/ceres/ (2016-02-15)
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