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  • Land Ho! Huygens Plunged to Titan Surface Five Years Ago
    s Jet Propulsion Laboratory The Huygens probe built and managed by the European Space Agency ESA was bolted to Cassini and rode along during its nearly seven year journey to Saturn Huygens descent marked mankind s first and only attempt to land a probe on another world in the outer solar system Huygens transmitted data for more than four hours as it plunged through Titan s hazy atmosphere and landed near a region now known as Adiri Atmospheric density measurements from Huygens have helped engineers refine calculations for how low Cassini can fly through the moon s thick atmosphere Huygens captured the most attention for providing the first view from inside Titan s atmosphere and on its surface The pictures of drainage channels and pebble sized ice blocks surprised scientists with the extent of the moon s similarity to Earth They showed evidence of erosion from methane and ethane rain It was eerie said Jonathan Lunine an interdisciplinary Cassini scientist at the University of Rome Tor Vergata and University of Arizona Tucson and was with the Huygens camera team five years ago as they combed through the images coming down We saw bright hills above a dark plain a weird combination of light and dark It was like seeing a landscape out of Dante Combining these images with detections of methane and other gasses emanating from the surface scientists came to believe Titan had a hydrologic cycle similar to Earth s although Titan s cycle depends on methane and ethane rather than water Titan is the only other body in the solar system other than Earth believed to have an active hydrologic cycle Huygens also gave scientists an opportunity to make electric field measurements from the atmosphere and surface revealing a signature consistent with a water and ammonia ocean under

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/huygens/index.shtml (2016-02-15)
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  • Public Lecture on Thursday, January 14
    sized planets in or near habitable zones of stars and to determine how many of the billions of stars in our galaxy might have such planets Cochran will discuss how and where we search for planets and the exciting recent findings of the Kepler mission Cochran is a Senior Research Scientist with The University of Texas at Austin McDonald Observatory He is also Co Investigator of NASA s Kepler mission

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/speakerseries/cochran/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA Chooses Three Finalists for Future Space Science Mission
    Weiler associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington These three proposals provide the best science value among eight submitted to NASA this year Each proposal team initially will receive approximately 3 3 million in 2010 to conduct a 12 month mission concept study that focuses on implementation feasibility cost management and technical plans Studies also will include plans for educational outreach and small business opportunities The selected proposals are The Surface and Atmosphere Geochemical Explorer or SAGE mission to Venus would release a probe to descend through the planet s atmosphere During descent instruments would conduct extensive measurements of the atmosphere s composition and obtain meteorological data The probe then would land on the surface of Venus where its abrading tool would expose both a weathered and a pristine surface area to measure its composition and mineralogy Scientists hope to understand the origin of Venus and why it is so different from Earth Larry Esposito of the University of Colorado in Boulder is the principal investigator The Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer spacecraft called Osiris Rex would rendezvous and orbit a primitive asteroid After extensive measurements instruments would collect more than two ounces of material from the asteriod s surface for return to Earth The returned samples would help scientists better undertand and answer long held questions about the formation of our solar system and the origin of complex molecules necessary for life Michael Drake of the University of Arizona in Tucson is the principal investigator MoonRise Lunar South Pole Aitken Basin Sample Return Mission would place a lander in a broad basin near the Moon s south pole and return approximately two pounds of lunar materials for study This region of the lunar surface is believed to harbor rocks excavated from

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/futureSpaceScience/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Graduate Students Eligible for the LPI Career Development Award
    help cover their travel expenses for attending the LPSC in March The application deadline for the LPI Career Development Award is January 11 2010 Applications should be directed to Dr Stephen Mackwell c o Claudia Quintana 3600 Bay Area Boulevard Houston TX 77058 1113 quintana lpi usra edu Awards will be based on a review of the application materials by a panel of lunar and planetary scientists Applications must include Letter outlining why the applicant would like to participate at the LPSC and what he or she will contribute to the conference Letter of recommendation from his or her research advisor Copy of the first author abstract Curriculum Vita for the applicant The 41st LPSC will be held at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel Convention Center in The Woodlands Texas An average of 1500 participants from all over the world gather each year for the annual meeting which has gained the reputation of being the premiere gathering place for lunar and planetary scientists The LPI maintains a highly focused education effort chartered to engage excite and educate the public about lunar and planetary science and invests in the development of future generations of scientists The LPI Career Development Award has

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/cda_award/2009/120809/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Cassini Captures Ghostly Dance of Saturn’s Northern Lights
    t seen on Saturn before said Andrew Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology who is a member of the Cassini imaging team that processed the new video Seeing these things on another planet helps us understand them a little better when we see them on Earth Auroras appear mostly in the high latitudes near a planet s magnetic poles When charged particles from the magnetosphere the magnetic bubble surrounding a planet plunge into the planet s upper atmosphere they cause the atmosphere to glow The curtain shapes show the paths that these charged particles take as they flow along the lines of the magnetic field between the magnetosphere and the uppermost part of the atmosphere The height of the curtains on Saturn exposes a key difference between Saturn s atmosphere and our own Ingersoll said While Earth s atmosphere has a lot of oxygen and nitrogen Saturn s atmosphere is composed primarily of hydrogen Because hydrogen is very light the atmosphere and auroras reach far out from Saturn Earth s auroras tend to flare only about 100 to 500 kilometers 60 to 300 miles above the surface The speed of the auroral changes in the video is comparable to some of those on Earth but scientists are still working to understand the processes that produce these rapid changes The height will also help them learn how much energy is required to light up auroras I was wowed when I saw these images and the curtain said Tamas Gombosi of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who chairs Cassini s magnetosphere and plasma science working group Put this together with the other data Cassini has collected on the auroras so far and you really get a new science Ultraviolet and infrared instruments on Cassini have captured images of and

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/cassini/northernLights/ (2016-02-15)
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  • New Computer-Developed Map Adds to Evidence for Ancient Martian Ocean
    present But since the networks were discovered in 1971 by the Mariner 9 spacecraft scientists have debated whether they were created by erosion from surface water which would point to a climate with rainfall or through a process of erosion known as groundwater sapping Groundwater sapping can occur in cold dry conditions The large disparity between river network densities on Mars and Earth had provided a major argument against the idea that runoff erosion formed the valley networks But the new mapping study reduces the disparity indicating some regions of Mars had valley network densities more comparable to those found on Earth It is now difficult to argue against runoff erosion as the major mechanism of martian valley network formation Luo said When you look at the entire planet the density of valley dissection on Mars is significantly lower than on Earth he added However the most densely dissected regions of Mars have densities comparable to terrestrial values The relatively high values over extended regions indicate the valleys originated by means of precipitation fed runoff erosion the same process that is responsible for formation of the bulk of valleys on our planet The researchers created an updated planet wide map of the valley networks by using a computer algorithm that parses topographic data from NASA satellites and recognizes valleys by their U shaped topographic signature The computer generated map was visually inspected and edited with help from NIU graduate students Yi Qi and Bartosz Grudzinski to produce the final updated map The only other global map of the valley networks was produced in the 1990s by looking at images and drawing on top of them so it was fairly incomplete and it was not correctly registered with current datum Stepinski said Our map was created semi automatically with the computer

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/mars/ancientOcean/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA and Microsoft Allow Earthlings to Become Martians
    system s grandest canyon which resides on Mars Users can call up images in the Valles Marineris canyon before moving on to chart the entire Red Planet The collaboration of thousands of participants could assist scientists in producing far better maps enabling smoother zoom in views and easier interpretation of martian surface changes By counting craters the public also may help scientists determine the relative ages of small regions on Mars In the past counting martian craters has posed a challenge because of the vast numbers involved By contributing website users will win game points assigned to a robotic animal avatar they select With a common goal of inspiring digital age workforce development and life long learning in science technology engineering and mathematics NASA and Microsoft unveiled the website at the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles this week The site also beckons software developers to win prizes for creating tools that provide access to and analysis of hundreds of thousands of Mars images for online classroom and Mars mission team use Industry leaders like NASA and Microsoft have a social responsibility as well as a vested interest in advancing science and technology education said Walid Abu Hadba corporate vice president of the Developer and Platform Evangelism Group at Microsoft We are excited to be working with NASA to provide new opportunities to engage with Mars mission data and to help spark interest and excitement among the next generation of scientists and technologists To encourage more public participation the site also provides a virtual town hall forum where users can expand their knowledge by proposing Mars questions and voting on which are the most interesting to the community Online talks by Mars experts will address some of the submitted questions Other features include interactive tools for viewing martian regions

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/beAmartian/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Public Lecture on Thursday, November 19
    helped direct their scientific intuition toward theories that could be expressed with ration and mathematics or elegance Ultimately this link between elegance and rational truth has profound theological implications Brother Consolmagno astronomer and curator of meteorites at the Vatican will discuss how one proceeds from an emotional appreciation of the beauty of the universe to a deeper understanding that satisfies both reason and emotion This free presentation begins at 7

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/PublicLecture112009/ (2016-02-15)
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