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  • Juliane Gross Receives Prestigious Award
    received her Ph D in July 2009 She was selected for the award based on her thesis entitled Mineral Solubility Measurements at High Pressures Redesigning the Hydrothermal Diamond Anvil Cell Crystal Volume Computations and Birefringence Mapping The award will be presented along with a cash prize at a ceremony at the Ruhr University Bochum s annual anniversary celebration on December 18 Congratulations Juliane The Lunar and Planetary Institute LPI is

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/gross/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Upcoming Mercury Encounter Presents New Opportunities for Magnetometer
    the nature of the planet s internal magnetic field and revealed new features of Mercury s magnetosphere explains Brian Anderson of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory APL in Laurel Maryland MESSENGER s Deputy Project Scientist MESSENGER s first flyby of Mercury and Mariner 10 s encounters with the planet provided data only from Mercury s eastern hemisphere says Anderson The October 2008 flyby provided the first measurements from Mercury s western hemisphere and scientists learned that the planet s magnetic field is highly symmetric This finding is significant for the planet s internal field because it implies that the dipole is even more closely aligned with the planet s rotation axis than we could conclude before the second flyby The probe s third flyby of Mercury later this month will take it again over the planet s western hemisphere and the observations will be used to refine the estimate of the planetary magnetic field Anderson explains The previous flybys yielded significant insight into the dynamics of Mercury s magnetosphere and its boundaries Anderson says During the second flyby a plasmoid and a series of traveling compression regions were observed in Mercury s magnetotail and a large flux transfer event was observed at the dayside magnetopause These observations proved that the solar wind interaction under the right circumstances can drive intense magnetic reconnection at rates 10 times the rates observed at Earth The behavior during the second flyby was markedly different from that found in the first flyby demonstrating the profound influence of the solar wind environment on Mercury s magnetosphere The third flyby is the last opportunity to survey the magnetotail and magnetopause regions in the equatorial plane and the contrast in the system s structure under different solar wind conditions already observed make it likely that the

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/messenger/092909flyby/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA Researchers Make First Discovery of Life’s Building Block in Comet
    the research Proteins are the workhorse molecules of life used in everything from structures like hair to enzymes the catalysts that speed up or regulate chemical reactions Just as the 26 letters of the alphabet are arranged in limitless combinations to make words life uses 20 different amino acids in a huge variety of arrangements to build millions of different proteins Stardust passed through dense gas and dust surrounding the icy nucleus of Wild 2 on January 2 2004 As the spacecraft flew through this material a special collection grid filled with aerogel a novel sponge like material that s more than 99 empty space gently captured samples of the comet s gas and dust The grid was stowed in a capsule that detached from the spacecraft and parachuted to Earth on January 15 2006 Since then scientists around the world have been busy analyzing the samples to learn the secrets of comet formation and our solar system s history We actually analyzed aluminum foil from the sides of tiny chambers that hold the aerogel in the collection grid said Elsila As gas molecules passed through the aerogel some stuck to the foil We spent two years testing and developing our equipment to make it accurate and sensitive enough to analyze such incredibly tiny samples Earlier preliminary analysis in the Goddard labs detected glycine in both the foil and a sample of the aerogel However since glycine is used by terrestrial life at first the team was unable to rule out contamination from sources on Earth It was possible that the glycine we found originated from handling or manufacture of the Stardust spacecraft itself said Elsila The new research used isotopic analysis of the foil to rule out that possibility Isotopes are versions of an element with different weights or

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/cometBldgBlock/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Meteorite Found on Mars Yields Clues About Planet’s Past
    iron nickel meteorite said Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada Gellert is the lead scientist for the rover s alpha particle X ray spectrometer an instrument on the arm used for identifying key elements in an object We already investigated several spots that showed elemental variations on the surface This might tell us if and how the metal was altered since it landed on Mars The microscopic imager on the arm revealed a distinctive triangular pattern in Block Island s surface texture matching a pattern common in iron nickel meteorites found on Earth Normally this pattern is exposed when the meteorite is cut polished and etched with acid said Tim McCoy a rover team member from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington Sometimes it shows up on the surface of meteorites that have been eroded by windblown sand in deserts and that appears to be what we see with Block Island Opportunity found a smaller iron nickel meteorite called Heat Shield Rock in late 2004 At about a half ton or more Block Island is roughly 10 times as massive as Heat Shield Rock and several times too big to have landed intact without more braking than today s martian atmosphere could provide Consideration of existing model results indicates a meteorite this size requires a thicker atmosphere said rover team member Matt Golombek of NASA s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Either Mars has hidden reserves of carbon dioxide ice that can supply large amounts of carbon dioxide gas into the atmosphere during warm periods of more recent climate cycles or Block Island fell billions of years ago Spectrometer observations have already identified variations in the composition of Block Island at different points on the rock s surface The differences could result from interaction of the rock with the

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/mars/meteorite/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Ali Safaeinili, 1964–2009
    and many many friends and colleagues Born in Sari Iran Safaeinili always wanted to pursue his higher education in science and engineering in the United States and enrolled at Iowa State University in 1985 to study electrical engineering and computer science He completed his undergraduate studies in two and a half years by testing out of all the required math classes and finished his post doctorate work in 1995 At JPL for more than a decade Safaeinili pursued radar as a means to study ice on Earth and the planets An energetic and innovative scientist he participated in the design development testing and operation of the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding MARSIS still operating on Mars Express He also participated in the design and operation of the Shallow Subsurface Radar SHARAD currently orbiting Mars on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Active in the analysis of radar data Safaeinili served as the Investigation Scientist for the radar investigations on both projects In addition to earlier work on the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission SRTM he led and contributed to efforts to develop new VHF and HF radars for Earth observations and potential applications to Europa and other icy bodies Safaeinili

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/safaeinili/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Back to the Future: Space Shuttle Shows Tunguska Explosion was Caused by a Comet
    of impact is rare we are very fortunate to see it with Hubble said Amy Simon Miller of NASA s Goddard Space Flight Center Details seen in the Hubble view shows a lumpiness to the debris plume caused by turbulence in Jupiter s atmosphere The new Hubble images also confirm that a May servicing visit by space shuttle astronauts was a big success For the past several days Earth based telescopes have been trained on Jupiter To capture the unfolding drama 360 million miles away Matt Mountain director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore gave observation time to a team of astronomers led by Heidi Hammel of the Space Science Institute in Boulder Colorado Hubble s truly exquisite imaging capability has revealed an astonishing wealth of detail in the impact site Hammel said By combining these images with our groundbased data at other wavelengths our Hubble data will allow a comprehensive understanding of exactly what is happening to the impact debris Simon Miller estimated the diameter of the impacting object was the size of several football fields The force of the explosion on Jupiter was thousands of times more powerful than the suspected comet or asteroid that exploded

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/RareJupiterCollision/ (2016-02-15)
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  • MyMoon
    populate it with science content diverse media exhibits events and opportunities for involvement Through MyMoon the public can interact with lunar content that will inform them about NASA s lunar science research and missions and engage them in future plans for lunar exploration and eventual habitation Through MyMoon the public will have an opportunity to take surveys share their thoughts creations and experiences as they participate in online and web

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/myMoon/index.shtml (2016-02-15)
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  • LRO Spacecraft Sends First Lunar Images to Earth
    LRO LROC will gradually build up photographic maps of the lunar surface Our first images were taken along the Moon s terminator the dividing line between day and night making us initially unsure of how they would turn out said LROC Principal Investigator Mark Robinson of Arizona State University Because of the deep shadowing subtle topography is exaggerated suggesting a craggy and inhospitable surface In reality the area is similar to the region where the Apollo 16 astronauts safely explored in 1972 While these are magnificent in their own right the main message is that LROC is nearly ready to begin its mission LRO will help NASA identify safe landing sites for future explorers locate potential resources describe the Moon s radiation environment and demonstrate new technologies The satellite also has started to activate its six other instruments The Lunar Exploration Neutron Detector will look for regions with enriched hydrogen that potentially could have water ice deposits The Cosmic Ray Telescope for the Effects of Radiation is designed to measure the Moon s radiation environment Both were activated on June 19 and are functioning normally Instruments expected to be activated during the next week and calibrated are the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter designed to build three dimensional topographic maps of the Moon s landscape the Diviner Lunar Radiometer Experiment which will make temperature maps of the lunar surface and the Miniature Radio Frequency or Mini RF an experimental radar and radio transmitter that will search for subsurface ice and create detailed images of permanently shaded craters The final instrument the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project will be activated after the other instruments have completed their calibrations allowing more time for residual contaminants from the manufacture and launch of LRO to escape into the vacuum of space This instrument is an ultraviolet

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