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  • Titan’s Surface Organics Surpass Oil Reserves on Earth
    to describe the complex organic molecules at the heart of prebiotic chemistry Cassini has mapped about 20 of Titan s surface with radar Several hundred lakes and seas have been observed with each of several dozen estimated to contain more hydrocarbon liquid than Earth s oil and gas reserves The dark dunes that run along the equator contain a volume of organics several hundred times larger than Earth s coal reserves Proven reserves of natural gas on Earth total 130 billion tons enough to provide 300 times the amount of energy the entire United States uses annually for residential heating cooling and lighting Dozens of Titan s lakes individually have the equivalent of at least this much energy in the form of methane and ethane This global estimate is based mostly on views of the lakes in the northern polar regions We have assumed the south might be similar but we really don t yet know how much liquid is there said Lorenz Cassini s radar has observed the south polar region only once and only two small lakes were visible Future observations of that area are planned during Cassini s proposed extended mission Scientists estimated Titan s lake depth by making some general assumptions based on lakes on Earth They took the average area and depth of lakes on Earth taking into account the nearby surroundings like mountains On Earth the lake depth is often 10 times less than the height of nearby terrain We also know that some lakes are more than 10 meters or so deep because they appear literally pitch black to the radar If they were shallow we d see the bottom and we don t said Lorenz The question of how much liquid is on the surface is an important one because methane is

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/titan/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Upcoming Rare Total Lunar Eclipse
    Sun s rays In contrast the inner shadow or umbra is a region where Earth blocks all direct sunlight from reaching the Moon thereby causing a total eclipse of the Moon From start to finish February s lunar eclipse will last about three hours and twenty six minutes not including the penumbral phases which are very difficult to see The partial eclipse begins as the Moon s eastern edge slowly moves into Earth s umbra shadow During the partial phases it takes just over an hour for the Moon s orbital motion to carry it entirely within the Earth s dark umbra The color and brightness of the totally eclipsed Moon can vary considerably from one eclipse to another Dark eclipses are caused by volcanic gas and dust which filters and blocks much of the Sun s light from reaching the Moon But since no major volcanic eruptions have recently taken place the Moon will probably take on a vivid red or orange color during the total phase After the total phase ends it is once again followed by a partial eclipse as the Moon gradually leaves the umbra shadow The total phase of a lunar eclipse is called totality At this time the Moon is completely immersed within Earth s dark umbra shadow During the February 20 eclipse totality will last just under 50 minutes During the five millennium period from 2000 BC through AD 3000 there have been 7718 eclipses of the Moon including both partial and total eclipses Generally up to three lunar eclipses partial or total occur each year The last time that three total lunar eclipses occurred in one calendar year was in 1982 The last total lunar eclipse visible from the entire continental United States occurred on August 28 2007 North Americans will have

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/eclipse/ (2016-02-15)
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  • LPI Career Development Award Recipients Announced
    to the following award winners whose hard work and distinguished achievements set them apart from an impressive field of competitors Jemma Davidson The Open University Samantha Jones University of Calgary Lauren Wye Stanford University Tasha Dunn University of Tennessee Melissa Rice Cornell University Shyama Narendranath Indian Space Research Organization Center The LPI is managed by the Universities Space Research Association USRA which operates programs and institutes focused on research and

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/cda_award/recipients_08/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Dr. Gordon McKay (1945–2008)
    was someone who epitomized being a civil servant Gordon s decades of research yielded numerous major contributions and international recognition in lunar and martian petrology and geochemistry most notably in the area of petrogenesis how the lunar rocks were formed He began his formal association with NASA in 1977 as a two year post doc He spent a year at Headquarters as a management fellow before permanently joining the NASA family at the Johnson Space Center Over his career Gordon served on and led innumerable review panels study teams and working groups In recent years he also developed close working relationships with Japanese researchers spending seven months at the University of Tokyo working on martian meteorites another area of his expertise Most recently Gordon was assisting NASA with its future lunar and Mars exploration plans In addition to his scientific contributions Gordon was a respected and well loved manager for nearly two decades in the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division at JSC fondly but firmly herding cats as he often described it to help NASA achieve its goals Gordon also had a passionate commitment to educating and inspiring young scientists mentoring dozens of interns and students over the years

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/mckay/index.shtml (2016-02-15)
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  • LPI Welcomes the Return of Dr. Paul Spudis
    petrology and the physical and chemical properties of lunar dust and regolith Spudis will add yet another dimension to the Institute s work in particular bringing his expertise in the interpretation of remote sensing data of the Moon I am looking forward to returning to my old home at the Institute I hope to be able to continue to support the LPI mission to explore the solar system and conduct research on lunar processes and history said Spudis Spudis was a Commissioner on the Presidential Commission on the Implementation of U S Space Exploration Policy in 2004 He also served as the deputy leader of the science team for the Department of Defense NASA Clementine mission to the Moon in 1994 Spudis is currently serving as the Principle Investigator of the mini RF radar imaging experiment on the Indian Chandrayaan 1 mission to the Moon and as a team member of the mini RF experiment on the U S Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission both scheduled for launch in 2008 The LPI is celebrating its 40th anniversary established in 1968 during the Apollo missions to nurture an emerging lunar and planetary science community Over the past four decades the Institute has

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/spudis/ (2016-02-15)
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  • NASA Spacecraft Streams Back Surprises from Mercury
    was near perfect and we are delighted that all of the science data are now on the ground Unlike the Moon MESSENGER showed that Mercury has huge cliffs with structures snaking up hundreds of miles across the planet s face These cliffs preserve a record of patterns of fault activity from early in the planet s history The spacecraft also revealed impact craters that appear very different from lunar craters Instruments provided a topographic profile of craters and other geological features on the night side of Mercury The spacecraft also discovered a unique feature that scientists dubbed The Spider This formation has never been previously seen on Mercury and nothing like it has ever been observed on the Moon It lies in the middle of a large impact crater known as the Caloris basin and consists of more than 100 narrow flat floored troughs radiating from a complex central region The Spider has a crater near its center but whether that crater is related to the original formation or came later is not clear at this time said James Head science team co investigator at Brown University in Providence Rhode Island Now that MESSENGER has shown scientists the full extent of the Caloris basin its diameter has been revised upward from the Mariner 10 estimate of 800 miles to perhaps as large as 960 miles from rim to rim The plains inside the Caloris basin are distinctive and more reflective than the exterior plains Impact basins on the Moon have opposite characteristics The magnetosphere and magnetic field of Mercury during the MESSENGER flyby appeared to be different from the Mariner 10 observations MESSENGER found the planet s magnetic field was generally quiet but showed several signatures indicating significant pressure within the magnetosphere Magnetic fields like Earth s and their resulting

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/messenger/01_31_08/ (2016-02-15)
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  • LPI Celebrates 40 Years
    more than 27 000 pageviews daily The Institute serves the lunar and planetary science community through its organization and sponsorship of seminars workshops and conferences such as the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference LPSC now in its 39th year In fact the LPI is involved in some way in many major meetings organized for and by the lunar and planetary science community The LPI also manages a world renowned summer intern program which is celebrating its 32nd anniversary Since 1977 the Institute has hosted 390 interns many of whom are now known throughout the lunar and planetary science community as leaders in their fields USRA is delighted to congratulate the LPI on its impressive heritage It is a strong vibrant Institute with an outstanding commitment to science and a bright and exciting future said Fred Tarantino President of the Universities Space Research Association USRA a consortium of universities created in 1969 to manage the LPI As part of its 40th anniversary celebration the Institute has planned a suite of activities that will highlight the Institute s rich heritage while looking forward to the exciting scientific discoveries made possible by NASA s Vision for Space Exploration and the host of science missions being flown by the world s space organizations One of the planned activities will be a 40th Anniversary Seminar Series Starting in January and running through the end of December the series will feature special guest speakers who have played important roles in the advancement of the Institute and will honor the world class scientists who have graced its halls over the past 40 years Some of the guest speakers include former astronaut and U S senator Dr Harrison Jack Schmitt former directors Dr Robert Pepin Dr James Head and Dr Roger Phillips former staff scientists Dr Paul Spudis

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/lpi_40th/ (2016-02-15)
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  • Asteroid to Make Rare Close Flyby of Earth
    time 3 33 a m Eastern time It should be observable that night by amateur astronomers with modest sized telescopes Asteroid 2007 TU24 was discovered by the NASA sponsored Catalina Sky Survey on Oct 11 2007 Scientists at NASA s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have determined that there is no possibility of an impact with Earth in the foreseeable future This will be the closest approach by a known asteroid of this size or larger until 2027 said Don Yeomans manager of the Near Earth Object Program Office at JPL As its closest approach is about one and a half times the distance of Earth to the Moon there is no reason for concern On the contrary Mother Nature is providing us an excellent opportunity to perform scientific observations Asteroid 2007 TU24 will reach an approximate apparent magnitude 10 3 on Jan 29 30 before quickly becoming fainter as it moves farther from Earth On that night the asteroid will be observable in dark and clear skies through amateur telescopes with apertures of at least 7 6 centimeters 3 inches An object with a magnitude of 10 3 is about 50 times fainter than

    Original URL path: http://www.lpi.usra.edu/features/asteroid_2007_tu24/ (2016-02-15)
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