Category: In the News

CSP Seminar Speaker: Robert T. Pappalardo (JPL)

May 2nd, 2011 in In the News

Speaker: Robert T. Pappalardo
Affiliation: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Title: Seeking Europa’s Ocean

Date: Thursday, May 5, 2011
Time: 3:30 PM Refreshments in CAS 500, 4:00 PM Talk
Place: 725 Commonwealth Ave. CAS 502

Abstract:
Galileo spacecraft data suggest that a global ocean exists beneath the frozen ice surface Jupiter’s moon Europa. Since the early 1970s, planetary scientists have used theoretical and observational arguments to deliberate the existence of an ocean within Europa and other large icy satellites. Galileo magnetometry data indicates an induced magnetic field at Europa, implying that a salt-water ocean exists today. A paucity of large craters argues for a surface on average only ~40–90 Myr old, and two multi-ring structures suggest impacts punched through an ice shell ~20 km thick. Europa’s ocean and surface are inherently linked through tidal deformation of the floating ice shell, and tidal flexing and nonsynchronous rotation may generate stresses that fracture and deform the surface to create ridges and bands. Dark spots, domes, and chaos terrain are probably related to tidally driven ice convection, along with partial melting within the ice shell. Europa’s geological activity and probable ocean-mantle contact could permit the chemical ingredients necessary for life to be present within the satellite’s ocean. Fascinating geology and geophysics, combined with high astrobiological potential, make Europa a top priority for future spacecraft exploration.

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CSP Seminar Speaker: Robert T. Pappalardo (JPL, CalTech)

May 2nd, 2011 in In the News

Speaker: Robert T. Pappalardo
Affiliation: Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

Title: Seeking Europa’s Ocean

Date: Thursday, May 5, 2011
Time: 3:30 PM Refreshments in CAS 500, 4:00 PM Talk
Place: 725 Commonwealth Ave. CAS 502

Abstract:
Galileo spacecraft data suggest that a global ocean exists beneath the frozen ice surface Jupiter’s moon Europa. Since the early 1970s, planetary scientists have used theoretical and observational arguments to deliberate the existence of an ocean within Europa and other large icy satellites. Galileo magnetometry data indicates an induced magnetic field at Europa, implying that a salt-water ocean exists today. A paucity of large craters argues for a surface on average only ~40–90 Myr old, and two multi-ring structures suggest impacts punched through an ice shell ~20 km thick. Europa’s ocean and surface are inherently linked through tidal deformation of the floating ice shell, and tidal flexing and nonsynchronous rotation may generate stresses that fracture and deform the surface to create ridges and bands. Dark spots, domes, and chaos terrain are probably related to tidally driven ice convection, along with partial melting within the ice shell. Europa’s geological activity and probable ocean-mantle contact could permit the chemical ingredients necessary for life to be present within the satellite’s ocean. Fascinating geology and geophysics, combined with high astrobiological potential, make Europa a top priority for future spacecraft exploration.

Professor Opher disccuses the Voyager Mission on NASA TV

April 29th, 2011 in In the News

See Merav Opher discuss the fascinating science behind the Voyager Mission and answer student’s questions on NASA TV! To see the entire video, visit: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/14333686.



Video streaming by Ustream

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CSP Seminar Speaker: James Clemmons (The Aerospace Corporation)

April 25th, 2011 in In the News

Speaker: James Clemmons
Affiliation: The Aerospace Corporation

Title: Recent Analyses of In-Situ Thermospheric Measurements

Date: Thursday, April 28, 2011
Time: 3:30 PM Refreshments in CAS 500, 4:00 PM Talk
Place: 725 Commonwealth Ave. CAS 502

Abstract:
Recent analysis of measurements returned by ionization gauges in the thermosphere are presented. These pressure sensors utilize modern electronics to provide good signal-to-noise ratios and have been used to reveal and understand thermospheric features using satellite- and rocket-based platforms. The presentation begins with an overview of the ionization technique and how it was employed on the Streak satellite. Analyses of the data returned by this instrument, called the IGS, from within the southern magnetospheric cusp and within the equatorial ionization anomaly are presented. These analyses give further understanding of the cusp upwelling phenomenon and the equatorial temperature and wind anomaly. Further analyses of data returned from a multiple-sensor ionization gauge carried into the lower thermosphere by a sounding rocket are also presented. The state of progress with utilizing these measurements to determine wind, temperature, and density profiles in the lower thermosphere is reported.

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NASA VOYAGER PANEL TO FEATURE BU ASTRONOMER MERAV OPHER

April 22nd, 2011 in In the News

NASA VOYAGER PANEL TO FEATURE BU ASTRONOMER MERAV OPHER
Experts review program’s findings as the twin probes approach interstellar space

(Boston) — On April 28, 2011, NASA will host an event about the 33-year journey of NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft to the edge of the solar system, which now are more than 10 billion miles away from the sun. Merav Opher, assistant professor of astronomy and a Voyager guest investigator, will be one of the panel members for the event, to be broadcast live on NASA TV.

The event celebrates the accomplishments of the Voyager mission as its two probes continue to explore an uncharted region located beyond the solar system’s known planets that forms the outer boundary of the solar bubble. In a few years, the probes will transition into the medium between stars known as interstellar space.

Panel members will discuss how a unique idea became scientific legend, the exotic region of space Voyagers are exploring right now and where they’re going, what it will mean to leave the sun’s sphere of influence, the vision that led to sending a message from Earth to possible life elsewhere in the galaxy, and Voyagers’ enduring impact.

Opher will address a number of the Voyager program’s significant findings and contributions to the exploration of space, including Voyager’s influence on the rising generation of scientists and the impact Voyager data have had on the scientific community at large. She also will describe her first experience with Voyager, share anecdotes about joining the Voyager team, and discuss her specific areas of interest in the Voyager data and her expectations going forward with the program.

“It’s a dream to be able to have direct access to the data that is revolutionizing our understanding of how stars interact with their surrounding media. It’s making us revisit our notions of the properties and what we know about sheaths and astrospheres,” says Opher.

Opher’s research has focused on how plasma and magnetic effects reveal themselves in astrophysical and space physics environments and, in particular, how stars interact with the surrounding media, how the solar system interacts with the local interstellar medium, and the interaction of extra-solar planets with their host stars. Opher notes that the Voyager data led to the discovery of how interstellar magnetic fields play a major role in shaping the heliosphere, producing assymetries that are measurable. “We are arriving at the notion that the magnetic field outside our home, earth, is strong and important enough to influence and shape its structure.”

Opher has been a pioneer in the use of advanced, 3D computational models to investigate stellar phenomena. She also has studied how magnetic disturbances are driven and propagate from the sun to earth. She has a PhD in astronomy from the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and received her postdoctoral training at the Plasma Group of the Physics Department at the University of California, Los Angeles. She also was a Caltech Scholar at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Before coming to Boston University, she was an associate professor of astronomy at George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia.

Other panel members include Ed Stone, Voyager project scientist and professor of physics, California Institute of Technology; Ann Druyan, creative director, Voyager Interstellar Message Project (Carl Sagan’s co-writer and widow); and Suzanne Dodd, Voyager project manager, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

NASA has invited elementary and high school classrooms to submit questions about the Voyager mission and interstellar space to the panel, some of which will be answered during the live NASA TV broadcast.

For additional information about the Voyager program and this event, visit http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/events/voyager.cfm, and
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/voyager/

About Boston University—Founded in 1839, Boston University is an internationally recognized institution of higher education and research. With more than 30,000 students, it is the fourth largest independent university in the United States. BU contains 17 colleges and schools along with a number of multi-disciplinary centers and institutes which are central to the school’s research and teaching mission.

CSP Seminar Speaker: Natchimuthuk Gopalswamy (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

April 11th, 2011 in In the News

Speaker: Natchimuthuk Gopalswamy
Affiliation: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Title: On interplanetary shocks driven by coronal mass ejections

Date: Thursday, April 14, 2011
Time: 3:30 PM Refreshments in CAS 500, 4:00 PM Talk
Place: 725 Commonwealth Ave. CAS 502

Abstract:
Traveling interplanetary (IP) shocks were first detected in the early 1960s, but their solar origin has been controversial. Early research focused on solar flares as the source of the shocks, but when CMEs were discovered, it became clear that fast CMEs are the shock drivers. Type radio II bursts are excellent signatures of shocks near the Sun (Type II radio bursts were known long before the detection of shocks and CMEs). The excellent correspondence between type II bursts and solar energetic particle (SEP) events made it clear that the same shock accelerates ions and electrons. Shocks near the Sun are also seen occasionally in white-light coronagraphic images. In the solar wind, shocks are observed as discontinuities in plasma parameters such as density and speed. Energetic storm particle events and sudden commencement of geomagnetic storm are also indicators of shocks arriving at Earth. After an overview on these shock signatures, I will summarize the results of a recent investigation of a large number of IP shocks. The study revealed that about 35% of IP shocks do not produce type II bursts (radio quiet) or SEPs. Comparing the RQ shocks with the radio loud (RL) ones revealed some interesting results: (1) There is no evidence for blast wave shocks. (2) A small fraction (20%) of RQ shocks is associated with ion enhancements at the shock when the shock passes the spacecraft. (3) The primary difference between the RQ and RL shocks can be traced to the different kinematic properties of the associated CMEs. On the other hand the shock properties measured at 1 AU are not too different for the RQ and RL cases. This can be attributed to the interaction with the IP medium, which seems to erase the difference between the shocks.

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CSP Seminar Speaker: Natchimuthuk Gopalswamy (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

April 11th, 2011 in In the News

Speaker: Natchimuthuk Gopalswamy
Affiliation: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Title: On Interplanetary Shocks Driven by Coronal Mass Ejections

Date: Thursday, April 14, 2011
Time: 3:30 PM Refreshments in CAS 500, 4:00 PM Talk
Place: 725 Commonwealth Ave. CAS 502

Abstract:
Traveling interplanetary (IP) shocks were first detected in the early 1960s, but their solar origin has been controversial. Early research focused on solar flares as the source of the shocks, but when CMEs were discovered, it became clear that fast CMEs are the shock drivers. Type radio II bursts are excellent signatures of shocks near the Sun (Type II radio bursts were known long before the detection of shocks and CMEs). The excellent correspondence between type II bursts and solar energetic particle (SEP) events made it clear that the same shock accelerates ions and electrons. Shocks near the Sun are also seen occasionally in white-light coronagraphic images. In the solar wind, shocks are observed as discontinuities in plasma parameters such as density and speed. Energetic storm particle events and sudden commencement of geomagnetic storm are also indicators of shocks arriving at Earth. After an overview on these shock signatures, I will summarize the results of a recent investigation of a large number of IP shocks. The study revealed that about 35% of IP shocks do not produce type II bursts (radio quiet) or SEPs. Comparing the RQ shocks with the radio loud (RL) ones revealed some interesting results: (1) There is no evidence for blast wave shocks. (2) A small fraction (20%) of RQ shocks is associated with ion enhancements at the shock when the shock passes the spacecraft. (3) The primary difference between the RQ and RL shocks can be traced to the different kinematic properties of the associated CMEs. On the other hand the shock properties measured at 1 AU are not too different for the RQ and RL cases. This can be attributed to the interaction with the IP medium, which seems to erase the difference between the shocks.

Alien Worlds with Professor Andrew West

April 7th, 2011 in In the News

Interested in understanding the possibility of life on other planets? Please read the BU Today article for more information on a new undergraduate course, AS 105, taught by Assistant Professor Andrew West. For more information please visit bu.edu/astronomy.

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CSP Graduate Students Help with Development of PICTURE Rocket

April 6th, 2011 in In the News

Dr. Tim Cook and Andrew Mandigo posing with the shutter door.

Dr. Tim Cook and Andrew Mandigo posing with the shutter door.

The Planet Imaging Concept Testbed Using Sounding Rocket (PICTURE) takes the first step towards direct imaging of exoplanets using nulling interferometers. It is a collaboration between Boston University (BU), Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and Charles Stark Draper Laboratory (Draper).

Many people contributed to the development of PICTURE, but none more so than two graduate students from Boston University. Christopher Mendillo developed the fine pointing system, flight software and acted as the lead for instrument development. Brian Hicks led the optics alignment, debugging, testing, calibration and validation. They both continue to be the BU representatives on test and integration activities at WFF.

Please click here for the full article.

CSP Seminar Speaker: Alan Aylward (UCL London)

April 4th, 2011 in In the News

Speaker: Alan Aylward
Affiliation: UCL London

Title: Characterisation of Exoplanets: The Next Step

Date: Thursday, April 7, 2011
Time: 3:30 PM Refreshments in CAS 500, 4:00 PM Talk
Place: 725 Commonwealth Ave. CAS 502

Abstract:
With over 500 exoplanets now detected and confirmed, and a list of several hundred more from Kepler awaiting confirmation, perhaps it is time to worry less about counting them and make more of an effort at characterisation. In the last week of February the European Space Agency announced the result of its down-selection of its next M-class mission. One of the 4 selected was EChO – the Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory which is designed to make measurements of the composition of the atmospheres of a range of exoplanets in size from Jovian down to “SuperEarth”. We will discuss how far characterisation of exoplanet atmospheres (and bodies) has come so far and what we expect of this new mission. We will also discuss briefly current work on 3-D global circulation models of Gas Giant exoplanets at UCL.