Friday, July 31, 2009

Saturnian Moon Shows Evidence of Ammonia

Saturn's moon Enceladus Saturn's moon Enceladus, seen by the Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute Data collected during two close flybys of Saturn's moon Enceladus by NASA's Cassini spacecraft add more fuel to the fire about the Saturnian ice world containing sub-surface liquid water.

The data collected by Cassini's Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer during Enceladus flybys in July and Oct. 2008, were released in the July 23 issue of the journal Nature. "When Cassini flew through the plume erupting from Enceladus on October 8 of last year, our spectrometer was able to sniff out many complex chemicals, including organic ones, in the vapor and icy particles," said Hunter Waite, the Cassini Ion and Neutral Mass Spectrometer Lead Scientist from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas.

"One of the chemicals definitively identified was ammonia."On Earth, the presence of ammonia means the potential for sparkling clean floors and counter tops. In space, the presence of ammonia provides strong evidence for the existence of at least some liquid water.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Signals from GPS satellites

The Radio Occultation technique uses radio signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites as the signals pass through the edge of the atmosphere. The atmosphere bends radio signals which graze the Earth at a shallow angle, when the signals are nearly tangent to the Earth.

A second satellite receives the signals, and can observe slight changes in the time that the signal is received. These timing shifts indicate how much a signal has been bent, which is related to subtle changes in air density, caused by changes in the temperature or moisture of air layers. These satellite measurements of radio refractivity of the atmosphere (or what is equivalent, measurements of the bending angle of the radio signals) complement conventional satellite measurements of temperature, when both are assimilated in numerical weather prediction models.

At the Joint Center for Satellite Data Assimilation, National Weather Service and NESDIS / STAR scientists have developed methods to use these bending angle and refractive index measurements from GPS satellites in the Global Forecast System (GFS) model. Observations from the "German Challenging Satellite Payload" (CHAMP) mission have been used successfully to test these methods. New tests with near-real-time data from the "Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere and Climate" (COSMIC) satellite have been promising.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spitzer Space Telescope

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has put its infrared eyes back on the sky to observe the cold and dusty universe. The telescope ran out of liquid coolant on May 15, 2009, after more than five-and-a-half years of observations.

Two of its infrared channels are working at full capacity at the observatory's new "warm" temperature of approximately 30 Kelvin (minus 406 degrees Fahrenheit) -- still quite chilly by our Earthly standards. Engineers and scientists have been busy recalibrating the telescope and making preparations for Spitzer's new era of science.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Global Positioning System(GPS)

It’s eleven o'clock ... do you know where your kids are? Would you like to? One way to track them would be to have a GPS receiver installed in the car! The GPS, or Global Positioning System, is one of the newest technologies around, and no wonder. Consider these diverse uses:

* Minnesota scientists use GPS to study movements and feeding habits of deer.

* Surveyors used GPS to measure how the buildings shifted after the bombing in Oklahoma City.

* GPS help settle property disputes between land owners.

* Marine archaeologists use GPS to guide research vessels hunting for shipwrecks.

* GPS data has revealed that Mt. Everest is getting taller!

* GPS data has revealed that Mt. Everest is getting taller!

GPS answers five questions concurrently:

1. "Where am I?"

2. "Where am I going?"

3. "Where are you?"

4. "What's the best way to get there?

5. "When will I get there?"

GPS is the only scheme today that can show your exact place on the Earth anytime, in any weather, no matter where you are!

Friday, July 24, 2009

NNI Research Centers

A highly significant impact of the NNI has been the focused investment by the NNI-participating agencies in the establishment and development of multidisciplinary research and education centers devoted to nanoscience and nanotechnology. NNI agencies have developed an extensive infrastructure of over 60 major interdisciplinary research and education centers and user facilities across the country. Many such centers, with state of the art equipment for nanoscale S&T research, are designated as user facilities and are available to researchers from academia and the private sector, and to scientists at the national laboratories.

NNI Centers and Networks of Excellence

Government funds for nanotechnology research have created some of the most sophisticated nanoscience laboratories in the world. In addition to providing the facilities, the National Nanotechnology Initiative also has created programs to attract researchers across an array of disciplines and to facilitate discoveries.

Research at Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN)

Centers and networks provide opportunities and support for multidisciplinary research among investigators from a variety of disciplines and from different research sectors, including academia, industry and government laboratories. Such multidisciplinary research not only leads to advances in knowledge, but also fosters relationships that enhance the transition of basic research results to devices and other applications. All agency centers and networks created under NNI auspices over the last seven years are listed here, organized by funding agency.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act

The Eagle Act (16 U.S.C. 668-668c), enacted in 1940, and amended several times since
then, prohibits anyone, without a permit issued by the Secretary of the Interior, from
“taking” bald eagles, including their parts, nests, or eggs. The Act provides criminal and
civil penalties for persons who “take, possess, sell, purchase, barter, offer to sell,
purchase or barter, transport, export or import, at any time or any manner, any bald eagle
... [or any golden eagle], alive or dead, or any part, nest, or egg thereof.” The Act defines
“take” as “pursue, shoot, shoot at, poison, wound, kill, capture, trap, collect, molest or
disturb.” “Disturb’’ means:

"Disturb means to agitate or bother a bald or golden eagle to a degree that
causes, or is likely to cause, based on the best scientific information available,
1) injury to an eagle, 2) a decrease in its productivity, by substantially interfering
with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior, or 3) nest abandonment,
by substantially interfering with normal breeding, feeding, or sheltering behavior."

In addition to immediate impacts, this definition also covers impacts that result from
human-induced alterations initiated around a previously used nest site during a time when
eagles are not present, if, upon the eagle=s return, such alterations agitate or bother an
eagle to a degree that injures an eagle or substantially interferes with normal breeding,
feeding, or sheltering habits and causes, or is likely to cause, a loss of productivity or nest

A violation of the Act can result in a criminal fine of $100,000 ($200,000 for organizations),
imprisonment for one year, or both, for a first offense. Penalties increase substantially for
additional offenses, and a second violation of this Act is a felony.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Total Solar Eclipse of 2009 July 22

On Wednesday, 2009 July 22, a total eclipse of the Sun is visible from within a narrow corridor that traverses half of Earth. The path of the Moon's umbral shadow begins in India and crosses through Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and China. After leaving mainland Asia, the path crosses Japan's Ryukyu Islands and curves southeast through the Pacific Ocean where the maximum duration of totality reaches 6 min 39 s. A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path of the Moon's penumbral shadow, which includes most of eastern Asia, Indonesia, and the Pacific Ocean.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Astronaut Safety Gets Max Attention

NASA's next generation of spacecraft will have the safest-ever astronaut escape system, a modern-day version of the reliable Apollo system. Like Apollo, the Orion launch abort system will swiftly propel the crew capsule away from the nose of the Ares I rocket and out of harm's way in case of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent to orbit. Launch of the Max Launch Abort System at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility July 8, 2009 . Credit: NASA/Gary Banziger (flv). Also, as was the practice at times during development of key Apollo elements, while NASA engineers are working on the Orion launch abort system, another NASA team is investigating an alternate launch abort concept. The alternate system, called Max Launch Abort System, or MLAS, was successfully tested in a simulated pad abort test at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island , Va. , July 8. NASA's Constellation Program has three years toward designing the Orion crew exploration vehicle and the Ares launch vehicles that will return humans to the moon to live and work. The spacecraft designs are based on the technical principles established during the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs - yet incorporates the latest technology to expand the spacecraft's operational flexibility. The Orion launch abort system offers a proven method of pulling the crew out of danger in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the climb to Earth orbit.

MLAS is of potential interest because it is theorized to have aerodynamic performance benefits, weight savings and be relatively simple in some spacecraft applications. Much of the potential gains would be accomplished by eliminating the launch abort tower, which also means eliminating the attitude control motors. The MLAS demonstration vehicle consists of a full-scale composite fairing, a full-scale crew module simulator and four solid rocket abort motors mounted in the boost skirt with motor mass simulators in the forward fairing. Test items of interest began at the seven second mark with burnout of the solid motors. The test is primarily a demonstration of unpowered flight along a stable trajectory, MLAS vehicle reorientation and stabilization, followed by crew module simulator separation from the MLAS fairing, stabilization and the parachute recovery of the crew module simulator. MLAS is the first demonstration of a passively-stabilized launch abort system on a vehicle in this size and weight class. It is the first attempt to acquire full-scale aero-acoustic data -- the measurement of potentially harmful noise levels due to the capsule moving through the air at high speeds -- from a faired capsule in flight. It also is the first to demonstrate full scale fairing and crew module separation and collect associated aerodynamic and orientation data. In addition, data from the parachute element will help validate simulation tools and techniques for Orion's parachute system development

Chandra offers for cold dark matter


Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to make the most detailed probe yet of the distribution of dark matter in a massive cluster of galaxies. Their results indicate that about 80 percent of the matter in the universe consists of cold dark matter — mysterious subatomic particles left over from the dense early universe. The Ma Astronomers have used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to make the most detailed probe yet of the distribution of dark matter in a massive cluster of galaxies. Their results indicate that about 80 percent of the matter in the universe consists of cold dark matter - mysterious subatomic particles left over from the dense early universe.

Chandra observed a cluster of galaxies called Abell 2029 located about a billion light years from Earth. The cluster is composed of thousands of galaxies enveloped in a gigantic cloud of hot gas, and an amount of dark matter equivalent to more than a hundred trillion Suns. At the center of this cluster is an enormous, elliptically shaped galaxy that is thought to have been formed from the mergers of many smaller galaxies. The X-ray data show that the density of dark matter increases smoothly all the way into the central galaxy of the cluster. This discovery agrees with the predictions of cold dark matter models, and is contrary to other dark matter models that predict a leveling off of the amount of dark matter in the center of the cluster.

"I was really surprised at how well we could measure the dark matter so deep into the core of a rich cluster," said Aaron Lewis of the University of California, Irvine, lead author of a paper describing the results in a recent issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "We still have very little idea as to the exact nature of these particles, but our results show that they must behave like cold dark matter."

Cold dark matter gets its name from the assumption that the dark matter particles were moving slowly when galaxies and galaxy clusters began to form. Dark matter particles interact with each other and "normal" matter only through gravity.

The astronomers' success in placing such tight constraints on the dark matter distribution was partly due to Chandra's ability to make a high-resolution intensity and temperature map, and partly due to their choice of a target. The cluster and central galaxy are unusually regular, with little or no sign of disturbance .

source : nasa news