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NASA’s Juno Spacecraft Hears Amateur Radio Operators Say ‘Hi’

December 11, 2013 1 comment

Photo by Tim Schoon

Photo by Tim Schoon

Thousands of amateur (ham) radio operators around the world were able to say “Hi” to NASA’s Juno spacecraft Oct. 9 as it swung past Earth on its way to Jupiter.

According to Donald Kirchner, University of Iowa research engineer on Juno and one of the coordinators of the all-volunteer “Say Hi to Juno” project, all licensed amateur radio operators were invited to participate by visiting a website and following posted instructions.

“The idea was to coordinate the efforts of amateur radio operators all over the world, and send a message in Morse code that could be received by the University of Iowa-designed-and-built instrument on the Juno spacecraft,” he says. “We know that over a thousand participated, and probably many more than that.”

Link To Full Story

Herschel Links Water In Jupiter’s Stratosphere To 1994 Comet Impact


Distribution of water in Jupiter's stratosphere. Credit: Water map: ESA/Herschel/T. Cavalié et al.; Jupiter image: NASA/ESA/Reta Beebe (New Mexico State University)

Distribution of water in Jupiter’s stratosphere. Credit: Water map: ESA/Herschel/T. Cavalié et al.; Jupiter image: NASA/ESA/Reta Beebe (New Mexico State University)

Astronomers have finally found direct proof that almost all water present in Jupiter’s stratosphere was delivered by comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which struck the planet in 1994. The result is based on new data from Herschel that revealed more water in Jupiter’s southern hemisphere, where the impacts occurred, than in the north as well as probing the vertical distribution of water in the planet’s stratosphere.

The origin of water in the upper atmospheres of the Solar System’s giant planets has been debated for almost two decades. Astronomers were quite surprised at the discovery of water in the stratosphere – an intermediate atmospheric layer – of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, which dates to observations performed with ESA’s Infrared Space Observatory (ISO) in 1997. While the source of water in the lower layers of their atmospheres can be explained as internal, the presence of this molecule in their upper atmospheric layers is puzzling due to the scarcity of oxygen there – its supply must have an external origin. Since then, astronomers have investigated several possible candidates that may have delivered water to these planets, from icy rings and satellites to interplanetary dust particles and cometary impacts.

Answers are now starting to flow in from studies using ESA’s Herschel space observatory. Herschel boasts unprecedented sensitivity as well as high spatial and spectral resolution at the far-infrared wavelengths, where many water emission lines can be observed.

Full Story: http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=51720
Also: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Herschel/Herschel_links_Jupiter_s_water_to_comet_impact
Also: http://www.aanda.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=922&Itemid=277

Where Are The Best Windows Into Europa’s Interior?


The surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa exposes material churned up from inside the moon and also material resulting from matter and energy coming from above. If you want to learn about the deep saltwater ocean beneath this unusual world’s icy shell — as many people do who are interested in possible extraterrestrial life — you might target your investigation of the surface somewhere that has more of the up-from-below stuff and less of the down-from-above stuff.

New analysis of observations made more than a decade ago by NASA’s Galileo mission to Jupiter helps identify those places.

“We have found the regions where charged electrons and ions striking the surface would have done the most, and the least, chemical processing of materials emplaced at the surface from the interior ocean,” said J. Brad Dalton of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., lead author of the report published recently in the journal Planetary and Space Science. “That tells us where to look for materials representing the most pristine ocean composition, which would be the best places to target with a lander or study with an orbiter.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-134

Mapping The Chemistry Needed For Life At Europa


A new paper led by a NASA researcher shows that hydrogen peroxide is abundant across much of the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The authors argue that if the peroxide on the surface of Europa mixes into the ocean below, it could be an important energy supply for simple forms of life, if life were to exist there. The paper was published online recently in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“Life as we know it needs liquid water, elements like carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulfur, and it needs some form of chemical or light energy to get the business of life done,” said Kevin Hand, the paper’s lead author, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “Europa has the liquid water and elements, and we think that compounds like peroxide might be an important part of the energy requirement. The availability of oxidants like peroxide on Earth was a critical part of the rise of complex, multicellular life.”

Full Story: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-126

Scientists To Io: Your Volcanoes Are In The Wrong Place


Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

Jupiter’s moon Io is the most volcanically active world in the Solar System, with hundreds of volcanoes, some erupting lava fountains up to 250 miles high. However, concentrations of volcanic activity are significantly displaced from where they are expected to be based on models that predict how the moon’s interior is heated, according to NASA and European Space Agency researchers.

Io is caught in a tug-of-war between Jupiter’s massive gravity and the smaller but precisely timed pulls from two neighboring moons that orbit further from Jupiter – Europa and Ganymede. Io orbits faster than these other moons, completing two orbits every time Europa finishes one, and four orbits for each one Ganymede makes. This regular timing means that Io feels the strongest gravitational pull from its neighboring moons in the same orbital location, which distorts Io’s orbit into an oval shape. This in turn causes Io to flex as it moves around Jupiter.

The question remains regarding exactly how this tidal heating affects the moon’s interior. Some propose it heats up the deep interior, but the prevailing view is that most of the heating occurs within a relatively shallow layer under the crust, called the asthenosphere. The asthenosphere is where rock behaves like putty, slowly deforming under heat and pressure.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/io-volcanoes-displaced.html

Astronomers Open Window Into Europa’s Ocean


Artist's concept. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Artist’s concept. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

With data collected from the mighty W. M. Keck Observatory, California Institute of Technology (Caltech) astronomer Mike Brown — known as the Pluto killer for discovering a Kuiper-belt object that led to the demotion of Pluto from planetary status — and Kevin Hand from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) have found the strongest evidence yet that salty water from the vast liquid ocean beneath Europa’s frozen exterior actually makes its way to the surface.

The data suggests there is a chemical exchange between the ocean and surface, making the ocean a richer chemical environment, and implies that learning more about the ocean could be as simple as analyzing the moon’s surface. The work is described in a paper that has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

The findings were derived from spectroscopy delivered from the Keck Observatory, which operates the largest and most scientifically productive telescopes on Earth.

“We now have the best spectrum of this thing in the world,” Brown says. “Nobody knew there was this little dip in the spectrum because no one had the resolution to zoom in on it before.”

Full Story: http://keckobservatory.org/news/keck_observatory_helps_open_window_into_europas_ocean
Also: http://www.caltech.edu/content/window-europas-ocean-lies-right-surface

ESA Chooses Instruments For Its Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer

February 23, 2013 Leave a comment

The JUpiter ICy moons Explorer mission, JUICE, will carry a total of 11 scientific experiments to study the gas giant planet and its large ocean-bearing moons, ESA announced today.

JUICE is the first Large-class mission in ESA’s Cosmic Vision 2015–2025 programme. Planned for launch in 2022 and arrival at Jupiter in 2030, it will spend at least three years making detailed observations of the biggest planet in the Solar System and three of its largest moons, Ganymede, Callisto and Europa.

These moons are thought to harbour vast water oceans beneath their icy surfaces and JUICE will map their surfaces, sound their interiors and assess their potential for hosting life in their oceans.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/ESA_chooses_instruments_for_its_Jupiter_icy_moons_explorer
Also: http://www.bis.gov.uk/ukspaceagency/news-and-events/2013/Feb/uk-led-instrument-selected-for-europes-jupiter-mission
Also: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2013/feb/HQ_13-060_JUICE_Instruments.html
Also: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2013/juice.htm