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Posts Tagged ‘southwest research institute’

LRO’s LAMP Reveals Lunar Surface Features

January 17, 2012 Leave a comment

New maps produced by the Lyman Alpha Mapping Project aboard NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter reveal features at the Moon’s northern and southern poles in regions that lie in perpetual darkness. LAMP, developed by Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), uses a novel method to peer into these so-called permanently shadowed regions (PSRs), making visible the invisible. LAMP’s principal investigator is Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division.

The LAMP maps show that many PSRs are darker at far-ultraviolet wavelengths and redder than nearby surface areas that receive sunlight. The darker regions are consistent with large surface porosities — indicating “fluffy” soils — while the reddening is consistent with the presence of water frost on the surface.

Full Story: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2012/lamp.htm

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Evidence for Complex Molecules on Pluto’s Surface

December 20, 2011 Leave a comment

The new and highly sensitive Cosmic Origins Spectrograph aboard the Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a strong ultraviolet-wavelength absorber on Pluto’s surface, providing new evidence that points to the possibility of complex hydrocarbon and/or nitrile molecules lying on the surface, according to a paper recently published in the Astronomical Journal by researchers from Southwest Research Institute and Nebraska Wesleyan University.

Such chemical species can be produced by the interaction of sunlight or cosmic rays with Pluto’s known surface ices, including methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen.

The project, led by SwRI’s Dr. Alan Stern, also included SwRI researchers Dr. John Spencer and Adam Shinn, and Nebraska Wesleyan University researchers Dr. Nathaniel Cunningham and student Mitch Hain.

Full Story: http://www.swri.org/9what/releases/2011/pluto.htm

NASA Mars-Bound Rover Begins Research in Space

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

NASA’s car-sized Curiosity rover has begun monitoring space radiation during its 8-month trip from Earth to Mars. The research will aid in planning for future human missions to the Red Planet.

Curiosity launched on Nov. 26 from Cape Canaveral, Fla., aboard the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). The rover carries an instrument called the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) that monitors high-energy atomic and subatomic particles from the sun, distant supernovas and other sources.

These particles constitute radiation that could be harmful to any microbes or astronauts in space or on Mars. The rover also will monitor radiation on the surface of Mars after its August 2012 landing.

“RAD is serving as a proxy for an astronaut inside a spacecraft on the way to Mars,” said Don Hassler, RAD’s principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo.”The instrument is deep inside the spacecraft, the way an astronaut would be. Understanding the effects of the spacecraft on the radiation field will be valuable in designing craft for astronauts to travel to Mars.”

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2011/dec/HQ_11-414_Mars_Research.html