The forces of rotation caused red hot masses of stones to be torn away from the Earth and to be thrown into the ether, and this is the origin of the stars.

— Anaxagoras 428 BC

NASA

Breaking the Scaling Limits: New Ultralow-noise Superconducting Camera for Exoplanet Searches

NASA - Breaking News - Tue, 05/07/2024 - 10:48am
6 Min Read Breaking the Scaling Limits: New Ultralow-noise Superconducting Camera for Exoplanet Searches

When imaging faint objects such as distant stars or exoplanets, capturing every last bit of light is crucial to get the most out of a scientific mission. These cameras must be extremely low-noise, and be able to detect the smallest quantities of light—single photons.  Superconducting cameras excel in both of these criteria, but have historically not been widely applicable because their camera sizes have been small, rarely exceeding a few thousand pixels, which limits their ability to capture high-resolution images.  However, a team of researchers has recently shattered that barrier, developing a superconducting camera with 400,000 pixels, which could be used to detect faint astronomical signals in a wide range of wavelengths—from the ultraviolet to the infrared.

The 400,000 pixel superconducting camera based on superconducting-nanowire single photon detectors Credit: Adam McCaughan/NIST

While plenty of other camera technologies exist, cameras using superconducting detectors are very appealing for use in astronomical missions due to their extremely low-noise operation.  When imaging faint sources, it is crucial that a camera report the quantity of received light faithfully, and not skew the amount of light received or inject its own false signals.   Superconducting detectors are more than capable of this task, owing to their low-temperature operation and unique composition. As described by project lead Dr. Adam McCaughan, “with these detectors you could take data all day long, capturing billions of photons, and fewer than ten of those photons would be the result of noise.”

NIST team members Bakhrom Oripov (left) and Ryan Morgenstern (right) mount the superconducting camera to a specialized cryogenic stage Credit: Adam McCaughan/NIST

But while superconducting detectors hold great promise for astronomical applications, their usage in that field has been stymied by small camera sizes that permit relatively few pixels.  Because these detectors are so sensitive, it is difficult to pack a lot of them into a small area without them interfering with each other.  In addition, since these detectors need to be kept cold in a cryogenic refrigerator, only a handful of wires can be used to carry the signals from the camera to the warmer readout electronics.

To overcome these limitations, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), and the University of Colorado Boulder applied time-domain multiplexing technology to the interrogation of two-dimensional superconducting-nanowire single photon detector (SNSPD) arrays. The individual SNSPD nanowires are arranged as intersecting rows and columns. When a photon arrives, the times it takes to trigger a row detector and a column detector are measured to ascertain which pixel sent the signal. This method allows the camera to efficiently encode its many rows and columns onto just a few readout wires instead of thousands of wires. 

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This animation depicts the newly developed readout system that made it possible for researchers to build a 400,000 single-wire superconducting camera, the highest resolution camera of its type.Credit: S. Kelley/NIST

SNSPDs are one type of detector in a collection of many such superconducting detector technologies, including microwave kinetic inductance detectors (MKID), transition-edge sensors (TES), and quantum capacitance detectors (QCD).  SNSPDs are unique in that they are able to operate much warmer than the millikelvin temperatures required by those other technologies, and can have extremely good timing resolution, although they are not able to resolve the color of individual photons.  SNSPDs have been collaboratively researched by NIST, JPL, and others in the community for almost two decades, and this most recent work was only possible thanks to the advances generated by the wider superconducting detector community.

Once the team implemented this readout architecture, they found it immediately became straightforward to construct superconducting cameras with extremely large numbers of pixels. As described by technical lead Dr. Bakhrom Oripov, “The big advance here is that the detectors are truly independent, so if you want a camera with more pixels, you just add more detectors to the chip.” The researchers note that while their recent project was a 400,000 pixel device, they also have an upcoming demonstration of a device with over a million pixels, and have not found an upper limit yet. 

One of the most exciting things that the researchers think their camera could be useful for is a search for Earth-like planets outside of our solar system. To detect these planets successfully, future space telescopes will observe distant stars and look for tiny portions of reflected or emitted light coming from orbiting planets. Detecting and analyzing these signals is extremely challenging and requires very long exposures, which means that every photon collected by the telescope is very valuable. A reliable, low-noise camera will be critical to detect these incredibly small quantities of light.

JPL team members with two prototype cryocoolers that will be used to test the superconducting camera at far-ultraviolet wavelengths. From left to right, Emanuel Knehr, Boris Korzh, Jason Allmaras, and Andrew Beyer Credit: Boris Korzh/NASA JPL

SNSPD cameras can also be used on Earth to detect optical communication signals from missions in deep space. In fact, NASA is currently demonstrating this capability via the Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) project, which is the first demonstration of free-space optical communication from interplanetary space. DSOC is sending data from a spacecraft called Psyche—which was launched on October 13 and is on its way to the Psyche asteroid—to an SNSPD-based ground terminal at Palomar Observatory. Optical links can transmit data at a much higher rate than radio frequency links from interplanetary distances. The excellent timing resolution of the camera developed for the ground station receiving Psyche data allows it to decode optical data from the spacecraft, which enables much more data to be received in a given time than if radio signals were employed.

These sensors will also be useful for many applications on Earth. Because the operating wavelength of this camera is very flexible, it could be optimized for applications in biomedical imaging to detect faint signals from cells and molecules, which were previously not detectable. Dr. McCaughan noted, “We would love to get these cameras in the hands of neuroscientists. This technology could provide them with a new tool to study our brains, in a completely non-intrusive way.”

Finally, the rapidly growing field of quantum technology, which promises to change the way we secure communications and transactions as well as the way we simulate and optimize complex processes, also stands to gain from this exciting technology. A single photon can be used to transfer or compute a single bit of quantum information. Many companies and governments are currently trying to scale up quantum computers and communication links and access to a single-photon camera that is so easily scalable, could overcome one of the major hurdles to unlocking the full potential of quantum technologies.

According to the research team, the next steps will be to take this initial demonstration and optimize it for space applications.  “Right now, we have a proof-of-concept demonstration,” says co-project lead Dr. Boris Korzh, “but we’ll need to optimize it to show its full potential.” The research team is currently planning ultra-high-efficiency camera demonstrations that will validate the utility of this new technology in both the ultraviolet and the infrared.

PROJECT LEADS

Dr. Adam McCaughan (NIST) and Dr. Boris Korzh (JPL)

SPONSORING ORGANIZATIONS

Astrophysics Research and Analysis (APRA) Program, DARPA Invisible Headlight Program

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Astronaut Suni Williams Prepares for Crew Flight Test

NASA Image of the Day - Mon, 05/06/2024 - 3:21pm
During a mission dress rehearsal, NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test astronaut Suni Williams flashes a thumbs up in her Boeing spacesuit inside the crew suit-up room inside the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Friday, April 26, 2024. As part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, Williams and fellow NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore are the first to launch to the International Space Station aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. Liftoff atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station is scheduled for 10:34 p.m. ET Monday, May 6.
Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Astronaut Suni Williams Prepares for Crew Flight Test

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/06/2024 - 3:18pm
NASA/Frank Micheaux

NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test astronaut Suni Williams gives a thumbs up during a mission dress rehearsal on Friday, April 26, 2024, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Williams was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1998 and has been aboard the International Space Station twice. She is set to return to the space station for a third time, traveling aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft as pilot. NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore will also be aboard as commander. Starliner is scheduled to liftoff atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at nearby Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 10:34 p.m. ET Monday, May 6. NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test is one of the final flight tests for Starliner on its road to certification.

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New NASA Black Hole Visualization Takes Viewers Beyond the Brink

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/06/2024 - 1:00pm

5 min read

New NASA Black Hole Visualization Takes Viewers Beyond the Brink

Ever wonder what happens when you fall into a black hole? Now, thanks to a new, immersive visualization produced on a NASA supercomputer, viewers can plunge into the event horizon, a black hole’s point of no return.

In this visualization of a flight toward a supermassive black hole, labels highlight many of the fascinating features produced by the effects of general relativity along the way. Produced on a NASA supercomputer, the simulation tracks a camera as it approaches, briefly orbits, and then crosses the event horizon — the point of no return — of a monster black hole much like the one at the center of our galaxy. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman and B. Powell
View the plunge in 360 video on YouTube

“People often ask about this, and simulating these difficult-to-imagine processes helps me connect the mathematics of relativity to actual consequences in the real universe,” said Jeremy Schnittman, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who created the visualizations. “So I simulated two different scenarios, one where a camera — a stand-in for a daring astronaut — just misses the event horizon and slingshots back out, and one where it crosses the boundary, sealing its fate.”

The visualizations are available in multiple forms. Explainer videos act as sightseeing guides, illuminating the bizarre effects of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Versions rendered as 360-degree videos let viewers look all around during the trip, while others play as flat all-sky maps.

To create the visualizations, Schnittman teamed up with fellow Goddard scientist Brian Powell and used the Discover supercomputer at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation. The project generated about 10 terabytes of data — equivalent to roughly half of the estimated text content in the Library of Congress — and took about 5 days running on just 0.3% of Discover’s 129,000 processors. The same feat would take more than a decade on a typical laptop.

The destination is a supermassive black hole with 4.3 million times the mass of our Sun, equivalent to the monster located at the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

“If you have the choice, you want to fall into a supermassive black hole,” Schnittman explained. “Stellar-mass black holes, which contain up to about 30 solar masses,  possess much smaller event horizons and stronger tidal forces, which can rip apart approaching objects before they get to the horizon.”

This occurs because the gravitational pull on the end of an object nearer the black hole is much stronger than that on the other end. Infalling objects stretch out like noodles, a process astrophysicists call spaghettification.

The simulated black hole’s event horizon spans about 16 million miles (25 million kilometers), or about 17% of the distance from Earth to the Sun. A flat, swirling cloud of hot, glowing gas called an accretion disk surrounds it and serves as a visual reference during the fall. So do glowing structures called photon rings, which form closer to the black hole from light that has orbited it one or more times. A backdrop of the starry sky as seen from Earth completes the scene.

Tour an alternative visualization that tracks a camera as it approaches, falls toward, briefly orbits, and escapes a supermassive black hole. This immersive 360-degree version allows viewers to look around during the flight. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/J. Schnittman and B. Powell
View the flyby explainer on YouTube

As the camera approaches the black hole, reaching speeds ever closer to that of light itself, the glow from the accretion disk and background stars becomes amplified in much the same way as the sound of an oncoming racecar rises in pitch. Their light appears brighter and whiter when looking into the direction of travel.

The movies begin with the camera located nearly 400 million miles (640 million kilometers) away, with the black hole quickly filling the view. Along the way, the black hole’s disk, photon rings, and the night sky become increasingly distorted — and even form multiple images as their light traverses the increasingly warped space-time.

In real time, the camera takes about 3 hours to fall to the event horizon, executing almost two complete 30-minute orbits along the way. But to anyone observing from afar, it would never quite get there. As space-time becomes ever more distorted closer to the horizon, the image of the camera would slow and then seem to freeze just shy of it. This is why astronomers originally referred to black holes as “frozen stars.”

At the event horizon, even space-time itself flows inward at the speed of light, the cosmic speed limit. Once inside it, both the camera and the space-time in which it’s moving rush toward the black hole’s center — a one-dimensional point called a singularity, where the laws of physics as we know them cease to operate.

“Once the camera crosses the horizon, its destruction by spaghettification is just 12.8 seconds away,” Schnittman said. From there, it’s only 79,500 miles (128,000 kilometers) to the singularity. This final leg of the voyage is over in the blink of an eye.

In the alternative scenario, the camera orbits close to the event horizon but it never crosses over and escapes to safety. If an astronaut flew a spacecraft on this 6-hour round trip while her colleagues on a mothership remained far from the black hole, she’d return 36 minutes younger than her colleagues. That’s because time passes more slowly near a strong gravitational source and when moving near the speed of light.

“This situation can be even more extreme,” Schnittman noted. “If the black hole were rapidly rotating, like the one shown in the 2014 movie ‘Interstellar,’ she would return many years younger than her shipmates.”


Download high-resolution video and images from NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

By Francis Reddy
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Media Contact:
Claire Andreoli
301-286-1940
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

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A Different Perspective – Remembering James Dean, Founder of the NASA Art Program

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/06/2024 - 12:08pm
Artist James Dean prepares sketches of the space shuttle Columbia as it sits on Pad 39 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on April 9, 1981, waiting for its first historic flight (STS-1).NASA

In March 1962, NASA Administrator James Webb addressed a two-paragraph memorandum to NASA Public Affairs Director Hiden T. Cox about the possibility of bringing in artists to highlight the agency’s achievements in a new way. In it, he wrote, “We should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the … historic events” of America’s initial steps into space.  

Shortly thereafter, NASA employee and artist James Dean was tasked with implementing NASA’s brand-new art program. Working alongside National Art Gallery Curator of Painting H. Lester Cooke, he created a framework to give artists unparalleled access to NASA missions at every step along the way, such as suit-up, launch and landing activities, and meetings with scientists and astronauts.

“It’s amazing just how good a sketch pad is at getting you into places,” Dean said in a 2008 oral history interview. “People shy away from cameras, but sketch pads, pencils, paints, you know … a lot of doors got opened that you could never open by making an official request.”

Walt Owen, “Apollo 15 NASA Artist at Work, VAB,” 1971, watercolor on paper. The painting depicts an artist seated on the ground inside the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). Walt Owen / Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The NASA Art Program selected an initial group of eight artists – Peter Hurd, George Weymouth, Paul Calle, Robert McCall, Robert Shore, Lamar Dodd, John McCoy, and Mitchell Jamieson – in May 1963 to capture their interpretations of the final flight of the Mercury program, Faith 7. Seven of these men spent their time exploring Cape Canaveral and covering prelaunch activities; Jamieson covered splashdown and landing by being assigned to one of the recovery ships.

Though the grants and honorariums associated with being a NASA Art Program participant were always nominal – $800 in the 1960s and up to $3,000 in the early 2000s – many other well-known artists continued to work with the program through the decades that followed, including Norman Rockwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Annie Leibowitz, and Chakaia Booker.

“It wasn’t money they were after,” Dean noted. “They were interested in the experience and being invited back into where history was being made. I mean, artists have been with explorers … [since] the early days of exploration in this country.”

James Browning Wyeth, “Support,” 1965, watercolor on paper. The painting depicts the Gemini IV launch from the viewpoint of a neighboring gantry to the Gemini Launch Complex 19.James Browning Wyeth / Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Dean also recognized the importance of having a diverse range of artists present, even if they were all ostensibly there to capture the same historical event. “When you have six artists sitting together painting the same thing,” he explained, “each painting is different. And that’s because … they’re seeing all the same thing, but the image goes through their imagination too and all their experience.”

While there were some initial concerns about the NASA engineers and scientists accepting the artists as a new, prolonged presence in their midst, Dean found that once they “let the artist in and see what they were doing, they really hit it off because the engineers and the scientists and the artists really use a lot of imagination. So they were really connecting on a certain level.” He also observed a unique symbiosis occurring between artist and worker: “When an artist … turns your workplace into a work of art, you know, it validates everything you’ve been doing. It is a real motivating factor to see something like that.”

Artist James Dean, using a makeshift easel for support, prepares a preliminary study of the space shuttle Columbia on the pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on June 27, 1982, as the spacecraft is prepared for its fourth flight (STS-4).NASA

Dean served as the director of the NASA Art Program from 1962 to 1974, before leaving to become the first art curator for the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum from 1974 until his retirement in 1980. He passed away in Washington on March 22, 2024, at the age of 92. But his legacy lives on in the NASA Art Program collection, which currently has some 3,000 works divided between the National Air and Space Museum and NASA. Today, the program is focused on STEM outreach initiatives to inspire youth through creative activity.

To learn more, check out selected works from the NASA Art Program on the NASA History Flickr page and the National Air and Space Museum page. 

Categories: NASA

Tech Today: NASA’s Ion Thruster Knowhow Keeps Satellites Flying

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/06/2024 - 12:01pm

2 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) This Hall-effect thruster, shown being tested at Glenn Research Center, turns electricity and inert gas into force that could propel a spacecraft. Orbion Space Technology was founded to bring the high efficiency of these thrusters to small commercial satellites, and the company sought the center’s help to make that a reality.Credit: NASA

In low Earth orbit, satellites face a constant challenge – a tiny amount of atmospheric drag that, over time, causes them to slow down and decay their orbit. To combat this, spacecraft rely on in-space thrusters to adjust positioning and boost orbits. However, most of these thrusters use heavy, expensive chemical propellants. This is where the game-changing ion thrusters come in, offering a more efficient and cost-effective solution for satellite operations.

Orbion Space Technology, based in Houghton, Michigan, was established in 2016. Recognizing a market need, the company set out to find innovative ways to either extend the lifespan of satellites in orbit or increase their payload capacity. This ambitious goal necessitated the development of a thruster that could operate efficiently with minimal fuel consumption, leading to the creation of the company’s Aurora thruster.

Hall-effect thrusters, an advanced ion propulsion technology, use electricity rather than chemical reactions to propel spacecraft. Orbion’s founders saw the technology grow from an experimental concept to being regularly used on missions across the solar system. Still, the company had to turn to the experts to make these thrusters viable for satellite operators.

Orbion’s Aurora thrusters are small and efficient yet powerful enough to maintain the orbits of small satellites for several years.Credit: Orbion Space Technology Inc.

NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland leads the development of ion thrusters for the agency, designing and evaluating thrusters for missions like Dawn and DART and the agency’s Gateway lunar space station. Orbion entered into a Data Usage Agreement with NASA Glenn to receive detailed information from the development of these engines and a non-exclusive evaluation license. One of the reasons Orbion turned to NASA was its advancements in materials research for ion thrusters and the Glenn-developed cathode heater, which improves electrical efficiency and operating life. 

This work resulted in Orbion’s Aurora thrusters being just as capable as those that NASA builds for its deep space science and exploration missions. Orbion has since sold several Aurora thrusters to government and private sector companies, including a recent contract with a large commercial satellite operator for its new constellation of Earth-observing spacecraft. 

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Sols 4175-4177: Don’t Blink We’re Taking a Picture

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/06/2024 - 10:53am

3 min read

Sols 4175-4177: Don’t Blink We’re Taking a Picture This image shows our previous workspace block and rover wheel tracks from Sol 4171 taken by the Left Navigation Camera onboard NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Earth planning date: Friday, May 3, 2024

Curiosity loves to drive so it’s pretty rare we stay at a location longer than one planning cycle without the intention of drilling. But since we found ourselves at this unique and beautiful rubbly ridge with dark-toned clasts all around, the science team decided to skip driving last plan and stay through most of the weekend in favor of more contact science. My job this week was operating the Mastcams, and we decided to take full advantage of this opportunity! Why not take an afternoon 360-degree panorama while we’re here? It’s understandably hard to argue against a full panorama, so we went for it and planned 331 Mastcam Left images that should cover most of the terrain around us (including a custom arm pose to get the ridge in better view). Since our left filter wheel got stuck last fall, occluding over half of our lens, we’ve had to subframe our images quite a bit to avoid any filter wheel hardware showing up and thus — our Mastcam Left frame size covers less than half what it use to. It’s extremely lucky we’re still able to use the camera at all, and we’re very happy to keep planning 360 panos after all these years even if it takes about 2.5x more images to acquire.

Now for the reason we stayed: a full evening of contact science on the first sol! APXS and MAHLI are planning to investigate a light-toned, layered but somehow still crunchy, rock named “Liberty Cap” and another similar rock named “Wilma Lake.” Liberty Cap imaging will also include a different type of MAHLI stereo where the turret rotates instead of moves laterally, called “rotational” stereo (or: “Herkenhoff” stereo after Ken Herkenhoff, a long-time MAHLI Co-Investigator among many other titles). Without any APXS support, MAHLI will also take a look at a pointy, dark-toned target named “Lookout Peak.” I sit right next to the MAHLI operations team and was trying my best to keep up with all they have going on today.

On the second sol, we drive! To be honest, there’s a ton more we planned today (including mid-drive and post-drive Mastcam imaging!) but this blog could go on and on with how packed this plan is. It’s always a little nerve-wracking sending a plan like this up to Mars before checking out for the weekend, but I’ll try my best and come back fresh for more Mastcam imaging on Monday.

Written by Natalie Moore, Mission Operations Specialist at Malin Space Science Systems

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NASA Invites Media to Attend Louisiana Space Day 2024

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/06/2024 - 10:50am

2 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Louisiana, is one of the world’s largest manufacturing plants, with 43 acres under one roof and a port with deep-water access, permitting transportation of large space systems and hardware NASA

NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, several aerospace companies, and GNO Inc. will host Louisiana Space Day 2024 at the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, May 8.

Media are invited to attend and should contact Craig Betbeze at craig.c.betbeze@nasa.gov or 504-419-5333 by 2 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, May 7.

Area middle-school, high-school, and college students will participate in STEM activities, chat with NASA astronaut Josh Cassada, and hear from NASA leadership during an Artemis Generation panel discussion. The event also will include a reading of a Space Day resolution by Louisiana legislators with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Director Joseph Pelfrey, NASA Michoud Director Hansel Gill, and astronaut Cassada, highlighting Louisiana’s contributions to space exploration.

NASA Michoud, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, United Launch Alliance (ULA), Blue Origin, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, LA STEM, partners for Stennis and Michoud, and selected Louisiana school robotics teams are among the exhibitors for Space Day 2024. GNO Inc. coordinated efforts with local schools to bring middle and high-school school students to participate.

Media opportunities for the day include:

9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – STEM activities

Location: Capitol Rotunda

10 a.m. – Chat with NASA astronaut Josh Cassada, NASA Marshall Center Director Joseph Pelfrey, NASA Michoud Assembly Director Hansel Gill, and high school students

Location: Louisiana State Library

TBD – Resolution readings on the House and Senate Floors

11 a.m. – Artemis Generation Panel with college students. Panel participants are Chrystal Morgan, Boeing, as moderator, NASA Marshall Director Joseph Pelfrey, and NASA Michoud Assembly Director Hansel Gill.

Location: Louisiana State Capitol

TBD – Louisiana Space Day 2024 Resolution reading by Louisiana Legislators with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Director Joseph Pelfrey and NASA Michoud Assembly Director Hansel Gill.

About the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility

For more than half a century, NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans has been “America’s Rocket Factory,” the nation’s premiere site for manufacturing and assembly of large-scale space structures and systems. Michoud is a NASA-owned facility, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

To learn more about programs and activities at NASA Michoud, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/michoud-assembly-facility/

Craig Betbeze
Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans
504-419-5333
craig.c.betbeze@nasa.gov

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Hubble Views a Galaxy with a Voracious Black Hole

NASA - Breaking News - Mon, 05/06/2024 - 8:31am

2 min read

Hubble Views a Galaxy with a Voracious Black Hole This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image features the spiral galaxy NGC 4951, located roughly 50 million light-years away from Earth.

Bright, starry spiral arms surround an active galactic center in this new NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the galaxy NGC 4951.

Located in the Virgo constellation, NGC 4951 is located roughly 50 million light-years away from Earth. It’s classified as a Seyfert galaxy, which means that it’s an extremely energetic type of galaxy with an active galactic nucleus (AGN). However, Seyfert galaxies are unique from other sorts of AGNs because the galaxy itself can still be clearly seen – different types of AGNs are so bright that it’s nearly impossible to observe the actual galaxy that they reside within.

AGNs like NGC 4951 are powered by supermassive black holes. As matter whirls into the black hole, it generates radiation across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, making the AGN shine brightly.

Hubble helped prove that supermassive black holes exist at the core of almost every galaxy in our universe. Before the telescope launched into low-Earth orbit in 1990, astronomers only theorized about their existence. The mission verified their existence by observing the undeniable effects of black holes, like jets of material ejecting from black holes and disks of gas and dust revolving around those black holes at very high speeds.

These observations of NGC 4951 were taken to provide valuable data for astronomers studying how galaxies evolve, with a particular focus on the star formation process. Hubble gathered this information, which is being combined with observations with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to support a JWST Treasury program. Treasury programs collect observations that focus on the potential to solve multiple scientific problems with a single, coherent dataset and enable a variety of compelling scientific investigations.


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Claire Andreoli
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbelt, MD
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov

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APOD - Sun, 05/05/2024 - 4:00pm

Three bright objects satisfied seasoned stargazers of the western sky just after sunset earlier this month.


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APOD - Sat, 05/04/2024 - 12:00pm

The


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ARMD Solicitations

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/03/2024 - 3:00pm

7 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) Illustration showing multiple future air transportation options NASA researchers are studying or working to enable.NASA

This ARMD solicitations page compiles the opportunities to collaborate with NASA’s aeronautical innovators and/or contribute to their research to enable new and improved air transportation systems. A summary of available opportunities with key dates requiring action are listed first. More information about each opportunity is detailed lower on this page.

University Leadership Initiative
Key date: May 29, 2024

Commercial Supersonic Technology
Key date: May 31, 2024

University Student Research Challenge
June 20, 2024

Advanced Air Mobility
Key date: Feb. 1, 2025, at 6 p.m. EST

Advanced Capabilities for Emergency Response Operations

GENERAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

Advanced Capabilities for Emergency Response Operations is using this request for information to identify technologies that address current challenges facing the wildland firefighting community. NASA is seeking information on data collection, airborne connectivity and communications solutions, unmanned aircraft systems traffic management, aircraft operations and autonomy, and more. This will support development of a partnership strategy for future collaborative demonstrations.

Interested parties were requested to respond to this notice with an information package no later than 4 pm ET, October 15, 2023, that shall be submitted via https://nari.arc.nasa.gov/acero-rfi. Any proprietary information must be clearly marked. Submissions will be accepted only from United States companies.

View the full RFI Announcement here.

Advanced Air Mobility Mission

GENERAL ADVANCED AIR MOBILITY
ANNOUNCEMENT OF REQUEST FOR INFORMATION

This request for information (RFI) is being used to gather market research for NASA to make informed decisions regarding potential partnership strategies and future research to enable Advanced Air Mobility (AAM). NASA is seeking information from public, private, and academic organizations to determine technical needs and community interests that may lead to future solicitations regarding AAM research and development.

This particular RFI is just one avenue of multiple planned opportunities for formal feedback on or participation in NASA’s AAM Mission-related efforts to develop these requirements and help enable AAM. 

The current respond by date for this RFI is Feb. 1, 2025, at 6 p.m. EST.

View the full RFI announcement here.

NASA Research Opportunities in Aeronautics

NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) uses the NASA Research Announcement (NRA) process to solicit proposals for foundational research in areas where ARMD seeks to enhance its core capabilities.

Competition for NRA awards is open to both academia and industry.

The current open solicitation for ARMD Research Opportunities is ROA-2023 and ROA-2024.

Here is some general information to know about the NRA process.

  • NRA solicitations are released by NASA Headquarters through the Web-based NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES).
  • All NRA technical work is defined and managed by project teams within these four programs: Advanced Air Vehicles Program, Airspace Operations and Safety Program, Integrated Aviation Systems Program, and Transformative Aeronautics Concepts Program.
  • NRA awards originate from NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, Ames Research Center in California, Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, and Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.
  • Competition for NRA awards is full and open.
  • Participation is open to all categories of organizations, including educational institutions, industry, and nonprofits.
  • Any updates or amendments to an NRA is posted on the appropriate NSPIRES web pages as noted in the Amendments detailed below.
  • ARMD sends notifications of NRA updates through the NSPIRES email system. In order to receive these email notifications, you must be a Registered User of NSPIRES. However, note that NASA is not responsible for inadvertently failing to provide notification of a future NRA. Parties are responsible for regularly checking the NSPIRES website for updated NRAs.
ROA-2024 NRA Amendments

Amendment 1
UPDATED MAY 3, 2024

(Full text here.)

Amendment 1 to the NASA ARMD Research Opportunities in Aeronautics (ROA) 2024 NRA has been posted on the NSPIRES web site at https://nspires.nasaprs.com.

The announcement solicits proposals from accredited U.S. institutions for research training grants to begin the academic year. This NOFO is designed to support independently conceived research projects by highly qualified graduate students, in disciplines needed to help advance NASA’s mission, thus affording these students the opportunity to directly contribute to advancements in STEM-related areas of study. AAVP Fellowship Opportunities are focused on innovation and the generation of measurable research results that contribute to NASA’s current and future science and technology goals.

Research proposals are sought to address key challenges provided in Elements of Appendix A.8.

Notices of Intent (NOIs) are not required.

A budget breakdown for each proposal is required, detailing the allocation of the award funds by year. The budget document may adhere to any format or template provided by the applicant’s institution.

Proposals were due by April 30, 2024, at 5 PM ET.

Amendment 2
UPDATED APRIL 5, 2024

(Full text here.)

University Leadership Initiative (ULI) provides the opportunity for university teams to exercise technical and organizational leadership in proposing unique technical challenges in aeronautics, defining multi-disciplinary solutions, establishing peer review mechanisms, and applying innovative teaming strategies to strengthen the research impact.

Research proposals are sought in six ULI topic areas in Appendix D.4.

Topic 1: Safe, Efficient Growth in Global Operations (Strategic Thrust 1)

Topic 2: Innovation in Commercial High-Speed Aircraft (Strategic Thrust 2)

Topic 3: Ultra-Efficient Subsonic Transports (Strategic Thrust 3)

Topic 4: Safe, Quiet, and Affordable Vertical Lift Air Vehicles (Strategic Thrust 4)

Topic 5: In-Time System-Wide Safety Assurance (Strategic Thrust 5)

Topic 6: Assured Autonomy for Aviation Transformation (Strategic Thrust 6)

This NRA will utilize a two-step proposal submission and evaluation process. The initial step is a short mandatory Step-A proposal due May 29, 2024. Those offerors submitting the most highly rated Step-A proposals will be invited to submit a Step-B proposal. All proposals must be submitted electronically through NSPIRES at https://nspires.nasaprs.com. An Applicant’s Workshop was held on Thursday April 3, 2024; 1:00-3:00 p.m. ET (https://uli.arc.nasa.gov/applicants-workshops/workshop8)

Amendment 3

NEW APRIL 5, 2024

(Full text here)

Commercial Supersonic Technology seeks proposals for a fuel injector design concept and fabrication for testing at NASA Glenn Research Center.

The proposal for the fuel injector design aims to establish current state-of-the-art in low NOx supersonic cruise while meeting reasonable landing take-off NOx emissions. The technology application timeline is targeted for a supersonic aircraft with entry into service in the 2035+ timeframe.

These efforts are in alignment with activities in the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate as outlined in the NASA Aeronautics Strategic Implementation Plan, specifically Strategic Thrust 2: Innovation in Commercial High-Speed Aircraft.

Proposals due by May 31, 2024 at 5 pm EDT.

ROA-2023 NRA Amendments

Amendment 5
UPDATED MAY 3, 2024

(Full text here)

Amendment 5 to the NASA ARMD Research Opportunities in Aeronautics (ROA) 2023 NRA has been posted on the NSPIRES web site.

University Student Research Challenge (solicitation NNH23ZEA001N-USRC) seeks to challenge students to propose new ideas/concepts that are relevant to NASA Aeronautics. USRC will provide students, from accredited U.S. colleges or universities, with grants for their projects and with the challenge of raising cost share funds through a crowdfunding campaign. The process of creating and implementing a crowdfunding campaign acts as a teaching accelerator – requiring students to act like entrepreneurs and raise awareness about their research among the public.

The solicitation goal can be accomplished through project ideas such as advancing the design, developing technology or capabilities in support of aviation, by demonstrating a novel concept, or enabling advancement of aeronautics-related technologies.

Notices of Intent (NOIs) are not required for this solicitation. Three-page proposals for the next USRC cycle are due June 20, 2024.

The USRC Cycle 4 Q&A/Info Session and Proposal Workshop will be held on Monday, May 6, 2024 at 2pm ET. Please join us on TEAMS using the Meeting Link below, or call in via +1 256-715-9946,,176038745# Phone Conference ID: 176 038 745#

https://teams.microsoft.com/l/meetup-join/19%3ameeting_N2M5NzhkMmEtMjU5Zi00MmM3LTg2YmItMDlhMjc5M2Q1YzY5%40thread.v2/0?context=%7b%22Tid%22%3a%227005d458-45be-48ae-8140-d43da96dd17b%22%2c%22Oid%22%3a%22831a92f6-eb15-4049-a85e-5a2b0f7a90c7%22%7d

Amendment 4 (Expired)
(Full text here)

Amendment 3 (Expired)
(Full text here)

Amendment 2 (Expired)
(Full text here)

Amendment 1 (Expired)
(Full text here)

Keep Exploring See More About NASA Aeronautics

Aeronautics STEM

Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA)

Aeronáutica en español

Share Details Last Updated May 03, 2024 EditorJim BankeContactJim Bankejim.banke@nasa.gov Related Terms
Categories: NASA

Former NASA Center Director, Scientist to Receive Presidential Medals

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/03/2024 - 2:47pm
Medals of Freedom are displayed Thursday, July 7, 2022, before a ceremony at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)

President Joe Biden will present Dr. Ellen Ochoa, former center director and astronaut at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Dr. Jane Rigby, senior project scientist for NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, each with the Presidential Medal of Freedom Friday in a ceremony at the White House in Washington.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor award, and these two NASA recipients are among the 19 awardees announced May 3. Ochoa is recognized for her leadership at NASA Johnson and as the first Hispanic woman in space, and Rigby is recognized for her work on leading NASA’s transformational space telescope.

“I am proud Ellen and Jane are recognized for their incredible roles in NASA missions, for sharing the power of science with humanity, and inspiring the Artemis Generation to look to the stars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Among her many accomplishments as a veteran astronaut and leader, Ellen served as the second female director of Johnson, flew in space four times, and logged nearly 1,000 hours in orbit. Jane is one of the many wizards at NASA who work every day to make the impossible, possible. The James Webb Space Telescope represents the very best of scientific discovery that will continue to unfold the secrets of our universe. We appreciate Ellen and Jane for their service to NASA, and our country.”

Dr. Ellen Ochoa

Credit: The White House

Ochoa retired from NASA in 2018 after more than 30 years with the agency. In addition to being an astronaut, she served a variety of positions over the years, including the 11th director of NASA Johnson, Johnson deputy center director, and director of Flight Crew Operations.

She joined the agency in 1988 as a research engineer at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California, and moved to NASA Johnson in 1990 when she was selected as an astronaut. Ochoa became the first Hispanic woman to go to space when she served on the nine-day STS-56 mission aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1993. She flew in space four times, including STS-66, STS-96 and STS-110.

Born in California, Ochoa earned a bachelor’s degree in Physics from San Diego State University and a master’s degree and doctorate in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University. As a research engineer at Sandia National Laboratories and NASA Ames Research Center, Ochoa investigated optical systems for performing information processing. She is a co-inventor on three patents and author of several technical papers.

“Wow, what an unexpected and amazing honor! I’m so grateful for all my amazing NASA colleagues who shared my career journey with me,” said Ochoa upon hearing the news of her Presidential Medal of Freedom award.

During her career, Ochoa also received NASA’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award for senior executives in the federal government. She has received many other awards and is especially honored to have seven schools named for her.

Ochoa also is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and formerly chaired both the National Science Board and the Nomination Evaluation Committee for the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.  

Dr. Jane Rigby

Credit: The White House

Rigby, who was born and raised in Delaware, is honored with the Medal of Freedom for her role in the success of NASA’s Webb mission – the largest, most powerful space telescope launched on Dec. 25, 2021 – as well as her longtime support of diversity and inclusion in science.

She is an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. She provides scientific leadership for Webb, which has made pioneering discoveries about the secrets of our universe and inspired the world in its first two years of science operations. Rigby worked on the development of Webb for many years, and subsequently led the characterization of Webb’s science performance, which now is exceeding expectations, and frequently shares the progress of Webb science with the public.

“Webb has become a symbol not only of technical excellence and scientific discovery, but also of how much humanity can accomplish when we all work together,” Rigby said. “I’m so proud and grateful to lead the amazing Webb team.”

Rigby is an active researcher, developing new techniques to better understand how galaxies evolve over time and form stars. She has published 160 peer-reviewed publications and has been recognized with awards such as NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, the Fred Kavli Prize Plenary Lecture from the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and the 2022 LGBTQ+ Scientist of the Year from Out to Innovate.

“Thousands of people around the world came together to build Webb,” said Rigby. “The engineers who built and deployed Webb were critical to Webb’s success, and now thousands of scientists around the world are using Webb to make discovery after discovery.” To represent those contributions, in addition to inviting her family to the Medal of Freedom ceremony, Rigby invited her colleague Mike Menzel, Webb lead mission systems engineer at NASA Goddard, and Dr. Kelsey Johnson, president of the American Astronomical Society.

Rigby also serves as a trustee of the AAS and was a founding member of the AAS Committee for Sexual-Orientation and Gender Minorities in Astronomy. She holds a doctorate in Astronomy from the University of Arizona, as well as a bachelor’s degree in Physics, as well as another in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Penn State University.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb is solving mysteries in our solar system, looking beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probing the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

Learn more about NASA’s missions at:

https://www.nasa.gov

-end-

Cheryl Warner / Karen Fox
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1600
cheryl.m.warner@nasa.gov / karen.c.fox@nasa.gov

Laura Betz
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
301-286-9030
laura.e.betz@nasa.gov

Share Details Last Updated May 06, 2024 EditorTiernan P. DoyleLocationNASA Headquarters Related Terms
Categories: NASA

A Moonlit Trio

NASA Image of the Day - Fri, 05/03/2024 - 1:55pm
The Moon, left, Jupiter, right, and Saturn, above and to the left of Jupiter, are seen after sunset with the Washington Monument, Thurs. Dec. 17, 2020, in Washington. The two planets drew closer to each other in the sky as they headed towards a “great conjunction” on Dec. 21, where the two giant planets appeared a tenth of a degree apart.
Categories: Astronomy, NASA

A Moonlit Trio

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/03/2024 - 1:41pm
NASA/Bill Ingalls

The Moon (left), Saturn, and Jupiter (lower right; Saturn is above and to the left of Jupiter) were seen in the sky above the Washington Memorial on Dec. 17, 2020. At the time, Saturn and Jupiter were nearing each other in the sky, culminating in a “great conjunction” on Dec. 21, where they appeared a tenth of a degree apart.

Great conjunctions between Jupiter and Saturn happen every 20 years, making the planets appear to be close to one another. This closeness occurs because Jupiter orbits the Sun every 12 years, while Saturn’s orbit takes 30 years, causing Jupiter to catch up to Saturn every couple of decades as viewed from Earth.

The last great conjunction was even more special: Jupiter and Saturn had not appeared that close in the sky to each other since 1623.

For skywatching tips, visit What’s Up.

Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Categories: NASA

All Sky Moon Shadow

APOD - Fri, 05/03/2024 - 8:00am

All Sky Moon Shadow


Categories: Astronomy, NASA

Hubble Hunts Visible Light Sources of X-Rays

NASA - Breaking News - Fri, 05/03/2024 - 7:02am

2 min read

Hubble Hunts Visible Light Sources of X-Rays This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features the dwarf galaxy IC 776. ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Sun

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image features the dwarf galaxy IC 776. This swirling collection of new and old stars is located in the constellation Virgo, in the Virgo galaxy cluster, 100 million light-years from Earth. Although IC 776 is a dwarf galaxy, it’s also classified as a SAB-type or ‘weakly barred’ spiral. This highly detailed Hubble view demonstrates that complexity. IC 776 has a ragged, disturbed disc that appears to spiral around the core with arcs of star-forming regions.

The image is from an observation program dedicated to the study of dwarf galaxies in the Virgo cluster that is searching for the visible light emissions from sources of X-rays in these galaxies. X-rays are often emitted by accretion discs, where material that is drawn into a compact object by gravity crashes together and forms a hot, glowing disc. The compact object can be a white dwarf or neutron star in a binary pair that is stealing material from its companion star, or it can be the supermassive black hole at the heart of a galaxy devouring material around it. Dwarf galaxies like IC 776, traveling through the Virgo cluster, experience pressure from intergalactic gas that is similar to the pressure you feel from air hitting your face when you ride a bicycle. This intergalactic gas pressure can both stimulate star formation and feed the central black hole in a galaxy. As more material swirls down toward the black hole, it creates an energetic accretion disc, hot enough to emit X-rays.

While Hubble is not able to see X-rays, it can coordinate with X-ray telescopes such as NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, revealing the sources of this radiation in high resolution using visible light. Dwarf galaxies are very important to our understanding of cosmology and the evolution of galaxies. As with many areas of astronomy, the ability to examine these galaxies across the electromagnetic spectrum is critical to their study.

Text Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)


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Media Contact:

Claire Andreoli
NASA’s Goddard Space Flight CenterGreenbelt, MD
claire.andreoli@nasa.gov

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May 03, 2024

Editor Andrea Gianopoulos Location Goddard Space Flight Center

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NASA Research Park Public Documents

NASA - Breaking News - Thu, 05/02/2024 - 5:14pm

3 min read

Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater) Economic Benefits Study: Development Plans: NASA Research Park Environmental Reports: Environmental Management Division Public Documents: Environmental Impact Statement: RFP Housing Asbestos & Lead Based Paint Documents: FP Housing Misc Due Diligence Documents: Miscellaneous Documents:
Categories: NASA

2024 Total Solar Eclipse: Prediction vs. Reality

NASA - Breaking News - Thu, 05/02/2024 - 2:38pm

2 min read

2024 Total Solar Eclipse: Prediction vs. Reality Image Before/After

Before a total solar eclipse crossed North America on April 8, 2024, scientists at Predictive Science Inc. of San Diego aimed to foresee what the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, would look like during totality.

The predictions help researchers understand the accuracy of their models of the Sun’s corona, which extends along its magnetic field. A solar eclipse offers a rare opportunity to view the entire corona from Earth, guiding research into how its energy can cause solar flares and coronal mass ejections, which can disrupt technology on Earth and in space.

The researchers used the Aitken, Electra, and Pleiades supercomputers at the NASA Advanced Supercomputing facility, located at the agency’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. With near-real-time data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory and ESA’s (the European Space Agency) and NASA’s Solar Orbiter, they created a dynamic model of the corona. The team’s model accurately predicted several details, including long streamers in the upper and lower left side of the image, but the streamers’ locations are slightly misaligned when compared with real images. This is likely because some new activity on the far side of the Sun, which affected the appearance of the corona, wasn’t yet seen and couldn’t be incorporated in the model. Once it was, the model more closely matched observational photos of the corona.

Recognizing that the corona is inherently complex and difficult to predict during solar maximum, Cooper Downs, a research scientist at Predictive Science, said, “We’re really thrilled with this simulation. It really has a lot of scientific consequences that I think we’ll be exploring for a long time.”

By Rachel Lense, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md;
with Tara Friesen, NASA’s Ames Research Center, Silicon Valley, Calif.

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May 02, 2024

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