Above: NASA Infrared Telescope Facility
NASA employs the use of cryogenics for a variety of reasons, and researchers are constantly exploring new methods and applications in the hopes of continuously improving the technology. Here are just a few examples of how NASA utilizes cryogenics:
Infrared Sensors: infrared rays, also called “heat rays” are given off by all warm objects. Infrared telescopes must be cold so that their own radiation doesn’t swamp the weak infrared signals from faraway astronomical objects. There will be infrared telescopes on the airborne infrared observatory SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy.
Electronics: all sensors require electronics. Cooling electronics reduces the noise in the circuits and thus allows them to study weaker signals.
X-rays: the sensors for XRS, the X-Ray Spectrometer measure temperature changes induced by incoming x-rays. When the sensors are colder, the induced temperature changes are larger and easier to measure.
Cassini Spacecraft Reveals Unprecedented Saturn Storm
by John Matson
Just as regions of our planet have monsoon season, or tornado season, so too does Saturn have its own stormy season.
Once every Saturn year or so—which corresponds to roughly 30 Earth years—a giant, churning storm works its way through the clouds of Saturn’s northern hemisphere, sometimes encircling the entire planet like a belt. Lasting a few dozen days or more, these storms have been documented as far back as 1876.
The sixth giant Saturnian storm on record arrived a bit early, kicking off in late 2010, just 20 years after the previous storm. The timing proved fortuitous for planetary astronomers, who currently have a dedicated orbiter called Cassini stationed at the ringed planet. And Cassini’s ringside seat, so to speak, has afforded the NASA spacecraft quite a show…
(read more: Scientific American) (images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI)
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but Curiosity found something “earthshaking” on Mars, but NASA won’t say just yet what it is because they want to make sure their data is correct because this is potentially an unbelievably important find for humanity, and in conclusion, this is a pretty cool time to be alive.
I’m quite curious about this, but I do fear I’m going to get tired quick of waiting to hear the official news.
“No word on exactly how long it will take before we learn more, but Grotzinger told NPR that it will likely take “several weeks” before he and his team are ready to go public. Until then, feel free to take to the comments with your best (or worst) guesses.” [x]
please be aliens, please be aliens
The Moon: look but don’t touch
Before anyone thought to make up any rules, people had been dreaming of going to the moon. But, now that we’re there, what can we do to protect the famous landing site of Apollo? The race is on to land a robot on the moon, and NASA is recommending that we make certain restriction zones around the landing site in order to preserve the US flags, the footprints, and Apollo hardware.
(Image credit: NASA)
Alan Poindexter had the honor of commanding the shuttle Discovery on her final mission, STS-131. NASA takes space photography very seriously, and trains their astronauts to capture informative and inspiring images while in orbit.
If you’ve ever wondered about some the techniques and technology behind capturing those great shuttle and ISS photos, check out Captain Poindexter’s great behind-the-lens post. Little-known fact: If you become an astronaut you apparently get access to prototype Nikon cameras … so study that science, you budding photographers!
When done right, this space photography can be truly inspiring. If you really want to dig in to some astronaut photography, you can’t miss the Crew Earth Observations collection. Truly epic photos and videos (including this eye-popping distorted moonset from the ISS).
(via Luminous-Landscape.com, images copyright NASA)