Friday, August 13, 2010

The Water Footprint Calculator

It takes nearly 2,000 gallons of water a DAY -- twice the global average -- to keep the average American lifestyle afloat. What’s your water footprint? Find out with the water footprint calculator

This video covers water usage in a different way.


The Water Footprint Calculator

It takes nearly 2,000 gallons of water a DAY -- twice the global average -- to keep the average American lifestyle afloat. What’s your water footprint? Find out with the water footprint calculator

This video covers water usage in a different way.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Where Is FIPS?

FIPS, the Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer, is an instrument aboard Mercury MESSENGER, a spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004 -- the first mission to Mercury since Mariner 10 in 1975. MESSENGER will study the characteristics and environment of Mercury from orbit. FIPS will have two functions: first is to analyze ions liberated from Mercury's surface by solar winds; second, to analyze solar winds.

click to enlarge
MESSENGER returned to Earth for a gravity assist on August 2, 2005. The craft then headed toward the first of two Venus flybys. The first occurred on October 24, 2006, when the spacecraft approached the planet from its dayside. MESSENGER flew past a mostly sunlit Venus on June 5, 2007.

The Mercury flybys on January 14, 2008, October 6, 2008, and September 29, 2009, provided the first close-up look at Mercury in more than 30 years. On all three flybys, the spacecraft acquired sunlit views of the planet, taking pictures of the regions that Mariner 10 didn't see. Those flybys have been invaluable in formulating strategies for MESSENGER's observations of Mercury during a historic yearlong orbit mission that will begin in March 2011.

MESSENGER's journey requires several trajectory correction maneuvers. Meanwhile FIPS is keeping engineers busy, particularly Thomas Zurbuchen, a professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan. Zurbuchen, the FIPS team leader, explains the project in this video.


For more information refer to the MESSENGER website or either of the group's two websites: one, two.


Why Mercury? Because it's the key to terrestrial planet evolution.

Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are terrestrial (rocky) planets. Among these, Mercury is an extreme: the smallest, the densest (after correcting for self-compression), the one with the oldest surface, the one with the largest daily variations in surface temperature, and the least explored. Understanding this "end member" among the terrestrial planets is crucial to developing a better understanding of how the planets in our Solar System formed and evolved. To develop this understanding, the MESSENGER mission, spacecraft and science instruments are focused on answering six key outstanding questions that will allow us to understand Mercury as a planet. For additional, detailed information about the driving science questions of the MESSENGER mission, check out some of the articles on the MESSENGER site

Where Is FIPS?

FIPS, the Fast Imaging Plasma Spectrometer, is an instrument aboard Mercury MESSENGER, a spacecraft launched on August 3, 2004 -- the first mission to Mercury since Mariner 10 in 1975. MESSENGER will study the characteristics and environment of Mercury from orbit. FIPS will have two functions: first is to analyze ions liberated from Mercury's surface by solar winds; second, to analyze solar winds.

click to enlarge
MESSENGER returned to Earth for a gravity assist on August 2, 2005. The craft then headed toward the first of two Venus flybys. The first occurred on October 24, 2006, when the spacecraft approached the planet from its dayside. MESSENGER flew past a mostly sunlit Venus on June 5, 2007.

The Mercury flybys on January 14, 2008, October 6, 2008, and September 29, 2009, provided the first close-up look at Mercury in more than 30 years. On all three flybys, the spacecraft acquired sunlit views of the planet, taking pictures of the regions that Mariner 10 didn't see. Those flybys have been invaluable in formulating strategies for MESSENGER's observations of Mercury during a historic yearlong orbit mission that will begin in March 2011.

MESSENGER's journey requires several trajectory correction maneuvers. Meanwhile FIPS is keeping engineers busy, particularly Thomas Zurbuchen, a professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan. Zurbuchen, the FIPS team leader, explains the project in this video.


For more information refer to the MESSENGER website or either of the group's two websites: one, two.


Why Mercury? Because it's the key to terrestrial planet evolution.

Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars are terrestrial (rocky) planets. Among these, Mercury is an extreme: the smallest, the densest (after correcting for self-compression), the one with the oldest surface, the one with the largest daily variations in surface temperature, and the least explored. Understanding this "end member" among the terrestrial planets is crucial to developing a better understanding of how the planets in our Solar System formed and evolved. To develop this understanding, the MESSENGER mission, spacecraft and science instruments are focused on answering six key outstanding questions that will allow us to understand Mercury as a planet. For additional, detailed information about the driving science questions of the MESSENGER mission, check out some of the articles on the MESSENGER site

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Special Time for Saturn

Photo courtesy of NASA
This is a special time for those of us who have a fascination with Saturn. Shortly after sunset, look toward the west and you'll see three planets in a line. The brightest is Venus. Above it and to the left is Mars, distinctly reddish but much fainter. And just beyond that, Saturn. Check them out -- binoculars will work just fine (they're far better than Galileo's astronomical telescope). You might -- emphasis on "might" -- be able to see Saturn's rings. Or you might see the "Mickey Mouse ears" that Galileo saw and described in his sketchbook. 

Unfortunately, his telescope wasn’t good enough to get a good look at something that seemed very different from anything he'd seen until that time. He described Saturn as "triune," mistaking the rings for two moons that seemed to orbit 180 degrees from each other, giving the appearance of ears on the planet.

In 1609, when Galileo first turned his new astronomical telescope on the night sky, Saturn was just a bright point in a black sky -- so unremarkable that a year passed before he turned his new instrument at it. But he finally gave Saturn his attention on July 25, 1610 -- a monumental date in planetary study because, from that night forward, Saturn gripped his imagination. 

About 50 years passed before Saturn’s rings came into focus for Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens. He described them a flat, circular disk. Something altogether different from anything he and Galileo had ever seen or expected to see. It was truly unearthly.

Today, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, orbiting Saturn since July 2004, inundates researchers with remarkable new data… about the planet and its rings and moons… the plumes of dust venting from cracks in the surface of the moon Enceladus… sunlight reflecting off a lake on Titan… flashes of meteorites hitting the rings. Thanks to Cassini, Saturn continues to amaze.

Tamas Gombosi is the Rollin M. Gerstacker Professor of Engineering and chair of Michigan Engineering's Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. He has a lot to say about Cassini and what it's taught scientists about Saturn's space environment. 


You can also learn about Saturn and Cassini at the NASA site dedicated to the spacecraft's mission.

A Special Time for Saturn

Photo courtesy of NASA
This is a special time for those of us who have a fascination with Saturn. Shortly after sunset, look toward the west and you'll see three planets in a line. The brightest is Venus. Above it and to the left is Mars, distinctly reddish but much fainter. And just beyond that, Saturn. Check them out -- binoculars will work just fine (they're far better than Galileo's astronomical telescope). You might -- emphasis on "might" -- be able to see Saturn's rings. Or you might see the "Mickey Mouse ears" that Galileo saw and described in his sketchbook. 

Unfortunately, his telescope wasn’t good enough to get a good look at something that seemed very different from anything he'd seen until that time. He described Saturn as "triune," mistaking the rings for two moons that seemed to orbit 180 degrees from each other, giving the appearance of ears on the planet.

In 1609, when Galileo first turned his new astronomical telescope on the night sky, Saturn was just a bright point in a black sky -- so unremarkable that a year passed before he turned his new instrument at it. But he finally gave Saturn his attention on July 25, 1610 -- a monumental date in planetary study because, from that night forward, Saturn gripped his imagination. 

About 50 years passed before Saturn’s rings came into focus for Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens. He described them a flat, circular disk. Something altogether different from anything he and Galileo had ever seen or expected to see. It was truly unearthly.

Today, NASA's Cassini spacecraft, orbiting Saturn since July 2004, inundates researchers with remarkable new data… about the planet and its rings and moons… the plumes of dust venting from cracks in the surface of the moon Enceladus… sunlight reflecting off a lake on Titan… flashes of meteorites hitting the rings. Thanks to Cassini, Saturn continues to amaze.

Tamas Gombosi is the Rollin M. Gerstacker Professor of Engineering and chair of Michigan Engineering's Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences. He has a lot to say about Cassini and what it's taught scientists about Saturn's space environment. 


You can also learn about Saturn and Cassini at the NASA site dedicated to the spacecraft's mission.