Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Dodgers Are The 2020 World Series Champions!!!

The Los Angeles Dodgers are World Series champions for the first time since 1988.

So last night, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally ended their 32-year championship drought when they beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 3-1, in Game 6 of the World Series! This comes three years after they lost to the cheating Houston Astros, and two years after they were defeated by the (slightly less-cheating) Boston Red Sox in five games. Speaking of Boston, Mookie Betts—who won a title with the Red Sox team that prevailed in the 2018 Fall Classic—joined the Lakers' Rajon Rondo to become the latest player to win a ring in both Los Angeles and Boston (though the Red Sox is the Anaheim Angels' archnemesis and not the Doyers'. That would be the San Francisco Giants). But it was Corey Seager who ended up being crowned as the 2020 World Series MVP. Not bad. Congrats to Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Austin Barnes and company...and sorry, Blake Snell!

With the Lakers and Dodgers partyin' like it's 1988, the last thing to look forward to now is Election Day next Tuesday. To give you a hint as to who I want to take the White House next January, I have two simple words: F**k Trump.

Happy Hump Day.

The Los Angeles Dodgers take a group photo at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas...following their Game 6 World Series victory against the Tampa Bay Rays on October 27, 2020.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Dragonfly Update: An Amazing New (Organic) Discovery on Titan...

Infrared images of Saturn's moon Titan that were taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft over a span of 13 years.
NASA / JPL - Caltech / University of Nantes / University of Arizona

NASA Scientists Discover ‘Weird’ Molecule in Titan’s Atmosphere (News Release)

NASA scientists identified a molecule in Titan’s atmosphere that has never been detected in any other atmosphere. In fact, many chemists have probably barely heard of it or know how to pronounce it: cyclopropenylidene, or C3H2. Scientists say that this simple carbon-based molecule may be a precursor to more complex compounds that could form or feed possible life on Titan.

Researchers found C3H2 by using a radio telescope observatory in northern Chile known as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). They noticed C3H2, which is made of carbon and hydrogen, while sifting through a spectrum of unique light signatures collected by the telescope; these revealed the chemical makeup of Titan’s atmosphere by the energy its molecules emitted or absorbed.

“When I realized I was looking at cyclopropenylidene, my first thought was, ‘Well, this is really unexpected,’” said Conor Nixon, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, who led the ALMA search. His team’s findings were published on October 15 in the Astronomical Journal.

Though scientists have found C3H2 in pockets throughout the galaxy, finding it in an atmosphere was a surprise. That’s because cyclopropenylidene can react easily with other molecules it comes into contact with and form different species. Astronomers have so far found C3H2 only in clouds of gas and dust that float between star systems — in other words, regions too cold and diffuse to facilitate many chemical reactions.

But dense atmospheres like Titan’s are hives of chemical activity. That’s a major reason scientists are interested in this moon, which is the destination of NASA’s forthcoming Dragonfly mission. Nixon’s team was able to identify small amounts of C3H2 at Titan likely because they were looking in the upper layers of the moon’s atmosphere, where there are fewer other gases for C3H2 to interact with. Scientists don’t yet know why cyclopropenylidene would show up in Titan’s atmosphere but no other atmosphere. “Titan is unique in our solar system,” Nixon said. “It has proved to be a treasure trove of new molecules.”

The largest of Saturn’s 62 moons, Titan is an intriguing world that’s in some ways the most similar one to Earth we have found. Unlike any other moon in the solar system — there are more than 200 — Titan has a thick atmosphere that’s four times denser than Earth’s, plus clouds, rain, lakes and rivers, and even a subsurface ocean of salty water.

Titan’s atmosphere is made mostly of nitrogen, like Earth’s, with a hint of methane. When methane and nitrogen molecules break apart under the glare of the Sun, their component atoms unleash a complex web of organic chemistry that has captivated scientists and thrust this moon to the top of the list of the most important targets in NASA’s search for present or past life in the solar system.

“We’re trying to figure out if Titan is habitable,” said Rosaly Lopes, a senior research scientist and Titan expert at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) near Pasadena, California. “So we want to know what compounds from the atmosphere get to the surface, and then, whether that material can get through the ice crust to the ocean below, because we think the ocean is where the habitable conditions are.”

The types of molecules that might be sitting on Titan’s surface could be the same ones that formed the building blocks of life on Earth. Early in its history, 3.8 to 2.5 billion years ago, when methane filled Earth’s air instead of oxygen, conditions here could have been similar to those on Titan today, scientists suspect.

“We think of Titan as a real-life laboratory where we can see similar chemistry to that of ancient Earth when life was taking hold here,” said Melissa Trainer, a NASA Goddard astrobiologist. Trainer is the Dragonfly mission’s deputy principal investigator and lead of an instrument on the Dragonfly rotorcraft that will analyze the composition of Titan’s surface.

“We’ll be looking for bigger molecules than C3H2,” Trainer said, “but we need to know what’s happening in the atmosphere to understand the chemical reactions that lead complex organic molecules to form and rain down to the surface.

Cyclopropenylidene is the only other “cyclic,” or closed-loop, molecule besides benzene to have been found in Titan’s atmosphere so far. Although C3H2 is not known to be used in modern-day biological reactions, closed-loop molecules like it are important because they form the backbone rings for the nucleobases of DNA, the complex chemical structure that carries the genetic code of life, and RNA, another critical compound for life’s functions. “The cyclic nature of them opens up this extra branch of chemistry that allows you to build these biologically important molecules,” said Alexander Thelen, a Goddard astrobiologist who worked with Nixon to find C3H2.

Scientists like Thelen and Nixon are using large and highly sensitive Earth-based telescopes to look for the simplest life-related carbon molecules they can find in Titan’s atmosphere. Benzene was considered to be the smallest unit of complex, ringed hydrocarbon molecules found in any planetary atmosphere. But now, C3H2, with half the carbon atoms of benzene, appears to have taken its place.

Nixon's team used the ALMA observatory to peer at Titan in 2016. They were surprised to find a strange chemical fingerprint, which Nixon identified as cyclopropenylidene by searching through a database of all known molecular light signatures.

To double check that the researchers were actually seeing this unusual compound, Nixon pored through research papers published from analyses of data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which made 127 close flybys of Titan between 2004 and 2017. He wanted to see if an instrument on the spacecraft that sniffed out the chemical compounds around Saturn and Titan could confirm his new result. (The instrument – called a mass spectrometer – picked up hints of many mysterious molecules at Titan that scientists are still trying to identify.) Indeed, Cassini had spotted evidence for an electrically charged version of the same molecule, C3H3+.

Given that it’s a rare find, scientists are trying to learn more about cyclopropenylidene and how it might interact with gases in Titan’s atmosphere.

“It’s a very weird little molecule, so it’s not going be the kind you learn about in high school chemistry or even undergraduate chemistry,” said Michael Malaska, a JPL planetary scientist who worked in the pharmaceutical industry before falling in love with Titan and switching careers to study it. “Down here on Earth, it’s not going be something you’re going to encounter.”

But, Malaska said, finding molecules like C3H2 is really important in seeing the big picture of Titan: “Every little piece and part you can discover can help you put together the huge puzzle of all the things going on there.”

Source: NASA.Gov


An artist's concept of NASA's Dragonfly rotorcraft on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan.
NASA / Johns Hopkins APL

Monday, October 26, 2020

OSIRIS-REx Will Safeguard Its Bennu Soil Samples by the End of This Week...

A screenshot from a computer animation showing the collector head that contains soil samples from asteroid Bennu about to be placed inside the Sample Return Capsule aboard NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.
NASA / University of Arizona, Tucson

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Goes for Early Stow of Asteroid Sample (Press Release)

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is ready to perform an early stow on Tuesday, Oct. 27, of the large sample it collected last week from the surface of the asteroid Bennu to protect and return as much of the sample as possible.

On Oct. 22, the OSIRIS-REx mission team received images that showed the spacecraft’s collector head overflowing with material collected from Bennu’s surface – well over the two-ounce (60-gram) mission requirement – and that some of these particles appeared to be slowly escaping from the collection head, called the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM).

A mylar flap on the TAGSAM allows material to easily enter the collector head, and should seal shut once the particles pass through. However, larger rocks that didn’t fully pass through the flap into the TAGSAM appear to have wedged this flap open, allowing bits of the sample to leak out.

Because the first sample collection event was so successful, NASA’s Science Mission Directorate has given the mission team the go-ahead to expedite sample stowage, originally scheduled for Nov. 2, in the spacecraft’s Sample Return Capsule (SRC) to minimize further sample loss.

"The abundance of material we collected from Bennu made it possible to expedite our decision to stow,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. “The team is now working around the clock to accelerate the stowage timeline, so that we can protect as much of this material as possible for return to Earth."

Unlike other spacecraft operations where OSIRIS-REx autonomously runs through an entire sequence, stowing the sample is done in stages and requires the team’s oversight and input. The team will send the preliminary commands to the spacecraft to start the stow sequence and, once OSIRIS-REx completes each step in sequence, the spacecraft sends telemetry and images back to the team on Earth and waits for the team’s confirmation to proceed with the next step.

Signals currently take just over 18.5 minutes to travel between Earth and the spacecraft one-way, so each step of the sequence factors in about 37 minutes of communications transit time. Throughout the process, the mission team will continually assess the TAGSAM’s wrist alignment to ensure the collector head is properly placed in the SRC. A new imaging sequence also has been added to the process to observe the material escaping from the collector head and verify that no particles hinder the stowage process. The mission anticipates the entire stowage process will take multiple days, at the end of which the sample will be safely sealed in the SRC for the spacecraft’s journey back to Earth.

“I’m proud of the OSIRIS-REx team’s amazing work and success to this point,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator for Science Thomas Zurbuchen. “This mission is well positioned to return a historic and substantial sample of an asteroid to Earth, and they’ve been doing all the right things, on an expedited timetable, to protect that precious cargo.”

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. The University of Arizona, Tucson leads the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace, in Tempe, Arizona, are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.


Saturday, October 24, 2020

On This Day in 2000: PARMAN'S PAGE Is Born!

Well technically, my main website itself was created in January of 2000, but today marks 20 years since I began this Earth-shattering Blog (while I was just chillin' in the computer lab at my college alma mater, Cal State Long Beach, on one random school day)! Click here to read my groundbreaking one-liner that started it all...

Who would've thought that the next two decades would be marked by me talking about the Los Angeles Lakers, unrequited crushes on girls I knew in college (and at work. It's a little bit of both), obvious personal achievements like me paying off my current car, and then incessantly copying and pasting press releases from NASA and other space agencies here? Carry on.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

QueSST Update: NASA's Next X-Plane Gets Its Vertical Stabilizer...

At Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California, workers uncrate the vertical stabilizer that will fly on NASA's X-59 QueSST aircraft.
Lockheed Martin

Unpacking the Future of Supersonic Air Travel (News Release)

The vertical tail of NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology airplane is unpacked from its shipping crate after delivery to Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works facility in Palmdale, California. Assembly is taking shape there in anticipation of the X-59’s first flight some time in mid-2022. Made of an aluminum alloy, the vertical tail’s pale green color comes from a corrosion-protecting coating applied to the bare metal. The structure will be placed atop the single F414-GE-100 jet engine to form the X-59’s tail and contribute to the aircraft’s overall height of 14 feet.

Designed to produce quiet sonic “thumps” when flying supersonic, the X-59 will be flown over select communities to measure public perception of the sound. Results will be given to regulators to use in determining new rules that could allow commercial faster-than-sound air travel over land.

Source: NASA.Gov


An artist's concept of NASA's X-59 QueSST aircraft soaring high in the sky.
Lockheed Martin

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

OSIRIS-REx Boops Bennu...

An artist's concept of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft about to collect a soil sample from the surface of asteroid Bennu.
NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Spacecraft Successfully Touches Asteroid (Press Release)

NASA’s Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft unfurled its robotic arm Tuesday, and in a first for the agency, briefly touched an asteroid to collect dust and pebbles from the surface for delivery to Earth in 2023.

This well-preserved, ancient asteroid, known as Bennu, is currently more than 200 million miles (321 million kilometers) from Earth. Bennu offers scientists a window into the early solar system as it was first taking shape billions of years ago and flinging ingredients that could have helped seed life on Earth. If Tuesday’s sample collection event, known as “Touch-And-Go” (TAG), provided enough of a sample, mission teams will command the spacecraft to begin stowing the precious primordial cargo to begin its journey back to Earth in March 2021. Otherwise, they will prepare for another attempt in January.

“This amazing first for NASA demonstrates how an incredible team from across the country came together and persevered through incredible challenges to expand the boundaries of knowledge,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Our industry, academic, and international partners have made it possible to hold a piece of the most ancient solar system in our hands.”

At 1:50 p.m. EDT, OSIRIS-REx fired its thrusters to nudge itself out of orbit around Bennu. It extended the shoulder, then elbow, then wrist of its 11-foot (3.35-meter) sampling arm, known as the Touch-And-Go Sample Acquisition Mechanism (TAGSAM), and transited across Bennu while descending about a half-mile (805 meters) toward the surface. After a four-hour descent, at an altitude of approximately 410 feet (125 meters), the spacecraft executed the “Checkpoint” burn, the first of two maneuvers to allow it to precisely target the sample collection site, known as “Nightingale.”

Ten minutes later, the spacecraft fired its thrusters for the second “Matchpoint” burn to slow its descent and match the asteroid’s rotation at the time of contact. It then continued a treacherous, 11-minute coast past a boulder the size of a two-story building, nicknamed “Mount Doom,” to touch down in a clear spot in a crater on Bennu’s northern hemisphere. The size of a small parking lot, the site Nightingale site is one of the few relatively clear spots on this unexpectedly boulder-covered space rock.

“This was an incredible feat – and today we’ve advanced both science and engineering and our prospects for future missions to study these mysterious ancient storytellers of the solar system,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “A piece of primordial rock that has witnessed our solar system’s entire history may now be ready to come home for generations of scientific discovery, and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”

“After over a decade of planning, the team is overjoyed at the success of today’s sampling attempt,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Even though we have some work ahead of us to determine the outcome of the event – the successful contact, the TAGSAM gas firing, and back-away from Bennu are major accomplishments for the team. I look forward to analyzing the data to determine the mass of sample collected.”

All spacecraft telemetry data indicates the TAG event executed as expected. However, it will take about a week for the OSIRIS-REx team to confirm how much sample the spacecraft collected.

Real-time data indicates the TAGSAM successfully contacted the surface and fired a burst of nitrogen gas. The gas should have stirred up dust and pebbles on Bennu’s surface, some of which should have been captured in the TAGSAM sample collection head. OSIRIS-REx engineers also confirmed that shortly after the spacecraft made contact with the surface, it fired its thrusters and safely backed away from Bennu.

“Today’s TAG maneuver was historic,” said Lori Glaze, Planetary Science Division director at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “The fact that we safely and successfully touched the surface of Bennu, in addition to all the other milestones this mission has already achieved, is a testament to the living spirit of exploration that continues to uncover the secrets of the solar system."

“It’s hard to put into words how exciting it was to receive confirmation that the spacecraft successfully touched the surface and fired one of the gas bottles,” said Michael Moreau, OSIRIS-REx deputy project manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “The team can’t wait to receive the imagery from the TAG event late tonight and see how the surface of Bennu responded to the TAG event.”

The spacecraft carried out TAG autonomously, with pre-programmed instructions from engineers on Earth. Now, the OSIRIS-REx team will begin to assess whether the spacecraft grabbed any material, and, if so, how much; the goal is at least 60 grams, which is roughly equivalent to a full-size candy bar.

OSIRIS-REx engineers and scientists will use several techniques to identify and measure the sample remotely. First, they’ll compare images of the Nightingale site before and after TAG to see how much surface material moved around in response to the burst of gas.

“Our first indication of whether we were successful in collecting a sample will come on October 21 when we downlink the back-away movie from the spacecraft,” Moreau said. “If TAG made a significant disturbance of the surface, we likely collected a lot of material.”

Next, the team will try to determine the amount of sample collected. One method involves taking pictures of the TAGSAM head with a camera known as SamCam, which is devoted to documenting the sample-collection process and determining whether dust and rocks made it into the collector head. One indirect indication will be the amount of dust found around the sample collector head. OSIRIS-REx engineers also will attempt to snap photos that could, given the right lighting conditions, show the inside of the head so engineers can look for evidence of sample inside of it.

A couple of days after the SamCam images are analyzed, the spacecraft will attempt yet another method to measure the mass of the sample collected by determining the change in the spacecraft’s “moment of inertia,” a phrase that describes how mass is distributed and how it affects the rotation of the body around a central axis. This maneuver entails extending the TAGSAM arm out to the side of the spacecraft and slowly spinning the spacecraft about an axis perpendicular to the arm. This technique is analogous to a person spinning with one arm extended while holding a string with a ball attached to the end. The person can sense the mass of the ball by the tension in the string. Having performed this maneuver before TAG, and now after, engineers can measure the change in the mass of the collection head as a result of the sample inside.

“We will use the combination of data from TAG and the post-TAG images and mass measurement to assess our confidence that we have collected at least 60 grams of sample,” said Rich Burns, OSIRIS-REx project manager at Goddard. “If our confidence is high, we'll make the decision to stow the sample on October 30.”

To store the sample, engineers will command the robotic arm to place the sample collector head into the Sample Return Capsule (SRC), located in the body of the spacecraft. The sample arm will then retract to the side of the spacecraft for the final time, the SRC will close, and the spacecraft will prepare for its departure from Bennu in March 2021 — this is the next time Bennu will be properly aligned with Earth for the most fuel-efficient return flight.

If, however, it turns out that the spacecraft did not collect enough sample at Nightingale, it will attempt another TAG maneuver on Jan. 12, 2021. If that occurs, it will touch down at the backup site called “Osprey,” which is another relatively boulder-free area inside a crater near Bennu’s equator.

OSIRIS-REx launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Sept. 8, 2016. It arrived at Bennu Dec. 3, 2018, and began orbiting the asteroid for the first time on Dec. 31, 2018. The spacecraft is scheduled to return to Earth Sept. 24, 2023, when it will parachute the SRC into Utah's west desert where scientists will be waiting to collect it.

Goddard provides overall mission management, systems engineering and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and is providing flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.


An animated GIF showing OSIRIS-REx's robotic sampling arm approaching the surface of asteroid Bennu...on August 11, 2020.
NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The L.A. Lakers are the 2020 NBA Champions!

The Los Angeles Lakers take a group photo after winning the 2020 NBA championship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida...on October 11, 2020.

353 days after their 2019-2020 season began, the Los Angeles Lakers are once again NBA champions! They played stifling defense in a Game 6 where they bested the Miami Heat, 106-93, at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida tonight. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dwight Howard and Co. accomplished this task 20 years after Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant won their first championship with the Lakers, and 10 years after Kobe earned his fifth and final NBA title in L.A. Some factoids if you're a fan of the Lake Show:

- The Lakers have won their 17th championship in franchise history, tying the Boston Celtics.

- LeBron James won his fourth Finals MVP trophy while earning his fourth NBA title on his third NBA team (after the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016).

- Rajon Rondo joins Clyde Lovellette as the only players to win championships with the Lakers and the Celtics. This is Rondo's second title (his first was with the Celtics after they defeated the Lake Show in the 2008 NBA Finals).

- Danny Green won his third championship on his third NBA team (he won a title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 and his second title with the Toronto Raptors last year, respectively).

- Kostas Antetokounmpo, the brother of Giannis Antetokounmpo (who plays with the Milwaukee Bucks and won the MVP award for the NBA regular season this year), won a title before Giannis did!

- Dwight Howard won his first championship in Orlando—with the very team that defeated him when he was a player on the Orlando Magic (in the 2009 NBA Finals).

- Alex Caruso's story goes from him beginning his three-year career in the NBA's G League to him starting Game 6 of the 2020 NBA Finals with LeBron James and Anthony Davis... Very impressive.

- Head coach Frank Vogel is now in the same category as Paul Westhead, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson!

And last, but most definitely not least:

- Jeanie Buss is the very first female controlling owner of an NBA team to win a championship. Congrats Jeanie! Your late father Jerry would be proud.

And of course, let's not forget the fact that the Lakers completed their mission of honoring Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven other individuals who perished in the helicopter crash on January 26 with this victory. What a way to cap an NBA season like no other... Much kudos to league commissioner Adam Silver for pulling off the NBA Bubble! Carry on.

Lakers players (and team general manager Rob Pelinka, on the right) gather around the Larry O'Brien Trophy after they won the 2020 NBA championship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida...on October 11, 2020.

Friday, October 09, 2020

Photos of the Day #2: My New MacBook!

My 13-inch Apple Macbook computer...which I received from an eBay vendor on October 8, 2020.

Just thought I'd share these pics that I took of the 13-inch Apple MacBook I ordered on eBay last week...courtesy of one of my brothers, who bought it for me as a birthday gift! The MacBook arrived at my house yesterday morning. Despite the fact that it's used, the laptop is working great! I installed the Final Draft 9 scriptwriting program and the Lightworks video editing software (which I used for my short film The Broken Table) last night. I totally can't wait to do filmmaking things with this computer!

Two of three computers now at my disposal at home. The third unseen laptop was used to edit my short film THE BROKEN TABLE last year.

Of course, the main reason why I wanted to get a Mac was to have access to the external hard drive that I used for my projects back in film school (at Cal State Long Beach) 16 years ago. The hard drive was formatted for the Mac G5 that I edited my film Envious on back in 2004...and unfortunately, I haven't had access to this project's media files since then because I mainly use PC computers. Next week, I'm getting an adapter (which I ordered on Amazon) that will hopefully allow me to connect the Firewire cable of this old hard drive to my MacBook. If it works, then woohoo! Sound-wise, Envious has been incomplete for the past 16 years, and I've been yearning to complete it since then. Once Envious is done, the sky's the limit! Can't wait to see what other video projects I'll create with my Apple computer. Happy Friday!

A snapshot of my Apple MacBook after I installed the Final Draft 9 scriptwriting software on it.

A snapshot of my Apple MacBook after I installed the Lightworks video editing program on it.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

OSIRIS-REx Update: Organic Material Covers Much of Bennu's Surface...

A false-color image of asteroid Bennu showing organic material strewn across most of its surface.
NASA / Goddard / University of Arizona

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Unlocks More Secrets from Asteroid Bennu (News Release)

NASA’s first asteroid sample return mission now knows much more about the material it’ll be collecting in just a few weeks. In a special collection of six papers published today in the journals Science and Science Advances, scientists on the OSIRIS-REx mission present new findings on asteroid Bennu’s surface material, geological characteristics, and dynamic history. They also suspect that the delivered sample of Bennu may be unlike anything we have in the meteorite collection on Earth.

These discoveries complete the OSIRIS-REx mission’s pre–sample collection science requirements and offer insight into the sample of Bennu that scientists will study for generations to come.

One of the papers, led by Amy Simon from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, shows that carbon-bearing, organic material is widespread on the asteroid’s surface, including at the mission’s primary sample site, Nightingale, where OSIRIS-REx will make its first sample collection attempt on October 20. These findings indicate that hydrated minerals and organic material will likely be present in the collected sample.

This organic matter may contain carbon in a form often found in biology or in compounds associated with biology. Scientists are planning detailed experiments on these organic molecules and expect that the returned sample will help answer complex questions about the origins of water and life on Earth.

“The abundance of carbon-bearing material is a major scientific triumph for the mission. We are now optimistic that we will collect and return a sample with organic material – a central goal of the OSIRIS-REx mission,” said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Authors of the special collection have also determined that carbonate minerals make up some of the asteroid’s geological features. Carbonate minerals often precipitate from hydrothermal systems that contain both water and carbon dioxide. A number of Bennu’s boulders have bright veins that appear to be made of carbonate – some of which are located near the Nightingale crater, meaning that carbonates might be present in the returned sample.

The study of the carbonates found on Bennu was led by Hannah Kaplan, from Goddard. These findings have allowed scientists to theorize that Bennu’s parent asteroid likely had an extensive hydrothermal system, where water interacted with and altered the rock on Bennu’s parent body. Although the parent body was destroyed long ago, we’re seeing evidence of what that watery asteroid once looked like here – in its remaining fragments that make up Bennu. Some of these carbonate veins in Bennu’s boulders measure up to a few feet long and several inches thick, validating that an asteroid-scale hydrothermal system of water was present on Bennu’s parent body.

Scientists made another striking discovery at site Nightingale: its regolith has only recently been exposed to the harsh space environment, meaning that the mission will collect and return some of the most pristine material on the asteroid. Nightingale is part of a population of young, spectrally red craters identified in a study led by Dani DellaGiustina at the University of Arizona. Bennu’s “colors” (variations in the slope of the visible-wavelength spectrum) are much more diverse than originally anticipated. This diversity results from a combination of different materials inherited from Bennu’s parent body and different durations of exposure to the space environment.

This paper’s findings are a major milestone in an ongoing debate in the planetary science community – how primitive asteroids like Bennu change spectrally as they are exposed to “space weathering” processes, such as bombardment by cosmic rays and solar wind. While Bennu appears quite black to the naked eye, the authors illustrate the diversity of Bennu’s surface by using false-color renderings of multispectral data collected by the MapCam camera. The freshest material on Bennu, such as that found at the Nightingale site, is spectrally redder than average and thus appears red in these images. Surface material turns vivid blue when it has been exposed to space weathering for an intermediate period of time. As the surface material continues to weather over long periods of time, it ultimately brightens across all wavelengths, becoming a less intense blue – the average spectral color of Bennu.

The paper by DellaGiustina et al. also distinguishes two main types of boulders on Bennu’s surface: dark and rough, and (less commonly) bright and smooth. The different types may have formed at different depths in the parent asteroid of Bennu.

Not only do the boulder types differ visually, they also have their own unique physical properties. The paper led by Ben Rozitis from The Open University in the UK shows that the dark boulders are weaker and more porous, whereas the bright boulders are stronger and less porous. The bright boulders also host the carbonates identified by Kaplan and crew, suggesting that the precipitation of carbonate minerals in cracks and pore spaces may be responsible for their increased strength.

However, both boulder types are weaker than scientists expected. Rozitis and colleagues suspect that Bennu’s dark boulders (the weaker, more porous, and more common type) would not survive the journey through Earth’s atmosphere. It’s therefore likely that the returned samples of asteroid Bennu will provide a missing link for scientists, as this type of material is not currently represented in meteorite collections.

Bennu is a diamond-shaped pile of rubble floating in space, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Data obtained by the OSIRIS-REx Laser Altimeter (OLA) – a science instrument contributed by the Canadian Space Agency – have allowed the mission team to develop a 3D digital terrain model of the asteroid that, at 20 cm resolution, is unprecedented in detail and accuracy. In this paper, led by Michael Daly of York University, scientists explain how detailed analysis of the asteroid’s shape revealed ridge-like mounds on Bennu that extend from pole-to-pole, but are subtle enough that they could be easily missed by the human eye. Their presence has been hinted at before, but their full pole-to-pole extents only became clear when the northern and southern hemispheres were split apart in the OLA data for comparison.

The digital terrain model also shows that Bennu’s northern and southern hemispheres have different shapes. The southern hemisphere appears to be smoother and rounder, which the scientists believe is a result of loose material getting trapped by the region’s numerous large boulders.

Another paper in the special collection, led by Daniel Scheeres of University of Colorado Boulder, examines the gravity field of Bennu, which has been determined by tracking the trajectories of the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft and the particles that are naturally ejected from Bennu’s surface. The use of particles as gravity probes is fortuitous. Prior to the discovery of particle ejection on Bennu in 2019, the team was concerned about mapping the gravity field to the required precision using only spacecraft tracking data. The natural supply of dozens of mini gravity probes allowed the team to vastly exceed their requirements and gain unprecedented insight into the asteroid interior.

The reconstructed gravity field shows that the interior of Bennu is not uniform. Instead, there are pockets of higher and lower density material inside the asteroid. It’s as if there is a void at its center, within which you could fit a couple of football fields. In addition, the bulge at Bennu’s equator is under-dense, suggesting that Bennu’s rotation is lofting this material.

All six publications in the special collection use global and local datasets collected by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from Feb. through Oct. 2019. The special collection underscores that sample return missions like OSIRIS-REx are essential to fully understanding the history and evolution of our Solar System.

The mission is less than two weeks away from fulfilling its biggest goal – collecting a piece of a pristine, hydrated, carbon-rich asteroid. OSIRIS-REx will depart Bennu in 2021 and deliver the sample to Earth on Sep. 24, 2023.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission’s science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.


Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Photo of the Day: Memeing Tonight's Vice Presidential Debate...

Friggin' Twitter... You never let me down when it comes to creating memes that encapsulate the craziness that's been the past four years here in America. Tonight is no different. If you watched this evening's vice presidential debate between U.S. Senator Kamala Harris and Vice President Mike Pence, you'd know what I'm talkin' about.

Only 27 days till Election Day! To my fellow Americans: Vote Early! Vote for Biden/Harris 2020! Carry on.

Current Vice President Mike Pence had a fly on his head and (supposedly) pinkeye during the U.S. vice presidential debate with Senator Kamala Harris on October 7, 2020.