GeoLog

GeoLog

Imaggeo on Mondays: Watching the world from space with EarthKAM

Imaggeo on Mondays: Watching the world from space with EarthKAM

This photo was taken from the International Space Station (ISS), approx. 400 km above the Earth, in the NASA-led educational project Sally Ride EarthKAM (www.earthkam.org), Mission 58, April 2017. The image was requested by a team of 10th and 11th grade students from the National College of Computer Science, Piatra-Neamț, Romania, coordinated by me. The lenses used on the digital camera mounted on the ISS are 50 mm focal length. The area photographed is a region of 185.87 km wide and approx. 123.5 km long, from Utah, USA. The view is spectacular, a perfect equilibrium between mountains, canyons, lakes and bays.

It’s just one of the pictures that my students had the opportunity to get from the ISS. Even though we weren’t there on the ISS to trigger the camera, all the locations in which the photographs were taken were chosen by us, on the track of the ISS.

The project activities were very complex. The students learned about the Earth, its rotation and gravity, and about the space station and its orbit. They completed their knowledge of physics, understanding how from the ISS orbit we can have another perspective of the Earth. They chose the places on the Earth to be photographed, studied these regions and monitored the weather conditions for better photo opportunities. They identified the places on Google Earth, analysed the photos and then created QR codes for some of them.

Below are the QR codes for the photo “Awesome trip above the Earth”:

 

The ISS became an innovative learning environment for the students. The astronauts’ availability for engaging in educational programmes, sharing their extraordinary experiences of becoming aware of the beauty and fragility of the Earth from the ISS orbit, has increased the attractiveness of learning about space. As Sally Ride, the first American astronaut woman on the ISS, said:

“When I was orbiting Earth in the space shuttle, I could float over to a window and gaze down at the delicate white clouds, brilliant orange deserts, and sparkling blue water of the planet below. I could see the coral reefs in the oceans, fertile farmlands in the valleys, and twinkling city lights beneath the clouds. Even from space, it is obvious that Earth is a living planet.”

The photo was integrated into a photo exhibition called “The Earth’s Colors” that I realised with my students at my college, which led the viewer on a global trip, discovering how beautiful and fascinating the Earth viewed from Space is. Satellite photography offered my students a new world perspective, encouraging them to ask questions and to search for the answers. It was a new and exciting way to travel and discover our planet.

The project was a great opportunity, not only for my students but also for thousands of other students around the globe, to study the Earth in a way that complements different subjects in order to better understand our world. It also has strengthened my conviction that, as the teacher and Challenger astronaut Christa McAuliffe said:

“…space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there, and it’s everybody’s business to know about space.”

By Diana Cristina Bejan, physics teacher, The National College of Computer Science, Piatra-Neamț, Romania

Imaggeo is the EGU’s online open access geosciences image repository. All geoscientists (and others) can submit their photographs and videos to this repository and, since it is open access, these images can be used for free by scientists for their presentations or publications, by educators and the general public, and some images can even be used freely for commercial purposes. Photographers also retain full rights of use, as Imaggeo images are licensed and distributed by the EGU under a Creative Commons licence. Submit your photos at http://imaggeo.egu.eu/upload/.

NASA’s InSight mission: detecting ‘earthquakes*’ on the surface of Mars

NASA’s InSight mission: detecting ‘earthquakes*’ on the surface of Mars

In three days’ time, NASA’s InSight Lander is expected to plunge through Mars’ atmosphere before parachuting down to a controlled landing on the flat plains of the Elysium Planitia.

Once the dust has settled, a solar powered robotic arm will painstakingly unload the precious instruments stored onboard onto the planet’s surface, carefully guided by scientists back on Earth.

This is an illustration showing a simulated view of NASA’s InSight about to land on the surface of Mars. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

These instruments are designed to penetrate further into Mars’ subterranean secrets than any mission before. While previous Martian landers have monitored the planet’s surface and atmosphere, the goal of InSight, short for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, is to explore Mars’ interior using three specialised tools.

These include a heat probe which will measure the heat flow near to the surface, a radio science instrument which will measure how Mars wobbles on its axis, and a seismometer which will tell us about Mars’ deep interior. Scientists hope this will lead to new information on the formation of the planets in our solar system, perhaps even illuminating more detail on how our own planet came about.

Seismometers detect seismic waves, vibrations that travel through the ground after an event such as fault movement or meteorite impact. The type of wave and the speed at which it travels can provide important details about the material through which it moves. On Earth, a global network of seismometers has provided vital information about the structure of the planet’s core and mantle.

Robert Myhill, a seismologist at the University of Bristol, is part of a large international team of scientists who have been preparing for data returned by InSight’s seismometers (known as SEIS). Until recently, Myhill has been investigating how SEIS will be affected by Mars’ regolith (its shallow soil surface)[1].

Now that SEIS is en route to its Martian home however, Myhill and colleagues are getting ready for the next phase: receiving the data. “We hope to be able to use the waveforms from marsquakes and/or impacts to image the interior structure of the planet for the first time, including the thickness and structure of the crust, and the composition of the mantle and core,” Myhill explains.

“We’ve also been investigating how we can combine the geophysical data returned by InSight with existing geochemical data to tell us about the history of Mars and the continuing evolution of the planet’s deep interior.”

The data they will receive comes from two different types of sensors, a ‘very-broad-band’ (known as ‘VBB’) seismometer and three tiny short-period seismic sensors which are about the size of a Euro coin. The different sensors can detect various types of seismic wave, depending on the size and location of the seismicity.

Animation of InSight deploying it’s seismometer. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Gathering the information needed to achieve the mission’s goals presents numerous challenges. For starters, unlike Earth, which has a network of seismometers that can be used together, InSight will be the only active geophysical station on the Red Planet. Two previous seismometers, mounted on NASA’s Viking Landers in the 1970s, experienced technical faults and design limitations and are no longer in action. As a result, researchers have had to come up with novel ways to gather information from the lone InSight lander [2] [3].

The mission’s designers have also developed new technology to reduce noise and ensure the equipment can operate in Mars’ harsh environment. The seismometer will be mounted on a levelling system close to the Martian surface to minimise tilt and reduce the effect of wind. Once levelled, the lander’s robotic arm will place a wind and thermal shield over the top of the instruments, sheltering the sensitive instruments from extreme temperatures and buffeting by the Martian winds.

Despite the increased protection afforded by the wind and thermal shield, there remain challenges for InSight. “We hope that during the lifetime of the mission, we don’t have a prolonged dust-storm. Although InSight would not be damaged by such an event, it does need solar energy for all its instruments and for data transmission,” said Myhill.

NASA’s InSight mission tests an engineering version of the spacecraft’s robotic arm in a Mars-like environment at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

From 26 November, he and the others involved must wait with bated breath to see their hard work come to fruition. “We should receive the first data from the instrument deck not long after landing, but full deployment of SEIS (including the wind and thermal shield) is not scheduled until early January 2019,” he explains.

“The timing of first results really depends on the level of seismicity, which is currently very poorly known. In fact, determining the rate of seismic energy generation is one of the primary goals of the InSight Mission. But of course, we’re all hoping to see something soon after deployment.”

For the most up to date information on the mission, as well as more details in the lander’s other exciting capabilities see NASA’s InSight website.

*Astute readers of this blog may have noticed the error in the title. There is no such thing as an earthquake on Mars… instead InSight will be monitoring ‘marsquakes’.

By Keri McNamara, freelance science writer

Keri McNamara is a freelance writer with a PhD in Volcanology from the University of Bristol. She is on twitter @KeriAMcNamara and www.kerimcnamara.com.

References

[1]                      https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11214-018-0514-5

[2]                      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001910351400582X

[3]                      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031920116300875?via%3Dihub

Mentoring programme at EGU 2019

Mentoring programme at EGU 2019

With more than 15,000 participants, 4,700 oral presentations, 11,000 posters and 1,400 PICO presentations, all under one roof, the EGU General Assembly can be an overwhelming experience. There is a network of corridors to navigate, as well as a wide range of workshops, splinter and townhall meetings to choose from. With that in mind, we’ve put in place some initiatives to make the experience of those joining us in Vienna for the 1st time a rewarding one.

Especially designed with novice conference attendees, students, and early career scientists in mind, our mentoring programme aims to facilitate new connections that may lead to long-term professional relationships within the Earth, planetary and space science communities. Mentees are matched with a senior scientist (mentor) to help them navigate the conference, network with conference attendees, and exchange feedback and ideas on professional activities and career development.

The EGU will match mentors and mentees prior to the conference, and is also organising meeting opportunities for those taking part in the mentoring programme.

In addition, mentoring pairs are encouraged to meet regularly throughout the week, and again at the end of the week, to make the most of the experience, as well as introduce each other to 3 to 5 fellow colleagues to facilitate the growth of each other’s network.

“Mentoring is an indispensable requirement for growth. Through the mentoring programme I was introduced to Dr Niels Hovius who was a generous mentor during EGU’17. His guidance during the conference enabled my interactions with prominent scientists and to navigate the conference to my maximum potential. I am grateful for this programme and hope it be fruitful for students in this coming year.”

Rheane da Silva (National Institute of Oceanography, Goa, India), mentee

Mentoring an EGU novice student was the highlight of my 2017 General Assembly week. To see our elaborate and overwhelmingly large meeting through the eyes of a rookie makes you actively aware of many aspects that you have always taken for granted. To see the excitement in the eyes of a rookie when you take them deep into our organization and show them paths they had not expected to be open to them makes you appreciate all the General Assembly has to offer.

Niels Hovius (GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Germany), mentor

We anticipate the programme to be a rewarding experience for both mentees and mentors, so we encourage you to sign up by following the link to a short registration form. The details given in the questionnaire will enable us to match suitable pairs of mentors and mentees. The deadline for submissions is 31 January 2019.

You’ll find more details about the mentoring programme (including the requirements of the scheme) over on our website.

EGU 2019 will take place from 7 to 12 April 2019 in Vienna, Austria. For more information on the General Assembly, see the EGU 2019 website and follow us on Twitter (#EGU19 is the official conference hashtag) and Facebook.

Job opportunity at the EGU General Assembly: press assistant

Job opportunity at the EGU General Assembly: press assistant

We have two vacancies for science-communication or science-journalism students in Europe to work at the press centre of the 2019 General Assembly, which is taking place in Vienna, Austria, from 7–12 April. Applications from geoscience students with experience in science communication are also very welcome.

This is a paid opportunity for budding science communicators to gain experience in the workings of a press office at a major scientific conference, and to interact with journalists. The students will join the team assisting the EGU Media and Communications Manager Bárbara Ferreira and the journalists at the press centre, and are expected to help run press conferences. Other tasks include reporting on the events at the Assembly through photographs and video (including producing a highlights video of the conference), and/or writing blog posts.

The position is open to university students (final-year undergraduates or postgraduates) in science communication/journalism or to students in the Earth, planetary or space sciences with experience in science outreach. Applicants must have experience in photo and video reporting, or science writing, have an expert command of English, and be competent working with computers and the internet.

Further information

  • Only students with a student ID card and an EU (including UK but except Croatia) or Swiss passport are allowed to work at the EGU General Assembly.
  • People who are presenting an abstract at the EGU General Assembly are not eligible to apply.
  • Tax regulations in your home country could obligate you to pay income taxes on the amount earned at the EGU General Assembly (including travel money). The respective taxation is your responsibility.
  • If you have other income in Austria in 2019, you will be forced to pay income taxes in Austria should the sum of all income, including the amount earned at the EGU General Assembly (including travel money), exceed €11,000 gross.

Work hours and payment

Press assistants will need to be in Vienna from Sunday 7 April in the early afternoon until late on Friday 12 April. They should expect to work between 50 and 55 hours and will receive a wage of €9/hour, in addition to a €150 allowance for those who don’t reside in Vienna (the city of your university is considered your current place of residence). Student press assistants also receive additional support towards travel expenses and complimentary breakfast and lunch at the press centre from Monday to Friday.

Applications must include

  • Cover letter and CV (one page each) summarising relevant experience
  • Two samples of recent science communication work such as photo features, videos or written articles (published or unpublished, aimed at a general audience; links to an online portfolio are welcomed).

Application documents (in English) should be submitted by email in a single file to Bárbara Ferreira at media@egu.eu. Bárbara can also be contacted for informal enquiries by email or phone (+49-89-2180-6703). The deadline for applications is 10 December 2018.

If your application is successful, you will be asked to fill in a form to submit some information about yourself (including a copy of your passport and student ID card) to our conference organiser Copernicus.

The European Geosciences Union (EGU, www.egu.eu) is Europe’s premier geosciences organisation, dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the Earth, planetary, and space sciences for the benefit of humanity, worldwide. The EGU organises a General Assembly that attracts over 14,000 scientists each year, as well as reporters. The meeting’s sessions cover a wide range of topics, including volcanology, planetary exploration, the Earth’s internal structure and atmosphere, climate, as well as energy and resources.