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The Marshall Star for December 13, 2023


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The Marshall Star for December 13, 2023

Marshall team members gather at the center’s holiday reception Dec. 7 in Activities Building 4316. From left are Cory Brown, Leigh Martin, Lisa Watkins, Shaun Baek, and Randy Silver.

Marshall Team Members Celebrate Holiday Season

By Jessica Barnett

Marshall team members gather at the center’s holiday reception Dec. 7 in Activities Building 4316. From left are Cory Brown, Leigh Martin, Lisa Watkins, Shaun Baek, and Randy Silver.
Marshall team members gather at the center’s holiday reception Dec. 7 in Activities Building 4316. From left are Cory Brown, Leigh Martin, Lisa Watkins, Shaun Baek, and Randy Silver.
NASA/Alex Russell

For hundreds of team members at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, “eat, drink, and be merry” was the afternoon theme for Dec. 7.

Marshall team members sign up for door prizes while Marshall Acting Center Director Joseph Pelfrey offers welcoming remarks at the center’s holiday reception.
Marshall team members sign up for door prizes while Marshall Acting Center Director Joseph Pelfrey offers welcoming remarks at the center’s holiday reception.
NASA/Alex Russell

The center hosted a holiday celebration in Activities Building 4316, complete with food, door prizes, and plenty of opportunity to wish one happy holidays. Acting Center Director Joseph Pelfrey welcomed team members to the festivities with a brief recap of 2023 and look forward to 2024.

Hundreds of Marshall team members enjoy the buffet-style food offerings at the center’s holiday reception.
Hundreds of Marshall team members enjoy the buffet-style food offerings at the center’s holiday reception.
NASA/Alex Russell

“I was thrilled to see such an excellent turnout at the holiday reception,” Pelfrey said after the reception. “This has been an exceptional year for us at Marshall, and it’s important we take time this season to celebrate our successes and recharge for 2024.”

The NASA worm logo flanked by two holiday trees was just one of the ways Activities Building 4316 was decked out for a merry holiday reception Dec. 7.
The NASA worm logo flanked by two holiday trees was just one of the ways Activities Building 4316 was decked out for a merry holiday reception Dec. 7.
NASA/Alex Russell

Barnett, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.

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IXPE Marks 2 Years of Groundbreaking X-ray Astronomy

By Rick Smith

On Dec. 9, astronomers and physicists commemorated two years of landmark X-ray science by NASA’s IXPE (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer) mission.

IXPE is the joint NASA-Italian Space Agency mission to study polarized X-ray light. Polarization is a characteristic of light that can help reveal information about where that light came from, such as the geometry and inner workings of the ultra-powerful energy sources from which it emanates.

A red and orange circle on a black starry background. A portion of the upper left is purple with lines on it.
This image of supernova remnant SN 1006 combines data from IXPE and NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. The red, green, and blue elements reflect low, medium, and high energy X-rays, respectively, as detected by Chandra. IXPE data is shown in purple in the upper left corner, with the addition of lines representing the outward movement of the remnant’s magnetic field.
X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO (Chandra); NASA/MSFC/Nanjing Univ./P. Zhou et al. (IXPE); IR: NASA/JPL/CalTech/Spitzer; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/J.Schmidt

Launched Dec. 9, 2021, IXPE orbits Earth some 340 miles high, studying X-ray emissions from powerful cosmic phenomena thousands to billions of light-years from Earth, including quasars, blazars, remnants of supernova explosions, and high-energy particle streams spewing from the vicinity of black holes at nearly the speed of light.

“Adding X-ray polarization to our arsenal of radio, infrared, and optical polarization is a game changer,” said Alan Marscher, a Boston University astronomer who leads a research group that uses IXPE’s findings to analyze supermassive black holes.

Martin Weisskopf, the astrophysicist who led the development of IXPE at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and served as its principal investigator until his retirement from NASA in spring 2022, agreed.

“There can be no question that IXPE has shown that X-ray polarimetry is important and relevant to furthering our understanding of how these fascinating X-ray systems work,” Weisskopf said.

Scientists have long understood, for example, the fundamentals of blazars such as Markarian 501 and Markarian 421. A blazar is a massive black hole feeding off material swirling around it in a disk, creating powerful jets of high-speed cosmic particles which rush away in two directions perpendicular to the disk. But how are those particles accelerated to such high energies? IXPE data published in November 2022 in the journal Nature identified the culprit at Markarian 501 as a shock wave within the jet.

“This is a 40-year-old mystery that we’ve solved,” said Yannis Liodakis, a NASA Postdoctoral Program researcher at Marshall. “We finally had all of the pieces of the puzzle, and the picture they made was clear.”

IXPE also conducted unprecedented studies of three supernova remnants – Cassiopeia A, Tycho, and SN 1006 – helping scientists further their understanding of the origin and processes of the magnetic fields surrounding these phenomena.

IXPE is even shedding new light on fundamental mechanisms of our own galaxy. According to studies IXPE conducted in early 2022, Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, woke up about 200 years ago to devour gas and other cosmic detritus, triggering an intense, short-lived X-ray flare. By combining data from IXPE, Chandra, and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton mission, researchers determined the event occurred around the start of the 19th century.

An illustration of of a black hole that looks purple at the bottom and shows a stream of white and blue coming out of the hole.
This NASA illustration shows the structure of a black hole jet as inferred by recent IXPE observations of the blazar Markarian 421. The jet is powered by an accretion disk, shown at the bottom of the image, which orbits and falls into the black hole over time. Helical magnetic fields are threaded through the jet. IXPE observations have shown that the X-rays must be generated in a shock originating within material spiraling around the magnetic fields. The inset shows the shock front itself.
NASA/Pablo Garcia

“We know change can happen to active galaxies and supermassive black holes on a human timescale,” said IXPE project scientist Steve Ehlert at Marshall. “IXPE is helping us better understand the timescale on which the black hole at the center of our galaxy is changing. We’re eager to observe it further to determine which changes are typical and which are unique.”

IXPE also has supported observations of unanticipated cosmic events – such as the brightest pulse of intense radiation ever recorded, which swept through our solar system in October 2022. The pulse stemmed from a powerful gamma-ray burst likely to occur no more than once in 10,000 years, researchers said. Backing up data from NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope and other imagers, IXPE helped determine how the pulse was organized and confirmed that Earth imagers viewed the jet almost directly head-on.

Perhaps most exciting to space scientists is how IXPE data is upending conventional wisdom about various classes of high-energy sources.

“So many of the polarized X-ray results we’ve seen over the past two years were a big surprise, tossing theoretical models right out the window,” Ehlert said. “Seeing results we didn’t anticipate sparks new questions, new theories. It’s really exciting!”

That excitement continues to build among IXPE partners around the world. In June, the mission was formally extended for 20 months beyond its initial two-year flight – meaning IXPE will continue to observe high-energy X-ray emissions across the cosmos through at least September 2025.

The new year also will mark the start of the IXPE General Observer Program, which invites astrophysicists and other space scientists around the world to propose and take part in studies using the IXPE telescope. Beginning in February 2024, as much as 80% of IXPE’s time will be made available to the broader scientific community.

IXPE is a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency with partners and science collaborators in 12 countries. Led at Marshall, IXPE’s spacecraft operations are jointly managed by Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, Colorado, and the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in Boulder.

Smith, a Manufacturing Technical Solutions employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.

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This Holiday Season, Take Care of Yourself and Others

Dear Marshall family,

As 2023 comes to a close, my thoughts seem to be focused more than ever upon gratitude. As is true for many of you I’m sure, I am so incredibly thankful for my loved ones, for good health for me and my loved ones, and for the life that I enjoy.

The life that I enjoy encompasses a great deal. I have a comfortable home, with heat for the winter, air conditioning for the summer, hot and cold water all year long, good food to eat, reliable vehicles to drive, nice clothes and shoes to wear, access to entertainment, the ability to be a part of a community, and I could go on and on. The point is, I have a great deal to be thankful for, and being thankful helps me to be more aware of the fact that many in our community and our world are not so fortunate. I hope that you, too, will take some time to consider the people, circumstances, and things for which you are grateful, and also to consider looking for opportunities to help those in our community who are less fortunate.

Terry Sterry.
Dr. Terry Sterry.
NASA

With the holidays upon us, this can be a very demanding time of year, and that can add a good deal of stress to our lives. The stressors of the season will be different for each of us, but some common ones include attending more parties and other events, hosting parties, being around people whom we would prefer to avoid, spending too much on gifts, and trying to make everything turn out perfectly.

Please be deliberate in taking good care of yourselves during the holiday season. That, too, will look different for everyone, but some tips include giving ourselves permission to get enough sleep and rest, setting a budget and sticking to it, striving for enjoyment rather than perfection, limiting our indulgence in all the good food of the season, not drinking to excess, and giving ourselves permission to say ‘no’ to things that will cause us to be stretched too thin or pushed beyond our limits. 

While we typically think of the holidays as a time of joy and celebration, it can also be a time of intense sadness, grief, and feeling overwhelmed. Pay attention to those around you and if you see opportunities to offer support, please do. The holidays are very family focused, and this can be especially difficult for those who have discord within their family, for those with little or no remaining family, or those who have lost loved ones over this past year. If you find yourself struggling, please reach out to those you trust, be that family members, friends, spiritual leaders, or counselors (including the Marshall Employee Assistance Program), for support. Don’t suffer alone or in silence. It’s OK to ask for help. 

I’ll close with a couple of requests. First, please use your leave – take some time off to enjoy the holiday season, or just to go out and do something that you’ve been wanting to do. Second, if you have leave that you can’t use, please consider donating it to the leave bank. Donated leave makes a tremendous difference for those who have exhausted their own leave due to illness or accident, or to care for loved ones who are ill or recovering. Your generosity has the potential to help someone avoid the painful situation of having to take leave without pay.

Happy Holidays!  Be safe and well.

Dr. Terry Sterry
Licensed psychologist and Marshall Employee Assistance Program coordinator

For more information, team members can visit the Employee Assistance Program page on Inside Marshall.

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NASA Teams Prepare Moon Rocket-to-Spacecraft Connector for Assembly

The elements of the super-heavy lift SLS (Space Launch System) rocket for NASA’s Artemis II mission are undergoing final preparations before shipment to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for stacking and pre-launch activities in 2024.

Teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center recently rotated the Orion stage adapter – a ring structure that connects NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the SLS rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS) – in preparation for the installation of its diaphragm. The installation Nov. 30 marks one of the final steps for the adapter before it is readied for shipment to Kennedy via NASA’s Super Guppy cargo aircraft.

Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center flip the Artemis II Orion stage adapter for installation of its diaphragm Nov. 30.
Teams at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center recently rotated the Orion stage adapter – a ring structure that connects NASA’s Orion spacecraft to the SLS rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage – in preparation for the installation of its diaphragm. The installation Nov. 30 marks one of the final steps for the adapter before it is readied for shipment to Kennedy via NASA’s Super Guppy cargo aircraft.
NASA/Sam Lott

“The diaphragm is a composite, dome-shaped structure that isolates the volume above the ICPS from that below Orion,” said Brent Gaddes, lead for the Orion stage adapter, in the Spacecraft/Payload Integration & Evolution Office for the SLS Program at Marshall. “It serves as a barrier between the two, preventing the highly flammable hydrogen gas that could escape the rocket’s propellant tanks from building up beneath the Orion spacecraft and its crew before and during launch.”

At five feet tall and weighing in at 1,800 pounds, the adapter is the smallest major element of the SLS rocket that will produce more than 8.8 million pounds of thrust to launch four Artemis astronauts inside Orion around the Moon. The adapter is fully manufactured by engineering teams at Marshall.

NASA is working to land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon under Artemis. SLS is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with Orion and the Gateway in orbit around the Moon, and commercial human landing systems. SLS is the only rocket that can send Orion, astronauts, and supplies to the Moon in a single launch.

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25 Years Ago: NASA, Partners Begin Space Station Assembly

On Dec. 6, NASA marked 25 years since the first two elements of the International Space Station were launched and joined in space. Today, the space station remains a global endeavor, with 273 people from 21 countries now having visited the microgravity laboratory and has hosted more than 3,700 research and educational investigations from people in 108 countries and areas.

On Nov. 20 and Dec. 4, 1998, Zarya and Unity, respectively, launched into orbit as the first two modules of the International Space Station. On Dec. 6, 1998, the space shuttle Endeavour STS-88 crew, NASA astronauts Bob Cabana, Rick Sturckow, Nancy Currie, Jerry Ross, and James Newman, along with Russian Space Agency (now Roscosmos) cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, captured the Zarya module with the space shuttle’s robotic arm and mated it to Unity.

Image of the Unity Node 1 module being lifted out of the cargo bay
The Unity Node 1 module being lifted out of the cargo bay. On Nov. 20 and Dec. 4, 1998, Zarya and Unity, respectively, launched into orbit as the first two modules of the International Space Station. On Dec. 6, 1998, the space shuttle Endeavour STS-88 crew captured the Zarya module with the space shuttle’s robotic arm and mated it to Unity.
NASA

Engineers thousands of miles apart designed and built the two modules and the elements first met in space. The STS-88 crew, commanded by Cabana, spent the next few days and three spacewalks making connections between the two modules before releasing the early station.

Since the joining of Zarya and Unity, the space station has grown with additions from international partners, resulting in the largest and most complex piece of technology constructed in space.

In November 2000, the space station received its first long-duration residents, Expedition 1, including NASA astronaut William Shepard, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko. Since that time, international teams have kept the space station permanently inhabited, performing routine operations and maintenance including dozens of spacewalks, and conducting world-class research in a wide array of scientific disciplines. From visiting spacecraft with cargo, crew, and private astronauts, to spacewalks for station upgrades, to science investigations and technology demonstrations, to commercial activities, to public outreach and STEM downlinks, the International Space Station is a busy orbital outpost and microgravity laboratory.

The International Space Station as it appeared in 2021, compared to Zarya and Unity at the same scale in the inset
The International Space Station as it appeared in 2021, compared to Zarya and Unity at the same scale in the inset

The seven-member Expedition 70 crew called down to Earth on Dec. 6 and discussed with NASA Associate Administrator Bob Cabana and International Space Station Program Manager Joel Montalbano the orbital outpost’s accomplishments since the assembly era began on Dec. 6, 1998. Cabana was the commander of Endeavour when both modules were robotically mated then outfitted during a series of spacewalks. Montalbano, NASA’s sixth station leader since the program’s inception, said, “We want to celebrate today all the people who designed, built, and operate the International Space Station.”

The Payload Operations Integration Center at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center operates, plans, and coordinates the science experiments onboard the space station 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

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Hubble Captures a Cluster in the Cloud

A striking Hubble Space Telescope image shows the densely packed globular cluster known as NGC 2210, which is situated in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). The LMC lies about 157,000 light-years from Earth and is a so-called satellite galaxy of the Milky Way, meaning that the two galaxies are gravitationally bound. Globular clusters are very stable, tightly bound clusters of thousands or even millions of stars. Their stability means that they can last a long time, and therefore globular clusters are often studied to investigate potentially very old stellar populations.

A dense cluster of stars. It is brightest and most crowded in the center, where the stars are mostly a cool white color. Moving out towards the edges the stars become more spread out and reddish until a noticeable ‘edge’ to the cluster is reached. Beyond that edge there are still many stars, more disorganized and seen on a black background. Some stars appear to be in front of the cluster.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope can resolve individual stars in the densely packed cores of globular clusters like NGC 2210.
ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Sarajedini

In fact, 2017 research using some of the data that were also used to build the image revealed that a sample of LMC globular clusters were incredibly close in age to some of the oldest stellar clusters found in the Milky Way’s halo. They found that NGC 2210 specifically probably clocks in at around 11.6 billion years old. Even though this is only a couple of billion years younger than the universe itself, it made NGC 2210 by far the youngest globular cluster in their sample. All other LMC globular clusters studied in the same work were found to be even older, with four of them over 13 billion years old. This tells astronomers that the oldest globular clusters in the LMC formed contemporaneously with the oldest clusters in the Milky Way, even though the two galaxies formed independently.

As well as being a source of interesting research, this old-but-relatively-young cluster is also extremely beautiful, with its highly concentrated population of stars. The night sky would look very different from the perspective of an inhabitant of a planet orbiting one of the stars in a globular cluster’s center: the sky would appear to be stuffed full of stars, in a stellar environment that is thousands of times more crowded than our own.

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Webb Stuns with New High-Definition Look at Exploded Star

Like a shiny round ornament ready to be placed in the perfect spot on a holiday tree, supernova remnant Cassiopeia A (Cas A) gleams in a new image from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. As part of the 2023 Holidays at the White House, First Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden debuted the first-ever White House Advent Calendar. To showcase the “Magic, Wonder, and Joy” of the holiday season, Dr. Biden and NASA are celebrating with this new image from Webb.

While all is bright, this scene is no proverbial silent night. Webb’s NIRCam (Near-Infrared Camera) view of Cas A displays this stellar explosion at a resolution previously unreachable at these wavelengths. This high-resolution look unveils intricate details of the expanding shell of material slamming into the gas shed by the star before it exploded.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s new view of Cassiopeia A in near-infrared light is giving astronomers hints at the dynamical processes occurring within the supernova remnant. Tiny clumps represented in bright pink and orange make up the supernova’s inner shell, and are comprised of sulfur, oxygen, argon, and neon from the star itself. A large, striated blob at the bottom right corner of the image, nicknamed Baby Cas A, is one of the few light echoes visible NIRCam’s field of view. In this image, red, green, and blue were assigned to Webb’s NIRCam data at 4.4, 3.56, and 1.62 microns (F444W, F356W, and F162M, respectively).
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope’s new view of Cassiopeia A in near-infrared light is giving astronomers hints at the dynamical processes occurring within the supernova remnant. Tiny clumps represented in bright pink and orange make up the supernova’s inner shell, and are comprised of sulfur, oxygen, argon, and neon from the star itself. A large, striated blob at the bottom right corner of the image, nicknamed Baby Cas A, is one of the few light echoes visible NIRCam’s field of view. In this image, red, green, and blue were assigned to Webb’s NIRCam data at 4.4, 3.56, and 1.62 microns (F444W, F356W, and F162M, respectively).
NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI, D. Milisavljevic (Purdue University), T. Temim (Princeton University), I. De Looze (University of Gent)

Cas A is one of the most well-studied supernova remnants in all of the cosmos. Over the years, ground-based and space-based observatories, including NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope, and retired Spitzer Space Telescope have assembled a multiwavelength picture of the object’s remnant.

However, astronomers have now entered a new era in the study of Cas A. In April 2023, Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument) started this chapter, revealing new and unexpected features within the inner shell of the supernova remnant. Many of those features are invisible in the new NIRCam image, and astronomers are investigating why.

The 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 the Canadian Space Agency.

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Gorgeously Green: Geminids Peak Dec. 13-14

By Lauren Perkins

The Geminid meteor shower is active for much of December, but the peak occurs the night of the 13th into the morning of the 14th. Meteor rates in rural areas can be upwards of one per minute this year with minimal moonlight to interfere.

Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, haunted skies over the island of Kvaløya, near Tromsø Norway on Dec. 13. This 30 second-long exposure records their shimmering glow gently lighting the wintery coastal scene. A study in contrasts, it also captures the sudden flash of a fireball meteor from December’s excellent Geminid meteor shower. Streaking past familiar stars in the handle of the Big Dipper, the trail points back toward the constellation Gemini, off the top of the view.
Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, haunted skies over the island of Kvaløya, near Tromsø Norway on Dec. 13. This 30 second-long exposure records their shimmering glow gently lighting the wintery coastal scene. A study in contrasts, it also captures the sudden flash of a fireball meteor from December’s excellent Geminid meteor shower. Streaking past familiar stars in the handle of the Big Dipper, the trail points back toward the constellation Gemini, off the top of the view.
Bjørnar G. Hansen

Bill Cooke, lead for the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, shares why the Geminids particularly excite him: “Most meteors appear to be colorless or white, however the Geminids appear with a greenish hue. They’re pretty meteors!”

Depending on the meteor’s chemical composition, the meteor will emit different colors when burned in the Earth’s atmosphere. Oxygen, magnesium, and nickel usually produce green.

As with all meteor showers, all you need is a clear sky, darkness, a bit of patience, and perhaps warm outer wear and blankets for this one. You don’t need to look in any particular direction; meteors can generally be seen all over the sky.

Perkins, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.

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      First place: University of Colorado Boulder Safety Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Notre Dame, Indiana Second place: University of Florida, Gainesville Third place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte Social Media Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Colorado Boulder Middle/High School Level:
      First place: Newark Memorial High School, Newark, California STEM Engagement Award:
      College Level:
      First place: University of Notre Dame, Indiana Second place: University of North Carolina at Charlotte Third place: New York University, Brooklyn, New York Middle/High School Level:
      First place: Notre Dame Academy High School, Los Angeles, California Second place: Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls, Iowa Third place: Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia Service Academy Award:
      First place: United States Air Force Academy, USAF Academy, Colorado
      Vehicle Design Award:
      Middle/High School Level:
      First place: First Baptist Church of Manchester, Manchester, Connecticut Second place: Explorer Post 1010, Rockville, Maryland Third place: Plantation High School, Plantation, Florida Payload Design Award:
      Middle/High School Level:
      First place: Young Engineers in Action, LaPalma, California Second place: Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls, Iowa Third place: Spring Grove Area High School, Spring Grove, Pennsylvania Student Launch is one of NASA’s nine Artemis Student Challenges, activities which connect student ingenuity with NASA’s work returning to the Moon under Artemis in preparation for human exploration of Mars.
      The competition is managed by Marshall’s Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM). Additional funding and support are provided by NASA’s OSTEM via the Next Gen STEM project, NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, Northrup Grumman, National Space Club Huntsville, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, National Association of Rocketry, Relativity Space, and Bastion Technologies.
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      Keith Savoy Named Deputy Director at Michoud Assembly Facility
      Keith Savoy has been named deputy director of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility, effective June 16.
      Savoy will assist in managing the day-to-day operations of one of the world’s largest manufacturing facilities, where key elements of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), and Orion spacecraft are built. Michoud, a multi-tenant manufacturing site sitting on 829 acres with over 2 million square feet of manufacturing space, is managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and provides facility infrastructure and capacity for federal, state, academic, and technology-based industry partners.
      Keith Savoy has been named deputy director of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility.NASA Savoy was the chief operating officer of Michoud Assembly Facility from 2022-2024, where he oversaw the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of the NASA-owned facility, helping sustain SLS and Orion production efforts and coordinating requirements and logistics with Michoud tenant leadership for approximately 3,500 Michoud employees.
      He previously served as manager of the Office of Center Operations of Michoud from 2016-2022. His responsibilities included managing the facility’s planning, maintenance, design, construction, and engineering. Savoy also oversaw energy and water conservation, environmental permitting and compliance, industrial hygiene, and medical, security, and logistics services, where he was responsible for managing over $350 million of supplemental funding projects sitewide.
      Savoy also held the position of lead engineer, Logistics and Operation Planning for NASA from 2007-2016 at Michoud as an expert consultant for all engineering aspects of the facility. He managed multi-phase projects and helped advance aerospace manufacturing at Michoud to meet the complex requirements of SLS and Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle programs, ensuring environmental compliance. Savoy worked closely with local, state, and federal environmental regulatory agencies to identify and resolve engineering and environmental issues. His expertise was a key contributor to ensuring NASA’s sustainable and environmental goals were achieved.
      Prior to working for NASA, Savoy held several positions of increasing responsibility with Lockheed Martin from 1988-2007. As manager of Operational Planning and Layout, he was responsible for managing the Construction of Facilities. This required developing and implementing plans, outlining scope-of-work, overseeing large-scale project budgets, and Project Definition Rating assessment/score and 1509 development. Savoy implemented Six Sigma & Lean principles concepts to achieve many successes and identified innovative solutions and best practices to satisfy customer requirements. Savoy was also the manager of the Infrastructure Enhancement Team where he managed over 160 personnel and a $10 million budget.
      Savoy has a Master of Science in environmental management from National Technological University in Fort Collins, Colorado, a bachelor of science in electrical engineering from the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, and a technical degree in industrial instrumentation from International Technical Institute in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
      Throughout his career, Savoy has received various awards including the NASA Honor Award Outstanding Leadership Medal, Director’s Commendation Honor Award, Safety Flight Awareness Awards, and several Silver Medal Group Achievement Awards.
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      ‘NASA in the Park’ Returns to Rocket City June 22
      NASA in the Park is coming back to Big Spring Park East in Huntsville, Alabama, on June 22, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. CDT. The event is free and open to the public.
      NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, its partners, and collaborators will fill the park with space exhibits, music, food vendors, and hands-on activities for all ages. Marshall is teaming up with Downtown Huntsville Inc. for this unique celebration of space and the Rocket City.
      “NASA in the Park gives us the opportunity to bring our work outside the gates of Redstone Arsenal and thank the community for their continuing support,” Marshall Director Joseph Pelfrey said. “It’s the first time we’ve held the event since 2018, and we look forward to sharing this experience with everyone.”
      Pelfrey will kick the event off with local leaders on the main stage. NASA speakers will spotlight topics ranging from space habitats to solar sails, and local rock band Five by Five will perform throughout the day.
      “NASA Marshall is leading the way in this new era of space exploration, for the benefit of all humankind,” Pelfrey said. “We are proud members of the Rocket City community, which has helped us push the boundaries of science, technology, and engineering for nearly 65 years.”
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      Mission Success is in Our Hands: Baraka Truss
      By Wayne Smith
      Mission Success is in Our Hands is a safety initiative collaboration between NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Jacobs. As part of the initiative, eight Marshall team members are featured in testimonial banners placed around the center. This is the last in a Marshall Star series profiling team members featured in the testimonial banners. The Mission Success team also awards the Golden Eagle Award on a quarterly basis to Marshall and contractor personnel who are nominated by their peers or management. Candidates for this award have made significant, identifiable contributions that exceed normal job expectations to advance flight safety and mission assurance. Nominations for 2024 are open now online on Inside Marshall.
      Baraka Truss is the Avionics and Software Branch chief at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA/Charles Beason Baraka Truss is the Avionics and Software Branch chief in the Safety and Mission Assurance Organization, Vehicle Systems Department, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Her key responsibilities include being viewed as a leadership role model, “demonstrating commitment to the mission and NASA’s core values, creating the most impact for the greater agency, and engaging in activities that promote supervisory excellence and value beyond the immediate organization.”
      Truss has worked at Marshall for 28 years. Her previous roles have been software engineer, Software Engineering Process Group lead, special assistant to the center director, Independent Assessment Team lead, Software Quality Discipline lead engineer, Software Assurance Team lead, and     SLS (Space Launch System) Software chief safety officer.
      A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Truss earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science from Alabama A&M University in Huntsville.
      Question: How does your work support the safety and success of NASA and Marshall missions?
      Truss: My work involves daily managing and interactions with the avionics and software team members whose mission is to ensure the safety of hardware and software for various programs and projects at Marshall and NASA.
      Question: What does the initiative campaign “Mission Success is in Our Hands” mean to you?
      Truss: That when risks arise, we should be sure to listen to all sides and make informed decisions, be held accountable, and speak up for what is safe when we need to do so.
      Question: Do you have a story or personal experience you can share that might help others understand the significance of mission assurance or flight safety? What did you learn from it?
      Truss: In my experience, mission assurance requires you to “believe the unlikely.” I have learned that believing what you have never seen requires you to stretch your imagination, because we are prone to discount and devalue things that we have not seen. We are skeptical about things that have never been seen, never been done, never been achieved, or never been accomplished.
      Because according to our limited logic if it’s never been seen, never been done, never been achieved, or never been accomplished, then it’s not likely to be seen, not likely to be done, not likely to be achieved, and not likely to be accomplished. Therefore, we see no need to attempt it, try it, believe it, or invest in it because while we’ll acknowledge that it’s possible, we quickly add it’s not probable, because our idea of likelihood is limited by our experience. My experiences working for NASA have stretched me to an amazing place of accountability, assurance, and mission success.
      Question: How can we work together better to achieve mission success?
      Truss: Again, by listening to all sides and making informed decisions, being held accountable, and speaking up for what is safe when we need to do so.
      Smith, a Media Fusion employee and the Marshall Star editor, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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      That’s the Spirit: Marshall Team Members Show Support at Community Softball Game
      NASA shows its team spirit during the Armed Forces Celebration Community Softball Game on June 12 at Toyota Field. Marshall Space Flight Center’s Robert Champion and Jason Adam joined Team Redstone to take on the North Alabama Rockets, made up of community leaders. (Huntsville Sports Commission)
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      Coming in Hot: NASA’s Chandra Checks Habitability of Exoplanets
      This graphic shows a three-dimensional map of stars near the Sun. These stars are close enough that they could be prime targets for direct imaging searches for planets using future telescopes. The blue haloes represent stars that have been observed with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA’s XMM-Newton. The yellow star at the center of this diagram represents the position of the Sun. The concentric rings show distances of 5, 10, and 15 parsecs (one parsec is equivalent to roughly 3.2 light-years).
      Astronomers are using these X-ray data to determine how habitable exoplanets may be based on whether they receive lethal radiation from the stars they orbit, as described in a press release. This type of research will help guide observations with the next generation of telescopes aiming to make the first images of planets like Earth.
      To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video
      This video shows a three-dimensional map of stars near the Sun on the left side of the screen and a dramatic illustration of a star with a planet orbiting around it on the right side.Movie: Cal Poly Pomona/B. Binder; Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss Researchers examined stars that are close enough to Earth that telescopes set to begin operating in the next decade or two – including the Habitable Worlds Observatory in space and Extremely Large Telescopes on the ground – could take images of planets in the stars’ so-called habitable zones. This term defines orbits where the planets could have liquid water on their surfaces.
      There are several factors influencing what could make a planet suitable for life as we know it. One of those factors is the amount of harmful X-rays and ultraviolet light they receive, which can damage or even strip away the planet’s atmosphere.
      Based on X-ray observations of some of these stars using data from Chandra and XMM-Newton, the research team examined which stars could have hospitable conditions on orbiting planets for life to form and prosper. They studied how bright the stars are in X-rays, how energetic the X-rays are, and how much and how quickly they change in X-ray output, for example, due to flares. Brighter and more energetic X-rays can cause more damage to the atmospheres of orbiting planets.
      The researchers used almost 10 days of Chandra observations and about 26 days of XMM observations, available in archives, to examine the X-ray behavior of 57 nearby stars, some of them with known planets. Most of these are giant planets like Jupiter, Saturn or Neptune, while only a handful of planets or planet candidates could be less than about twice as massive as Earth.
      These results were presented at the 244th meeting of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, by Breanna Binder (California State Polytechnic University in Pomona).
      NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science from Cambridge, Massachusetts and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.
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      NASA Announces New System to Aid Disaster Response
      In early May, widespread flooding and landslides occurred in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, leaving thousands of people without food, water, or electricity. In the following days, NASA teams provided data and imagery to help on-the-ground responders understand the disaster’s impacts and deploy aid.
      Building on this response and similar successes, on June 13, NASA announced a new system to support disaster response organizations in the U.S. and around the world.
      Members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue team in Adiyaman, Turkey, conducting rescue efforts in the wake of powerful earthquakes that struck the region in February 2023. NASA provided maps and data to support USAID and other regional partners during these earthquakes.USAID “When disasters strike, NASA is here to help – at home and around the world,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “As challenges from extreme weather grow, so too does the value of NASA’s efforts to provide critical Earth observing data to disaster-response teams on the frontlines. We’ve done so for years. Now, through this system, we expand our capability to help power our U.S. government partners, international partners, and relief organizations across the globe as they take on disasters – and save lives.”
      The team behind NASA’s Disaster Response Coordination System gathers science, technology, data, and expertise from across the agency and provides it to emergency managers. The new system will be able to provide up-to-date information on fires, earthquakes, landslides, floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and other extreme events.
      “The risk from climate-related hazards is increasing, making more people vulnerable to extreme events,” said Karen St. Germain, director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. “This is particularly true for the 10% of the global population living in low-lying coastal regions who are vulnerable to storm surges, waves and tsunamis, and rapid erosion. NASA’s disaster system is designed to deliver trusted, actionable Earth science in ways and means that can be used immediately, to enable effective response to disasters and ultimately help save lives.”
      Agencies working with NASA include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Agency for International Development – as well as international organizations such as World Central Kitchen.
      “With this deliberate and structured approach, we can be even more effective in putting Earth science into action,” said Josh Barnes, at NASA’s Langley Research Center. Barnes manages the Disaster Response Coordination System.
      NASA Administrator Bill Nelson delivers remarks June 13 during an event launching a new Disaster Response Coordination System that will provide communities and organizations around the world with access to science and data to aid disaster response. NASA/Bill Ingalls NASA Disasters Team Aiding Brazil
      When the floods and landslides ravaged parts of Brazil in May, officials from the U.S. Southern Command – working with the U.S. Space Force and Air Force, and regional partners – reached out to NASA for Earth-observing data.
      NASA’s response included maps of potential power outages from the Black Marble project at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Disaster response coordinators at NASA Goddard also reviewed high-resolution optical data – from the Commercial Smallsat Data Acquisition Program – to map more than 4,000 landslides.
      Response coordinators from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology produced flood extent maps using data from the NASA and U.S. Geological Survey Landsat mission and from ESA’s (the European Space Agency) Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite. Response coordinators at NASA’s Johnson Space Center also provided photographs of the flooding taken by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
      Building on Previous Work
      The Brazil event is just one of hundreds of responses NASA has supported over the past decade. The team aids decision-making for a wide range of natural hazards and disasters, from hurricanes and earthquakes to tsunamis and oil spills. 
      “NASA’s Disasters Program advances science for disaster resilience and develops accessible resources to help communities around the world make informed decisions for disaster planning,” said Shanna McClain, manager of NASA’s Disasters Program. “The new Disaster Response Coordination System significantly expands our efforts to bring the power of Earth science when responding to disasters.”
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      View the full article
    • By NASA
      Earth Observer Earth Home Earth Observer Home Editor’s Corner Feature Articles Meeting Summaries News Science in the News Calendars In Memoriam More Archives 23 min read
      Summary of the 2023 GEDI Science Team Meeting
      Introduction
      The 2023 Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation (GEDI) Science Team Meeting (STM) took place October 17–19, 2023, at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), in College Park, MD. Upwards of 80 people participated in the hybrid meeting (around 50 in-person and the rest virtually). Included among them were GEDI Science Team (ST) members, collaborators, and stakeholders – see Photo. The primary goals of the meeting included providing a status update on the GEDI instrument aboard the International Space Station (ISS), receiving final project updates from the inaugural cohort of the GEDI completed ST, and understanding the present status and future goals of data product development.
      After a short mission status update, the remainder of this article will summarize the content of the STM. For those desiring more information on these topics, some of the full meeting presentations are posted online. Readers can also contact the GEDI ST with specific questions.
      Photo. GEDI Science Team Meeting in-person and virtual attendees. Photo credit: Talia Schwelling Mission Status Update: GEDI Given New Lease on Life
      A lot has changed since the publication of the last GEDI STM summary. (See Summary of the GEDI Science Team Meeting in the July–August 2022 issue of The Earth Observer [Volume 34, issue 4, pp. 20–24]). When the GEDI ST convened in November 2022, the fate of GEDI was hanging in the balance, with the plan being to release GEDI from the ISS at the end of its second extension period.
      NASA saved the instrument, however, and a new plan went into effect: in order to extend its tenure on the ISS, the GEDI mission entered a temporary period of “hibernation” in March 2023 after nearly four years in orbit. This hibernation period and movement of the instrument from Exposed Facility Unit (EFU)-6 (operating location) to EFU-7 (storage location) made way for another mission – see Figure 1. (UPDATE: After being in storage for roughly 13 months, the GEDI instrument was returned to its original location on the Japanese Experiment Module–Exposed Facility (JEM–EF) on Earth Day this year, April 22, 2024, and is now once again back to normal science operations using its three lasers.)
      Figure 1. NASA’s GEDI instrument was moved from EFU-6 to EFU-7 on the ISS on March 17, 2023, where it remained in hibernation for 13 months until its recent reinstallation to EFU-6 on April 22, 2024. The instrument is once again back to normal science operations using its three lasers. Figure credit: NASA As The Earth Observer reported in 2023, data from GEDI are being used for a wide range of applications, including biomass estimation, habitat characterization, and wildfire prediction (See page 4 of The Editor’s Corner in the March–April 2023 issue of The Earth Observer [Volume 35,Issue 2, pp. 1–4]. This section also reports on GEDI’s extension via out-of-cycle Senior Review in 2022). GEDI data is used to develop maps to quantify biomass that are unique in both their accuracy and their explicit characterization of uncertainty and are a key component in the estimation of aboveground carbon stocks, as absorbed carbon is used to drive plant growth and is stored as biomass – see Figure 2. These estimations help quantify the impacts of deforestation and subsequent regrowth on atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. NASA’s choice to extend the GEDI mission has significantly broadened the capacity to collect more of these important data.
      Figure 2. Country-wide estimates of total aboveground biomass in petagrams (Pg) using GEDI Level-4B Version 2.1 dataset (GEDI_L4B_AGB). Figure credit: ORNL DAAC DAY ONE
      GEDI Mission Operations, Instrument Status, and Data Level Updates
      Ralph Dubayah [UMD—GEDI Principal Investigator (PI)] opened the meeting with a summary of the current status of the mission and GEDI data products. After reviewing the details of GEDI’s hibernation (described in the previous section) he went on to describe what GEDI has accomplished over the past 4.5 years of operations, noting that the instrument collected over 26 billion footprints over the land surface.
      All the data collected by GEDI during its first epoch (i.e., before its hibernation) have been processed and released to the appropriate Distributed Active Archives Centers (DAACs) as Version 2 (V2) products. (To learn more about the DAACs and other aspects of Earth Science data collection and processing, see Earth Science Data Operations: Acquiring, Distributing, and Delivering NASA Data for the Benefit of Society, in the March–April 2017 issue of The Earth Observer, [Volume 29, Issue 2, pp. 4–18]. The DAACs – including URL links to each – are listed in a Table on page 7–8 of this issue). The two DAACs directly involved with GEDI data processing are the Land Processes DAAC (LP DAAC) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) DAAC. The LP DAAC houses GEDI Level-1 (L1) data, which consists of geolocated waveforms, and L2 data, which is broken down into L2A and L2B. L2A data includes ground elevation, canopy height, and relative height metrics. (Waveform measurements are described in detail in a sidebar on page 32 of the Summary of the Second GEDI Science Team Meeting in the November–December 2016 issue of The Earth Observer [Volume 28, Issue 6, pp. 31–36].) L2B data includes canopy cover fraction (CCF) and leaf area index (LAI). The ORNL DAAC houses GEDI L3 gridded land surface metrics data, L4A footprint level aboveground biomass density data, and L4B gridded aboveground biomass density data – e.g., see Figure 2.
      Dubayah went on to explain that while GEDI hibernated, the mission team would work to enhance existing data products as well as produce new products. Version 3 (V3) datasets for all data products are expected to be released by the fall of 2024, and new data products are in development, including a waveform structural complexity index (WSCI) and a topography and canopy height product that blends data from GEDI and the Ice, Clouds, and land Elevation Satellite–2 (ICESat–2) mission. A new dataset, the GEDI L4C footprint level waveform structural complexity index (WSCI) product, was added to the ORNL DAAC catalogue in May 2024. To further improve data quality and coverage, the GEDI team is hoping to organize an airborne lidar field campaign to southeast Asia in the coming years. Dubayah concluded his updates by highlighting a set of six papers published in 2023 in Nature and Science family or partner journals that focused on the use of GEDI data. Visit our website for a comprehensive list of publications related to GEDI.
      After receiving a general update from the mission PI, the next several presentations gave meeting participants a more in-depth look at GEDI science data planning and individual data products. Scott Luthcke [NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC)—GEDI Co-Investigator (Co-I)] presented status updates for the GEDI Science Operating Center (SOC), including the Science Planning System (SPS) and Science Data Processing System (SDPS) automation, development, and processing. In addition, he reported on the status of the L1 geolocated waveform data product and the L3 gridded land surface metrics product. At the time of this meeting, the SPS had completed operations through mission week 223 – almost 4.5 years of data – and was beginning to transition to improving processes on the back end while GEDI hibernates. The SDPS had completed processing and delivery of all V2 data products to the LP DAAC and ORNL DAAC.
      Luthcke reported on GEDI’s current observed and estimated geolocation performance, including detailed summaries of component analysis and steps towards improving Precision Orbit Determination (POD), Precision Attitude Determination (PAD), Pointing Calibration, time-tag correction, and Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator (OCXO) calibration. GEDI passes over Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat located in Bolivia – see Figure 3, are being used to assess the PAD high-frequency and low-frequency errors. Estimated errors are shown to be consistent with observed geolocation errors. Finally, Luthcke gave a summary of completed L3 products and new wall-to-wall 1-km (0.62-mi) resolution and high-resolution products.
      Figure 3. Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat as seen from the International Space Station. Figure credit: Samantha Cristoforetti/ESA/NASA John Armston [UMD—GEDI Co-I] updated attendees on GEDI L2 products. L2A consists of elevation and height metrics, and L2B consists of canopy cover and vertical profile metrics. To assess GEDI ground and canopy top measurement accuracy and improve algorithm performance, the mission team is using data collected from NASA Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor (LVIS) campaigns from 2016 to present. Armston reported that L2B estimates of canopy and ground reflectance were completed for the first mission epoch (April 2019–March 2023) and the GEDI team continues to work on algorithm improvements for cover estimates in challenging conditions (e.g., steep slopes). Data users can expect improved waveform processing for ground elevation and canopy height, new reflectance estimation, and revised quality metrics and flags in the L2A and L2B not-yet-released V3 products.
      Jim Kellner [Brown University—GEDI Co-I] shared the current status of and planned algorithm improvements to the L4A data product, or the footprint-level aboveground biomass density product. The algorithm theoretical basis document for L4A data products was published in November 2022; it describes how models were developed and the importance of quality filtering. L4A data product development continues in tandem with updates to L2A data and improvements to existing calibration and validation data and ingestion of new data.
      Sean Healey [U.S. Forest Service—GEDI Co-I] reviewed coverage and uncertainties of the recently produced V2 L4B data products – see Figure 4. Ongoing GEDI-relevant research includes:
      investigating a statistical method called bootstrapping, which may allow more complex types of models; conducting theoretical statistical studies aimed at decomposing mean square error for model-based methods; and developing ways to estimate biomass change over time – which will become more important as the extended mission potentially stretches to a decade. Figure 4. Gridded mean aboveground biomass density [top] and standard error of the mean [bottom] from Version 2.1 of the GEDI L4B Gridded Aboveground Biomass Density product, published on October 29, 2023. Figure credit: ORNL DAAC Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 1
      This GEDI STM was the last convergence of the first iteration of the GEDI competed ST. Attendees received final in-person updates on the cohort’s projects and plans for future research. Over the course of the three-day meeting, there were several sections dedicated to Competed ST Presentations. For purposes of organization in this report, each section has been given a session number. 
      Taejin Park [NASA’s Ames Research Center (ARC) and Bay Area Environmental Research Institute (BAERI)] kicked off the ST presentations with an overview of his group’s progress in enhancing the predictions of forest height and aboveground biomass by incorporating GEDI L2, L3, and L4 data products into a process-based model, called Allometric Scaling Resource Limitation (ASRL), over the contiguous United States (CONUS). The ASRL model effectively captures large-scale, maximum tree size distribution and facilitates prognostic applications for predicting future aboveground biomass changes under various climate scenarios. Park also described collaborative research efforts with international partners  to map changes in aboveground biomass in tropical and temperate forests using a carbon management systems (CMS).
      Kerri Vierling [University of Idaho] shared the results from her team’s projects demonstrating the use of GEDI data fusion products to describe patterns of bird and mammal distributions in western U.S. forests. The focal species for these projects include a suite of vertebrate forest carnivores, prey, and ecosystem engineer species that modify their environments in ways that create habitat for other creatures, e.g., woodpeckers – see Figure 5. Many of these species are of interest for management by a variety of state and federal agencies. Vierling also discussed ongoing analyses identifying biodiversity hotspots and land ownership patterns.
      Figure 5. A Female downy woodpecker creates a tree cavity that other organisms may use in the future for habitat. Woodpecker species are great examples of ecosystem engineers. Figure credit: Doug Swartz/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab or Ornithology (ML 58304661) Sean Healey presented on his competed ST research on Online Biomass Inference using Waveforms and iNventory (OBI-WAN), a Google Earth Engine application. This forest-carbon reporting tool harnesses GEDI waveforms, biomass models, and statistics to make estimates of mean biomass and biomass change for areas specified by online users. Healey explained the statistical methods applied to operate OBI-WAN and gave context for the use of sensor fusion to provide biomass change information that is critical for monitoring, reporting, and verification.
      Keith Krause [Battelle] presented his work evaluating vertical structural similarity of LVIS classic and GEDI large-footprint waveforms. At the GEDI and LVIS footprint scale (20–23 m, or 65–75 ft, spot on the ground), lidar waveforms over forests represent canopies of leaves and branches from several trees. Krause presented results comparing waveforms against each other to show similarities in shape (i.e., if the trees in their footprints have a similar vertical structure). He also described how he used data clustering techniques to group similar waveforms into distinct structural classes. From there, he could map waveforms with similar vertical structure to better understand the spatial distribution of the structural groups.
      Breakout Sessions—Session 1
      GEDI STMs offer a rare opportunity for members of the competed and mission STs, a variety of stakeholders, and other individuals to convene and discuss ideas and goals for their own research and for the GEDI mission. Toward that end, breakout sessions were held on the first and second day of the meeting – referred to as Session 1 and Session 2 in this report. The individual breakout meetings used a hybrid format allowing in-person and online participants to join the discussion that was most relevant to their interests and expertise.
      Chris Hakkenberg [Northern Arizona University (NAU)] led a breakout session on structural diversity, including the horizontal and vertical components. Different structural attributes, (e.g., stand structure, height, cover, and vegetation density) have different – but related – metrics and measurement approaches. Participants discussed biodiversity-structure relationships (BSRs), how to better characterize horizontal structural diversity, and how to define which metrics (i.e., scale, sampling unit, and spatial resolution) are most meaningful in different situations.
      Jim Kellner led a session that focused on biomass calibration and validation and how to create the best data products given global environmental variation. Special cases – e.g., mangroves – pose challenges for calibration and validation because they don’t always have as much plot-level data as other environments. Participants discussed how to determine strata while considering climactic and environmental covariates as well as constraints of data availability and consistency.
      Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 2
      The FORest Carbon Estimation (FORCE) Project is exploring the use of GEDI-derived canopy structure metrics to map forest biomass in the U.S. and Canada. Daniel Hayes [University of Maine] presented comparisons of GEDI metrics and canopy height models derived from airborne lidar and photo point clouds over different forest types and disturbance history in managed forests of Maine. Co-PI Andy Finley [Michigan State University] presented new work that adjusts GEDI L4B biomass estimates to plot data over the continental U.S. from Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Research and Development Branch. The project’s next steps are to fuse GEDI canopy structure metrics with other covariates in a spatial model to produce wall-to-wall estimates of biomass for boreal–temperate transition forests in northeast North America.
      GEDI data is also being used to study tropical forests. Chris Doughty [NAU] described how he and his team analyzed GEDI L2A data across all tropical forests and found that tropical forest structure was less stratified and more exposed to sunlight than previously thought. Most tropical forests (80% of the Amazon and 70% of southeast Asia and the Congo Basin) have a peak in the number of leaves at 15 m (49 ft) instead of at the canopy top. Doughty and his team have found that deviation from more ideal conditions (i.e., lower fertility or higher temperatures) lead to shorter, less-stratified tropical forests with lower biomass.
      Paul Moorcroft [Harvard University] reported on studies of current and future carbon dynamics across the Pacific Coast region based on forest structure and rates of carbon uptake. Moorcroft’s group examined how these ecosystems will behave in the future under different climate scenarios and have plans to conduct similar studies in other regions.
      DAY TWO
      Naikoa Aguilar-Amuchastegui [World Bank] kicked off day two with his perspective on the importance of streamlining the monitoring, reporting, and validation (MRV) process from scientific estimation to actual use of the data. Once scientific data is generated, end users are often faced with challenges related to transparency and understandability. Scientists can better communicate how to use their datasets properly, by familiarizing themselves with who wants to use their data, why they want to use it, and what their needs are. With this information in mind, data can be presented in more practical ways that allow for a variety of institutions with different standards and frameworks to integrate GEDI data more easily into their reporting. As the GEDI team continues to produce high-quality maps, efforts are underway to connect with end users and provide tutorials, workshops, and other resources.
      GEDI Demonstrative Products
      Demonstrative products show how GEDI data can be used in practice and in combination with other resources. Ecosystem modeling is one way that GEDI data are being used to address questions about aboveground carbon balance, future atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and habitat quality and biodiversity. George Hurtt [UMD—GEDI Co-I] shared his progress on integrating GEDI canopy height measurements with the Ecosystem Demography model to estimate current global forest carbon stocks and project future sequestration gaps under climate change – see Figure 6. Hurtt emphasized that this unprecedented volume of lidar data significantly enhances the ability of carbon models to capture spatial heterogeneity of forest carbon dynamics at 1 km (0.6 mi) scale, which is crucial for local policymaking regarding climate mitigation.
      Figure 6. [Top] Average lidar canopy height at 0.01° resolution, computed by gridding both GEDI and ICESat-2 together, and carbon stocks [middle] and fluxes [bottom] from ED-Lidar (GEDI and ICESat-2 combined). The insets highlight fine-scale spatial distribution and coverage gaps at selected regions (1.5° × 1.5°). Note that the three maps show grid-cell averages aggregated from sub-grid scale heterogeneity for each variable. Figure credit: From a 2023 article in Global Change Biology. There is also great potential for the development and application of methods for mapping forest structure, carbon stocks, and their changes by fusing data from GEDI and the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt’s (DLR) [German Space Operations Center] TerraSAR-X Add-oN for Digital Elevation Measurement (TanDEM-X) satellite mission, which uses synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to gather three-dimensional (3D) images of Earth’s surface. This fusion product is being spearheaded by Wenlu Qi [UMD], who presented on efforts to create maps of pantropical canopy height, biomass, forest structure, and biomass change using the fusion product as well as maps of forests in temperate U.S. and Hawaii.
      Data from the GEDI mission are also being used to quantify the spatial and temporal distribution of habitat structure, which influences habitat quality and biodiversity. Scott Goetz [NAU—GEDI Deputy PI] presented on biodiversity-related activities, citing a 2023 paper in Nature that examined the effectiveness of protected areas (PAs) across southeast Asia using GEDI data to compare canopy structure within and outside of PAs – see Figure 7. He also presented an analysis of tree and plant diversity across U.S. National Ecological Observation Network (NEON) sites that showed similar capabilities of GEDI with airborne laser scanning (ALS) for tree diversity.
      Figure 7. [Top] Protected Areas (PAs) such as national parks can reduce habitat loss and degradation (from logging) and extractive behaviors such as hunting (shown in red circle), but this figure shows there are a wide range of real-world outcomes based on management effectiveness. [Middle] PAs are aimed at safeguarding multiple facets of biodiversity, including species richness (SR), functional richness (FR) and phylogenetic diversity (PD). PAs often focus on vertebrate conservation, owing to their threat levels and value to humans – including for tourism. This study focused on wildlife in southeast Asia, with mammals shown here representing a variation of feeding guilds and sizes. The same approach is repeated for birds. [Bottom] Wildlife communities inside PAs and in the surrounding landscape may exhibit distinct levels and types of diversity. Figure credit: From a 2023 article in Nature. Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 3
      One unique application of GEDI data is using lidar height to improve radiative transfer models for snow processes. Steven Hancock [University of Edinburgh, Scotland] reported on his group’s work studying snow, forest structure, and heterogeneity in forests, explaining that the majority of land surface models used for climate and weather forecasting use one-dimensional (1D) radiative transfer (RT) models driven by leaf area alone. Heterogeneous forests cast shadows and cause the surface albedo to depend upon sun angle and tree height for moderate leaf area indices (LAI), i.e., LAI values from  1-3 – which are common in snow-affected areas. This complexity cannot be represented in 1D models. An RT model can represent the effect of tree height and horizontal heterogeneity to simulate the observed change in albedo with height, which itself spatially varies.
      In contrast to a snowy study area, Ovidiu Csillik [NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory] and his team are developing statistical models to link GEDI relative height metrics to tropical forest characteristics traceable to inventory measurements. This dataset of forest structure variables over the Amazon will be used to initialize a demographic ecosystem model to produce projections of future potential tropical forest carbon, as demonstrated by Amazon-wide simulations using initializations from airborne lidar sampling.
      Wenge Ni-Meister [Hunter College of the City University of New York] is working on improving aboveground biomass estimates using GEDI waveform measurements. Ni-Meister and her team are testing models in both domestic and international tropical and temperate forests.
      Breakout Sessions—Session 2
      Two more breakout sessions occurred on day two:  
      Sean Healey led a discussion on modes of inference for GEDI data. Inference – formally derived uncertainty for area estimates of biomass, height, or other metrics – can take different forms, each of which includes specific assumptions. In this breakout session, participants considered the strengths and limitations of different inference types (e.g., intensity of computation or the ability to use different models).
      Laura Duncanson [UMD—GEDI Co-I] led a discussion about facilitation of open science, in other words, how to make GEDI data more accessible and digestible for data users. While GEDI data area free and publicly available via the LP DAAC and ORNL DAAC, gaining access to said data can be intimidating. Sharing more about existing resources and creating new ones can help remove barriers. The LP DAAC and ORNL DAAC have excellent tutorials on GitHub (a cloud-based software development platform that is primarily Python-based), and Google Earth Engine applications are available for accessing and visualizing GEDI data. Future endeavors may include more webinars, R-based tutorials, workshops, and trainings on specific topics and ways to use GEDI data. More information is available via an online compilation of GEDI-related tutorials.
      Perspective: A NUVIEW of Earth’s Land Surface
      For the second perspective presentation of day two, meeting attendees heard from Clint Graumann, CEO and co-founder of NUVIEW, a company whose mission is to build a commercial satellite constellation of lidar-imaging satellites that will produce 3D maps of the Earth’s entire land surface. Graumann shared NUVIEW’s intent to produce land surface maps on an annual basis and provide a variety of products and services, including digital surface models (DSMs), digital terrain models (DTMs), and a point cloud generated by laser pulses.
      Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 4
      Laura Duncanson began the second round of science presentations with her group’s research on global forest carbon hotspots. She discussed her 2023 paper in Nature Communications on the effectiveness of global PAs for climate change mitigation – see Figure 8, which found that the creation of PAs led to more biomass – especially in the Amazon. Within GEDI-domain terrestrial PAs, total aboveground biomass (AGB) storage was found to be 125 Pg, which is around 26% of global estimated AGB. Without the existence of PAs, 19.7 Gt of the 125 Pg would have likely been lost.
      Figure 8. PAs effectively preserve additional aboveground carbon (AGC) across continents and biomes, with forest biomes dominating the global signal, particularly in South America. The additional preserved AGC (Gt) in WWF biome classes (total Gt + /− SEM*area). World base map made with Natural Earth. The full set of analyzed GEDI data are represented in this figure (n = 412,100,767). Figure credit: From a 2023 article in Nature Communications. Another unique application of GEDI data has to do with water on the Earth’s surface. Kyungtae Lee [UMD], who works with Michelle Hofton [UMD—GEDI Co-I], reported that GEDI appears to capture the monthly annual cycle of lake elevation, showing good correlation with the ground-based observations. Lee explained that even though the GEDI lake elevation estimates show systematic biases relative to the local gauges, GEDI captures lake elevation dynamics well – especially the annual cycle variations. This work has the potential to expand knowledge of hydrological significance of lakes, particularly in data-limited areas of the world. Stephen Good [Oregon State University] presented a survey of his team’s recent work integrating observations from GEDI into hydrology and hydraulics studies of how vegetation can block and intercept moving water. The team found important nonlinear relationships between inferred canopy storage and canopy biomass and were able to estimate canopy water storage capacities and map these globally.
      Finally, Patrick Burns [NAU], who works with Scott Goetz, presented results using GEDI canopy structure metrics in mammal species distribution models across southeast Asia (specifically focusing on Borneo and Sumatra). The team’s early results indicate that GEDI canopy structure metrics are important in many mammal distribution models and improve model performance for another smaller subset of species. In other words, when looking at predictors like mean annual precipitation or forest structure (forest structure being a metric that GEDI data provide), the GEDI-derived structure metrics are more intuitive and help us understand distributional changes and fine-scale habitat suitability. In a region like southeast Asia, for example, which has undergone high rates of deforestation in the recent decades, forest structure may be a more relevant predictor in a species distribution model (SDM) than other metrics like climate or vegetation composition. The team will continue to produce models for additional species and expand the extent of the analysis to include mainland Asia.
      DAY THREE
      Competed Science Team Presentations—Session 5
      Day three began with the meeting’s last round of competed ST presentations. John Armston presented the progress of GEDI L2B Plant Area Volume Density (PAVD) product validation using a global Terrestrial Laser Scanning (TLS) database and fusion of the L2B product with Landsat time-series for quantifying change in canopy structure from the Australian wildfires of 2019–2020. Participants then heard from Jim Kellner on using machine-learning algorithms for L4A aboveground biomass density (AGBD). The performance of machine-learning algorithms on a testing data set was comparable to linear regressions used for the first releases of GEDI AGBD data products on average – although there were important geographical differences associated with machine learning. One application under investigation is using machine learning to identify new potential stratifications for GEDI footprint aboveground biomass density.
      Lastly, Jingyu Dai [New Mexico State University (NMSU)], who works with Niall Hanan [NMSU], presented on her analysis of the global limits to tree height. Her study shows that hydraulic limitation is the most important constraint on maximum canopy height globally. This result is mediated by plant functional type. In addition, rougher terrain promotes forest height at sub-landscape scales by enriching local niche diversity and probability of larger trees.
      Perspective from the Data Side
      As described in the summary of Ralph Dubayah’s introductory remarks, the LP DAAC and ORNL DAAC play essential roles in the dissemination of GEDI data and the success of the GEDI program. Representatives from each of these DAACs addressed the ST to summarize recent GEDI-related activities.
      Aaron Friesz [United States Geological Survey (USGS)] represented the LP DAAC and gave an update on the current archive size, distribution metrics, and outreach activities. He also discussed plans to support the growth and sustainability of the community through collaboration activities that will leverage the GitHub application; he described some of the resources that are available. Friesz then highlighted the USGS Eyes on Earth podcast and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Geoscience and Remote Sensing Society (GRSS)’s Down to Earth podcast, which have featured Ralph Dubayah and Laura Duncanson, and shared plans to update the current GitHub tutorials and how-to guides in the Earthdata Cloud of GEDI V2 and V3.
      Rupesh Shrestha [ORNL] represented the ORNL DAAC and shared the status of GEDI L3, L4A, and L4B datasets archived there. He gave an overview of data tools and services for the GEDI datasets, which can be found on the GEDI website and GitHub tutorials website. GEDI L3, L4A, and L4B are available on NASA’s Earthdata Cloud and various enterprise-level services, such as NASA’s WorldView, Harmony, and OpenDAP. GEDI data usage metrics, data tutorials and workshops, and outreach activities, as well as other published community and related datasets were also highlighted. GEDI L3, L4A, and L4B have been downloaded over four million times collectively.
      Neha Hunka [UMD] gave the final presentation of the meeting on biomass harmonization activities. She reported that the GEDI estimates of aboveground biomass are capable of directly contributing to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Global Stocktake. Hunka and her colleagues’ research is aimed at bridging the science–policy gap to enable the use of space-based aboveground biomass estimates for policy reporting and impact – see Figure 9.
      Figure 9. Forest biomass estimates in the format of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Tier 1 values from NASA GEDI and ESA Climate Change Initiative (CCI) maps. Figure credit: Neha Hunka Conclusion
      Overall, the 2023 GEDI STM showcased an exceptional array of scientific research that is highly relevant to addressing pressing global challenges and answering key questions about global forest structure, carbon balance, habitat quality, and biodiversity among other topics. As the GEDI instrument enters its second epoch, we are excited to welcome a new competed GEDI science team cohort and look forward to the release of V3 data products later this year.
      Ralph Dubayah concluded the STM with a summary of hibernation period goals and a farewell to this iteration of the competed ST. He extended a heartfelt thank you and farewell to Hank Margolis [NASA Headquarters, emeritus] who has been the NASA Program Scientist for the GEDI mission since 2015. Thank you, Hank. We will miss you.
      Talia Schwelling
      University of Maryland, College Park
      tschwell@umd.edu
      View the full article
    • By NASA
      5 min read
      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      The WL 20 group of stars is located in the Rho Ophiuchi star-forming region, imaged here by NASA’s now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope. Located near the constellations Scorpius and Ophiuchus, the region is about 407 light-years from Earth. NASA/JPL-Caltech Managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory through launch, Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument also revealed jets of gas flowing into space from the twin stars.
      Scientists recently got a big surprise from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope when they turned the observatory toward a group of young stars called WL 20. The region has been studied since the 1970s with at least five telescopes, but it took Webb’s unprecedented resolution and specialized instruments to reveal that what researchers long thought was one of the stars, WL 20S, is actually a pair that formed about 2 million to 4 million years ago.
      The discovery was made using Webb’s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) and was presented at the 244th meeting of the American Astronomical Society on June 12. MIRI also found that the twins have matching jets of gas streaming into space from their north and south poles.
      “Our jaws dropped,” said astronomer Mary Barsony, lead author of a new paper describing the results. “After studying this source for decades, we thought we knew it pretty well. But without MIRI we would not have known this was two stars or that these jets existed. That’s really astonishing. It’s like having brand new eyes.”
      This artist’s concept shows two young stars nearing the end of their formation. Encircling the stars are disks of leftover gas and dust from which planets may form. Jets of gas shoot away from the stars’ north and south poles. The team got another surprise when additional observations by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a group of more than 60 radio antennas in Chile, revealed that disks of dust and gas encircle both stars. Based on the stars’ age, it’s possible that planets are forming in those disks.
      The combined results indicate that the twin stars are nearing the end of this early period of their lives, which means scientists will have the opportunity to learn more about how the stars transition from youth into adulthood.
      “The power of these two telescopes together is really incredible,” said Mike Ressler, project scientist for MIRI at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and co-author of the new study. “If we hadn’t seen that these were two stars, the ALMA results might have just looked like a single disk with a gap in the middle. Instead, we have new data about two stars that are clearly at a critical point in their lives, when the processes that formed them are petering out.”
      This image of the WL 20 star group combines data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and the Mid-Infrared Instrument on NASA’s Webb telescope. Gas jets emanating from the poles of twin stars appear blue and green; disks of dust and gas surrounding the stars are pink.U.S. NSF; NSF NRAO; ALMA; NASA/JPL-Caltech; B. Saxton Stellar Jets
      WL 20 resides in a much larger, well-studied star-forming region of the Milky Way galaxy called Rho Ophiuchi, a massive cloud of gas and dust about 400 light-years from Earth. In fact, WL 20 is hidden behind thick clouds of gas and dust that block most of the visible light (wavelengths that the human eye can detect) from the stars there. Webb detects slightly longer wavelengths, called infrared, that can pass through those layers. MIRI detects the longest infrared wavelengths of any instrument on Webb and is thus well equipped for peering into obscured star-forming regions like WL 20.
      Radio waves can often penetrate dust as well, though they may not reveal the same features as infrared light. The disks of gas and dust surrounding the two stars in WL 20S emit light in a range that astronomers call submillimeter; these, too, penetrate the surrounding gas clouds and were observed by ALMA.
      These four images show the WL 20 star system as seen by (from left) NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility at the Mauna Kea Observatory, the Hale 5.0-meter telescope the Palomar Observatory, the Keck II telescope, and the NASA’s Webb telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array. But scientists could easily have interpreted those observations as evidence of a single disk with a gap in it had MIRI not also observed the two stellar jets. The jets of gas are composed of ions, or individual atoms with some electrons stripped away that radiate in mid-infrared wavelengths but not at submillimeter wavelengths. Only an infrared instrument with spatial and spectral resolution like MIRI’s could see them.
      ALMA can also observe clouds of leftover formation material around young stars. Composed of whole molecules, like carbon monoxide, these clouds of gas and dust radiate light at these longer wavelengths. The absence of those clouds in the ALMA observations shows that the stars are beyond their initial formation phase.
      “It’s amazing that this region still has so much to teach us about the life cycle of stars,” said Ressler. “I’m thrilled to see what else Webb will reveal.”
      More About the Mission
      The 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).
      MIRI was developed through a 50-50 partnership between NASA and ESA. A division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, JPL led the U.S. efforts for MIRI, and a multinational consortium of European astronomical institutes contributes for ESA. George Rieke with the University of Arizona is the MIRI science team lead. Gillian Wright is the MIRI European principal investigator.
      The MIRI cryocooler development was led and managed by JPL, in collaboration with Northrop Grumman in Redondo Beach, California, and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
      News Media Contact
      Calla Cofield
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      calla.e.cofield@jpl.nasa.gov
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      Last Updated Jun 13, 2024 Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      25 Min Read The Marshall Star for June 12, 2024
      Shining Stars: Marshall Teams Support Successful Crew Flight Test
      By Wayne Smith
      From preparing for flight readiness, to providing day-of-launch support, to delivering a critical piece of replacement hardware, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center played an integral role in the agency’s crew flight test to the International Space Station.
      The Starliner spacecraft – NASA’s Boeing crew flight test (CFT) powered by a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket – successfully launched June 5 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The flight test carried NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to the space station to test the spacecraft and its subsystems before NASA certifies the transportation system for rotational missions to the orbiting laboratory for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
      Marshall’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) support team successfully completed the crew flight test (CFT) pre-flight test readiness review April 12. Supporting personnel, from left, are Deborah Crane, CCP launch vehicle (LV) chief engineer; Notlim Burgos, CCP LV Boeing lead engineer; Christopher Wakefield, POD Boeing CFT flight lead; Maggie Freeman, CCP LV program analyst; David Gwaltney, CCP interim launch vehicle deputy manager; Joseph Pelfrey, Marshall center director; Paul Crawford, safety and mission assurance; Jennifer Van Den Driessche, CCP LV Boeing certification manager; Kelli Maloney, CCP LV Boeing deputy lead engineer; Larry Leopard, Marshall associate director, technical; Megan Hines, safety and mission assurance; and Chris Chiesa, CCP spacecraft propulsion. NASA/Jason Waggoner The Boeing Starliner spacecraft successfully docked to the space station June 6. NASA and Boeing teams set a return date of no earlier than June 18 for the crew flight test. The additional time in orbit will allow the space station crews to perform a spacewalk June 13, while engineers complete Starliner systems checkouts. Coverage of the spacewalk begins at 5:30 a.m. on NASA TV.
      “It was incredible to witness yet another historic moment in this new era of space exploration,” said Marshall Director Joseph Pelfrey. “I am immensely proud of our Marshall team for providing the critical support needed to ensure this test flight is as safe as possible. This is just one example of how Marshall is utilizing our capabilities through strategic partnerships to expand space exploration for all humankind.”
      Launch Support
      Marshall’s role within the Commercial Crew Program, or CCP, is to support certification that the spacecraft and launch vehicle are ready for launch. The support team performs engineering expertise, particularly for propulsion, as well as program management, safety and mission assurance, and spacecraft support. These efforts ultimately lead up to day-of launch support from the Marshall’s Huntsville Operations Support Center (HOSC).
      Eighteen Marshall team members supported the launch from inside the HOSC. The team’s primary focus was ensuring the cryo-tanking of the liquid propellants and pressurants on the Centaur and the Atlas V booster went as planned. That included monitoring the replacement self-regulating vent valve (SRV), since the valve it replaced caused the launch scrub on the first attempt.
      Marshall’s CCP team members support the CFT launch from inside the Huntsville Operations Support Center on June 5. NASA/Nathaniel Stepp “The replacement SRV performed perfectly after liquid oxygen load into the Centaur tank,” said David Gwaltney, CCP interim Launch Vehicle Systems Office deputy manager. “The other team members ensured the pre-launch testing for the thrust vector control and the engine cooldown purges in preparation for launch were proceeding properly. Everyone was extremely happy when the launch successfully occurred on the third attempt.”
      Understandably, the HOSC is always a hive of activity on launch day, resulting in a sense of pride and accomplishment for the support team for their contributions toward successful NASA missions. However, the crew flight test of the Starliner was different.
      “Each and every Commercial Crew Program mission is special in its own way, especially as we continue to forge a new era of spaceflight while working with commercial partners,” said Maggie Freeman, a program analyst supporting the Launch Vehicle Systems Office within CCP at Marshall. “The crew flight test launch is particularly special to us because it is the first time we have crew aboard the Atlas V on a CCP mission. We were extremely excited to support launch and watch them safely board the International Space Station.”
      Critical Hardware Delivery
      Marshall also used the mission to deliver hardware to the space station – a replacement for the Urine Processor Pump Control Processor Assembly (PCPA). A malfunctioning pump necessitated an expedited delivery, NASA officials said June 7, requiring a cargo change for the mission. The PCPA converts the crew’s urine into drinkable water.
      Marshall’s CCP team members take time for a group photo from the HOSC following the Starliner launch. From left, Miranda Holton, Sangita Adhikari, Nathaniel Stepp, Lindsey Blair, Deborah Crane, Allen Henning, Spencer Mitchell, Alex Aueron, Preston Beatty, Megan Hines, Peter Jones, Melissa Neel, Brendan Graham, David Gwaltney, Peter Wreschinsky, Aaron Flinchum, Jonathan Carman, and Jimmy Moore.NASA/Nathaniel Stepp “This component is critical for space station operations and CFT was the first available mission providing an opportunity for the replacement to be delivered,” Freeman said.  “Due to the PCPA being a large piece of hardware, the ISS, Boeing, and CCP teams assessed the cargo swap requirements and exercised tremendous agility in performing a rapid turnaround to ensure that ISS operations would be maintained.”
      Pre-Flight Test Readiness Review
      The launch would not have happened without the certification efforts supported by the Marshall CCP team. The first Marshall Center Director CFT Pre-Flight Test Readiness Review was successfully completed in April. After the initial launch attempt May 6, the integrated Boeing, ULA, and CCP teams worked diligently to ensure crew safety remained the top priority. A second round of test readiness was scheduled, with the Marshall CCP team conducting a Marshall Center Director CFT delta pre-flight test readiness review in late May.
      For Starliner, the Marshall team’s primary focus was on the certification of the spacecraft’s thrusters, which are the propulsion systems used for translational and rotational control of the spacecraft while on-orbit. The thrusters are essential to mission success, ensuring the spacecraft can get from its initial insertion orbit to the space station and then back to Earth with precisely controlled burns.
      Boeing contracted with NASA to use the ULA Atlas V rocket to launch Starliner into orbit. Marshall’s Launch Vehicle Propulsion team evaluated the propulsion systems for the rocket to certify they were ready to launch astronauts to the space station.
      Marshall team members and NASA astronaut Josh Cassada developed a new procedure to get the Urine Process Assembly functional and returned to the space station on the CFT flight. This procedure validation was performed at Marshall on June 3-4. From left, Brian O’Connor, Curtis Fox, Steve Wilson, Anita Howard, Roy Price, Mike Gooch, Reggie McCafferty, JP Wilson, Camilla Duenas, Josh Cassada, Diana Marroguin, Harper Cox, Arthur Brown, Kai Yeaton, Jimmy Hill, Ben Craigmyle, and Denny Bartlett. Present but not pictured: Chris Brown, Dona Smith, Allen Hash, Shaun Glasgow, Jill Williamson, Josh Clifton, and Chad Berthelson. NASA JSC/Chris Brown “This includes following any build issues, evaluating any changes to the vehicles, and working with our partners to ensure that the launch vehicle is ready to fly,” said Miranda Holton, CCP Launch Vehicle Propulsion Systems manager.
      The HOSC provides engineering and mission operations support for the space station, the Commercial Crew Program, and Artemis missions, as well as science and technology demonstration missions. The Payload Operations Integration Center within HOSC operates, plans, and coordinates the science experiments onboard the space station 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
      Smith, a Media Fusion employee and the Marshall Star editor, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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      Silver Snoopy Awards Presented to 17 Marshall Team Members
      By Jessica Barnett
      Seventeen team members at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center joined an elite group within the agency’s ranks June 11 as they accepted an award that’s granted to less than 1% of NASA’s workforce: the Silver Snoopy.
      An astronaut presents the award each year to NASA employees and contractors who have gone above and beyond in contributing to the human spaceflight program. It is a symbol of the intent and spirit of Space Flight Awareness and includes a sterling silver Snoopy lapel pin that has flown in space, along with a certificate of appreciation and a commendation letter for the employee, both signed by the astronaut.
      Recipients of the 2024 Silver Snoopy Awards at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center pose with their awards and NASA astronaut Kate Rubins, center, June 11 in Activities Building 4316. From left, front row, Mark Montgomery, Brian Saunders, Mignon Thame, Jessica Chaffin, Rubins, Stefanie Justice, Ellen Rabenberg, and Vince Vanek; back row, Manish Mehta, Bill Sadowski, Brad Addona, Christopher Buckley, Jonathan Burkholder, Joseph McCollister, Stacey Steele, Michael Fiske, Paul Gradl, and Trey Cate. NASA/Charles Beason “One of my favorite parts about my job is getting to share and celebrate the accomplishments of the best that NASA has to offer, and helping to give out the Silver Snoopy awards is just that opportunity,” said Larry Leopard, who serves as associate director, technical, at Marshall and joined NASA astronaut Kate Rubins to present the awards. “These employees embody the More to Marshall slogan – words that signify growth, ambition, and continuous improvement. They’re leaders in cultivating a mindset where every one of us is encouraged to think differently, act decisively, and innovate relentlessly.”
      “When we are doing highly dangerous activities, like getting on a rocket to the International Space Station or developing programs for Moon to Mars, we rely on everyone in NASA to support that end goal of exploration and safety,” Rubins said. “Our mission success is in their hands, and this is our way of saying thank you for everything they do.”
      NASA astronaut Kate Rubins speaks to attendees at Marshall’s 2024 Silver Snoopy Awards Ceremony held June 11 in Activities Building 4316.NASA/Charles Beason The following team members were honored during the ceremony in Activities Building 4316:
      Brad Addona, Engineering Directorate Christopher Buckley, Human Exploration Development and Operations Office Jonathan Burkholder, Engineering Directorate Trey Cate, Office of Strategic Analysis and Communications Jessica Chaffin, Engineering Directorate Michael Fiske, Jacobs/ESSCA, Science and Technology Office Paul Gradl, Engineering Directorate Stefanie Justice, Engineering Directorate Joseph McCollister, Space Launch System Program Manish Mehta, Engineering Directorate Mark Montgomery, Jacobs/ESSCA, Engineering Directorate Ellen Rabenberg, Engineering Directorate Bill Sadowski, Jacobs/ESSCA, Engineering Directorate Brian Saunders, L3Harris Stacey Steele, Human Exploration Development and Operations Office Mignon Thames, Human Landing System Program Vince Vanek, Office of the General Counsel The Silver Snoopy pins awarded flew on NASA’s SpaceX Cargo Resupply Mission-9. The Silver Snoopy award is one of eight awards presented annually by Space Flight Awareness. Additional information, including eligibility criteria, can be found here. 
      Barnett, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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      Marshall Engineer Kurt Polzin Receives AIAA Honors Award
      By Daniel Boyette
      Advanced space nuclear propulsion systems are critical to NASA’s Moon to Mars vision. On May 15, one of the individuals at the forefront of those future exploration efforts was honored for his contributions.
      Kurt Polzin, chief engineer for the Space Nuclear Propulsion Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, received the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Engineer of the Year award during its awards gala at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington.
      AIAA Executive Director Daniel Dumbacher, left, and AIAA President Laura McGill, right, present NASA Space Nuclear Propulsion Chief Engineer Kurt Polzin with the Engineer of the Year Award at the AIAA Awards Gala on May 15 at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.Photo courtesy of AIAA “The use of nuclear technologies will become increasingly important as the nation returns humans to the Moon and then goes onward to Mars, and realizing these benefits will take not just a NASA effort, but a national effort,” Polzin told the audience. “It’s a privilege to work with and lead some of the best people in government, industry, and academia, bringing the nation closer to a future where nuclear power and propulsion technologies in space become common. What we do today will enable science missions and human exploration beyond anything humans have ever achieved for current and future generations of scientists and explorers.”
      Since 2021, Polzin has overseen NASA’s nuclear propulsion technology development and maturation efforts. He’s also the chief engineer for the agency’s partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program, which aims to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion system in space as soon as 2027.
      “To live and work on the Moon, we’ll need a power and transportation infrastructure, and nuclear space systems offer key capability benefits over current state-of-art,” said Anthony Calomino, NASA’s Space Nuclear Technologies portfolio manager under the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “Kurt’s leadership in this journey to mature our space nuclear propulsion technology is what will get us there. We are proud to see him recognized as AIAA’s Engineer of the Year.”
      Q&A with Kurt Polzin
      Q: What were your emotions when you went to accept the award?
      Polzin: The list of those who have previously received this award is long and illustrious, so it is an honor to be nominated for it. Being selected by my peers as the recipient was a very thrilling and humbling experience. Receiving it at the Kennedy Center, in the presence of many aerospace leaders and my wife in the audience, made it a truly unique and memorable experience.
      Q: You’ve previously stated that individual awards are really team awards. How has being a member of a team helped you to be successful?
      Polzin: Realizing big ideas requires the contributions and expertise of many people across a range of skills and disciplines, and using nuclear technologies in space is about the most significant idea there is. The team we assembled and continue to grow consists of true experts in their disciplines. I constantly rely on them to ensure we are asking the right questions and making investments to advance our capabilities and position the nation for success. 
      Polzin delivers his acceptance speech.Photo courtesy of AIAA Q: What excites you most about the future of space exploration?
      Polzin: In my lifetime, we have never been closer to fully realizing the benefits of nuclear power and propulsion in space. We now have the potential to cross the threshold and open a new era where nuclear technologies will bring about truly transformational change in how we approach all aspects of space exploration.
      Before his current role, Polzin was the Space Systems Team lead in Marshall’s Advanced Concepts Office. He joined NASA in 2004 as a propulsion research engineer.
      Polzin has a doctorate and a master’s in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University in New Jersey and a bachelor’s in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering from Ohio State University in Columbus.
      He authored or co-authored over 140 publications, including a recently published monograph, and he holds six U.S. patents. He has also been an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville for many years, teaching graduate-level courses in physics and engineering.
      Polzin’s other honors include the AIAA Sustained Service Award, the AIAA Greater Huntsville Section’s Martin Schilling Outstanding Service and Earl Pearce Professional of the Year, and multiple NASA Patent, Special Service, and Group Achievement awards. He is an associate fellow of AIAA and a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
      NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate funds the SNP Office.
      With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries and 95 corporate members, AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.
      Learn more about Space Nuclear Propulsion.
      Boyette, a Media Fusion employee, supports the Space Nuclear Propulsion Office and Marshall’s Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications.
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      NASA Announces Student Launch Winners
      NASA presented the 2024 Student Launch challenge award winners in a virtual award ceremony June 7. Awards were presented to students from colleges, universities, high schools, middle schools, and informal education groups who designed, built, and launched high-powered, amateur rockets and scientific payloads. In addition to the overall winners, other awards were presented for safety, vehicle design, social media presence, STEM engagement, and more. The Student Launch challenge was held May 3 in Toney, Alabama, near the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Read more about Student Launch.
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      Meet the Simunauts: Ohio State Students to Test Space Food Solutions for NASA
      By Savannah Bullard
      NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge kicks off its final eight-week demonstration this month, and a new crew is running the show. 
      NASA’s partner for the Deep Space Food Challenge, the Methuselah Foundation, has teamed up with Ohio State University in Columbus to facilitate the challenge’s third and final phase. The university is employing current and former students to serve on a “Simunaut” crew to maintain and operate the food production technologies during the demonstration period.  
      Ohio State University has hired four student “Simunauts” (simulated analog astronauts) to test NASA’s Deep Space Food Challenge technologies at the Wilbur A. Gould Food Industries Center’s Food Processing Pilot Plant this summer. From left, Charlie Frick, Fuanyi Fobellah, Sakura Sugiyama, and Mehr Un Nisa.Ohio State University The Deep Space Food Challenge creates novel food production systems that offer safe, nutritious, and delicious food for long-duration human exploration missions while conscious of waste, resources, and labor. The challenge could also benefit humanity by helping address Earth’s food scarcity problems. In this challenge phase, NASA will offer a $1.5 million prize purse to winning U.S. teams after demonstrations are completed during an awards ceremony on August 16. 
      “It’s easy for a team with intimate knowledge of their food systems to operate them. This will not be the case for astronauts who potentially use these solutions on deep-space missions,” said Angela Herblet, Program Analyst for NASA’s Centennial Challenges and Challenge Manager for the Deep Space Food Challenge. “Incorporating the Simunauts will add a unique flair that will test the acceptability and ease of use of these systems.” 
      The demonstrations will occur inside Ohio State’s Wilbur A. Gould Food Industries Center’s Food Processing Pilot Plant until July 31. Meet the students behind the demonstrations: 
      Fuanyi Fobellah
      Fuanyi Fobellah was a picky eater as a child. But, when he began wrestling in school, food became an essential part of his life. Now a senior majoring in food business management at Ohio State, Fobellah combines his love for space exploration with his food, nutrition, business, and innovation knowledge.
      Q: How does the work you’re doing this summer fit into the overall NASA mission, and how do your contributions fit into that mission?
      A: Food can easily become an overlooked aspect of space travel, but humans can only live and travel to different planets with sustainable food systems. That’s why a challenge focused on developing food systems for space travel is so vital to NASA’s mission.
      Sakura Sugiyama
      Sakura Sugiyama’s childhood hobbies were cooking and baking, and with two scientists as parents, the Deep Space Food Challenge piqued the interest of the recent Ohio State graduate. Sugiyama obtained her bachelor’s degree from Ohio State’s Department of Food Science and Technology and plans to work in research and development in the food industry. 
      Q: Why do you think this work is important for the future of civilization? 
      A: Food variety, sustainability, energy efficiency – all of those are issues we face here on Earth due to climate change, increasing populations, and food insecurity. I hope that solving those issues in space will also help solve those problems on Earth.
      Charlie Frick
      A fifth-year student studying animal sciences, Charlie Frick, found his passion while growing up on his family’s farm. While finishing his degree, he hopes the Deep Space Food Challenge will allow him to use his agriculture and animal science knowledge to support space technology, nutrition, and food regeneration.
      Q: Now that you’re familiar with NASA’s public prize competitions, how do you think they benefit the future of human space exploration? 
      A: These challenges help a lot because sometimes you need that third person who doesn’t have that background but can come up with something to help. These challenges are critical in helping bring about technologies that otherwise would never exist.
      Mehir Un Nisa
      Mehir Un Nisa is a graduate student in Ohio State’s Department of Food Science and Technology. As a kid who dreamed about working at NASA, Un Nisa is using her expertise in food science to make that dream a reality and get a foot in the door of the agency’s food and nutrition programs. 
      Q: How does it feel to work alongside NASA on a project like this? 
      A: Working with NASA empowers me as a researcher, and it makes me feel good that food science has a part in that big name. It’s a dream come true for me. 
      The Deep Space Food Challenge, a NASA Centennial Challenge, is a coordinated effort between NASA and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). Subject matter experts at Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center support the competition. NASA’s Centennial Challenges are part of the Prizes, Challenges, and Crowdsourcing program within NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate and managed at Marshall Space Flight Center. The Methuselah Foundation, in partnership with NASA, oversees the United States and international competitors.
      Learn more about the Deep Space Food Challenge. 
      Bullard, an Aeyon/MTS employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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      NASA, Global Astronomers Await Rare Nova Explosion
      By Rick Smith
      Around the world this summer, professional and amateur astronomers alike will be fixed on one small constellation deep in the night sky. But it’s not the seven stars of Corona Borealis, the “Northern Crown,” that have sparked such fascination.
      It’s a dark spot among them where an impending nova event – so bright it will be visible on Earth with the naked eye – is poised to occur.
      A red giant star and white dwarf orbit each other in this animation of a nova similar to T Coronae Borealis. The red giant is a large sphere in shades of red, orange, and white, with the side facing the white dwarf the lightest shades. The white dwarf is hidden in a bright glow of white and yellows, which represent an accretion disk around the star. A stream of material, shown as a diffuse cloud of red, flows from the red giant to the white dwarf. When the red giant moves behind the white dwarf, a nova explosion on the white dwarf ignites, creating a ball of ejected nova material shown in pale orange. After the fog of material clears, a small white spot remains, indicating that the white dwarf has survived the explosion.NASA “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event that will create a lot of new astronomers out there, giving young people a cosmic event they can observe for themselves, ask their own questions, and collect their own data,” said Dr. Rebekah Hounsell, an assistant research scientist specializing in nova events at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “It’ll fuel the next generation of scientists.”
      T Coronae Borealis, dubbed the “Blaze Star” and known to astronomers simply as “T CrB,” is a binary system nestled in the Northern Crown some 3,000 light-years from Earth. The system is comprised of a white dwarf – an Earth-sized remnant of a dead star with a mass comparable to that of our Sun – and an ancient red giant slowly being stripped of hydrogen by the relentless gravitational pull of its hungry neighbor.
      The hydrogen from the red giant accretes on the surface of the white dwarf, causing a buildup of pressure and heat. Eventually, it triggers a thermonuclear explosion big enough to blast away that accreted material. For T CrB, that event appears to reoccur, on average, every 80 years.
      Don’t confuse a nova with a supernova, a final, titanic explosion that destroys some dying stars, Hounsell said. In a nova event, the dwarf star remains intact, sending the accumulated material hurtling into space in a blinding flash. The cycle typically repeats itself over time, a process which can carry on for tens or hundreds of thousands of years.
      “There are a few recurrent novae with very short cycles, but typically, we don’t often see a repeated outburst in a human lifetime, and rarely one so relatively close to our own system,” Hounsell said. “It’s incredibly exciting to have this front-row seat.”
      The first recorded sighting of the T CrB nova was more than 800 years ago, in autumn 1217, when a man named Burchard, abbot of Ursberg, Germany, noted his observance of “a faint star that for a time shone with great light.”
      The T CrB nova was last seen from Earth in 1946. Its behavior over the past decade appears strikingly similar to observed behavior in a similar timeframe leading up to the 1946 eruption. If the pattern continues, some researchers say, the nova event could occur by September 2024.
      What should stargazers look for? The Northern Crown is a horseshoe-shaped curve of stars west of the Hercules constellation, ideally spotted on clear nights. It can be identified by locating the two brightest stars in the Northern Hemisphere – Arcturus and Vega – and tracking a straight line from one to the other, which will lead skywatchers to Hercules and the Corona Borealis.
      A conceptual image of how to find Hercules and the “Northern Crown” in the night sky, created using planetarium software. Look up after sunset during summer months to find Hercules, then scan between Vega and Arcturus, where the distinct pattern of Corona Borealis may be identified.NASA The outburst will be brief. Once it erupts, it will be visible to the naked eye for a little less than a week – but Hounsell is confident it will be quite a sight to see.
      Dr. Elizabeth Hays, chief of Goddard’s Astroparticle Physics Laboratory, agreed. She said part of the fun in preparing to observe the event is seeing the enthusiasm among amateur stargazers, whose passion for extreme space phenomena has helped sustain a long and mutually rewarding partnership with NASA.
      “Citizen scientists and space enthusiasts are always looking for those strong, bright signals that identify nova events and other phenomena,” Hays said. “Using social media and email, they’ll send out instant alerts, and the flag goes up. We’re counting on that global community interaction again with T CrB.”
      Hays is the project scientist for NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which has made gamma-ray observations from low Earth orbit since 2008. Fermi is poised to observe T CrB when the nova eruption is detected, along with other space-based missions including NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, IXPE (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer), NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array), NICER (Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer), and the European Space Agency’s INTEGRAL (Extreme Universe Surveyor). Numerous ground-based radio telescopes and optical imagers, including the National Radio Astronomy Observatory’s Very Large Array in Mexico, also will take part. Collectively, the various telescopes and instruments will capture data across the visible and non-visible light spectrum.
      “We’ll observe the nova event at its peak and through its decline, as the visible energy of the outburst fades,” Hounsell said. “But it’s equally critical to obtain data during the early rise to eruption – so the data collected by those avid citizen scientists on the lookout now for the nova will contribute dramatically to our findings.”
      For astrophysics researchers, that promises a rare opportunity to shed new light on the structure and dynamics of recurring stellar explosions like this one.
      “Typically, nova events are so faint and far away that it’s hard to clearly identify where the erupting energy is concentrated,” Hays said. “This one will be really close, with a lot of eyes on it, studying the various wavelengths and hopefully giving us data to start unlocking the structure and specific processes involved. We can’t wait to get the full picture of what’s going on.”
      Some of those eyes will be very new. Gamma-ray imagers didn’t exist the last time T CrB erupted in 1946, and IXPE’s polarization capability – which identifies the organization and alignment of electromagnetic waves to determine the structure and internal processes of high-energy phenomena – is also a brand-new tool in X-ray astronomy. Combining their data could offer unprecedented insight into the lifecycles of binary systems and the waning but powerful stellar processes that fuel them.
      Learn more about NASA astrophysics.
      Smith, an Aeyon/MTS employee, supports the Marshall Office of Communications.
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      ‘Super’ Star Cluster Shines in New Look from NASA’s Chandra
      Westerlund 1 is the biggest and closest “super” star cluster to Earth. New data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, in combination with other NASA telescopes, is helping astronomers delve deeper into this galactic factory where stars are vigorously being produced.
      This is the first data to be publicly released from a project called the Extended Westerlund 1 and 2 Open Clusters Survey, or EWOCS, led by astronomers from the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics in Palermo. As part of EWOCS, Chandra observed Westerlund 1 for about 12 days in total.
      An image of the Westerlund 1 star cluster and the surrounding region, as detected in X-ray and optical light. The black canvas of space is peppered with colored dots of light of various sizes, mostly in shades of red, green, blue, and white.X-ray: NASA/CXC/INAF/M. Guarcello et al.; Optical: NASA/ESA/STScI; Image Processing: NASA/CXC/SAO/L. Frattare Currently, only a handful of stars form in our galaxy each year, but in the past the situation was different. The Milky Way used to produce many more stars, likely hitting its peak of churning out dozens or hundreds of stars per year about 10 billion years ago and then gradually declining ever since. Astronomers think that most of this star formation took place in massive clusters of stars, known as “super star clusters,” like Westerlund 1. These are young clusters of stars that contain more than 10,000 times the mass of the Sun. Westerlund 1 is between about 3 million and 5 million years old.
      This new image shows the new deep Chandra data along with previously released data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The X-rays detected by Chandra show young stars (mostly represented as white and pink) as well as diffuse heated gas throughout the cluster (colored pink, green, and blue, in order of increasing temperatures for the gas). Many of the stars picked up by Hubble appear as yellow and blue dots.
      Only a few super star clusters still exist in our galaxy, but they offer important clues about this earlier era when most of our galaxy’s stars formed. Westerlund 1 is the biggest of these remaining super star clusters in the Milky Way and contains a mass between 50,000 and 100,000 Suns. It is also the closest super star cluster to Earth at about 13,000 light-years.
      These qualities make Westerlund 1 an excellent target for studying the impact of a super star cluster’s environment on the formation process of stars and planets as well as the evolution of stars over a broad range of masses.
      This new deep Chandra dataset of Westerlund 1 has more than tripled the number of X-ray sources known in the cluster. Before the EWOCS project, Chandra had detected 1,721 sources in Westerlund 1. The EWOCS data found almost 6,000 X-ray sources, including fainter stars with lower masses than the Sun. This gives astronomers a new population to study.
      One revelation is that 1,075 stars detected by Chandra are squeezed into the middle of Westerlund 1 within four light-years of the cluster’s center. For a sense of how crowded this is, four light-years is about the distance between the Sun and the next closest star to Earth.
      The diffuse emission seen in the EWOCS data represents the first detection of a halo of hot gas surrounding the center of Westerlund 1, which astronomers think will be crucial in assessing the cluster’s formation and evolution, and giving a more precise estimate of its mass.
      A paper published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, led by Mario Guarcello from the Italian National Institute of Astrophysics in Palermo, discusses the survey and the first results. Follow-up papers will discuss more about the results, including detailed studies of the brightest X-ray sources. This future work will analyze other EWOCS observations, involving NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer).
      NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science from Cambridge Massachusetts and flight operations from Burlington, Massachusetts.
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      NASA Awards Contract for Safety and Mission Assurance Services
      NASA has selected KBR Wyle Services LLC, of Fulton, Maryland, to provide safety and mission assurance services to the agency.
      The Safety and Mission Assurance, Audits, Assessments, and Analysis (SA3) Services contract is a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract with an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity provision and a maximum potential value of approximately $75.3 million. The three-year base performance period of this contract begins August 1, 2024, and is followed by a two-year option, which would end July 31, 2029.
      The SA3 contract will provide safety and mission assurance services to NASA Headquarters and other NASA centers, programs, projects, and activities through the NASA Safety Center. These services include, but aren’t limited to, audit/assessment/analysis support, safety assessments and hazard analysis, reliability and maintainability analysis, risk analysis and management, supply chain data management and analytics, software safety and assurance, training and outreach, quality engineering and assurance, and information systems support.
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    • By NASA
      4 min read
      Hubble Finds Surprises Around a Star That Erupted 40 Years Ago
      This artist’s concept shows the nova system HM Sagittae (HM Sge), where a white dwarf star is pulling material from its red giant companion. This forms a blazing hot disk around the dwarf, which can unpredictably undergo a spontaneous thermonuclear explosion as the infall of hydrogen from the red giant grows denser and reaches a tipping point. These fireworks between companion stars are fascinating to astronomers by yielding insights into the physics and dynamics of stellar evolution in binary systems. NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)
      Download this image

      Astronomers have used new data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the retired SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) as well as archival data from other missions to revisit one of the strangest binary star systems in our galaxy – 40 years after it burst onto the scene as a bright and long-lived nova. A nova is a star that suddenly increases its brightness tremendously and then fades away to its former obscurity, usually in a few months or years.
      Between April and September 1975, the binary system HM Sagittae (HM Sge) grew 250 times brighter. Even more unusual, it did not rapidly fade away as novae commonly do, but has maintained its luminosity for decades. Recently, observations show that the system has gotten hotter, but paradoxically faded a little.
      HM Sge is a particular kind of symbiotic star where a white dwarf and a bloated, dust-producing giant companion star are in an eccentric orbit around each other, and the white dwarf ingests gas flowing from the giant star. That gas forms a blazing hot disk around the white dwarf, which can unpredictably undergo a spontaneous thermonuclear explosion as the infall of hydrogen from the giant grows denser on the surface until it reaches a tipping point. These fireworks between companion stars fascinate astronomers by yielding insights into the physics and dynamics of stellar evolution in binary systems.
      When I first saw the new data, I went – ‘wow this is what Hubble UV spectroscopy can do!’ – I mean it’s spectacular, really spectacular.
      Ravi Sankrit
      Astronomer
      “In 1975 HM Sge went from being a nondescript star to something all astronomers in the field were looking at, and at some point that flurry of activity slowed down,” said Ravi Sankrit of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore. In 2021, Steven Goldman of STScI, Sankrit and collaborators used instruments on Hubble and SOFIA to see what had changed with HM Sge in the last 30 years at wavelengths of light from the infrared to the ultraviolet (UV).
      The 2021 ultraviolet data from Hubble showed a strong emission line of highly ionized magnesium that was not present in earlier published spectra from 1990. Its presence shows that the estimated temperature of the white dwarf and accretion disk increased from less than 400,000 degrees Fahrenheit in 1989 to greater than 450,000 degrees Fahrenheit now. The highly ionized magnesium line is one of many seen in the UV spectrum, which analyzed together will reveal the energetics of the system, and how it has changed in the last three decades.
      “When I first saw the new data,” Sankrit said, “I went – ‘wow this is what Hubble UV spectroscopy can do!’ – I mean it’s spectacular, really spectacular.”
      A Hubble Space Telescope image of the symbiotic star Mira HM Sge. Located 3,400 light-years away in the constellation Sagitta, it consists of a red giant and a white dwarf companion. The stars are too close together to be resolved by Hubble. Material bleeds off the red giant and falls onto the dwarf, making it extremely bright. This system first flared up as a nova in 1975. The red nebulosity is evidence of the stellar wind. The nebula is about one-quarter light-year across. NASA, ESA, Ravi Sankrit (STScI), Steven Goldman (STScI); Image Processing: Joseph DePasquale (STScI)
      Download this image

      With data from NASA’s flying telescope SOFIA, which retired in 2022, the team was able to detect the water, gas, and dust flowing in and around the system. Infrared spectral data shows that the giant star, which produces copious amounts of dust, returned to its normal behavior within only a couple years of the explosion, but also that it has dimmed in recent years, which is another puzzle to be explained.
      With SOFIA astronomers were able to see water moving at around 18 miles per second, which they suspect is the speed of the sizzling accretion disk around the white dwarf. The bridge of gas connecting the giant star to the white dwarf must presently span about 2 billion miles.
      The team has also been working with the AAVSO (American Association of Variable Star Observers), to collaborate with amateur astronomers from around the world who help keep telescopic eyes on HM Sge; their continued monitoring reveals changes that haven’t been seen since its outburst 40 years ago.
      “Symbiotic stars like HM Sge are rare in our galaxy, and witnessing a nova-like explosion is even rarer. This unique event is a treasure for astrophysicists spanning decades,” said Goldman.
      The initial results from the team’s research were published in the Astrophysical Journal, and Sankrit is presenting research focused on the UV spectroscopy at the 244th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Madison, Wisconsin.
      The Hubble Space Telescope has been operating for over three decades and continues to make ground-breaking discoveries that shape our fundamental understanding of the universe. Hubble is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope and mission operations. Lockheed Martin Space, based in Denver, Colorado, also supports mission operations at Goddard. The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, conducts Hubble science operations for NASA.
      Explore More:

      Three-Year Study of Young Stars with NASA’s Hubble Enters New Chapter


      Hubble Views the Dawn of a Sun-like Star


      Hubble Sees New Star Proclaiming Presence with Cosmic Lightshow


      NASA’s Hubble Finds that Aging Brown Dwarfs Grow Lonely

      Facebook logo @NASAHubble @NASAHubble Instagram logo @NASAHubble Media Contacts:
      Claire Andreoli
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
      claire.andreoli@nasa.gov
      Ray Villard
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
      Science Contacts:
      Ravi Sankrit
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
      Steven Goldman
      Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
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