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    • By NASA
      Rebekah Hounsell is an assistant research scientist working on ways to optimize and build infrastructure for future observations made by the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. The mission will shed light on many astrophysics topics, like dark energy, which are currently shrouded in mystery. Rebekah also works as a support scientist for the TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) mission, helping scientists access and analyze data.
      Name: Rebekah Hounsell
      Title: Assistant Research Scientist
      Formal Job Classification: Support Scientist for the TESS mission and Co-Principal Investigator of the Roman Supernova Project Infrastructure Team (PIT)
      Organization: Code 667.0
      Rebekah Hounsell knew she wanted to study space from a very young age. Now, she’s a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA/Chris Gunn What do you do and what is most interesting about your role at Goddard?
      I am fortunate to have several roles at Goddard. I am a support scientist for TESS. Here I aid the community in accessing and analyzing TESS data. I am a co-principal investigator of a Roman project infrastructure team, focusing on building infrastructure to support supernova cosmology with the Roman HLTDS (High Latitude Time-Domain Survey). In addition, I am part of the Physics of the Cosmos program analysis group executive committee, co-chairing both the Cosmic Structure Science interest group and the Time-Domain and Multi-Messenger Astrophysics Science interest group. In these roles I have been fortunate enough to get a glimpse into how missions such as TESS and Roman work and how we can make them a success for the community. Missions like TESS are paving the way for future wide area surveys like Roman, providing a plethora of high cadence transient and variable star data, which can be used to gain a better understanding of our universe and our place within it.
      How will your current work influence the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope’s future observations?
      The Roman team I am leading is tasked with developing a pixels-to-cosmology pipeline for the analysis of supernova data from the HLTDS. What this means is that we will develop tools to aid the community in obtaining supernova lightcurves and prism spectra, which are precise enough to be used in testing various cosmological modes. We are also working to develop tools which will allow the community to test various HLTDS designs, adjusting cadence, filters, exposure times, etc., to best optimize its output for their science.
      What got you interested in astrophysics? What was your path to your current role?
      When I was a child I lived in a very rural area in England, with little to no light pollution. I had a wonderful view of the night sky and was fascinated by stars. I remember when I found out that the universe was expanding and my first thought was “into what?” I think it was that which fueled my curiosity about space and pushed me into astrophysics. At about 10 years old, I decided astrophysics was the path for me, and after that I really started to focus on physics and math at school.
      At 18, 19 I went to Liverpool University/Liverpool John Moores and completed my master’s in astrophysics in 2008. I then went on to obtain my Ph.D., focusing on classical and recurrent novae. In 2012 I received my first postdoc at STScI (the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore). It was at STScI that I learned about how the instruments operating on Hubble worked and figured out that what I really loved doing was working on data and improving it. At the time however, I wasn’t ready to leave academia altogether, so I took another postdoc at the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana/UC Santa Cruz. It was here that I first started working on Roman, only back then it was known as WFIRST. I was a member of a Supernova Science Investigation Team for WFIRST and worked to optimize the design of what was then known as the SN survey, later to become the HLTDS. During this time I published a paper that created some of the most realistic simulations of the survey, including various statistical and systematic effects. After this I headed to the University of Pennsylvania to work on core collapse supernovae from the Dark Energy Survey. This was an exciting data set, but again I realized what I really liked doing was working on data from or for a mission. As such I took my current job at NASA.
      Rebekah stands by a model of NASA’s upcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. The observatory’s deployable aperture cover, or sun shade, is visible in the background in the largest clean room at Goddard.NASA/David Friedlander What are you most looking forward to exploring through Roman’s eyes?
      Given the nature of the mission, Roman is going to discover a plethora of transient events. Some of these will be extremely rare and if caught in one of Roman’s high cadenced, deep fields, the data obtained will be able to shed new light on the physics driving these phenomena. I am also excited about these data being used with those from other observatories including the Vera C. Rubin Observatory and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
      What has surprised you the most about the universe as you’ve learned more about it?
      We are still discovering so many new things which shed new light on the universe, its evolution, and our place in it. In recent years we have learned about kilonovae, gravitational waves, and we’ve discovered various diverse supernovae. There are so many extreme and complex events that we are still trying to understand, and I suspect that Roman will reveal even more.
      What is your favorite thing about working for NASA?
      There is no one path to working at NASA. I have met so many people who entered into the field following completely different paths than myself. I love this. We all have something different to bring to the table and those differences are what makes NASA what it is today.
      A portrait of Rebekah in front of the NASA meatball.NASA/David Friedlander What hobbies fill your time outside of work?
      I like to paint and draw. I also enjoy looking after animals. I also love participating in outreach events. When I lived in Philly I helped to set up the Astronomy on Tap branch there. I think it is important to talk about what we do and why it is needed.
      What advice do you have for others who are interested in working in astronomy?
      There is no one path. Don’t think you have to complete x, y, z steps and then you make it. That is not true. Do what you are passionate about, what you enjoy to learn about. And most importantly ask questions! Learn about what others are doing in the field, how they got there, and figure out what works for you.
      By Ashley Balzer
      NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
      Conversations With Goddard is a collection of Q&A profiles highlighting the breadth and depth of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s talented and diverse workforce. The Conversations have been published twice a month on average since May 2011. Read past editions on Goddard’s “Our People” webpage.
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      Last Updated Jul 16, 2024 ContactAshley Balzerashley.m.balzer@nasa.govLocationGoddard Space Flight Center Related Terms
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    • By NASA
      Buzzing with bees, baby birds, and wildflowers, the rooftop garden atop building 12 at Johnson Space Center in Houston reflects NASA’s commitment to environmental stewardship. Originally constructed in 1963, the facility was transformed in 2012, incorporating energy-efficient features that earned it LEED Gold certification. The certification is a globally recognized symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. Today, the building serves as a testament to NASA’s commitment to ecological innovation.  

      Nestled between the Mission Control Center and building 16, this hidden gem is part of a series of pioneering efforts at Johnson to demonstrate how even the most unexpected locations can become vibrant ecosystems. 
      Aerial views of Johnson Space Center’s rooftop garden. NASA/Bill Stafford Initiated by Joel Walker, director of Center Operations, and designed alongside NASA engineers, the rooftop garden exemplifies green architecture with integrated solar panels, an underfloor air distribution system, and wind turbines.  

      “It was something of an experiment to see what worked well and what we might use in future projects,” said Walker. 
      Native Texas Bluebonnet atop building 12 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Center Operations team leads sustainability efforts at Johnson, working across multiple directorates and teams. Together, they manage Johnson’s 1,600 acres, which host a diverse array of plants and wildlife.

      Building 12’s green roof provides benefits such as reduced potable water and energy usage, better stormwater management, protection from UV rays, and increased stability in high winds. This unique space provides an ideal environment for nesting birds and visiting pollinators and boasts a projected lifespan of 50 years, significantly longer than the 20 to 25 years typical of a conventional roof.  

      “I was genuinely surprised by the variety of native species thriving in our rooftop garden,” said Johnson’s wildlife biologist Strausser. “We’ve observed far more species than we ever anticipated, which is both fascinating and encouraging for our conservation efforts.” 
      Johnson team members meet on the building 12 rooftop to assess and monitor the plants. Initially, the project started with non-native ornamental plants that failed in the harsh Houston climate. Replanting the garden yielded mixed results until the team hand-scattered a blend of native grass seed and wildflowers. This method proved to be a successful, at a fraction of the cost estimated for professional planting. 

      “Sometimes the easiest way is the best!” said Walker. “It looks great now and is much more durable too.” 
      View the full article
    • By European Space Agency
      A network of ground stations around the world, including two owned by ESA, will track the debut flight of Europe’s new Ariane 6 rocket. They will monitor key phases of the flight and gather telemetry and video that will be used to analyse the rocket’s performance and optimise future launches.
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    • By USH
      In this video, we delve into an extraordinary UFO sighting over Puerto Rico that left witnesses in awe. On May 15, 2005, an immense triangular object, comparable to the size of two ballparks, was photographed in Carolina, Puerto Rico. Witnesses reported the UFO caused their vehicle's engine and lights to fail as it silently passed overhead. 

      Editor's note: The  UFO resembles the infamous TR-3B  antigravity craft but given the size of the UFO compared to the size of TR-3B it is possible that the witnesses saw a real UFO. 
      (The TR-3B: This craft uses highly pressured mercury accelerated by nuclear energy to produce a plasma that creates a field of anti-gravity around the ship.  Conventional thrusters located at the tips of the craft allow it to perform all manner of rapid high speed maneuvers along all three axes. Interestingly, the plasma generated also reduces radar signature significantly. So it'll be almost invisible on radar and remain undetected.)
      We analyze the photographic evidence, recount the firsthand experiences, and explore the potential electromagnetic effects of this mysterious craft.
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    • By NASA
      3 Min Read July’s Night Sky Notes: A Hero, a Crown, and Possibly a Nova!
      Like shiny flakes sparkling in a snow globe, over 100,000 stars whirl within the globular cluster M13, one of the brightest star clusters visible from the Northern Hemisphere. Located 25,000 light-years from Earth with an apparent magnitude of 5.8, this glittering metropolis of stars in the constellation Hercules can be spotted with a pair of binoculars most easily in July. Credits:
      NASA by Vivan White of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific
      High in the summer sky, the constellation Hercules acts as a centerpiece for late-night stargazers. At the center of Hercules is the “Keystone,” a near-perfect square shape between the bright stars Vega and Arcturus that is easy to recognize and can serve as a guidepost for some amazing sights. While not the brightest stars, the shape of the hero’s torso, like a smaller Orion, is nearly directly overhead after sunset. Along the edge of this square, you can find a most magnificent jewel – the Great Globular Cluster of Hercules, also known as Messier 13.
      Look up after sunset during summer months to find Hercules! Scan between Vega and Arcturus, near the distinct pattern of Corona Borealis. Once you find its stars, use binoculars or a telescope to hunt down the globular clusters M13 (and a smaller globular cluster M92). If you enjoy your views of these globular clusters, you’re in luck – look for another great globular, M3, near the constellation Boötes. Credit: Stellarium Globular clusters are a tight ball of very old stars, closer together than stars near us. These clusters orbit the center of our Milky Way like tight swarms of bees. One of the most famous short stories, Nightfall by Isaac Asimov, imagines a civilization living on a planet within one of these star clusters. They are surrounded by so many stars so near that it is always daytime except for once every millennium, when a special alignment (including a solar eclipse) occurs, plunging their planet into darkness momentarily. The sudden night reveals so many stars that it drives the inhabitants mad.
      Back here on our home planet Earth, we are lucky enough to experience skies full of stars, a beautiful Moon, and regular eclipses. On a clear night this summer, take time to look up into the Keystone of Hercules and follow this sky chart to the Great Globular Cluster of Hercules. A pair of binoculars will show a faint, fuzzy patch, while a small telescope will resolve some of the stars in this globular cluster.
      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/Goddard Space Flight Center Bonus! Between Hercules and the ice-cream-cone-shaped Boötes constellation, you’ll find the small constellation Corona Borealis, shaped like the letter “C.” Astronomers around the world are watching T Coronae Borealis, also known as the “Blaze Star” in this constellation closely because it is predicted to go nova sometime this summer. There are only 5 known nova stars in the whole galaxy. It is a rare observable event and you can take part in the fun! The Astronomical League has issued a Special Observing Challenge that anyone can participate in. Just make a sketch of the constellation now (you won’t be able to see the nova) and then make another sketch once it goes nova.
      Tune into our mid-month article on the Night Sky Network page, as we prepare for the Perseids! Keep looking up!
      View the full article
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