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      North Carolina Volunteers Work Toward Cleaner Well Water
      Road closure due to flooding. Volunteers helped NASA scientists predict where floods like these will contaminate well water. Image credit: Kelsey Pieper When the ground floods during a storm, floodwaters wash bacteria and other contaminants into private wells. But thanks to citizen scientists in North Carolina, we now know a bit more about how to deal with this problem. A new NASA-Funded study describes the contributions of these volunteers and how their work makes other disaster data more useful. 
      After Hurricane Florence, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services distributed sampling bottles to 754 private well users upon request.  They asked these volunteers to collect samples at their wellheads or outdoor taps. As expected, the rates of fecal contamination measured with help from the volunteers were almost 8 times higher than during routine conditions. 
      The new study compares the water quality measurements made by volunteers to predictions from various kinds of flood boundary maps made using data from NASA’s Landsat, Sentinel, and MODIS satellites. Turns out, the flood boundary maps are pretty good predictors—under certain conditions. Now we know how to better use them for this purpose in the future, thanks to help from citizen scientists!
      Contact your local health department and tell them you are interested in testing your own well water supply!

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      Mountain Rain or Snow Volunteers Broke Records This Winter
      The Mountain Rain or Snow project asks volunteers to track rain, snow, and mixed precipitation all winter long—and this was a winter like no other! This season, 1,684 people submitted precipitation observations—that’s about a third more than last season. These volunteers submitted over 32,110 observations, breaking last year’s record by over 10,000.
      Some observers excelled by sending in hundreds of observations—Patrick Thorson submitted 676! Nayoung Hur’s observations spanned the largest elevational range, and Lauren H’s came from the highest peak at 11, 993 feet.
      Congratulations to Patrick Thorson, Chris Gotschalk, SV, Karen O, Marley Jennings, Mariah Blackhorse, Robert R., Randall Bursk, Bill Locke, Erin Grogan, Lauren H., Craig Hall, and Nayoung Hur for their remarkable contributions. Thank you to all Mountain Rain or Snow observers for keeping your eyes on the sky with us this winter!
      The Mountain Rain or Snow project still needs more data to improve weather and water sources forecasting.If you are in the U.S.A. and you are on or near a mountain,  visit www.rainorsnow.org/signup on your phone and select your region to join the project!
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      Preparations for Next Moonwalk Simulations Underway (and Underwater)
      Team “Rumble Ready” from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, comprised of (from left to right) Professor Mark Gonda, Nicole Xie, Junaid Bodla, Jordan Ragsac, Krishi Gajjar, Gerald McAllister III, and Leara Dominguez, took home first place at the 2024 Gateways to Blue Skies Forum held May 30-31 at NASA Ames Research Center.National Institute of Aerospace The California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, team, with their project titled “Aero-Quake Emergency Response Network,” took first place at the third annual Gateways to Blue Skies Competition. Competing among eight finalist teams that presented their ideas for aviation-related systems for natural disasters, the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona team earned the top award at the 2024 Blue Skies Forum, hosted at NASA’s Ames Research Center May 30-31. The Forum was judged by subject matter experts from NASA and industry. 
      In addition to the first-place recognition, team members were awarded an opportunity to intern at any of the four NASA Aeronautics Centers — Langley Research Center (Hampton, VA), Glenn Research Center (Cleveland, OH), Ames Research Center (Mountain View, CA), and Armstrong Flight Research Center (Edwards, CA) —across the country during the 2024-25 Academic Year.   
      “We truly enjoyed the NASA Blue Skies competition,” said team lead Krishi Gajjar. “We are honored that our efforts have been awarded by the experienced and diverse judging panel. This would not have been possible without the guidance from our advisor, professor Mark Gonda, and our rigorous engineering program at Cal Poly Pomona. We are proud to have grown together as a team and are excited to continue advancing aviation in our future careers as aerospace engineers!” 
      Second place went to Columbia University with their project, “AVATARS: Aerial Vehicles for Avalanche Terrain Assessment and Reporting Systems.”  
      Other awards included:  
      Future Game-Changer Award: Cerritos College | F.I.R.E (Fire Intervention Retardant Expeller)  Most Innovative Award: North Carolina State University | Reconnaissance and Emergency Aircraft for Critical Hurricane Relief (REACHR)  Sponsored by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s University Innovation Project, the Gateways to Blue Skies Competition is an initiative to engage college students in researching climate-friendly technologies and applications related to the future of aviation. Because of the increase in natural disasters compounded by climate change, the 2024 theme, “Advancing Aviation for Natural Disaster,” asked students to investigate and conceptualize, in terms of feasibility and viability, aviation-related systems that can be applied by 2035 to one phase of management of a chosen type of natural disaster to improve capabilities. 
      Because many emergency response professionals believe there is no one proposed concept that will be applicable for all different natural disasters or can be applied to all phases of management, this competition welcomed a wide range of potential solutions. New technologies and applications gained from this crowdsourced competition may be developed further by NASA for use in coordinating and facilitating disaster management. 
      At the Forum, finalist teams presented concepts of systems that addressed responses to natural disasters such as earthquakes, avalanches, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, floods, and wildfires.   
      “Whenever NASA engages with students, it’s such a rewarding experience,” said Steven Holz, NASA Aeronautics University Innovation Assistant Project Manager and Blue Skies judge and co-chair. “This competition encourages students to imagine, expand, and tackle the challenges and opportunities that await in the future of aeronautics. The students bring unique concepts and ideas to the table along with a wealth of knowledge and professionalism. It’s always exciting to have the chance to see firsthand what they come up with next.” 
      Students also had the opportunity to network with NASA and industry experts, tour NASA’s Ames Research Center, and gain insight into potential careers and applications that will further the Agency’s mission toward a climate-friendly aviation future. 
      “Because natural disasters are so far-reaching and impactful to so many, we had a lot of interest in this year’s competition,” added Marcus Johnson, project manager in the Aeronautics Directorate at NASA Ames Research Center and 2024 Blue Skies co-chair. “Each of the eight finalist teams that presented at this year’s Forum were passionate about their concepts and each offered compelling ideas.  This competition is about so much more than just “awards,” it’s about connecting, networking and identifying the future leaders in aeronautics.” 
      The 2024 Gateways to Blue Skies Competition is sponsored by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate and administered by the National Institute of Aerospace.  
      View the livestream of the competition presentations: https://vimeo.com/showcase/blueskies
      View the competition finalists: https://blueskies.nianet.org/finalists/ 
      To learn more about the 2024 Gateways to Blue Skies: Advancing Aviation for Natural Disasters Competition, visit: https://blueskies.nianet.org/competition/ 
      For more information about NASA Aeronautics, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/aeronautics/index.html 
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      2 Min Read NASA Volunteers Find Fifteen Rare “Active Asteroids”
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      Henry Hsieh Some extraordinary asteroids have “activity”–comet-like tails or envelopes of gas and dust.  NASA’s Active Asteroids project announced the discovery of activity on fifteen asteroids, challenging conventional wisdom about the solar system.
      To find these fifteen rare objects, more than 8000 volunteers combed through 430,000 images from the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the Victor M. Blanco telescope in Chile. A paper about the results, now published in the Astronomical Journal, includes nine volunteers among the co-authors.
      “For an amateur astronomer like me it’s a dream come true.” said volunteer Virgilio Gonano from Udine, Italy. “Congratulations to all the staff and the friends that also check the images!”
      Volunteers from the NASA’s “Active Asteroids” Citizen Science project identified a comet tail coming from
      Asteroid 2015 VA108, one of the active asteroids spotted by volunteers from NASA’s “Active Asteroids” Citizen Science project. The object, indicated by the green arrow, orbits entirely within the main asteroid belt (located between Mars and Jupiter), but sports a tail like a comet. Credit: Colin Orion Chandler (University of Washington) Studying these rare active asteroids teaches scientists about the formation and evolution of the solar system, including the origins of water here on Earth. These objects may also aid future space exploration because the same ices that cause comet-like tails can power rockets or provide breathable air.
      “I have been a member of the Active Asteroids team since its first batch of data,” said volunteer Tiffany Shaw-Diaz from Dayton, Ohio. “And to say that this project has become a significant part of my life is an understatement. I look forward to classifying subjects each day, as long as time or health permits, and I am beyond honored to work with such esteemed scientists on a regular basis.”
      The Active Asteroids project was founded by Dr. Colin Orion Chandler, a LINCC Frameworks project scientist at the University of Washington and DiRAC Institute.  To join the project and help discover the next active asteroid, visit https://www.activeasteroids.net.
      Facebook logo @DoNASAScience @DoNASAScience Share

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