NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will host a live-streamed Science Chat at 11 a.m. PDT (2 p.m. EDT) Friday, Sept. 7, during which experts will talk about the role of the agency’s Dawn spacecraft in studying the beginning of our solar system, and the approaching end of its 11-year mission.
The event will air live on NASA TV
Jim Green, NASA chief scientist
Carol Raymond, Dawn principal investigator at JPL
Marc Rayman, Dawn mission director and chief engineer at JPL
The public can ask questions on Twitter using the hashtag #askNASA or in the comment section of the JPL Facebook page.
NASA launched Dawn in 2007 to learn more about the beginning of the Solar System. During its mission, the spacecraft studied the asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, celestial bodies believed to have formed early in the history of the Solar System.
The mission aided scientists in characterizing the early Solar System and the processes that dominated its formation. Dawn is the only spacecraft to orbit two deep-space destinations, a feat enabled by the efficiency of the spacecraft’s ion propulsion system.
The presence of organic material on Ceres raises intriguing possibilities, particularly because the dwarf planet is also rich in water ice, and water is another necessary component for life.
Last year, scientists with NASA’s Dawn mission announced the detection of organic material — carbon-based compounds that are necessary components for life — exposed in patches on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres. Now, a new analysis of the Dawn data by Brown University researchers suggests those patches may contain a much higher abundance of organics than originally thought.
The findings, published recently in Geophysical Research Letters, raise intriguing questions about how those organics got to the surface of Ceres, and the methods used in the new study could also provide a template for interpreting data for future missions, the researchers say.
“What this paper shows is that you can get really different results depending upon the type of organic material you use to compare with and interpret the Ceres data,” said Hannah Kaplan, a postdoctoral researcher at the Southwest Research Institute who led the research while completing her Ph.D. at Brown. “That’s important not only for Ceres, but also for missions that will soon explore asteroids that may also contain organic material.”
The artist’s image above shows NASA’s Dawn spacecraft as it appeared arriving at the dwarf planet Ceres in 2015. Dawn’s ion propulsion, seen here, has since been turned off, as Dawn prepares to end its mission this fall.
The Daily Galaxy via NASA
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