Friday, February 20, 2009

News from Los Alamos National Laboratory for Feb. 20

As Dawn approaches Mars, scientists gear up for GRaND tests

NASA illustration of the Dawn spacecraft.

GRaND (the Gamma-Ray and Neutron Detector) was developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory, and key sensor components were manufactured by eV Products,

Eljen Technology, and Proteus, Inc. Planetary Science Institute is responsible for operating the instrument and analyzing data acquired during the post-launch, science phase of the mission.

Read more about the Dawn Mission here.

Research highlights potential for improved solar cell efficiencies

LANL’s Victor Klimov

To evaluate the influence of photoionization, the Los Alamos researchers conducted back-to-back studies of static and stirred solutions of nanocrystals. Stirring removes charged nanocrystals from the measured region of the sample. Therefore, when crystals are subjected to light, the stirring eliminates the possibility that charged nanocrystals will absorb a second photon. Read the story here.

Offsite source group gathers up the bad stuff

Americium-241 sources, each roughly the size of the tip of a pen, are readied for storage at Los Alamos, part of a shipment that represents the 15,000th recovered source. LANL photo.

The chances of U.S. radioactive sources falling into the hands of risky characters were reduced again last year with the help of a small team of scavengers at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The lab's Off-Site Source Recovery Project, under supervision of the National Nuclear Security Administration, recently passed an important domestic milestone for getting dangerous materials out of the way. See the whole recovery
story here.

NOTE: Learn (and see) more about LANL’s recovery of radioactive sources by watching
a brief video on YouTube.

Satellites crash, but only meteors burn this bright

Researchers photograph the Sept. 2008 controlled re-entry of the European Space Agency's “Jules Verne” spacecraft. NASA’s primary goal of the project was to study the spacecraft's re-entry and compare it to meteor fragmentation. NASA photo.

The meteor would have to have been as big as a pickup truck, and traveling somewhere between 15,000 and 40,000 miles per hour when it entered the atmosphere.

That's small time for a meteor -- astrophysicist David Palmer of the Los Alamos National Laboratory tells Popular Mechanics that such speeds are close to the minimum at which meteors enter Earth's atmosphere.
Meteors orbiting the sun at the opposite direction of Earth could enter our atmosphere at up to 150,000 miles per hour. See the recent daylight meteor here.

Out of the muck of Crim Dell

Working in early September at the upper end of Crim Dell, freshman researchers Kasi Hartman and Sam Harvey take samples of soil and muck.

A group of William & Mary freshmen has discovered what appears to be a previously unknown form of life.

Using state-of-the-art lab techniques, the William & Mary freshmen isolated phages and prepared the DNA of the samples for sequencing - or genetic blueprinting - at Los Alamos National Lab.

Preliminary results from Los Alamos indicate that one of the 10 phage samples sent from William and Mary is a novel strain, previously unrecorded. See the story here.

Scientists probe green comet

Photo of Comet Lulin by amateur astronomer Jack Newton (NASA)

Space scientists from the University of Leicester are keeping a close eye on a 'green comet' fast approaching the Earth -- reaching its nearest point to us on February 24.

Swift, launched in November 2004, is a NASA mission in partnership with the Italian Space Agency and the Science and Technology Facilities Council of the United Kingdom; Los Alamos National Laboratory provides gamma-ray imaging analysis. Read more about the 'green comet' here.

LANL channel one year old today

Today marks the first anniversary of Los Alamos National Laboratory’s channel on YouTube. More than a dozen Lab videos to date have racked up nearly 60,000 views since February 20, 2008.

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