Friday, August 31, 2012

Los Alamos provides HOPE for radiation belt storm probes

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket blasts off with NASA’s twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes. United Launch Alliance photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory expertise in radiation detection and shielding is poised to help a nationalteam of scientists better understand a mysterious region that can create hazardous space weather near our home planet.

The Helium Oxygen Proton Electron (HOPE) analyzer is one of a suite of instruments that was successfully launched today as part of the Radiation Belt Storm Probe mission.  (Full Story)

Watch the launch on YouTube

Atlas V launches at the third attempt with RBSP spacecraft

Illustration shows two spacecraft representing the Radiation Belt Storm Probes that will study the sun and its effects on Earth. NASA image.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) finally launched their Atlas V, carrying a pair of NASA spacecraft – called the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) – to study the Van Allen radiation belts.

The Los Alamos instrument, The Helium Oxygen Proton Electron, or HOPE, instrument is a mass spectrometer which will study the detection rates of Helium and Oxygen ions, protons and electrons. (Full Story)

Curiosity's laser leaves its mark

Before-and-after images from Curiosity’s ChemCam  micro-imager show holes left by its million-watt laser.  NASA/JPL

Curiosity’s head-mounted ChemCam did a little target practice on August 25, blasting millimeter-sized holes in a soil sample named “Beechey” in order to acquire spectrographic data from the resulting plasma glow.

"ChemCam is designed to look for lighter elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, all of which are crucial for life," said Roger Wiens, principal investigator of the ChemCam team. (Full Story)

Curiosity’s first three weeks on Mars

The Martian landscape.  NASA image.

The rover has also been zapping rocks with a powerful instrument called a ChemCam to find out their composition. Los Alamos National Laboratory planetary scientist Roger Wiens, Principal Investigator of the ChemCam Team: “The spectrum we have received back from Curiosity is as good as anything we looked at on Earth. The entire MSL team was very excited about this and we popped a little champagne.” (Full Story)

'Torture Lab' kills trees to learn how to save them

Heath Powers climbs through a maze of wiring at the "tree torture" lab at Los Alamos National Laboratory. NPR photo.

Nate McDowell is simulating drought and a warmer climate. He measures how the trees respond — there are instruments stuck into and all over the trees. Even wrapped around the stem.

"Every few minutes they measure the diameter of that tree," he explains. The trees look like patients in intensive care — wired up with tubes coming out of the stems. (Full Story)

LANL team banking on bioinformation

Joel Berendzen, left, and a team from Los Alamos have developed new genome sequencing software called Sequedex. LANL photo.

Don’t blame your toothache on germs, says Joel Berendzen, who works in the theoretical division at Los Alamos National Laboratory and happens to play chamber music in his spare time.

“Instead, blame yourself for living a lifestyle that allows bacteria to make an honest living doing harmful things,” he said. (Full Story)

Tauscher gains seat on governing boards

Ellen Tauscher.

Tauscher has also been appointed as a member of the LANS/LLNS Boards’ Mission Committee. The Mission Committee serves in an advisory role to review current and future national security issues and laboratory initiatives. (Full Story)

LANL physicist George Kyrala honored with research award

George Kyrala. LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) physicist George Kyrala is part of a team honored with the American Physical Society’s 2012 John Dawson Award for Excellence in Plasma Physics Research. The team, which also includes researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), is being recognized for its work on a far-reaching discovery about laser-matter interaction, which has important implications for LLNL’s National Ignition Facility (NIF). (Full Story)

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Friday, August 24, 2012

After 352-Million-Mile Trip, Cheers for 23 Feet on Mars

On Sunday, the rover fired a laser instrument for the first time, hitting a rock with 30 bursts in 10 seconds and analyzing the atomic makeup from the resulting flashes of light.

Having succeeded at rock-zapping on Sunday, scientists turned the laser, which wasdeveloped at Los Alamos National Laboratory, to vaporize small bits at six more locations. So far, most of the rocks appear to be a type, common on Mars, that forms from the rapid cooling of lava (full story).

Mars Curiosity rover fires laser for first time

“Our team is both thrilled and working hard, looking at the results. After eight years building the instrument, it’s payoff time!” said ChemCam principal investigator Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

The initial use of the laser was primarily for target practice, but it appears to be yielding more data than expected. According to ChemCam Deputy Project Scientist Sylvestre Maurice of the Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planetologie (IRAP) in Toulouse, France, the data from the initial test is better than data collected on Earth in terms of signal-to-noise ratio (full story).

Mars rover Curiosity zaps first rock

ChemCam was designed and built at Los Alamos and is a joint project between the U.S. Department of Energy and the French national space agency. It is one of 10 state-of-the-art instruments making up Curiosity’s science payload (full story).

Stories also appeared on CNN



Chemcam Laser First Analyzes Yield Beautiful Results

Members of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover ChemCam team, including Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists, squeezed in a little extra target practice after zapping the first fist-sized rock that was placed in the laser's crosshairs last weekend.

"The spectrum we have received back from Curiosity is as good as anything we looked at on Earth," said Los Alamos National Laboratory planetary scientist Roger Wiens, Principal Investigator of the ChemCam Team. "The entire MSL team was very excited about this and we popped a little champagne." (Full story)

The Curiosity rover’s nuclear-powered laser

ChemCam can analyze the resulting sparks in a process called "laser-induced-breakdown spectroscopy," or LIBS for short, says Astronomy News. LIBS reads the spectrum of light emitted by the vaporized rock using three different spectrometers. That data is then beamed back to NASA and forwarded to the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico for study (full story).


Curiosity Zaps Its First Martian Rock

ChemCam employs a technique called "laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy", which determines the composition of ionized gas from a target in extreme environments such as inside nuclear reactors.

The laser, telescope, and camera were provided by CNES (the French space agency), while the spectrometers, electronics, and software were built at Los AlamosNational Laboratory (full story).

In Southwest, Worst-Case Fire Scenario Plays Out

As the Earth's average temperature creeps upward, climate scientists have predicted record heat waves and droughts. That's what we've seen this summer in the U.S.

"What we have now is a gradual trend towards warmer temperatures," says Park Williams, an ecologist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. He says climate change is exaggerating the normal swings in weather (full story).

Twin Satellites Will Help Improve Space Weather Forecasts

On Aug. 24, NASA will launch two identical satellites from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to begin its Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) mission. The theory and modeling teams at UCLA and Los Alamos National Laboratory bring the total collaboration to five institutions (full story).

Sonic cooker uses sound waves to reduce energy poverty

The project is being led by the UK's University of Nottingham, but has drawn on the expertise of partners around the world including the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico.

LANL researchers Scott Backhaus and Greg Swift demonstrated the first-ever thermo-acoustic engine in 1999, adapting the principles originally outlined by Scottish engineer Robert Stirling in the 19th century (full story).

Laser research shows promise for cancer treatment

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have observed, for the first time, how a laser penetrates dense, electron-rich plasma to generate ions. The process has applications for developing next generation particle accelerators and new cancer treatments.

Plasmas dense with electrons normally reflect laser light like a mirror. But a strong laser can drive those electrons to near the speed of light, making the plasma transparent and accelerating the plasma ions (full story).

Also from R&D Magazine this week:

Testing sealed containers, no valves needed

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M., and Y-12 National Security Complex, Oak Ridge, Tenn., have introduced a way to test valveless sealed containers without compromising the integrity of the vessel. Called Valveless Laser Processing, the innovation uses a single laser to remotely penetrate, sample, and reseal hermetically sealed containers (full story).

Bishop to lead LANL STE Directorate

Alan Bishop has been selected to be the laboratory’s next principal associate director for Science, Technology and Engineering (PADSTE). Bishop has been acting in that role since Aug. 29, 2011.

Over the course of a distinguished 30-year career as a research scientist and leader, Bishop has more than 700 publications in archival journals and has served as a guest scientist, guest scholar and visiting professor (full story).

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Friday, August 17, 2012

High-tech tool predicts fire behavior in bark beetle-ravaged forests

During the Las Conchas fire of 2011, a Los Alamos resident watches the Jemez Mountains burn.  LANL photo.

Fire fighters facing fast-moving wildfires need better tools to predict erratic fire behavior, especially in forests with dead trees caused by massive outbreaks of bark beetles whose predations create an abundance of dead fuel and changes in the tree canopy structure.

Tools typically available to incident commanders and fire crews are not designed for these potentially highly variable conditions and may not provide accurate fire behavior predictions, scientists have determined. (Full Story)

Lab helps forecast spread of wildfires

KRQE anchor Kim Vallez introduces the story.  From KRQE.         

Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory have helped create a tool to better predict the movement of wildfires ... LANL scientists along with the U.S. Forest Service have created a high-tech computer model that predicts behavior by looking at all those things plus the affects of bark beetle infestation, drought, heat transfer and the air flow in the fire itself. (Full Story)

NASA is tracking electron beams from the sun

NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) observes a wide array of particles that flow toward Earth from the sun.  NASA illustration.

"People think of the sun as giving out light and heat," says Ruth Skoug, a space scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. "But it is also always losing particles, losing mass."

Skoug says that each fast-moving electron is by and large constrained to move along magnetic field lines that flow out from the sun, some of which loop back totouch the sun again, others which extend out to the edges of the solar system. (Full Story)

This story also appeared in Science Daily and several other science oriented science blogs.

Obama congratulates Mars Curiosity scientists

The President speaks to the JPL team from Air Force One. NASA image.

Obama spoke by phone from Air Force One as he flew to a campaign stop in Iowa eight days after the car-sized rover landed on the Martian surface. The touchdown followed a complex series of maneuvers involving intricately timed rocket firings

Some of the scientists involved in the project come from the Los Alamos NationalLaboratory. A team of LANL scientists, led by principal investigator Roger Wiens, developed the ChemCam. (Full Story)

Also from the Monitor this week:

Kintzer gains spot on governing board

Norman J. Pattiz, chairman of Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC (LLNS) and Los AlamosNational Security, LLC (LANS), has named Donald J. Kintzer as an Independent Governor on the LLNS and LANS Boards of Governors.

The LLCs manage Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif. and Los Alamos National Laboratory, respectively, for the U.S. Department of Energy. (Full Story)

LANL’s economic impact: thousands of staffers, millions of dollars

Technical Area 3.  LANL photo.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is huge, and so is its economic impact on the seven-county region referred to as northern New Mexico. Sprawling over 36 square miles in Los Alamos County, the lab employs 10,751 people, 6,979 of whom are regular full-time employees.

According to a March 2011 study by the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, LANL’s economic impact in New Mexico totaled 23,641 jobs, $1.6 billion in labor income and $2.9 billion in total economic output. (Full Story)

Farmington Fire Department is a “hazard’ to compete with

Farmington fire fighters with their HAZMAT Challenge trophy. Farmington Daily News photo.

The Farmington Fire Department Hazardous Materials team took second place at the 16th annual HAZMAT Challenge at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The challenge was held from Aug. 7-10 at the laboratory's Technical Area 49 located near Bandelier National Monument. The program provides hazardous materials responders the opportunity to network and learn new response techniques under realistic simulations. (Full Story)

Hazmat teams compete in LANL challenge

LANL’s hazmat team discusses how its going to enter a “contaminated” vehicle.  Monitor photo.

Fire departments and emergency response teams from across the region met in Los Alamos this week to prove who has the best team when it comes to handling emergencies. And not just any emergencies either; encountering mobile meth labs, overturned rail cars full of dangerous chemicals, even clearing passenger buses of suspicious chemicals were just some of the challenges the teams encountered at Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 16th annual Hazmat Challenge. (Full Story)

Edmond hazmat team trains at Los Alamos

HAZMAT team members evacuate a simulated victim. LANL photo.

The training scenarios were part of the Aug. 7-10 Hazmat Challenge, an annual event on the grounds of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The lab is 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe, N.M., on 36 square miles of U.S. Department of Energy-owned property.

“It’s essential for us as training goes,” said Edmond hazmat team coach Lance Morrison. “It’s not about the winning. It’s about the training.” (Full Story)

APS and LANL jointly announce appointment of Eli Ben-Naim as Senior Editor

The American Physical Society and Los Alamos National Laboratory are very pleased to jointly announce that Eli Ben-Naim has been appointed Senior Editor of Physical Review E, the preeminent international journal in statistical, nonlinear, and soft matter physics. (Full Story)

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