Friday, December 16, 2016

Scientists warn we're not prepared for surprise asteroid strike

Asteroid deflection computer model, LANL image.

So, how could we defend against these objects? At the talk, The Guardian reports Dr. Cathy Piesko of the Los Alamos National Laboratory said our options could include deploying “a kinetic impactor” — which she described as “basically a giant cannonball” — or perhaps a nuclear warhead.

But both would come with serious risks, and it would take years of preparation to figure out how to do it right. “We are very carefully doing our homework before finals week,” Plesko said. “We don’t want to be doing our calculations before something is coming. We need to have this work done.” (Full Story)

Doomsday preview: Supercomputer simulates asteroid impacts

Impact simulation, LANL image.

Our planet’s surface is 70 percent water by area, and an aquatic impact would create a sizable tidal wave that could do some serious damage if it hits a populated area. But apocalyptic visions of the devastation resulting from an asteroid strike may be slightly overblown, say scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The team used a supercomputer-assisted model to simulate the outcomes of various types of impacts, creating a series of visualizations depicting the aftermath. Along with the size of the rock and angle of impact, the biggest factor in determining the potential for destruction is whether the asteroid breaks up before hitting the surface, or what’s called an “airburst.” (Full Story)

Also from Smithsonian Magazine

Two ways to save the world from asteroid strike

Scientists in the United States have warned that measures need to be taken NOW to prepare for a possible asteroid strike on Earth. And to avoid a catastrophe similar to the one thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 60 millions years ago, the scientists are looking at an asteroid-blasting spacecraft. Dr Cathy Plesko is a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Listen to the podcast)

Scientists have a crazy plan to nuke deadly asteroids out of the sky

Asteroid heating and off-gassing illustration, from Gizmodo.

Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center spoke about the best approaches for preventing a sequel to the KT-extinction. It turns out there are really only two good options: kinetic impactors, which jostle Earth-bound comets and asteroids onto more benign orbits, and explosives, which blow them to smithereens.

Catharine Plesko, a researcher at Los Alamos who uses supercomputers to model asteroid deflection scenarios, says that with decades to centuries of lead time, the more pacifistic kinetic impactor approach is preferred for asteroid deflection. (Full Story)

First detection of boron on the surface of Mars

ChemCam target Catabola, JPL image.

“No prior mission to Mars has found boron,” said Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “If the boron that we found in calcium sulfate mineral veins on Mars is similar to what we see on Earth, it would indicate that the groundwater of ancient Mars that formed these veins would have been 0-60 degrees Celsius [32-140 degrees Fahrenheit] and neutral-to-alkaline pH.” The temperature, pH, and dissolved mineral content of the groundwater could make it habitable. (Full Story)

NASA's Curiosity Rover finds boron under ancient Martian lakebed

Los Alamos postdoc Patrick Gasda, LANL image.

With the first ever detection of the element boron in the ancient surface of Mars, researchers are ever more hopeful that the arid Red Planet’s ancient climate was once clement and habitable. Or so report NASA and Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

“If the boron that we found in calcium sulfate mineral veins on Mars is similar to what we see on Earth, it would indicate that the groundwater of ancient Mars would have been [32-140 degrees Fahrenheit] with neutral-to-alkaline pH,” said Patrick Gasda, a postdoctoral researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory. (Full Story)

Also from Space dot com and YouTube

Forget jetpacks. Where are our hydrogen-powered cars?

X-ray tomography of an experimental fuel cell membrane, LANL image.

To make fuel cells competitive, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded, science-based approach is driving efforts to better understand the materials in them. As part of this initiative, Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading two efforts with industry partners, academics and other national laboratories to lower fuel-cell cost by developing less expensive materials while maintaining durability. The work is being carried out under two consortia within DOE’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. (Full Story)

Science on the Hill: Bringing the power of genetic research to an office near you

The DNA code in a genome is built from molecular units called bases, LANL image.     

Seeing a need that the unique expertise at Los Alamos National Laboratory could fill, a team in the Biosecurity and Public Health group … has developed a new computational and web-based tool called EDGE Bioinformatics.

Los Alamos was a key player, contributing its expertise in life sciences, particularly genetics and its world-class computing resources to the task of unraveling the human genetic code. (Full Story)

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