Tag Archives: space

The Gamma-Ray Spectrometer at Mercury: A 7-Year Journey to the Innermost Planet

The Gamma-Ray Spectrometer at Mercury: A Seven Year Journey to the Innermost Planet
The Gamma-Ray Spectrometer at Mercury: A Seven Year Journey to the Innermost Planet

After traveling through the inner solar system for seven years, NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft reached Mercury in March 2011 and became the first ever mission to orbit this mysterious planet. Since then, MESSENGER has been making measurements with its suite of scientific instruments, including gamma-ray, neutron and x-ray spectrometers, magnetometer, laser altimeter, cameras and other instruments.

In the latest program from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, physicist Morgan Burks explores the mysteries surrounding Mercury’s formation and composition, and the instruments that need to work at cryogenic temperatures in one of the hottest places in the solar system.

Watch “The Gamma-Ray Spectrometer at Mercury: A Seven Year Journey to the Innermost Planet,” online now. Then visit the Science on Saturday series page for more virtual field trips to the UC-operated national lab.


Touchdown Mars!

One of the first images from Curiosity after landing on Mars (NASA)

What were you doing when Curiousity touched down on the surface of Mars?

For those of us in California, the exciting moments of the rover’s descent and landing took place just before bedtime (10:30pm) so we watched it live on the NASA website. Don’t know about you, but we found it hard to hold back the tears as we watched the scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory erupt into celebration after the picture perfect landing.

Science is a beautiful thing and we can’t wait to see what Curiosity sends back to Earth in the coming months and years.

In the meantime, let’s look back at Curiosity’s rover predecessors, Spirit and Opportunity, with Steven Squyres,  the principle scientist behind the Mars Exploration Rover Project, who visited UC Berkeley in 2011. He shares his experiences working on the mind-boggling project and talks about the future of planetory exploration in these three programs:

Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet 

The Future of Planetary Exploration

Roving Mars with Steve Squyres (Conversations with History)


In Memoriam: Reach for the Stars with Sally Ride

UCTV's "Reach for the Stars with Sally Ride"

Sadly, we learned today that Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, UC San Diego Professor Emeritus, and an advocate for science education, passed away at her home in San Diego. She was 61.

The UC San Diego campus, where Ride became Professor of Physics in 1989 (and where UCTV is based), is already relatively quiet this summer break, but the news of Ride’s premature passing due to pancreatic cancer has created a more somber tone. Her loss will obviously also be felt at the San Diego-based company she founded, Sally Ride Science, which provided science education materials and assistance to teachers and schools.

In February 2011, Ride visited UC Berkeley to deliver the UC Berkeley Physics Regent’s Lecture titled “Reach for the Stars with Sally Ride.” In the talk, she advocates for a stronger foundation of math and science education by describing her own path into the space program. There’s no better way to honor this distinguished woman’s memory than listening to her heartfelt dream that every student — not just future rocket scientists — learn to love math and science.


Nobel Prize Winner in Physics Explores Dark Energy on UCTV

It’s hard to wrap your mind around the idea of an ever-expanding universe. But that’s what this year’s winners of the Nobel Prize in Physics did back in 1998. Using the best tools and minds that science has to offer, two distinct teams of scientists, one led by Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and University of California Berkeley Professor Saul Perlmutter, arrived at the same conclusion — that the universe is not only expanding, it’s accelerating.

In addition to Professor Perlmutter at the Supernova Cosmology Project, the other half of this prestigious prize was awarded jointly to Brian P. Schmidt at Australian National University and Adam G. Riess at Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute. You can find the official announcement from the Nobel Prize organization here.

In January 2010, UCTV premiered a program from Lawrence Berkeley Lab featuring Saul Perlmutter, along with his colleagues Alexie Leauthaud of the Berkeley Center for Cosmological Physics and David Schlegel of Baryon Oscillation Spectroscope Survey, in a public conversation about the suspected cause of the universe’s accelerated expansion, dark energy, an elusive force that remains science’s biggest unsolved mystery. You can watch the program or download and audio or video podcast file here:

Dark Secrets: What Science Tells Us About the Hidden Universe

Want to know more? Check out these related programs:

Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe

Millennium Lecture: Dark Matter And the Ultimate Fate of the Universe

Atoms to X-rays: The Mystery of Empty Space: Higgs Bosons, Vacuum Energy and Extra Dimensions

More programs in Astrophysics, Cosmology, Astronomy and Space Sciences

Congratulations Professor Perlmutter and all the Nobel Prize winners! You can find more Nobel Laureates on UCTV here.


Water on Mars? NASA’s Breaking News

Today, NASA announced the discovery of  “dark, finger-like features” on Mars that could very well indicate the existence of flowing salt water on the red planet. The time-lapse series of images, taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows what looks like a seasonal ebb and flow. Whatever it is, the discovery is enough to excite the imagination of even the most science-phobic citizen. Of course, this news comes only a few weeks after the final space shuttle mission, and more potential cutbacks in federally funded research.

Still, we’re compelled  to explore and uderstand the universe that surrounds us. That’s certainly the case for Steven Squyres, Professor of Astronomy at Cornell University and the principle scientist behind the Mars Exploration Rover Project, who made his UCTV debut this summer after a busy trip to UC Berkeley sharing his experiences and thoughts on the future of planetary exploration.

If the prospect of water on Mars floats your boat, then make sure to tune in to these programs featuring Professor Steven Squyres:

Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet

The Future of Planetary Exploration

Conversations with History: Roving Mars with Steven Squyres (premieres August 22)