Since it started orbiting Saturn last June, the Cassini mission has returned incredible images of the gas giant, its dazzling rings and its enigmatic moons. But its most dramatic chapter will come this January, when a European lander probe (Huygens) that has been piggybacking on Cassini for the last seven years is sent on a fiery plunge into the murky atmosphere of Saturns largest and most mysterious moon, Titan--a chapter that would have ended in disaster, save for an engineer called Boris Smeds.
Titan is completely covered by a thick orange smog of hydrocarbons, and scientists have speculated that oily oceans of methane and ethane may roil beneath the cloaking clouds. After slamming into the moons atmosphere at 21,000 km/hour, Huygens will take two-and-a-half hours to descend through the atmosphere, slowed by parachutes. On its way down its expected to transmit a scientific bonanza from its cameras and instruments, a bonanza that will be picked up by special radio receivers onboard Cassini and then relayed back to Earth.
But unbeknownst to anyone, a lurking flaw in Cassinis receivers meant that the data received by Cassini were going to be hopelessly scrambled. Along with his allies, ESA engineer Boris Smeds developed and championed a rigorous test that revealed the flaw and its cause in time for corrective action to be taken. Doing this required Smeds to battle bureaucracy, travel from his desk in Darmstadt, Germany, to an antenna farm deep in Californias Mojave Desert, and use all his engineering insight and creativity to expose the flaw before time ran out.
Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State
What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
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