Dr Tom Pike and his team at Imperial’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering have provided substrates—surfaces used to hold samples for imaging—for the Mars Phoenix mission. These substrates will hold dust and soil for examination in a microscope station attached to the Phoenix lander.
The grains of Martian dust and soil, delivered by a mechanical excavating arm, will be imaged by an optical microscope and an atomic force microscope. Together they will provide the highest resolution of imaging ever taken on another planet.
“Nobody has looked at Mars at this type of resolution. It is very difficult to predict what we might find, but if you wanted to look for the earliest forms of past or present life we will be the first to look closely enough,” said Dr Pike.
The team has been conducting trials on a replica of Phoenix’s microscope station based at Imperial. They have been using the equipment for several months to work out the best way of studying the Martian soil.
They also visited Mission Control at the University of Arizona Tucson USA (14–20 July 2007). As part of the “operational readiness” process Dr Pike and his colleagues spent a week going through a simulation of the actual mission.The launch date is scheduled for a three-week period after 3 August 2007.
If Phoenix lands successfully scientists will have three months to complete their tasks. They will race against the clock to dig for, and analyse, materials before the Martian winter sets in and the solar panels no longer provide enough power to run the vehicle.
During the analysis phase Dr Pike and his team will be based at Mission Control. They will be part of the team operating the microscope station.
The construction of the microscope station is an international collaboration with contributions from the U.S., Switzerland, Demark and the UK. The UK involvement is supported by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
“This is the first chance since the Beagle mission that the UK will be able to help explore the surface of Mars. It is great to have the resources and the people at Imperial to enable us to take part in this mission,” said Dr Pike.
Colin Smith | alfa
Significantly more productivity in USP lasers
06.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
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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.
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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,...
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