Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fasten your seat belts – Turbulent Lessons from Titan

29.08.2007
Have you spilled your drink on an airliner? Researchers on both sides of the Atlantic are finding new ways to understand turbulence, both in the Earth's atmosphere and that of Saturn's moon Titan.

Turbulence is an important process in our weather, and can be more than an inconvenience; causing hundreds of injuries on commercial flights. Working together, researchers have shown that Huygens had a bumpy ride to Titan and improved the instrumentation that will be used to measure such effects on Earth in future.

Keith Mason, CEO of the Science and Technology Facilities Council said “All planets and moons are subject to the same principles of physics, so working together researchers looking at the Earth and those looking at our planetary neighbours can really test their models of the processes taking place and gain new insights into both.”

Giles Harrison, an atmospheric physicist in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading in the UK, devised an inexpensive way of measuring turbulence effects using weather balloons. He extended the standard weather balloon instrument package to include a magnetic field sensor sensitive to the Earth’s magnetic field. With colleague Robin Hogan at Reading, they compared magnetic observations made during a balloon ascent with cloud measurements of turbulence obtained using the nearby Doppler Cloud Radar at Chilbolton, Hampshire.

“We found that turbulent regions observed using the Chilbolton radar coincided with where our balloon’s measurements showed large magnetic changes. As the earth’s magnetic field is very stable, the measurements were showing that the balloon itself was moving violently, in response to air turbulence.” Harrison explained.

Planetary scientist Ralph Lorenz, at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, found Harrison's results the key to making sense of data from the ESA Huygens probe which descended by parachute through Titan's atmosphere in January 2005. An experiment led by The Open University in the UK, the Surface Science Package (SSP), included a set of tilt sensors which measured the motions of the probe during its descent.

In fact, these tilt sensors act much like a drink in a glass, using a small slug of liquid to measure tilt angle. As the probe plummeted at high speed on Titan, there was a lot of buffeting even though the air itself was fairly still. By knowing the particular signature of cloud-induced turbulence in Harrison's Earth balloon data, where the nearby weather radar could document what was causing the turbulence; Lorenz was able to find this signal at Titan despite the buffeting during the Huygens descent.

“The Huygens tilt history was just this long squiggly complex mess, but seeing the fingerprint of cloud turbulence in Harrison's work showed me what to look for” said Lorenz.

Armed with that information, Lorenz found that a 20-minute period of Huygens' 2.5-hour descent, around an altitude of 20km, was affected by this kind of in-cloud turbulence.

Mark Leese, Project Manager for the SSP on Huygens at The Open University said “We knew Huygens had a bumpy ride down to Titan’s surface, now we can separate out twenty minutes of air turbulence – probably due to a cloud layer- from other effects such as cross winds or air buffeting due to the irregular shape of the probe.”

Lorenz had experimented with instrumentation on small models, and even on Frisbees, to understand the dynamics of aerospace vehicles like the probe, and was thus very familiar with the sensors that Harrison was using. He identified a way that Harrison's balloon sensor arrangement could be improved, simply by changing its orientation.

“We went to Titan to learn about that mysterious body and its atmosphere: it's neat that there are lessons from Titan that can be usefully applied here on Earth” said Lorenz.

Julia Maddock | alfa
Further information:
http://www.stfc.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>