LPL Newsletter for February 2021

Monday, February 1, 2021

For our newsletter this month, we have items about studies ranging from the surface of the Earth to an object outside the Solar System — “planetary science” covers a large range of topics. Associate Professor Christopher Hamilton is studying the terrain in Iceland, using a combination of a rover and drones, in preparation for optimizing operations for future missions on the surface of Mars. Associate Professor Dániel Apai led a study of the closest brown dwarf (an object somewhere between a planet and a star in size). The closest one is still more than six light-years away from Earth. Finally, we have an update about the highly-successful OSIRIS-REx mission, led by LPL’s Dante Lauretta. Having successfully collected the sample, the team is now preparing to leave asteroid Bennu in May, still planning on returning the samples to Earth on September 24, 2023.

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Created by an eruption five years ago, the Holuhraun lava flow field in Iceland is some of the newest "real estate" in the world.

With $3M NASA Grant, LPL Scientist Will Test Mars Exploration Drones in Iceland

NASA has awarded $3.1 million to Christopher Hamilton to develop a drone that could act as a "field assistant" to a rover and explore previously inaccessible regions on Mars.

Astronomers have found that brown dwarf Luhman 16B's atmosphere is dominated by high-speed, global winds. This global circulation determines how clouds are distributed in the brown dwarf's atmosphere, giving it a striped appearance.

Striped or Spotted? Winds and Jet Streams Found on the Closest Brown Dwarf

Planetary scientists wondered if bands of winds or swirling storms dominated the atmospheres of brown dwarfs. UArizona-led research has solved the mystery.

This artist’s concept shows the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft departing asteroid Bennu to begin its two-year journey back to Earth.

LPL-led OSIRIS-REx Mission Plans for May Asteroid Departure

Since its launch in September 2016, the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has traveled billions of miles, mapped the surface of an asteroid, and made new scientific discoveries about near-Earth asteroids. Now, it's preparing to bring a piece of asteroid Bennu home.