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Tackling the Really BIG Questions

Astro ImagingBy Diane K. Fisher

  
  
Clusters of galaxies collide in this composite image of “Pandora's Cluster.” Data (in red) from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory show gas with temperatures of millions of degrees. Blue maps the total mass concentration (mostly dark matter) based on data from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), and the Japanese Subaru telescope. Optical data from HST and VLT also show the constituent galaxies of the clusters. Such images begin to reveal the relationship between concentration of dark matter and the overall structure of the universe.
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How does NASA get its ideas for new astronomy and astrophysics missions? It starts with a Decadal Survey by the National Research Council, sponsored by NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy. The last one, New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics was completed in 2010. It defines the highest-priority research activities in the next decade for astronomy and astrophysics that will “set the nation firmly on the path to answering profound questions about the cosmos.” It defines space- and ground-based research activities in the large, midsize, and small budget categories.

The recommended activities are meant to advance three science objectives:

Deepening understanding of how the first stars, galaxies, and black holes formed, Locating the closest habitable Earth-like planets beyond the solar system for detailed study, and Using astronomical measurements to unravel the mysteries of gravity and probe fundamental physics.

For the 2012-2021 period, the highest-priority large mission recommended is the Wide-field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). It would orbit the second Lagrange point and perform wide-field imaging and slitless spectroscopic surveys of the near-infrared sky for the community. It would settle essential questions in both exoplanet and dark energy research and would advance topics ranging from galaxy evolution to the study of objects within the galaxy and within the solar system.

Naturally, NASAís strategic response to the recommendations in the decadal survey must take budget constraints and uncertainties into account.

The goal is to begin building this mission in 2017, after the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. But this timeframe is not assured. Alternatively, a different, less ambitious mission that also address the Decadal Survey science objectives for WFIRST would remain a high priority.

The Astrophysics Division is also doing studies of moderate-sized missions, including: gravitational wave mission concepts that would advance some or all of the science objectives of the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), but at lower cost; X-ray mission concepts to advance the science objectives of the International X-ray Observatory (IXO), but at lower cost; and mission concept studies of probe-class missions to advance the science of a planet characterization and imaging mission.

For a summary of NASAís plans for seeking answers to the big astrophysics questions and to read the complete Astrophysics Implementation Plan (dated December 2012), see http://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/. For kids, find lots of astrophysics fun facts and games on The Space Place, http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/menu/space/.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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The Art of Space Imagery

NASA Space PlaceBy Diane K. Fisher

  
  
This image of M101 combines images from four different telescopes, each detecting a different part of the spectrum. Red indicates infrared information from Spitzerís 24-micron detector, and shows the cool dust in the galaxy. Yellow shows the visible starlight from the Hubble telescope. Cyan is ultraviolet light from the Galaxy Evolution Explorer space telescope, which shows the hottest and youngest stars. And magenta is X-ray energy detected by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, indicating incredibly hot activity, like accretion around black holes.
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When you see spectacular space images taken in infrared light by the Spitzer Space Telescope and other non-visible-light telescopes, you may wonder where those beautiful colors came from? After all, if the telescopes were recording infrared or ultraviolet light, we wouldnít see anything at all. So are the images “colorized” or “false colored”?

No, not really. The colors are translated. Just as a foreign language can be translated into our native language, an image made with light that falls outside the range of our seeing can be “translated” into colors we can see. Scientists process these images so they can not only see them, but they can also tease out all sorts of information the light can reveal. For example, wisely done color translation can reveal relative temperatures of stars, dust, and gas in the images, and show fine structural details of galaxies and nebulae.

Spitzerís Infrared Array Camera (IRAC), for example, is a four-channel camera, meaning that it has four different detector arrays, each measuring light at one particular wavelength. Each image from each detector array resembles a grayscale image, because the entire detector array is responding to only one wavelength of light. However, the relative brightness will vary across the array.

So, starting with one detector array, the first step is to determine what is the brightest thing and the darkest thing in the image. Software is used to pick out this dynamic range and to re-compute the value of each pixel. This process produces a grey-scale image. At the end of this process, for Spitzer, we will have four grayscale images, one for each for the four IRAC detectors.

Matter of different temperatures emit different wavelengths of light. A cool object emits longer wavelengths (lower energies) of light than a warmer object. So, for each scene, we will see four grayscale images, each of them different.

Normally, the three primary colors are assigned to these gray-scale images based on the order they appear in the spectrum, with blue assigned to the shortest wavelength, and red to the longest. In the case of Spitzer, with four wavelengths to represent, a secondary color is chosen, such as yellow. So images that combine all four of the IRACís infrared detectors are remapped into red, yellow, green, and blue wavelengths in the visible part of the spectrum.

Download a new Spitzer poster of the center of the Milky Way. On the back is a more complete and colorfully-illustrated explanation of the “art of space imagery.” Go to spaceplace.nasa.gov/posters/#milky-way.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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Partnering to Solve Saturnís Mysteries

NASA Space PlaceBy Diane K. Fisher
  
  
This false-colored Cassini image of Saturn was taken in near-infrared light on January 12, 2011. Red and orange show clouds deep in the atmosphere. Yellow and green are intermediate clouds. White and blue are high clouds and haze. The rings appear as a thin, blue horizontal line.
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From December 2010 through mid-summer 2011, a giant storm raged in Saturnís northern hemisphere. It was clearly visible not only to NASAís Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn, but also astronomers here on Earth — even those watching from their back yards. The storm came as a surprise, since it was about 10 years earlier in Saturnís seasonal cycle than expected from observations of similar storms in the past. Saturnís year is about 30 Earth years. Saturn is tilted on its axis (about 27° to Earthís 23°), causing it to have seasons as Earth does.

But even more surprising than the unseasonal storm was the related event that followed.

First, a giant bubble of very warm material broke through the clouds in the region of the now-abated storm, suddenly raising the temperature of Saturnís stratosphere over 150 °F. Accompanying this enormous “burp” was a sudden increase in ethylene gas. It took Cassiniís Composite Infrared Spectrometer instrument to detect it.

According to Dr. Scott Edgington, Deputy Project Scientist for Cassini, “Ethylene [C2H4] is normally present in only very low concentrations in Saturnís atmosphere and has been very difficult to detect. Although it is a transitional product of the thermochemical processes that normally occur in Saturnís atmosphere, the concentrations detected concurrent with the big ‘burp’ were 100 times what we would expect.”

So what was going on?

Chemical reaction rates vary greatly with the energy available for the process. Saturnís seasonal changes are exaggerated due to the effect of the rings acting as venetian blinds, throwing the northern hemisphere into shade during winter. So when the Sun again reaches the northern hemisphere, the photochemical reactions that take place in the atmosphere can speed up quickly. If not for its rings, Saturnís seasons would vary as predictably as Earthís.

But there may be another cycle going on besides the seasonal one. Computer models are based on expected reaction rates for the temperatures and pressures in Saturnís atmosphere, explains Edgington. However, it is very difficult to validate those models here on Earth. Setting up a lab to replicate conditions on Saturn is not easy!

Also contributing to the apparent mystery is the fact that haze on Saturn often obscures the view of storms below. Only once in a while do storms punch through the hazes. Astronomers may have previously missed large storms, thus failing to notice any non-seasonal patterns.

As for atmospheric events that are visible to Earth-bound telescopes, Edgington is particularly grateful for non-professional astronomers. While these astronomers are free to watch a planet continuously over long periods and record their finding in photographs, Cassini and its several science instruments must be shared with other scientists. Observation time on Cassini is planned more than six months in advance, making it difficult to immediately train it on the unexpected. Thatís where the volunteer astronomers come in, keeping a continuous watch on the changes taking place on Saturn.

Edgington says, “Astronomy is one of those fields of study where amateurs can contribute as much as professionals.”

Go to http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/ to read about the latest Cassini discoveries. For kids, The space Place has lots of ways to explore Saturn at http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/search/cassini/.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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It Takes More Than Warm Porridge to Make a Goldilocks Zone

NASA Space PlaceBy Diane K. Fisher

  
  
Our solar system is represented by the middle scenario, where the gas giant planet has migrated inward, but still remains beyond the asteroid belt.
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The “Goldilocks Zone” describes the region of a solar system that is just the right distance from the star to make a cozy, comfy home for a life-supporting planet. It is a region that keeps the planet warm enough to have a liquid ocean, but not so warm that the ocean boils off into space. Obviously, Earth orbits the Sun in our solar systemís “Goldilocks Zone.”

But there are other conditions besides temperature that make our part of the solar system comfortable for life. Using infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, along with theoretical models and archival observations, Rebecca Martin, a NASA Sagan Fellow from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and astronomer Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, have published a new study suggesting that our solar system and our place in it is special in at least one other way.

This fortunate “just right” condition involves Jupiter and its effect on the asteroid belt.

Many other solar systems discovered in the past decade have giant gas planets in very tight orbits around their stars. Only 19 out of 520 solar systems studied have Jupiter-like planets in orbits beyond what is known as the “snow line”óthe distance from the star at which it is cool enough for water (and ammonia and methane) to condense into ice. Scientists believe our Jupiter formed a bit farther away from the Sun than it is now. Although the giant planet has moved a little closer to the Sun, it is still beyond the snow line.

So why do we care where Jupiter hangs out? Well, the gravity of Jupiter, with its mass of 318 Earths, has a profound effect on everything in its region, including the asteroid belt. The asteroid belt is a region between Mars and Jupiter where millions of mostly rocky objects (some water-bearing) orbit. They range in size from dwarf planet Ceres at more than 600 miles in diameter to grains of dust. In the early solar system, asteroids (along with comets) could have been partly responsible for delivering water to fill the ocean of a young Earth. They could have also brought organic molecules to Earth, from which life eventually evolved.

Jupiterís gravity keeps the asteroids pretty much in their place in the asteroid belt, and doesnít let them accrete to form another planet. If Jupiter had moved inward through the asteroid belt toward the Sun, it would have scattered the asteroids in all directions before Earth had time to form. And no asteroid belt means no impacts on Earth, no water delivery, and maybe no life-starting molecules either. Asteroids may have also delivered such useful metals as gold, platinum, and iron to Earthís crust.

But, if Jupiter had not migrated inward at all since it formed father away from the Sun, the asteroid belt would be totally undisturbed and would be a lot more dense with asteroids than it is now. In that case, Earth would have been blasted with a lot more asteroid impacts, and life may have never had a chance to take root.

The infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope contributes in unexpected ways in revealing and supporting new ideas and theories about our universe. Read more about this study and other Spitzer contributions at spitzer.caltech.edu. Kids can learn about infrared light and enjoy solving Spitzer image puzzles at spaceplace.nasa.gov/spitzer-slyder.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
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A Cosmic Tease: Trials of the Herschel Space Telescope Science Teams

NASA Space PlaceBy Dr. Marc J. Kuchner

  
  
Samuel Pierpoint Langley, who developed the bolometer in 1878. His instrument detects a broad range of infrared wavelengths, sensitive to differences in temperature of one hundred-thousandth of a degree Celsius (0.00001 C). In 1961, Frank Low developed the germanium bolometer, which is hundreds of times more sensitive than previous detectors and capable of detecting far-infrared radiation.
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Vast fields of marble-sized chunks of ice and rock spun slowly in the darkness this week, and I sat in the back of a grey conference room with white plastic tables spread with papers and laptops. I was sitting in on a meeting of an international team of astronomers gathered to analyze data from the Herschel Infrared Observatory. This telescope, sometimes just called Herschel, orbits the Sun about a million miles from the Earth.

The meeting began with dinner at Karlís house. Karl charred chorizo on the backyard grill while the airplanes dribbled into Dulles airport. Our colleagues arrived, jet-lagged and yawning, from Germany, Sweden, and Spain, and we sat on Karlís couches catching up on the latest gossip. The unemployment level in Spain is about twenty percent, so research funding there is hard to come by these days. Thatís not nice to hear. But it cheered us up to be with old friends.

The meeting commenced the next morning, as the vast fields of ice and rock continued to spin — shards glinting in the starlight. Or maybe they didnít. Maybe they didnít exist at all.

You see, this team is looking at a series of images of stars taken by a device called a bolometer that is blind to ordinary starlight. Instead, the bolometer inside Herschel senses infrared light, a kind of light that we would probably refer to as heat if we could feel it. But the idea of pointing the bolometer at the stars was not to collect ordinary starlight. It was to measure heat coming from the vicinity of these stars, like an infrared security camera, in case there was something else to be found lurking nearby.

And lo and behold, for a handful of stars, the bolometer measurements were off the charts! Maybe something was orbiting these stars. From the details of the bolometer readings — which channels lit up and so on — you would guess that this stuff took the form of majestic fields or rings of icy and rocky particles. It would be a new kind of disk, a discovery worth writing home to Madrid about.

There are several teams of astronomers analyzing data from the Herschel Space Telescope. They call themselves by oddly inappropriate sounding acronyms: GASPS, DUNES, DEBRIS. For the time being, the scientists on these teams are the only ones with access to the Herschel data. But in January, all the data these teams are working on will suddenly be released to the public. So they are all under pressure to finish their work by then. The team whose meeting I was sitting in on would like to publish a paper about the new disks by then.

But itís not so simple. The stars that this team had measured were relatively nearby as stars go, less than a few hundred light years. But the universe is big, and full of galaxies of all kinds—a sea of galaxies starting from maybe a hundred thousand light years away, and stretching on and on. Maybe one of those background galaxies was lined up with each of the stars that had lit up the bolometer — fooling us into thinking they were seeing disks around these stars.

The team argued and paced, and then broke for lunch. We marched to the cafeteria through the rain. Meanwhile, vast fields of marble-sized chunks of ice and rock spun slowly in the darkness. Or maybe they didnít.

What else did Herschel recently uncover? Find out at http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/comet-ocean.

Dr. Marc J. Kuchner is an astrophysicist at the Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory at NASAís Goddard Space Flight Center. NASAís Astrophysics Division works on big questions about the origin and evolution of the universe, galaxies, and planetary systems. Explore more at http://www.science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/.
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A Delicious Lunar Experience

NASA Space Place

The New Moon may become kids’ favorite Moon phase after they have done the new Cookie Moon activity on NASA’s Space Place.  That’s because they get to lick off all the creme filling on an Oreo® cookie.  This is a fun way for kids to learn why the Moon has phases and why it looks the way it does throughout the month—not an easy concept for anyone!  This activity will be a sweet experience for all! Go to http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/oreo-moon.


 

Distributed by Laura K. Lincoln, on behalf of the Space Place Team.

 

Check out our great sites for kids:

http://climate.nasa.gov/kids

http://scijinks.gov

http://spaceplace.nasa.gov

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Armstrong's Footprints on Lunar Surface

General NewsJust over 40 years after Armstrong and Aldrin made the first footprints on the surface of the moon, the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiting Camera (LROC) took the first of several images from lunar orbit showing the astronaut's tracks from its vantage point high above the moon.

The highest resolution image taken on a later orbit of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbital Camera (LROC) The tracks made by Neil Armstrong are seen leading to the 33-foot-wide "Little West" crater, the first crater ever imaged directly by an astronaut. Notice that even the lunchbox-sized television camera is also identified!


As amateur astronomers, virtually everyone in a two-state area who has ever visited one of our AOAS star parties has wondered about the American "flag" planted on the surface of the moon by Neil Armstrong and "Buzz" Aldrin. Why I had not considered this before did not strike me until after the first of the very latest LROC images had been released for public inspection...why the flag, and not the footprints? After all, the footprints are the living proof that men had actually gone to the moon. They landed in a relatively tiny two-stage lander and then exited the craft to place human footsteps on the moon. To me, at least, this is the defining statement of the entire Apollo era. But what most people wanted to know was, "Where can we see the flag?

I assume it goes with the whole concept of the so-called Space Race. The "race" was merely a rush to build the most effective, accurate, and most rapid delivery system for our nuclear arsenals, both from the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. The ability to place a human on the surface of the Earth's satellite had NOTHING whatsoever to do with science, although the science that American astronauts provided to the professional scientific community had a profound impact on planetary science as well as to other fields of knowledge. With the first American astronauts to travel from Earth to orbit the moon nearly 7 months prior to the manned landing in December 1968, Apollo 8 only barely beat the first Russian moon launch when their gigantic rocket called NOVA blew up in the first full-up launch of the U.S.S.R rocket system according to CIA documents made public decades after the event. The damage done to their launch facilities in the Russian plains was so extensive that for all intents and purposes, their entire "race" was over in one disastrous fell swoop.

While Apollo 8 only orbitted the moon a total of ten times, it solidified for the first time that men from the United States had actually travelled to another world in our solar system. Before this, U.S. rockets had delivered several craft to the moon on various missions from just imaging the moon as the Ranger probes snapped pictures until they raced into full-blown calamity impacting on the surface, to the later Ranger craft which actually soft-landed in the Sea of Storms roughly 1-and-a-half years prior to the landing of Apollo 12 which touched down only a few hundred yards away from the Ranger craft. One of their Apollo 12 mission objectives was to retreive the television camera which had filmed the robotic arm reaching over into the lunar soil and scooping up a small amount of soil for sampling. That TV footage was nearly as historic as the first manned landing, and provided several important reasons for being returned to Earth by astronauts Bean and Conrad a few months after the Apollo 11 mission had completed successfully. But it was the footprints that were the biggest news from this summer's high resolution pictures returned by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiting Cameras.

Astronaut Pete Conrad at the Ranger landing site about to remove the television camera to return it to NASA scientists.
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Doing Science with a Spacecraftís Signal

NASA Space PlaceBy David Doody

  
  
In this poster art of Mariner 4, you can see the parabolic reflector atop the spacecraft bus. Like the reflector inside a flashlight, it sends a beam of electromagnetic energy in a particular direction. Credit: NASA/JPL/Corby Waste.
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Mariner 2 to Venus, the first interplanetary flight, was launched August 27 fifty years ago. This was a time when scientists were first learning that Venus might not harbor jungles under its thick atmosphere after all. A Russian scientist had discovered that atmosphere during the rare Venus transit of 1761, because of the effects of sunlight from behind.

Mariner 2 proved interplanetary flight was possible, and our ability to take close-up images of other planets would be richly rewarding in scientific return. But it also meant we could use the spacecraft itself as a “light” source, planting it behind an object of our choosing and making direct measurements.

Mariner 4 did the first occultation experiment of this sort when it passed behind Mars as seen from Earth in July 1965. But, instead of visible light from the Sun, this occultation experiment used the spacecraftís approximately 2-GHz radio signal.

The Mariner 4 experiment revealed Marsí thin atmosphere. Since then, successful radio science occultation experiments have been conducted at every planet and many large moons. And another one is on schedule to investigate Pluto and its companion Charon, when the New Horizons spacecraft flies by in July 2015. Also, during that flyby, a different kind of radio science occultation experiment will investigate the gravitational field.

The most recent radio science occultation experiment took place September 2, 2012, when the Cassini spacecraft carried its three transmitters behind Saturn. These three different frequencies are all kept precisely “in tune” with one another, based on a reference frequency sent from Earth. Compared to observations of the free space for calibration just before ingress to occultation, the experiment makes it possible to tease out a wide variety of components in Saturn's ionosphere and atmosphere.

Occultation experiments comprise only one of many categories of radio science experiments. Others include tests of General Relativity, studying the solar corona, mapping gravity fields, determining mass, and more. They all rely on NASAís Deep Space Network to capture the signals, which are then archived and studied.

Find out more about spacecraft science experiments in “Basics of Space Flight,” a website and book by this author, http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/basics. Kids can learn all about NASAís Deep Space Network by playing the “Uplink-Downlink” game at http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/dsn-game.
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Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

General NewsOn September 14, 2012, the cremated remains of NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean according to his final wishes. May the stars shine a little brighter in memory of this modest hero of history.

"That's one small step for (a) man....one giant leap for mankind." Neil Armstrong, first human to set foot on another world, dies at 82
It is yet another day in history, a sad day. The day is similar to when and where we were the day we perhaps learned that Roosevelt had died, when WWII was finally won, when John F. Kennedy was gunned down, what we were doing when we heard the shuttle Challenger had exploded...

"Where was I when I learned Neil Armstrong had died?" I was at this computer, surfing, when the name popped up in Bing. I'd actually worried at this day arriving since the 40th anniversary of the first landing occurred on July 20, 2009, the night my cat gave birth to a litter of kittens. It is a day when we all are saddened with this historic news.


When they landed I was 14 years old, in the living room with mom and dad on July 20, 1969. Absolutely glued to the television set, I remember so distinctly the words coming on the television screen "Armstrong on Moon". I could barely see any movement on the screen from that first live TV camera, but it was the moon in the background, and Armstrong had just stepped off the landing pad of the LEM and said his immortal words, "That's one small step for (a) man....one giant leap for mankind". Not long afterward I jumped up and ran outside to look up at the moon right at that moment, and I remember feeling goosebumps and jittery, looking up at that cold-hearted orb, and knowing a man, or actually two, were there right then, and the world was forever changed. At least I hoped so.

Neil was 82, and on FaceBook, his family posted a request that I end with here. Their suggestion is one that is easy to remember, and one the entire species of mankind can perform at almost any time. Just click to view, and then perhaps leave a personal comment on your memories from 1969.
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A Brand New Age: Queue Observing at Mt. Paranal

NASA Space PlaceBy Dr. Marc J. Kuchner

  
  
European Southern Observatory at Mt. Paranal, Chile.
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First a caravan of white observatory cars arrives, winding up the narrow road to the 2600-m- (∼8500-foot-) high summit. Then the shutters around the domes open, and rays from the setting sun alight on colossal mirrors and metal struts. Itís the beginning of another busy night at Mt. Paranal, Chile, where I am learning about new, more efficient ways of managing a modern observatory.

I stepped into the observatoryís control room to soak up some of the new, unfamiliar culture. Here, under florescent lights and drop ceilings are banks of computer screens, one bank to control each of the four big telescopes on the mountaintop and a few others too. At each bank sits two people, a telescope operator and an astronomer.

The layout of this workspace was not unfamiliar to me. But the way these Mt. Paranal astronomers work certainly was. When I was cutting my teeth at Mt. Palomar observatory in California, I would only go to the telescope to take my own data. In stark contrast. everyone observing at Mt Paranal tonight is taking data for someone else.

The Mt. Paranal astronomers each spend 105 nights a year here on the mountain performing various duties, including taking data for other astronomers. The latter, they call “executing the queue.” Headquarters in Germany decides what parts of the sky will have priority on any given night (the queue). Then the Mt. Paranal astronomers march up the mountain and carry out this program, choosing calibrators, filling the log books, and adapting to changing conditions. They send the data back to headquarters, and from there it makes its way out to the wider astronomical community for study.

This new way of working allows the Mt. Paranal astronomers to specialize in just one or two telescope instruments each. Surely this plan is more efficient than the old-fashioned way, where each of us had to learn every instrument we used from scratchósifting through manuals at 3:00 AM when the filter wheel got stuck or the cryogen ran out, watching precious observing time tick away. Here at Mt. Paranal, much of the work is done in a big room full of people, not off by yourself, reducing some dangers of the process. Also, queue observing cuts down on plane travel, an important step for cutting carbon emissions.

Itís a brand new age, I thought as I watched the giant domes spin in the silent, cold Chilean night. And maybe with queue observing, some of the romance is gone. Still, my colleagues and I couldnít help saying as we stared out across the moonlit mountains: I canít believe how lucky we are to be here.

Dr. Marc J. Kuchner is an astrophysicist at the Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory at NASAís Goddard Space Flight Center. NASAís Astrophysics Division works on big questions about the origin and evolution of the universe, galaxies, and planetary systems. Explore more at http://www.science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/. Kids can explore these topics at http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/space.

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