AGU14 – Day 1

If you jump in muddy puddles, you must wear your boots. Yeah, well, I don’t have boots. What I do have are two pairs of completely soaked socks, a pair of shoes that might dry out by March, and two very cold and tired feet! …I need wellies, or at least galoshes. It drizzled and rained all day long, which made getting from one building of the Moscone Center to another a bit of a miserable experience. Inside the sessions was quite a different matter, though.

There were several good talks about the behaviour of the magnetosphere and observations by the Van Allen Probes, but today the two most interesting talks I attended were about Mars. The first was about ancient lakes and outflows on the eastern portion of Valles Marineris. The presenter showed evidence on how the outflow from Eros Chaos was directed with estimations on the approximate time the area was drained based on the cratering density on the surface. By this time, it’s no surprise that there was abundant liquid water on the surface of Mars in the distant past, but it’s fun to see people starting to evaluate how that surface water flowed across the surface and how long it would have been present.

The other Mars talk I attended had the clickbait-style title, “How to snowboard on Mars”. What the talk was really about was providing an explanation of how numerous small gullies form on the sandy slopes of some ridge lines on Mars. At first glance, these gullies look remarkably like snowboard tracks. So… Aliens? No, dry ice. As the ice sublimates, the freshly formed vapour lifts the slab of ice off the surface slightly and serves as a lubricant allowing the slab to slide down the slope with enough energy to gouge out a furrow in the sandy surface. This phenomenon has been replicated with dry ice in the Mojave Desert. See the article on NASA’s website for more details.

AGU14 – Day 0

So yeah, this old FORTRAN guy is using a zero-index reference like those snooty C guys. The American Geophysical Union 2014 Fall meeting (AGU14) doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, but registration is open today and there are a couple of mission-specific meetings. The one I’m responsible for attending and engaging in meaningful participation is the Voyager SSG. Five hours of exploring the future direction of our greatest and most productive robotic mission ever. BRING IT!

In the meantime, I continue to work on bringing the Advanced Composition Explorer’s (ACE) Electron Proton Alpha Monitor (EPAM) data production fully up to date. The basic Level 2 rate data are ready for consumption, but more refined Level 3 fluxes and energy spectra are still on their way. Thankfully, the hotel wifi doesn’t block VPN connections. At least I got the pretty pictures (aka color spectrogram plots) up for viewing.

ACE/EPAM PHA-derived hourly-integrated species-resolved fluxes for 2014

I’ll update this post throughout the day. …more to come!

Evening Update
What a cool day! Five hours of listening to space science lectures doesn’t get most people excited, but wow, there were some very cool things discussed! How much turbulence is there in the Local Interstellar Medium, or even along the heliopause? Is our heliosphere’s tail bifurcated? There were some neck-level questions being asked about the outer reaches of our solar system, and all this leads into the preparation for the 2015 Senior Review. The Voyagers have plenty of hydrazine to last a long time, provided we can keep it from freezing, but the mission-limiting factor is power and money. The power issue centers on the 18 W needed to power the gyros during a fault protection event. The money issue is up to the Senior Review board, but it looks like the Voyager team has a lot of seriously important work ahead of them exploring a region of space that we’ve never seen before, and likely won’t visit again in our lifetimes.