Space Science

The New Mexico Consortium (NMC) and Los Alamos National Laboratory's (LANL) Intelligence and Space Research (ISR) division pursue joint research in space science. Research topics include:
  • space weather - studies of how the space environment and space storms effect satellites
  • planetary exploration
  • remote sensing of the Earth
NMC and LANL seek to increase student and faculty involvement in new NASA missions such as the Van Allen Probes, Mars Curiosity Rover, and the Saturn Cassini satellites. We also hope to facilitate the development of new missions including the miniature satellites known as cube-sats. NMC space science research includes:

GEM: Can Electron Precipitation Account for the Rapid Dropout of Radiation Belt Electrons in the Storm Main Phase?

Weichao Tu, NMC Affiliate Researcher, LANL Postdoc

This research seeks to estimate the electron precipitation loss rate with high temporal and spatial resolution during the main phase of storms using the newly developed Drift-Diffusion model that includes the effects of azimuthal drift and pitch angle diffusion. The Drift-Diffusion model simulates the low-altitude electron distributions observed by SAMPEX and up to 6 NOAA/POES satellites.

Van Allen Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) Supporting Science

Geoff Reeves, NMC Affiliate Researcher, LANL Staff Scientist
Reinhard Friedel, LANL Staff Scientist
Brian Larson, NMC Affiliate Researcher, LANL Staff Scientist
This NASA funded project is a collaboration with the University of New Hampshire, with the goal of support for collaborative work on RBSP science and data analysis. This project focuses on management of the science team for the full suite of ECT instruments and theory/modeling program. It also works on design and delivery of the Helium Oxygen Proton Electron plasma spectrometer, as well as operation of the science and data center for the ECT suite.

Aurorasaurus: Aurora Map Citizen Science

Elizabeth MacDonald, NMC Affiliate Researcher, LANL Staff Scientist
Reid Priedhorsky, LANL Postdoctoral Researcher
Niels van Hecke, New Mexico Consortium
Yan Cao, PhD student, Penn State University
Gordon McDonough, LANL Bradbury Science Museum
Elizabeth Martineau, LANL Bradbury Science Museum
Reiner Friedel, LANL Program Manager for NASA and NSF Space Systems

The Aurorasaurus project, led by Dr. Liz MacDonald, is an educational crowdsourcing website for the upcoming solar maximum, and is the first aurora borealis mapping program of its kind using social media. In this project, an interdisciplinary team is constructing a website that geographically displays public sightings of the northern lights, or aurora borealis. Individuals provide observations via Tweet or direct citizen science observations. Processed Tweet data-to-information displayed can include the user's Tweet, location, observation time, and the auroral characteristics observed.  The website displays pertinent scientific background and satellite and groundbased observations for further inquiry. The prototype website can be viewed at: Funding for this project comes from the John Hopkins, NASA, and the National Science Foundation.

New in 2014: INSPIRE Track 1: Aurorasaurus - Citizen Scientists Experiencing the Extremes of Space Weather

The INSPIRE program aims for transformative, interdisciplinary research. The program will work to expand the Aurorasaurus website project at the intersection of space science, human-computer interactions, and informal science education.


Poster: First Solar Maximum with Social Media: Can Space Weather Forecasting Be Improved?


Turbulence and Dynamics of Stars

Casey Meakin, NMC Affiliate Researcher, LANL Staff Scientist

NMC is conducting research on the first 3D simulations of the turbulent environment present in pre-supernova massive stars.  This project will improve upon our understanding of iron core formation in massive stars by simulating the formational process with the 3D computational fluid dynamics code, PROMPI. It is the gravitational collapse and subsequent evolution of these iron cores that is thought to power Type II supernovae and long-duration gamma ray bursts. Current models of iron core formation are calculated entirely in 1D with turbulence processes included in a very rudimentary manner (i.e., with mixing length theory and diffusive mixing). Preliminary 2D results indicate that significant deviations from the 1D treatment are expected. This work will address outstanding questions concerning the initial conditions under which iron core-collapse takes place in massive stars. Funding for this project comes from the National Science Foundation.

Nuclear, Particle, Astrophysics and Cosmology (NPAC) Program

Chris Fryer, LANL Staff Scientist
Joe Carlson, LANL Staff Scientist
Falk Herwig, NMC Affiliate Scientist, Associate Professor, University of Victoria, BC

Turbulence plays an important role in a wide range of astrophysics and has become one of the driving uncertainties in both stellar evolution and collapse.  In this program, visiting researchers worked with LANL to model turbulence and experiment with astrophysical models and observations. Funding for this project comes from Los Alamos National Laboratory Research & Development.

Fourth Order RANS-Based Model: Rational Approach to Turbulance Modeling for Aerodynamic Applications

Rodman Linn, NMC Affiliate Scientist, LANL Staff Scientist
The goal of the project is to derive a fourth-order statistical closure from a set of the Reynolds- Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) equations and validate the model in unsteady separated flows. By solving a full set of RANS equations for all statistical moments (velocity correlations), one can completely resolve the turbulent flow structure, as the knowledge of all statistical moments is equivalent to the knowledge of the probability density function of a flow filed. This research will contribute in better understanding the physics of turbulent flows and in the development of improved prediction methods suitable for accurate and reliable simulations of unsteady separated flows. Ultimately, project will contribute in achieving NASA's key goals of reducing fuel burn, noise, emission, and filed length. This is a joint research project with the University of New Mexico, and is funded by NASA

© 2016 New Mexico Consortium