Computer Errors Caused by Cosmic Rays

This video shows Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist's work on researching the cosmic causes of errors to supercomputers. Cosmic rays from outer space are causing errors in supercomputers, known as single event upsets.

The neutrons that pass through the CPU may be causing binary data to flip leading to incorrect calculations. Los Alamos National Laboratory, including Nathan Debardeleben, a LANL scientist with an NMC affiliation, has developed detectors to determine how much data is being corrupted by these cosmic particles.

Watch the video to learn more.


New Mexico Alzheimer's Workshop


The first workshop on Alzheimer's Research in New Mexico will be held on May 9, 2018 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Albuqueque.

This workshop, sponsored by the New Mexico Consortium, seeks to advance collaborations in basic science, clinical, and epidemiological research of Alzheimer's desease and other related dementias. This workshop is for scientific researchers working in this field to share results from past and current studies and to discuss future research directions.

The Alzheimer's Research in New Mexico Workshop is limited to 60 participants and although there is no fee to attend, registration is required. Please register by April 30, 2018. To learn more go to the Workshop on Alzheimer's Research in New Mexico 2018 webpage to learn more.

Register here.


Symposium - Art Meets Biological Science

The I Love Life Symposium is a two-day symposium sponsored in part by the New Mexico Consortium. This mini-symposium will be held at the New Mexico History Museum (NMHM) April 13th and 14th, 2018 to explore biodiversity and genetics through the lens of art and science. 
Join us and register today by clicking here.
The symposium will feature four interdisciplinary speakers from across the nation in conversation with local experts in the fields of art and science. In addition to keynotes, round-table discussions and performances will bring diverse voices to the symposium.
This event provides an entry point for scientists and nonscientists to more deeply engage with the social, ethical, and philosophical questions posed by genetic science and biotechnology.
In addition to daytime programming at the NMHM, Friday April 13th will feature a LASER (Leonardo Art Science Evening Rendezvous) hosted at the Santa Fe Art Institute. The LASER will feature works and talks by visiting artists Victoria Vesna and Allison Kudla, and local artist Ana MacArthur.

Finally, a small group will tour locations in Los Alamos including the New Mexico Consortium and Bradbury Museum.

Register here

Summer Physics Camp for Young Women in Northern New Mexico

Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico Consortium and Pojoaque Valley High School are hosting a two-week Summer Physics Camp for Young Women in Northern New Mexico.

This camp will take place June 11 to 22nd at the Pojoaque Valley High School, and will run from 9am to 3:30pm every day.

The application deadline is April 30th, 2018. This summer camp is free to students and lunch will be provided. Participants who complete the program will be provided a stipend. Transportation from New Mexico Park and Ride depot in Pojoaque (Cities of Gold parking area) can be arranged.

This camp will give students a better understanding of the physics of the sun, Earth and everything in between, participants will learn how to write computer programs and get introduced to internship opportunities at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Daily activities will include demonstrations, hands-on laboratory experiments, and discussions with female scientists and engineers from the Laboratory. One day will be dedicated to visiting Los Alamos research facilities.

Requirements: Young women attending high school in Northern New Mexico. Must have completed Algebra I or high-level math course.

To apply:

  • Send a letter expressing why you are interested in this program, how you believe this program will be useful to you and state your current career interests.
  • Ask a teacher from your school to send a letter supporting your participation.
  • Ask your school to send your high school transcript or equivalent that shows that you have completed Algebra I or higher-level math course.
  • All documents should be sent to

If you have any questions contact Josefina Salazar, 665-0987 or email

Mystery of Purple Lights in Sky Solved With Help from Citizen Scientists

The aurora known as Steve seen over Lake Minnewanka in Alberta. Photo by Paulo Fedozzi

Notanee Bourassa knew that what he was seeing in the night sky was not normal. Bourassa, an IT technician in Regina, Canada, trekked outside of his home on July 25, 2016, around midnight with his two younger children to show them a beautiful moving light display in the sky -- an aurora borealis. He often sky gazes until the early hours of the morning to photograph the aurora with his Nikon camera, but this was his first expedition with his children. When a thin purple ribbon of light appeared and starting glowing, Bourassa immediately snapped pictures until the light particles disappeared 20 minutes later. Having watched the northern lights for almost 30 years since he was a teenager, he knew this wasn’t an aurora. It was something else.

From 2015 to 2016, citizen scientists -- people like Bourassa who are excited about a science field but don't necessarily have a formal educational background -- shared 30 reports of these mysterious lights in online forums and with a team of scientists that run a project called Aurorasaurus. The citizen science project, funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation, tracks the aurora borealis through user-submitted reports and tweets.

The Aurorasaurus team, led by Liz MacDonald, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, conferred to determine the identity of this mysterious phenomenon. MacDonald and her colleague Eric Donovan at the University of Calgary in Canada talked with the main contributors of these images, amateur photographers in a Facebook group called Alberta Aurora Chasers, which included Bourassa and lead administrator Chris Ratzlaff. Ratzlaff gave the phenomenon a fun, new name, Steve, and it stuck.
But people still didn't know what it was.
Scientists' understanding of Steve changed that night Bourassa snapped his pictures. Bourassa wasn't the only one observing Steve. Ground-based cameras called all-sky cameras, run by the University of Calgary and University of California, Berkeley, took pictures of large areas of the sky and captured Steve and the auroral display far to the North. From space, the European Space Agency's Swarm satellite just happened to be passing over the exact area at the same time and documented Steve.
For the first time, scientists had ground and satellite views of Steve. Scientists have now learned, despite its ordinary name, that Steve may be an extraordinary puzzle piece in painting a better picture of how Earth's magnetic fields function and interact with charged particles in space. The findings are published in a study released today in Science Advances.
"This is a light display that we can observe over thousands of kilometers from the ground,” said MacDonald. “It corresponds to something happening way out in space.Gathering more data points on STEVE will help us understand more about its behavior and its influence on space weather.”
The study highlights one key quality of Steve: Steve is not a normal aurora. Auroras occur globally in an oval shape, last hours and appear primarily in greens, blues and reds. Citizen science reports showed Steve is purple with a green picket fence structure that waves. It is a line with a beginning and end. People have observed Steve for twenty minutes to one hour before it disappears.
If anything, auroras and Steve are different flavors of an ice cream, said MacDonald. They are both created in generally the same way: Charged particles from the Sun interact with Earth's magnetic field lines.
Specifically, the aurora and Steve creation process starts with the Sun sending a surge of its charged particles towards Earth. This surge applies pressure on Earth’s magnetic field, which sends the Sun's charged particles to the far side of Earth, where it is nighttime. On this far, night side of Earth, Earth's magnet field forms a distinctive tail. When the tail stretches and elongates, it forces oppositely directed magnetic fields close together that join in an explosive process called magnetic reconnection. Like a stretched rubber band suddenly breaking, these magnetic field lines then snap back toward Earth, carrying charged particles along for the ride. These charged particles slam into the upper atmosphere, causing it to glow and generating the light we see as the aurora – and now possibly Steve. The uniqueness of Steve is in the details. While Steve goes through the same large-scale creation process as an aurora, it travels along different magnetic field lines than the aurora. All-sky cameras showed that Steve appears at much lower latitudes. That means the charged particles that create Steve connect to magnetic field lines that are closer to Earth's equator, hence why Steve is often seen in southern Canada.
Perhaps the biggest surprise about Steve appeared in the satellite data. The data showed that Steve comprises a fast moving stream of extremely hot particles called a sub auroral ion drift, or SAID. Scientists have studied SAIDs since the 1970s but never knew there was an accompanying visual effect. The Swarm satellite recorded information on the charged particles' speeds and temperatures, but does not have an imager onboard.
"People have studied a lot of SAIDs, but we never knew it had a visible light. Now our cameras are sensitive enough to pick it up and people's eyes and intellect were critical in noticing its importance," said Donovan, a co-author of the study. Donovan led the all-sky camera network and his Calgary colleagues lead the electric field instruments on the Swarm satellite. 
Steve is an important discovery because of its location in the sub auroral zone, an area of lower latitude than where most aurora appear that is not well researched. For one, with this discovery, scientists now know there are unknown chemical processes taking place in the sub auroral zone that can lead to this light emission.
Second, Steve consistently appears in the presence of auroras, which usually occur at a higher latitude area called the auroral zone. That means there is something happening in near-Earth space that leads to both an aurora and Steve. Steve might be the only visual clue that exists to show a chemical or physical connection between the higher latitude auroral zone and lower latitude sub auroral zone, said MacDonald.
"Steve can help us understand how the chemical and physical processes in Earth's upper atmosphere can sometimes have local noticeable effects in lower parts of Earth's atmosphere,” said MacDonald. “This provides good insight on how Earth's system works as a whole."
The team can learn a lot about Steve with additional ground and satellite reports, but recording Steve from the ground and space simultaneously is a rare occurrence. Each Swarm satellite orbits Earth every 90 minutes and Steve only lasts up to an hour in a specific area. If the satellite misses Steve as it circles Earth, Steve will probably be gone by the time that same satellite crosses the spot again.
In the end, capturing Steve becomes a game of perseverance and probability.
"It is my hope that with our timely reporting of sightings, researchers can study the data so we can together unravel the mystery of Steve's origin, creation, physics and sporadic nature," said Bourassa. "This is exciting because the more I learn about it, the more questions I have."
As for the name "Steve" given by the citizen scientists? The team is keeping it as an homage to its initial name and discoverers. But now it is STEVE, short for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement.
One of the main supporters of this work is the New Mexico Consortium. “Aurorasaurus, and the STEVE
discovery, probably wouldn't exist without the Consortium,” MacDonald stated in an email to the NMC.
Other collaborators on this work are: the University of Calgary, Boston University, Lancaster University, Athabasca University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the Alberta Aurora Chasers Facebook group.
If you live in an area where you may see STEVE or an aurora, submit your pictures and reports to Aurorasaurus through or the free iOs and Android mobile apps. 
Author: Kasha Patel, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Los Alamos Daily Post: Mystery of Purple Lights in Sky Solved With Help From Citizen Scientists


Science Adances Article: New Science in Plain Sight: Citizen Scientists Lead to the New Discovery of Optical Structure in the Upper Atmosphere


National Geographic: Meet 'Steve' A Totally New Kind of Aurora


The Atlantic: Canadian Amateurs Discovered A New Kind of Aurora  Meet 'Steve', The Aurora Like Mystery Scientists Are Beginning to Unravel

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