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Space Science Institute

Finding Livermore: Employees share their LLNL origin stories

With more than 70 years of history and nearly 9,000 current employees, it is not uncommon for several generations of family members to have worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). For those employees with parents or grandparents preceding them, a career at the Laboratory was not in their original plans. In fact, before coming to LLNL, many do not realize…

Mystery of puffy exoplanet solved

A recent study of the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b suggests tidal heating is responsible for the exoplanet’s inflated nature and reveals a previously unseen combination of molecules in an exoplanet. A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientist and international collaborators have characterized the atmosphere of the exoplanet, WASP-107b, using a…

Lab to provide optical payload for upcoming U.S. Space Force mission

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Space Program is now building an optical space domain awareness payload for an upcoming mission by the U.S. Space Force. The planned mission, known as VICTUS HAZE, will be a tactically responsive space mission to demonstrate the ability to rapidly characterize an on-orbit threat. The U.S. Space Force selected Long Beach,…

LLNL Pandora SmallSat mission clears major NASA milestone on the path toward launch

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s (LLNL) Pandora SmallSat mission recently passed NASA’s critical design review: a major milestone for the mission to continue its journey toward launch. The Pandora SmallSat mission will study planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets, and their stars. “This is a major milestone for the mission and a huge accomplishment…

See the solar corona: an intricate pattern reveals itself during the April 8 eclipse

On Monday, April 8, a swath of North America will experience a total solar eclipse. For a few minutes, the moon will completely obscure the sun and viewers will be able to see the intricate loops and flares in the solar corona—normally washed out by the bright disk of the sun. In the corona, the outermost, gaseous part of the sun’s atmosphere, particles dance around…

New nuclear deflection simulations advance planetary defense against asteroid threats

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have developed a modeling tool for assessing the potential use of a nuclear device to defend the planet against catastrophic asteroid impacts. The research, published today in the Planetary Science Journal, introduces a novel approach to simulating the energy deposition from a nuclear device on an asteroid's…

Resolving astronomical mysteries

A new satellite called XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, pronounced “crism”) was successfully launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan on Sep. 7, 2023. XRISM is a collaboration between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), with European Space Agency participation, to study extreme…

Lab instrument now on two-billion-mile journey to the metallic asteroid Psyche

An instrument designed and built by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers departed Earth last week on a two-billion-mile, nearly six-year journey through space to explore a rare, largely metal asteroid. The Livermore high-purity germanium (HPGe) gamma-ray sensor is an essential part of a larger gamma-ray spectrometer (GRS) built in collaboration with…

Ripple effects: LLNL internships propel students forward with real-world projects

Every year, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) welcomes hundreds of interns for an experiential, hands-on approach to learning. Working with some of the brightest minds in their fields, LLNL’s interns have the opportunity to explore new projects, build their skills, connect with mentors and integrate into Lab culture — resulting in a meaningful experience that…

LLNL’s prototype telescope now fully operational aboard the International Space Station

When SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on March 16, it delivered several thousand pounds of supplies for the crew as well as new hardware. The hardware included the U.S. Space Force’s Space Test Program Houston 9 (STP-H9) platform, which houses a prototype telescope designed and built by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's…

Lab engineer shares in DOE project award for work on the Vera C. Rubin Observatory

A Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) engineer and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are among those sharing a Department of Energy (DOE) award for their roles in building the world’s newest observatory. The DOE honor, the 2021 project management achievement award, was recently presented for work done on the Legacy Survey of Space and Time camera (LSSTCam)…

#YourPlaceInSpace: LLNL planetary defender promotes career opportunities in the federal space workforce

Planetary defense physicist Megan Bruck Syal on Wednesday represented Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) at “Space STEM Task Force Pathways to the Federal Space Workforce,” an outreach event hosted by the National Science Foundation. Multiple federal government agencies came together in a virtual interactive session to provide information for students, early…

Prototype telescope designed by Lawrence Livermore researchers launched to the International Space Station

A prototype telescope designed and built by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers has been launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., to the International Space Station (ISS). Known as the Stellar Occultation Hypertemporal Imaging Payload (SOHIP), the telescope uses LLNL patented-monolithic optics technology on a gimbal to observe and measure atmospheric…

High-fidelity simulation offers insight into 2013 Chelyabinsk meteor

On the morning of Feb. 15, 2013, a small asteroid exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, sending a loud shockwave and sonic boom across the region, damaging buildings and leaving around 1,200 people injured. The resulting meteor, with a diameter of approximate 20 meters (roughly the size of a six-story building), was one of the largest to be detected breaking up in the Earth’s…

Study looks at velocity impact to asteroid Dimorphos

The first peer-reviewed results from NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission were published Wednesday by Nature, including contributions from LLNL’s planetary defense team. The DART spacecraft executed a successful hypervelocity impact of 150-meter asteroid Dimorphos on Sept. 26, 2022. Analysis by Earth-based telescopes determined that the impact…

Water modified ancient asteroid

Samples from asteroid Ryugu returned by the Hayabusa2 mission contain evidence of extensive alteration by water and appear related to CI chondrites, which are believed to best represent the bulk of the solar system composition. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) scientists in collaboration with an international team looked at the isotopic composition of oxygen,…

Meet Kerianne Pruett, neurodiverse spacecraft systems engineer at LLNL

California native Kerianne Pruett started at LLNL in 2019 as an intern, and now works as a spacecraft systems engineer, matrixed to the Physics Division. At the Laboratory, Pruett utilizes data science, machine learning, and high-performance computing to answer questions about dark matter, dark energy, and space domain awareness.

LLNL leads new DART Mission paper on inferring asteroid material properties from deflection test

Today at 4:14 p.m. (PDT), NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) Mission will execute the first-ever asteroid-deflection test by crashing into asteroid Dimorphos. Traveling at ~6 km/s with a mass of ~600 kg, the DART spacecraft will transfer enough momentum for the imparted change in velocity to be detectable from Earth-based telescopes. However, there is…

LLNL-led paper reveals spacecraft geometry effects on impact simulations for NASA’s DART Mission

NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft will crash into asteroid Dimorphos on Sept. 26, executing the first asteroid deflection test that has been years in the planning. Dimorphos, at 150 meters across, is the “moonlet” of a binary asteroid system, orbiting the larger companion asteroid, Didymos (800 meters). The momentum of the ~600 kg spacecraft,…

Asteroid sample lands on LLNL

No need to worry, it is just a very small piece for scientific study. In December 2014, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency launched the spacecraft Hayabusa2 to the asteroid 162173 Ryugu. In December 2020, when the sample-return capsule successfully landed safely back on Earth with pristine pieces of Ryugu that it had collected, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory…