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Dec. 6, 2002

Kathleen Burton, Phone: 650/604-1731 or 650/604-9000
John Bluck, Phone: 650/604-5026 or 650/604-9000
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

RELEASE:  02-129AR  


The mystery of Mars river formations, study of coral reefs on Earth and why women sometimes quit science, are a few of the diverse topics that more than 60 local NASA scientists will discuss at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) that begins today in San Francisco.

Scientists from NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley are joining thousands of colleagues Dec. 6 -10 to discuss Earth and planetary research at the AGU’s biggest yearly meeting at San Francisco’s Moscone Convention Center (MCC). There will also be several news conferences highlighting geophysical and planetary research.

“We think the river valleys and large craters on Mars, which are about the same age geologically, must be related, and our paper describes a possible connection,” said Teresa Segura, a graduate student at the University of Colorado based at NASA Ames and author of a paper, “Environmental Effects of Large Impacts on Mars,” that appears in today’s issue of Science magazine. Segura will present a synopsis of this research at an AGU special session open to the media, “Mysteries of the Martian Rivers,” to take place today from 2-4 p.m. PST in the MCC Theatre, Exhibit Hall C.

This session will highlight new research on Mars. Scientists from NASA and the University of Colorado say the bombardment of Mars by comets and asteroids caused cycles of rain. The rain cycles led to global flooding, the formation of Mars' river valleys and other water-sculpted features, more than 3.8 billion years ago. NASA scientists will be available for interviews in the AGU pressroom immediately following the session, from 4 to 5 p.m.

For more information, see:

Other AGU presentations by scientists from NASA Ames include:

  • Saturday, Dec. 7: Dr. Nathalie Cabrol, of the SETI Institute and Ames, will present preliminary observations and results of a recent expedition to Chile's Licancabur Volcano during the Planetary Analogs Session, P61D06, to be held in MCC 131 at 10:05 a.m.
  • Saturday, Dec. 7 at 11:15 a.m., Dr. David Blake and others will present a paper discussing characterizing and sampling California’s ocean crust as analogs for microbial systems on Mars.
  • Sunday, Dec. 8: NASA scientist Liane Guild will discuss, “Clues to Coral Reef Health,” a new method of remotely monitoring marine environments at 8:30 a.m., in Hall D.
  • Sunday, Dec. 8: NASA scientist Azadeh Tabazadeh will discuss, “Reasons Why Some Women Quit Science,” at 9:30 a.m., in Hall D.

NASA scientists also will present their findings, during several press conferences and key conference sessions. The topics of the press conferences and the conference sessions listed below are some of the most noteworthy of hundreds of NASA-funded research findings being presented during individual sessions. All times are Pacific Standard Time.

Laser Technology Helps Measure Pollution From New York City Buses: Atmospheric scientists used laser technology, while riding in traffic behind New York City transit buses, to find out how much and what type of pollution different types of buses emitted in their exhausts. The surprising findings may help other cities determine what kinds of buses to purchase for their transit systems. The study found conventional diesel buses are comparatively fuel-efficient, but produce nitrogen oxide pollutants that can contribute to photochemical smog, as well as large amounts of fine soot and sulfate particles. The authors will present their poster, titled "Gas Phase Emission Ratios From In-Use Diesel and CNG Curbside Passenger Buses in New York City," on Friday, Dec. 6. For more information see:

Tracing the sun-Earth Connection Into the Upper Atmosphere: For the first time, a solar storm has been monitored by more than 90 satellites, 790 ground-based radars, GPS receivers, and recently launched satellites. For six days in April, the Earth was subjected to a series of violent solar eruptions called coronal mass ejections or CMEs. CMEs, sending matter from the sun toward the Earth at speeds of more than five million miles per hour, create shock waves ahead of them. As

these solar particles sweep into the Earth's magnetosphere, they trigger auroral displays and disruptions in radio communications. Following the solar events, dramatic changes in the Earth's atmosphere were observed by new satellite systems previously unavailable. This session, on Monday, Dec. 9, at 10 a.m., draws together scientists from many to explore this phenomenon. For more information see:

News Conference Highlights: (All times are Pacific Standard Time.)

Friday, Dec. 6, 12:15 p.m.

NASA Traces Asian Air Pollution Over The Pacific

Scientists expect the current rapid industrialization of Asia to be a major driver of global changes in the makeup of the atmosphere. NASA-funded researchers say the makeup of air originating in Asia largely confirms current estimates of Asian emissions, except for unexpectedly large amounts of carbon monoxide and black carbon (soot) air pollution. The 2001 Transport and Chemical Evolution over the Pacific airborne field experiment provided an opportunity to study the composition and chemical evolution of air as it moves away from Asia and across the Pacific Ocean. For more information see:

Saturday, Dec. 7, 8 a.m.

Blowing in the Winds: New Applications for Scatterometer Research

This press conference looks at the significant contributions QuikScat data are making to global weather forecasting and various Earth research investigations. Among the findings to be presented are some surprising effects that typhoons have on creation of new marine life and how scatterometer data are being applied in new ways, such as regional flood detection and monitoring the growing season in northern forests. See:

Saturday, Dec. 7, 2 p.m.

New Insights Into Gravity from the GRACE Mission

The first image released from the joint NASA-German Aerospace Center Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) graphically illustrates the sensitivity of the mission's twin spacecraft to changes in Earth's gravity. Color gradations in the image measure changes in the distance between the GRACE spacecraft as they orbit overhead approximately 220 kilometers (137 miles) apart. Such variations are caused as the spacecraft fly over Earth's uneven gravity field, for example, when GRACE travels over mountain ranges or undersea trenches. Earth's largest spatial features have been removed from this image so such smaller features can be highlighted. GRACE's extremely sensitive microwave-ranging instrumentation is capable of measuring variations at the micron, or millionth of a meter, level. For more information see:

Sunday, Dec. 8, 2 p.m.

NASA'S Mars Odyssey Reveals More About Ice and Dust

Updated information from NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft, highlighting water ice distribution on the planet and color images of the surface, are the most extensive and illuminating of the mission so far. By mid-October, the frozen carbon dioxide that seasonally caps Mars' North Pole had evaporated sufficiently to give Odyssey's scientists their first chance to look for ice in that region. For more information see:

Monday, Dec. 9, 9 a.m.

Interiors of the Outer-Planet Satellites

This is the latest in a seven-year-long string of surprises from NASA's Galileo spacecraft about the moons of Jupiter. Dr. John Anderson, an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., will present findings about the density of the small inner moon Amalthea, as determined from Galileo's close flyby of that moon in November. Density gives important clues about the composition of a body. For more information see:

Monday, Dec. 9, 2 p.m.

Mars Exploration Rover: Returning to the Martian Surface

NASA's twin Mars Exploration Rovers will head for the mysterious Red Planet in just over one year. "The twin rovers will be able to travel the distance of several football fields during their missions. They will carry sophisticated instruments that effectively make them robotic geologists,

acting as the eyes and hands of the science team on Earth," said Dr. Mark Adler, mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We are busy building and testing the two rovers and the spacecraft that will land them safely on Mars," he said. For more information see:

To arrange interviews, please contact NASA staff in the AGU pressroom during the conference. The AGU Fall Meeting Press Room is Room 111 of the Moscone Convention Center. The phone number for incoming calls is 1 (415) 905-1007. The phone number for incoming faxes is 1 (415) 905-1008. The Press Room is open daily during the meeting from 7:30 a.m. until at least 5:30 p.m. The Press Briefing Room is Room 112, adjacent to the Press Room.

For more information about AGU, contact: Harvey Leifert at or (202) 777-7507.



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