Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Naša in NASA: How Croatia Will Travel To Mars in 2021

January 5, 2020 – In a recent interview, a member of a NASA team whose family heritage is Croatian, detailed how her current project will go to Mars in 2021

Croatians are not ones for invading other countries, let alone other planets. Although, that reputation doesn't take into consideration the can-do attitude of the Croatian diaspora.

It is by the hands of one member of the country's diaspora that Croatia will go to Mars in 2021. Sarah M. Milkovich is a planetary geologist of Croatian descent who works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her family is originally from a small village near the border with Slovenia. In an interview conducted over recent days by Vecernji List's Zoran Vitas, Milkovich detailed that the project she is working on right now is a vehicle that will this year visit Mars.

Milk.jpgSarah M. Milkovich

“I am currently working on the Perseverance rover that will land on Mars in 2021,” she told Vitas. “I’ve been working on Perseverance since 2013 including devising ways to collaborate between scientists and designers in terms of planning what the rover will do on the surface of Mars every day.”

“Perseverance will explore a location on Mars where we think a billion years ago a river flowed and formed a lake," said Milkovich, who was also interviewed by TCN's Iva Tatic in summer 2020. "Rivers and lakes on Mars disappeared long ago, so today Mars is an extremely cold and dry planet.”

“The shapes of the surface and the chemical composition of the rocks that we observed from a spacecraft in orbit and from previous rovers and landers on Mars tell us that a billion years ago, Mars was warmer and had adequate conditions to support life,” she went on to say to Mr Vitas. “With Perseverance, we intend to look in these rocks for evidence of ancient bacterial life. This will be very difficult, so we will also collect and store rock samples that we will leave on the surface. The intention is to make a joint mission of NASA and ESA to bring these samples to Earth (in order) to study them.”

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

NASA Shows Which Southern Croatian City Should Fear Flooding Most

November the 4th, 2020 - It might seem like a bit of a stupid thing to say, as surely anyone and everyone should fear being flooded as climate change continues to alter the weather in ways we often struggle to cope properly with. Which Croatian city, however, should fear it the most? One southern Croatian city which is wildly popular with tourists and is also UNESCO protected should fear becoming submerged more than any other in the rest of the country.

The word Dubrovnik likely stirs up an array of pleasant memoris for all those who have visited, along with perhaps a traffic jam and an expensive coffee too many, maybe. Residents of this southern Croatian city should have more on their minds than crowds of tourists in shops on hot August days, however, and flooding is one of the more serious of them.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, just how serious this problem could be for Croatia's tourism Mecca can be seen very well with the help of a tool designed by no less than NASA, which predicts which cities will end up flooded and even totally submerged due to the melting of glaciers caused by the ongoing threat of climate change across the planet, reports Vecernji list.

Scientists have put the effect of the Earth's gravity and its rotation into a special "formula" in order to predict how water will be end up being "redistributed" around the world as climate change progresses.

"The tool for each city provides a clear picture of which glaciers are of particular importance," one of the scientists involved in the study explained to the BBC.

Research has shown that the melting of large ice sheets in western Greenland, dangerously close to Europe, should be feared. Along with the major European capital of London, Tromso, Oslo, Athens, Syracuse, Marseille, Gibraltar, Brest and the southern Croatian city of Dubrovnik should be greatly concerned about what this could mean for them.

Scientific datas show that melting glaciers had an impact on sea level rise during the 20th century, and in the 21st century that impact has increased even more.

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Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Sarah Milkovich of Croatian Descent, Part of NASA Team Launching Mars Rover

July 29, 2020 - Sarah Milkovich Ph. D. is the Assistant Science Office Manager for the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover Mission.

My mother's maiden name was Milković (which is a common Croatian last name, to be fair), so when I noticed that in the internet community I enjoy, there was another person with that last name, I reached out to her and told her that she was probably my long lost cousin. She's most likely not, in all honesty. Still, that lead to us talking a bit more and me realizing what an awesome person I started talking to. Sarah Milkovich is not just your run-of-the-mill great scientist; her biography is so impressive it's not easy even to summarize it into a few sentences.

A bachelor's degree in planetary science from Caltech and a Ph.D. in planetary geology from the Ivy League Brown University tend to lead to a job at NASA, and Sarah has worked at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for a while now, where she's worked on several major missions. Those include the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and the previous Mars rover, Curiosity. These days Sarah and her team are very busy on their new mission, the Mars 2020 rover, which is set to be launched towards Mars tomorrow, on July 30, 2020. I interviewed her for my radio science talk show on Croatian radio back in March, but due to numerous complications too complex to elaborate on, our conversation was broadcast yesterday (if you want to hear the entire conversation and can follow it in Croatian, you can hear it here).

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Sarah explained to me how her great-grandparents on her father’s side arrived from Croatia to the USA quite a long time ago, from a village in Croatia near the Slovenian border (which is a piece of information later confirmed in a conversation on Twitter, where Sarah used a Slovenian word for what we'd call orahnjača or orehnjača in Croatia, thus bursting every last small remaining bubble of hope that I might be related to such a brilliant person, as my family was from nowhere near Slovenia :( ). Her father was the first one in his family in the States who married outside the Croatian community. Sarah was born and raised in Minnesota, learning about geology from her parents, and about space exploration from watching the numerous documentaries on the topic. She explained all about the planetary geology, how it takes what we understand about the forces which formed the Earth, and applies that to figure out how the same forces would've worked under the conditions which are present on other planets. It started by using telescopes, but these days, as we are capable of landing delicate equipment on Mars, they're applying similar techniques and methods used in geology on Earth (except that, of course, we still can't get the samples back, but we're hoping to be able to do that soon). 

JezeroCrater.jpg

She explained to me what the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover would be about: it's a car-sized vehicle, planned to land into the Jezero crater on Mars (if that sounds a bit Croatian to you, you're right, the crater was named after the Croatian word for a lake and a village in Bosnia). The shape of the crater strongly suggests there used to be a river going into it at some point, back when there was flowing water on the surface of Mars. The time period of that running water seems to match the time period when life began on Earth, and since the conditions were similar on Mars and Earth back then, the scientists are trying to find evidence that there was life on Mars then. In the conversation, I got to hear many more technical details on the rover and about the plans for its operation on Mars, including the ambitious plans to collect samples and leave them on the surface of Mars for some future mission, which will be able to collect them and bring them back to Earth. Oh, yeah, the mission will also include a Mars helicopter, although we didn't talk about it much!

Follow the launch of the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover tomorrow, and wish the rover and the people behind it (including our own Sarah Milkovich) the best of luck and a successful mission after it lands on Mars in February of 2021!

 

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Dubrovnik on Endangered Cities List in New NASA Report

March 4,  2020 - NASA has released a world map of cities that could be endangered by rising sea levels. One point was located near Dubrovnik.

It is summer in Antarctica, and temperatures should be around zero degrees Celsius. However, in February, you could walk around in a spring jacket as the measured temperature was higher than Florida, writes Vijesti.rtl.hr.

Such climate change raises the world's sea level, as the glaciers are continuously melting. In Antarctica, a record temperature of 20 degrees Celsius was recorded at the beginning of February. 

“This summer part of the year is record high. What is dangerous is the fact that it then melts snow and ice, and that snow and ice that is on land raises the sea level once it reaches the sea,” said climatologist and oceanographer Mirko Orlic.

In Antarctica, lakes have formed between glaciers that were not there before, NASA reported. But this is just part of it. Thus, NASA has released a world map of cities that could be endangered by rising sea levels. One point was located near Dubrovnik. Croatia could be hit with a harsh reality in the future.

"Everything is likely, but I am not afraid. It comes down to who is alive and who is dead in the hundred years. I am probably dead, and my descendants should think about what will be then," one citizen said.

The respected climatologist and oceanographer says Dubrovnik was taken as an example, but it is not the only endangered city in Croatia.

"We know that Rijeka is flooded already, as well as Split, Dubrovnik, and some lowland areas. The Neretva Delta is endangered, the hinterland of Zadar. Let's say that all Antarctic is dissolved, which will raise the sea level 57 meters. Of course, this can't happen in 100 years, but it can be because of episodes like this, and will be faster than we thought,” Orlic said.

Some cities on our coast have therefore already taken action. Šibenik-Knin County is the only one in Croatia that has already built coastal sea-level risk plans. Thus, they can advise people where to buy real estate and where their money might end up underwater.

If greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, the sea will rise by about half a meter and the consequences can be seen in 50 years. Stradun may not be underwater, but everyone’s favorite seaside spots may cease to exist.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Višnjan Observatory Most Successful after NASA, Ahead of US Army and ESA

The Višnjan Observatory, that is, the new observatory on Tičan hill, is the second most successful in detecting asteroids that could pose a threat to Earth, according to the recently published statistics by the Minor Planets Center of the International Astronomical Union, reports Dalmacija Danas on March 14, 2019. 

Since the beginning of 2019, the Croatian team performed 54.5% of the work in monitoring the objects passing near the Earth that could pose a possible threat to it (Near Earth Objects - NEO). Thus, they are placed directly behind NASA, and in front of the US Army and the European Space Agency (ESA). 

The Legend of Croatian astronomy Korado Korlević, one of the most prolific asteroid hunters, says that astronomers sometimes joke, calling them the "Wallmart of World Astronomy" in the sense that they have the best price ratios concerning the product. Namely, they spend the least when the work accomplished is taken into account, since they do not have any institutional funding.

“For example, the European Space Agency has two observatories in this business. They are six times worse than us,” Korlević explained.

In the last thirty years, the observatory network has developed around the world and generations of experts are being raised to detect and monitor objects that are dangerous to the Earth to foresee and thwart catastrophes such as the recent meteor in Chelyabinsk or the explosion in Tunguska in 1908. 

So far, more than 19,000 objects that run as NEO are known, and this number increases each month by another two hundred discoveries. Yet, this job is still not near completion. American astronomers from Hawaii, Arizona, California and South America form the backbone of the network for detection and follow-up, while Višnjan has become increasingly prominent as their essential ally in Europe.

"Among the American asteroid hunters, the Višnjan Observatory is labeled with the codename 'L01’. The Americans are not surprised by our success because there are plenty of scientists in their queues who spent part of their childhood in Višnjan. Also, L01 was third in the world in 2018,” according to Korlević. 

The team has traditionally been in the top for years, but second place is extra special. 

"Elemental disaster and ice rains on Hawaiian volcanoes blocked the observatory there, and unusually cloudy weather over the US deserts reduced the ability to track the sky from the beginning of this year. The observatory of the European and Japanese space agencies and the observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Arts took over 20% of the assistance, which is not enough to follow the bodies, or make sure you don’t lose them,” says Korlevic.

The secret of Višnjan’s success is thanks to two factors. To understand the first one, one should bear in mind that this is a project that sees many observatories around the world participate. Namely, after an observatory in Hawaii discovers a NEO, other observatories take over monitoring it. Otherwise, the object is lost. 

“We are about 12 hours from Hawaii, and therefore we are almost in the ideal position to take over tracking the objects they discover. They will say - in this and that bush there could be a rabbit - and then we scrutinize the bushes. In the end, the International Astronomical Union announces that this combined work discovered the object,” explains Korlević. 

But this is by no means the whole answer. Another, more important part of the secret of Višnjan's success is the development of new methods that enabled the team to be top-notch with few resources. Korlević says that the usual recommendation is to follow the “best practice of others”, which is not the smartest.

“The best practice should be created. We started to work the way others do not work. We expect some of them to begin following us now, because this is the most effective, although it is challenging to work in such a way. We made improvements in several places, from optimizing observations to accepting that with a larger telescope, not every cloudy night is equally cloudy if infrared light is used,” Korlević and emphasizes that he has a great team of students and mentors who are capable of thinking innovatively.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Monday, 27 November 2017

From Rijeka to Space: A Croatian Scientist Creating New Technology to Save the Planet

Based on her previous work, NASA invited Ivona several years ago to join their Ocean Ecology Lab and work on developing a new sophisticated satellite whose launch is planned for 2022

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Wildfires in Dalmatia Visible From Space

Multiple wildires that are ravaging Dalmatia for two days now can be seen from space

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

NASA’s Photos Show Fire Apocalypse in Dalmatia

The smoke reached half way across the Adriatic Sea.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Ever Wondered What Croatia Looks Like from Space?

Ignazio Magnani often publishes photos of the Earth from space on his Twitter account. This time Croatia was lucky to take the spotlight.

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