An artist's depiction of TIMED (foreground) and a collection of other NASA spacecraft comprising the Heliophysics Great Observatory.

An artist's depiction of TIMED (foreground) and a collection of other NASA spacecraft comprising the Heliophysics Great Observatory. (Image courtesy of NASA/APL/University of Michigan / November 15, 2012)

When Elsayed Talaat first began working at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow, he was assigned to a project exploring Earth’s atmosphere.

That was 1999. To this day, he’s still dedicated to the TIMED mission, analyzing the findings of the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics spacecraft, a 1,300-pound instrument built at APL that has been orbiting Earth since 2001.

Talaat’s expertise makes him a fitting candidate to share the mission with the public through a new lecture series Beyond Earth presented by APL scientists at Columbia’s Robinson Nature Center.

APL scientists and engineers, based in North Laurel, have built 68 spacecraft and nearly 200 space instruments, and will endeavor through the lectures to “put the missions into plain English,” according to APL spokeswoman Gina Ellrich.


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The series kicked off in September with a lecture focused on the 2011 MESSENGER mission to Mercury, followed by a presentation in October about the Aug. 30 launch of radiation belt storm probes.

Coming up Nov. 15 is “How CRISM Found Water on Mars,” a presentation by Debra Buczkowski about APL’s Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, an instrument that has been scanning the surface of Mars since 2006 in an effort to better understand the planet’s geography and prepare for possible human exploration.

On Dec. 13, Talaat, a Columbia resident, will speak about the TIMED mission, which is intended “to understand how the upper atmosphere responds to changes caused by the sun and the natural environment and the effects of human activity,” he says.

Talaat says he plans to share findings related to how atmospheric changes affect satellites, GPS technology and HF radio wave communication, in addition to data that show the Earth’s thermosphere is contracting.

The lectures, intended for teens and adults, take place at the Robinson Nature Center from 7 to 8:30 p.m. and include hors d’oeuvres. Tickets cost $12. To register, call 410-313-0400. For details, go to www.howardcountymd.gov/RNCAPLlectures.htm.