samedi 11 juillet 2020

Space Physics and Biology Top Research Schedule Aboard ISS

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

July 11, 2020

The Expedition 63 crew spent Friday setting up advanced science hardware to explore a wide variety of space phenomena. The International Space Station residents also worked spacesuit maintenance and conducted more eye checks.

NASA Flight Engineer Bob Behnken spent the morning swapping furnaces inside the Materials Science Laboratory (MSL) research rack. Fellow NASA  astronaut Doug Hurley joined Behnken and installed the specialized device, known as the Solidification and Quench Furnace (SQF), in the MSL. The SQF will enable scientists to discover new applications for metals, alloys, polymers and more, or design advanced materials for industrial usage.

Image above: The International Space Station was orbiting off the Atlantic coast of the South American nation of Uruguay with the Progress 75 cargo craft in the left foreground. Image Credit: NASA.

Hurley started his day configuring a laptop computer for the Hyperspectral Imaging Suite (HISUI) from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency). HISUI is located outside the Kibo laboratory module and images Earth in visible and infrared wavelengths providing valuable geological and environmental data.

Behnken then joined Commander Chris Cassidy for another eye exam at the end of the work day. Cassidy was in charge this time using optical coherence tomography to image his crewmate’s retinas. Doctors on the ground monitor the exam in real-time to understand how microgravity affects eye health.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Just before lunchtime, Cassidy dumped water and purged gas from a pair of U.S. spacesuits ahead of two more battery swap spacewalks he and Behnken will embark on July 16 and 21. During the afternoon, the commander researched microfluidics to improve medical diagnostic devices and explored how astronauts visually interpret their microgravity environment.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner juggled their set of lab upkeep and Russian science today. Vagner investigated how space impacts bone mass and the immune system to prepare for return to Earth’s gravity. Ivanishin charged up laptop computer and camera batteries then spent the afternoon servicing the Zvezda service module’s ventilation system.

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Commercial Crew Program:

Materials Science Laboratory (MSL):

Hyperspectral Imaging Suite (HISUI):

Kibo laboratory module:


Visually interpret:

Bone mass:

Immune system:

Zvezda service module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards,

CASIC - Kuaizhou-11 first launch failed

CASIC - China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation logo.

July 11, 2020

Kuaizhou-11 first launch

A Kuaizhou-11 (KZ-11) launch vehicle launched two satellites, Jilin-1 Gaofen-02E (Bilibili Video Satellite) and CentiSpace-1 S2 (Weili-1-02), from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China, on 10 July 2020, at 04:17 UTC (12:17 local time).

Kuaizhou-11 first launch

The rocket failed to reach its intended orbit, the causes are under investigation. KZ-11 (快舟十一) is developed by ExPace Technology Corporation, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

Bilibili, China’s answer to YouTube, will launch a satellite this month in an effort to lure more young viewers to the popular online video sharing and entertainment platform.

Bilibili Video Satellite

A collaboration with Chang Guang Satellite Technology, a company based in Jilin, northeast China that built the satellite, the multimillion-yuan project will collect images and videos of the earth and other celestial bodies for posting on a new online channel.

Related links:


China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC)/SciNews/Bilibili/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 10 juillet 2020

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of July 6, 2020

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

July 10, 2020

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of July 6 that included research on the perception of movement in space, durable coatings for spacecraft, and the behavior of water droplets.

Now in its 20th year of continuous human presence, the space station provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, once again launching astronauts on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil, increases the crew time available for science on the orbiting lab.

Image above: NASA astronaut Bob Behnken inside the Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module (BEAM) during cargo activities in the inflatable space. Image Credit: NASA.

Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:

Getting down moves in microgravity

To control the movement and position of our bodies and evaluate distances between us and other things, humans combine what we see, feel, and hear with information about movement from the inner ear or vestibular system. The Effect of Long Duration Hypogravity on the Perception of Self-Motion (VECTION), an investigation by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), determines how microgravity may change this ability, which could significantly affect mission activities. The investigation also could help drivers, pilots, and robotic manipulators control vehicles in low-gravity environments. Researchers collect data during multiple time points during and after flight in order to examine how astronauts adapt to and recover from these effects. During the week, crew members set up hardware, performed sessions, and transferred data to investigators on the ground.

Standing up to the space environment

Image above: A set of strips for the Space Test Program - H5 - Innovative Coatings Experiment (STP-H5-ICE) are visible attached to the space station’s ExPRESS (Expedite the Processing of Experiments to Space Station) Logistics Carriers. STP-H5-ICE exposes different paints and coatings to the space environment for approximately two years. Image Credit: NASA.

Radiation and extreme temperatures in space can corrode the paint and coatings that protect spacecraft exteriors, potentially leading to damage of a spacecraft’s hull. Optical coatings provide specialized markings that enable robotic and human navigators to capture and repair spacecraft. Ground-based testing of coatings may not accurately represent the harsh environment of low-Earth orbit. The Space Test Program-H5-Innovative Coatings Experiment (STP-H5 ICE) exposes eight new and two reference coatings to the space environment for two years in order to determine stability and durability. Photographs taken once per quarter document the current state of the materials, and this week crew members took photos from the cupola and the JEM window.

Better showers using less water

Image above: Comet Neowise is visible in the lower center of this image taken from the International Space Station as it orbited above the Mediterranean Sea in between Tunisia and Italy. Image Credit: NASA.

Droplet Formation Studies in Microgravity (Droplet Formation Study) evaluates the size and speed of water droplets from Delta Faucet’s H2Okinetic shower head. Reduced-flow shower devices conserve water, but lower flow rates also reduce their effectiveness and can cause consumers to take longer showers, undermining the goal of using less water. Gravity’s full effects on formation of water droplet size are unknown, and research in microgravity could help improve the technology to create improved devices and conserve water and energy. During the week, crew members installed the investigation in the Microgravity Sciences Glovebox (MSG) in preparation for its future run.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- Capillary forces, the interaction of a liquid with the solid sides of a narrow tube that acts to draw the fluid up the tube, act even in the absence of gravity. Capillary Driven Microfluidics examines capillary flow in small devices to improve understanding of how it works in microgravity. Microfluidic devices could be used to develop more portable, robust, and affordable medical diagnostic tools to protect the health of astronauts on future long-term missions.

- When producing glass, metal alloys, or other materials on Earth, chemical reactions between raw materials and the container used to melt them can cause imperfections and contaminations. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) uses static electricity to cause the materials to float, eliminating the container so that behavior of the materials can be better understood.

- Structure and Response of Spherical Diffusion Flames (s-Flame) studies the structure and dynamics of soot-free and sooty flames. Findings could contribute to development of engines with improved efficiency and reduced emissions on Earth. S-Flame is part of the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) project, a series of independent studies of gaseous flames performed in the station’s Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR).

- The Integrated Impact of Diet on Human Immune Response, the Gut Microbiota, and Nutritional Status During Adaptation to Spaceflight (Food Physiology) investigation documents the effects of dietary improvements on immune function and the gut microbiome and the ability of those improvements to support adaptation to spaceflight.

Space to Ground: Dragon's Den: 07/10/2020

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Commercial Crew Program:



Droplet Formation Study:

Microgravity Sciences Glovebox (MSG):

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Jack Griffin/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 63.

Best regards,

NASA Tracks Tropical Storm Fay’s Development and Strongest Side

NASA - EOS Aqua Mission logo / NOAA & NASA - Suomi NPP Mission patch.

July 10, 2020

Fay – Atlantic Ocean

NASA used satellite data to create an animation of Fay’s development and progression over the past few days, showing how the storm organized into a tropical storm. Additionally, NASA’s Aqua satellite used infrared light to find the location of the strongest storms in Tropical Storm Fay occurring in the northeastern quadrant of the storm, mostly over the Atlantic Ocean.

Image above: On July 10 at 2:55 a.m. EDT (0655 UTC), the MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite gathered temperature information about Tropical Storm Fay’s cloud tops. MODIS found powerful thunderstorms where temperatures were as cold as or colder than minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 Celsius) mostly over the western Atlantic Ocean and over parts of coastal Delaware and southern New Jersey. Image Credits: NASA/NRL.

Tropical Storm Fay was officially named as the sixth tropical storm the Atlantic Ocean Hurricane Season by 5 p.m. EDT on July 9. The storm formed just off the North Carolina coast. For several days before that, forecasters were using satellite data to track the storm as it developed.

Artist's view of EOS Aqua satellite. Image Credit: NASA

Animating the Development of Fay

Previously designated as System 98L, the low-pressure area formed off the Georgia coast and moved north. At NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. NASA Worldview was used to create an animation of visible imagery of the storm using data from NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite. The animation showed the development and progression of System 98L into Tropical Storm Fay from July 6 to July 9.

NASA’s Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) Worldview application provides the capability to interactively browse over 700 global, full-resolution satellite imagery layers and then download the underlying data. Many of the available imagery layers are updated within three hours of observation, essentially showing the entire Earth as it looks “right now.” Worldview is a tool that can be used to generate satellite imagery and animations.

Animation of Fay in the Atlantic Ocean

Video above: NASA Worldview was used to create an animation of visible imagery from the NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite was animated and showed the development and progression of System 98L into Tropical Storm Fay from July 6 to July 9. Image Courtesy: NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS).

Artist's view of Suomi NPP satellite. Image Credits: NOAA/NASA

NASA Analyzing Fay in Infrared Light

On July 10 at 2:55 a.m. EDT (0655 UTC), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite gathered temperature information about Tropical Storm Fay’s cloud tops. MODIS found powerful thunderstorms where temperatures were as cold as or colder than minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 Celsius) mostly over the western Atlantic Ocean and along coastal areas of Delaware and southern New Jersey. Cloud top temperatures that cold indicate strong storms with the potential to generate heavy rainfall.

Warnings and Watches on July 9

At 8 a.m. EDT (1200 UTC), the National Hurricane Center (NHC) noted a Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Fenwick Island, Delaware to Watch Hill, Rhode Island including Long Island and Long Island Sound, as well as Southern Delaware Bay. A Tropical Storm Warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area.

What to Expect from Fay

The National Hurricane Center noted that in addition to tropical-storm force winds, storm surge and a possibility for isolated tornadoes, Fay is expected to produce heavy rainfall. “Fay is forecast to generate 2 to 4 inches of rain with isolated maxima of 7 inches along and near the track from the lower Maryland Eastern Shore and Delaware northward into New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, southeast New York, and southern New England. These rains may result in flash flooding where the heaviest amounts occur.”

Fay’s Status on July 9

At that time the NHC reported the center of Tropical Storm Fay was located by an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter aircraft near latitude 37.6 degrees north and longitude 74.7 degrees west. Fay was centered about 55 miles (85 km) south-southeast of Ocean City, Md.  Fay is moving toward the north near 10 mph (17 kph). A northward to north-northeastward motion at a faster forward speed is expected over the next couple of days.

Maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph (85 kph) with higher gusts. Little change in strength is forecast today and tonight while the center remains over water. Weakening should begin after the center moves inland. The estimated minimum central pressure based on aircraft data is 999 millibars.

A Weatherflow station at Lewes, Delaware recently reported a sustained wind of 33 mph (54 kph) and a wind gust of 39 mph (63 kph).

Fay’s Forecast Track

NHC forecasters expect the center of Fay to move near the mid-Atlantic coast today and move inland over the mid-Atlantic or the northeast United States late tonight or on Saturday.

Typhoons/hurricanes are the most powerful weather events on Earth. NASA’s expertise in space and scientific exploration contributes to essential services provided to the American people by other federal agencies, such as hurricane weather forecasting.

For updated forecasts visit:

NASA’s Aqua satellite:

NASA-NOAA Suomi NPP satellite:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lynn Jenner/Goddard Space Flight Center, By Rob Gutro.


NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Spies Newly-Discovered Comet NEOWISE

NASA - Parker Solar Probe Mission patch.

July 10, 2020

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was at the right place at the right time to capture a unique view of comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020. Parker Solar Probe’s position in space gave the spacecraft an unmatched view of the comet’s twin tails when it was particularly active just after its closest approach to the Sun, called perihelion.

Image above: An unprocessed image from the WISPR instrument on board NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows comet NEOWISE on July 5, 2020, shortly after its closest approach to the Sun. The Sun is out of frame to the left. The faint grid pattern near the center of the image is an artifact of the way the image is created. The small black structure near the lower left of the image is caused by a grain of dust resting on the imager’s lens. Image Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher.

The comet was discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or NEOWISE, on March 27. Since then, the comet — called comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE and nicknamed comet NEOWISE — has been spotted by several NASA spacecraft, including Parker Solar Probe, NASA’s Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory, the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, and astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

The image above is unprocessed data from Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument, which takes images of the Sun’s outer atmosphere and solar wind in visible light. WISPR’s sensitivity also makes it well-suited to see fine detail in structures like comet tails. Parker Solar Probe collected science data through June 28 for its fifth solar flyby, but the availability of additional downlink time allowed the team to take extra images, including this image of comet NEOWISE.

Image above: Processed data from the WISPR instrument on NASA’s Parker Solar Probe shows greater detail in the twin tails of comet NEOWISE, as seen on July 5, 2020. The lower, broader tail is the comet’s dust tail, while the thinner, upper tail is the comet’s ion tail. Image Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Guillermo Stenborg.

The twin tails of comet NEOWISE are seen more clearly in this image from the WISPR instrument, which has been processed to increase contrast and remove excess brightness from scattered sunlight, revealing more detail in the comet tails.

The lower tail, which appears broad and fuzzy, is the dust tail of comet NEOWISE — created when dust lifts off the surface of the comet’s nucleus and trails behind the comet in its orbit. Scientists hope to use WISPR’s images to study the size of dust grains within the dust tail, as well as the rate at which the comet sheds dust.

Parker Solar Probe on way to the Sun. Animation Credit: NASA

The upper tail is the ion tail, which is made up of gases that have been ionized by losing electrons in the Sun’s intense light. These ionized gases are buffeted by the solar wind — the Sun’s constant outflow of magnetized material — creating the ion tail that extends directly away from the Sun. Parker Solar Probe’s images appear to show a divide in the ion tail. This could mean that comet NEOWISE has two ion tails, in addition to its dust tail, though scientists would need more data and analysis to confirm this possibility.

Related article:

Comet NEOWISE Sizzles as It Slides by the Sun, Providing a Treat for Observers


Comet NEOWISE Sizzles as It Slides by the Sun, Providing a Treat for Observers:

July 2020 Skywatching Tips from NASA:

Parker Solar Probe:


Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/GSFC/Sarah Frazier.


Hubble Sees Sculpted Galaxy

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 10, 2020

Captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, this image shows NGC 7513, a barred spiral galaxy. Located approximately 60 million light-years away, NGC 7513 lies within the Sculptor constellation in the Southern Hemisphere.

This galaxy is moving at the astounding speed of 972 miles per second, and it is heading away from us. For context, Earth orbits the Sun at about 19 miles per second. Though NGC 7513’s apparent movement away from the Milky Way might seem strange, it is not that unusual.

While some galaxies, like the Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy, are caught in each other’s gravitational pull and will eventually merge together, the vast majority of galaxies in our universe appear to be moving away from each other. This phenomenon is due to the expansion of the universe, and it is the space between galaxies that is stretching, rather than the galaxies themselves moving.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA/Rob Garner/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, M. Stiavelli.

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Giant A-68 iceberg three years on

ESA - Sentinel-1 Mission logo / ESA - Sentinel-3 Mission logo.

July 10, 2020

The colossus iceberg that split from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf on 12 July 2017 is now in the open waters of the South Atlantic near the South Orkney Islands, about 1050 km from its birthplace. Having lost two chunks of ice, this record berg is a little less huge than it once was – and now that it is in rougher waters, it may break up further.

When it calved, A-68 was about twice the size of Luxemburg and one of the largest icebergs on record, changing the outline of the Antarctic Peninsula forever. Despite its size, however, it is remarkably thin, just a couple of hundred metres thick.

A-68A in open waters

Over the last three years, satellite missions such as Copernicus Sentinel-1 have been used to track the berg as it drifted in the Southern Ocean. For the first two years, it remained close to its parent ice sheet, impeded by sea ice.

However, it lost a chunk of ice almost immediately after being calved, resulting in it being renamed A-68A, and its offspring became A-68B. More recently, in April 2020, A-68A lost another chunk: A-68C.

Rather unromantically, Antarctic icebergs are named from the Antarctic quadrant in which they were originally sighted, then a sequential number, then, if the iceberg breaks, a sequential letter.

Although A-68A is a relatively thin iceberg, it has held together reasonably well, but satellites will be key to monitoring how it changes in open waters.

A-68A path

Captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar mission, the image above shows the berg on 5 July 2020, a few days before its third birthday. Satellites carrying radar continue to deliver images regardless of the dark and bad weather, which is indispensable when monitoring the remote polar regions which are shrouded in darkness during the winter months.

The map shows the different positions of A-68A during its three-year journey. The map not only  highlights how long it remained close to the Larsen C ice sheet, but how, over the last year or so, its pace of drift has increased considerably.

A-68A in February 2020

The map also includes historic iceberg tracks, based on data from a number of satellites including ESA’s ERS-1 and ERS-2, and shows that A-68A is following this well-trodden path.

The wider-view image below from the Copernicus Sentinel-3 mission shows A-68A’s position in February 2020.

Related links:

Antarctic Iceberg Tracking Database:

Copernicus Sentinel-1:

Copernicus Sentinel-3:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2020), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017–20), processed by ESA; Antarctic Iceberg Tracking Database.