vendredi 9 mars 2018

Webb Telescope to Make a Splash in Search for Interstellar Water

NASA - James Webb Space Telescope patch.

March 9, 2018

Water is crucial for life, but how do you make water? Cooking up some H2O takes more than mixing hydrogen and oxygen. It requires the special conditions found deep within frigid molecular clouds, where dust shields against destructive ultraviolet light and aids chemical reactions. NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope will peer into these cosmic reservoirs to gain new insights into the origin and evolution of water and other key building blocks for habitable planets.

A molecular cloud is an interstellar cloud of dust, gas, and a variety of molecules ranging from molecular hydrogen (H2) to complex, carbon-containing organics. Molecular clouds hold most of the water in the universe, and serve as nurseries for newborn stars and their planets.

Animation above: In this animation we fly into a protoplanetary disk surrounding a young star. Within the disk, tiny dust grains accumulate layers of ice over thousands of years. These cosmic snowflakes are swept up by forming planets, delivering key ingredients for life. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt.

Within these clouds, on the surfaces of tiny dust grains, hydrogen atoms link with oxygen to form water. Carbon joins with hydrogen to make methane. Nitrogen bonds with hydrogen to create ammonia. All of these molecules stick to the surface of dust specks, accumulating icy layers over millions of years. The result is a vast collection of “snowflakes” that are swept up by infant planets, delivering materials needed for life as we know it. "If we can understand the chemical complexity of these ices in the molecular cloud, and how they evolve during the formation of a star and its planets, then we can assess whether the building blocks of life should exist in every star system," said Melissa McClure of the Universiteit van Amsterdam, the principal investigator on a research project to investigate cosmic ices.

In order to understand these processes, one of Webb’s Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science projects will examine a nearby star-forming region to determine which ices are present where. “We plan to use a variety of Webb’s instrument modes and capabilities, not only to investigate this one region, but also to learn how best to study cosmic ices with Webb,” said Klaus Pontoppidan of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI), an investigator on McClure’s project. This project will take advantage of Webb’s high-resolution spectrographs to get the most sensitive and precise observations at wavelengths that specifically measure ices. Webb’s spectrographs, NIRSpec and MIRI, will provide up to five times better precision that any previous space telescope at near- and mid-infrared wavelengths.

Infant stars and comet cradles

The team, led by McClure and co-principal investigators Adwin Boogert (University of Hawaii) and Harold Linnartz (Universiteit Leiden), plans to target the Chamaeleon Complex, a star-forming region visible in the southern sky. It’s located about 500 light-years from Earth and contains several hundred protostars, the oldest of which are about 1 million years old. “This region has a bit of everything we’re looking for,” said Pontoppidan.

The team will use Webb’s sensitive infrared detectors to observe stars behind the molecular cloud. As light from those faint, background stars passes through the cloud, ices in the cloud will absorb some of the light. By observing many background stars spread across the sky, astronomers can map ices within the cloud’s entire expanse and locate where different ices form. They will also target individual protostars within the cloud itself to learn how ultraviolet light from these nascent stars promotes the creation of more complex molecules.

Image above: Blue light from a newborn star lights up the reflection nebula IC 2631. This nebula is part of the Chamaeleon star-forming region, which Webb will study to learn more about the formation of water and other cosmic ices. Image Credit: European Southern Observatory (ESO).

Astronomers also will examine the birthplaces of planets, rotating disks of gas and dust known as protoplanetary disks that surround newly formed stars. They will be able to measure the amounts and relative abundances of ices as close as 5 billion miles from the infant star, which is about the orbital distance of Pluto in our solar system.

“Comets have been described as dusty snowballs. At least some of the water in Earth’s oceans likely was delivered by the impacts of comets early in our solar system’s history. We’ll be looking at the places where comets form around other stars,” explained Pontoppidan.

Laboratory experiments

In order to understand Webb’s observations, scientists will need to conduct experiments on Earth. Webb’s spectrographs will spread incoming infrared light into a rainbow spectrum. Different molecules absorb light at certain wavelengths, or colors, resulting in dark spectral lines. Laboratories can measure a variety of substances to create a database of molecular “fingerprints.” When astronomers see those fingerprints in a spectrum from Webb, they can then identify the molecule or family of molecules that created the absorption lines.

“Laboratory studies will help address two key questions. The first is what molecules are present. But just as important, we’ll look at how the ices got there. How did they form? What we find with Webb will help inform our models and allow us to understand the mechanisms for ice formation at very low temperatures,” explained Karin Öberg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, an investigator on the project.

Image above: This simulated spectrum from the Webb telescope illustrates the kinds of molecules that may be detected in star-forming regions like the Eagle Nebula (background). Image Credits: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team, and M. McClure (Universiteit van Amsterdam) and A. Boogert (University of Hawaii).

“It will take years to fully mine the data that comes out of Webb,” Öberg added.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world’s premier infrared space observatory of the next decade. Webb will help humanity solve the mysteries of our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency).

For more information about Webb, visit or

Related link:

Webb’s Director’s Discretionary Early Release Science projects:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lynn Jenner/Space Telescope Science Institute, by Christine Pulliam.


3 NASA & ESA Satellites Recreate Solar Eruption in 3-D

NASA & ESA - SOHO Mission patch / NASA - STEREO Mission logo.

March 9, 2018

Image above: Using data from three different satellites, scientists have developed new models that recreate, in 3-D, CMEs and shocks, separately. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/GMU/APL/Joy Ng.

The more solar observatories, the merrier: Scientists have developed new models to see how shocks associated with coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, propagate from the Sun — an effort made possible only by combining data from three NASA satellites to produce a much more robust mapping of a CME than any one could do alone.

Much the way ships form bow waves as they move through water, CMEs set off interplanetary shocks when they erupt from the Sun at extreme speeds, propelling a wave of high-energy particles. These particles can spark space weather events around Earth, endangering spacecraft and astronauts.

Understanding a shock’s structure — particularly how it develops and accelerates — is key to predicting how it might disrupt near-Earth space. But without a vast array of sensors scattered through space, these things are impossible to measure directly. Instead, scientists rely upon models that use satellite observations of the CME to simulate the ensuing shock’s behavior.

3 NASA Satellites Recreate Solar Eruption in 3-D

Video above: Using data from three different satellites, scientists have developed new models that recreate, in 3-D, CMEs and shocks, separately. This movie illustrates the recreation of a CME and shock that erupted from the Sun on March 7, 2011. The pink lines show the CME structure and the yellow lines show the structure of the shock - a side effect of the CME that can spark space weather events around Earth. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/GMU/APL/Joy Ng.

The scientists — Ryun-Young Kwon, a solar physicist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, or APL, in Laurel, Maryland, and APL astrophysicist Angelos Vourlidas — pulled observations of two different eruptions from three spacecraft: ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, and NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, satellites. One CME erupted in March 2011 and the second, in February 2014.

NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO. Image Ctedit: NASA

The scientists fit the CME data to their models — one called the “croissant” model for the shape of nascent shocks, and the other the “ellipsoid” model for the shape of expanding shocks — to uncover the 3-D structure and trajectory of each CME and shock.

Each spacecraft’s observations alone weren’t sufficient to model the shocks. But with three sets of eyes on the eruption, each of them spaced nearly evenly around the Sun, the scientists could use their models to recreate a 3-D view. Their work confirmed long-held theoretical predictions of a strong shock near the CME nose and a weaker shock at the sides.

ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO. Image Credits: ESA/NASA

In time, shocks travel away from the Sun, and thanks to the 3-D information, the scientists could reconstruct their journey through space. The modeling helps scientists deduce important pieces of information for space weather forecasting — in this case, for the first time, the density of the plasma around the shock, in addition to the speed and strength of the energized particles. All of these factors are key to assessing the danger CMEs present to astronauts and spacecraft. Their results are summarized in a paper published in the Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate published on Feb. 13, 2018.


Space Weather Model Helps Simulate Magnetic Structure of Solar Storms:

NASA's STEREO Spacecraft Reveals the Anatomy of Solar Storm:

Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate:

NASA’s twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO:

ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO:

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Lina Tran.

Best regards,

Arianespace orbits four more O3b satellites for SES

ARIANESPACE - Flight VS18 Mission poster.

March 9, 2018

Soyuz lift off carrying O3b satellites

Arianespace has successfully launched four additional O3b satellites for the constellation operated by SES Networks.

The launch took place on Friday, March 9 at 2:10 pm (local time) from the Guiana Space Center (CSG), Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana (South America).

Arianespace VS18 - Launch Sequence - March 9, 2018

This mission was the second of the year for Arianespace, the first in 2018 using a Soyuz rocket and the second launch since January for the global operator SES. With this fourth launch for O3b fleet since 2013, all 16 spacecraft in the current O3b constellation have been orbited by Arianespace.

With this latest mission, Arianespace has demonstrated that its family of launchers is extremely well suited to the deployment of communications, navigation and Earth observation satellite systems.

A new launch for SES Networks’ O3b constellation

Today’s mission was the fourth for the O3b satellite fleet operated by global operator SES, following three previous launches to orbit the constellation’s first 12 satellites performed on June 25, 2013, July 10, 2014 and December 18, 2014. With this latest successful launch of four more O3b satellites, Arianespace supports SES Networks’ continued development of its constellation, which started commercial service in September 2014.

The four Ka-band O3b satellites will join the other O3b satellites already in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) to provide low latency, fibre-like connectivity in the booming mobility, fixed data and government markets.

O3b satellites

By expanding its O3b fleet, SES will be able to offer 38% more capacity worldwide, and extend its potential market from 45 to 50 degrees north and south latitude.

These new satellites will enable SES Networks to offer more capacity, extended coverage, greater efficiency and higher reliability. At the same time, they will provide operator-class services to businesses, government customers, telecommunications companies, mobile network operators and internet service providers.

Arianespace will launch four more O3b satellites into Medium Earth Orbit for this constellation in 2019.

SES, a world-leading satellite operator, is the first to deliver a differentiated and scalable GEO-MEO offering worldwide, with more than 50 satellites in geostationary Earth orbit (GEO) and 12 satellites in Medium Earth Orbit (MEO).

About Arianespace

Arianespace uses space to make life better on Earth by providing launch services for all types of satellites into all orbits. It has orbited more than 560 satellites since 1980, using its family of three launchers, Ariane, Soyuz and Vega, from launch sites in French Guiana (South America) and Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Arianespace is headquartered in Evry, near Paris, and has a technical facility at the Guiana Space Center, Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana, plus local offices in Washington, D.C., Tokyo and Singapore. Arianespace is a subsidiary of ArianeGroup, which holds 74% of its share capital, with the balance held by 17 other shareholders from the European launcher industry.

For more information about Arianespace, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Arianespace/SES.

Best regards,

jeudi 8 mars 2018

Plant and Flame Studies Alongside Plumbing, Life Support Work

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

March 8, 2018

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Aboard the International Space Station, the Expedition 55 crew continued exploring how plants adapt to gravity and began preparing for a suite of combustion experiments. The trio is also continuing the maintenance of the station’s life support systems and its microgravity science operations.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle put his green thumb to work today supporting a pair of botany experiments. He set up gear for an upcoming run of the Plant Gravity Perception experiment that will monitor how plants perceive light and gravity. Tingle also watered and harvested red lettuce for consumption today for the ongoing Veggie-03 study.

After lunch, Tingle opened up the Combustion Integrated Rack and installed new gear to get ready for the Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME). ACME is a set of five independent studies researching gaseous flames in space that may enable more fuel efficient and less polluting technologies.

Image above: Baja California and the northwestern coast of Mexico are pictured with Russian spacecraft solar arrays in the foreground. The International Space Station was orbiting above the Mexican state of Sinaloa at the time this photograph was taken. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight Engineer Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency worked on networking gear in the Kibo lab module before inspecting smoke detectors in the Columbus lab module. Kanai then collected data on new adjustable lights installed inside Kibo before conducting plumbing work in the station’s Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Finally, he and Tingle wrapped up the work day with an Earth photography session of Baja California and China.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov continued his work on Russian life support systems through the day. He ended his work day with a photographic inspection of a pair Russian docking modules.

Related links:

Plant Gravity Perception:


Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME):

Earth photography session:

Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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NASA Outlines New Lunar Science, Human Exploration Missions

NASA logo.

March 8, 2018

NASA is focused on an ambitious plan to advance the nation’s space program by increasing science activities near and on the Moon and ultimately returning humans to the surface.

As part of the President’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, NASA is planning a new Moon-focused exploration campaign that starts with a series of progressive commercial robotic missions.

“The Moon will play an important role in expanding human presence deeper into the solar system,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Coupled with the capabilities enabled by the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, these missions will usher in a new era of exploration of the Moon and its resources, and provide a training ground for human missions to Mars.”

Commercial Landers 

NASA plans to enlist a series of commercial robotic landers and rockets to meet lunar payload delivery and service needs. The agency will release a draft request for proposals this spring to initiate commercial lunar payload service contracts for surface delivery as early as 2019.

This solicitation, which will be open to all domestic commercial providers, complements ongoing NASA efforts to stimulate the emerging space economy. The Lunar CATALYST partnerships have already helped advance commercial capabilities to deliver small payloads to the lunar surface.

Moon. Image Credit: NASA

NASA is also interested in understanding and developing requirements for future human landers. By developing landers with mid-size payload capacity (500 to 1,000 kg – roughly the size of a smart car) first, this will allow evolution toward large-scale human-rated lunar landers (5,000 to 6,000 kg). Additionally, this class of lander can support larger payloads to the Moon addressing science and exploration objectives such as sample return, resource prospecting, demonstrations of in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), and others.

The agency will seek information from industry later this month for larger lander development, and determine how best to proceed with potential partnerships. NASA plans to follow that effort with a solicitation to enable the partnerships between NASA and industry. The first of two mid-size commercial missions to the Moon for NASA could come as early as 2022.

Science and Technology

The campaign – supported by science and technology projects and activities – is designed to enable seamless collaboration across NASA, leveraging agency, commercial and international partnerships toward a common goal. 

“This agency-wide strategy will inspire and enable humankind to take the next bold steps to our lunar neighbor,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “While American innovation will lead the way, partnerships and opportunities with U.S. industry and other nations will be expanded.”

NASA’s intrepid robotic explorers have and continue to provide vital data to support future exploration plans. The agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter continues to study the lunar surface from orbit, providing data needed for future robotic and human landers. Plans are underway now for an enhanced lunar sample analysis campaign to ensure data from existing Apollo samples is widely available to support future exploration. NASA also is providing ShadowCam as a U.S. contribution to the Korea Aerospace Research Institute’s first lunar exploration mission, Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO). ShadowCam will map the reflectance within the permanently shadowed regions to search for evidence of frost or ice deposits.

A new analysis of data from two lunar missions found evidence that the Moon’s water could be widely distributed across the surface rather than confined to a particular region or type of terrain. The findings could help researchers understand the origin of the Moon’s water and its feasibility and accessibility as a resource.

NASA plans to use a number of CubeSats to affordably study the lunar environment. Thirteen CubeSats will launch on Exploration Mission-1, the agency’s first integrated flight of the Space Launch System and Orion. Four of them, LunaH-Map, Lunar IceCube, Lunar Flashlight, and LunIR, will use state-of-the art instrumentation to investigate the abundance, locations, and composition of Moon resources.

Building on knowledge obtained from lunar orbit, NASA will develop new science and technology payloads, to be delivered by commercial lunar landers. The opportunity to deploy instruments directly on the lunar surface will improve our understanding of the Moon and its resources, and enable the testing of new technologies for exploration.

The Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway will serve NASA and its commercial and international partners as a uniquely valuable staging point and communications relay for exploration and science missions in deep space. The agency recently hosted a workshop to discuss how the gateway could facilitate new scientific discoveries in a variety of ways, including support to lunar sample return missions and other lunar surface science activities.

“Together, science and technology communities will continue studies of the Moon, with a focus on identifying the lunar resources important for exploration to our Earth companion and into the solar system and beyond,” said Zurbuchen.

Related links:

2019 budget proposal:


In-situ resource utilization (ISRU):

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO):


Exploration Mission-1:


Lunar IceCube:

Lunar Flashlight:


Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway:

Commercial Space:

Future Human Spaceflight:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Orion Spacecraft:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Cheryl Warner.


Earth is a Beaming Beacon in Kepler’s Eyes

NASA - Kepler Space Telescope patch.

March 8, 2018

Capturing images of our home planet from the perspective of faraway spacecraft has become a tradition at NASA, ever since Voyager, 28 years ago, displayed our “pale blue dot” in the vastness of space.

But the view of Earth from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope is quite something else.

This Kepler image of Earth was recently beamed back home. Captured on Dec. 10, 2017 after the spacecraft adjusted its telescope to a new field of view, Earth’s reflection as it slipped past was so extraordinarily bright that it created a saber-like saturation bleed across the instrument’s sensors, obscuring the neighboring Moon.

At 94 million miles away, Kepler’s interpretation of Earth as a bright flashlight in a dark sea of stars demonstrates the capabilities of its highly sensitive photometer, which is designed to pick up the faint dips in brightness of planets crossing distant stars. Some stars in this image are hundreds of light years away.

The scientific community celebrated Earth’s transit across Kepler’s field of view by using #WaveAtKepler on social media. As Kepler only takes pictures in black and white, some in the science community have taken the data and used color to highlight details in grayscale images.

The mission marks its nine-year anniversary in space on March 7. More than 2,500 planets have been found in the Kepler data so far, as well as many other discoveries about stars, supernovae and other astrophysical phenomena. The mission is in its second extended operating phase and is known to have a limited lifetime. Its scientific success in discovering distant planets has paved the way for Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which is launching on April 16. TESS will monitor more than 200,000 of the brightest and nearest stars outside our solar system for transiting planets.

For more information on Kepler, go to: & Kepler and K2:

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Rick Chen/Ames Research Center/Alison Hawkes.


A peculiar galactic clash

ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

8 March 2018

Crash in progress

Galaxies are not static islands of stars — they are dynamic and ever-changing, constantly on the move through the darkness of the Universe. Sometimes, as seen in this spectacular Hubble image of Arp 256, galaxies can collide in a crash of cosmic proportions.

350 million light-years away in the constellation of Cetus (the Sea Monster), a pair of barred spiral galaxies have just begun a magnificent merger. This image suspends them in a single moment, freezing the chaotic spray of gas, dust and stars kicked up by the gravitational forces pulling the two galaxies together.

Wide-field view of Arp 256 (ground-based image)

Though their nuclei are still separated by a large distance, the shapes of the galaxies in Arp 256 are impressively distorted. The galaxy in the upper part of the image contains very pronounced tidal tails — long, extended ribbons of gas, dust and stars.

The galaxies are ablaze with dazzling regions of star formation: the bright blue fireworks are stellar nurseries, churning out hot infant stars. These vigorous bursts of new life are triggered by the massive gravitational interactions, which stir up interstellar gas and dust out of which stars are born.

Pan on Arp 256

Arp 256 was first catalogued by Halton Arp in 1966, as one of 338 galaxies presented in the aptly-named Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies. The goal of the catalogue was to image examples of the weird and wonderful structures found among nearby galaxies, to provide snapshots of different stages of galactic evolution. These peculiar galaxies are like a natural experiment played out on a cosmic scale and by cataloguing them, astronomers can better understand the physical processes that warp spiral and elliptical galaxies into new shapes.

Many galaxies in this catalogue are dwarf galaxies with indistinct structures, or active galaxies generating powerful jets — but a large number of the galaxies are interacting, such as Messier 51, the Antennae Galaxies, and Arp 256. Such interactions often form streamer-like tidal tails as seen in Arp 256, as well as bridges of gas, dust and stars between the galaxies.

Zoom on Arp 256

Long ago, when our expanding Universe was much smaller, interactions and mergers were more common; in fact, they are thought to drive galactic evolution to this day. The galaxies in the Arp 256 system will continue their gravitational dance over the next millions of years, at first flirtatious, and then intimate, before finally morphing into a single galaxy.

This spectacular image was taken by Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3). It is a new version of an image already released in 2008 that was part a large collection of 59 images of merging galaxies taken for Hubble’s 18th anniversary.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

More information:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.


Images of Hubble:

Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS):

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3):

Images, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA, ESA/Mathias Jäger/Digitized Sky Survey 2; Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin/Videos: ESA/Hubble, NASA/Music: Astral Electronic.


mercredi 7 mars 2018

Station Upkeep and Orbital Science as Ground Crew Trains

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

March 7, 2018

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The three orbiting Expedition 55 crew members focused on maintenance of the International Space Station while studying Earth and biomedical sciences today. Meanwhile, a new set of station crewmates are in Kazakhstan for final training before beginning their mission in two weeks.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov once again worked throughout Wednesday on life support maintenance in the Russian segment of the orbital lab. Flight Engineer Scott Tingle worked in the U.S. side of the station installing new lights and performing six-month maintenance on the COLBERT treadmill.

Image above: NASA astronaut Scott Tingle checks on red lettuce growing inside the Columbus laboratory module’s Veggie facility for the Veg-03 experiment. Image Credit: NASA.

Tingle started his day watering plants and photographing the United States during a coast-to-coast orbital pass today. Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai completed setting up gear to measure nitric oxide that the crew members exhaled into the station’s environment and diffused in an astronaut’s blood system.

Back on Earth, the next three individuals to live and work on the space station are counting down to a March 21 liftoff from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The new Expedition 55-56 crewmates are at their crew quarters at the Cosmonaut Hotel today reviewing their Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft systems and mission procedures. Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev will be flanked by NASA Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel inside the Soyuz when they dock March 23 to the station’s Poisk module.

Related links:

Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

ALMA Reveals Inner Web of Stellar Nursery

ALMA - Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array logo.

7 March 2018

ALMA Reveals Inner Web of Stellar Nursery

New data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and other telescopes have been used to create this stunning image showing a web of filaments in the Orion Nebula. These features appear red-hot and fiery in this dramatic picture, but in reality are so cold that astronomers must use telescopes like ALMA to observe them.

This spectacular and unusual image shows part of the famous Orion Nebula, a star formation region lying about 1350 light-years from Earth. It combines a mosaic of millimetre-wavelength images from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the IRAM 30-metre telescope, shown in red, with a more familiar infrared view from the HAWK-I instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, shown in blue. The group of bright blue-white stars at the upper-left is the Trapezium Cluster — made up of hot young stars that are only a few million years old.

The jewel in Orion’s sword

The wispy, fibre-like structures seen in this large image are long filaments of cold gas, only visible to telescopes working in the millimetre wavelength range. They are invisible at both optical and infrared wavelengths, making ALMA one of the only instruments available for astronomers to study them. This gas gives rise to newborn stars — it gradually collapses under the force of its own gravity until it is sufficiently compressed to form a protostar — the precursor to a star.

The scientists who gathered the data from which this image was created were studying these filaments to learn more about their structure and make-up. They used ALMA to look for signatures of diazenylium gas, which makes up part of these structures. Through doing this study, the team managed to identify a network of 55 filaments.

Zooming in on ALMA's view of the Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula is the nearest region of massive star formation to Earth, and is therefore studied in great detail by astronomers seeking to better understand how stars form and evolve in their first few million years. ESO’s telescopes have observed this interesting region multiple times, and you can learn more about previous discoveries here, here, and here.

This image combines a total of 296 separate individual datasets from the ALMA and IRAM telescopes, making it one of the largest high-resolution mosaics of a star formation region produced so far at millimetre wavelengths [1].

Panning across ALMA's view of the Orion Nebula


[1] Earlier mosaics of Orion at millimetre wavelengths had used single-dish telescopes, such as APEX. The new observations from ALMA and IRAM use interferometry to combine the signals from multiple, widely-separated antennas to create images showing much finer detail.

More information:

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile and by Australia as a strategic partner. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope and its world-leading Very Large Telescope Interferometer as well as two survey telescopes, VISTA working in the infrared and the visible-light VLT Survey Telescope. ESO is also a major partner in two facilities on Chajnantor, APEX and ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.


ESOcast 154 Light: ALMA Reveals Inner Web of Stellar Nursery:

Photos of ALMA:


Science paper:

Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA):

ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT):

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/Richard Hook/NWO-VENI Fellow – Leiden Observatory/Alvaro Hacar González/IAU and Sky & Telescope/ESO/H. Drass/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/A. Hacar/Videos: ESO, N. Risinger (, H. Drass, A. Hacar, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO). Music: Johan B. Monell.

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NASA Juno finds Jupiter's Jet-Streams Are Unearthly

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

March 7, 2018

Data collected by NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter indicate that the atmospheric winds of the gas-giant planet run deep into its atmosphere and last longer than similar atmospheric processes found here on Earth. The findings will improve understanding of Jupiter's interior structure, core mass and, eventually, its origin.

Cyclones Encircle Jupiter's North Pole

Image above: This composite image, derived from data collected by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter, shows the central cyclone at the planet's north pole and the eight cyclones that encircle it. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM.

Other Juno science results released today include that the massive cyclones that surround Jupiter's north and south poles are enduring atmospheric features and unlike anything else encountered in our solar system. The findings are part of a four-article collection on Juno science results being published in the March 8 edition of the journal Nature.

"These astonishing science results are yet another example of Jupiter's curve balls, and a testimony to the value of exploring the unknown from a new perspective with next-generation instruments.Juno's unique orbit and evolutionary high-precision radio science and infrared technologies enabled these paradigm-shifting discoveries," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio. "Juno is only about one third the way through its primary mission, and already we are seeing the beginnings of a new Jupiter."

NASA's Juno Spacecraft Reveals the Depth of Jupiter's Colored Bands

Video above: For hundreds of years, this gaseous giant planet appeared shrouded in colorful bands of clouds extending from dusk to dawn, referred to as zones and belts. The bands were thought to be an expression of Jovian weather, related to winds blowing eastward and westward at different speeds. This animation illustrates a recent discovery by Juno that demonstrates these east-west flows, also known as jet-streams penetrate deep into the planet's atmosphere, to a depth of about 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers). Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The depth to which the roots of Jupiter's famous zones and belts extend has been a mystery for decades. Gravity measurements collected by Juno during its close flybys of the planet have now provided an answer.

"Juno's measurement of Jupiter's gravity field indicates a north-south asymmetry, similar to the asymmetry observed in its zones and belts," said Luciano Iess, Juno co-investigator from Sapienza University of Rome, and lead author on a Nature paper on Jupiter's gravity field.

On a gas planet, such an asymmetry can only come from flows deep within the planet; and on Jupiter, the visible eastward and westward jet streams are likewise asymmetric north and south. The deeper the jets, the more mass they contain, leading to a stronger signal expressed in the gravity field. Thus, the magnitude of the asymmetry in gravity determines how deep the jet streams extend.

A New View on Jupiter's North Pole

Image above: This computer-generated image is based on an infrared image of Jupiter's north polar region that was acquired on February 2, 2017, by the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument aboard Juno during the spacecraft's fourth pass over Jupiter. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM.

"Galileo viewed the stripes on Jupiter more than 400 years ago," said Yohai Kaspi, Juno co-investigator from the Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, Israel,and lead author of a Nature paper on Jupiter's deep weather layer. "Until now, we only had a superficial understanding of them and have been able to relate these stripes to cloud features along Jupiter's jets. Now, following the Juno gravity measurements, we know how deep the jets extend and what their structure is beneath the visible clouds. It's like going from a 2-D picture to a 3-D version in high definition."

The result was a surprise for the Juno science team because it indicated that the weather layer of Jupiter was more massive, extending much deeper than previously expected. The Jovian weather layer, from its very top to a depth of 1,900 miles (3,000 kilometers), contains about one percent of Jupiter's mass (about 3 Earth masses).

"By contrast, Earth's atmosphere is less than one millionth of the total mass of Earth," said Kaspi "The fact that Jupiter has such a massive region rotating in separate east-west bands is definitely a surprise."

The finding is important for understanding the nature and possible mechanisms driving these strong jet streams. In addition, the gravity signature of the jets is entangled with the gravity signal of Jupiter's core.

Jupiter's Southern Exposure in Infrared

Image above: This computer-generated image shows the structure of the cyclonic pattern observed over Jupiter's south pole. Like in the North, Jupiter's south pole also contains a central cyclone, but it is surrounded by five cyclones with diameters ranging from 3,500 to 4,300 miles (5,600 to 7,000 kilometers) in diameter. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/ASI/INAF/JIRAM.

Another Juno result released today suggests that beneath the weather layer, the planet rotates nearly as a rigid body."This is really an amazing result, and future measurements by Juno will help us understand how the transition works between the weather layer and the rigid body below," said Tristan Guillot, a Juno co-investigator from the Université Côte d'Azur, Nice, France, and lead author of the paper on Jupiter's deep interior. "Juno's discovery has implications for other worlds in our solar system and beyond. Our results imply that the outer differentially-rotating region should be at least three times deeper in Saturn and shallower in massive giant planets and brown dwarf stars."

A truly striking result released in the Nature papers is the beautiful new imagery of Jupiter's poles captured by Juno's Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) instrument. Imaging in the infrared part of the spectrum, JIRAM captures images of light emerging from deep inside Jupiter equally well, night or day. JIRAM probes the weather layer down to 30 to 45 miles (50 to 70 kilometers) below Jupiter's cloud tops.

"Prior to Juno we did not know what the weather was like near Jupiter's poles. Now, we have been able to observe the polar weather up-close every two months," said Alberto Adriani, Juno co-investigator from the Institute for Space Astrophysics and Planetology, Rome, and lead author of the paper. "Each one of the northern cyclones is almost as wide as the distance between Naples, Italy and New York City -- and the southern ones are even larger than that. They have very violent winds, reaching, in some cases, speeds as great as 220 mph (350 kph). Finally, and perhaps most remarkably, they are very close together and enduring. There is nothing else like it that we know of in the solar system."

Jupiter's poles are a stark contrast to the more familiar orange and white belts and zones encircling the planet at lower latitudes. Its north pole is dominated by a central cyclone surrounded by eight circumpolar cyclones with diameters ranging from 2,500 to 2,900 miles (4,000 to 4,600 kilometers) across. Jupiter's south pole also contains a central cyclone, but it is surrounded by five cyclones with diameters ranging from 3,500 to 4,300 miles (5,600 to 7,000 kilometers) in diameter. Almost all the polar cyclones, at both poles, are so densely packed that their spiral arms come in contact with adjacent cyclones. However, as tightly spaced as the cyclones are, they have remained distinct, with individual morphologies over the seven months of observations detailed in the paper.

Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Animation Credit: NASA

"The question is, why do they not merge?" said Adriani. "We know with Cassini data that Saturn has a single cyclonic vortex at each pole. We are beginning to realize that not all gas giants are created equal."

Abstracts of the March 8 Juno papers can be found online:

The measurement of Jupiter's asymmetric gravity field:

Jupiter's atmospheric jet-streams extending thousands of kilometers deep:

A suppression of differential rotation in Jupiter's deep interior:

Clusters of Cyclones Encircling Jupiter's Poles:

To date, Juno has completed 10 science passes over Jupiter and logged almost 122 million miles (200 million kilometers), since entering Jupiter's orbit on July 4, 2016. Juno's 11th science pass will be on April 1.

Juno launched on Aug. 5, 2011, from Cape Canaveral, Florida. During its mission of exploration, Juno soars low over the planet's cloud tops -- as close as about 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers). During these flybys, Juno is probing beneath the obscuring cloud cover of Jupiter and studying its auroras to learn more about the planet's origins, structure, weather layer and magnetosphere.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The Italian Space Agency (ASI), contributed two instruments, a Ka-band frequency translator (KaT) and the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM). Lockheed Martin Space, Denver, built the spacecraft.

The public can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at:

More information on Jupiter can be found at:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/Laurie Cantillo/JPL/DC Agle.


Material Samples to be Tested on the International Space Station

ISS - International Space Station logo.

March 7, 2018

NASA has selected five technologies for its Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE)-11 mission to test them aboard the International Space Station (ISS). MISSE missions enable long-term exposure of materials—such as composites and polymeric specimens—to the unhospitable space environment.

The samples remain in space for at least one year, allowing researchers to make meaningful assessments about the long-term impact of factors such as temperature extremes and radiation on the performance of their innovations.

The MISSE program has seen many changes in the six years since its last mission, including a newly designed flight facility platform with more space to accommodate material samples not only from NASA researchers but also from commercial organizations. The new hardware is being built and integrated by Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance of Houston, Texas, which retains ownership rights to the hardware.

Image above: An artist's rendition of the newly designed flight facility platform built and integrated by Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance in Houston, Texas. The platform will have more space to accommodate material samples. Image Credits: Courtesy of Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance.

The new flight facility will be used for the first time on the MISSE-9 mission, tentatively slated to head to the ISS in spring 2018 followed by MISSE-10 in fall of 2018.

The MISSE program has been a successful part of ISS research since 2001, when its original flight hardware became the first payload to be installed on the outside of the space station. In 2014, MISSE was recognized with an ISS Top Discovery in Microgravity Award.

Researchers like NASA engineer Sheila Thibeault of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia rely on MISSE missions to test and qualify the resistance of materials to low-Earth orbit.

“The space environment is very harsh, and materials—especially polymeric materials—can erode away,” said Thibeault, one of the original pioneers of the MISSE program. “There are a lot of different environmental complications happening at the same time—atomic oxygen, charged particle radiation, ultraviolet radiation, temperature extremes, vacuum conditions, micrometeoroids and orbital debris… the list goes on.”

Thibeault noted that although researchers can test their materials’ resistance to these conditions on the ground, there are limits.

“We can test for one condition and then another and so forth, but we can’t test for these things all at the same time in the way they exist in space,” said Thibeault. “That’s why we really need to test these material specimens in the actual space environment. And missions like MISSE are important because they bring our samples back to us so we can get as much data as possible.” 

The MISSE program’s legacy of long-duration testing of materials has paid off with a wealth of data that has enabled the manufacturing of long-life, reliable components for spacecraft as well as uses on Earth.

Selections for MISSE-11

The following NASA technologies were selected for the MISSE-11 mission, targeting a launch in spring 2019:

-- 3D-MAT On-Orbit Exposure, Jay Feldman (NASA's Ames Research Center in California) – Ames’s Three-Dimensional Multifunctional Ablative Thermal Protection System, or 3D-MAT, was developed to meet the strict structural and thermal protection requirements of the compression pad portion of the Orion spacecraft's heat shield. The technology has undergone a battery of structural, thermal, and aerothermal tests, qualifying it for Orion. The MISSE-11 mission will enable further evaluation of the effects of long-term, on-orbit exposure for this new aerospace composite, further validating its robustness for Orion and other applications.

-- Electrodynamic Dust Shield (EDS) Experiment, Carlos Calle (NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida) – Kennedy’s EDS is an active dust mitigation technology that uses dynamic electric fields to remove dust from surfaces. NASA hopes to use the technology on missions encountering dusty planetary environments. Extensively tested in the lab and reduced-gravity flights, the EDS will benefit from long-term exposure to the space environment during MISSE-11. The experiment will provide data on the performance of the technology’s electrodes, coatings, and electronics. In particular, data on EDS's exposure to full solar ultraviolet radiation during the daily passage of ISS through the precipitation of auroral electrons will be applicable to its use in the Martian environment.

-- Space Qualification Studies of Quad Photodiode, Focal Plane Array, and Solar Paint, Narasimha Prasad (NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia) – New devices from Langley for imaging, sensing, and power generation will be assessed for performance in the space environment. Their validation in a long-duration ISS mission will have implications for possible use on missions and applications involving gravitation astrophysics, thermal/infrared imaging, and power generation and environmental sensing.

-- Risk Reduction for Mars Ice Home Materials, Sheila Thibeault (NASA’s Langley Research Center) – Langley researchers have developed polymeric materials for the Mars Ice Home Project, a concept for sustainable habitation on the Red Planet in support of NASA’s journey to Mars. Exposure of the candidate materials to the harsh space environment during MISSE-11 and analysis of post-flight results on strength, flexibility, mass erosion yield, and transparency to light in the visible range will help researchers select the materials with the lowest risk and best expected outcome for the project.

-- Materials Experiment for Long-Duration Exploration (MELDE), Miria Finckenor (NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama) – Researchers at Marshall are testing a variety of materials, including ionic liquid epoxies and composites, solar sail materials, passive thermal control coatings, radiation shielding, window materials with atomic oxygen–resistant coatings, and radome/antenna materials. While not previously flown, these materials have been proposed for use on a wide variety of missions—from Orion to CubeSats and many other spacecraft. Testing on the MISSE flight facility will help determine the atomic oxygen erosion yield and optical property changes of the material samples due to the low-Earth orbit environment. This will advance the research from no available data to a technology readiness level (TRL) of 7 and provide investigators with necessary data for design, development, thermal modeling, and survivability.

Selections for MISSE-12 are expected in the coming weeks. The next MISSE call, for MISSE-13, is expected to open in summer 2018. Stay tuned to the Flight Opportunities website and newsletter for details.

Image above: Astronaut working with older version of MISSE flight facility during a spacewalk from the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

The MISSE flight facility hardware and missions are funded by the International Space Station Program Office (ISSPO) and managed by Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance. NASA materials investigations are selected by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) through the Flight Opportunities program. Managed at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, Flight Opportunities selects promising technologies from industry, academia, and government and provides opportunities for testing and technology demonstration.

STMD is responsible for developing the cross-cutting, pioneering new technologies and capabilities needed by the agency to achieve its current and future missions.  Data from MISSE missions are available online in

For more information about NASA’s Flight Opportunities program as well as future MISSE missions, calls and opportunities, visit:

Related links:

Alpha Space Test & Research Alliance:

Technology readiness level (TRL) of 7:

Flight Opportunities newsletter:

Science Instruments:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Monroe Conner/Armstrong Flight Research Center/Leslie Williams.


mardi 6 mars 2018

Busy Day Aboard Station Ahead of New Crew Launch

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

March 6, 2018

The orbiting Expedition 55 crew members participated in a variety of biology research and life support maintenance today. Their counterparts on the ground took part in traditional ceremonies today ahead of their liftoff to the International Space Station in two weeks.

Image above: Flying over South Atlantic Ocean seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'564 Km/h, altitude: 423,11 Km, image captured by Roland Berga (on Earth in Switzerland) from International Space Station (ISS) using ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam's from ISS on March 5, 2018 at 22:40 UTC.

NASA astronaut Scott Tingle started his day photographing and watering plants being grown for the Veggie-3 botany study. He later charged a pair of U.S. spacesuit batteries before inspecting emergency equipment including portable fire extinguishers and breathing apparatus.

Norishige Kanai, from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, set up hardware to measure the levels and analyze the exhaled air in the station’s environment. Afterward, he positioned an infrared sensor arm to measure Dwarf Wheat leaf temperatures growing inside the Kibo laboratory’s Plant Habitat.

Image above: A waxing gibbous moon was pictured above the Earth’s limb as the International Space Station orbited over the southern Indian Ocean just southwest of the African continent. Image Credit: NASA.

Commander Anton Shkaplerov spent Tuesday morning working on Russian environmental and life support systems. The veteran cosmonaut also activated video gear and checked the tension of an exercise treadmill shock absorber.

In the midst of all the orbital maintenance work, Shkaplerov still had time for a pair of science experiments. The commander explored the internal and external radiation the space station encounters along its flight path. He also researched how international crews interact with each other during different phases of a long term space mission.

Back in Kazakhstan, three new Expedition 55-56 crew members are counting down to their March 21 liftoff and two-day trip to the space station. Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev and NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel raised the flags of their respective countries today at their Cosmonaut Hotel crew quarters in Baikonur near their launch site. The trio is in final preparations training for their launch aboard the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.

Related links:

Plant Habitat:

Internal and external radiation:

Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Hubble Finds Huge System of Dusty Material Enveloping the Young Star HR 4796A

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

March 6, 2018

Astronomers have used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to uncover a vast, complex dust structure, about 150 billion miles across, enveloping the young star HR 4796A. A bright, narrow, inner ring of dust is already known to encircle the star and may have been corralled by the gravitational pull of an unseen giant planet. This newly discovered huge structure around the system may have implications for what this yet-unseen planetary system looks like around the 8-million-year-old star, which is in its formative years of planet construction.

The debris field of very fine dust was likely created from collisions among developing infant planets near the star, evidenced by a bright ring of dusty debris seen 7 billion miles from the star. The pressure of starlight from the star, which is 23 times more luminous than the Sun, then expelled the dust far into space.

But the dynamics don't stop there. The puffy outer dust structure is like a donut-shaped inner tube that got hit by a truck. It is much more extended in one direction than in the other and so looks squashed on one side even after accounting for its inclined projection on the sky. This may be due to the motion of the host star plowing through the interstellar medium, like the bow wave from a boat crossing a lake. Or it may be influenced by a tidal tug from the star's red dwarf binary companion (HR 4796B), located at least 54 billion miles from the primary star.

Image above: Hubble uncovers a vast, complex dust structure, about 150 billion miles across, enveloping the young star HR 4796A. A bright, narrow inner ring of dust is already known to encircle the star, based on much earlier Hubble images. This newly discovered huge dust structure around the system may have implications for what a yet-unseen planetary system looks like around the 8-million-year-old star. Image Credits: NASA/ESA/G. Schneider (Univ. of Arizona).

"The dust distribution is a telltale sign of how dynamically interactive the inner system containing the ring is," said Glenn Schneider of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who used Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) to probe and map the small dust particles in the outer reaches of the HR 4796A system, a survey that only Hubble's sensitivity can accomplish.

"We cannot treat exoplanetary debris systems as simply being in isolation. Environmental effects, such as interactions with the interstellar medium and forces due to stellar companions, may have long-term implications for the evolution of such systems. The gross asymmetries of the outer dust field are telling us there are a lot of forces in play (beyond just host-star radiation pressure) that are moving the material around. We've seen effects like this in a few other systems, but here's a case where we see a bunch of things going on at once," Schneider further explained.

Though long hypothesized, the first evidence for a debris disk around any star was uncovered in 1983 with NASA's Infrared Astronomical Satellite. Later photographs revealed an edge-on debris disk around the southern star Beta Pictoris. In the late 1990s, Hubble's second-generation instruments, which had the capability of blocking out the glare of a central star, allowed many more disks to be photographed. Now, such debris rings are thought to be common around stars. About 40 such systems have been imaged to date, largely by Hubble.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

Schneider's paper appears in the February 2018 Astronomical Journal:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and ESA (European Space Agency). NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

Read more:

NASA's Hubble Portal:

The science paper by G. Schneider et al:

HubbleSite link:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/ Karl Hille/University of Arizona/Glenn Schneider/Space Telescope Science Institute/Ray Villard.

Best regards,

The Case of the Martian Boulder Piles

NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

March 6, 2018

This image was originally meant to track the movement of sand dunes near the North Pole of Mars, but what's on the ground in between the dunes is just as interesting!

The ground has parallel dark and light stripes from upper left to lower right in this area. In the dark stripes, we see piles of boulders at regular intervals.

What organized these boulders into neatly-spaced piles? In the Arctic back on Earth, rocks can be organized by a process called "frost heave." With frost heave, repeatedly freezing and thawing of the ground can bring rocks to the surface and organize them into piles, stripes, or even circles. On Earth, one of these temperature cycles takes a year, but on Mars it might be connected to changes in the planet's orbit around the Sun that take much longer.

The map is projected here at a scale of 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) per pixel. [The original image scale is 32 centimeters (12.6 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning); objects on the order of 96 centimeters (37.8 inches) across are resolved.] North is up.

This is a stereo pair with

The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO):

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.