vendredi 30 décembre 2011

Happy New Year!

 © Aerospace logo.

Dec. 30, 2011

A little personal message to wish a happy and successful year 2012 to all my Readers, Followers and Friends! Aerospace, Software (add-ons for Orbiter Space Flight Simulator): Aerospace, Daily:

Happy New Year 2012! Best regards,

jeudi 29 décembre 2011

Fastest Rotating Star Found in Neighboring Galaxy

Astronomical Observatories discoveries.

Dec. 29, 2011

This artist's concept pictures the fastest rotating star found to date. The massive, bright young star, called VFTS 102, rotates at a million miles per hour, or 100 times faster than our sun does.

Centrifugal forces from this dizzying spin rate have flattened the star into an oblate shape and spun off a disk of hot plasma, seen edge on in this view from a hypothetical planet. The star may have "spun up" by accreting material from a binary companion star.

The rapidly evolving companion later exploded as a supernova. The whirling star lies 160,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

Image above: VFTS 102, the fastest-rotating massive star. This view shows part of the stellar nursery called the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small neighbor of the Milky Way.

The brilliant star VFTS 102 is in the center. This view includes both visible-light and infrared images from the Wide Field Imager at the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at La Silla, Chile and the 4.1-meter infrared VISTA telescope at Paranal, Chile. VFTS 102 is the most rapidly rotating massive star ever found.

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI) / ESO / M.-R. Cioni / VISTA Magellanic Cloud survey. Acknowledgment: Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit.

Best regards,

mercredi 28 décembre 2011

Powerful Pixels: Mapping the "Apollo Zone"

NASA - Apollo All Missions commemorative patch / Google Earth logo.

Dec. 29, 2011

Grayscale pixels – up close, they look like black, white or grey squares. But when you zoom out to see the bigger picture, they can create a digital photograph, like this one of our moon:

Mosaic of the near side of the moon as taken by the Clementine star trackers. The images were taken on March 15, 1994. Credit: NASA

For NASA researchers, pixels are much more – they are precious data that help us understand where we came from, where we've been, and where we're going.

At NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., computer scientists have made a giant leap forward to pull as much information from imperfect static images as possible. With their advancement in image processing algorithms, the legacy data from the Apollo Metric Camera onboard Apollo 15, 16 and 17 can be transformed into an informative and immersive 3D mosaic map of a large and scientifically interesting part of the moon.

The "Apollo Zone" Digital Image Mosaic (DIM) and Digital Terrain Model (DTM) maps cover about 18 percent of the lunar surface at a resolution of 98 feet (30 meters) per pixel. The maps are the result of three years of work by the Intelligent Robotics Group (IRG) at NASA Ames, and are available to view through the NASA Lunar Mapping and Modeling Portal (LMMP) and Google Moon feature in Google Earth.

"The main challenge of the Apollo Zone project was that we had very old data – scans, not captured in digital format," said Ara Nefian, a senior scientist with the IRG and Carnegie Mellon University-Silicon Valley. "They were taken with the technology we had over 40 years ago with imprecise camera positions, orientations and exposure time by today’s standards."

The researchers overcame the challenge by developing new computer vision algorithms to automatically generate the 2D and 3D maps. Algorithms are sets of computer code that create a procedure for how to handle certain set processes. For example, part of the 2D imaging algorithms align many images taken from various positions with various exposure times into one seamless image mosaic. In the mosaic, areas in shadows, which show up as patches of dark or black pixels are automatically replaced by lighter gray pixels. These show more well-lit detail from other images of the same area to create a more detailed map.

Left: A normal one-camera image of the lunar surface. Right: A composite Apollo Zone image showing the best details from multiple photographs. Credit: NASA / Google Earth.

"The key innovation that we made was to create a fully automatic image mosaicking and terrain modeling software system for orbital imagery," said Terry Fong, director of IRG. "We have since released this software in several open-source libraries including Ames Stereo Pipeline, Neo-Geography Toolkit and NASA Vision Workbench."

Lunar imagery of varying coverage and resolution has been released for general use for some time. In 2009, the IRG helped Google develop "Moon in Google Earth", an interactive, 3D atlas of the moon. With "Moon in Google Earth", users can explore a virtual moonscape, including imagery captured by the Apollo, Clementine and Lunar Orbiter missions.

The Apollo Zone project uses imagery recently scanned at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, by a team from Arizona State University. The source images themselves are large – 20,000 pixels by 20,000 pixels, and the IRG aligned and processed more than 4,000 of them. To process the maps, they used Ames' Pleiades supercomputer.

The initial goal of the project was to build large-scale image mosaics and terrain maps to support future lunar exploration. However, the project's progress will have long-lasting technological impacts on many targets of future exploration.

The color on this map represents the terrain elevation in the Apollo Zone mapped area. Credit: NASA / Google Earth.

"The algorithms are very complex, so they don't yet necessarily apply to things like real time robotics, but they are extremely precise and accurate," said Nefian. "It's a robust technological solution to deal with insufficient data, and qualities like this make it superb for future exploration, such as a reconnaissance or mapping mission to a Near Earth Object."

Near Earth Objects, or "NEOs" are comets and asteroids that have been attracted by the gravity of nearby planets into orbits in Earth's neighborhood. NEOs are often small and irregular, which makes their paths hard to predict. With these algorithms, even imperfect imagery of a NEO could be transformed into detailed 3D maps to help researchers better understand the shape of it, and how it might travel while in our neighborhood.

In the future, the team plans to expand the use of their algorithms to include imagery taken at angles, rather than just straight down at the surface. A technique called photoclinometry – or "shape from shading" – allows 3D terrain to be reconstructed from a single 2D image by comparing how surfaces sloping toward the sun appear brighter than areas that slope away from it. Also, the team will study imagery not just as pictures, but as physical models that give information about all the factors affect how the final image is depicted.

"As NASA continues to build technologies that will enable future robotic and human exploration, our researchers are looking for new and clever ways to get more out of the data we capture," said Victoria Friedensen, Joint Robotic Precursor Activities manager of the Human Exploration Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. "This technology is going to have great benefit for us as we take the next steps."

This work was funded by NASA's LMMP, and supported by collaborators at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. and the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

To view the maps, visit the LMMP site or view in Google Earth:

    Download Google Earth at:
    Click here to download a KML file for viewing in Google Earth:
    Once you open that file in Google Earth you will have options to view these "Apollo Zone" maps overlaid on Google Earth's "Moon mode".

Related links:


Ames Stereo Pipeline:

Neo-Geography Toolkit:

NASA Vision Workbench:

Open-source libraries:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA / Ames Research Center, Jessica Culler.


NASA Twin Spacecraft On Final Approach For Moon Orbit

NASA - GRAIL Mission patch.

Dec. 28, 2011

NASA's twin spacecraft to study the moon from crust to core are nearing their New Year's Eve and New Year's Day main-engine burns to place the duo in lunar orbit.

Named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), the spacecraft are scheduled to be placed in orbit beginning at 1:21 p.m. PST (4:21 p.m. EST) for GRAIL-A on Dec. 31, and 2:05 p.m. PST (5:05 p.m. EST) on Jan. 1 for GRAIL-B.

"Our team may not get to partake in a traditional New Year's celebration, but I expect seeing our two spacecraft safely in lunar orbit should give us all the excitement and feeling of euphoria anyone in this line of work would ever need," said David Lehman, project manager for GRAIL at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

Artist concept of GRAIL mission. GRAIL will fly twin spacecraft in tandem orbits around the moon to measure its gravity field in unprecedented detail. Image credit: NASA / JPL.

The distance from Earth to the moon is approximately 250,000 miles (402,336 kilometers). NASA's Apollo crews took about three days to travel to the moon. Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sept. 10, 2011, the GRAIL spacecraft are taking about 30 times that long and covering more than 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) to get there.

This low-energy, long-duration trajectory has given mission planners and controllers more time to assess the spacecraft's health. The path also allowed a vital component of the spacecraft's single science instrument, the Ultra Stable Oscillator, to be continuously powered for several months. This will allow it to reach a stable operating temperature long before it begins making science measurements in lunar orbit.

"This mission will rewrite the textbooks on the evolution of the moon," said Maria Zuber, GRAIL principal investigator from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge. "Our two spacecraft are operating so well during their journey that we have performed a full test of our science instrument and confirmed the performance required to meet our science objectives."

As of Dec. 28, GRAIL-A is 65,860 miles (106,000 kilometers) from the moon and closing at a speed of 745 mph (1,200 kph). GRAIL-B is 79,540 miles (128,000 kilometers) from the moon and closing at a speed of 763 mph (1,228 kph).

During their final approaches to the moon, both orbiters move toward it from the south, flying nearly over the lunar south pole. The lunar orbit insertion burn for GRAIL-A will take approximately 40 minutes and change the spacecraft's velocity by about 427 mph (688 kph). GRAIL-B's insertion burn 25 hours later will last about 39 minutes and is expected to change the probe's velocity by 430 mph (691 kph).

Image above: Using a precision formation-flying technique, the twin GRAIL spacecraft will map the moon's gravity field, as depicted in this artist's rendering. detail. Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

The insertion maneuvers will place each orbiter into a near-polar, elliptical orbit with a period of 11.5 hours. Over the following weeks, the GRAIL team will execute a series of burns with each spacecraft to reduce their orbital period from 11.5 hours down to just under two hours. At the start of the science phase in March 2012, the two GRAILs will be in a near-polar, near-circular orbit with an altitude of about 34 miles (55 kilometers).

When science collection begins, the spacecraft will transmit radio signals precisely defining the distance between them as they orbit the moon. As they fly over areas of greater and lesser gravity, caused both by visible features such as mountains and craters and by masses hidden beneath the lunar surface. they will move slightly toward and away from each other. An instrument aboard each spacecraft will measure the changes in their relative velocity very precisely, and scientists will translate this information into a high-resolution map of the Moon's gravitational field. The data will allow mission scientists to understand what goes on below the surface. This information will increase our knowledge of how Earth and its rocky neighbors in the inner solar system developed into the diverse worlds we see today.

JPL manages the GRAIL mission. MIT is home to the mission's principal investigator, Maria Zuber. The GRAIL mission is part of the Discovery Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

For more information about GRAIL, visit:

Images, Text, Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.


Orange and Blue Hazes

NASA / ESA - Cassini Insider's logo.

Dec. 28, 2011

This view from NASA's Cassini spacecraft looks toward the south polar region of Saturn's largest moon, Titan, and shows a depression within the moon's orange and blue haze layers near the south pole.

The moon's high altitude haze layer appears blue here; whereas, the main atmospheric haze is orange. The difference in color could be due to particle size of the haze. The blue haze likely consists of smaller particles than the orange haze.

The depressed or attenuated layer appears in the transition area between the orange and blue hazes about a third of the way in from the left edge of the narrow-angle image. The moon's south pole is in the upper right of this image. This view suggests Titan's north polar vortex, or hood, is beginning to flip from north to south.

The southern pole of Titan is going into darkness as the sun advances towards the north with each passing day. The upper layer of Titan's hazes is still illuminated by sunlight.

Images taken using red, green and blue spectral filters were combined to create this natural color view. The images were obtained on Sept. 11, 2011 at a distance of approximately 83,000 miles (134,000 kilometers) from Titan. Image scale is 2,581 feet (787 meters) per pixel.

More information about Cassini mission is online at and

Images, Text, Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute.


Spacecraft Globalstar-2 displayed on the target orbit



 Soyuz-2.1a with Globalstar satellites ready for the launch

December 28 at 21.09 Moscow time from Launch Complex 31 area Baikonur starting the automatedcalculations of rocket Soyuz, space industry of Russia conducted a successful launch of space rocket (ILV) "Soyuz-2.1a" with the upper block (RB) "Frigate" and a cluster of six spacecraft (SC) "Globalstar-2."

Soyuz-2.1a launch

After regular office from the third stage rocket head unit in the Republic of Belarus "Frigate" satellites and six went on autonomous flight.

In accordance with cyclogram removal from spacecraft launch cyclogram cleanly separated from the upper stage and handed over control to the customer.

Globalstar-2 satellite

Relay satellite "Globalstar-2" developed by «Thales Alenia Space» commissioned by the corporation "Globalstar» (Globalstar) and are designed to provide high quality services to global personal mobile communication.

In October 2010 and July 2011. from the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch successfully completed similar clusters of 6 spacecraft "Globalstar-2."

Original text in Russian:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Press Service of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos PAO) / Thales-Alenia / Arianespace / Translation:


mardi 27 décembre 2011

Ring of Fire

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Dec. 27, 2011

This composite image shows the central region of the spiral galaxy NGC 4151. X-rays (blue) from the Chandra X-ray Observatory are combined with optical data (yellow) showing positively charged hydrogen (H II) from observations with the 1-meter Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope on La Palma. The red ring shows neutral hydrogen detected by radio observations with the NSF's Very Large Array. This neutral hydrogen is part of a structure near the center of NGC 4151 that has been distorted by gravitational interactions with the rest of the galaxy, and includes material falling towards the center of the galaxy. The yellow blobs around the red ellipse are regions where star formation has recently occurred.

A recent study shows the X-ray emission probably was caused by an outburst powered by the supermassive black hole located in the white region in the center of the galaxy. Evidence for this idea comes from the elongation of the X-rays running from the top left to the bottom right and details of the X-ray spectrum. There are also signs of interactions between a central source and the surrounding gas, particularly the yellow arc of H II emission located above and to the left of the black hole.

NGC 4151 is located about 43 million light years away from the Earth and is one of the nearest galaxies that contains an actively growing black hole. Because of this proximity, it offers one of the best chances of studying the interaction between an active supermassive black hole and the surrounding gas of its host galaxy. Such interaction, or feedback, is recognized to play a key role in the growth of supermassive black holes and their host galaxies. If the X-ray emission in NGC 4151 originates from hot gas heated by the outflow from the central black hole, it would be strong evidence for feedback from active black holes to the surrounding gas on galaxy scales. This would resemble the larger scale feedback, observed on galaxy cluster scales, from active black holes interacting with the surrounding gas, as seen in objects like the Perseus Cluster.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

These results were published in the Aug. 20, 2010 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The authors were Junfeng Wang and Giuseppina Fabbiano from the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA); Guido Risaliti from CfA and INAF-Arcetri Observatory, in Firenze, Italy; Martin Elvis from CfA; Carole Mundell from Liverpool John Moores University in Birkenhead, UK; Gaelle Dumas and Eva Schinnerer from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Heidelberg, Germany; and, Andreas Zezas from CfA and the University of Crete in Greece.

For more information about Chandra X-ray Observatory, visit: and

Images, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA / CXC / CfA / J.Wang et al.; Optical: Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, La Palma / Jacobus Kapteyn Telescope, Radio: NSF / NRAO / VLA.

Best regards,

dimanche 25 décembre 2011

Debris from the Soyuz at the origin of a luminous trail over Europe

Space Junk.

Dec. 25, 2011

Luminous trail over Europe

The remains of a Russian Soyuz rocket are the source of the trail of light observed during Christmas Eve in a part of the European sky, said Sunday the Royal Observatory of Belgium. She was immediately aroused curiosity and questions, the Soyuz launch failed on Friday 23 December (launch of the Meridian military communications satellite).

"The ball that was observed on December 24 around 17:30 over Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany, was the start of the last stage of the Soyuz launcher that comes to transport including the astronaut André Kuipers' to the ISS, International Space Station, said Sunday Observatory of Belgium.

A ball of light, followed by a long trail and not looking like a shooting star, was seen Saturday in the evening in several parts of Germany, in southern Belgium and northern France in particular.
Mystery lifted Sunday.

Soyuz debris over Germany

Videos showing this strange trail moving for about 30 seconds before disappearing were broadcast on the internet and the Center for UFO exploration of Mannheim, in the south-west Germany, was inundated with phone calls. Some experts initially estimated that this could be a meteorite.

The mystery was finally lifted by Sunday Observatory of Belgium for the events related to the failure of a Russian rocket. A Soyuz has indeed taken off Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, to the ISS but suffered a breakdown on board, which prevented the orbit of a satellite communications military and civilian.

Soyuz 2-1b rocket lifts off  on Dec. 23, from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in northern Russia

"A failure occurred on the third stage of the rocket at the 421st second flight" had acknowledged Friday the Russian Ministry of Defense. The result also observed the luminous trail in European airspace Saturday, a fragment of the satellite fell to Earth Friday, crashing into the roof of a house in Siberia, according to Russian authorities.

Ironically, it crashed on the roof of a house in the street of the Cosmonauts, in a village in Siberia.

This is a sphere of 50cm diameter, police said, who has not said if people were in the building. This fragment belonged to the Soyuz third stage during the launch of the Meridian military communications satellite whose orbit failed aboard the Soyuz on Friday.

This is the fifth failure in 33 launches from the least January.

Text, Images, Video, Credit: ATS / AFP / / Translation:

Best regards and Happy Holidays,