vendredi 1 février 2013

Sea Launch - Zenit 3SL with Intelsat 27 Launch Failure

Sea Launch AG logo.

Feb. 01, 2013

Sea Launch AG announced today that approximately 40 seconds after liftoff of the launch of the Intelsat 27 spacecraft, all telemetry was lost indicating a loss of mission. The spacecraft, built by Boeing Satellite Systems was launched on a Zenit-3SL launch vehicle from the equator on the ocean-based Odyssey launch platform, positioned at 154 degrees West longitude.

Zenit-3SL rocket at the launch-pad

A commercial Zenit 3SL rocket operated by Sea Launch fell into the equatorial Pacific Ocean moments after lifting off from a mobile platform Friday, destroying the Ukrainian booster and an Intelsat communications satellite.

Zenit 3SL with Intelsat 27 Launch Failure 06:56 UTC 01.02.13

The Zenit 3SL rocket, loaded with more than 900,000 pounds of flammable propellant, blasted off at 0656 GMT (1:56 a.m. EST) from Sea Launch's Odyssey launch platform stationed in the Pacific Ocean about 1,400 miles south of Hawaii.

But something almost immediately went wrong with the launch, and the three-stage rocket appeared to fly off course before its RD-171 main engine switched off about 25 seconds after liftoff, apparently as a safety measure.

Intelsat 27 spacecraft (destroyed today during the failed launch)

The Intelsat 27 spacecraft aboard the Zenit rocket was insured for about $400 million, according to a company official.

Sea Launch will establish a Failure Review Oversight Board to determine the root cause of the incident and will provide additional information, as it becomes available, on the Sea Launch website at:

Images, Video. Text, Credits: Sea Launch AG / Boeing / Intelsat / Aerospace.


jeudi 31 janvier 2013

NASA / ESA Cassini Watches Storm Choke on Its Own Tail

ESA / NASA - Cassini Mission logo.

Jan. 31, 2013

This set of images from Cassini mission shows the evolution of a massive thunder-and-lightning storm that circled all the way around Saturn and fizzled when it ran into its own tail. The storm was first detected on Dec. 5, 2010. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University.

Call it a Saturnian version of the Ouroboros, the mythical serpent that bites its own tail. In a new paper that provides the most detail yet about the life and death of a monstrous thunder-and-lightning storm on Saturn, scientists from NASA's Cassini mission describe how the massive storm churned around the planet until it encountered its own tail and sputtered out. It is the first time scientists have observed a storm consume itself in this way anywhere in the solar system.

"This Saturn storm behaved like a terrestrial hurricane - but with a twist unique to Saturn," said Andrew Ingersoll, a Cassini imaging team member based at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, who is a co-author on the new paper in the journal Icarus. "Even the giant storms at Jupiter don't consume themselves like this, which goes to show that nature can play many awe-inspiring variations on a theme and surprise us again and again."

A vortex that was part of a giant storm on Saturn slowly dissipates over time in this set of false color images from Cassini spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University.

Earth's hurricanes feed off the energy of warm water and leave a cold-water wake. This storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere also feasted off warm "air" in the gas giant's atmosphere. The storm, first detected on Dec. 5, 2010, and tracked by Cassini's radio and plasma wave subsystem and imaging cameras, erupted around 33 degrees north latitude. Shortly after the bright, turbulent head of the storm emerged and started moving west, it spawned a clockwise-spinning vortex that drifted much more slowly. Within months, the storm wrapped around the planet at that latitude, stretching about 190,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) in circumference, thundering and throwing lightning along the way.

Terrestrial storms have never run into their own wakes - they encounter topographic features like mountains first and expend themselves. But Saturn has no land to stop its hurricanes. The bright, turbulent storm head was able to chomp all the way around the planet. It was only when the head of the storm ran into the vortex in June 2011 that the massive, convective storm faded away. Why the encounter would shut down the storm is still a mystery.

This image from Cassini spacecraft reveals the wind patterns within a large vortex that was spawned by a giant northern storm on Saturn. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University.

By Aug. 28, after 267 days, the Saturn storm stopped thundering for good. While Cassini's infrared detectors continue to track some lingering effects in higher layers of Saturn's atmosphere, the troposphere -- which is the weather-producing layer, lower in the atmosphere - has been quiet at that latitude.

"This thunder-and-lightning storm on Saturn was a beast," said Kunio Sayanagi, the paper's lead author and a Cassini imaging team associate at Hampton University in Virginia. "The storm maintained its intensity for an unusually long time. The storm head itself thrashed for 201 days, and its updraft erupted with an intensity that would have sucked out the entire volume of Earth's atmosphere in 150 days. And it also created the largest vortex ever observed in the troposphere of Saturn, expanding up to 7,500 miles [12,000 kilometers] across."

The vortex grew to be as large as the giant storm known as Oval BA on Jupiter. But Oval BA and Jupiter's more famous storm - the Great Red Spot - are not thunder-and-lightning storms. Jupiter's storms also have a quiet center, unlike the violence at the center of Saturn's storms.

This three-frame animation from Cassini spacecraft shows the swirling clouds in a vortex spawned by a great northern storm on Saturn. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Hampton University.

"Cassini's stay in the Saturn system has enabled us to marvel at the power of this storm," said Scott Edgington, Cassini's deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We had front-row seats to a wonderful adventure movie and got to watch the whole plot from start to finish. These kinds of data help scientists compare weather patterns around our solar system and learn what sustains and extinguishes them."

This storm was the longest running of the massive storms that appear to break out in Saturn's northern hemisphere once every Saturn year (30 Earth years). The longest storm of any size ever detected on Saturn actually unfolded over 334 days in 2009 in an area known as "Storm Alley" in the southern hemisphere, but it was about 100 times smaller in area than the latest northern storm.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The Cassini orbiter and its two onboard cameras were designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The imaging team consists of scientists from the U.S., England, France and Germany. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

For more information, visit: and and

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: ESA / NASA / JPL / Jia-Rui Cook.


mercredi 30 janvier 2013

TDRS-K Heads for Space Aboard Atlas V

ULA - TDRS-K / Atlas V Launch poster / NASA - TDRS-K Satellite Mission patch.

Jan. 30, 2013

Image above: The Atlas V rocket with the TDRS-K spacecraft aboard at the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: NASA.

Liftoff for TDRS-K

NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System will get an upgrade as the agency launched the first of a new generation of communications satellites at 8:48 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral.

Atlas V Rocket and TDRS-K satellite payload description

The TDRS system provides a critical communications link to Earth for the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope and many satellites.

Close-up Views of TDRS-K Launch

The Tracking and Data Relay Satellite project, known as TDRS, provides follow-on and replacement spacecraft necessary to maintain and expand the NASA Space Network. TDRS-K, as the newest satellite is called, launched Jan. 30. TDRS-K is the first of three next-generation satellites designed to ensure vital operational continuity for NASA by expanding the lifespan of the fleet.

 TDRS-K Satellite System

Each of the new satellites has a higher performance solar panel design to provide more spacecraft power. This upgrade will return signal processing for the S-Band multiple access service to the ground -- the same as the first-generation TDRS spacecraft. Ground-based processing allows TDRS to service more customers with different and evolving communication requirements.

For more information about Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-K), visit:

Images, Text, Video, Credits: NASA / ULA / NASA TV.


Herschel Finds Past-Prime Star May Be Making Planets

ESA / NASA - Herschel patch.

Jan. 30, 2013

This artist's illustration shows a planetary disk (left) that weighs the equivalent of 50 Jupiter-mass planets. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

A star thought to have passed the age at which it can form planets may, in fact, be creating new worlds. The disk of material surrounding the surprising star called TW Hydrae may be massive enough to make even more planets than we have in our own solar system.

The findings were made using the European Space Agency's Herschel Space Telescope, a mission in which NASA is a participant.

At roughly 10 million years old and 176 light years away, TW Hydrae is relatively close to Earth by astronomical standards. Its planet-forming disk has been well studied. TW Hydrae is relatively young but, in theory, it is past the age at which giant planets already may have formed.

"We didn't expect to see so much gas around this star," said Edwin Bergin of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Bergin led the new study appearing in the journal Nature. "Typically stars of this age have cleared out their surrounding material, but this star still has enough mass to make the equivalent of 50 Jupiters," Bergin said.

In addition to revealing the peculiar state of the star, the findings also demonstrate a new, more precise method for weighing planet-forming disks. Previous techniques for assessing the mass were indirect and uncertain. The new method can directly probe the gas that typically goes into making planets.

Planets are born out of material swirling around young stars, and the mass of this material is a key factor controlling their formation. Astronomers did not know before the new study whether the disk around TW Hydrae contained enough material to form new planets similar to our own.

"Before, we had to use a proxy to guess the gas quantity in the planet-forming disks," said Paul Goldsmith, the NASA project scientist for Herschel at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "This is another example of Herschel's versatility and sensitivity yielding important new results about star and planet formation."

This artist's concept illustrates the planet-forming disk around TW Hydrae, located about 175 light-years away in the Hydra, or Sea Serpent, constellation. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Using Herschel, scientists were able to take a fresh look at the disk with the space telescope to analyze light coming from TW Hydrae and pick out the spectral signature of a gas called hydrogen deuteride. Simple hydrogen molecules are the main gas component of planets, but they emit light at wavelengths too short to be detected by Herschel. Gas molecules containing deuterium, a heavier version of hydrogen, emit light at longer, far-infrared wavelengths that Herschel is equipped to see. This enabled astronomers to measure the levels of hydrogen deuteride and obtain the weight of the disk with the highest precision yet.

"Knowing the mass of a planet-forming disk is crucial to understanding how and when planets take shape around other stars," said Glenn Wahlgren, Herschel program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

Whether TW Hydrae's large disk will lead to an exotic planetary system with larger and more numerous planets than ours remains to be seen, but the new information helps define the range of possible planet scenarios.

"The new results are another important step in understanding the diversity of planetary systems in our universe," said Bergin. "We are now observing systems with massive Jupiters, super-Earths, and many Neptune-like worlds. By weighing systems at their birth, we gain insight into how our own solar system formed with just one of many possible planetary configurations."

Herschel is a European Space Agency (ESA) cornerstone mission, with science instruments provided by a consortium of European institutes and with important participation by NASA. NASA's Herschel Project Office is based at JPL, which contributed mission-enabling technology for two of Herschel's three science instruments. NASA's Herschel Science Center, part of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, supports the United States astronomical community. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

More information is online at , and .

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / J.D. Harrington / JPL / Whitney Clavin.

Best regards,

Launch of South Korean Rocket with STSAT-2C Satellite

KARI - KSLV-1 logo.

Jan. 30, 2013

South Korea's first rocket carrier took to it's 3rd launch overall today, January 30th 2013 at 07:00 UTC from South Korea. The KSLV-1 or Naro-1 rocket is a Russian liquid fueled first stage, with a South Korean made solid fueled second stage. The first two launches of the KSLV-1 have failed. This launch appears to have been a success with a satellite being injected into orbit.

Launch of South Korean Rocket with STSAT-2C Satellite

Attempts to launch the KSLV-1 in October and November of last year both suffered from scrubs, firstly due to fuel leak between the vehicle’s first stage and the ground support equipment on the pad, before the vehicle’s upper stage put pad to the next attempt due to a steering mechanism issue.

The Science and Technology Satellite-2C (STSAT-2C) satellite was developed by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, 164 km south of Seoul.

STSAT-2C Satellite

The 100-kg satellite is a test spacecraft with a short lifespan of less than one year. It was designed solely to verify the country’s ability to put a satellite into orbit.

At T+7:33 into the flight, the second stage shut down, as STSAT-2C reached the correct trajectory for a stable orbit at an altitude of 300km. 90 seconds later, the STSAT-2C was separated, prior to deploying its solar arrays.

South Korea have made bold claims as to their space flight ambitions, with a goal to develop an indigenous 75 ton thrust engine by 2018 and a 300-ton launch vehicle by 2021.

For more information about Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: KARI / Korean TV / Aerospace.


mardi 29 janvier 2013

Superconductivity leads the way to high luminosity

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

Jan. 29, 2013

Image above: New superconducting links developed to carry currents of up to 20,000 amperes are being tested at CERN (Image: CERN).

As the LHC nears the end of its first long run – from March 2010 to March 2013 – work towards the proposed first major upgrade is gathering speed. Around 2020, the LHC could extend its potential for discovery through a fivefold increase in luminosity beyond the design value, in a new configuration called the High Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC).

The HL-LHC will require a number of new high-field superconducting magnets and compact, ultra-precise superconducting radiofrequency cavities to manipulate the beams near to where they collide, as well as new 300-metre long high-power superconducting links. Superconductivity, which allows electric current to flow without losing energy, is the core technology for the LHC. The collider employs some 1700 large superconducting magnets and nearly 8000 superconducting corrector magnets, all of which are cooled by more than 100 tonnes of superfluid helium.

The past year has seen some major developments in superconducting technologies for the HL-LHC. The plans include magnets based on niobium-tin superconductor, which can reach higher magnetic fields than the existing structures based on niobium-titanium. Such magnets have already been successfully tested in the US. Prototypes for different designs of special radiofrequency cavities to rotate bunches of particles before they collide are being tested in the UK and US as well as at CERN. To relocate equipment away from the LHC tunnel, new superconducting links developed to carry currents of up to 20,000 amperes are being tested at CERN.

Towards the end of 2012, two meetings provided the opportunity for people involved at these accelerator frontiers to review progress and plan future activities, not only within their institutes around the world, but also with industrial partners. In November, the 2nd Joint HiLumi LHC-LARP Annual Meeting brought together experts from the HiLumi LHC Design Study, the US LHC Accelerator Research Program, Japan and Russia. The following month, a workshop on “Superconducting technologies for next-generation accelerators” took place at CERN; the aim, to explore the technical challenges emerging from the design of new accelerators and to match them with state-of-the-art industrial solutions.

The HL-LHC project, which could be approved by CERN Council in June in the context of the updated European Strategy for Particle Physics, would yield up to ten times as many collisions per year as occurred in 2012.

A longer version of this article first appeared on the CERN Courier website:

CERN - LHC for learn about the laws of Nature


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 20 Member States.

Related links:

High Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC):

HiLumi LHC-LARP Annual Meeting:

HiLumi LHC Design Study:

European Strategy for Particle Physics:

Images, Text, Credits: CERN /  Christine Sutton.

Best regards,

Curiosity Maneuver Prepares for Drilling

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

Jan. 29, 2013

Image above: The percussion drill in the turret of tools at the end of the robotic arm of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has been positioned in contact with the rock surface in this image from the rover's front Hazard-Avoidance Camera (Hazcam). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has placed its drill onto a series of four locations on a Martian rock and pressed down on it with the rover's arm, in preparation for using the drill in coming days.

The rover carried out this "pre-load" testing on Mars yesterday (Jan. 27). The tests enable engineers to check whether the amount of force applied to the hardware matches predictions for what would result from the commanded motions.

The next step is an overnight pre-load test, to gain assurance that the large temperature change from day to night at the rover's location does not add excessively to stress on the arm while it is pressing on the drill. At Curiosity's work site in Gale Crater, air temperature plunges from about 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero degrees Celsius) in the afternoon to minus 85 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 65 degrees Celsius) overnight. Over this temperature swing, this large rover's arm, chassis and mobility system grow and shrink by about a tenth of an inch (about 2.4 millimeters), a little more than the thickness of a U.S. quarter-dollar coin.

The rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., sent the rover commands yesterday to begin the overnight pre-load test today (Monday).

"We don't plan on leaving the drill in a rock overnight once we start drilling, but in case that happens, it is important to know what to expect in terms of stress on the hardware," said JPL's Daniel Limonadi, the lead systems engineer for Curiosity's surface sampling and science system. "This test is done at lower pre-load values than we plan to use during drilling, to let us learn about the temperature effects without putting the hardware at risk."

Remaining preparatory steps will take at least the rest of this week. Some of these steps are hardware checks. Others will evaluate characteristics of the rock material at the selected drilling site on a patch of flat, veined rock called "John Klein."

Limonadi said, "We are proceeding with caution in the approach to Curiosity's first drilling. This is challenging. It will be the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars."

An activity called the "drill-on-rock checkout" will use the hammering action of Curiosity's drill briefly, without rotation of the drill bit, for assurance that the back-and-forth percussion mechanism and associated control system are properly tuned for hitting a rock.

Mars Curiosity in action. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A subsequent activity called "mini-drill" is designed to produce a small ring of tailings -- powder resulting from drilling -- on the surface of the rock while penetrating less than eight-tenths of an inch (2 centimeters). This activity will not go deep enough to push rock powder into the drill's sample-gathering chamber. Limonadi said, "The purpose is to see whether the tailings are behaving the way we expect. Do they look like dry powder? That's what we want to confirm."

The rover team's activities this week are affected by the difference between Mars time and Earth time. To compensate for this, the team develops commands based on rover activities from two sols earlier. So, for example, the mini-drill activity cannot occur sooner than two sols after the drill-on-rock checkout.

Each Martian sol lasts about 40 minutes longer than a 24-hour Earth day. By mid-February, the afternoon at Gale Crater, when Curiosity transmits information about results from the sol, will again be falling early enough in the California day for the rover team to plan each sol based on the previous sol's results.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

More information about Curiosity is online at and . You can follow the mission on Facebook at: and on Twitter at: .

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Guy Webster.


When a planet behaves like a comet‏

ESA - Venus Express Mission patch.

Jan. 29, 2013

 Comet-like ionosphere at Venus

ESA’s Venus Express has made unique observations of Venus during a period of reduced solar wind pressure, discovering that the planet’s ionosphere balloons out like a comet’s tail on its nightside. 

The ionosphere is a region of weakly electrically charged gas high above the main body of a planet’s atmosphere. Its shape and density are partly controlled by the internal magnetic field of the planet.

For Earth, which has a strong magnetic field, the ionosphere is relatively stable under a range of solar wind conditions. By comparison, Venus does not have its own internal magnetic field and relies instead on interactions with the solar wind to shape its ionosphere.

The extent to which this shaping depends on the strength of the solar wind has been controversial, but new results from Venus Express reveal for the first time the effect of a very low solar wind pressure on the ionosphere of an unmagnetised planet.

The observations were made in August 2010 when NASA’s Stereo-B spacecraft measured a drop in solar wind density to 0.1 particles per cubic centimetre, around 50 times lower than normally observed; this persisted for about 18 hours.

As this significantly reduced solar wind hit Venus, Venus Express saw the planet’s ionosphere balloon outwards on the planet’s ‘downwind’ nightside, much like the shape of the ion tail seen streaming from a comet under similar conditions.

“The teardrop-shaped ionosphere began forming within 30–60 minutes after the normal high pressure solar wind diminished. Over two Earth days, it had stretched to at least two Venus radii into space,” says Yong Wei of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany, lead author of the new findings.

The new observations settle a debate about how the strength of the solar wind affects the way in which ionospheric plasma is transported from the dayside to the nightside of Venus.

Artist's impression of Venus Express

Usually, this material flows along a thin channel in the ionosphere, but scientists were unsure what happens under low solar wind conditions. Does the flow of plasma particles increase as the channel widens due to the reduced confining pressure, or does it decrease because less force is available to push plasma through the channel?

“We now finally know that the first effect outweighs the second, and that the ionosphere expands significantly during low solar wind density conditions,” says Markus Fraenz, also of the Max Planck Institute and co-author on the paper.

A similar effect is also expected to occur around Mars, the other non-magnetised planet in our inner Solar System.

“We often talk about the effects of solar wind interaction with planetary atmospheres during periods of intense solar activity, but Venus Express has shown us that even when there is a reduced solar wind, the Sun can still significantly influence the environment of our planetary neighbours,” adds Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s Venus Express project scientist.

Related Links:

Looking at Venus:

Venus Express in-depth:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / Wei et al. / AOES Medialab.


Superbubble DEM L50

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Jan. 29, 2013

This composite image shows the superbubble DEM L50 (a.k.a. N186) located in the Large Magellanic Cloud about 160,000 light years from Earth. Superbubbles are found in regions where massive stars have formed in the last few million years. The massive stars produce intense radiation, expel matter at high speeds, and race through their evolution to explode as supernovas. The winds and supernova shock waves carve out huge cavities called superbubbles in the surrounding gas.

X-rays from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory are shown in pink and optical data from the Magellanic Cloud Emission Line Survey (MCELS) are colored in red, green and blue. The MCELS data were obtained with the University of Michigan's 0.9-meter Curtis Schmidt telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO). The shape of DEM L50 is approximately an ellipse, with a supernova remnant named SNR N186 D located on its northern edge.

Like another superbubble in the LMC, N44, DEM L50 gives off about 20 times more X-rays than expected from standard models for the evolution of superbubbles. A Chandra study published in 2011 showed that there are two extra sources of the bright X-ray emission: supernova shock waves striking the walls of the cavities, and hot material evaporating from the cavity walls.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

The Chandra study of DEM L50 was published in the Astrophysical Journal in 2011 and was led by Anne Jaskot from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Chandra study of DEM L50 was led by Anne Jaskot from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The co-authors were Dave Strickland from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, Sally Oey from University of Michigan, You-Hua Chu from University of Illinois and Guillermo Garcia-Segura from Instituto de Astronomia-UNAM in Ensenada, Mexico.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Read more/access all images:

Chandra's Flickr photoset:

Images, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA / CXC / Univ of Michigan / A.E.Jaskot, Optical: NOAO / CTIO / MCELS.


lundi 28 janvier 2013

Cool Andromeda

ESA - Herschel Mission patch.

28 January 2013

In this new view of the Andromeda galaxy from ESA’s Herschel space observatory, cool lanes of forming stars are revealed in the finest detail yet.

Andromeda, also known as M31, is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way at a distance of 2.5 million light-years, making it an ideal natural laboratory to study star formation and galaxy evolution.

Sensitive to the far-infrared light from cool dust mixed in with gas, Herschel seeks out clouds of gas where stars are born. The new image reveals some of the very coldest dust in the galaxy – only a few tens of degrees above absolute zero – coloured red in this image.

By comparison, warmer regions such as the densely populated central bulge, home to older stars, take on a blue appearance.

Intricate structure is present throughout the 200 000 light-year-wide galaxy with star-formation zones organised in spiral arms and at least five concentric rings, interspersed with dark gaps where star formation is absent.

Host to several hundred billion stars, this new image of Andromeda clearly shows that many more stars will soon spark into existence.

 Andromeda's Colorful Rings

The ring-like swirls of dust filling the Andromeda galaxy stand out colorfully in this new image from the Herschel Space Observatory, a European Space Agency mission with important NASA participation. Image credit: ESA / NASA / JPL-Caltech / NHSC.

Related links:

Herschel ESA's giant infrared observatory:

Herschel overview:

Oline Showcase of Herschel Images OSHI:

Herschel in depth:

Herschel Science Centre:

Image, Text, Credits: ESA / Herschel / PACS & SPIRE Consortium, O. Krause, HSC, H. Linz / NASA / JPL-Caltech / NHSC.


dimanche 27 janvier 2013

JAXA's H-2A Rocket launch Information Gathering Satellite (IGS)

JAXA logo.

Jan. 27, 2013

Japan launched two spy satellites Sunday to collect sharp imagery for the government's defense and intelligence agencies, continuing a series of clandestine space missions devised to keep track of North Korean military activity.

H-2A rocket launch. Credit: JAXA

The payloads lifted off on a Japanese H-2A rocket at 0440 GMT (11:40 p.m. EST) from the Tanegashima Space Center, Japan's primary launch site nestled on a picturesque island in the Pacific Ocean. Liftoff occurred at 1:40 p.m. local time in Japan, and the rocket pitched southeast from Tanegashima before turning south for its ascent to orbit over the Pacific Ocean.

The 187-foot-tall launcher soared into an overcast sky on the power of its two solid rocket boosters and a hydrogen-fueled main engine, rapidly vanishing into clouds and leaving a billowing exhaust plume and booming noise in its wake. The launch was streamed live online by amateur observers, but there was no official webcast provided by the Japanese government or Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the H-2A rocket's commercial operator.

The H-2A rocket surpassed the speed of sound in less than a minute, and 1.6 million pounds of thrust pushed the orange and white launcher higher over the Pacific Ocean. The solid-fueled boosters jettisoned about two minutes after liftoff, and the rocket's nose fairing released as the H-2A rocket reached the thin upper atmosphere.

The rocket's cryogenic upper stage took over next, igniting to put the mission's two secretive payloads into orbit. The launch marked the 22nd flight of an H-2A rocket and the eighth launch dedicated to Japan's spy satellite program. Japanese officials declared the launch a success about 20 minutes after liftoff.

Two payloads were aboard the H-2A rocket, the country's fourth radar reconnaissance satellite and a demonstration craft with an optical camera, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which owns the Tanegashima Space Center. The Japanese government calls the spacecraft Information Gathering Satellites. The radar-equipped satellite can take pictures of the ground day-and-night and in all weather conditions.

Information Gathering Satellite (IGS)

Japan has not disclosed the exact capabilities of the satellites, including their imaging resolution. The most advanced Japanese reconnaissance satellites likely provide imagery with a resolution less than a meter. The optical demonstration craft launched Sunday may provide imagery with a resolution as high as 40 centimeters, or about 15 inches, better than U.S. commercial imaging satellites, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Japan established the space-based reconnaissance program in the wake of a North Korean missile test over Japanese territory in 1998. Although the program was initially aimed at monitoring North Korea, the satellites can take pictures of nearly any place on Earth each day. The first Information Gathering Satellites were launched in 2003.

Japanese officials used imagery from the IGS program in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake that spawned a devastating tsunami and the following crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Sunday's mission marked the first space launch of the year for Japan, which plans at least three more launches in 2013.

In July, Japan will launch its fourth robotic cargo craft to the International Space Station aboard the heavy-lift H-2B rocket. In the autumn, Japan plans the first flight of its smaller solid-fueled Epsilon satellite launcher from the Uchinoura Space Center on the south shore of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's main islands. Before the end of 2013, another H-2A rocket will deploy JAXA's second Advanced Land Observing Satellite, which will collect environmental data for climate science and disaster response applications.

For more information about Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), visit:

Images, Text, Credits: JAXA / AP / Aerospace.