vendredi 16 août 2013

Spacewalkers Setting up Station for Future Lab

ISS - Expedition 36 Mission patch / ISS - International Space Station patch.

Aug. 16, 2013

Image above: Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin participates in a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Clad in Russian Orlan spacesuits, Expedition 36 Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin opened the hatch to the Pirs docking compartment to begin their spacewalk at 10:39 a.m. EDT. The duo will spend about 6.5 hours rigging cables for the future arrival of a Russian laboratory module and installing an experiment panel.

Russian Cosmonaut Spacewalk Aug. 16, 2013 Part1

The cosmonauts will first set up a Strela cargo boom on the Poisk mini-research module so Misurkin can maneuver Yurchikhin with cables to the Zarya module near the Unity node. Yurchikhin will then begin rerouting a cable connector and installing cables on Zarya.

ROSCOSMOS Description of the elements and cables installation

While Yurchikhin is working on Zarya, Misurkin will be installing an experiment panel on Poisk. The experiment, named Vinoslivost, exposes materials to the space environment so scientists can study the changes in their properties. He will then install two connector patch panels and gap spanners on Poisk.

After completing the Poisk work Misurkin will join Yurchikhin and assist him with the Ethernet cable installation work on the Zarya cargo module. The duo will go back and forth between Zarya and Poisk routing and installing the cable at various points and securing the cable’s slack.

Image above: Fyodor Yurchikhin rides on the tip of a Russian crane, the Strela cargo boom, to his work site on the Zarya module to install and route ethernet and power cables. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Once the cable installation is complete the spacewalkers will translate to Pirs and conduct an inventory of their spacewalk tools. The duo will then reenter Pirs and close its hatch officially ending Russian EVA 34. If Yurchikhin and Misurkin are ahead of their timeline they may be able to reposition and stow the Strela cargo boom.

The cable work outside the station’s Russian segment prepares the orbital laboratory for the arrival of the “Nauka” Multipurpose Laboratory Module. The “Nauka” is planned for a launch atop a Russian Proton rocket to replace Pirs.

Image above: Fyodor Yurchikhin rides on the tip of a Russian crane, the Strela cargo boom, to his work site on the Zarya module to install and route ethernet and power cables. Image Credit: NASA TV.

For the duration of the spacewalk, station Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy will be isolated to the Poisk module and their Soyuz TMA-08M spacecraft while Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg of NASA and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency will be free to move about the U.S. segment of the complex.

Russian Cosmonaut Spacewalk Aug. 16, 2013 Part2

The spacewalk is the 172nd in support of station assembly and maintenance, the seventh in Yurchikhin’s career and the second for Misurkin. The two will venture outside Pirs again on Aug. 22 to replace a laser communications experiment with a platform upon which a small optical telescope will be mounted during a future spacewalk.

Aug. 22 spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 7:40 a.m. EDT. NASA Television coverage will begin at 7 a.m.

For NASA TV streaming video, schedule and downlink information, visit:

For more information about International Space station & Crews and Expedition, visit:

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: NASA / NASA TV / ROSCOSMOS.


CERN - Magnet movers: Replacing the last LHC dipoles

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

Aug. 16, 2013

 (Video: Noemi Caraban Gonzalez)

CERN engineers have been working through the night this week to move the final replacement dipole magnets into position on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Though there are several still to go, the teams expect to have completed the task by the end of this month.

Dipole magnets bend the paths of particles as they travel around the circular accelerator. Of the LHC's 1232 dipoles – each 15 metres long and weighing 35 tonnes – 15 are being replaced as part of the long shutdown of CERN's accelerator complex. These 15 magnets suffered wear and tear during the LHC's first 4-year run. Three quadrupole-magnet assemblies – which help to focus particles into a tight beam – have also been replaced.

Moving such heavy magnets requires specially adapted cranes and trailers both above and below ground.

There are several access points on the LHC. Some, such as the 100-metre vertical access shaft down to the ALICE experiment, are equipped with lifts to allow technical personnel and visitors down to the caverns. Other access points are equipped only with cranes for moving heavy equipment.

So to move the final magnets into place, engineering crews had to descend in lifts at the ALICE access point, then walk or cycle the 2 kilometres below ground to SMI2, a point on the LHC ring with a heavy crane and access shaft wide enough to lower dipoles.

CERN - LHC description cutaway. Image credit: CERN

Once the magnets are below ground, a specialized trailer carries them to where they are needed. Sensors fitted below the trailer enable it to automatically read and follow a white line in the centre of the tunnel floor. The trailer stops whenever there is a break in the white line. This security measure ensures that the replacement dipoles get to where they are needed in a safe and timely fashion.

Replacing magnets is not the only work for LHC engineers. Download a diagram of the main consolidation activities at the accelerator:


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:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

CERN's accelerator complex:

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credit: CERN /  Cian O'Luanaigh.


jeudi 15 août 2013

In the Russian segment of the ISS completes the preparations for spacewalk

ROSCOSMOS - Team of Russian Cosmonauts patch / ISS - International Space Station patch.


ISS - Russian segment description (The image does not match the current configuration)

On Wednesday, the Russian members of the crew of the International Space Station flight engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin spent the final training session before the spacewalk, during which definitively assessed the fit suits, attachments, and, of course, the performance itself space suits.

Spacesuit "Orlan-MK"

August 16 astronauts output will be from the docking module (DC1) "Pierce" space suits "Orlan-MK". At the allotted time, the program of work - more than six and a half hours, the Russian cosmonauts will have to perform a strip of sealing adapter (TA) to FGB MRM2 four power supply feeders for transmission to the power supply (SES) MLM AC power from the ISS, from FGB GA to MRM2 Ethernet cable for MLM and install the panel 2A (TBE "Endurance"). Upcoming - the second for Fedor and Alexander for the expedition.

Final testing of spacesuits

In the experiment, "Endurance" will establish the impact of space environment on deformation, strength and fatigue properties of materials samples exposed in the loaded and unloaded conditions.

But with such a reel with electrical cables astronauts have to work

Live broadcast of extravehicular activity will be carried out on the sites of the Mission Control Center and the Federal Space Agency and NASA TV.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

The Aug. 16 spacewalk, NASA TV coverage will begin at 10 a.m. EDT.

NASA will broadcast live the spacewalk at the following link:

Images, Text, Credits: Press Service of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscomos PAO) / ROSCOSMOS / NASA / Translation: Aerospace.

Best regards,

Radar Images of Asteroid 2005 WK4

Asteroid Watch.

Aug. 15, 2013

Images above: Radar images of asteroid 2005 WK4 were obtained on Aug. 8, 2013. The asteroid is between 660 - 980 feet (200 - 300 meters) in diameter. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR.

A collage of radar images of near-Earth asteroid 2005 WK4 was generated by NASA scientists using the 230-foot (70-meter) Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif., on Aug. 8, 2013.

The asteroid is between 660 and 980 feet (200 and 300 meters) in diameter; it has a rounded and slightly asymmetric shape. As it rotates, a number of features are evident that suggest the presence of some flat regions and a bulge near the equator.

The radar observations of 2005 WK4 were led by scientist Lance Benner of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The data were obtained between 12:40 and 7:10 a.m. PDT (3:40 and 10:10 a.m. EDT).  At the time of the observations, the asteroid's distance was about 1.93 million miles (3.1 million kilometers) from Earth, which is 8.2 lunar distances away. The data were obtained over an interval of 6.5 hours as the asteroid completed about 2.4 rotations.  The resolution is 12 feet (3.75 meters) per pixel.

Radar is a powerful technique for studying an asteroid's size, shape, rotation state, surface features and surface roughness, and for improving the calculation of asteroid orbits. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities often enable computation of asteroid orbits much further into the future than if radar observations weren't available.

Asteroid 2005 WK4 passes near the Earth. Image Credit: NASA

NASA places a high priority on tracking asteroids and protecting our home planet from them. In fact, the United States has the most robust and productive survey and detection program for discovering near-Earth objects. To date, U.S. assets have discovered more than 98 percent of the known near-Earth Objects.

In addition to the resources NASA puts into understanding asteroids, it also partners with other U.S. government agencies, university-based astronomers, and space science institutes across the country that are working to track and understand these objects better, often with grants, interagency transfers and other contracts from NASA.

In 2016, NASA will launch a robotic probe to one of the most potentially hazardous of the known near-Earth objects. The OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid (101955) Bennu will be a pathfinder for future spacecraft designed to perform reconnaissance on any newly discovered threatening objects. Aside from monitoring potential threats, the study of asteroids and comets enables a valuable opportunity to learn more about the origins of our solar system, the source of water on Earth, and even the origin of organic molecules that led to the development of life.

NASA recently announced development of a first-ever mission to identify, capture and relocate an asteroid for human exploration. Using game-changing technologies, this mission would mark an unprecedented technological achievement that raises the bar of what humans can do in space.

NASA's Near-Earth Object Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington, manages and funds the search, study and monitoring of asteroids and comets whose orbits periodically bring them close to Earth. JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is available at: , and via Twitter at .

More information about asteroid radar research is at: .

More information about the Deep Space Network is at:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / DC Agle.


NASA Ends Attempts to Fully Recover Kepler Spacecraft, Potential New Missions Considered

NASA - Kepler Mission patch.

Aug. 15, 2013

Following months of analysis and testing, the Kepler Space Telescope team is ending its attempts to restore the spacecraft to full working order, and now is considering what new science research it can carry out in its current condition.

Two of Kepler's four gyroscope-like reaction wheels, which are used to precisely point the spacecraft, have failed. The first was lost in July 2012, and the second in May. Engineers' efforts to restore at least one of the wheels have been unsuccessful.

Kepler completed its prime mission in November 2012 and began its four-year extended mission at that time. However, the spacecraft needs three functioning wheels to continue its search for Earth-sized exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system, orbiting stars like our sun in what's known as the habitable zone -- the range of distances from a star where the surface temperature of a planet might be suitable for liquid water. As scientists analyze previously collected data, the Kepler team also is looking into whether the space telescope can conduct a different type of science program, potentially including an exoplanet search, using the remaining two good reaction wheels and thrusters.

"Kepler has made extraordinary discoveries in finding exoplanets including several super-Earths in the habitable zone," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Knowing that Kepler has successfully collected all the data from its prime mission, I am confident that more amazing discoveries are on the horizon."

On Aug. 8, engineers conducted a system-level performance test to evaluate Kepler's current capabilities. They determined wheel 2, which failed last year, can no longer provide the precision pointing necessary for science data collection. The spacecraft was returned to its point rest state, which is a stable configuration where Kepler uses thrusters to control its pointing with minimal fuel use.

Kepler Space Telescope

"At the beginning of our mission, no one knew if Earth-size planets were abundant in the galaxy. If they were rare, we might be alone," said William Borucki, Kepler science principal investigator at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Now at the completion of Kepler observations, the data holds the answer to the question that inspired the mission: Are Earths in the habitable zone of stars like our sun common or rare?"

An engineering study will be conducted on the modifications required to manage science operations with the spacecraft using a combination of its remaining two good reaction wheels and thrusters for spacecraft attitude control.

Informed by contributions from the broader science community in response to the call for scientific white papers announced Aug. 2, the Kepler project team will perform a study to identify possible science opportunities for a two-wheel Kepler mission.

Depending on the outcome of these studies, which are expected to be completed later this year, NASA will assess the scientific priority of a two-wheel Kepler mission. Such an assessment may include prioritization relative to other NASA astrophysics missions competing for operational funding at the NASA Senior Review board early next year.

From the data collected in the first half of its mission, Kepler has confirmed 135 exoplanets and identified over 3,500 candidates. The team continues to analyze all four years of collected data, expecting hundreds, if not thousands, of new discoveries including the long-awaited Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars. Though the spacecraft will no longer operate with its unparalleled precision pointing, scientists expect Kepler’s most interesting discoveries are still to come.

Meanwhile, preparations are underway for hosting the second Kepler Science Conference Nov. 4-8, at NASA's Ames Research Center. This will be an opportunity to share not only the investigations of the Kepler project team, but also those of the wider science community using publicly accessible data from Kepler. Registration is now open.

Ames is responsible for the Kepler mission concept, ground system development, mission operations, and science data analysis. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., managed Kepler mission development.

Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo., developed the Kepler flight system and supports mission operations with the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore archives, hosts and distributes Kepler science data. Kepler is NASA's 10th Discovery Mission and was funded by the agency's Science Mission Directorate.

For more information about Kepler's upcoming science conference, visit:

For more information about NASA's call for two-wheel science proposals, visit:

For more information about NASA's Kepler spacecraft, visit:

Image, Text, Credits: NASA / Ames Research Center / Michele Johnson.


NASA Rover Gets Movie as a Mars Moon Passes Another

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

Aug. 15, 2013

 Two Moons Passing in the Martian Night

Video above: This sped-up movie from the Curiosity rover shows Phobos (the larger of Mars' two moons) passing in front of smaller Deimos. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.

The larger of the two moons of Mars, Phobos, passes directly in front of the other, Deimos, in a new series of sky-watching images from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity.

A video clip assembled from the images is at .

Animation above: This movie clip shows the larger of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passing in front of the smaller Martian moon, Deimos, as observed by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity. The series of 41 images is shown at increased speed. The actual elapsed time is 55 seconds. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.

Large craters on Phobos are clearly visible in these images from the surface of Mars. No previous images from missions on the surface caught one moon eclipsing the other.

The telephoto-lens camera of Curiosity's two-camera Mast Camera (Mastcam) instrument recorded the images on Aug. 1.  Some of the full-resolution frames were not downlinked until more than a week later, in the data-transmission queue behind higher-priority images being used for planning the rover's drives.

Image above: This illustration provides a comparison for how big the moons of Mars appear to be, as seen from the surface of Mars, in relation to the size that Earth's moon appears to be when seen from the surface of Earth. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.

These observations of Phobos and Deimos help researchers make knowledge of the moons' orbits even more precise.

"The ultimate goal is to improve orbit knowledge enough that we can improve the measurement of the tides Phobos raises on the Martian solid surface, giving knowledge of the Martian interior," said Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station.  He is a co-investigator for use of Curiosity's Mastcam.  "We may also get data good enough to detect density variations within Phobos and to determine if Deimos' orbit is systematically changing."

The orbit of Phobos is very slowly getting closer to Mars. The orbit of Deimos may be slowly getting farther from the planet.

Lemmon and colleagues determined that the two moons would be visible crossing paths at a time shortly after Curiosity would be awake for transmitting data to NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for relay to Earth. That made the moon observations feasible with minimal impact on the rover's energy budget.

Image above: This view of the two moons of Mars comes from a set of images taken by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity as the larger moon, Phobos, passed in front of the smaller one, Deimos, from Curiosity's perspective, on Aug. 1, 2013. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.

Although Phobos has a diameter less than one percent the diameter of Earth's moon, Phobos also orbits much closer to Mars than our moon's distance from Earth. As seen from the surface of Mars, Phobos looks about half as wide as what Earth's moon looks like to viewers on Earth.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory project is using Curiosity and the rover's 10 science instruments to investigate the environmental history within Gale Crater, a location where the project has found that conditions were long ago favorable for microbial life.

Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates Curiosity's Mastcam.  JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington and built the Navigation Camera and the rover.

More information about the mission is online at: and .

You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: and .

For more information about the Multi-Mission Image Processing Laboratory, see:

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

Best regards,

NASA Voyager Statement about Competing Models to Explain Recent Spacecraft Data

NASA - Voyager 1 & 2 Mission patch.

Aug. 15, 2013

A newly published paper argues that NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has already entered interstellar space. The model described in the paper is new and different from other models used so far to explain the data the spacecraft has been sending back from more than 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) away from our sun.

NASA's Voyager project scientist, Ed Stone of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, explains:

"Details of a new model have just been published that lead the scientists who created the model to argue that NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft data can be consistent with entering interstellar space in 2012. In describing on a fine scale how magnetic field lines from the sun and magnetic field lines from interstellar space can connect to each other, they conclude Voyager 1 has been detecting the interstellar magnetic field since July 27, 2012. Their model would mean that the interstellar magnetic field direction is the same as that which originates from our sun.

Image above: This artist's concept shows NASA's Voyager spacecraft against a field of stars in the darkness of space. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Other models envision the interstellar magnetic field draped around our solar bubble and predict that the direction of the interstellar magnetic field is different from the solar magnetic field inside. By that interpretation, Voyager 1 would still be inside our solar bubble.

The fine-scale magnetic connection model will become part of the discussion among scientists as they try to reconcile what may be happening on a fine scale with what happens on a larger scale.

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is exploring a region no spacecraft has ever been to before. We will continue to look for any further developments over the coming months and years as Voyager explores an uncharted frontier.”

The Voyager spacecraft were built and continue to be operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in Pasadena, Calif. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. The Voyager missions are a part of NASA's Heliophysics System Observatory, sponsored by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

For more information about Voyager, visit: and .

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


Hubble explores the origins of modern galaxies

ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

15 August 2013

 The Hubble Sequence throughout the Universe's history

Astronomers have used observations from Hubble’s CANDELS survey to explore the sizes, shapes, and colours of distant galaxies over the last 80% of the Universe’s history. In the Universe today galaxies come in a variety of different forms, and are classified via a system known as the Hubble Sequence — and it turns out that this sequence was already in place as early as 11 billion years ago.

The Hubble Sequence classifies galaxies according to their morphology and star-forming activity, organising them into a cosmic zoo of spiral, elliptical, and irregular shapes with whirling arms, fuzzy haloes and bright central bulges. Two main types of galaxy are identified in this sequence: elliptical and spiral, with a third type, lenticular, settling somewhere between the two.

The present day Universe

This accurately describes what we see in the region of space around us, but how does galaxy morphology change as we look further back in time, to when the Universe was very young?

"This is a key question: when and over what timescale did the Hubble Sequence form?" says BoMee Lee of the University of Massachusetts, USA, lead author of a new paper exploring the sequence. "To do this you need to peer at distant galaxies and compare them to their closer relatives, to see if they too can be described in the same way."

The astronomers used Hubble to look 11 billion years back in time to when the Universe was very young, exploring the anatomy of distant galaxies.

The Universe 4 billion years ago

While it was known that the Hubble Sequence holds true as far back as around 8 billion years ago [1], these new observations push a further 2.5 billion years back in cosmic time, covering a huge 80% of the past history of the Universe. Previous studies had also reached into this epoch of the cosmos to study lower-mass galaxies, but none had conclusively also looked at large, mature galaxies like the Milky Way. The new CANDELS observations confirm that all galaxies this far back — big and small alike — fit into the different classifications of the sequence.

"This is the only comprehensive study to date of the visual appearance of the large, massive galaxies that existed so far back in time," says co-author Arjen van der Wel of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. "The galaxies look remarkably mature, which is not predicted by galaxy formation models to be the case that early on in the history of the Universe."

The Universe 11 billion years ago

The galaxies at these earlier times appear to be split between blue star-forming galaxies with a complex structure — including discs, bulges, and messy clumps — and massive red galaxies that are no longer forming stars, as seen in the nearby Universe [2].

Galaxies as massive as the Milky Way or more are rather rare in the young Universe. This scarcity has prevented previous studies from being able to gather a large enough sample of mature galaxies to properly describe their characteristics.

What was needed was a systematic set of observations such as those from Hubble's CANDELS survey, which was large enough to allow the astronomers to analyse a larger number of these galaxies consistently, and in detail [3]. With Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), the astronomers were able to observe in the infrared part of the spectrum to see how the galaxies appeared in their visible rest-frame [4], which is easier to compare with galaxies in our neighbourhood.

The Hubble Tuning Fork - Classification of Galaxies

"The huge CANDELS dataset was a great resource for us to use in order to consistently study ancient galaxies in the early Universe," concludes Lee. "And the resolution and sensitivity of Hubble's WFC3 is second to none in the infrared wavelengths needed to carry out this study. The Hubble Sequence underpins a lot of what we know about how galaxies form and evolve — finding it to be in place this far back is a significant discovery."


[1] Previous studies have looked at the proportions of the different galaxy types back in time (heic1002). The mix of spiral, elliptical, lenticular and peculiar galaxies is different from today, with a great many more peculiars in the distant Universe than we see nearby.

[2] In a related recent paper, Alice Mortlock and collaborators took a different but complementary approach by classifying these distant galaxies by visual inspection. They found that the types of galaxies we see in the Hubble Sequence are well defined in terms of colour, structure, and star formation rates at very large distances from us, but that their morphology is still developing. While the morphology of a galaxy may be the final property to settle, the fundamentals of the Hubble Sequence are set much earlier on.

[3] CANDELS, the Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey, is the largest project in the history of Hubble, with 902 assigned orbits of observing time. It is being carried out with two cameras on board Hubble – WFC3 and ACS – and aims to explore galactic evolution in the early Universe, and the very first seeds of cosmic structure at less than one billion years after the Big Bang.

[4] Previous studies of this period of cosmic history were inconclusive as they were limited to visible light, showing only the redshifted ultraviolet emission of the galaxies, which highlights star formation. As this star formation dominated the observations, the galaxies appeared to be clumpy and messy, with no resemblance to the galaxy shapes we see around us today. By pushing into the infrared part of the spectrum the astronomers could observe how these distant galaxies appear in their visible rest frame (which is now redshifted).

Notes for editors:

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

These results are described in a paper entitled "CANDELS: The correlation between galaxy morphology and star formation activity as Z~2", to appear in The Astrophysical Journal.

[1] The international team of astronomers in this study consists of B. Lee (University of Massachusetts, USA), M. Giavalisco (University of Massachusetts, USA), C. C. Williams (University of Massachusetts, USA), Y. Guo (University of California, USA), J. Lotz (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA), A. van der Wel (Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany), H. C. Ferguson (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA), S. M Faber (University of California, USA), A. Koekemoer (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA), N. Grogin (Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, USA), D. Kocevski (University of Kentucky, USA), C. J. Conselice (University of Nottingham, UK), S. Wuyts (Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany), A. Dekel (The Hebrew University, Israel), J. Kartaltepe (NOAO-Tuscon, Arizona, USA), E. F. Bell (University of Michigan, USA).


Research Paper:

Images of Hubble:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA, ESA, M. Kornmesser.


mercredi 14 août 2013

Dwarf Galaxy Caught Ramming Into a Large Spiral Galaxy

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

14 August 2013

 Dwarf Galaxy Caught Ramming Into a Large Spiral Galaxy

Observations with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have revealed a massive cloud of multimillion-degree gas in a galaxy about 60 million light years from Earth.   The hot gas cloud is likely caused by a collision between a dwarf galaxy and a much larger galaxy called NGC 1232.  If confirmed, this discovery would mark the first time such a collision has been detected only in X-rays, and could have implications for understanding how galaxies grow through similar collisions.

An image combining X-rays and optical light shows the scene of this collision. The impact between the dwarf galaxy and the spiral galaxy caused a shock wave − akin to a sonic boom on Earth – that generated hot gas with a temperature of about six million degrees. Chandra X-ray data, in purple, show the hot gas has a comet-like appearance, caused by the motion of the dwarf galaxy. Optical data from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope reveal the spiral galaxy in blue and white. X-ray point sources have been removed from this image to emphasize the diffuse emission.

Near the head of the comet-shaped X-ray emission (mouse over the image for the location) is a region containing several very optically bright stars and enhanced X-ray emission. Star formation may have been triggered by the shock wave, producing bright, massive stars. In that case X-ray emission would be generated by massive star winds and by the remains of supernova explosions as massive stars evolve.

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory

The mass of the entire gas cloud is uncertain because it cannot be determined from the two-dimensional image whether the hot gas is concentrated in a thin pancake or distributed over a large, spherical region.  If the gas is a pancake, the mass is equivalent to forty thousand Suns. If it is spread out uniformly, the mass could be much larger, about three million times as massive as the Sun.  This range agrees with values for dwarf galaxies in the Local Group containing the Milky Way.

The hot gas should continue to glow in X-rays for tens to hundreds of millions of years, depending on the geometry of the collision. The collision itself should last for about 50 million years. Therefore, searching for large regions of hot gas in galaxies might be a way to estimate the frequency of collisions with dwarf galaxies and to understand how important such events are to galaxy growth.

An alternative explanation of the X-ray emission is that the hot gas cloud could have been produced by supernovas and hot winds from large numbers of massive stars, all located on one side of the galaxy. The lack of evidence of expected radio, infrared, or optical features argues against this possibility.

A paper by Gordon Garmire of the Huntingdon Institute for X-ray Astronomy in Huntingdon, PA describing these results is available online and was published in the June 10th, 2013 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

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.

View large image:

Chandra on Flickr:

Images, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA / CXC / Huntingdon Institute for X-ray Astronomy/G. Garmire; Optical: ESO / VLT.


Mysterious magnetar boasts one of strongest magnetic fields in Universe

ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch.

14 August 2013

Scientists using ESA’s XMM-Newton space telescope have discovered that a curious dead star has been hiding one of the strongest magnetic fields in the Universe all along, despite earlier suggestions of an unusually low magnetic field.

Magnetic loop on magnetar SGR 0418

The object, known as SGR 0418+5729 (or SGR 0418 for short), is a magnetar, a particular kind of neutron star.

A neutron star is the dead core of a once massive star that collapsed in on itself after burning up all its fuel and exploding in a dramatic supernova event. They are extraordinarily dense objects, packing more than the mass of our Sun into a sphere only some 20 km across – about the size of a city.

A small proportion of neutron stars form and live briefly as magnetars, named for their extremely intense magnetic fields, billions to trillions of times greater than those generated in hospital MRI machines, for example. These fields cause magnetars to erupt sporadically with bursts of high-energy radiation.

SGR 0418 lies in our galaxy, about 6500 light years from Earth. It was first detected in June 2009 by space telescopes including NASA’s Fermi and Roscosmos’ Koronas-Photon when it suddenly lit up in X-rays and soft gamma rays. It has been studied subsequently by a fleet of observatories, including ESA’s XMM-Newton.

“Until very recently, all indications were that this magnetar had one of the weakest surface magnetic fields known; at 6 x 1012 Gauss, it was roughly a 100 times lower than for typical magnetars,” said Andrea Tiengo of the Istituto Universitario di Studi Superiori, Pavia, Italy, and lead author of the paper published inNature.

“Understanding these results was a challenge. However, we suspected that SGR 0418 was in fact hiding a much stronger magnetic field, out of reach of our usual analytical techniques.”

Magnetars spin more slowly than neutron stars, but still complete a rotation within a few seconds. The normal way of determining the magnetic field of a magnetar is to measure the rate at which the spin is declining. Three years of observations of SGR 0418 had led astronomers to infer a weak magnetic field.

The new technique developed by Dr Tiengo and his collaborators involves searching for variations in the X-ray spectrum of the magnetar over extremely short time intervals as it rotates. This method allows astronomers to analyse the magnetic field in much more detail and has revealed SGR 0418 as a true magnetic monster.

ESA's XMM-Newton

“To explain our observations, this magnetar must have a super-strong, twisted magnetic field reaching 1015 Gauss across small regions on the surface, spanning only a few hundred metres across,” said Dr Tiengo.

“On average, the field can appear fairly weak, as earlier results have suggested. But we are now able to probe sub-structure on the surface and see that the field is very strong locally.”

A simple analogy can be made with localised magnetic fields anchored in sunspots on the Sun, where a change in configuration can suddenly lead to their collapse and the production of a flare or, in the case of SGR 0418, a burst of X-rays.

“The spectral data provided by XMM-Newton, combined with a new way of analysing the data, allowed us to finally make the first detailed measurements of the magnetic field of a magnetar, confirming it as one of the largest values ever measured in the Universe,” adds Norbert Schartel, ESA’s XMM-Newton Project Scientist.

“We now have a new tool to probe the magnetic fields of other magnetars, which will help constrain models of these exotic objects.”

More about XMM-Newton:

XMM-Newton overview:

XMM-Newton image gallery:

XMM-Newton in-depth:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / ATG Medialab.

Best regards,

mardi 13 août 2013

Space Station Boosting Biological Research in Orbit

ISS - International Space Station patch.

Aug. 13, 2013

Studying the science of biology in microgravity opens a world of possibilities! Research ranges from plant growth to cell growth and from bacterial virulence to strength in human bones. The scope of biology research provides scientists from many disciplines with opportunities to express and explore their area of interest, translating findings into treatments and applications for use on Earth and in space exploration.

Supporting this research in biological science and technology is an important part of NASA's overall mission. To that end, NASA has selected 31 investigations proposed in response to the most recent NASA Research Announcement titled “Research Opportunities in Space Biology.”

Images above: The 3-D images above are of bone from untreated and treated mice from a NASA study that used simulated microgravity to look at a novel therapy to prevent bone loss during spaceflight. Image Credit: NASA.

These NASA-sponsored studies will help grow the collective knowledge about how biological systems adapt to space. Findings from such research add to the foundation on which other scientists and engineers can build. This can lead to approaches and countermeasures to problems confronting human exploration of space, as well as translate to new biological tools or applications on Earth.

Using 21st century biological tools, space biology scientists will examine and discover underlying mechanisms of adaptation to changes resulting from the microgravity environment, including exposure to stress and radiation. The goal is to determine genetic, cellular and organismal mechanisms that regulate and sustain growth, metabolism, reproduction and development in this altered setting. By understanding these mechanisms, these investigations could yield valuable knowledge leading to advances in areas such as agricultural production and therapeutics for treatment and prevention of diseases on Earth.

Image above: The study of Arabidopsis thaliana, pictured here, will be a continuation of previous research to understand how the effects of hypobaric environments on the International Space Station determine plant growth in microgravity for long-duration space missions. Image Credit: NASA.

The International Space Station is equipped with a variety of multidisciplinary facilities and equipment available to support these newly selected investigations. NASA and its international partners built these capabilities, and they are available on a time-shared basis. The existing biological tools aboard the orbiting research laboratory will benefit several of the selected space biology scientists not only with research discoveries but also by eliminating time spent to certify these tools to fly in space, thus reducing the cost of the investigations.

Selected investigations will begin immediately. Fourteen ground-based studies will develop hypotheses for future testing aboard the orbiting laboratory. Nine studies will be conducted aboard the space station. Researchers new to space biology will collect preliminary data in eight proposals. For a complete list of the selected proposals, principal investigators, and organizations, refer to the Human Exploration and Operations website.

The International Space Station a space laboratory. Image credit: NASA

The nine space station flight investigations include four that will characterize cardiovascular, immune and reproductive system adaptation. Five others will study plant biology and microbial biology. “My hope is that the flight experiments will fly to completion within the next 2-3 years,” said David Tomko, program executive for the Human Research Program and Space Biology at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The plant investigations for space station study include topics such as Plant Mechanical Signaling During Spaceflight and Proteomics Analysis of Arabidopsis Seedlings in Microgravity. Plant signaling studies the effects of various gravity levels on the growth responses of plant seedlings. Proteomics studies the structure and function of proteins, used in this investigation to analyze the Arabidopsis thaliana seedling, a small flowering plant related to cabbage. The experiments selected for rapid turn-around flight research using plants or petri dish-based biological systems will use either the Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS) hardware or the Biological Research in Canisters-Petri Dish Fixation Unit (BRIC-PDFU) hardware already aboard the space station.

The studies selected for ground-based space biology research using cells, tissues, or animals will enhance our understanding of the effects of gravity on multiple biological systems. During the proposal process, investigators were required to demonstrate and detail a clear path from their work in labs on the ground to space flight experiments on the space station. At NASA's request, all of the ground studies selected were designed by the scientists as precursors leading to the development of space flight investigations in the near future.

These selected research proposals from 21 institutions in 13 states will be funded from a one- to four-year period and highlight NASA’s continued emphasis on the importance of biology studies in space. Findings from these new investigations will help advance biology research and continue to sprout new ideas for future research on Earth and in space.

Related links:

International Space Station:

Human Exploration and Operations website:

NASA Human Research Program:

Advanced Biological Research System (ABRS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA’s Johnson Space Center / Janet G. Stewart.


Robotics Work and Unpacking for Japan’s HTV-4

JAXA - H-II Transfer Vehicle HTV-4 Mission patch / ISS - International Space Station patch.

Aug. 13, 2013

Japan’s fourth H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-4) was captured Friday morning with the Canadarm2 and installed on the Harmony node. More robotics work continued over the weekend as the Canadarm2 removed an exposed pallet from the HTV-4 and handed it off to the Japanese robotic arm for installation outside the Kibo laboratory. The exposed pallet contains unpressurized spare parts and experiments stored in the microgravity environment.

Flight Engineers Karen Nyberg, Chris Cassidy and Luca Parmitano began unloading the HTV-4 cargo soon after its arrival. They also enjoyed an off-duty day Monday and conducted a briefing with robotics team members on the ground about Friday’s capture of the Japanese resupply ship.

Image above: NASA astronauts Karen Nyberg and Chris Cassidy, both Expedition 36 flight engineers, are pictured at the robotic workstation in the Cupola of the International Space Station during rendezvous operations with the approaching unpiloted Japanese "Kounotori" H2 Transfer Vehicle-4 (HTV-4). Image Credit: NASA.

On the Russian side of the International Space Station, the three cosmonauts had a full day of maintenance, science and spacewalk preparations.

Commander Pavel Vinogradov worked throughout the morning replacing batteries and mating telemetry connectors in the Zvezda service module. During the afternoon, the commander performed a hearing assessment and updated the inventory management. At the end of the workday, he charged a battery for the Relaxation experiment that studies the interaction of spacecraft and jet engine exhaust in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and the station’s environment.

Read more about Relaxation:

Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin are gearing up for another spacewalk this Friday that begins at 10:40 a.m. EDT. The cosmonauts are inspecting their Russian Orlan spacesuits and checking for pressure leaks.  The duo is also reviewing procedures planned for the estimated 6.5 hour spacewalk.

 Russian EVA 34

Video above: EVA Specialist Devan Bolch discusses Russian EVA 34 and Flight Engineers Fyodor Yurchikhin and Alexander Misurkin who will begin Friday's spacewalk at 10:40 a.m. EDT. Their first task once they exit the Pirs docking compartment will be to deploy the Strela boom which is a portable, telescoping crane that can move gear and a spacewalker outside the station. They will use Strela to install connector panels and gap spanners outside the Zarya and Poisk modules. Yurchikhin and Misurkin will also install the Vinoslivost experiment panel on Poisk which exposes different materials to the space environment. After that they will route and secure power and Ethernet cables outside Zarya and Poisk. Before reentering the space station and if time allows, the duo will stow the Strela boom. Video credit: NASA.

Their first task once they exit the Pirs docking compartment will be to deploy the Strela boom which is a portable, telescoping crane that can move gear and a spacewalker outside the station. They will use Strela to install connector panels and gap spanners outside the Zarya and Poisk modules.

Yurchikhin and Misurkin will also install the Vinoslivost experiment panel on Poisk which exposes different materials to the space environment. After that they will route and secure power and Ethernet cables outside Zarya and Poisk. Before reentering the space station and if time allows, the duo will stow the Strela boom.

Related link:

International Space Station:

Images, Text, Video, Credit: NASA.


lundi 12 août 2013

NASA's Juno is Halfway to Jupiter

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Aug. 12, 2013

NASA's Juno spacecraft is halfway to Jupiter. The Jovian-system-bound spacecraft reached the milestone today (8/12/13) at 5:25 a.m. PDT (8:25 a.m. EDT/12:25 UTC).

Image above: A computer-generated image depicts NASA's Juno spacecraft, which reached the halfway point on its mission to Jupiter on August 12, 2013. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"Juno's odometer just clicked over to 9.464 astronomical units," said Juno Principal Investigator Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.  "The team is looking forward, preparing for the day we enter orbit around the most massive planet in our solar system."

For those astronomical-unitly challenged, an astronomical unit (AU) is a unit of measure used by space engineers and scientists when discussing the massive distances involved in the exploration of our solar system – and beyond.  An AU is based on the distance between Earth and the sun and is 92,955,807.273 miles (149,597,870.7 kilometers) long.  The 9.464 astronomical units Juno has already traveled (or still has left to go) is equivalent to 879,733,760 miles (or 1,415,794,248 kilometers).  Juno was 34.46 million miles (55.46 million kilometers) from Earth when the milestone was reached.

The next milestone in the nearly five-year journey to Jupiter will occur this October, when the spacecraft flies past Earth in search of a little extra speed.

"On Oct. 9, Juno will come within 347 miles (559 kilometers) of Earth," said the mission's Project Manager Rick Nybakken of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "The Earth flyby will give Juno a kick in the pants, boosting its velocity by 16,330 mph (about 7.3 kilometers per second). From there, it's next stop Jupiter." 

Juno will arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016, at 7:29 p.m. PDT (10:29 p.m. EDT).

View of Jupiter by Cassini spacecraft. Image credits: NASA / ESA.

Juno was launched on Aug. 5, 2011. Once in orbit around Jupiter, the spacecraft will circle the planet 33 times, from pole to pole, and use its collection of eight science instruments to probe beneath the gas giant's obscuring cloud cover. Juno's science team will learn about Jupiter's origins, structure, atmosphere and magnetosphere, and look for a potential solid planetary core.

Juno's name comes from Greek and Roman mythology. The god Jupiter drew a veil of clouds around himself to hide his mischief, and his wife, the goddess Juno, was able to peer through the clouds and reveal Jupiter's true nature.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The Juno mission is part of the New Frontiers Program managed at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

More information about Juno is online at and .

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / DC Agle.

Best regards,

What Lies Beneath

ESA - Mars Express Mission patch.

12 August 2013

 A slice through the southern highlands of Mars

There is much more to Mars than meets the eye. By using the radar on Mars Express, we can see several kilometres below the surface to see what lies beneath.

The radar creates subsurface images of Mars by beaming low-frequency radio waves towards the planet, which are reflected from any surface they encounter.

While most are reflected by the planet’s surface, some travel deeper and bounce off interfaces between layers of different material, such as between rock, water or ice.

The strength and timing of the radar echoes that arrive back at Mars Express are a gauge of the depths of different types of underground interfaces.

This radar image is a 5580 km-long slice through the southern highlands of Mars created shortly after the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding instrument became operational in 2005.

Mars Express

The right-hand side is dominated by the vast Hellas Basin. It plunges 7 km below the surface and is about 2300 km wide, making it one of the largest impact basins in the Solar System.

The bright peak just left of centre is the south polar region of Mars. This is where the radar comes into its own, for beneath the cap of frozen carbon dioxide and water ice it reveals multiple layers of ice and dust.

Known as the South Polar Layered Deposits, this feature extends nearly 4 km below the surface. The layers are thought to arise from variations in the deposition of ice and  dust as Mars experienced cycles of climate change.

Thanks to the radar, scientists have estimated that the amount of water trapped in frozen layers in the south polar region is equivalent to a liquid layer about 11 m deep covering the planet.

More information about Mars Express:

Looking at Mars:

Mars Express overview:

Mars Express 10 year brochure:

Mars Express in depth:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / NASA / JPL / ASI / Univ. Rome.