vendredi 25 juillet 2014

CERN - First accelerator-based physics of 2014

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

July 25, 2014

Although LHC physics is still far away, we can now confirm that the injectors are producing physics! In the East Area - the experimental area behind the Proton Synchrotron (PS)  - the T9 and T10 beam lines are providing beams for physics. These beam lines serve experiments such as AIDA - which looks at new detector solutions for future accelerators - and the ALICE Inner Tracking System - which tests components for the ALICE experiment.

"In the weeks since completing hardware tests, the Operations team has been hard at work setting up the beams for physics," says Rende Steerenberg, PS section leader. "On Thursday, 10 July, we began extracting beams towards the East Area transfer line and by Monday evening the beam was hitting the East Area's target. The next day, beams were in the T9 and T10 beam lines for physics."

Image above: Beams for physics: The yellow line shows the circulating beam current in the PS, decreasing slowly during the extraction, which lasts 350 ms. The green line is the measured proton intensity in the transfer line toward the East Area target.

These beams are arriving at a refurbished East Area, which has seen its fair share of changes during the Long Shutdown 1 (LS1). "The T7 beam line and the DIRAC experiment have been completely removed," says Lau Gatignon, who is leading the East Area renovation project. "We've also replaced our primary target, which is used to create the hadron and electron beams that are then sent down the different lines." The new, more robust target will allow a monitoring screen to be permanently in place while there is beam. This addition will greatly help the Operations team and thus improve the continuity of the beam for physics.

CERN LHC - To discover the secrets of matter

Although experiments on the T9 and T10 lines will be conducting physics, the East Area renovations are by no means complete. "The IRRAD and CHARM facilities, in the south zone of the East Area, are still under construction," says Michael Lazzaroni, technical activities coordinator for the East Area. "These works will be completed by mid-September, at which point the East Area will be fully available for physics." In September, the CLOUD experiment on the T11 beam line will start its data-taking period.

These first physics beams are but a taste of what's to come as the accelerator chain continues its awakening. Next up: the ISOLDE and n_ToF experiments, which should receive beams for physics by the end of the month.


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 article:

CERN announces LHC restart schedule:

Related links:

Proton Synchrotron (PS):

ALICE experiment:

IRRAD and CHARM facilities:

CLOUD experiment:

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), visit:

Images, Text, Credits: CERN / Katarina Anthony.

Best regards,

First image obtained With the spacecraft Meteor-M2



JSC "Corporation VNIIEM" work continues on the flight test program hydrometeorological spacecraft Meteor-M2 launched July 8, 2014 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. All support systems are operating normally. Launched flight test program to test the target equipment.

Today, July 25, the translation was done to capture multispectral scanner low resolution (MSU-MR). The analysis of the data showed that the unit is operating normally.

Italy by Meteor-M2

With MSU-MR obtained the first images of good quality in all spectral bands (6 channels). Reception and processing is carried out reception centers Hydromet and Roscosmos.

Meteor-M2 spacecraft

MSU-MR is designed for wide-en-route mode (swath of at least 2,900 km) to obtain images of clouds, the earth's surface, ice cover, etc. in the visible and infrared ranges.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Images, Text, Credits: Roscosmos press service / ROSCOSMOS / Günter Space Page / Translation: Aerospace.


Hubble Serves a Slice of Stars

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 25, 2014

Hubble Serves a Slice of Stars (NGC 3501)

The thin, glowing streak slicing across this image cuts a lonely figure, with only a few foreground stars and galaxies in the distant background for company.

However, this is all a case of perspective; lying out of frame is another nearby spiral. Together, these two galaxies make up a pair, moving through space together and keeping one another company.

The subject of this Hubble image is called NGC 3501, with NGC 3507 as its out-of-frame companion. The two galaxies look very different — another example of the importance of perspective. NGC 3501 appears edge-on, giving it an elongated and very narrow appearance. Its partner, however, looks very different indeed, appearing face-on and giving us a fantastic view of its barred swirling arms.

While similar arms may not be visible in this image of NGC 3501, this galaxy is also a spiral — although it is somewhat different from its companion. While NGC 3507 has bars cutting through its center, NGC 3501 does not. Instead, it's loosely wound spiral arms all originate from its center. The bright gas and stars that make up these arms can be seen here glowing brightly, mottled by the dark dust lanes that trace across the galaxy.

Related link:

Galaxy NGC 3507:

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: and and

Image, Text, Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Nick Rose.


NASA’s Mars Spacecraft Maneuvers to Prepare for Close Comet Flyby

NASA logo.

July 25, 2014

NASA is taking steps to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data, as Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring heads toward a close flyby of Mars on Oct. 19.

The comet’s nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers), shedding material hurtling at about 35 miles (56 kilometers) per second, relative to Mars and Mars-orbiting spacecraft. At that velocity, even the smallest particle -- estimated to be about one-fiftieth of an inch (half a millimeter) across -- could cause significant damage to a spacecraft.

NASA currently operates two Mars orbiters, with a third on its way and expected to arrive in Martian orbit just a month before the comet flyby. Teams operating the orbiters plan to have all spacecraft positioned on the opposite side of the Red Planet when the comet is most likely to pass by.

"Three expert teams have modeled this comet for NASA and provided forecasts for its flyby of Mars," explained Rich Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Exploration Program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "The hazard is not an impact of the comet nucleus, but the trail of debris coming from it. Using constraints provided by Earth-based observations, the modeling results indicate that the hazard is not as great as first anticipated. Mars will be right at the edge of the debris cloud, so it might encounter some of the particles -- or it might not."

Image above: This graphic depicts the orbit of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring as it swings around the sun in 2014. On Oct. 19, the comet will have a very close pass at Mars. Its nucleus will miss Mars by about 82,000 miles (132,000 kilometers). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

During the day's events, the smallest distance between Siding Spring's nucleus and Mars will be less than one-tenth the distance of any known previous Earthly comet flyby. The period of greatest risk to orbiting spacecraft will start about 90 minutes later and last about 20 minutes, when Mars will come closest to the center of the widening dust trail from the nucleus.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) made one orbit-adjustment maneuver on July 2 as part of the process of repositioning the spacecraft for the Oct. 19 event. An additional maneuver is planned for Aug. 27. The team operating NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter is planning a similar maneuver on Aug. 5 to put that spacecraft on track to be in the right place at the right time, as well.

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft is on its way to the Red Planet and will enter orbit on Sept. 21. The MAVEN team is planning to conduct a precautionary maneuver on Oct. 9, prior to the start of the mission's main science phase in early November.

In the days before and after the comet's flyby, NASA will study the comet by taking advantage of how close it comes to Mars. Researchers plan to use several instruments on the Mars orbiters to study the nucleus, the coma surrounding the nucleus, and the tail of Siding Spring, as well as the possible effects on the Martian atmosphere. This particular comet has never before entered the inner solar system, so it will provide a fresh source of clues to our solar system's earliest days.

Image above: Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will make a very close approach to Mars in October 2014. Photo-montage Credits: Aerospace / Acknowledgment: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Dr. Carey M. Lisse (correct orientation of the comet).

MAVEN will study gases coming off the comet's nucleus into its coma as it is warmed by the sun. MAVEN also will look for effects the comet flyby may have on the planet’s upper atmosphere and observe the comet as it travels through the solar wind.

MAVEN spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Odyssey will study thermal and spectral properties of the comet's coma and tail. MRO will monitor Mars’ atmosphere for possible temperature increases and cloud formation, as well as changes in electron density at high altitudes. The MRO team also plans to study gases in the comet’s coma. Along with other MRO observations, the team anticipates this event will yield detailed views of the comet’s nucleus and potentially reveal its rotation rate and surface features.

Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Mars' atmosphere, though much thinner than Earth's, is thick enough that NASA does not anticipate any hazard to the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers on the planet's surface, even if dust particles from the comet hit the atmosphere and form into meteors. Rover cameras may be used to observe the comet before the flyby, and to monitor the atmosphere for meteors while the comet's dust trail is closest to the planet.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Observations from Earth-based and space telescopes provided data used for modeling to make predictions about Siding Spring's Mars flyby, which were in turn used for planning protective maneuvers. The three modeling teams were headed by researchers at the University of Maryland in College Park, the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, and JPL.

For more information about the Mars flyby of comet Siding Spring, visit:

For more information about NASA's Mars Exploration Program, visit:

Related article:

NASA Preparing for 2014 Comet Watch at Mars:

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


New mass map of a distant galaxy cluster is the most precise yet

ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

25 July 2014

Stunning new observations from Frontier Fields

Colour image of galaxy cluster MCS J0416.1–2403

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have mapped the mass within a galaxy cluster more precisely than ever before. Created using observations from Hubble's Frontier Fields observing programme, the map shows the amount and distribution of mass within MCS J0416.1–2403, a massive galaxy cluster found to be 160 trillion times the mass of the Sun. The detail in this mass map was made possible thanks to the unprecedented depth of data provided by new Hubble observations, and the cosmic phenomenon known as strong gravitational lensing.

Measuring the amount and distribution of mass within distant objects in the Universe can be very difficult. A trick often used by astronomers is to explore the contents of large clusters of galaxies by studying the gravitational effects they have on the light from very distant objects beyond them. This is one of the main goals of Hubble's Frontier Fields, an ambitious observing programme scanning six different galaxy clusters — including MCS J0416.1–2403, the cluster shown in this stunning new image [1].

Colour image of galaxy cluster MCS J0416.1–2403, annotated

Large clumps of mass in the Universe warp and distort the space-time around them. Acting like lenses, they appear to magnify and bend light that travels through them from more distant objects [2].

Despite their large masses, the effect of galaxy clusters on their surroundings is usually quite minimal. For the most part they cause what is known as weak lensing, making even more distant sources appear as only slightly more elliptical or smeared across the sky. However, when the cluster is large and dense enough and the alignment of cluster and distant object is just right, the effects can be more dramatic. The images of normal galaxies can be transformed into rings and sweeping arcs of light, even appearing several times within the same image. This effect is known as strong lensing, and it is this phenomenon, seen around the six galaxy clusters targeted by the Frontier Fields programme, that has been used to map the mass distribution of MCS J0416.1–2403, using the new Hubble data.

"The depth of the data lets us see very faint objects and has allowed us to identify more strongly lensed galaxies than ever before," explains Mathilde Jauzac of Durham University, UK, and Astrophysics & Cosmology Research Unit, South Africa, lead author of the new Frontier Fields paper. "Even though strong lensing magnifies the background galaxies they are still very far away and very faint. The depth of these data means that we can identify incredibly distant background galaxies. We now know of more than four times as many strongly lensed galaxies in the cluster than we did before."

 Mass map of galaxy cluster MCS J0416.1–2403 using strong and weak lensing

Using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, the astronomers identified 51 new multiply imaged galaxies around the cluster, quadrupling the number found in previous surveys and bringing the grand total of lensed galaxies to 68. Because these galaxies are seen several times this equates to almost 200 individual strongly lensed images which can be seen across the frame. This effect has allowed Jauzac and her colleagues to calculate the distribution of visible and dark matter in the cluster and produce a highly constrained map of its mass [3].

"Although we’ve known how to map the mass of a cluster using strong lensing for more than twenty years, it’s taken a long time to get telescopes that can make sufficiently deep and sharp observations, and for our models to become sophisticated enough for us to map, in such unprecedented detail, a system as complicated as MCS J0416.1–2403," says team member Jean-Paul Kneib.

By studying 57 of the most reliably and clearly lensed galaxies, the astronomers modelled the mass of both normal and dark matter within MCS J0416.1-2403. "Our map is twice as good as any previous models of this cluster!" adds Jauzac.

Hubble Space Telescope in orbit

The total mass within MCS J0416.1-2403 — modelled to be over 650 000 light-years across — was found to be 160 trillion times the mass of the Sun. This measurement is several times more precise than any other cluster map, and is the most precise ever produced [4]. By precisely pinpointing where the mass resides within clusters like this one, the astronomers are also measuring the warping of space-time with high precision.

"Frontier Fields' observations and gravitational lensing techniques have opened up a way to very precisely characterise distant objects — in this case a cluster so far away that its light has taken four and a half billion years to reach us," adds Jean-Paul Kneib. "But, we will not stop here. To get a full picture of the mass we need to include weak lensing measurements too. Whilst it can only give a rough estimate of the inner core mass of a cluster, weak lensing provides valuable information about the mass surrounding the cluster core."

The team will continue to study the cluster using ultra-deep Hubble imaging and detailed strong and weak lensing information to map the outer regions of the cluster as well as its inner core, and will thus be able to detect substructures in the cluster's surroundings. They will also take advantage of X-ray measurements of hot gas and spectroscopic redshifts to map the contents of the cluster, evaluating the respective contribution of dark matter, gas and stars [5].

Combining these sources of data will further enhance the detail of this mass distribution map, showing it in 3D and including the relative velocities of the galaxies within it. This paves the way to understanding the history and evolution of this galaxy cluster.

The results of the study will be published online in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society on 24 July 2014.


[1] The cluster is also known as MACS J0416.1–2403.

[2] The warping of space-time by large objects in the Universe was one of the predictions of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

[3] Gravitational lensing is one of the few methods astronomers have to find out about dark matter. Dark matter, which makes up around three quarters of all matter in the Universe, cannot be seen directly as it does not emit or reflect any light, and can pass through other matter without friction (it is collisionless). It interacts only by gravity, and its presence must be deduced from its gravitational effects.

[4] The uncertainty on the measurement is only around 0.5%, or 1 trillion times the mass of the sun. This may not seem precise but it is for a measurement such as this.

[5] NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory was used to obtain X-ray measurements of hot gas in the cluster and ground based observatories provide the data needed to measure spectroscopic redshifts.

Notes for editors:

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

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of M. Jauzac (Durham University, UK and Astrophysics & Cosmology Research Unit, South Africa); B. Clement (University of Arizona, USA); M. Limousin (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, France and University of Copenhagen, Denmark); J. Richard (Université Lyon, France); E. Jullo (Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, France); H. Ebeling (University of Hawaii, USA); H. Atek (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland); J.-P. Kneib (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland and Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille, France); K. Knowles (University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa); P. Natarajan (Yale University, USA); D. Eckert (University of Geneva, Switzerland); E. Egami (University of Arizona, USA); R. Massey (Durham University, UK); and M. Rexroth (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland).


Images of Hubble:

Paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society:

Science paper:

University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy press release:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Hubble, NASA, HST Frontier Fields.  Acknowledgement: Mathilde Jauzac (Durham University, UK and Astrophysics & Cosmology Research Unit, South Africa) and Jean-Paul Kneib (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland).


jeudi 24 juillet 2014

Station Crew Opens Cargo Ship Hatch, Preps for CubeSat Deployment

ISS - Expedition 40 Mission patch.

July 24, 2014

The six-person Expedition 40 crew enjoyed an abbreviated workday Thursday, having worked late the previous night to welcome the arrival of a Russian cargo craft a little less than six hours after its launch from Kazakhstan.

The ISS Progress 56 resupply spacecraft, packed with almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies, automatically docked to the station’s Pirs docking compartment at 11:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday. The space freighter launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 5:44 p.m. to begin the 4-orbit trek to the orbiting complex.

After they completed a leak check at the interface between the Progress and Pirs, Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Max Suraev opened the hatch Thursday morning to begin unloading cargo from the resupply vehicle. The new Progress is loaded with 1,764 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water and 2,910 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and other supplies for the Expedition 40 crew.

Commander Steve Swanson began his day in the Kibo laboratory cleaning the Saibo experiment rack’s glovebox, known as the Clean Bench.

Image above: Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev works at the vestibule between the Destiny laboratory and the Unity node of the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

Meanwhile, Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman recharged a battery associated with one of the U.S. spacesuits to make sure that the necessary equipment remains ready to support a spacewalk.

Swanson and Wiseman then took a break from their work to talk with U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and committee members. The two NASA astronauts discussed the importance of space station research and technology, getting students interested in STEM fields and the station’s role in setting the path for America's next giant leap to send humans to Mars.

Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency focused much of his attention on preparations for the deployment of small CubeSat nanosatellites in the weeks ahead. Gerst installed NanoRacks CubeSat Deployer hardware onto the Multipurpose Experiment Platform, which will be passed through the Kibo module’s scientific airlock to launch the various CubeSats into orbit. Among the cargo aboard Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo ship when it arrived at the station last week were 16 deployers containing a total of 32 CubeSats, including 28 Dove nanosatellites built and operated by Planet Labs Inc. for a humanitarian Earth-imaging program.

Image above: Inside the International Space Station's Destiny lab, Commander Steve Swanson (right) and Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman talk with members of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Gerst and Swanson rounded out their day reviewing procedures for a test they will conduct Friday with a trio of soccer-ball-sized, free-flying robots known the Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES. For this upcoming experiment session, the SPHERES will be outfitted with stereoscopic goggles dubbed the Visual Estimation and Relative Tracking for Inspection of Generic Objects, or VERTIGO, to enable the free-floating robots to perform relative navigation based on a 3D model of a target object.

The third Russian cosmonaut aboard the station, Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev, worked with a cell cultivation experiment known as Kaskad and performed routine maintenance on the toilet in the Russian segment of the station.

Artemyev, Skvortsov and Swanson also continued their participation in a study of lightweight, commercially available clothing designed to resist odors. Since there’s no washing machine on the station and launching enough clothes for a change every day would consume valuable cargo space on resupply vehicles, the station’s crew members re-wear their garments for multiple days. The three crew members have been wearing the new germ-resistant test clothes to check for comfort and odor control.

For more information about the International Space Station and its current crew, visit

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA.


New Surface Impressions of Rosetta’s Comet

ESA - Rosetta Mission patch.

July 24, 2014

Surface structures are becoming visible in new images of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by the scientific imaging system OSIRIS onboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft. The resolution of these images is now 330 feet (100 meters) per pixel. One of the most striking features is currently found in the comet’s neck region. This part of 67P seems to be brighter than the rest of the nucleus.

As earlier images had already shown, 67P may consist of two parts: a smaller head connected to a larger body. The connecting region, the neck, is proving to be especially intriguing. “The only thing we know for sure at this point is that this neck region appears brighter compared to the head and body of the nucleus,” says OSIRIS Principal Investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. This collar-like appearance could be caused by differences in material or grain size, or could be a topographical effect.

Animation above: mages of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken on July 14, 2014, by the OSIRIS imaging system aboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft have allowed scientists to create this three-dimensional shape model of the nucleus. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM.

Even though the images taken from a distance of 3,400 miles (5,500 kilometers) are still not highly resolved, the scientists are remotely reminded of comet 103P/Hartley, which was visited in a flyby by NASA’s EPOXI mission in 2010. While Hartley’s ends show a rather rough surface, its middle is much smoother. Scientists believe this waist to be a gravitational low: since it contains the body’s center of mass, emitted material that cannot leave the comet’s gravitational field is most likely to be re-deposited there.

Whether this also holds true for 67P’s neck region is still unclear. Another explanation for the high reflectivity could be a different surface composition. In coming weeks, the OSIRIS team hopes to analyze the spectral data of this region obtained with the help of the imaging system’s filters. These can select several wavelength regions from the reflected light, allowing scientists to identify the characteristic fingerprints of certain materials and compositional features.

Images above: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was imaged by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft on July 20, 2014, from a distance of approximately 3,400 miles (5,500 kilometers). These three images were taken two hours apart. Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team/MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM.

At the same time, the team is currently modeling the comet’s three-dimensional shape from the camera data. Such a model can help to get a better impression of the body’s shape. Rosetta will be the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the sun, and deploy a lander to its surface.

Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by the German Aerospace Center, Cologne; Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen; French National Space Agency, Paris; and the Italian Space Agency, Rome. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the U.S. participation in the Rosetta mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Rosetta carries three NASA instruments in its 21-instrument payload.

For more information on the U.S. instruments aboard Rosetta, visit:

More information about Rosetta is available at:

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / Dwayne Brown / JPL / Preston Dyches / European Space Agency, Markus Bauer.

Best regards,

Hubble Finds Three Surprisingly Dry Exoplanets

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 24, 2014

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have gone looking for water vapor in the atmospheres of three planets orbiting stars similar to the sun -- and have come up nearly dry.

The three planets, known as HD 189733b, HD 209458b, and WASP-12b, are between 60 and 900 light-years away from Earth and were thought to be ideal candidates for detecting water vapor in their atmospheres because of their high temperatures where water turns into a measurable vapor.

These so-called “hot Jupiters” are so close to their star they have temperatures between 1,500 and 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, however, the planets were found to have only one-tenth to one one-thousandth the amount of water predicted by standard planet-formation theories.

"Our water measurement in one of the planets, HD 209458b, is the highest-precision measurement of any chemical compound in a planet outside our solar system, and we can now say with much greater certainty than ever before that we've found water in an exoplanet," said Nikku Madhusudhan of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge, England. "However, the low water abundance we have found so far is quite astonishing."

Madhusudhan, who led the research, said that this finding presents a major challenge to exoplanet theory. "It basically opens a whole can of worms in planet formation. We expected all these planets to have lots of water in them. We have to revisit planet formation and migration models of giant planets, especially “hot Jupiters,” and investigate how they're formed."

Image above: This is an artistic illustration of the gas giant planet HD 209458b in the constellation Pegasus. To the surprise of astronomers, they have found much less water vapor in the hot world’s atmosphere than standard planet-formation models predict. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon (STScI) and N. Madhusudhan (UC).

He emphasizes that these results may have major implications in the search for water in potentially habitable Earth-sized exoplanets. Instruments on future space telescopes may need to be designed with a higher sensitivity if target planets are drier than predicted. "We should be prepared for much lower water abundances than predicted when looking at super-Earths (rocky planets that are several times the mass of Earth)," Madhusudhan said.

Using near-infrared spectra of the planets observed with Hubble, Madhusudhan and his collaborators estimated the amount of water vapor in each of the planetary atmospheres that explains the data.

The planets were selected because they orbit relatively bright stars that provide enough radiation for an infrared-light spectrum to be taken. Absorption features from the water vapor in the planet's atmosphere are detected because they are superimposed on the small amount of starlight that glances through the planet's atmosphere.

Detecting water is almost impossible for transiting planets from the ground because Earth's atmosphere has a lot of water in it, which contaminates the observation. "We really need the Hubble Space Telescope to make such observations," said Nicolas Crouzet of the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto and co-author of the study.

Hubble orbiting Earth

The currently accepted theory on how giant planets in our solar system formed, known as core accretion, states a planet is formed around the young star in a protoplanetary disk made primarily of hydrogen, helium, and particles of ices and dust composed of other chemical elements. The dust particles stick to each other, eventually forming larger and larger grains. The gravitational forces of the disk draw in these grains and larger particles until a solid core forms. This then leads to runaway accretion of both solids and gas to eventually form a giant planet.

This theory predicts that the proportions of the different elements in the planet are enhanced relative to those in its star, especially oxygen, which is supposed to be the most enhanced. Once the giant planet forms, its atmospheric oxygen is expected to be largely encompassed within water molecules. The very low levels of water vapor found by this research raise a number of questions about the chemical ingredients that lead to planet formation.

"There are so many things we still don't know about exoplanets, so this opens up a new chapter in understanding how planets and solar systems form," said Drake Deming of the University of Maryland, who led one of the precursor studies. "The problem is that we are assuming the water to be as abundant as in our own solar system. What our study has shown is that water features could be a lot weaker than our expectations."

The findings are published July 24 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: and and

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: ESA / NASA / J.D. Harrington / Space Telescope Science Institute / Ray Villard.


Report on the work of the spacecraft Foton-M



July 19 at 00 hours 50 minutes Moscow time from the launch complex of the platform number 31 took the Baikonur cosmodrome launch rocket Soyuz-2.1a with the scientific technological spacecraft Foton-M4.

Soyuz-2.1a with Foton-M4 launch

In accordance with cyclogram flight 00 hours 58 minutes spacecraft Foton-M (production of Rocket and Space Center Progress, Samara) was launched into orbit.

After a few turns was broken ground control communications with the spacecraft Foton-M4 via issuing commands. On board the spacecraft telemetry data received on the operation of all systems, held its processing and analysis.

Foton-M spacecraft

The results show that all the satellite service systems operating in strict accordance with the logic of the onboard complex control of this unit.

Design and on-board the spacecraft Foton-M4 and allow for long-term performance of its operation in standalone mode.

Now experts primary operative management group is working on the restoration of communications with the spacecraft.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Related links:

Spacecraft Foton-M 4 successfully launched:

For more information about Foton-M4, visit (in Russian) - Научный технологический космический аппарат «Фотон-М» № 4:

Images, Text, Credits: Roscosmos press service / ROSCOSMOS / Translation: Aeropsace.


mercredi 23 juillet 2014

Spacecraft Canopus-V - the third year in orbit



Today, July 22 marks two years since the successful launch small spacecraft (ICA) "Canopus-In № 1".

Canopus-V (465 kg) is the first Russian spacecraft high-precision remote sensing (2.1 m panchromatic and 10.5 m in multispectral mode) of the new generation, designed for operational monitoring of man-made and natural disasters and created JSC "Corporation" VNIIEM "under the Federal Space program.

Currently Canopus-V operates regular shooting target areas the Earth's surface. Information received from the satellite, active demand by Russian and foreign consumers and used to solve practical problems: mapping; monitoring technological and natural disasters, including extreme weather events (flood mapping, detection and monitoring of forest fires, major pollutant emissions, etc.); evaluation snowy areas; assess ice conditions in the polar regions; inventory of agricultural land, crop condition monitoring, evaluation debris, identify pests and diseases of crops, crop yield forecasting; inventory control and infrastructure construction; environmental monitoring areas; perform scaffolding work, control and monitoring of forest and other forests. In particular, information from the spacecraft Canopus-V has been successfully used to assess the situation in the disaster areas, control of potentially dangerous objects and territories in areas of high risk of disaster, monitoring wildfires.

"Canopus-In № 1" or Canopus-V spacecraft

Within two years of successful operation was worked out more than 6000 routes taken, with the total area of ​​coverage of the surface of the Earth is more than 40 million square meters. km.

The spacecraft was built on the basis of modularity (service platform and payload). Inside platform MCA Canopus-V is universal and allows the payload for different purposes (for remote sensing survey equipment, scientific equipment for space research, etc.). Which will in the short term to create new spacecraft for various purposes with minimal costs.

Confirmation of the above is to create specialists of JSC "Corporation" VNIIEM "on the basis of the official platform has two spacecraft: MCA remote sensing for detection of small forest fires "Canopus-B-IR" commissioned by the Federal Space Agency and the ICA scientific purposes" Mikhail Lomonosov "that is created in collaboration with scientists MSU. MV University (SINP).

According to experts created and commissioned small spacecraft high spatial resolution of the new generation Canopus-V world standard spacecraft of this class meets the requirements of consumers and has no analogues in Russia.

Example of using pictures ICA to solve practical problems:

Monitoring flooding in the Altai Territory, 2014
Satellite monitoring of burned areas, 2013
Scheme covering materials SC shooting in the period from October 2012 to March 2014
Picture with ICA, Moscow

ROSOCOSMOS Press Release:

Images, Text, Credits: Roscosmos press service /ROSCOSMOS / Tramslation: Aerospace.


Cargo Ship Docks to Station Less Than Six Hours After Launch

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

July 23, 2014

The ISS Progress 56 resupply spacecraft, packed with almost three tons of cargo, automatically docked to the International Space Station’s Pirs docking compartment at 11:31 p.m. EDT Wednesday, less than six hours after its launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

At the time of docking, the station was soaring 259 miles over the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of South America.

 New Russian Supply Ship Arrives at the ISS

The Soyuz rocket carrying Progress 56 launched from Baikonur at 5:44 p.m. (3:44 a.m., Baikonur time) to send the cargo ship on its expedited, 4-orbit trek to the station.

The new Progress is loaded with 1,764 pounds of propellant, 48 pounds of oxygen, 57 pounds of air, 926 pounds of water and 2,910 pounds of spare parts, experiment hardware and other supplies for the Expedition 38 crew. Expedition 40 Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Max Suraev will open the hatch to Progress Thursday morning to begin unloading the cargo.

Image above: The ISS Progress 56 cargo ship approaches the International Space Station for docking. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The ISS Progress 55 cargo craft, which undocked from Pirs on Monday, is now a safe distance from the complex for a series of engineering tests prior to being sent to a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean on July 31.

The station’s crew began the workday at 6 a.m. Wednesday, four hours later than the usual 2 a.m. reveille to accommodate the late-night arrival of Progress.

Commander Steve Swanson and Flight Engineer Alexander Gerst participated in more Ocular Health exams as flight surgeons track the vision health of the astronauts aboard the station. NASA recently identified that some astronauts experience changes in their vision, which might be related to effects of microgravity on the cardiovascular system. Researchers are working to understand and prevent these changes in astronauts. With guidance from the Ocular Health team on the ground, Gerst performed an ultrasound scan of Swanson’s eyes. Flight Engineer Reid Wiseman then pitched in to help out with Wednesday’s exams and conducted an ultrasound scan of Gerst’s eyes. Swanson and Gerst later measured each other’s blood pressure and collected electrocardiogram data for Ocular Health.

Swanson also temporarily removed the Multi-user Droplet Combustion Apparatus from the Combustion Integrated Rack’s combustion chamber to replace some igniter tips.

The commander then moved on to assist Wiseman, who was participating in another round of data collection for the Sprint exercise study. Sprint measures the effectiveness of high-intensity, low-volume exercise training in minimizing the loss of muscle mass and bone density that occurs during spaceflight. Station crew members currently work out around 2 ½-hours every day, and the Sprint team is looking into ways to reduce that total exercise time while maintaining crew fitness

Wiseman also set up and photographed new test samples for the Binary Colloidal Alloy Test, or BCAT. Results from this ongoing investigation of colloids – mixtures of small particles distributed throughout a liquid – will help materials scientists to develop new consumer products with unique properties and longer shelf lives.

For the ongoing Burning And Suppression of Solids experiment, or BASS, Gerst conducted a series of flame tests at reduced oxygen pressure to get a stable blue flame for a longer period of time. Housed inside the station’s Microgravity Science Glovebox, BASS is investigating the hypothesis that some materials may actually become more flammable in space. Results from BASS will help screen materials for their use aboard future spacecraft. The research also provides scientists with improved computational models that will aid in the design of fire detection and suppression systems both in space and here on Earth.

Gerst also used several dermatology tools on his forearm to collect data for the Skin B experiment, which investigates the accelerated aging of skin that seems to occur during spaceflight. Results from this study will improve the understanding of the mechanisms of skin aging as well as provide insight into the aging process of similar body tissues.

Image above: The ISS Progress 56 cargo craft launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.Image Credit: NASA TV.

On the Russian side of the station, Suraev and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev began the day with an examination of the veins in their lower legs to provide data on the body’s adaption to long-duration spaceflight.

With Progress 56 slated to arrive at the station well-past the crew’s usual bedtime, all three Russian cosmonauts aboard the station took a 4-hour nap at beginning 12:30 p.m.

The station also conducted a “deboost” Wednesday morning to steer clear of some space debris.

The engines of the station’s Zvezda service module conducted a 32-second firing at 6:57 a.m. EDT to slightly lower the orbit of the complex and steer clear of a fragment of debris from a Russian Breeze-M upper stage used in the launch of a Russian satellite in December 2011.

The “deboost” of the station was coordinated between NASA and Russian flight controllers after tracking data confirmed that the fragment would have posed a high probability of a conjunction with the station. Although last-minute tracking data indicated that the fragment would have passed a safe distance away from the station, flight controllers elected to proceed with the engine firing since it would have no impact on other activities. Earlier data indicated that if no maneuver would have been conducted, the fragment would have made its closest approach to the station at 9:16 a.m. with an estimated radial miss distance of just 1/10 of a mile and an overall miss distance of 3.6 miles.

The maneuver lowered the station’s orbit by 1.1 statute miles at apogee and 1/10 of a statute mile at perigee and left the station in an orbit of 258.8 x 256.9 statute miles.

The conjunction posed no threat to the crew, had no impact on station operations or the launch of Progress 56.

For more information about the International Space Station and its current crew, visit

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credit: NASA / NASA TV.

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NEOWISE Spots a Comet That Looked Like an Asteroid

NASA - NEOWISE Mission logo.

July 23, 2014

Image above: Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) appeared to be a highly active comet one day past perihelion on July 7, 2014. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) has been observed by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft just one day after passing through its closest approach to the sun. The comet glows brightly in infrared wavelengths, with a dust tail streaking more than 62,000 miles (100,000 kilometers) across the sky. Its spectacular activity is driven by the vaporization of ice that has been preserved from the time of planet formation 4.5 billion years ago.

"The tail forms a faint fan as the smaller dust particles are more easily pushed away from the sun by the radiation pressure of the sunlight," said James Bauer, researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

C/2013 UQ4 takes more than 450 years to orbit the sun once and spends most of its time far away at very low temperatures. Its orbit is also retrograde, which means that the comet moves around the sun in the opposite direction to the planets and asteroids.

Image above: Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) first looked like an asteroid when NASA’s NEOWISE team first observed it on December 31, 2013. These exposures were taken that day, when the comet was at a distance of about 2.9 AU from the sun. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The comet was originally thought to be an asteroid, as it appeared inactive when discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey on October 23, 2013. NEOWISE also observed the comet to be inactive on New Year's Eve, 2013, but since then the comet has become highly active, allowing astronomers around the world to observe it. The comet's activity should decline as it once again returns to the cold recesses of space.

NEOWISE spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the NEOWISE mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah, built the science instrument. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. of Boulder, Colo., built the spacecraft. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. For more information about NEOWISE, visit:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Elizabeth Landau.


The Most Precise Measurement of an Alien World's Size

NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch / NASA - Kepler Space Telescope patch.

July 23, 2014

Image above: Using data from NASA's Kepler and Spitzer Space Telescopes, scientists have made the most precise measurement ever of the size of a world outside our solar system, as illustrated in this artist's conception. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Thanks to NASA's Kepler and Spitzer Space Telescopes, scientists have made the most precise measurement ever of the radius of a planet outside our solar system. The size of the exoplanet, dubbed Kepler-93b, is now known to an uncertainty of just 74 miles (119 kilometers) on either side of the planetary body.

The findings confirm Kepler-93b as a "super-Earth" that is about one-and-a-half times the size of our planet. Although super-Earths are common in the galaxy, none exist in our solar system. Exoplanets like Kepler-93b are therefore our only laboratories to study this major class of planet.

With good limits on the sizes and masses of super-Earths, scientists can finally start to theorize about what makes up these weird worlds. Previous measurements, by the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, had put Kepler-93b's mass at about 3.8 times that of Earth. The density of Kepler-93b, derived from its mass and newly obtained radius, indicates the planet is in fact very likely made of iron and rock, like Earth.

"With Kepler and Spitzer, we've captured the most precise measurement to date of an alien planet's size, which is critical for understanding these far-off worlds," said Sarah Ballard, a NASA Carl Sagan Fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle and lead author of a paper on the findings published in the Astrophysical Journal.

"The measurement is so precise that it's literally like being able to measure the height of a six-foot tall person to within three quarters of an inch -- if that person were standing on Jupiter," said Ballard.

Kepler-93b orbits a star located about 300 light-years away, with approximately 90 percent of the sun's mass and radius. The exoplanet's orbital distance -- only about one-sixth that of Mercury's from the sun -- implies a scorching surface temperature around 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit (760 degrees Celsius). Despite its newfound similarities in composition to Earth, Kepler-93b is far too hot for life.

Spitzer space telescope. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

To make the key measurement about this toasty exoplanet's radius, the Kepler and Spitzer telescopes each watched Kepler-93b cross, or transit, the face of its star, eclipsing a tiny portion of starlight. Kepler's unflinching gaze also simultaneously tracked the dimming of the star caused by seismic waves moving within its interior. These readings encode precise information about the star's interior. The team leveraged them to narrowly gauge the star's radius, which is crucial for measuring the planetary radius.

Spitzer, meanwhile, confirmed that the exoplanet's transit looked the same in infrared light as in Kepler's visible-light observations. These corroborating data from Spitzer -- some of which were gathered in a new, precision observing mode -- ruled out the possibility that Kepler's detection of the exoplanet was bogus, or a so-called false positive.

Taken together, the data boast an error bar of just one percent of the radius of Kepler-93b. The measurements mean that the planet, estimated at about 11,700 miles (18,800 kilometers) in diameter, could be bigger or smaller by about 150 miles (240 kilometers), the approximate distance between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia.

Spitzer racked up a total of seven transits of Kepler-93b between 2010 and 2011. Three of the transits were snapped using a "peak-up" observational technique. In 2011, Spitzer engineers repurposed the spacecraft's peak-up camera, originally used to point the telescope precisely, to control where light lands on individual pixels within Spitzer's infrared camera.

Kepler space telescope. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The upshot of this rejiggering: Ballard and her colleagues were able to cut in half the range of uncertainty of the Spitzer measurements of the exoplanet radius, improving the agreement between the Spitzer and Kepler measurements.

"Ballard and her team have made a major scientific advance while demonstrating the power of Spitzer's new approach to exoplanet observations," said Michael Werner, project scientist for the Spitzer Space Telescope at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, is responsible for Kepler's ground system development, mission operations and science data analysis. JPL managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado, 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 the Kepler mission, visit:

For more information about Spitzer, visit: and

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


International Space Station orbit changed

ISS - International Space Station patch.


July 23, 2014 an exceptional correction orbit of the International Space Station, the purpose of which was the creation of a safe flight path station.

 Zvezda description (ISS module)

In accordance with the information received from the service ballistic and navigation support MCC TsNIIMash today in 14 hours 57 minutes Moscow time included engines service module "Zvezda" who worked 30 seconds. As a result, the average height of the ISS orbit decreased by 800 m and reached 422 km.

International Space Station (ISS)

According to the service ballistic and navigation support MCC after maneuvering the ISS orbit parameters will be:

- Minimum height - 415.3 km;
- Maximum height - 430 km;
- Period - 92.82 min;
- Inclination - 51,6 °.

Image, Text, Credits: Roscosmos press service / ROSCOSMOS / Wikipedia / NASA / Translation: Aerospace.