samedi 19 novembre 2016

Welcome Aboard! New Arrivals Make Six Expedition 50 Crew Members

ISS - Expedition 50 Mission patch.

November 19, 2016

Image above: The six-member Expedition 50 crew is comprised of (front row, from left) Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet. In the back, from left, are Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Three new crew members are aboard the International Space Station. The hatches on the space station and Soyuz MS-03 opened at 7:40 p.m. EST, marking the arrival to the orbiting laboratory for NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency).

Expedition 50-51 Welcomed Aboard the Space Station

Along with Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, the arriving crew members will contribute to more than 250 research experiments ongoing aboard the space station, in diverse fields such as biology, Earth Science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

To learn more about the International Space Station, visit:

Expedition 50:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


New Trio Arrives to Join Expedition 50 Crew

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-03 Mission patch.

November 19, 2016

Image above: A camera on the space station observes the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft moments before docking to the Rassvet module. Image Credit: NASA TV.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitskiy of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) have docked to the International Space Station. After orbiting the Earth for approximately two days, their Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft docked with the space station’s Rassvet module at 4:58 p.m. EST.

Expedition 50-51 Crew Docks to the Space Station

When hatches between the Soyuz and space station open at 7:35 p.m., the three crew members will join Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko, who have been aboard the complex since October. NASA TV coverage for hatch opening will begin at 6:45 p.m.:

To learn more about the International Space Station, visit:

Expedition 50:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

GOES-R LIfts Off

NOAA & NASA - Atlas V / GOES-R launch poster.

Nov. 19, 2016

Image above: Liftoff! The United Launch Alliance Atlas V has cleared the tower and GOES-R is on its way into orbit! Image Credit: NASA.

NOAA's GOES-R weather satellite is carried away from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as viewers capture video on their phones. GOES-R launched to orbit at 6:42 p.m. EST on Saturday. The GOES-R series will significantly improve the detection and observation of environmental phenomena that directly affect public safety, protection of property and our nation’s economic health and prosperity.

Advanced Weather Satellite Launched into Orbit

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V 541 configuration rocket launches the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) mission for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

Mission Description:

GOES-R is the first of four satellites to be launched for NOAA in a new and advanced series of spacecraft. Once in geostationary orbit, it will be known as GOES-16.

Image above: Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite R-Series (GOES-R)· Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Compared with today’s geostationary satellites, GOES-R will scan the Earth five times faster at four times image resolution and triple the number of channels scientists can tap into to observe global weather and climate. GOES-R will support short-term forecasts and severe storm watches and warnings, maritime forecasts, seasonal predictions, drought outlooks and space weather predictions. The satellite also will improve hurricane tracking and intensity forecasts, increase thunderstorm and tornado warning lead time, improve aviation flight route planning, and provide data for long-term climate variability studies.

In addition to weather forecasting, GOES-R carries a transponder to detect distress signals from emergency beacons on aircraft, boats/ships and carried by individuals as part of the Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT) system.

United Launch Alliance (ULA):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: ULA/NASA/NASA TV/Steven Siceloff.


vendredi 18 novembre 2016

New Ceres Views as Dawn Moves Higher

NASA - Dawn Mission patch.

Nov. 18, 2016

Image above: Occator Crater, home of Ceres' intriguing brightest areas, is prominently featured in this image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

The brightest area on Ceres stands out amid shadowy, cratered terrain in a dramatic new view from NASA's Dawn spacecraft, taken as it looked off to the side of the dwarf planet. Dawn snapped this image on Oct. 16, from its fifth science orbit, in which the angle of the sun was different from that in previous orbits. Dawn was about 920 miles (1,480 kilometers) above Ceres when this image was taken -- an altitude the spacecraft had reached in early October.    

Occator Crater, with its central bright region and secondary, less-reflective areas, appears quite prominent near the limb, or edge, of Ceres. At 57 miles (92 kilometers) wide and 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) deep, Occator displays evidence of recent geologic activity. The latest research suggests that the bright material in this crater is comprised of salts left behind after a briny liquid emerged from below, froze and then sublimated, meaning it turned from ice into vapor.

The impact that formed the crater millions of years ago unearthed material that blanketed the area outside the crater, and may have triggered the upwelling of salty liquid.

"This image captures the wonder of soaring above this fascinating, unique world that Dawn is the first to explore," said Marc Rayman, Dawn's chief engineer and mission director, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Dawn scientists also have released an image of Ceres that approximates how the dwarf planet's colors would appear to the human eye. This view, produced by the German Aerospace Center in Berlin, combines images taken from Dawn's first science orbit in 2015, using the framing camera's red, green and blue filters. The color was calculated based on the way Ceres reflects different wavelengths of light.

Image above: This image of Ceres approximates how the dwarf planet's colors would appear to the eye. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

The spacecraft has gathered tens of thousands of images and other information from Ceres since arriving in orbit on March 6, 2015. After spending more than eight months studying Ceres at an altitude of about 240 miles (385 kilometers), closer than the International Space Station is to Earth, Dawn headed for a higher vantage point in August. In October, while the spacecraft was at its 920-mile altitude, it returned images and other valuable insights about Ceres.

On Nov. 4, Dawn began making its way to a sixth science orbit, which will be over 4,500 miles (7,200 kilometers) from Ceres. While Dawn needed to make several changes in its direction while spiraling between most previous orbits at Ceres, engineers have figured out a way for the spacecraft to arrive at this next orbit while the ion engine thrusts in the same direction that Dawn is already going. This uses less hydrazine and xenon fuel than Dawn's normal spiral maneuvers. Dawn should reach this next orbit in early December.

One goal of Dawn's sixth science orbit is to refine previously collected measurements. The spacecraft’s gamma ray and neutron spectrometer, which has been investigating the composition of Ceres' surface, will characterize the radiation from cosmic rays unrelated to Ceres. This will allow scientists to subtract "noise" from measurements of Ceres, making the information more precise.

Dawn spacecraft and Ceres. Image Credit: NASA

The spacecraft is healthy as it continues to operate in its extended mission phase, which began in July. During the primary mission, Dawn orbited and accomplished all of its original objectives at Ceres and protoplanet Vesta, which the spacecraft visited from July 2011 to September 2012.

Dawn's mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Italian Space Agency and Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of mission participants, visit:

More information about Dawn is available at the following sites:

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


Hubble Nets a Subtle Swarm

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Nov. 18, 2016

This Hubble image shows NGC 4789A, a dwarf irregular galaxy in the constellation of Coma Berenices. It certainly lives up to its name — the stars that call this galaxy home are smeared out across the sky in an apparently disorderly and irregular jumble, giving NGC 4789A a far more subtle and abstract appearance than its glitzy spiral and elliptical cousins.

These stars may look as if they have been randomly sprinkled on the sky, but they are all held together by gravity. The colors in this image have been deliberately exaggerated to emphasize the mix of blue and red stars. The blue stars are bright, hot and massive stars that have formed relatively recently, whereas the red stars are much older. The presence of both tells us that stars have been forming in this galaxy throughout its history.

At a distance of just over 14 million light-years away NGC 4789A is relatively close to us, allowing us to see many of the individual stars within its bounds. This image also reveals numerous other galaxies, far more distant, that appear as fuzzy shapes spread across the image.

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

Image Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgements: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla)/Text Credits: European Space Agency/NASA/Rob Garner.


ESA & Roscosmos new Mars orbiter prepares for first science

ESA & ROSCOSMOS - ExoMars Mission patch.

18 November 2016

The ExoMars orbiter is preparing to make its first scientific observations at Mars during two orbits of the planet starting next week.

The Trace Gas Orbiter, or TGO, a joint endeavour between ESA and Roscosmos, arrived at Mars on 19 October. It entered orbit, as planned, on a highly elliptical path that takes it from between 230 and 310 km above the surface to around 98 000 km every 4.2 days.

Trace Gas Orbiter at Mars

The main science mission will only begin once it reaches a near-circular orbit about 400 km above the planet’s surface after a year of ‘aerobraking’ – using the atmosphere to gradually brake and change its orbit. Full science operations are expected to begin by March 2018.

But next week provides the science teams with a chance to calibrate their instruments and make the first test observations now the spacecraft is actually at Mars.

In fact, the neutron detector has been on for much of TGO’s cruise to Mars and is currently collecting data to continue calibrating the background flux and checking that nothing changed after the Schiaparelli module detached from the spacecraft.

It will measure the flow of neutrons from the martian surface, created by the impact of cosmic rays. The way in which they are emitted and their speed on arriving at TGO will tell scientists about the composition of the surface layer.

In particular, because even small quantities of hydrogen can cause a change in the neutron speed, the sensor will be able to seek out locations where ice or water may exist, within the planet’s top 1–2 m.

The orbiter’s other three instruments have a number of test observations scheduled during 20–28 November.

Trace Gas Orbiter instruments

During the primary science mission two instrument suites will make complementary measurements to take a detailed inventory of the atmosphere, particularly those gases that are present only in trace amounts.

Of high interest is methane, which on Earth is produced primarily by biological activity or geological processes such as some hydrothermal reactions.

The measurements will be carried out in different modes: pointing through the atmosphere towards the Sun, at the horizon at sunlight scattered by the atmosphere, and looking downwards at sunlight reflected from the surface. By looking at how the sunlight is influenced, scientists can analyse the atmospheric constituents.

In the upcoming orbits there are only opportunities for pointing towards the horizon or directly at the surface. This will allow the science teams to check the pointing of their instrument to best prepare for future measurements.

TGO’s first image of Mars – 13 June 2016

There is the possibility that they might detect some natural nightside airglow – an emission of light in the upper atmosphere produced when atoms broken apart by the solar wind recombine to form molecules, releasing energy in the form of light.

During the second orbit, the scientists have also planned observations of Phobos, the larger and innermost of the planet’s two moons.

Finally, the camera will take its first test images at Mars next week. In each of the two orbits, it will first point at stars to calibrate itself for measuring the planet’s surface reflectance.

Then it will point at Mars.

Given the current elliptical orbit, the spacecraft will be both closer to and further from the planet than during its main science mission. Closest to the planet, it will be travelling faster over the surface than in its final circular orbit, which presents some challenges in timing when the images should be taken. 

The camera is designed to capture stereo pairs: it takes one image looking slightly forwards, and then the camera is rotated to look ‘back’ to take the second part of the image, in order to see the same region of the surface from two different angles. By combining the image pair, information about the relative heights of the surface features can be seen.

Next week, the camera team will be checking the internal timing to help programme commands for future specific scientific observations. The high speed and changing altitude of the elliptical orbit will make stereo reconstruction challenging, but the team will be able to test the stereo rotation mechanism and the various different camera filters, as well as how to compensate for spacecraft orientation with respect to the ground track.

How TGO's camera takes stereo images

There are no specific imaging targets in mind, although near the closest approach of the first orbit the orbiter will be flying over the Noctis Labyrinthus region and it will attempt to obtain a stereo pair. In the second orbit, it has the opportunity to capture images of Phobos.

Ultimately, the camera will be used to image and analyse features that may be related to the trace gas sources and sinks, to help better understand the range of processes that may be producing the gases. The images will also be used for looking at future landing sites.

“We’re excited we will finally see the instruments perform in the environment for which they were designed, and to see the first data coming back from Mars,” says Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s TGO Project Scientist.

After this brief science instrument demonstration period, which also serves as a test for relaying this data back to Earth, along with data from NASA’s Curiosity and Opportunity rovers, the focus turns back to operations and the preparations required to for aerobraking next year.

Related links:

Robotic exploration of Mars:


ExoMars at IKI:

Thales Alenia Space:

NASA In 2016 ExoMars orbiter (Electra radio):

Where on Mars?:

More about...

ExoMars Factsheet:

ExoMars frequently asked questions:

ExoMars brochure:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/ATG medialab/Roscosmos/ExoMars/CaSSIS/University of Bern (UniBE)/Markus Bauer/Håkan Svedhem.

Best regards,

jeudi 17 novembre 2016

Craters Takel and Cozobi

NASA - Dawn Mission patch.

Nov. 17, 2016

The craters Takel and Cozobi are featured in this image of Ceres from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Takel is the young crater with bright material on the left of this image, and Cozobi is the sharply defined crater just below center.

Dawn's mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital ATK, Inc., in Dulles, Virginia, designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. For a complete list of mission participants, see

For more information about the Dawn mission, visit

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius.


New Crew Launches to Space Station to Continue Scientific Research

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-03 Mission patch.

Nov. 17, 2016

Image above: Three crew members representing the United States, Russia and France are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:20 p.m. EST Nov. 17, 2016 (2:20 a.m. Nov. 18, Baikonur time). Image Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Three crew members representing the United States, Russia and France are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:20 p.m. EST Thursday, Nov. 17 (2:20 a.m. Nov. 18, Baikonur time).

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Peggy Whitson of NASA, Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency), is scheduled to dock with the space station’s Rassvet module at 5:01 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19. NASA TV coverage of docking will begin at 4:15 p.m. Hatches are scheduled to open about 7:35 p.m., with NASA TV coverage starting at 6:45 p.m.

Expedition 50-51 Launches to International Space Station

The arrival of Whitson, Novitskiy and Pesquet returns the station's crew complement to six. The three join Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough of NASA and cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko. The Expedition 50 crew members will spend over four months conducting more than 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

Upcoming research includes how lighting impacts the overall health and well-being of crew members, and how microgravity affects tissue regeneration in humans and the genetic properties of space-grown plants.

In February, Whitson will become the first woman to command the space station twice. Her first tenure as commander was in 2007, when she became the first woman to hold this post. Whitson has an advanced degree in biochemistry, and prior to her selection as an astronaut candidate in 1996, she served in prominent medical science research and supervisory positions at NASA.

Image above: Expedition 50 crew members ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, top, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, and Russian cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos wave farewell before boarding their Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft for launch Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016, (Kazakh Time) in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Image Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

The crew members are scheduled to receive three cargo craft delivering several tons of food, fuel, supplies and research to the station, as well as new lithium ion batteries to replace the nickel-hydrogen batteries currently used on the station to store electrical energy generated by the station’s solar arrays. These will be installed during a series of spacewalks currently scheduled for January.

Whitson, Novitskiy and Pesquet will remain aboard the station until next spring. Kimbrough, Ryzhikov and Borisenko are scheduled to remain aboard the station until late February.

For more than 15 years, humans have been living continuously aboard the International Space Station to advance scientific knowledge and demonstrate new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that also will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space, including the Journey to Mars. A truly global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 1,900 research investigations from researchers in more than 95 countries.

Check out the full NASA TV schedule and video streaming information at:

Keep up with the International Space Station, and its research and crews, at:

Get breaking news, images and features from the station on Instagram and Twitter at: and 

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Kathryn Hambleton/Karen Northon/JSC/Dan Huot/NASA TV/ROSCOSMOS TV.

Best regards,

Icy surprises at Rosetta's comet

ESA - Rosetta Mission patch.

17 November 2016

As Rosetta's comet approached its most active period last year, the spacecraft spotted carbon dioxide ice – never before seen on a comet – followed by the emergence of two unusually large patches of water ice.

The carbon dioxide ice layer covered an area comparable to the size of a football pitch, while the two water ice patches were each larger than an Olympic swimming pool and much larger than any signs of water ice previously spotted at the comet.

The three icy layers were all found in the same region, on the comet's southern hemisphere.

A combination of the complex shape of the comet, its elongated path around the Sun and the substantial tilt of its spin, seasons are spread unequally between the two hemispheres of the double-lobed Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

When Rosetta arrived in August 2014, the northern hemisphere was still undergoing its 5.5 year summer, while the southern hemisphere was in winter and much of it was shrouded in darkness.

Video above: A day at comet 67P/C-G. Click here for more details and video downloads. Video Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA; Reprinted with permission from S. Fornasier et al., Science 10.1126/science.aag2671 (2016).

However, shortly before the comet's closest approach to the Sun in August 2015, the seasons changed and the southern hemisphere experienced a brief but intense summer, exposing this region to sunlight again.

In the first half of 2015, as the comet steadily became more active, Rosetta observed water vapour and other gases pouring out of the nucleus, lifting its dusty cover and revealing some of the comet's icy secrets.

In particular, on two occasions in late March 2015, Rosetta's visible, infrared and thermal imaging spectrometer, VIRTIS, found a very large patch of carbon dioxide ice in the Anhur region, in the comet's southern hemisphere.

Image above: First detection of carbon dioxide at a comet. Image Credits: data: ESA/Rosetta/VIRTIS/INAF-IAPS/OBS DE PARIS-LESIA/DLR; Reprinted with permission from G. Filacchione et al., Science 10.1126/science.aag3161 (2016); context image: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0.

This is the first detection of solid carbon dioxide on any comet, although it is not uncommon in the Solar System – it is abundant in the polar caps of Mars, for example.

"We know comets contain carbon dioxide, which is one of the most abundant species in cometary atmospheres after water, but it's extremely difficult to observe it in solid form on the surface," explains Gianrico Filacchione from Italy's INAF-IAPS Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali, who led the study.

In the comet environment, carbon dioxide freezes at -193°C, much below the temperature where water turns into ice. Above this temperature, it changes directly from a solid to a gas, hampering its detection in ice form on the surface.

By contrast, water ice has been found at various comets, and Rosetta detected plenty of small patches on several regions.

"We hoped to find signs of carbon dioxide ice and had been looking for it for quite a while, but it was definitely a surprise when we finally detected its unmistakable signature," adds Gianrico.

The patch, consisting of a few percent of carbon dioxide ice combined with a darker blend of dust and organic material, was observed on two consecutive days in March. This was a lucky catch: when the team looked at that region again around three weeks later, it was gone.

Assuming that all of the ice had turned into gas, the scientists estimated that the 80 m × 60 m patch contained about 57 kg of carbon dioxide, corresponding to a 9 cm-thick layer. Its presence on the surface is likely an isolated rare case, with the majority of carbon dioxide ice being confined to deeper layers of the nucleus.

Gianrico and his collaborators believe the icy patch dates back a few years, when the comet was still in the cold reaches of the outer Solar System and the southern hemisphere was experiencing its long winter. At that time, some of the carbon dioxide still outgassing from the interior of the nucleus condensed on the surface, where it remained frozen for a very long while, and vaporised only as the local temperature finally rose again in April 2015.

This reveals a seasonal cycle of carbon dioxide ice, which unfolds over the comet's 6.5 year orbit, as opposed to the daily cycle of water ice, also spotted by VIRTIS shortly after Rosetta's arrival.

Interestingly, shortly after the carbon dioxide ice had disappeared, Rosetta's OSIRIS narrow-angle camera detected two unusually large patches of water ice in the same area, between the southern regions of Anhur and Bes.

Image above: Large patches of water ice found on comet surface. Image Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA; Reprinted with permission from S. Fornasier et al., Science 10.1126/science.aag2671 (2016).

"We had already seen many metre-sized patches of exposed water ice in various regions of the comet, but the new detections are much larger, spanning some 30 m × 40 m each, and they persisted for about 10 days before they completely disappeared," says Sonia Fornasier from LESIA–Observatoire de Paris and Université Paris Diderot, France, lead scientist of the study focusing on seasonal and daily surface colour variations.

These ice-rich areas appear as very bright portions of the comet surface reflecting light that is bluer in colour compared with the redder surroundings. Scientists have experimented with mixtures of dust and water ice to show that, as the concentration of ice in them increases, the reflected light becomes gradually bluer in colour, until reaching a point where equal amounts of light are reflected in all colours.

The two newly detected patches contain 20–30% of water ice mixed with darker material, forming a layer up to 30 cm thick of solid ice. One of them was likely lurking underneath the carbon dioxide ice sheet revealed by VIRTIS about a month before.

"On a global scale, we also found that the entire comet surface turned increasingly bluer in colour as it approached the Sun and the intense activity lifted off large amounts of dust, exposing more of the ice-rich terrain underneath," explains Sonia.

As the comet moved away from the Sun, the scientists observed the overall colour of the comet surface gradually turning redder again.

Image above: Seasonal cycle of water ice at comet 67P/C-G. Image Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA; Reprinted with permission from S. Fornasier et al., Science 10.1126/science.aag2671 (2016).

They also revealed local variations of colour, indicative of the daily cycle of water ice. Quickly turning into water vapour when exposed to sunlight during the local daytime, it condensed back into thin layers of frost and ice as the temperature decreases after sunset, only to vaporise again on the following day.

The distribution of water ice beneath the dusty surface of the comet seems widely but not uniformly spread, with small patches punctuating the nucleus, appearing and disappearing as a result of the comet's activity.

Occasionally, larger and thicker portions of ice are also uncovered, dating back to a previous approach to the Sun.

"These two studies of the comet's icy content are revealing new details about the composition and history of the nucleus," says Matt Taylor, ESA Rosetta project scientist.

"While the flight part of the mission is now over, the scientific exploitation of the enormous quantity of data collected by Rosetta continues."

Notes for Editors

"Seasonal exposure of carbon dioxide ice on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko" by G. Filacchione et al. and "Rosetta's comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko sheds its dusty mantle to reveal its icy nature" by S. Fornasier et al. are published in the journal Science.

About Rosetta

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta's Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI.


The Visible, InfraRed and Thermal Imaging Spectrometer VIRTIS was built by a consortium of Italy, France and Germany, under the scientific responsibility of IAPS, Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali of INAF, Rome (IT), which led also the scientific operations. The VIRTIS instrument development for ESA has been funded and managed by ASI, with contributions from Observatoire de Meudon financed by CNES and from DLR. The VIRTIS instrument industrial prime contractor was former Officine Galileo, now Leonardo (Finmeccanica Group) in Campi Bisenzio, Florence, IT.


The scientific imaging system OSIRIS was built by a consortium led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany) in collaboration with CISAS, University of Padova (Italy), the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille (France), the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucia, CSIC (Spain), the Scientific Support Office of the European Space Agency (The Netherlands), the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (Spain), the Universidad Politéchnica de Madrid (Spain), the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Uppsala University (Sweden), and the Institute of Computer and Network Engineering of the TU Braunschweig (Germany). OSIRIS was financially supported by the national funding agencies of Germany (DLR), France (CNES), Italy (ASI), Spain (MEC), and Sweden (SNSB) and the ESA Technical Directorate.

Related article:

Mission complete: Rosetta’s journey ends in daring descent to comet

Related Publications:

Filacchione, G., et al. [2016]:

Fornasie, S., et al. [2016]:

Related links:

Comet viewer tool:

For more information about Rosetta mission, visit:

Rosetta overview:

Rosetta in depth:

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: ESA Science and Robotic Exploration/Markus Bauer/ESA Rosetta project scientist/Matt Taylor/LESIA–Observatoire de Paris and Université Paris Diderot/Sonia Fornasier/INAF-IAPS Istituto di Astrofisica e Planetologia Spaziali/Gianrico Filacchione.

Best regards,

Launch of New Galileo Navigation Quartet

ARIANESPACE / ESA - Ariane 5 Flight VA233 poster.

Nov. 17, 2016

Galileo liftoff

An Ariane 5 rocket has launched four additional Galileo satellites, accelerating deployment of the new satellite navigation system.

The Ariane 5, operated by Arianespace, lifted off from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 13:06 GMT (14:06 CET, 10:06 local time) carrying Galileo satellites 15–18. The first pair was released 3 h 25 min after liftoff, while the second separated 20 minutes later.

Galileo 15-18 - liftoff replay

The Galileos are at their target altitude, after a flawless release from the new dispenser designed to handle four satellites.

Over the next few days, engineers will nudge the satellites into their final working orbits and begin tests to ensure they are ready to join the constellation. This is expected to take six months or so.

Galileos deployed

This mission brings the Galileo system to 18 satellites.

The satellites already in orbit will allow the European Commission to declare the start of initial services, expected towards year’s end.

The previous 14 satellites were launched two at a time using the Soyuz–Fregat rocket.

“Now that we can rely on the powerful Ariane 5, we can anticipate the quicker completion of Galileo deployment, permitting the system to enter full operation,” remarked Paul Verhoef, ESA’s Director for the Galileo Programme and Navigation-related Activities.

Galileos atop Ariane 5

Two additional Ariane 5 launches are scheduled in 2017 and 2018. The full system of 24 satellites plus spares is expected to be in place by 2020.

“With this 75th successful launch in a row, Ariane-5 sets a new record within European developed launchers and proves once more its reliability, " said Daniel Neuenschwander, ESA’s Director for Launchers. 

About Galileo

Galileo is Europe’s civil global satellite navigation system. It will allow users worldwide to know their exact position in time and space with great precision and reliability. Once complete, the system will consist of 24 operational satellites and the ground infrastructure for the provision of positioning, navigation and timing services.

The Galileo programme is funded and owned by the EU. The European Commission has the overall responsibility for the programme, managing and overseeing the implementation of all programme activities.

Galileos on dispenser

Galileo’s deployment, the design and development of the new generation of systems and the technical development of infrastructure are entrusted to ESA. The definition, development and in-orbit validation phases were carried out by ESA, and co-funded by ESA and the European Commission.

The European Global Navigation Satellite System Agency (GSA) is ensuring the uptake and security of Galileo. Galileo operations and provision of services will be entrusted to the GSA from 2017.

Related links:

Launching Galileo website:

Galileo Tour:

EC Galileo website:

European GNSS Agency:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/S Corvaja/P. Carril/CNES-Arianespace/Optique video du CSG – JM Guillon.

Best regards,

mercredi 16 novembre 2016

‘Great Valley’ Found on Mercury

NASA - MESSENGER Mission patch.

Nov. 16, 2016

A newly discovered “great valley” in the southern hemisphere of Mercury provides more evidence that the small planet closest to the sun is shrinking.

Image above: Using colorized topography, Mercury’s “great valley” (dark blue) and Rembrandt impact basin (purple, upper right) are revealed in this high-resolution digital elevation model merged with an image mosaic obtained by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington/DLR/Smithsonian Institution.

Scientists used stereo images from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft to create a high-resolution topo map that revealed the broad valley -- more than 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) long -- extending into the Rembrandt basin, one of the largest and youngest impact basins on Mercury. About 250 miles (400 kilometers) wide and 2 miles (3 kilometers) deep, Mercury’s great valley is smaller than Mars’ Valles Marineris, but larger than North America’s Grand Canyon and wider and deeper than the Great Rift Valley in East Africa.

“Unlike Earth’s Great Rift Valley, Mercury’s great valley is not caused by the pulling apart of lithospheric plates due to plate tectonics; it is the result of the global contraction of a shrinking one-plate planet,” said Tom Watters, senior scientist at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Watters is the lead author of a paper published in Geophysical Research Letters using images from NASA’s MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry and Ranging (MESSENGER) spacecraft during the orbital phase of its mission.

Rembrandt Valley

Video above: Animation of a 3-D perspective view of Mercury’s great valley, as seen in an image mosaic obtained by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, extending from Mercury’s Rembrandt basin. The image mosaic transforms into a colorized digital elevation model created from stereo images of the region. Video Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/Carnegie Institution of Washington/DLR.

Mercury’s great valley is bound by two large fault scarps—cliff-like landforms that resemble stair steps. The scarps formed as Mercury’s interior cooled; the planet’s shrinking was accommodated by the crustal rocks being pushed together, thrusting them upward along fault lines. However, the valley is not only the product of two large, parallel, fault scarps—the elevation of the valley floor is below that of the surrounding terrain, suggesting that another process may be at work.    

The most likely explanation for Mercury’s great valley is long-wavelength buckling of the planet’s outermost shell in response to global contraction or shrinking. Cooling of Mercury’s interior caused the planet’s single outer crust plate to contract and bend. Crustal rocks were thrust upward while the emerging valley floor sagged downward. The sagging valley floor lowered part of the rim of the Rembrandt basin as well.

“There are similar examples of this on Earth involving both oceanic and continental plates, but this may be the first evidence of this geological process on Mercury,” Watters said.

MESSENGER (MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging):

Image (mentioned, Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tricia Talbert.


New Crews Announced Before Next Crew Launches

ISS - Expedition 50 Mission patch.

Nov. 16, 2016

NASA announced today the crew members chosen to launch on four upcoming missions to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, three Expedition 50 crew members are orbiting Earth today working on cargo operations, human research and awaiting the launch and docking of three new crew members this weekend.

New space station crews were officially announced today that will launch to the station in 2017. Four NASA astronauts, four Roscosmos cosmonauts and one astronaut each from the European Space Agency and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency are scheduled to launch in March, May, September and October of next year.

Commander Shane Kimbrough is nearly complete with Cygnus cargo transfers and will close the hatch this weekend. The Cygnus space freighter from Orbital ATK is on track to be released early next week from the Unity module. NASA TV will cover the event live when the Canadarm2 grapples Cygnus and releases it for departure Monday at 8:20 a.m. EST.

Image above: Expedition 50 crew members (from left) Peggy Whitson, Oleg Novitskiy and Thomas Pesquet stand in front of the first stage engines of their Soyuz booster rocket. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight engineers Andrey Borisenko and Sergey Ryzhikov recorded their food and medicine consumption again today for the Morze hormone and immune experiment. Borisenko then moved on to transferring cargo from the Progress 64 resupply ship while Ryzhikov checked lights and cleaned vents and fans.

Back on Earth, two veteran station residents and a new space flyer are two days away from launching aboard a Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft to begin a five-month mission on the orbital complex. First-time European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet will join NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson, who will be on her third mission, and cosmonaut Oleg Novitskiy, who will be on his second mission, Nov. 17 when they lift off and take a two-day trip to their new home in space.

Soyuz Rocket Blessed Before Launch, Cygnus Prepped for Departure

The Soyuz rocket that will launch three new Expedition 50 crew members to space Thursday was blessed at its launch pad today. Back in space, the Canadarm2 grappled the Cygnus cargo craft ahead of its release early next week.

An Orthodox priest performed the traditional blessing of the Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft today before its launch to the International Space Station. Peggy Whitson of NASA, Oleg Novitskiy of Roscosmos and Thomas Pesquet of ESA are in quarantine at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Kazakhstan and are scheduled to liftoff Thursday at 3:20 p.m. EST on a two-day trip to their new home in space.

Image above: An Orthodox priest blesses the Soyuz rocket and members of the media Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016, in Kazakhstan. Photo Credits: (NASA/Bill Ingalls).

The new trio will dock to the Rassvet module Saturday afternoon and join Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough and Flight Engineers Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko who have been in space since Oct. 19. The new Soyuz crew ship will make four spacecraft docked at the orbital complex before the Cygnus resupply ship departs two days later.

Cygnus will end its month-long stay at the Unity module on Monday when Kimbrough commands the Canadarm2 to release the cargo craft at 8:20 a.m. NASA TV will broadcast the release and departure of Cygnus beginning at 8 a.m. Before Cygnus begins its fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere it will stay in space a few more days to release a set of ocean ship tracking CubeSats and conduct the Saffire-II spacecraft fire study.

Get weekly video highlights at:

Related links:

NASA 2017 New space station crews:

Ocean ship tracking CubeSats:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

mardi 15 novembre 2016

NASA’s Flying Observatory Expanding New Frontiers in the Solar System and Beyond

NASA & DLR - SOFIA Mission patch.

Nov. 15, 2016

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, will soon be studying Neptune’s giant moon, Triton, and following-up on Hubble’s recent sighting of water plumes on Jupiter’s moon Europa. According to recently completed plans for the 2017 observing campaign, about half of the research time for SOFIA will run the gamut from studies of planets to observations of comets and asteroids orbiting other stars and supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies beyond our own. The other half will focus on star formation and the interstellar medium, the areas of dust and gas in the universe, including a vast turbulent region encircling the center of our Milky Way galaxy.

A total of 535 observing hours have been awarded for SOFIA’s Science Cycle 5, which runs from February 2017 through January 2018, and the selected programs span the entire field of astronomy from planetary science to extragalactic investigations. Triton, only one-third of a light year from Earth, will be one of the closest objects studied by NASA’s flying observatory while the farthest observation will study a supermassive black hole approximately 12 billion light years away.

SOFIA is a is a joint program between NASA and the German Aerospace Center and is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope that uses eight instruments to study the universe at infrared wavelengths that cannot be detected from ground-based observatories. Cycle 5 provides 455 research hours to U.S. programs and 80 hours to German programs.

Images above: Figure 1a: SOFIA/FORCAST mid-infrared image of the Milky Way Galaxy's nucleus showing the Circumnuclear Ring of gas and dust clouds orbiting a central supermassive black hole. Figure 1b: Hubble Space Telescope/Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) near-infrared image showing the same field of view with the same scale and orientation as Figure 1a. At this wavelength, opaque dust in the plane of the Milky Way hides features that are seen in the SOFIA image. Images Credits: Figure 1a: NASA/DLR/USRA/DSI/FORCAST Team/Lau et al. 2013; Figure 1b: NASA/HST/STScI/AURA.

“Four very highly rated programs were selected to investigate the galactic center region using the upGREAT high-resolution far-infrared spectrometer,” said Harold Yorke SOFIA Science Mission Director of the Universities Space Research Association.

“Three of those programs are aimed at understanding the Central Molecular Zone, a vast, turbulent region encircling the Milky Way’s nucleus that contains a large fraction of the galaxy’s dense molecular clouds and star forming regions, Yorke explained. “The fourth program is focused on material surrounding, and perhaps feeding into, the supermassive black hole at the very heart of our galaxy.”

To study celestial objects that are best viewed from the Southern Hemisphere, planning is underway for an eight-week deployment to Christchurch, New Zealand, from late June to late August 2017, employing three instruments: the spectrometer known as the upgraded German Receiver for Astronomy at Terahertz Frequencies, or upGREAT, The Faint Object infraRed Camera for the SOFIA Telescope, or FORCAST, a combined mid-infrared camera and spectrometer, and the Far Infrared Field-Imaging Line Spectrometer, or FIFI-LS, a far-infrared imaging spectrometer.

Closer to home, the Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph, or EXES, a mid-infrared spectrometer, will take advantage of that instrument’s great sensitivity and high spectral resolution to make an ambitious search for previously unobserved molecules in the Orion star forming region, looking for rare molecular species like acetylene, ethylene, and ethane. These observations will provide information about the production of organic compounds and water in a region where stars and planets are currently forming.

SOFIA’s High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-plus, known as HAWC+, a far-infrared polarimeter camera, now being commissioned, is slated for a joint project with the most powerful telescope on Earth, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, ALMA, to understand how the galaxy’s magnetic fields resist the collapse of gas clouds that form stars thereby affecting the star formation process.

A challenging planetary science investigation will use SOFIA to observe Triton when it passes in front of a bright background star in October 2017. This would require a mini-deployment to the U.S. East Coast where the shadow of Triton will briefly be cast, allowing a look at that moon’s thin atmosphere.

“This project is quite comparable to SOFIA’s study of Pluto and its atmosphere during a stellar occultation observed from near New Zealand in 2015, and in fact was proposed by the same investigator team,” Yorke said. “This type of research demonstrates the virtues of a mobile observatory that can go wherever on Earth is required to view transient celestial phenomena.”

Image above: SOFIA lifts off from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, Calif., at sunset. Image Credits: NASA/Carla Thomas.

SOFIA’s ability to change instruments and adapt new technologies enables the rapid development and deployment of new sensors. To that end, NASA plans to solicit proposals for SOFIA’s next generation instrumentation in 2017.

SOFIA is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program along with science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is based at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center's Hangar 703, in Palmdale, California.

Observe more about SOFIA, at:

Study SOFIA's science mission and scientific instruments at: http://www.sofia.usra.edu

A list of SOFIA’s approved science programs for 2017 is online at:

Related links:

upGREAT high-resolution far-infrared spectrometer:

Far Infrared Field-Imaging Line Spectrometer (FIFI-LS):

Echelon-Cross-Echelle Spectrograph (EXES):

High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-plus (HAWC+):

SOFIA’s study of Pluto:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: SOFIA Science Center/NASA Ames Research Center/Nicholas A. Veronico/Kassandra Bell.


Mars - A Glimpse into History

NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

Nov. 15, 2016

Nothing gets a geologist more excited than layered bedrock, except perhaps finding a fossil or holding a meteorite in your hand. All of these things create a profound feeling of history, the sense of a story that took place ages ago, long before we came appeared. Layered bedrock in particular tells a story that was set out chapter by chapter as each new layer was deposited on top of older, previously deposited layers.

Here in Nili Fossae, we see layered bedrock as horizontal striations in the light toned sediments in the floor of a canyon near Syrtis Major. (Note: illumination is from the top of the picture) The ancient layered rocks appear in pale whitish and bluish tones. They are partially covered by much younger ripples made up of dust and other wind blown sediments. The rock of the nearby canyon wall is severely fractured and appears to have shed sand and rocks and boulders onto the floor. This canyon did not form by fluvial erosion: it is part of a system of faults that formed a series of graben like this one, but water probably flowed through Nili Fossae in the distant past.

Orbital spectral measurements by the OMEGA instrument on Mars Express and CRISM on MRO detected an abundance of clay minerals of different types in the layered sediments inside Nili Fossae, along with other minerals that are typical of sediments that were deposited by water. The various colors and tones of the layered rocks record changes in the composition of the sediments, details that can tell us about changes in the Martian environment eons ago. Nili Fossae is a candidate site for a future landed robotic mission that could traverse across these layers and make measurements that could be used to unravel a part of the early history of Mars. Nili Fossae is a history book that is waiting to be read.

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

Additional information:

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO):

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


ESA expands space weather services

ESA - European Space Agency patch.

15 November 2016

A major expansion in the space weather information and services provided by ESA will help satellites in space and networks like power grids on Earth to cope with solar eruptions.

Scientists, engineers and researchers across Europe are working with ESA to develop a space weather warning system as part of the Agency’s Space Situational Awareness programme.

Proba-2 view of post-eruptive loops on Sun

‘Space weather’ refers to physical conditions at the Sun, in the solar wind and in near-Earth space that can influence the operation of spaceborne and ground systems and affect human health.

The Sun causes ‘storms’ within Earth’s magnetic shield when giant eruptions from its outer atmosphere wash across our planet.

The last period of major storms ended with the Halloween storm of October 2003. A very large solar event in 2012 missed Earth. Smaller eruptions happen regularly and do reach our planet, affecting infrastructure like power grids and networks and interfering with economic activities.

New tools help manage solar effects

In October, ESA’s Space Weather Service Network boosted its portfolio of products – including high-quality data and expert analysis – to more than 100. It released the first versions of 17 new Space Weather Services, each a combination of products, software tools, technical reports and associated expert support, tailored to a given type of affected customer.

Affected by space weather

“Each of our space weather services is tailored to provide a valuable space weather assessment capability for specific customers,” says ESA’s Juha-Pekka Luntama.

“These span European governments, institutional and commercial users, including satellite designers and operators, those involved in human spaceflight, communication and data network operators and a number of economically important industries, like aviation, oil drilling and navigation.”

Protecting power grids

One of the new services will assist power-grid operators to address a major challenge caused by space weather: magnetically induced currents.

These are caused by rapid variations in Earth’s magnetic field during solar eruptions. In the worst case, they can damage transformers in high-voltage power grids, leading to blackouts.

Realtime predictions of the changes in Earth’s magnetic field will help to reduce the impact of such events.

Coordinating European efforts

Aurora over Icelandic lake

In the past 18 months, ESA has coordinated the development of five new Expert Service Centres, each dedicated to bringing together European expertise in a given area of space weather physics, such as space radiation and ionospheric weather, with a focus on service development and provision.

These groups are now providing their data and products to space weather users via a dedicated space weather web portal, with support from ESA’s Space Weather Coordination Centre, hosted at the Space Pole in Brussels.

The Expert Service Centres are teams consisting of a growing network of more than two dozen European and international institutes and research organisations, working with data from a wide range of sources, including satellites such as ESA’s Proba-2, Proba-V and Swarm and the ESA–NASA SOHO solar observatory.

“Expert Service Centres are located across Europe serving as centres of expertise focused on a specific topic within the space weather field. They hold the detailed scientific and technical expertise and assets required for data processing and provision of our services,” says Alexi Glover, ESA’s space weather service development coordinator.

The network also includes a data centre at ESA’s Redu Centre.

A recent analysis of ESA’s Space Situational Awareness programme concluded that space weather hazard-warning and risk-assessment activities would provide a benefit to cost ratio of 6.25 over 16 years.

The benefits from industrial investments, technology development and avoided effects on civil infrastructure and society were estimated at €2635 million.

These and other developments related to space weather activities will be highlighted at the European Space Weather Week, 14–18 November, in Oostende, Belgium.

The annual event is Europe’s top forum for space weather scientists and experts and is coordinated by the Belgian Solar–Terrestrial Centre of Excellence, ESA and the Space Weather Working Team.

Related links:

European Space Weather Week:

ESA’s Space Situational Awareness programme:





International GNSS Service (IGS):

International Space Environment Service:

European Space Weather Portal:

Images, Text, Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/ROB/C. Gauna.

Best regards,

lundi 14 novembre 2016

Release of JICA-JAXA Forest Early Warning System in the Tropics (JJ-FAST)

JAXA - ALOS-2 Mission logo.

November 14, 2016

On November 13(JST), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched the service, “JICA-JAXA Forest Early Warning System in the Tropics (JJ-FAST)” easily accessible from PCs and smartphones, based on monitoring data of deforestation and forest changes in tropical regions using JAXA’s Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 (ALOS-2).

“JICA-JAXA Forest Early Warning System in the Tropics (JJ-FAST)”:

In Amazon, Brazil from 2009 to 2012, JICA and JAXA had supported monitoring of illegal logging in near-real time using observation data by ALOS, the predecessor to ALOS-2. ALOS allowed us to constantly monitor tropical forests during rainy season thanks to its ability to penetrate clouds. More than 2,000 incidents of illegal logging were detected by forest monitoring by ALOS in Brazil, which greatly contributed to a 40 percent reduction in illegal logging areas.

JICA and JAXA agreed to monitor deforestation and forest changes in tropical regions using ALOS-2 on the basis of knowledge obtained through the support in Amazon, and announced “Initiative for Improvement of Forest Governance” at the Japan pavilion of the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in 2015. (*1)

JJ-FAST was established as part of this initiative, and will provide the latest information on deforestation and forest changes in tropical region globally once 90 days on average. Everyone can use JJ-FAST anywhere under an environment capable of connecting to the Internet.
At the start of service, data of 5 countries in Latin America are released. The target area will expand gradually from African to Asian regions. The final goal is that JJ-FAST is to release monitoring data of approximately 60 countries which have tropical forests. The detection accuracy of deforestation in JJ-FAST will be improved according to users feedbacks.

 ALOS-2 satellite

JJ-FAST based on data of huge forests monitoring from space can be an effective measure for developing countries which have problems in monitoring forests due to luck of infrastructure, poor public security, manpower shortage and luck of budget. JICA and JAXA support the sustainable forest management for developing countries through the spread of JJ-FAST, and try that reduction in deforestation in the long term leads to mitigation of climate changes.
JICA and JAXA will contribute to resolving various issues which developing countries face and global problems utilizing space technologies in the future.


*1) Press Release: JICA and JAXA Announce Forest Monitoring System Using ALOS-2 Satellite: Constant monitoring of deforestation throughout the tropics and open data access on the Internet (December 15, 2015).

Related links:

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA):

Earth Observation Research (EORC):

Advanced Land Observing Satellite-2 "DAICHI-2" (ALOS-2):

Images, Text, Credits: Independent Administrative Agency/Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)/National Research and Development Agency/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).


NASA Finds Unusual Origins of High-Energy Electrons

NASA - THEMIS Mission patch.

Nov. 14, 2016

High above the surface, Earth’s magnetic field constantly deflects incoming supersonic particles from the sun. These particles are disturbed in regions just outside of Earth’s magnetic field – and some are reflected into a turbulent region called the foreshock. New observations from NASA’s THEMIS – short for Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms – mission show that this turbulent region can accelerate electrons up to speeds approaching the speed of light. Such extremely fast particles have been observed in near-Earth space and many other places in the universe, but the mechanisms that accelerate them have not yet been concretely understood.

The new results provide the first steps towards an answer, while opening up more questions. The research finds electrons can be accelerated to extremely high speeds in a near-Earth region farther from Earth than previously thought possible – leading to new inquiries about what causes the acceleration. These findings may change the accepted theories on how electrons can be accelerated not only in shocks near Earth, but also throughout the universe. Having a better understanding of how particles are energized will help scientists and engineers better equip spacecraft and astronauts to deal with these particles, which can cause equipment to malfunction and affect space travelers.

“This affects pretty much every field that deals with high-energy particles, from studies of cosmic rays to solar flares and coronal mass ejections, which have the potential to damage satellites and affect astronauts on expeditions to Mars,” said Lynn Wilson, lead author of the paper on these results at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The results, published in Physical Review Letters, on Nov. 14, 2016, describe how such particles may get accelerated in specific regions just beyond Earth's magnetic field. Typically, a particle streaming toward Earth first encounters a boundary region known as the bow shock, which forms a protective barrier between the solar wind, the continuous and varying stream of charged particles flowing from the sun, and Earth. The magnetic field in the bow shock slows the particles, causing most to be deflected away from Earth, though some are reflected back towards the sun. These reflected particles form a region of electrons and ions called the foreshock region.

Some of those particles in the foreshock region are highly energetic, fast moving electrons and ions. Historically, scientists have thought one way these particles get to such high energies is by bouncing back and forth across the bow shock, gaining a little extra energy from each collision. However, the new observations suggest the particles can also gain energy through electromagnetic activity in the foreshock region itself.

Shock Drift Acceleration (SDA)

Video above: This visualization represents one of the traditional proposed mechanisms for accelerating particles across a shock, called a shock drift acceleration. The electrons (yellow) and protons (blue) can be seen moving in the collision area where two hot plasma bubbles collide (red vertical line). The cyan arrows represent the magnetic field and the light green arrows, the electric field. Video Credits: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, data visualizer.

The observations that led to this discovery were taken from one of the THEMIS – short for Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms – mission satellites. The five THEMIS satellites circled Earth to study how the planet's magnetosphere captured and released solar wind energy, in order to understand what initiates the geomagnetic substorms that cause aurora. The THEMIS orbits took the spacecraft across the foreshock boundary regions. The primary THEMIS mission concluded successfully in 2010 and now two of the satellites collect data in orbit around the moon.

Operating between the sun and Earth, the spacecraft found electrons accelerated to extremely high energies. The accelerated observations lasted less than a minute, but were much higher than the average energy of particles in the region, and much higher than can be explained by collisions alone. Simultaneous observations from the additional Heliophysics spacecraft, Wind and STEREO, showed no solar radio bursts or interplanetary shocks, so the high-energy electrons did not originate from solar activity.

“This is a puzzling case because we’re seeing energetic electrons where we don’t think they should be, and no model fits them,” said David Sibeck, co-author and THEMIS project scientist at NASA Goddard. “There is a gap in our knowledge, something basic is missing.”

Image above: This image represents one of the traditional proposed mechanisms for accelerating particles across a shock, called a shock drift acceleration. The electrons (yellow) and protons (blue) can be seen moving in the collision area where two hot plasma bubbles collide (red vertical line). The cyan arrows represent the magnetic field and the light green arrows, the electric field. Image Credits: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, data visualizer.

The electrons also could not have originated from the bow shock, as had been previously thought. If the electrons were accelerated in the bow shock, they would have a preferred movement direction and location – in line with the magnetic field and moving away from the bow shock in a small, specific region. However, the observed electrons were moving in all directions, not just along magnetic field lines. Additionally, the bow shock can only produce energies at roughly one tenth of the observed electrons’ energies. Instead, the cause of the electrons’ acceleration was found to be within the foreshock region itself.

“It seems to suggest that incredibly small scale things are doing this because the large scale stuff can’t explain it,” Wilson said.

High-energy particles have been observed in the foreshock region for more than 50 years, but until now, no one had seen the high-energy electrons originate from within the foreshock region. This is partially due to the short timescale on which the electrons are accelerated, as previous observations had averaged over several minutes, which may have hidden any event. THEMIS gathers observations much more quickly, making it uniquely able to see the particles.

Next, the researchers intend to gather more observations from THEMIS to determine the specific mechanism behind the electrons’ acceleration.

Related Links:

More information about NASA’s THEMIS and ARTEMIS missions:

More information about NASA’s STEREO mission:

More information about NASA's WIND mission:

Paper in Physical Review Letters:

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, by Mara Johnson-Groh/Rob Garner.