vendredi 3 mars 2017

Hubble Showcases a Remarkable Galactic Hybrid

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

March 3, 2017

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image showcases the remarkable galaxy UGC 12591. UGC 12591 sits somewhere between a lenticular and a spiral. It lies just under 400 million light-years away from us in the westernmost region of the Pisces–Perseus Supercluster, a long chain of galaxy clusters that stretches out for hundreds of light-years — one of the largest known structures in the cosmos.

The galaxy itself is also extraordinary: it is incredibly massive. The galaxy and its halo together contain several hundred billion times the mass of the sun; four times the mass of the Milky Way. It also whirls round extremely quickly, rotating at speeds of up to 1.8 million kilometers (1.1 million miles) per hour.

Observations with Hubble are helping astronomers to understand the mass of UGC 1259, and to determine whether the galaxy simply formed and grew slowly over time, or whether it might have grown unusually massive by colliding and merging with another large galaxy at some point in its past.

 Hubble and the sunrise over Earth

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

Image, Video, Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA/Text Credits: European Space Agency/NASA/Karl Hille.

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Open-heart surgery for CMS

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

3 Mar 2017

This week the CMS collaboration is replacing the heart of its detector: its tracking system. The system determines the trajectories of charged particles and it is made of two components, the Pixel Tracker and the Strip Tracker.

The Pixel Tracker is being replaced with a brand-new one: its upgrade is among the most important EYETS activities for CMS and another feather in the cap of a busy but productive period for the collaboration.

Image above: The innermost part of the CMS detector, the Pixel Tracker, is being replaced with a brand-new one this week, as part of the EYETS activities. (Image: Max Brice/CERN).

The second-generation Pixel Tracker will operate until the early stages of the High-Luminosity LHC, when it will itself be replaced with a third-generation device.

With the replacement happening throughout the week, more news to come, including our Facebook Live where our experts answer your top questions:

For more pictures, visit http://http//


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 22 Member States.

Related link:

CMS experiments:

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

Image (mentioned),, Video, Text, Credits: CERN/Achintya Rao/Stefania Pandolfi.


jeudi 2 mars 2017

Station Lifts Orbit, Crew Explores Diet and Stem Cells

ISS - Expedition 50 Mission patch.

March 2, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The International Space Station fired its engines Wednesday night slightly raising its orbit to accommodate a crew exchange in April. In the meantime, the six-person Expedition 50 crew continued learning how living in space affects the human body.

The station’s third module, the Zvezda service module which launched in 2000, fired its main engines for 43 seconds overnight. The orbital reboost places the station at the correct altitude for the departure of three Expedition 50 crew members April 10. Just ten days later, two new space residents will arrive completing the Expedition 51 crew.

Image above: (From left) Crewmates Thomas Pesquet, Oleg Novitskiy and Peggy Whitson just recently celebrated 100 days in space. The trio is scheduled to return to Earth June 2. Image Credit: NASA.

Scientists are exploring the best nutrition requirements to keep astronauts healthy and productive during long-term space missions. Astronaut Thomas Pesquet is contributing to that research today beginning a prescribed diet for the next 11 days. During that period he will collect urine samples and measure his breathing for the Energy study. Results will help researchers plan meals to ensure successful missions farther out into space.

Flight Engineer Peggy Whitson, who will become station commander April 9, peered at stem cells through a specialized microscope on today. She is helping scientists understand how microgravity increases stem cell replication possibly improving disease treatments on Earth.

Station Boosting Orbit for April Crew Swap

The International Space Station will boost its orbit Wednesday night to get ready for a crew swap next month. Three Expedition 50 crew members will complete their mission and a new two-person crew will launch to the station in April.

Commander Shane Kimbrough and his crewmates Sergey Ryzhikov and Andrey Borisenko will end their mission April 10 after 173 days in space. The trio will undock from the Poisk mini-research module in their Soyuz MS-02 spacecraft officially ending the Expedition 50 mission.

The reboost also readies the station for the arrival of two new crew members who will arrive April 20. Veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and NASA astronaut Jack Fischer, a first-time space flyer, will take a short four-orbit ride aboard the Soyuz MS-04 spacecraft and dock to Poisk. The new Expedition 51 trio is scheduled to stay in space for 136 days.

Image above: The Expedition 50 crew members are (from left) Andrey Borisenko, Commander Shane Kimbrough, Sergey Ryzhikov, Thomas Pesquet, Peggy Whitson and Oleg Novitskiy. Image Credits: NASA/Bill Stafford.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson will become Expedition 51 commander after Kimbrough and his crew undock. She is staying behind with fellow crewmates Thomas Pesquet from France and Oleg Novitskiy from Russia. They will stay in space until June 2 ending their mission after 195 days when they return home in their Soyuz MS-03 spacecraft.

Engineers on the ground switched from one pump to another in the thermal cooling system for one of the particle detectors on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), an experiment to study cosmic ray particle physics from the outside of the International Space Station. The silicon tracker is one of several detectors that collect data on cosmic particles and is equipped with four redundant pumps used to circulate carbon dioxide to maintain the required temperature in the changing thermal environment outside the station. A pump stopped functioning on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017, and was the second to stop after a different pump experienced a similar issue in March, 2014. Only one pump is required to operate at a given time, and long-term planning is underway to potentially bypass the pumps and associated equipment with an upgraded system put in place during a series of spacewalks. AMS launched in 2011, and results have already contributed to science showing potential indirect evidence of dark matter and other new cosmic ray particle physics discoveries.

Related links:

Expedition 50:

Expedition 51:

Energy study:

Stem cell replication:

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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New Plant Habitat Will Increase Harvest on International Space Station

NASA - Veggie Mission patch.

March 2, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

A new, nearly self-sufficient plant growth system by NASA is headed to the International Space Station soon and will help researchers better understand how plants grow in space. The Advanced Plant Habitat will be used to conduct plant bioscience research on the space station, and help NASA prepare crew to grow their own food in space during deep-space exploration missions.

Some of the components of this new system have arrived at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and are being prepared for delivery to the station on Orbital ATK’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the station. The new plant system will join Veggie – NASA’s first fresh food growth system already active on station.

Image above: Dr. Oscar Monje, a research scientist, pours a growing substrate called arcillite in the science carrier, or base, of the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) inside a laboratory at the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Developed by NASA and ORBITEC of Madison, Wisconsin, the APH is the largest plant chamber built for the agency. Photo credits: NASA/Bill White.

Dr. Howard Levine, the project scientist overseeing the development of the advanced system, along with Dr. Gioia Massa, a life science project scientist and deputy project scientist, were two of the researchers who helped design the science requirements for the hardware and the test plan to validate it when it was tested at ORBITEC in Madison, Wisconsin.

"A team of scientists here at Kennedy Space Center have been developing the procedures for the first experiment using a prototype, or engineering development unit, of the plant habitat in the Space Station Processing Facility," Levine said.

Arabidopsis seeds, small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard, have been growing in the prototype habitat, and will be the first plant experiment, called PH-01, grown in the chamber aboard the space station.

Image above: Dr. Oscar Monje, (far left) a research scientist, packs a growing substrate called arcillite in the science carrier, or base, of the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) inside a laboratory at the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. Assisting him is Jeffrey Richards, project science coordinator with SGT on the Engineering Services Contract. Seated in the foreground is Susan Manning-Roach, a quality assurance specialist, also with ESC. Photo credits: NASA/Bill White.

Bryan Onate is the NASA APH project manager in the Exploration Research and Technology Directorate at Kennedy. He described the new plant habitat as a fully enclosed, closed-loop system with an environmentally controlled growth chamber. It uses red, blue and green LED lights, and broad spectrum white LED lights. The system's more than 180 sensors will relay real-time information, including temperature, oxygen content and moisture levels (in the air and soil, near the plant roots, and at the stem and leaf level), back to the team at Kennedy.

"A big difference in this system, compared to Veggie, is that it requires minimal crew involvement to install the science, add water, and perform other maintenance activities," Onate said. "We are learning how plants grow in space and what levels of commodities, such as light and water, are required so we can maximize our growth with the least resources."

The large, enclosed chamber measures 18 inches square, with two inches for the root system and 16 inches available for growth height. It is designed to support commercial and fundamental plant research or other bioscience research aboard the space station for up to a 135-day science investigation, and for at least one year of continuous operation without maintenance.

Image above: Scientists prepare Apogee wheat seeds for the science carrier, or base, of the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH). A growing substrate called arcillite was packed down in the base and coverings were secured on top of the base. Photo credits: NASA/Bill White.

"I think that the new plant growth habitat will provide tremendous capabilities to do high quality plant physiology research with a variety of plant types on the space station," Massa said. "The plant habitat will enable much more controlled and detailed studies of plant growth in spaceflight."

The advanced system will be activated by astronauts aboard the space station but controlled by the team at Kennedy, minimizing the amount of crew time needed to grow the plants. The space station crew will still perform plant thinning and harvesting.

"Before PH-01 is initiated, there will be a short grow out of Dwarf Wheat and Arabidopsis as part of the post-installation checkout on the space station," Onate said.

Scientists Prepare NASA's Advanced Plant Habitat Science Carrier

The system's Plant Habitat Avionics Real-Time Manager in EXPRESS Rack, or PHARMER, will provide real-time data telemetry, remote commanding and photo downlink to the Kennedy team. An active watering system with sensors will detect when the plants need water and keep water flowing as needed.

​Massa said having Veggie and the advanced system on the station will allow studies of food production in space, from the very simple to the complex and controlled.

When all parts are delivered to the station, the habitat will be installed in a standard EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS) rack in the Japanese Experiment Module Kibo.

Related links:

Advanced Plant Habitat:

Orbital ATK:


EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments to Space Station (EXPRESS):

Living in Space:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center, by Linda Herridge.

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NASA Orbiter Steers Clear of Mars Moon Phobos

NASA - MAVEN Mission logo.

March 2, 2017

NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft performed a previously unscheduled maneuver this week to avoid a collision in the near future with Mars’ moon Phobos.

Mars’ moon Phobos. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft has been orbiting Mars for just over two years, studying the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. On Tuesday the spacecraft carried out a rocket motor burn that boosted its velocity by 0.4 meters per second (less than 1 mile per hour). Although a small correction, it was enough that -- projected to one week later when the collision would otherwise have occurred -- MAVEN would miss the lumpy, crater-filled moon by about 2.5 minutes.

This is the first collision avoidance maneuver that the MAVEN spacecraft has performed at Mars to steer clear of Phobos. The orbits of both MAVEN and Phobos are known well enough that this timing difference ensures that they will not collide.

MAVEN, with an elliptical orbit around Mars, has an orbit that crosses those of other spacecraft and the moon Phobos many times over the course of a year.  When the orbits cross, the objects have the possibility of colliding if they arrive at that intersection at the same time. These scenarios are known well in advance and are carefully monitored by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which sounded the alert regarding the possibility of a collision.

With one week’s advance notice, it looked like MAVEN and Phobos had a good chance of hitting each other on Monday, March 6, arriving at their orbit crossing point within about 7 seconds of each other. Given Phobos’ size (modeled for simplicity as a 30-kilometer sphere, a bit larger than the actual moon in order to be conservative), they had a high probability of colliding if no action were taken.

Image above: This artist's sketch shows MAVEN above Mars. Image Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Said MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado in Boulder, “Kudos to the JPL navigation and tracking teams for watching out for possible collisions every day of the year, and to the MAVEN spacecraft team for carrying out the maneuver flawlessly.”

MAVEN’s principal investigator is based at the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, Boulder. The university provided two science instruments and leads science operations, as well as education and public outreach, for the mission. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN project and provided two science instruments for the mission. Lockheed Martin built the spacecraft and is responsible for mission operations. The University of California at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Laboratory also provided four science instruments for the mission. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, provides navigation and Deep Space Network support, as well as the Electra telecommunications relay hardware and operations.

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Karl Hille/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Nancy Neal Jones.


Probing Seven Worlds with James Webb Space Telescope

ESA - James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) patch / CSA-ASC - James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) patch.

March 2, 2017

With the discovery of seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star 40 light years away, astronomers are looking to the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to help us find out if any of these planets could possibly support life.

“If these planets have atmospheres, the James Webb Space Telescope will be the key to unlocking their secrets,” said Doug Hudgins, Exoplanet Program Scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “In the meantime, NASA’s missions like Spitzer, Hubble, and Kepler are following up on these planets.”

 Seven earth-sized planets around the TRAPPIST-1 star. Image Credit: NASA

“These are the best Earth-sized planets for the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize, perhaps for its whole lifetime,” said Hannah Wakeford, postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. At Goddard, engineers and scientists are currently testing the Webb telescope which will be able to view these planets in the infrared, beyond the capabilities we currently have. “The Webb telescope will increase the information we have about these planets immensely. With the extended wavelength coverage we will be able to see if their atmospheres have water, methane, carbon monoxide/dioxide and/or oxygen.”

When hunting for a potentially life-supporting planet, you need to know more than just the planet’s size or distance from its star. Detecting the relative proportions of these molecules in a planet’s atmosphere could tell researchers whether a planet could support life.

“For thousands of years, people have wondered, are there other planets like Earth out there? Do any support life?” said Sara Seager, astrophysicst and planetary scientist at MIT. “Now we have a bunch of planets that are accessible for further study to try to start to answer these ancient questions.”

Launching in 2018, one of Webb’s main goals is to use spectroscopy, a method of analyzing light by separating it into distinct wavelengths which allows one to identify its chemical components (by their unique wavelength signatures) to determine the atmospheric components of alien worlds. Webb will especially seek chemical biomarkers, like ozone and methane, that can be created from biological processes. Ozone, which protects us from harmful ultraviolet radiation here on Earth, forms when oxygen produced by photosynthetic organisms (like trees and phytoplankton) synthesizes in light. Because ozone is largely dependent on the existence of organisms to form, Webb will look for it in alien atmospheres as a possible indicator of life. It will also be able to look for methane which will help determine a biological source of the oxygen that leads to ozone accumulation.

Image above: This rendering of the James Webb Space Telescope is current to 2015. Upon request we can provide a high-resolution image without a background. Image Credits: Northrop Grumman.

The discovery of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system means that Webb will be able to use its immense capabilities on a relatively nearby system. Researchers recently identified three promising planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system – e, f and g – which orbit in the habitable zone and would make good candidates for Webb to study. Depending upon their atmospheric composition, all three of these Earth-like exoplanets could have the appropriate conditions for supporting liquid water. Because the planets orbit a star that is small, the signal from those planets will be relatively large, and just strong enough for Webb to detect atmospheric features. Shawn Domagal-Goldman, an astrobiologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said, “Two weeks ago, I would have told you that Webb can do this in theory, but in practice it would have required a nearly perfect target. Well, we were just handed three nearly perfect targets.”

The number of planets in the system will also enable new research in the field of comparative planetology, which uncovers fundamental planetary processes by comparing different worlds. “This is the first and only system to have seven earth-sized planets, where three are in the habitable zone of the star,” said Wakeford. “It is also the first system bright enough, and small enough, to make it possible for us to look at each of these planets’ atmospheres. The more we can learn about exoplanets, the more we can understand how our own solar system came to be the way it is. With all seven planets Earth-sized, we can look at the different characterisitics that make each of them unique and determine critical connections between a planet’s conditions and origins.”

NASA is exploring the solar system and beyond to better understand the universe and our place in it. We’re looking to answer age-old questions, like how did our universe begin and evolve; how did galaxies, stars, and planets come to be; and are we alone.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the scientific successor to NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. It will be the most powerful space telescope ever built. Webb is an international project led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

Related article:

Ultracool Dwarf and the Seven Planets

For more information about the Webb telescope visit: or & &

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Laura Betz/Lynn Jenner.

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NASA Scientists Demonstrate Technique to Improve Particle Warnings that Protect Astronauts

NASA & ESA - SOHO Mission patch / NASA - STEREO Mission logo.

March 2, 2017

Our constantly-changing sun sometimes erupts with bursts of light, solar material, or ultra-fast energized particles — collectively, these events contribute to space weather. In a study published Jan. 30, 2017, in Space Weather, scientists from NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, or NCAR, in Boulder, Colorado, have shown that the warning signs of one type of space weather event can be detected tens of minutes earlier than with current forecasting techniques – critical extra time that could help protect astronauts in space.

Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere protect us on the ground from most of the harmful effects of space weather, but astronauts in low-Earth orbit — or even, one day, in interplanetary space — are more exposed to space weather, including bursts of fast-moving particles called solar energetic particles, or SEPs.

“Robotic spacecraft are usually radiation-hardened to protect against these kinds of events,” said Chris St. Cyr, a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and lead author on the study. “But humans are still susceptible.”

Animation above: Scientists from NASA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have shown that data from a ground-based instrument called K-Cor can give scientists early warning of a certain type of incoming space weather that can impact astronauts. This composite image shows a coronal mass ejection, a type of space weather linked to solar energetic particles, as seen from two space-based solar observatories and one ground-based instrument. The image in gold is from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, the image in blue is from the Manua Loa Solar Observatory’s K-Cor coronagraph, and the image in red is from ESA and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. Animation Credits: NASA/ESA/SOHO/SDO/Joy Ng and MLSO/K-Cor.

So NASA wants to help improve systems that would provide future astronauts with advance warning of incoming SEPs. In the recent paper, scientists showed that tracking an associated kind of solar explosion — fast-moving clouds of magnetic solar material, called coronal mass ejections — can help.

Scientists observe coronal mass ejections using a type of instrument called a coronagraph, in which a solid disk blocks the sun’s bright face, revealing the sun’s tenuous atmosphere, called the corona. Space-based coronagraphs are more widely used in space weather research because of their wide-field solar views that are not interrupted by cloud cover or Earth’s rotation. But ground-based coronagraphs have their own advantages — while they can only observe the sun in the day during clear weather, they can return data almost instantly, and at a much higher time resolution than satellite instruments. This speed of data return could make a significant difference, given that SEPs can move at nearly the speed of light — so their total travel time can be less than an hour from the time they’re accelerated near the sun to when they reach Earth.

“With space-based coronagraphs, we get images back every 20-30 minutes,” said St. Cyr. “You’ll see the CME in one frame, and by the time you get the next frame — which contains the information we need to tell how fast it’s moving — the energetic particles have already arrived.”

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory or SOHO. Image Credits: NASA/ESA

For this study, scientists worked backwards to see whether they could use a ground-based coronagraph to get that key information on the CME’s speed fast enough to lengthen the warning time. They selected an SEP event and then went back to check if the data was available from a coronagraph called K-Cor, which is part of NCAR’s High Altitude Observatory and sits on top of the Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii. Their search confirmed that the necessary information to predict the arrival of the energetic particles was available about 45 minutes before the particles arrived at Earth — tens of minutes before they left the sun’s inner atmosphere.

The next step is to repeat this study over and over — using both archived data and future observations — in order to see if the early signatures of these energetic particles can be reliably detected in K-Cor’s images. This confirmation, along with planned improvements that would put K-Cor’s images online even faster, could make it possible for this technique to become a  tool in space weather forecasting, such as is provided for the nation by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

“Currently, processed images from K-Cor are available on the internet in less than 15 minutes after they’re taken,” said Joan Burkepile, an author on the study based at NCAR and principal investigator for the K-Cor instrument. “We’re installing a more powerful computer at the observatory in Hawaii to process the images seconds after they are acquired and provide the data on the internet within a minute or two of acquisition.”

Related links:

Space Weather:

SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory):

STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory):

Goddard Space Flight Center:

Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, by Sarah Frazier/Rob Garner.


Remnants of a mega-flood on Mars

ESA - Mars Express Mission patch.

2 March 2017

ESA’s Mars Express has captured images of one of the largest outflow channel networks on the Red Planet.

At the mouth of Kasei Valles

The Kasei Valles channel system extends around 3000 km from its source region in Echus Chasma – which lies east of the bulging volcanic region Tharsis and just north of the Valles Marineris canyon system – to its sink in the vast plains of Chryse Planitia.

A combination of volcanism, tectonics, collapse and subsidence in the Tharsis region led to several massive groundwater releases from Echus Chasma, which subsequently flooded the Kasei Valles region around 3.6–3.4 billion years ago. These ancient mega-floods have left their mark on the features seen today.

Sections of Kasei Valles have already been imaged by Mars Express during its 14 years at the Red Planet, but this new image, taken on 25 May 2016, captures a portion right at its mouth.

Worcester crater in context

A 25 km-wide impact crater – Worcester Crater – just left to the centre of the main colour image, has done its best to stand up to the erosive forces of the mega-floods.

While much of the blanket of material surrounding the crater – which was originally thrown out from inside the crater during the impact – has been eroded, the section downstream of the flood has survived. Over time this has led to the overall appearance of a streamlined island, with its stepped topography downstream perhaps suggesting variations in water levels or different flood episodes.

Topography at the mouth of Kasei Valles

By contrast, the debris blanket surrounding the adjacent crater has remained intact. This suggests the impact producing that crater occurred after the major flooding.

Moreover, the appearance of the debris blanket tells a story on the nature of the subsurface: in this case it points to the floodplain being rich in water or water-ice.

Indeed, the pattern is reminiscent of a ‘splash’: the debris ejected from the crater was rich in water, allowing it to flow more easily. As it slowed, the debris behind it piled up, pushing up the material at its periphery into ramparts.

Perspective view towards Worcester crater

The perspective view shows a close-up of this rampart feature and looks from the associated crater towards the eroded Worcester crater in the background.

The large crater at the northernmost part (right, top) of the main image does not appear to have penetrated as deep as Worcester crater and its neighbour. Indeed, it is located on a plateau at least 1 km higher than the plains below.

Nonetheless, there is a small depression in the centre of the crater, which usually implies a weaker layer – such as ice – was buried underneath at the time of the impact.

Close inspection also reveals the faint outline of the crater’s ejecta blanket, including a portion that spilled over onto the plains below.

 Anaglyph view at the mouth of Kasei Vallis

The ejecta shows an interesting grooved pattern that the other craters in this view seem to be lacking. This suggests a difference in the nature of the impact itself, perhaps either with the energy imparted during the impact, the way in which the ejecta was emplaced from the crater, or in the composition of the plateau material.

Small dendritic channels can be seen all around the plateau, which perhaps hint at the varying flood magnitudes during numerous episodes of flooding.

A number of smaller craters in the flat plains can also be found. These appear to have lighter-coloured ‘tails’ pointing in the opposite direction to the flow of water coming from Kasei Valles.

Mars Express

These craters were formed by impacts that took place after the catastrophic flooding, their delicate tails created by winds blowing in a westwards direction ‘up’ valley. Their raised rims influence wind flow over the crater such that the dust immediately ‘behind’ the crater remains undisturbed in comparison to the surrounding, more exposed, plains.

This scene therefore preserves a record of geological activity spanning billions of years of the Red Planet’s history.

Related links:

Mars Express:

Mars Express overview:

Mars Express 10 year brochure:

Mars Express in-depth:

ESA Planetary Science archive (PSA):

Mars Webcam:

High Resolution Stereo Camera:

HRSC data viewer:

Behind the lens:

Frequently asked questions:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/NASA MGS MOLA Science Team.

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mercredi 1 mars 2017

The 20th Anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s STIS Instrument

NASA - STS-82 Mission patch.

March 1, 2017

Happy 20th birthday to Hubble’s Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS)! In February 1997, astronauts installed STIS on the telescope during the second servicing mission. The highly versatile and productive instrument combines a camera with a spectrograph, which separates light into its component colors—or wavelengths — to provide a “fingerprint” of the object being observed. This tells us about the object’s temperature, chemical composition, density, and motion. Spectrographic observations also reveal changes in celestial objects as the universe evolves. STIS has also pioneered the field of high-contrast imaging—the art of capturing faint objects (such as planets, disks, and outflowing jets) next to very bright ones (such as the stars they accompany). The instrument is sensitive to a wide range of wavelengths of light, from ultraviolet through the optical and into the near-infrared. STIS science has illuminated a multitude of different astronomical topics. Below are some examples, but this is not meant to be an exhaustive list. 

Image above: Astronaut Steve Smith carefully removes STIS from the protective enclosure that carried it into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Image Credits: NASA/ESA.

Determining the Masses of Black Holes in the Centers of Galaxies

Astronomers used STIS to conduct a census of more than 30 galaxies to look for evidence of massive black holes at their centers. STIS precisely measures the speed of gas and stars around a black hole, and this yields information about its mass. The findings presented a broad picture of a galaxy’s evolution and its relationship to the growth of the massive central black hole. Hubble evidence favors the idea that titanic black holes did not precede a galaxy’s birth, but instead co-evolved with the galaxy by trapping a surprisingly exact proportion of the mass of the central hub of stars and gas in that galaxy.

Tracing the Evolution of the Intergalactic Medium

Astronomers have long sought the vast quantities of hydrogen that were cooked up in the Big Bang but that somehow seemingly managed to disappear. This gas accounts for nearly half of the "normal" matter in the universe—the rest is locked up in galaxies. In an extensive search of the nearby universe, astronomers using STIS have definitively found this missing matter in the space between the galaxies. Called the intergalactic medium, this space extends from just outside our Milky Way galaxy to the most distant regions of space observed by astronomers. STIS observations of the local intergalactic medium showed that the missing hydrogen is still out there in very diffuse clouds in between the galaxies. This confirmation sheds new light on the large-scale structure of the universe and provides information on how galaxies built up over time. It also confirms fundamental models of how so much hydrogen was manufactured in the first few minutes of the universe's birth in the Big Bang.

Understanding the Components of the Galactic Halo

A halo of very hot gas surrounds the Milky Way galaxy. Because the gas is so highly energized, or ionized, it is only visible in spectral features seen in ultraviolet wavelengths with an instrument like STIS. With its extremely high spectral resolution, STIS looks at the spectral features of the atoms in each of the many layers of gas to help scientists identify and understand the complexity of the halo structure. Besides the very hot gas that is trapped in the halo, some gas is falling into the Milky Way from the area between galaxies, known as the intergalactic medium. Other gas in the halo comes from star formation in the disk of the Milky Way. Supernovae and winds from stars can blow this material out of the plane of the Milky Way, up into the Galactic halo. This gas cools and gets denser, and some of it rains back down in what is often described as “the Galactic fountain.” STIS helps scientists understand these complex processes.

Unraveling the Structure of the Interstellar Medium

The interstellar medium is everything between the stars. It’s typically very low-density material, which is extremely difficult to study. With its ultraviolet sensitivity and exceedingly high spectral resolution, STIS is a premier instrument for understanding this space. Scientists use stars or other bright sources as background light to view the intervening material. They “see” it indirectly through the absorption of the background light. The interstellar medium is not entirely uniform. There are places it is denser, places where it is less dense, and different clumps move at different velocities. STIS provides the fine velocity information to analyze the details of the interstellar medium. Using STIS, scientists can determine the physical conditions and separate out components from different densities and types of gas along the line of sight.

Characterizing the Atmosphere of a World around Another Star

Astronomers using STIS made the first direct chemical analysis of the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star. This opened up an exciting new phase of extrasolar planet exploration, where astronomers can compare and contrast the atmospheres of planets around other stars, and search for chemical biomarkers of life beyond Earth. The planet orbits a sun-like star called HD 209458. Its atmospheric composition was probed when the planet passed in front of its parent star, allowing astronomers for the first time ever to see light from the star filtered through the planet’s atmosphere. Scientists detected the presence of sodium in the planet’s atmosphere. They actually saw less sodium than predicted for the Jupiter-class planet, leading to one interpretation that high-altitude clouds in the alien atmosphere may have blocked some of the light.

Imaging the Dust Disk around Beta Pictoris

In 1984, Beta Pictoris was the first star discovered to host a bright disk of light-scattering circumstellar dust and debris. Ever since then, the 20-million-year-old star has been an object of intense scrutiny with Hubble and with ground-based telescopes. Astronomers used STIS in 1997 and 2012 to take the most detailed pictures to date of the large, edge-on, gas-and-dust disk. Astronomers found that the disk’s dust distribution had barely changed over 15 years, despite the fact that the entire structure is orbiting the star like a carousel.

Finding Evidence for Water on Jupiter’s Moons

Identifying liquid water on other worlds is crucial in the search for habitable planets beyond Earth. STIS imaging shows suspected water plumes erupting from Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. Astronomers observed these finger-like projections while viewing Europa’s limb as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. Europa is a plausible place for life to have developed beyond Earth. If the venting plumes originate in a subsurface ocean, they could act as an elevator to bring deep-sea water above Europa’s surface, where visiting spacecraft could sample it, study its habitability, and even look for life. This offers a convenient way to access the chemistry of that ocean without drilling through miles of ice.

STIS also revealed that another Jovian moon, Ganymede, may contain a subsurface ocean. STIS found evidence for it by watching aurorae glowing above the moon’s icy surface. The aurorae are tied to the moon’s magnetic field, which descends to the core of Ganymede. A saline ocean would influence the dynamics of the magnetic field as it interacts with Jupiter’s own immense magnetic field, which engulfs Ganymede. Because telescopes can’t look inside planets or moons, tracing the magnetic field through aurorae is a unique way to probe the interior of another world.

Image above: During the second servicing mission to Hubble Space Telescope, astronaut Steve Smith (on the robotic arm) guides the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) into position while Mark Lee assists. The installation took place during STS-82, the 22nd flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery, in February 1997. Image Credits: NASA/ESA.

Detecting Monster Stars in a Massive Star Cluster

R136 is a very massive and young dense star cluster in the Tarantula Nebula within the Large Magellanic Cloud, a neighboring galaxy to our Milky Way. Only Hubble can resolve the individual stars in the dense core, which is only a few light-years across and less than 2 million years old. Astronomers used STIS to obtain ultraviolet spectra of the individual hot luminous stars in the core and showed in 2016 that there are nine stars with masses over 100 times the mass of the sun. The detected stars are not only extremely massive, but also extremely bright. Together these nine stars outshine the sun by a factor of 30 million. This discovery has led astronomers to examine the 20 years’ worth of STIS observations available in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST) for further examples of monster stars in more distant star clusters. Some have recently been found in the dwarf galaxy NGC 5253, and the search continues for more examples.

Unlocking the Secrets of the Massive Star Eta Carinae
The volatile, erupting pair of massive stars called Eta Carinae has long intrigued astronomers. In 2009, STIS analyzed the ejecta from an eruption seen in the late nineteenth century, resolving the chemical information along a narrow section close to the binary. The resulting spectrum showed iron and nickel that had been cast off in the nineteenth century. STIS also revealed the interior material being carried away by the ongoing, colliding winds from Eta Car A, the primary star, and those of Eta Car B, a hotter, less massive star. A very faint structure, seen in argon, is evidence of the interacting winds excited by ultraviolet radiation from Eta Car B. Eta Car A is one of the most massive and luminous stars visible in the night sky. Because of the star's extremely high mass, it is unstable and uses its fuel very quickly, compared with other stars. Such massive stars also have short lifetimes, and astronomers expect that Eta Carinae will explode as a supernova within a hundred thousand years.

Deciphering the Composition of Supernova 1987A

Thirty years ago, astronomers witnessed one of the brightest stellar explosions seen from Earth in more than 400 years. The titanic supernova, called SN 1987A, blazed with the power of 100 million suns for several months following its discovery on February 23, 1987. Ten years later, STIS provided an unprecedented look at the light-year-wide ring of glowing gas surrounding SN 1987A. The long-slit spectrograph viewed the entire ring system, dissecting its light and producing a detailed image of the ring in each of its component colors that correspond to nitrogen, hydrogen, and sulfur. By dividing the ring into its component elements, astronomers put together a picture of how the ring was created.

Measuring the Outflow from the Heart of an Active Galaxy

STIS measured the velocities of hundreds of gas knots streaming at hundreds of thousands of miles per hour from the nucleus of galaxy NGC 4151, thought to host a supermassive black hole. This was the first time the velocity structure in the heart of an active galaxy was mapped so precisely so close to its central black hole.

For more information on the Hubble mission and the servicing missions that made STIS possible, you can visit:

For more Hubble images, educational activities, and resources, visit &

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Space Telescope Science Institute/Ann Jenkins.


Martian Meanders and Scroll-Bars

NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

March 1, 2017

This is a portion of an inverted fluvial channel in the region of Aeolis/Zephyria Plana, at the Martian equator.

Channels become inverted when the sediments filling them become more resistant to erosion than the surrounding material. Here, the most likely process leading to hardening of the channel material is chemical cementation by precipitation of minerals. Once the surrounding material erodes, the channel is left standing as a ridge. The series of curvilinear lineations are ancient scroll-bars, which are features typical of river meanders (bends) in terrestrial fluvial channels.

Scroll-bars are series of ridges that result from the continuous lateral migration of a meander. On Earth, they are more common in mature rivers. The presence of scroll bars suggests that the water flow in this channel may have been sustained for a relatively long time.

Measuring characteristics of these scroll-bars and meanders may help to estimate the amount of water that once flowed in this channel, aiding our understanding of the history of water on Mars.

The map is projected here at a scale of 25 centimeters (9.8 inches) per pixel. [The original image scale is 29.3 centimeters (11.5 inches) per pixel (with 1 x 1 binning); objects on the order of 88 centimeters (29.6 inches) across are resolved.] North is up.

This is a stereo pair with

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

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 Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO):

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


Juno Captures Jupiter Cloudscape in High Resolution

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

March 1, 2017

This close-up view of Jupiter captures the turbulent region just west of the Great Red Spot in the South Equatorial Belt, with resolution better than any previous pictures from Earth or other spacecraft.

NASA’s Juno spacecraft captured this image with its JunoCam citizen science instrument when the spacecraft was a mere 5,400 miles (8,700 kilometers) above Jupiter’s cloudtops on Dec. 11, 2016 at 9:14 a.m. PT (12:14 p.m. ET). Citizen scientist Sergey Dushkin produced the sublime color processing and cropped the image to draw viewers’ eyes to the dynamic clouds.

JunoCam's raw images are available at for the public to peruse and process into image products.

More information about Juno is at and

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Sergey Dushkin.


Rapid changes point to origin of ultra-fast black hole winds

ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch.

1 March 2017

ESA and NASA space telescopes have made the most detailed observation of an ultra-fast wind flowing from the vicinity of a black hole at nearly a quarter of the speed of light.

Outflowing gas is a common feature of the supermassive black holes that reside in the centre of large galaxies. Millions to billions of times more massive than the Sun, these black holes feed off the surrounding gas that swirls around them. Space telescopes see this as bright emissions, including X-rays, from the innermost part of the disc around the black hole.

Occasionally, the black holes eat too much and burp out an ultra-fast wind. These winds are an important characteristic to study because they could have a strong influence on regulating the growth of the host galaxy by clearing the surrounding gas away and therefore suppressing the birth of stars.

Using ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s NuStar telescopes, scientists have now made the most detailed observation yet of such an outflow, coming from an active galaxy identified as IRAS 13224–3809. The winds recorded from the black hole reach 71 000 km/s – 0.24 times the speed of light – putting it in the top 5% of fastest known black hole winds.

Black hole with ultrafast winds

XMM-Newton focused on the black hole for 17 days straight, revealing the extremely variable nature of the winds.

“We often only have one observation of a particular object, then several months or even years later we observe it again and see if there’s been a change,” says Michael Parker of the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge, UK, lead author of the paper published in Nature this week that describes the new result.

“Thanks to this long observation campaign, we observed changes in the winds on a timescale of less than an hour for the first time.”

The changes were seen in the increasing temperature of the winds, a signature of their response to greater X-ray emission from the disc right next to the black hole.

Furthermore, the observations also revealed changes to the chemical fingerprints of the outflowing gas: as the X-ray emission increased, it stripped electrons in the wind from their atoms, erasing the wind signatures seen in the data.

“The chemical fingerprints of the wind changed with the strength of the X-rays in less than an hour, hundreds of times faster than ever seen before,” says co-author Andrew Fabian, also from the Institute of Astronomy and principal investigator of the project.


“It allows us to link the X-ray emission arising from the infalling material into the black hole, to the variability of the outflowing wind farther away.”

“Finding such variability, and finding evidence for this link, is a key step in understanding how black hole winds are launched and accelerated, which in turn is an essential part of understanding their ability to moderate star formation in the host galaxy,” adds Norbert Schartel, ESA’s XMM-Newton project scientist.

Notes for Editors:

“The response of relativistic outflowing gas to the inner accretion disk of a black hole,” by M. Parker et al. is published in Nature:

Explore IRAS 13224-3809 data in EsaSky:


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XMM-Newton overview:

XMM-Newton image gallery:

In depth:

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Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Markus Bauer/Norbert Schartel/Institute of Astronomy/Michael Parker/Andrew Fabian.

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United Launch Alliance Successfully Launches NROL-79 Payload for the National Reconnaissance Office

ULA - Atlas V / NROL-79 Mission patch.

March 1, 2017

Image above: A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifts off from Space Launch Complex-3. Designated NROL-79, the mission is in support of national defense.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying a payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-3 March 1 at 9:50 a.m. PST. Designated NROL-79, the mission is in support of national defense.

“I am so impressed by the incredible teamwork between the NRO, U.S. Air Force our industry partners and the ULA team that resulted in today’s successful launch. The integrated mission team overcame many challenges this flow including delays associated with the Vandenberg Canyon Fire last year,” said Laura Maginnis, vice president, Government Satellite Launch. “Tragically, Ventura County firefighter Ryan Osler lost his life en route to assist in fighting the fire. We are honored to dedicate today’s mission to Ryan and his family. Thank you to all of the men and women who worked to deliver this critical asset for our nation’s security.”

Atlas V NROL-79 Launch Highlights

This mission was launched aboard an Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) 401 configuration vehicle, which includes a 4-meter-diameter extended payload fairing. The Atlas booster for this mission was powered by the RD AMROSS RD-180 engine, and the Centaur upper stage was powered by the Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10C-1 engine.

This is ULA’s second launch in 2017 and the 117th successful launch since the company was formed in December 2006.

ULA's next launch is the Delta IV WGS-9 satellite for the U.S. Air Force. The launch is scheduled for March 8 from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

The EELV program was established by the U.S. Air Force to provide assured access to space for Department of Defense and other government payloads. The commercially developed EELV program supports the full range of government mission requirements, while delivering on schedule and providing significant cost savings over the heritage launch systems.

With more than a century of combined heritage, United Launch Alliance is the nation’s most experienced and reliable launch service provider. ULA has successfully delivered more than 115 satellites to orbit that provide critical capabilities for troops in the field, aid meteorologists in tracking severe weather, enable personal device-based GPS navigation and unlock the mysteries of our solar system.

For more information on ULA, visit the ULA website at Join the conversation at, and

Image, Video, Text, Credits: United Launch Alliance (ULA).


A Galaxy on the Edge

ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

 1 March 2017

The edge-on galaxy NGC 1055

This colourful stripe of stars, gas, and dust is actually a spiral galaxy named NGC 1055. Captured here by ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT), this big galaxy is thought to be up to 15 percent larger in diameter than the Milky Way. NGC 1055 appears to lack the whirling arms characteristic of a spiral, as it is seen edge-on. However, it displays odd twists in its structure that were probably caused by an interaction with a large neighbouring galaxy.

Spiral galaxies throughout the Universe take on all manner of orientations with respect to Earth. We see some from above (as it were) or “face-on” — a good example of this being the whirlpool-shaped galaxy NGC 1232. Such orientations reveal a galaxy’s flowing arms and bright core in beautiful detail, but make it difficult to get any sense of a three-dimensional shape.

The surroundings of the edge-on galaxy NGC 1055

We see other galaxies, such as NGC 3521, at angles. While these tilted objects begin to reveal the three-dimensional structure within their spiral arms, fully understanding the overall shape of a spiral galaxy requires an edge-on view — such as this one of NGC 1055.

When seen edge-on, it is possible to get an overall view of how stars — both new patches of starbirth and older populations — are distributed throughout a galaxy, and the “heights” of the relatively flat disc and the star-loaded core become easier to measure. Material stretches away from the blinding brightness of the galactic plane itself, becoming more clearly observable against the darker background of the cosmos.

The edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 1055 in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster)

Such a perspective also allows astronomers to study the overall shape of a galaxy’s extended disc, and to study its properties. One example of this is warping, which is something we see in NGC 1055. The galaxy has regions of peculiar twisting and disarray in its disc, likely caused by interactions with the nearby galaxy Messier 77 (eso0319) [1]. This warping is visible here; NGC 1055’s disc is slightly bent and appears to wave across the core.

Zooming in on the edge-on galaxy NGC 1055

NGC 1055 is located approximately 55 million light-years away in the constellation of Cetus (The Sea Monster). This image was obtained using the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2) instrument mounted on Unit Telescope 1 (Antu) of the VLT, located at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile. It hails from ESO’s Cosmic Gems programme, an outreach initiative that produces images of interesting, intriguing or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes for the purposes of education and outreach.

Panning across a new image of NGC 1055


[1] Messier 77, also known as NGC 1068, has a very brilliant central region powered by a supermassive black hole. It is one of the nearest examples of what astronomers call active galaxies.

More information:

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.


ESOcast 98 Light: A Galaxy On Edge (4K UHD):

Photos of the VLT:

Other images taken with FORS:

ESO’s Paranal Observatory:

ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT):

ESO’s Cosmic Gems programme:

FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph 2 (FORS2):

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2/IAU and Sky & Telescope/Videos: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2/A. Fujii. Music: Astral Electronic.

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Announcement on the initiation of the experiment consuming probiotics on the International Space Station

ISS - International Space Station logo.

March 1, 2017

Announcement on the initiation of the experiment consuming probiotics (Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota) on the International Space Station - Research on the impact on the immune system and intestinal microbiota of astronauts

Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd. (Yakult) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have been jointly researching the effect of probiotics on the human immune system and intestinal microbiota in a microgravity environment*1 since FY2014. This joint research aims to contribute to maintaining and improving the health and performance of astronauts. It is also intended to make contributions toward promoting human health in general by utilizing the knowledge gained in this joint research for the development of probiotics*2 research on the ground.

It is ready to begin the world's first experiment of consecutive consumption of probiotics by crewmembers on ISS, based on the outcomes of ground-based research activities conducted from FY2014 to FY2015, and the storage test of the capsule containing freeze-dried live probiotic bacteria (Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota*3 ) on board of the ISS conducted in FY2016. It was confirmed that the number of live probiotics in the flight sample was equivalent to those in the ground control samples.

Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota

Yakult and JAXA will initiate the space experiment from 2017, which is a scientific study of the effect caused by the consecutive consumption of probiotics on the human immune system and intestinal microbiota of astronauts staying on the ISS for long periods of time.

*1 JAXA Press Releases March 19, 2014 (JST)

*2 Live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host (FAO/WHO, 2001)

*3 Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota is a probiotic strain with accumulated evidences on reaching intestine alive, maintaining and improving intestinal microbiota and immune function. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has accredited the strain as being Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS).


62nd Japan Aerospace Environment Medical Society, 30th Japan Space Biological Science Society at Aichi Medical University on October 14, 2016.

Presenter: Dr. Satoshi Furukawa, Group leader of Space Medical Biological Research, JAXA

Title: Assessment of the effect of the space environment on the viability of probiotics


Before initiating the space experiment on the consumption of probiotics by astronauts on the ISS, given the need for long periods of storage at ambient temperature for the space experiment, a long-term storage test lasting nine months was conducted on the capsules that contained freeze dried and not liquid “Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota.” The capsules were then subjected to a storage test on the ISS (KIBO) in order to analyze the effect of the space environment on the viability of probiotics.

Dr. Satoshi Furukawa

In April 2016, the capsules were launched to the ISS by SpaceX CRS-8 (Dragon), stored for about one month, and then returned to Earth for analysis. It was confirmed that the numbers of live bacteria were maintained on the ISS as compared with the numbers of live bacteria on the ground.

Image above: Capsules containing freeze dried Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota. Five capsules contain at least 40 billion live bacteria.

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

Images, Text, Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/Yakult Honsha Co., Ltd.

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