samedi 30 septembre 2017

Large Solar Storm Sparks Global Aurora and Doubles Radiation Levels on the Martian Surface

NASA - MAVEN Mission logo.

September 30, 2017

An unexpectedly strong blast from the Sun hit Mars this month, observed by NASA missions in orbit and on the surface.

Animation above: This animation shows the sudden appearance of a bright aurora on Mars during a solar storm. The purple-white color scheme shows the intensity of ultraviolet light over the course of the event, from observations on Sept. 12 and 13, 2017, by the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph on NASA's MAVEN orbiter. Image Credits: NASA/Univ. of Colorado.

"NASA's distributed set of science missions is in the right place to detect activity on the Sun and examine the effects of such solar events at Mars as never possible before," said MAVEN Program Scientist Elsayed Talaat, program scientist at NASA Headquarters, Washington, for NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution, or MAVEN, mission.

The solar event on Sept. 11, 2017 sparked a global aurora at Mars more than 25 times brighter than any previously seen by the MAVEN orbiter, which has been studying the Martian atmosphere's interaction with the solar wind since 2014.

It produced radiation levels on the surface more than double any previously measured by the Curiosity rover's Radiation Assessment Detector, or RAD, since that mission's landing in 2012. The high readings lasted more than two days.

Image above: These images from the Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph on NASA's MAVEN orbiter show the appearance of a bright aurora on Mars during a solar storm in September 2017. The purple-white colors shows the intensity of ultraviolet light on Mars' night side before (left) and during (right) the event. Image Credits: NASA/Univ. of Colorado.

Strangely, it occurred in conjunction with a spate of solar activity during what is usually a quiet period in the Sun's 11-year sunspot and storm-activity cycle. This event was big enough to be detected at Earth too, even though Earth was on the opposite side of the Sun from Mars.

"The current solar cycle has been an odd one, with less activity than usual during the peak, and now we have this large event as we're approaching solar minimum," said Sonal Jain of the University of Colorado Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, who is a member of MAVEN's Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph instrument team.

"This is exactly the type of event both missions were designed to study, and it's the biggest we've seen on the surface so far," said RAD Principal Investigator Don Hassler of the Southwest Research Institute's Boulder, Colorado, office. "It will improve our understanding of how such solar events affect the Martian environment, from the top of the atmosphere all the way down to the surface."

Image above: Energetic particles from a large solar storm in September 2017 were seen both in Mars orbit by NASA's MAVEN orbiter, and on the surface of Mars by NASA's Curiosity Mars rover. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Colorado/SwRI-Boulder/UC Berkeley.

RAD monitored radiation levels inside the encapsulated spacecraft that carried Curiosity from Earth to Mars in 2011 and 2012 and has been steadily monitoring the radiation environment at Mars' surface for more than five years.

RAD findings strengthen understanding of radiation's impact on Mars habitability, a key objective of the Curiosity mission. NASA is also using RAD findings for planning the safety of human-crew missions to Mars. Highly energetic solar events can significantly increase the radiation that penetrates through the atmosphere to the Mars surface. The increased radiation also interacts with the atmosphere to produce additional, secondary particles, which need to be understood and shielded against to ensure the safety of future human explorers.

"If you were outdoors on a Mars walk and learned that an event like this was imminent, you would definitely want to take shelter, just as you would if you were on a space walk outside the International Space Station," Hassler said. "To protect our astronauts on Mars in the future, we need to continue to provide this type of space weather monitoring there."

Image above: These profiles show the brightness of auroras in Mars' atmosphere at different altitudes. The solid black profile on the right is from a September 2017 solar storm. Barely visible along the vertical axis is a dashed profile from the previous brightest aurora seen by MAVEN, in March 2015. Image Credits: NASA/Univ. of Colorado.

The Sun is always emitting a continuous stream of charged particles, mainly electrons and protons. Occasionally, eruptions called coronal mass ejections occur, with higher density, energy and speed of the ejected particles. These events vary in strength. Strong ones cause dramatic aurora displays on Earth, and very strong ones can disrupt communications. Some coronal mass ejections, such as this month's event, are broad enough in extent to affect planets in quite different directions from the Sun.

Jain said, "When a solar storm hits the Martian atmosphere, it can trigger auroras that light up the whole planet in ultraviolet light. The recent one lit up Mars like a light bulb. An aurora on Mars can envelope the entire planet because Mars has no strong magnetic field like Earth's to concentrate the aurora near polar regions. The energetic particles from the Sun also can be absorbed by the upper atmosphere, increasing its temperature and causing it to swell up."

Analysis of the data is just beginning. "We expect to get a better understanding of how the process operates in the upper atmosphere of Mars today, and a better understanding of how storms like this may have stripped away much of the Martian atmosphere in the past," said MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky of the University of Colorado Boulder. The loss of most of Mars' original atmosphere to space is linked to the planet's change from wet to dry, long ago.

Image above: Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN) spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL.

Besides the observations by instruments on MAVEN and Curiosity, effects of the Sept. 11, 2017 event were also detected by instruments on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN mission for the principal investigator at the University of Colorado. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Curiosity mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. RAD is supported by NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, Washington, under JPL subcontract to Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, and by Germany's national space agency (DLR) under contract with Christian-Albrechts-Universitat, Kiel, Germany.

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission (MAVEN) :

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/Goddard Space Flight Center/Nancy Neal Jones/JPL/Guy Webster/University of Colorado Boulder/Jim Scott/Southwest Reseach Institute/Deb Schmid.


vendredi 29 septembre 2017

Ariane 5 orbits Intelsat 37e and BSAT-4a on Arianespace’s latest mission from the Spaceport

ARIANESPACE - Arine 5 ECA / Flight VA239 poster.

September 29, 2017

 Ariane 5 ECA Flight VA239 launch

Arianespace orbited telecommunications satellites for long-time customers on today’s successful mission – confirming the company’s role as a launch services leader in terms of availability, reliability and performance.

Ariane 5 ECA Flight VA239 at ELA-3 launch zone

Conducted from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone in French Guiana, the successful mission delivered an estimated payload lift performance of 10,838 kg. to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) – utilizing the heavy-lift Ariane 5 member of Arianespace’s launcher family, which also includes the medium Soyuz and lightweight Vega.

Designated Flight VA239, the mission carried Intelsat 37e for global operator Intelsat; along with BSAT-4a, which was launched as part of a turnkey contract between Japan’s Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation (B-SAT) and U.S.-based satellite manufacturer SSL. Intelsat 37e was deployed first in the flight sequence, separating from Ariane 5 at 29 minutes after liftoff, followed approximately 18 minutes later by BSAT-4a.

Liftoff of Arianespace’s Ariane 5 with Intelsat 37e and BSAT-4a

Another “Epic” launch for Intelsat

Intelsat 37e – built by Boeing using a 702MP platform – is the latest satellite from Intelsat’s high-throughput EpicNG series to be launched. It also marks the fourth EpicNG spacecraft orbited by Arianespace to date (following Ariane 5 missions with Intelsat 29e and Intelsat 33e in January and August 2016, respectively, plus last February’s heavy-lift flight that lofted SKY Brasil-1/Intelsat 32e).

Overall, Intelsat 37e is the 59th Intelsat satellite launched by Arianespace since 1983, as well as the 55th Boeing-produced spacecraft orbited by the company – continuing a partnership that extends back to 1987. The Arianespace order book includes two more Boeing satellites: Horizon-3e and ViaSat 3F1.

Intelsat 37e satellite

Weighing an estimated 6,440 kg. at liftoff, Intelsat 37e will provide capacity for wireless backhaul, enterprise VSAT and mobility networks, carrying out its mission from a 342-deg. East orbital slot.

The launch leader for Japan

The second-released passenger on today’s successful Ariane 5 flight, BSAT-4a, will be used for Direct-To-Home (DTH) television relay in Japan, as well as to expand the availability of advanced television services (such as 4K/8K ultra-high definition TV). It will operate from a final orbital position of 110 deg. East.

Arianespace has launched all B-SAT satellites since this company’s creation, reflecting an unmatched position in the market. Since 1989, Arianespace has lofted a total of 29 GTO satellites for Japanese operators, representing more than 75 percent of the Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) market share in Japan.

BSAT-4a satellite

Arianespace’s launch of BSAT-4a also continues its long-running partnership with SSL, having now launched a total of 64 satellites produced by this manufacturer since 1983 – with three more in the company’s order book (Azerspace2/Intelsat-38, Eutelsat 7C, and Intelsat 39).

Arianespace’s 2017 launch calendar

Flight VA239 was Arianespace’s ninth launch in 2017, and it follows other heavy-lift Ariane 5 missions performed this year on February 14 (carrying SKY Brasil-1 and Telkom 3S), May 4 (SGDC and KOREASAT-7), June 1 (ViaSat-2 and EUTELSAT 172B) and June 28 (Hellas Sat 3-Inmarsat S EAN and GSAT-17).

Also conducted earlier in 2017 were Arianespace’s medium-lift Soyuz missions on January 27 (with Hispasat 36W-1) and May 18 (SES-15); plus light-lift Vega flights performed March 6 (Sentinel-2B) and August 1 (OPTSAT-3000 and Venµs).

Related links:

Intelsat website:

B-SAT website:

Boeing website:

SSL website:

For more information about Arianespace, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Arianespace/SSL/Boeing.

Best regards,

NASA Discusses Spacewalks on Monday

ISS - Expedition 53 Mission patch.

September 29, 2017

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credits: NASA/STS-130

International Space Station managers and spacewalk experts will talk next week about a series of three spacewalks taking place in October. NASA TV will broadcast a briefing Monday at 2 p.m. to describe the spacewalk activities planned for Oct.5, 10 and 18.

Commander Randy Bresnik will lead all three spacewalks partnering with NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei on the first two and Joe Acaba on the third. The three NASA astronauts are heading into the weekend checking their resizable U.S. spacesuits to ensure a good fit next week.

Image above: Astronaut Randy Bresnik works outside the space station’s Columbus laboratory module during a spacewalk in November 2009. Bresnik last visited the station aboard space shuttle Atlantis during the STS-129 mission. Image Credit: NASA.

Bresnik last conducted a pair of spacewalks in November 2009 when he visited the station as a mission specialist for STS-129. Acaba also conducted two previous spacewalks that took place in March 2009 during STS-119. Vande Hei will be participating in his first two spacewalks.

The spacewalkers will first replace a latching end effector (LEE) on the tip of the Cadarm2 robotic arm. Next, the replacement LEE will be lubricated and a pair of external station cameras will be replaced.

Related links:



Expedition 53:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Hubble Catches Galaxies Swarmed by Star Clusters

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Sept. 29, 2017

In the center of a rich cluster of galaxies located in the direction of the constellation of Coma Berenices, lies a galaxy surrounded by a swarm of star clusters. NGC 4874 is a giant elliptical galaxy, about ten times larger than the Milky Way, at the center of the Coma Galaxy Cluster. With its strong gravitational pull, it is able to hold onto more than 30,000 globular clusters of stars, more than any other galaxy that we know of, and even has a few dwarf galaxies in its grasp.

In this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, NGC 4874 is the brightest object, located to the right of the frame and seen as a bright star-like core surrounded by a hazy halo. A few of the other galaxies of the cluster are also visible, looking like flying saucers dancing around NGC 4874. But the really remarkable feature of this image is the point-like objects around NGC 4874, revealed on a closer look: almost all of them are clusters of stars that belong to the galaxy. Each of these globular star clusters contains many hundreds of thousands of stars.

Recently, astronomers discovered that a few of these point-like objects are not star clusters but ultra-compact dwarf galaxies, also under the gravitational influence of NGC 4874. Being only about 200 light-years across and mostly made up of old stars, these galaxies resemble brighter and larger versions of globular clusters. They are thought to be the cores of small elliptical galaxies that, due to the violent interactions with other galaxies in the cluster, lost their gas and surrounding stars.

Hubble Space Telescope

This Hubble image also shows many more distant galaxies that do not belong to the cluster, seen as small smudges in the background. While the galaxies in the Coma Cluster are located about 350 million light-years away, these other objects are much farther out. Their light took several hundred million to billions of years to reach us.

This picture was created from optical and near-infrared exposures taken with the Wide Field Channel of Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. The field of view is 3.3 arcminutes across.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit:

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

Best regards,

Small Collisions Make Big Impact on Mercury’s Thin Atmosphere

NASA - MESSENGER Mission patch.

Sept. 29, 2017

Mercury, our smallest planetary neighbor, has very little to call an atmosphere, but it does have a strange weather pattern: morning micro-meteor showers.

Recent modeling along with previously published results from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft — short for Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging, a mission that observed Mercury from 2011 to 2015 — has shed new light on how certain types of comets influence the lopsided bombardment of Mercury’s surface by tiny dust particles called micrometeoroids. This study also gave new insight into how these micrometeoroid showers can shape Mercury’s very thin atmosphere, called an exosphere.

The research, led by Petr Pokorný, Menelaos Sarantos and Diego Janches of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, simulated the variations in meteoroid impacts, revealing surprising patterns in the time of day impacts occur. These findings were reported in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on June 19, 2017.

“Observations by MESSENGER indicated that dust must predominantly arrive at Mercury from specific directions, so we set out to prove this with models,” Pokorný said. This is the first such simulation of meteoroid impacts on Mercury. “We simulated meteoroids in the solar system, particularly those originating from comets, and let them evolve over time.”

Earlier findings based on data from MESSENGER’s Ultraviolet and Visible Spectrometer revealed the effect of meteoroid impacts on Mercury’s surface throughout the planet’s day. The presence of magnesium and calcium in the exosphere is higher at Mercury’s dawn — indicating that meteoroid impacts are more frequent on whatever part of the planet is experiencing dawn at a given time.

Image above: Scientists used models along with earlier findings from the MESSENGER mission to shed light on how certain types of comets influence the micrometeoroids that preferentially impact Mercury on the dawn side of the planet. Here, data from the Mercury Atmosphere and Surface Composition Spectrometer, or MASCS, instrument is overlain on the mosaic from the Mercury Dual Imaging System, or MDIS. Image Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington.

This dawn-dusk asymmetry is created by a combination of Mercury’s long day, in comparison to its year, and the fact that many meteroids in the solar system travel around the Sun in the direction opposite the planets. Because Mercury rotates so slowly — once every 58 Earth days, compared to a Mercury year, a complete trip around the Sun, lasting only 88 Earth days — the part of the planet at dawn spends a disproportionately long time in the path of one of the solar system’s primary populations of micrometeoroids. This population, called retrograde meteoroids, orbits the Sun in the direction opposite the planets and comprises pieces from disintegrated long-period comets. These retrograde meteroids are traveling against the flow of planetary traffic in our solar system, so their collisions with planets — Mercury, in this case — hit much harder than if they were traveling in the same direction.

These harder collisions helped the team further key in on the source of the micrometeoroids pummeling Mercury’s surface. Meteroids that originally came from asteroids wouldn’t be moving fast enough to create the observed impacts. Only meteoroids created from two certain types of comets — Jupiter-family and Halley-type — had the speed necessary to match the obseravations.

“The velocity of cometary meteoroids, like Halley-type, can exceed 224,000 miles per hour,” Pokorný said. “Meteoroids from asteroids only impact Mercury at a fraction of that speed.” 

Jupiter-family comets, which are primarly influenced by our largest planet’s gravity, have a relatively short orbit of less than 20 years. These comets are thought to be small pieces of objects originating in the Kuiper Belt, where Pluto orbits. The other contributor, Halley-type comets, have a longer orbit lasting upwards of 200 years. They come from the Oort Cloud, the most distant objects of our solar system — more than a thousand times farther from the Sun than Earth.

The orbital distributions of both types of comets make them ideal candidates to produce the tiny meteoroids that influence Mercury’s exosphere.

Pokorný and his team hope that their initial findings will improve our understanding of the rate at which comet-based micrometeoroids impact Mercury, further improving the accuracy of models of Mercury and its exosphere.



More information about Mercury:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, by Kathryn DuFresne.


Weekly Recap From the Expedition Lead Scientist, week of September 25, 2017

ISS - Expedition 53 Mission patch.

Sept. 29, 2017

(Highlights: Week of September 25, 2017) - It's planting season on the International Space Station as crew members installed hardware to grow another crop of vegetables in space while another investigation discovered a new black hole in deep space.

NASA astronaut Joe Acaba prepared the Veggie facility for three different kinds of lettuce seeds as part of the VEG-03-D investigation. This is the first time seeds from multiple kinds of plants are being grown in the facility all at the same time. Understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important step for future long-duration space missions, which will require crew members to grow their own food. Crew members on the station have previously grown lettuce and flowers in the facility. This new series of the study expands on previous validation tests.

Image above: NASA astronaut Joe Acaba checks on the Veggie hardware for another round of the VEG-03 investigation. This fall, crew members on the International Space Station will grow three different types of lettuce in orbit, testing methods for growing fresh food in space for use on the station and on long-duration space missions. Image Credit: NASA.

Veggie provides lighting and necessary nutrients for plants in the form of a low-cost growth chamber and planting pillows, which deliver nutrients to the root system. The Veggie pillow concept is a low-maintenance, modular system that requires no additional energy beyond a special light to help the plants grow. It supports a variety of plant species that can be cultivated for fresh food, and even for education experiments.

Crew members have commented that they enjoy space gardening, and investigators believe growing plants could provide a psychological benefit to crew members on long-duration missions, just as gardening is often an enjoyable hobby for people on Earth. Data from this investigation could benefit agricultural practices on Earth by designing systems that use valuable resources such as water more efficiently.

Image above: ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli captured this image of Greece during a recent orbit of the International Space Station, posting it to his Twitter account with the caption "It's like browsing years and years of history laid out below us!" Image Credits: @astro_paolo.

A set of highly sensitive X-ray detectors and cameras discovered a new black hole, and scientists decided to name the celestial object after the investigation. The Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image (MAXI) investigation is performing a complete sky survey while helping address fundamental astrophysics questions and understand the current state and evolution of our universe. MAXI and the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) investigation observed MAXI J1535-571 to develop a more physical picture of the galactic event. MAXI – a JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) study -- has also reported binary pulsar outbursts, a hypernova more than 3 million years old observed, for the first time, a massive black hole as it swallowed a star.

ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Paolo Nespoli completed another session of the Circadian Rhythms investigation. Circadian rhythm is the phenomenon of one's "body clock" indicating when it is time to sleep or wake. Astronauts in orbit around Earth are subjected to more than a dozen sunrises every day. Researchers believe this non-24-hour cycle of light and dark affects crewmembers’ circadian rhythm. This ESA investigation looks at the role of circadian rhythms and how they change during long-duration spaceflight, addressing the effects of reduced physical activity, microgravity and an artificially controlled environment.

Space to Ground: Triple Spacewalks: 09/29/2017

Video above: NASA's Space to Ground is a weekly update on what is happening on the International Space Station. Social media users can post with #spacetoground to ask questions or make a comment. Video Credit: NASA.

Changes in body composition and body temperature, which also occur in microgravity, can affect crew members’ circadian rhythms as well. Understanding how these phenomena affect the biological clock will improve performance and health for future crew members and provide a unique comparison for sleep disorders, autonomic nervous system disorders and shift work-related disorders on Earth.

Crew members are installing and running the Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME) through its paces – checking hardware and software -- before starting full operations in the coming weeks. This project is a set of six independent studies of gaseous flames to be conducted in the Combustion Integration Rack (CIR). Scientists want to improve fuel efficiency and reduce pollutant production in combustion on Earth while prevent fires on spacecraft through research on materials flammability. The data from these investigations could help improve engine design to improve performance and achieve low emissions of soot and carbon, perhaps even using electrical fields to control combustion.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA astronauts Randy Bresnik and Mark Vande Hei completed another round of the Space Headaches study. Headaches are a common complaint during spaceflight and can influence crew performance during a mission. The ESA investigation searches for ways to improve the condition and help develop methods to alleviate symptoms and improve the health and safety of crew members. Data from the investigation could provide insight to the condition on Earth and help millions who suffer from headaches.

Progress was made on other investigations this week, including: Lighting Effects, Sally Ride EarthKAM, Biochem Profile, Marrow, ISS-CREAM, MUSES, SAGE III, MOBIV, Fine Motor Skills, Radi-N2 Neutron Field Study, ISS Ham Radio, and Meteor.

Related links:

Veggie facility:

Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER):

Circadian Rhythms:

Advanced Combustion Microgravity Experiment (ACME):

Space Headaches:

Lighting Effects:

Sally Ride EarthKAM:

Biochem Profile:






Fine Motor Skills:

Radi-N2 Neutron Field Study:

ISS Ham Radio:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Kristine Rainey/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 53 & 54.

Best regards,

95 Minutes Over Jupiter

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Sept. 29, 2017

(Click on the image for enlarge)

This sequence of color-enhanced images shows how quickly the viewing geometry changes for NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it swoops by Jupiter. The images were obtained by JunoCam.

Once every 53 days, Juno swings close to Jupiter, speeding over its clouds. In just two hours, the spacecraft travels from a perch over Jupiter’s north pole through its closest approach (perijove), then passes over the south pole on its way back out. This sequence shows 11 color-enhanced images from Perijove 8 (Sept. 1, 2017) with the south pole on the left (11th image in the sequence) and the north pole on the right (first image in the sequence).

The first image on the right shows a half-lit globe of Jupiter, with the north pole approximately at the upper center of the image close to the terminator -- the dividing line between night and day. As the spacecraft gets closer to Jupiter, the horizon moves in and the range of visible latitudes shrinks. The second and third images in this sequence show the north polar region rotating away from the spacecraft's field of view while the first of Jupiter's lighter-colored bands comes into view. The fourth through the eighth images display a blue-colored vortex in the mid-southern latitudes near Points of Interest "Collision of Colours," "Sharp Edge," "Caltech, by Halka," and "Structure01." The Points of Interest are locations in Jupiter’s atmosphere that were identified and named by members of the general public. Additionally, a darker, dynamic band can be seen just south of the vortex. In the ninth and tenth images, the south polar region rotates into view. The final image on the left displays Jupiter's south pole in the center.

JUNO orbiting Jupiter. Animation Credit: NASA

From the start of this sequence of images to the end, roughly 1 hour and 35 minutes elapsed.

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

More information about Juno is at: and

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill.


SpaceX - Elon Musk unveiled his "Big Fucking Rocket"

SpaceX logo.

Sept. 29, 2017

Image above: SpaceX "Big Fucking Rocket" (BFR) is capable of transporting satellites, crew and cargo to the space completing missions to the Moon and Mars.

The bubbling innovator unveiled on Friday his plans to send spacecraft to Mars in five years and transport people to Earth in record time.

The founder of SpaceX, a private space operator, spoke at a world astronautical congress that gathered up to 4,000 experts in Adelaide, Australia, on Friday. SpaceX has already begun working on this interplanetary transport system project, which he gave the code name Big fucking rocket (BFR). The construction of the first vessel must begin in six or nine months.

Image above: Screen capture of Elon Musk post on Twitter

"I'm pretty confident that we can complete the ship and launch it in about five years." The goal is that at least two cargo craft can land on Mars in 2022, with the main mission of finding the best possible source of water. These ships would transport enough infrastructure to survive on Mars before people were transported to Mars in 2024. This project would be funded in particular by launching satellites and services to space stations and missions on the moon, -he declares.

Image above: BFR is capable of transporting satellites, crew and cargo to the space completing missions to the Moon and Mars.

The BFR vessels would also serve the inhabitants on Earth by reducing the journey time between major cities to less than half an hour, he predicted. A Bangkok-Dubai would take 27 minutes, while Tokyo would be 30 minutes away from New Delhi. "Once out of the atmosphere, it would roll by itself, without turbulence, nothing. There is no weather and you can earn long distance destinations in less than half an hour. If you build this stuff to go to the Moon or Mars, why not go to other places on Earth too? "

Part 1
Part 2

Elon Musk videos comment: Fly to most places on Earth in under 30 mins and anywhere in under 60. Cost per seat should be about the same as full fare economy in an aircraft. Forgot to mention that.

Related links:


SpaceX on Twitter:

SpaceX Mars Project:

International Astronautical Congress (IAC):

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Elon Musk/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Telemedicine via satellite improves care at astronaut landings

ESA - European Astronauts patch.

29 September 2017

Tempus Pro, a portable vital-signs monitor offering telemedicine via satellite, is helping medics at ESA astronaut landings. Thomas Pesquet was the first to benefit at the end of his mission in May.

Astronauts returning from space must readjust to life on Earth. Gravity influences the body’s balance, cardiovascular functions, and especially the muscles, so astronauts are carefully monitored as soon as they are out of their reentry capsule.

Health check for Thomas Pesquet using Tempus Pro

When Thomas landed in Kazakhstan from his mission on the International Space Station, ESA medical staff stood by with the Tempus Pro.

As he was feeling gravity for the first time in six months, several sensors were attached to his body and connected to the device to gather important medical information.

This was repeated in the medical tent, during the helicopter ride back to Karaganda in Kazakhstan and on the aircraft back to Cologne in Germany, to allow doctors to detect any changes in his condition.

“In the challenging environment of an astronaut landing, Tempus Pro allowed us to track and log medical information quickly and easily and to share this in real time with our medical colleagues at ESA’s European Astronaut Centre in Cologne,” commented Sergi Vaquer, ESA’s flight surgeon.

The secured satellite link with the astronaut centre required a portable satellite antenna connected to the unit.

Medical teams at both sites examined advanced information containing Thomas’ vital signs such as blood oxygen level, blood pressure and heart activity, ultrasound images, realtime videos, pictures and voice.

All data were recorded in an encrypted patient record on the device for further evaluation at the centre.

Tempus Pro transmits data via satellite

Sharing information between teams in real time ensures the best possible outcome in the event of a medical emergency during landing operations. Working together increases accuracy and speed of diagnosis and treatment. It also enables a more coordinated and effective emergency response.

An improved version of the Tempus Pro, based on lessons learned, will be used in December when ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli returns from the Space Station.

“The next challenge will be to send data from the Tempus Pro via satellite to medical teams on the ground from the aircraft transporting an ESA astronaut back to Cologne,” commented Arnaud Runge, ESA’s project manager. 

Remote Diagnostic Technologies of the UK developed the device with funding and support from the Business Applications part of ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems programme, which helps European industry to use space to create commercial applications in non-space sectors.

Tempus is a fully medically approved product that is used by airlines, at sea, in remote regions, and by the military in Europe and the US. Lightweight, compact and robust enough to withstand being dropped from 2 m, it is an all-in-one unit, meaning medics have less equipment to carry.

All conventional instruments typically required for emergency monitoring and intensive care can be connected such as blood oxygen saturation and contact temperature sensors, invasive and non-invasive blood pressure equipment, electrocardiogram leads, a laryngoscope and a USB ultrasound probe. It includes a GPS chip and has wifi, Bluetooth and ethernet connectivity, and can exchange voice, video and medical data.

“We are very pleased to see Tempus Pro used at an astronaut landing. This is a very demanding situation and proves the performance of this product,” added Arnaud.

The company is now developing Tempus ALS for ambulances and intensive care units, which can record data in a secured cloud via satellite communication as well as on the device, and plans new features such as a defibrillator.

Related links:

Tempus ALS:

Remote Diagnostic Technologies:

European Astronaut Centre (EAC):

Space for Health:

Amazon project page:

Business Applications homepage:

Images, Text, Credit: European Space Agency (ESA).

Best regards,

NASA Glenn Tests Thruster Bound for Metal World

NASA - Psyche Mission logo.

September 29, 2017

As NASA looks to explore deeper into our solar system, one of the key areas of interest is studying worlds that can help researchers better understand our solar system and the universe around us. One of the next destinations in this knowledge-gathering campaign is a rare world called Psyche, located in the asteroid belt.

Image above: Artist's concept of the Psyche spacecraft, which will conduct a direct exploration of an asteroid thought to be a stripped planetary core. Image Credits: SSL/ASU/P. Rubin/NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Psyche is different from millions of other asteroids because it appears to have an exposed nickel-iron surface. Researchers at Arizona State University, Tempe, in partnership with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, believe the asteroid could actually be the leftover core of an early planet. And, since we can't directly explore any planet's core, including our own, Psyche offers a rare look into the violent history of our solar system.

"Psyche is a unique body because it is, by far, the largest metal asteroid out there; it's about the size of Massachusetts," said David Oh, the mission's lead project systems engineer at JPL. "By exploring Psyche, we'll learn about the formation of the planets, how planetary cores are formed and, just as important, we'll be exploring a new type of world. We've looked at worlds made of rock, ice and of gas, but we've never had an opportunity to look at a metal world, so this is brand new exploration in the classic style of NASA."

But getting to Psyche won't be easy. It requires a cutting-edge propulsion system with exceptional performance, which is also safe, reliable and cost-effective. That's why the mission team has turned to NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, which has been advancing solar electric propulsion (SEP) for decades.

SEP thrusters use inert gases, like xenon, which are then energized by the electric power generated from onboard solar arrays to provide gentle, non-stop thrust.

"For deep space missions, the type and amount of fuel required to propel a spacecraft is an important factor for mission planners," said Carol Tolbert, project manager for Psyche thruster testing at NASA Glenn. "A SEP system, like the one used for this mission, operates more efficiently than a conventional chemical propulsion system, which would be impractical for this type of mission."

The reduced fuel mass allows the mission to enter orbit around Psyche and provides additional space for all of the mission's scientific payload. Psyche's payload includes a multispectral imager, magnetometer, and gamma-ray spectrometer. These instruments will help the science team better understand the asteroid's origin, composition and history.

Additional benefits of SEP are flexibility and robustness in the flight plan, which allow the spacecraft to arrive at Psyche much faster and more efficiently than it could using conventional propulsion.

For this mission, the spacecraft, which will be built jointly by JPL and Space Systems Loral (SSL), will use the SPT-140 Hall effect thruster. Because Psyche is three times farther away from the Sun than Earth, flying there required a unique test of the low-power operation of the thruster in the very low pressures that will be encountered in space.

The mission team called upon NASA Glenn, and its space power and propulsion expertise, to put the mission's thruster through its paces at the center's Electric Propulsion Laboratory.

Preparing our Vacuum Chamber to Test High-Powered Thruster

"This mission will be the first to use a Hall effect thruster system beyond lunar orbit, so the tests here at Glenn, which had never been conducted before, were needed to ensure the thruster could perform and operate as expected in the deep space environment," said Tolbert.

The facility at NASA Glenn has been a premier destination for electric propulsion and power system testing for over 40 years and features a number of space environment chambers, which simulate the vacuum and temperatures of space.

"This was very important to the mission because we want to test-like-we-fly and fly-like-we-test," said Oh. "Glenn has a world-class facility that allowed us to go to very low pressures to simulate the environment the spacecraft will operate in and better understand how our thrusters will perform around Psyche.

"At first glance, the results confirm our predictions regarding how the thruster will perform, and it looks like everything is working as expected. But, we will continue to refine our models by doing more analysis."

As the team works toward an anticipated August 2022 launch, they will use the data collected at NASA Glenn to update their thruster modeling and incorporate it into mission trajectories.

The scientific goals of the Psyche mission are to understand the building blocks of planet formation and explore firsthand a wholly new and unexplored type of world. The mission team seeks to determine whether Psyche is the core of an early planet, how old it is, whether it formed in similar ways to Earth's core, and what its surface is like. For more information about NASA's Psyche mission, visit:

The Psyche Mission is being completed under NASA's Science Mission Directorate's Discovery Program, a series of lower-cost, highly focused robotic space missions that are exploring the solar system.

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/JPL/DC Agle/Glenn Research Center/Jimi Russell.


jeudi 28 septembre 2017

ILS Proton Launches ASIASAT 9

ILS - Proton-M / ASIASAT 9 Mission poster.

Sept. 28, 2017

ILS Proton-M carrying ASIASAT 9 launch

A Proton-M launch vehicle, with a Briz-M upper stage (Breeze M), launched the AsiaSat-9 communications satellite (6140 kg) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, on 28 September 2017, at 18:52 UTC (00:52 on 29 September 2017 in Baikonur).

AsiaSat 9 launched by Proton-M

AsiaSat 9, AsiaSat’s most powerful satellite, is designed to deliver significantly improved power and higher bandwidth usage to generate higher efficiency for customers’ services. It is a replacement satellite for AsiaSat 4 at 122°E with multiple C, Ku and Ka-Band payloads.

AsiaSat 9 satellite

It carries the world’s first dedicated Ku-band Myanmar beam, new Ku-band beams for Indonesia and Mongolia, in addition to two enhanced Ku-band beams serving Australasia and East Asia and a wider high-power C-band coverage across the Asia-Pacific region. The five Ku-band beams onboard AsiaSat 9 are equipped with cross-strap beam switching capability to provide flexible coverage.

For more information about International Launch Services (ILS):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ILS/SciNews/SSL.


Hubble Observes the Farthest Active Inbound Comet Yet Seen

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Sept. 28, 2017

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has photographed the farthest active inbound comet ever seen, at a whopping distance of 1.5 billion miles from the Sun (beyond Saturn's orbit). Slightly warmed by the remote Sun, it has already begun to develop an 80,000-mile-wide fuzzy cloud of dust, called a coma, enveloping a tiny, solid nucleus of frozen gas and dust. These observations represent the earliest signs of activity ever seen from a comet entering the solar system's planetary zone for the first time.

Image above: This Hubble Space Telescope image shows a fuzzy cloud of dust, called a coma, surrounding the comet C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS (K2), the farthest active comet ever observed entering the solar system. The image was taken in June 2017 by Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, and D. Jewitt (UCLA).

The comet, called C/2017 K2 (PANSTARRS) or "K2", has been travelling for millions of years from its home in the frigid outer reaches of the solar system, where the temperature is about minus 440 degrees Fahrenheit. The comet's orbit indicates that it came from the Oort Cloud, a spherical region almost a light-year in diameter and thought to contain hundreds of billions of comets. Comets are the icy leftovers from the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago and therefore pristine in icy composition.

"K2 is so far from the Sun and so cold, we know for sure that the activity — all the fuzzy stuff making it look like a comet — is not produced, as in other comets, by the evaporation of water ice," said lead researcher David Jewitt of the University of California, Los Angeles. "Instead, we think the activity is due to the sublimation [a solid changing directly into a gas] of super-volatiles as K2 makes its maiden entry into the solar system's planetary zone. That's why it's special. This comet is so far away and so incredibly cold that water ice there is frozen like a rock."

Hubble Sees First-Time Icy Visitor Comet K2

Video above: NASA's Hubble Space Telescope observed the farthest-discovered active inbound comet, Comet K2. Coming from the distant Oort Cloud, K2 is visiting our inner solar system for the first (and only) time. Since we're seeing it so far away, past the orbit of Saturn, K2 is still in its early phase of activity, likely making it the most primitive comet anyone has ever seen. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Based on the Hubble observations of K2's coma, Jewitt suggests that sunlight is heating frozen volatile gases - such as oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide - that coat the comet's frigid surface. These icy volatiles lift off from the comet and release dust, forming the coma. Past studies of the composition of comets near the Sun have revealed the same mixture of volatile ices.

"I think these volatiles are spread all through K2, and in the beginning billions of years ago, they were probably all through every comet presently in the Oort Cloud," Jewitt said. "But the volatiles on the surface are the ones that absorb the heat from the Sun, so, in a sense, the comet is shedding its outer skin. Most comets are discovered much closer to the Sun, near Jupiter's orbit, so by the time we see them, these surface volatiles have already been baked off. That's why I think K2 is the most primitive comet we've seen."

Image above: his illustration shows the orbit of comet C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS (K2) on its maiden voyage into the solar system. The Hubble Space Telescope observed K2 when it was 1.5 billion miles from the Sun, halfway between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. The farthest object from the Sun depicted here is the dwarf planet Pluto, which resides in the Kuiper Belt, a vast rim of primordial debris encircling our solar system. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI).

K2 was discovered in May 2017 by the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in Hawaii, a survey project of NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program. Jewitt used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 at the end of June to take a closer look at the icy visitor.

Hubble's sharp "eye" revealed the extent of the coma and also helped Jewitt estimate the size of the nucleus — less than 12 miles across — though the tenuous coma is 10 Earth diameters across.

This vast coma must have formed when the comet was even farther away from the Sun. Digging through archival images, Jewitt's team uncovered views of K2 and its fuzzy coma taken in 2013 by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) in Hawaii. But the object was then so faint that no one noticed it.

"We think the comet has been continuously active for at least four years," Jewitt said. "In the CFHT data, K2 had a coma already at 2 billion miles from the Sun, when it was between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. It was already active, and I think it has been continuously active coming in. As it approaches the Sun, it's getting warmer and warmer, and the activity is ramping up."

But, curiously, the Hubble images do not show a tail flowing from K2, which is a signature of comets. The absence of such a feature indicates that particles lifting off the comet are too large for radiation pressure from the Sun to sweep them back into a tail.

Hubble Space Telescope. Animation Credits: ESA/NASA

Astronomers will have plenty of time to conduct detailed studies of K2. For the next five years, the comet will continue its journey into the inner solar system before it reaches its closest approach to the Sun in 2022 just beyond Mars' orbit. "We will be able to monitor for the first time the developing activity of a comet falling in from the Oort Cloud over an extraordinary range of distances," Jewitt said. "It should become more and more active as it nears the Sun and presumably will form a tail."

Jewitt said that NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, an infrared observatory scheduled to launch in 2018, could measure the heat from the nucleus, which would give astronomers a more accurate estimate of its size.

The team's results will appear in the September 28 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington, D.C.

The science paper by D. Jewitt et al.:

For more information about Hubble, visit:

For images and more information about Hubble, visit:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Space Telescope Science Institute/Donna Weaver/Ray Villard/University of California/David Jewitt.

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Textures in Deuteronilus Mensae & Go with the (Bright) Flow

NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) logo.

Sept. 28, 2017

Textures in Deuteronilus Mensae

This enhanced color image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the surface of a lobate debris apron in the Deuteronilus Mensae region of Mars, on the boundary between the Northern plains and Southern lowlands. These lobe-shaped formations commonly emanate from mesas in this region and have pitted, lineated textures that suggest the flow of water ice.

Results from the SHARAD (SHAllow RADar) instrument on MRO indicate that lobate debris aprons in Deuteronilus Mensae, similar to those visible here, are composed of material dominated by ice and are interpreted to be potential debris-covered glaciers or rock glaciers.

These debris apron surfaces are also covered by an ice-rich deposit that weâ??ve observed draping over entire regions in the mid-latitudes of Mars. It is this mantling deposit that filled in the crater, with its subsequent removal around the outer margins, probably due to differential sublimation of the ice. The same textures in the center of the crater are like those of the surrounding terrain.

Go with the (Bright) Flow

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observes many slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars showing icy flows or glaciers. The region shown here, in the south-facing slope of a crater, is unusual because the flows have bright highlights.

The color and brightness variations are likely due to surface coatings of bright dust and dark sand. There is no evidence that these flows are currently active, but they may have been active only millions of years ago. These flows may well contain ice today in their interiors, as confirmed in places by the subsurface radar experiment on MRO.

This is a stereo pair with

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.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO):

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


Hinode Shares Hi-Res Eclipse View

NASA & JAXA - Hinode XRT Mission logo.

Sept. 28, 2017

As millions of Americans watched the total solar eclipse that crossed the contiguous United States on Aug. 21, 2017, the international Hinode solar observation satellite captured its own images of the awe-inspiring natural phenomenon as it orbited the planet.

Hinode is a joint endeavor by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan, the European Space Agency, the United Kingdom Space Agency and NASA.

Hinode (Solar B):

Image, Text, Credits: JAXA/NASA/Lee Mohon/SAO/NAOJ.


A Fresh Look at Older Data Yields a Surprise Near the Martian Equator

NASA - 2001 Mars Odyssey Mission patch.

Sept. 28, 2017

Image above: A new paper suggests hydrogen—possibly water ice—in the Medusa Fossae area of Mars, which is in an equatorial region of the planet to the lower left in this view.
Image Credits: Steve Lee (University of Colorado), Jim Bell (Cornell University), Mike Wolff (Space Science Institute), and NASA.

Scientists taking a new look at older data from NASA's longest-operating Mars orbiter have discovered evidence of significant hydration near the Martian equator -- a mysterious signature in a region of the Red Planet where planetary scientists figure ice shouldn't exist.

Jack Wilson, a post-doctoral researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, led a team that reprocessed data collected from 2002 to 2009 by the neutron spectrometer instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. In bringing the lower-resolution compositional data into sharper focus, the scientists spotted unexpectedly high amounts of hydrogen -- which at high latitudes is a sign of buried water ice -- around sections of the Martian equator.

An accessible supply of water ice near the equator would be of interest in planning astronaut exploration of Mars. The amount of delivered mass needed for human exploration could be greatly reduced by using Martian natural resources for a water supply and as raw material for producing hydrogen fuel.

By applying image-reconstruction techniques often used to reduce blurring and remove "noise" from medical or spacecraft imaging data, Wilson's team improved the spatial resolution of the data from around 320 miles to 180 miles (520 kilometers to 290 kilometers). "It was as if we'd cut the spacecraft's orbital altitude in half," Wilson said, "and it gave us a much better view of what's happening on the surface."

Image above: Re-analysis of 2002-2009 data from a hydrogen-finding instrument on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter increased the resolution of maps of hydrogen abundance. The reprocessed data (lower map) shows more "water-equivalent hydrogen" (darker blue) in some parts of this equatorial region of Mars. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.

The neutron spectrometer can't directly detect water, but by measuring neutrons, it can help scientists calculate the abundance of hydrogen -- and infer the presence of water or other hydrogen-bearing substances. Mars Odyssey's first major discovery, in 2002, was abundant hydrogen just beneath the surface at high latitudes. In 2008, NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander confirmed that the hydrogen was in the form of water ice. But at lower latitudes on Mars, water ice is not thought to be thermodynamically stable at any depth. The traces of excess hydrogen that Odyssey's original data showed at lower latitudes were initially explained as hydrated minerals, which other spacecraft and instruments have since observed.

Wilson's team concentrated on those equatorial areas, particularly with a 600-mile (1,000-kilometer) stretch of loose, easily erodible material between the northern lowlands and southern highlands along the Medusae Fossae Formation. Radar-sounding scans of the area have suggested the presence of low-density volcanic deposits or water ice below the surface, "but if the detected hydrogen were buried ice within the top meter of the surface, there would be more than would fit into pore space in soil," Wilson said. The radar data came from both the Shallow Radar on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter and would be consistent with no subsurface water ice near the equator.

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

How water ice could be preserved there is a mystery. A leading theory suggests an ice and dust mixture from the polar areas could be cycled through the atmosphere when Mars' axial tilt was larger than it is today. But those conditions last occurred hundreds of thousands to millions of years ago. Water ice isn't expected to be stable at any depth in that area today, Wilson said, and any ice deposited there should be long gone. Additional protection might come from a cover of dust and a hardened "duricrust" that traps the humidity below the surface, but this is unlikely to prevent ice loss over timescales of the axial tilt cycles.

"Perhaps the signature could be explained in terms of extensive deposits of hydrated salts, but how these hydrated salts came to be in the formation is also difficult to explain," Wilson added. "So for now, the signature remains a mystery worthy of further study, and Mars continues to surprise us."

Wilson led the research while at Durham University in the U.K. His team – which includes members from NASA Ames Research Center, the Planetary Science Institute and the Research Institute in Astrophysics and Planetology – published its findings this summer in the journal Icarus.

NASA's Mars Odyssey:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Laurie Cantillo/Dwayne Brown/JPL/Guy Webster/Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory/Michael Buckley.