samedi 24 mars 2018

Expedition 55 at Full Staff After New Trio Boards Station

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-08 Mission patch.

March 24, 2018

Image above: The newest Expedition 55 crew members (front row from left) Drew Feustel, Oleg Artemyev and Ricky Arnold gather in the Zvezda service module and speak to family and colleagues back on Earth. Behind them are (from left) Norishige Kanai, Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Scott Tingle. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Three new Expedition 55 crew members were welcomed aboard the International Space Station today. The hatches between the two spacecraft opened at 5:48 p.m. EDT (21:48 UTC), marking the arrival of Expedition 55 Flight Engineers Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold of NASA and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos.

Soyuz MS-08 hatch opening

The trio joined Scott Tingle of NASA, Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Momentarily, crew will speak to their family and friends from Baiknour in a welcoming ceremony that will air live on NASA TV and the agency’s website.

Related article:

Three New Expedition 55 Crew Members Dock to the Station

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Expedition 55:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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vendredi 23 mars 2018

Three New Expedition 55 Crew Members Dock to the Station

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-08 Mission patch.

March 23, 2018

Image above: Space station cameras sight the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft just meters away from docking to the Poisk module. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft docked to Poisk module of the International Space Station at 3:40 p.m. EDT while both spacecraft were flying over Serbia.

Docking of Soyuz MS-08 to the International Space Station

Following their two-day trip, NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos docked to the International Space Station. Their arrival restores the station’s crew complement to six as they wait to join Scott Tingle of NASA, Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

The hatches between the two spacecraft will open following standard pressurization and leak checks. Watch the hatch opening and welcome ceremony on NASA TV and the agency’s website beginning at 5 p.m. EDT.

Related links:


Expedition 55:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Hubble’s Exquisite View of a Stellar Nursery

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

March 23, 2018

The exquisite sharpness of this 2005 image from NASA/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope has plucked out an underlying population of infant stars embedded in the nebula NGC 346 that are still forming from gravitationally collapsing gas clouds. They have not yet ignited their hydrogen fuel to sustain nuclear fusion. The smallest of these infant stars is only half the mass of our Sun.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/ESA and A. Nota (STScI/ESA).


Mars Curiosity Celebrates Sol 2,000 (days)

NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

March 23, 2018

Image above: This mosaic taken by NASA's Mars Curiosity rover looks uphill at Mount Sharp, which Curiosity has been climbing since 2014. Highlighted in white is an area with clay-bearing rocks that scientists are eager to explore; it could shed additional light on the role of water in creating Mount Sharp. The mosaic was assembled from dozens of images taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam). It was taken on Sol 1931 back in January. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

NASA's Mars Curiosity rover just hit a new milestone: its two-thousandth Martian day, or sol, on the Red Planet. An image mosaic taken by the rover in January offers a preview of what comes next.

Looming over the image is Mount Sharp, the mound Curiosity has been climbing since September 2014. In the center of the image is the rover's next big, scientific target: an area scientists have studied from orbit and have determined contains clay minerals.

The formation of clay minerals requires water. Scientists have already determined that the lower layers of Mount Sharp formed within lakes that once spanned Gale Crater’s floor. The area ahead could offer additional insight into the presence of water, how long it may have persisted, and whether the ancient environment may have been suitable for life.

Image above: This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle on Vera Rubin Ridge, which it's been investigating for the past several months. Poking up just behind Curiosity's mast is Mount Sharp, photobombing the robot's selfie. Image credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Curiosity's science team is eager to analyze rock samples pulled from the clay-bearing rocks seen in the center of the image. The rover recently started testing its drill again on Mars for the first time since December 2016. A new process for drilling rock samples and delivering them to the rover's onboard laboratories is still being refined in preparation for scientific targets like the area with clay minerals.

Curiosity landed in August 2012 and has traveled 11.6 miles (18.7 kilometers) in that time. In 2013, the mission found evidence of an ancient freshwater-lake environment that offered all the basic chemical ingredients for microbial life. Since reaching Mount Sharp in 2014, Curiosity has examined environments where both water and wind have left their marks. Having studied more than 600 vertical feet of rock with signs of lakes and groundwater, Curiosity's international science team concluded that habitable conditions lasted for at least millions of years.

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Science Laboratory Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, and built the project's Curiosity rover.

More information about Curiosity is available at: and

Images (mentioned). Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Andrew Good.


jeudi 22 mars 2018

Rooting for Answers: Simulating G-Force to Test Plant Gravity Perception in Mustard Seedlings

ISS - Veggie Mission patch.

March 21, 2018

When plants on Earth search for nutrients and water, what drives their direction? Very simply, gravitational force helps them find the easiest path to the substances they need to grow and thrive. What happens if gravity is no longer part of the equation?

Botanists from Ohio Weslyan University leverage the microgravity environment of the International Space Station to study root growth behaviors and sensory systems in an investigation known as Gravity Perception Systems (Plant Gravity Perception). The researchers look for adaptability to microgravity and measure overall sensitivity to simulated gravity for two strains of mustard seedlings, including Arabidopsis thaliana Wild Type and a starchless genetic variant. Within the wild type, starch acts like a weight, falling within the root tips and driving them toward the Earth.

Image above: Seeds are aligned along a membrane within the cassette and germinated before their exposure to simulated gravity within the EMCS. Image Credit: NASA.

As the lead investigator for Plant Gravity Perception, botanist Chris Wolverton describes the investigation’s central question: “We want to know - what’s the least amount of gravity plants can detect to cause the falling of heavy [starchy] bodies in their cells?”

The study exposes both strains to incremental amounts of gravity ranging from four one thousandths or 0.004G – all the way up to one G. By comparison, gravitational force experienced on Earth is a constant one G.

Why include two types of seedlings? While exact thresholds for starchy strains are poorly understood, response mechanisms for starchless genetic variants are even more of a mystery.

Plant Gravity Perception uses acceleration from the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) to simulate gravity. Seedlings are first placed in seed cassettes, then aligned along radial blades of a centrifugal rotor. This lets investigators control the intensity of gravity experienced at any point along the rotational arms, testing hundreds of fractional degrees of gravity at a single time through controlled spins.

Image above: Arabidopsis growth within EMCS seed cassettes. Image Credit: Chris Wolverton.

Much like the popular rides at carnivals that spin riders and cause them to “stick” to the walls, this investigation steadily increases g-force exposure to test the outer boundaries of seedlings’ perceptual abilities. As the arms of the centrifuge spin, scientists hope to pinpoint exactly where growth response begins.

Most interesting of all may be the starchless plants’ responses. Even for those without starch, the mutant form of the seedlings may still retain the same sensory perception system as their cousins. These plants may still sense gravity but respond only at higher thresholds, be unable to move at all, or use entirely different cues to determine growth direction. When the centrifuge’s acceleration is turned off, scientists can also measure seedling response to microgravity and establish a baseline.

As photosynthetic organisms, plants are also very sensitive to light cues for growth. Using directed lights, Plant Gravity Perception is providing additional growth cues at varying points to test relationship between light perception and gravity perception. Back at home, botanists can watch the footage to assess responses.

Image above: Seed cassettes used for loading samples in the EMCS are developed and tested by NASA AMES. Image Credit: Chris Wolverton.

Even though the orbiting laboratory is regularly resupplied, crew members must consume fresh deliveries quickly. To supplement a large supply of shelf stable foods, space station investigations such as Veg-03 enable astronauts to act as gardeners and supplement their diets with the hopes of adding nutritional variety and reducing resupply payload weight dedicated to food stores.

While seedlings from Plant Gravity Perception will not wind up on astronauts’ plates, their studied growth furthers our knowledge of perceptual thresholds and makes selecting appropriate garden greens likely to thrive in space easier for future long duration spaceflight, including exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit.

For Earth, Wolverton notes that gravity perception in roots “influences how efficient a plant is, how responsive it is to drought conditions, to flooding, to fertilizer.”

Rooting for Answers: Simulating G-Force in Plants

He adds, “If we understood better how [gravity is] perceived… that opens up a whole source of trait breeding and genetic variation that we can look to.” This would allow agriculturalists to select root growth appropriate for different fertilization levels, soil composition and environmental extremes.

Related links:

Plant Gravity Perception:

European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS):


Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/Morgan McAllister.


New NASA Model Finds Landslide Threats in Near Real-Time During Heavy Rains

NASA & JAXA - Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) patch.

March 22, 2018

For the first time, scientists can look at landslide threats anywhere around the world in near real-time, thanks to satellite data and a new model developed by NASA.

The model, developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, estimates potential landslide activity triggered by rainfall. Rainfall is the most widespread trigger of landslides around the world. If conditions beneath Earth's surface are already unstable, heavy rains act as the last straw that causes mud, rocks or debris — or all combined — to move rapidly down mountains and hillsides.

New NASA Model Finds Landslide Threats in Near Real-Time During Heavy Rains

Video above: A new model has been developed to look at how potential landslide activity is changing around the world. A global Landslide Hazard Assessment model for Situational Awareness (LHASA) has been developed to provide an indication of where and when landslides may be likely around the world every 30 minutes. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/ Joy Ng.

The model is designed to increase our understanding of where and when landslide hazards are present and improve estimates of long-term patterns. A global analysis of landslides over the past 15 years using the new open source Landslide Hazard Assessment for Situational Awareness model was published in a study released online on March 22 in the journal Earth's Future.

"Landslides can cause widespread destruction and fatalities, but we really don’t have a complete sense of where and when landslides may be happening to inform disaster response and mitigation," said Dalia Kirschbaum, a landslide expert at Goddard and co-author of the study. "This model helps pinpoint the time, location and severity of potential landslide hazards in near real-time all over the globe. Nothing has been done like this before."

Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM). Image Credits: NASA/JAXA

The model estimates potential landslide activity by first identifying areas with heavy, persistent and recent precipitation. Rainfall estimates are provided by a multi-satellite product developed by NASA using the NASA and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission, which provides precipitation estimates around the world every 30 minutes. The model considers when GPM data exceeds a critical rainfall threshold looking back at the last seven days.

In places where precipitation is unusually high, the model then uses a susceptibility map to determine if the area is prone to landslides. This global susceptibility map is developed using five features that play an important role in landslide activity: if roads have been built nearby, if trees have been removed or burned, if a major tectonic fault is nearby, if the local bedrock is weak and if the hillsides are steep.

If the susceptibility map shows the area with heavy rainfall is vulnerable, the model produces a "nowcast" identifying the area as having a high or moderate likelihood of landslide activity. The model produces new nowcasts every 30 minutes.

Animation above: This animation shows the potential landslide activity by month averaged over the last 15 years as evaluated by NASA's Landslide Hazard Assessment model for Situational Awareness model. Here, you can see landslide trends across the world. Animation Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Scientific Visualization Studio.

The study shows long-term trends when the model's output was compared to landslide databases dating back to 2007. The team’s analysis showed a global "landslide season" with a peak in the number of landslides in July and August, most likely associated with the Asian monsoon and tropical cyclone seasons in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

"The model has been able to help us understand immediate potential landslide hazards in a matter of minutes," said Thomas Stanley, landslide expert with the Universities Space Research Association at Goddard and co-author of the study. "It also can be used to retroactively look at how potential landslide activity varies on the global scale seasonally, annually or even on decadal scales in a way that hasn't been possible before."

Related links:

Information on the Landslide Hazard Assessment for Situational Awareness (LHASA) model:

Open source LHASA model:

Cooperative Open Online Landslide Repository (COOLR), citizen science project to report landslides:

Global Precipitation Measurement mission:

GPM (Global Precipitation Measurement):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sara Blumberg/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Kasha Patel.


Hubble Solves Cosmic 'Whodunit' with Interstellar Forensics

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

March 22, 2018

On the outskirts of our galaxy, a cosmic tug-of-war is unfolding—and only NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope can see who’s winning.

The players are two dwarf galaxies, the Large Magellanic Cloud and the Small Magellanic Cloud, both of which orbit our own Milky Way Galaxy. But as they go around the Milky Way, they are also orbiting each other. Each one tugs at the other, and one of them has pulled out a huge cloud of gas from its companion.

Image above: The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds gravitationally tug at each other, and one of them has pulled out a huge amount of gas from its companion. This shredded and fragmented gas, called the Leading Arm, is being devoured by the Milky Way and is feeding new star birth in our galaxy. Using Hubble data, scientists have now solved which dwarf galaxy is doing the pulling. Image Credits: Nidever et al/NRAO/AUI/NSF/Mellinger/Leiden-Argentine-Bonn/LAB Survey/Parkes Obs/Westerbork Obs/Arecibo Obs/Feild/STScI/NASA/ESA/A. Fox/STScI.

Called the Leading Arm, this arching collection of gas connects the Magellanic Clouds to the Milky Way. Roughly half the size of our galaxy, this structure is thought to be about 1 or 2 billion years old. Its name comes from the fact that it’s leading the motion of the Magellanic Clouds.

The enormous concentration of gas is being devoured by the Milky Way and feeding new star birth in our galaxy. But which dwarf galaxy is doing the pulling, and whose gas is now being feasted upon? After years of debate, scientists now have the answer to this “whodunit” mystery.

“There’s been a question: Did the gas come from the Large Magellanic Cloud or the Small Magellanic Cloud? At first glance, it looks like it tracks back to the Large Magellanic Cloud,” explained lead researcher Andrew Fox of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. “But we’ve approached that question differently, by asking: What is the Leading Arm made of? Does it have the composition of the Large Magellanic Cloud or the composition of the Small Magellanic Cloud?”

Fox’s research is a follow-up to his 2013 work, which focused on a trailing feature behind the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. This gas in this ribbon-like structure, called the Magellanic Stream, was found to come from both dwarf galaxies. Now Fox wondered about its counterpart, the Leading Arm. Unlike the trailing Magellanic Stream, this tattered and shredded “arm” has already reached the Milky Way and survived its journey to the galactic disk.

The Leading Arm is a real-time example of gas accretion, the process of gas falling onto galaxies. This is very difficult to see in galaxies outside the Milky Way, because they are too far away and too faint. “As these two galaxies are in our backyard, we essentially have a front-row seat to view the action,” said collaborator Kat Barger at Texas Christian University.

In a new kind of forensics, Fox and his team used Hubble’s ultraviolet vision to chemically analyze the gas in the Leading Arm. They observed the light from seven quasars, the bright cores of active galaxies that reside billions of light-years beyond this gas cloud. Using Hubble’s Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, the scientists measured how this light filters through the cloud.

In particular, they looked for the absorption of ultraviolet light by oxygen and sulfur in the cloud. These are good gauges of how many heavier elements reside in the gas. The team then compared Hubble’s measurements to hydrogen measurements made by the National Science Foundation’s Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia, as well as several other radio telescopes.

“With the combination of Hubble and Green Bank Telescope observations, we can measure the composition and velocity of the gas to determine which dwarf galaxy is the culprit,” explained Barger.

After much analysis, the team finally had conclusive chemical “fingerprints” to match the origin of the Leading Arm’s gas. “We’ve found that the gas matches the Small Magellanic Cloud,” said Fox. “That indicates the Large Magellanic Cloud is winning the tug-of-war, because it has pulled so much gas out of its smaller neighbor.”

Hubble Space Telescope. Animation Credits: ESA/NASA

This answer was possible only because of Hubble’s unique ultraviolet capability. Because of the filtering effects of Earth’s atmosphere, ultraviolet light cannot be studied from the ground. “Hubble is the only game in town,” explained Fox. “All the lines of interest, including oxygen and sulfur, are in the ultraviolet. So if you work in the optical and infrared, you can’t see them.”

Gas from the Leading Arm is now crossing the disk of our galaxy. As it crosses, it interacts with the Milky Way’s own gas, becoming shredded and fragmented.

This is an important case study of how gas gets into galaxies and fuels star birth. Astronomers use simulations and try to understand the inflow of gas in other galaxies. But here, the gas is being caught red-handed as it moves across the Milky Way’s disk. Sometime in the future, planets and solar systems in our galaxy may be born out of material that used to be part of the Small Magellanic Cloud.

As Fox and his team look ahead, they hope to map out the full size of the Leading Arm—something that is still unknown.

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, in Washington, D.C.

NASA's Hubble Portal:

Hubble Space Telescope (HST):

The science paper: 

HubbleSite link:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Space Telescope Science Institute/Ann Jenkins/Ray Villard/Andrew Fox.

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Gaia status update: safe mode and recovery

ESA - Gaia Mission patch.

22 March 2018

Last month, ESA's Gaia satellite experienced a technical anomaly followed by a 'safe mode' event. After thorough examination, the spacecraft was successfully recovered and resumed normal scientific operations, while the mission team keeps investigating the exact cause of the anomaly.

On 18 February, errors of two electrical units on the service module of Gaia led the spacecraft to trigger an automatic safe mode. Safe modes occur when certain spacecraft parameters fall out of their normal operating ranges and the spacecraft automatically takes measures to preserve its safety. During this safe mode, the science instruments were disabled in order to protect them, and telecommunication with Earth took place through the spacecraft's low-gain antenna.


Following the anomaly, the mission team conducted an initial inquiry into what caused the spacecraft to activate the safe mode. They quickly identified the problem as deriving from a failure in one of the two transponders on board Gaia, but the root cause of the malfunction is still being investigated. After an in-depth inquiry, the team recovered the satellite, which went back to its normal scientific operations on 28 February using the second identical back-up transponder.

The team is still investigating the origin of the anomaly and its possible relation to the lifetime of the second transponder. Meanwhile, Gaia has been collecting data since it resumed operations at the end of last month.

Scientists worldwide are looking forward to the second data release of Gaia, which will take place on 25 April and is based on observations performed between mid 2014 and mid 2016. The mission has already collected all data needed for its third release; these data will be processed and analysed over the next few years.

Notes for editors:

Gaia is an ESA mission to survey one billion stars in our Galaxy and local galactic neighbourhood in order to build the most precise 3D map of the Milky Way and answer questions about its structure, origin and evolution.

Related links:

Gaia second data release:

Gaia third data release:


Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Markus Bauer/Uwe Lammers.


mercredi 21 mars 2018

Expedition 55-56 Crew Heading to International Space Station

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-08 Mission patch.

March 21, 2018

Image above: The Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, lifts off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:44 p.m. EDT March 21, 2018 (11:44 p.m. Baikonur time). The crew is scheduled to dock to the International Space Station at 3:41 p.m. March 23, 2018. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Three crew members, including NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, are on their way to the International Space Station after launching from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1:44 p.m. EDT Wednesday (11:44 p.m. Baikonur time).

Launch of Soyuz FG rocket carrying Soyuz MS-08

The Soyuz spacecraft carrying Feustal, Arnold and Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos is scheduled to dock to the space station’s Rassvet module at 3:41 p.m. Friday, March 23. Coverage of docking will begin at 3 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website, followed at 5 p.m. by coverage of the opening of hatches between the spacecraft and station.

The arrival of Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev will restore the station's crew complement to six. They will join Scott Tingle of NASA, Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov of Roscosmos and Norishige Kanai of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. The crew members will spend more than five months conducting about 250 science investigations in fields such as biology, Earth science, human research, physical sciences and technology development.

Shkaplerov, Tingle and Kanai are scheduled to remain aboard the station until June 2018, while Feustel, Arnold and Artemyev are slated to return to Earth in August.

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

This crew continues the long-term increase in crew size on the U.S. segment from three to four, allowing NASA to maximize time dedicated to research on the space station. Highlights of upcoming investigations include: a new facility to test materials, coatings and components of other large experiments in the harsh environment of space; a study on the effects of microgravity on bone marrow and blood cells produced in bone marrow; and a newly-developed passive nutrient delivery system for the Veggie plant growth facility.

Arnold, a former educator, will continue NASA’s Year of Education on Station, an initiative to engage students and educators in human spaceflight and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers.

Image above: Expedition 55-56 crew members (from left) Ricky Arnold, Oleg Artemyev and Drew Feustel are seen in quarantine, behind glass, during a press conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA/Roscosmos.

For more than 17 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the station, advancing scientific knowledge and demonstrating new technologies, making research breakthroughs not possible on Earth that will enable long-duration human and robotic exploration into deep space. A global endeavor, more than 200 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,100 research investigations from researchers in more than 95 countries.

Related links:



Expedition 55:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Northon/Stephanie Schierholz/JSC/Gary Jordan/ROSCOSMOS TV.

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Earth’s atmosphere: new results from the International Space Station

NASA - SAGE III - ISS patch.

20 March 2018

With ESA’s help, the latest atmosphere monitor on the International Space Station is delivering results on our planet’s ozone, aerosol and nitrogen trioxide levels. Installed last year on the orbital outpost, NASA’s sensor tracks the Sun and Moon to probe the constituents of our atmosphere.

Sunrise seen from Space Station

The Station takes only 90 minutes for a complete circuit of our planet, experiencing 16 sunrises, 16 sunsets, and sometimes moonrises or moonsets, every day. By observing the Sun or Moon through the atmosphere, the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment – SAGE – measures the quantity of ozone, aerosols and other gases.

The readings are complementing the long-term monitoring by Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel missions: launched last October, Sentinel-5P is the first in a series of Sentinels focusing on the atmosphere.

As the Station orbits, SAGE is continuously turned to point in the right direction by ESA’s six-legged Hexapod.

SAGE and Hexapod

Using position information from the Station, Hexapod’s computer calculates the movements of its six legs to track the Sun and Moon in the few seconds of their setting and rising. This will happen dozens of times each day over years.

SAGE was installed in February last year and the first results are now being released to the public. The results will be issued monthly, with the quality improving as more measurements are added.

“The installation and setting up could not have gone better and we are happy to see Hexapod working perfectly to keep SAGE pointing in the right direction,” said ESA’s Hexapod project manager Scott Hovland.

Moonrise from space

“The Hexapod and SAGE collaboration is an exemplary transatlantic cooperation and we are very happy to see the first results coming in.”

ESA has a history of tracking the Sun from the Space Station: working for more than nine years, its SOLAR facility created the most precise reference on the Sun’s energy output ever.

The next ESA sensor to be launched to the Station is the Atmospheric Space Interactions Monitor, which will point straight down at Earth to investigate high-altitude electrical storms.

International Space Station (ISS)

To be attached next month, it will capture images of elusive electrical discharges called red sprites, blue jets and elves. These powerful electrical charges can reach high above the stratosphere and have implications for how our atmosphere protects us from space radiation.

Related links:

SAGE first results:

Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment – SAGE:

Atmosphere Space Interactions Monitor:


European space laboratory Columbus:

International Space Station Benefits for Humanity:

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA.


Chinese space station risks crashing in France

CASC - Tiangong-1 Mission patch.

March 21, 2018

Tiangong-1, the out-of-control Chinese station is getting closer to Earth, which it is expected to strike between late March and early April.

Tiangong-1 in perdition. Image Credit: CASC

Last October, we learned that China had lost control of the space station Tiangong-1 launched into space in 2011. Today, the "heavenly palace" of its French name, is about to enter the world. 'atmosphere. It is expected to crash on land between March 29 and April 6, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

The machine, which still weighs nearly 8 tons for 10 meters long, should disintegrate in part before hitting our planet. That being the case, the risk of debris falling on earth is real, says the "Parisien" French daily. As for the location of the impact, it is difficult for the experts to pronounce with certainty.

Observatories on alert

The geographical area evoked by ESA is rather ... wide. Indeed, Australia, India, Africa, and the United States could be concerned. Just like France in an area including Corsica, Perpignan, Toulon or Lourdes.

Animation above: Fragmentation of the Jules Verne ESA's ATV during his atmospheric reentry. Animation Credit: ESA.

Not enough to panic in the minute so far, since the space station still navigates into orbit at some 250 kilometers above sea level. The observatories will nevertheless be alert as of March 26, according to the French daily.

Meanwhile you can follow the trajectory of the "heavenly palace" almost live on the site satflare:

Related article:

Uncontrolled crash on Earth of a Chinese space station:

For more information about CASC, visit:

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: AFP/ESA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


mardi 20 mars 2018

Crew Ready for Launch as Station Preps for Spacewalk and Dragon Mission

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch.

March 20, 2018

Image above: Expedition 55-56 crew members (from left) Ricky Arnold, Oleg Artemyev and Drew Feustel are seen in quarantine, behind glass, during a press conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA/Roscosmos.

A Soyuz rocket stands at its launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan ready to blast off Wednesday with three Expedition 55-56 crew members to the International Space Station. In the following two weeks the expanded Expedition 55 crew will conduct a spacewalk and welcome a new SpaceX Dragon cargo craft.

Today, NASA astronauts Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel and cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev held a press conference while in quarantine at the Cosmonaut Hotel talking to journalists behind a glass partition. The trio will blast off inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft Wednesday at 1:44 p.m. EDT for a two-day ride to the station. The experienced space travelers will dock to the orbital laboratory’s Poisk module Friday at 3:41 p.m. NASA TV will begin its live launch coverage at 12:45 p.m.

Image above: Flying over Argentina seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'579 Km/h, altitude: 416,69 Km, image captured by Roland Berga (on Earth in Switzerland) from International Space Station (ISS) using ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam's from ISS on March 20, 2018 at 20:11 UTC.

Feustel and Arnold will then get busy preparing for a March 29 spacewalk while familiarizing themselves with space station operations. Both astronauts are experienced spacewalkers and will work to install wireless antennas on the Tranquility module and replace cameras on the Port-1 truss structure. The spacewalk will be broadcast live on NASA TV and is expected to start at 8:10 a.m. and last about six and a half hours.

SpaceX is ramping up for a launch no earlier than April 2 of its Dragon commercial cargo craft to resupply the Expedition 55 crew with new science gear and crew supplies. The crew onboard the station has been configuring the orbital lab to enable the new research such as the Wound Healing and Metabolic Tracking experiments.

Related articles:

Soyuz Rocket Rolls Out at T-Minus Two Days to Launch:

New science gear:

Related links:

live launch coverage:


Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/Roscosmos/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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Higgs results take centre stage at annual Moriond conference

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

March 20, 2018

Nearly six years after its discovery by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the Higgs boson remains in the spotlight at particle physics conferences. At the 53rd annual Rencontres de Moriond conference taking place between 10 and 24 March 2018 in La Thuile in the Aosta Valley in Italy, ATLAS and CMS have unveiled a suite of new measurements of the properties of the scalar boson associated with the Brout-Englert-Higgs field. These results come from the examination of data from proton-proton collisions at an energy of 13 TeV that the LHC delivered in 2015 and 2016. The data sets used by ATLAS and CMS each contained around two million Higgs bosons, of which around 10,000 were readily accessible to the detectors.

Since all elementary particles gain their respective masses through interactions with the Brout-Englert-Higgs field, studying how these particles interact with the Higgs boson itself is of the utmost importance. CMS and ATLAS studied the various processes through which the Higgs bosons are produced in proton-proton collisions and the different transformations they subsequently undergo. Their experimental observations demonstrated good agreement with the theoretical predictions from the Standard Model of particle physics.

Image above: ollision events* recorded by ATLAS (left) and CMS (right) showing characteristics of a Higgs produced in proton-proton collisions at 13 TeV (Image: left – ATLAS/CERN, right – Tom McCauley/CMS/CERN).

When a Higgs boson – a heavy and unstable particle – is produced in interactions between colliding protons, it transforms (or “decays”) almost instantaneously into lighter and more-stable particles; these transformations may involve intermediary particles and each type of transformation is called a “decay channel”. However, these lighter particles may also have been produced by known and well-understood processes, which make up the background when looking for rarer particles like the Higgs boson. Detectors such as ATLAS and CMS are designed to identify the end products of such decays, using this information to determine the source particle that was produced in the collisions and separate the source particle’s signal from the background of known processes.

The new data enable physicists to examine individual decay channels even more closely to probe the fundamental laws of the universe and search for signs of physics beyond the Standard Model. One way to do so is to look for subtle deviations from theoretical predictions, which might arise, for example, due to the unaccounted-for presence of particles of dark matter. To look for such deviations, physicists consider two parameters for the different decay channels. The first is a channel’s decay likelihood, which is the probability of a given heavy particle following one particular decay channel out of several possibilities. For instance, around one in five Higgs bosons will transform into two W bosons. The second parameter is the rate at which certain interactions between colliding protons produce the Higgs boson in the first place; it is determined by studying properties such as the momenta and the angle of flight of the particles detected by the experiments or by identifying instances where additional particles are produced along with the Higgs boson.

In the context of these parameters, ATLAS presented an important result for two specific production modes each involving decays into two W bosons. The number of Higgs bosons counted by ATLAS that followed these production-and-decay paths is in strong agreement with the number expected according to the Standard Model. ATLAS also combined data from the two “cleanest” Higgs decay channels (to pairs of photons and to pairs of Z bosons) and measured with unprecedented precision the variations in Higgs production rates in these channels versus properties such as the momenta of the decay end-products. Furthermore, ATLAS presented searches for Higgs decays to particles not present in the Standard Model – such as “dark” Z bosons – which might herald the discovery of particles of dark matter. They did not find evidence for a decay to “dark” Z bosons in the current data.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Animation Credit: CERN

Similarly, CMS examined five prominent decay channels (where the Higgs boson transforms into pairs of: W bosons, Z bosons, photons, tau (τ) leptons or b quarks), and compared their production rates and their decay likelihoods with the predictions from the Standard Model. CMS obtained a result about 17% above the predictions, which is compatible with the Standard Model but not perfectly so; more scrutiny of these measurements with additional data is needed before drawing further conclusions. CMS also looked for Higgs decays to forms of “invisible” matter but found no evidence for these processes at the present level of sensitivity.

Both experiments also presented strong evidence for instances where a Higgs boson is produced along with a pair of top quarks. Studying these instances allows scientists to probe the interactions between the two heaviest elementary particles we know of.

ATLAS and CMS also measured the mass of the Higgs boson with a precision up to 12% higher than before, using advances in analysis techniques combined with larger data sets available thanks to the exceptional performance of the LHC in the last few years. Their measurements of the Higgs mass are 124.98 ± 0.28 GeV and 125.26 ± 0.21 GeV respectively.

Other results from ATLAS and CMS, as well as presentations made by ALICE and LHCb, can be found on the Moriond conference websites: Electroweak physics and QCD physics. The LHC experiments are now preparing their detectors to receive 2018’s first collisions, which are expected in April.


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.

* See high-resolution images from ATLAS at and from CMS at

Related links:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):



Higgs boson:

Brout-Englert-Higgs field:

W bosons:

Z bosons:

Dark matter:

Rencontres de Moriond:

Electroweak physics:

QCD physics:

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

Animation (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Achintya Rao.

Best regards,

lundi 19 mars 2018

Going for Atmospheric GOLD

NASA - Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) logo.

March 19, 2018

On Jan. 25, 2018, NASA’s Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) instrument was launched. GOLD is designed to track big events in the lower atmosphere, such as hurricanes or tsunamis, that create waves that can travel all the way up to this interface to space, changing wind patterns and causing disruptions. From the space side, flurries of energized particles and solar storms carry electric and magnetic fields and have the potential to disrupt Earth’s space environment. This combination of factors makes it difficult to predict changes in the ionosphere.

GOLD is novel in two ways: it marks the first time that a NASA science mission is flying an instrument as a commercially hosted payload, and it is the first time scientists will monitor the daily and hourly weather of the uppermost parts of Earth’s atmosphere where it meets the edge of space.

Roughly the size of a mini fridge, the 80-pound GOLD instrument is an imaging spectrograph that breaks light down into its component wavelengths and measures their intensities. Specifically, it measures far ultraviolet light, creating full-disk ultraviolet images of Earth from its geostationary vantage point above the Western Hemisphere.

 Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk (GOLD) satellite

GOLD will collect observations with a 30-minute cadence, much higher than any mission that has come before it. From these images, scientists can determine the temperature and relative amounts of different particles—such as atomic oxygen and molecular nitrogen—present in the neutral atmosphere, which is useful for determining how these neutral gases shape ionospheric conditions. These data will provide the first maps of the upper atmosphere’s changing temperature and composition all over the Americas.

This image of Earth was taken by the International Space Station crew in December 2017 and has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed.

GOLD (Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk):

Images, Text, Credits: Satellite rendering by Chris Meaney, NASA Goddard's Conceptual Image Lab. Caption based on a story by Lina Tran, NASA/Yvette Smith/GSFC.


Soyuz Rocket Rolls Out at T-Minus Two Days to Launch

ISS - Expedition 55 Mission patch / ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-08 Mission patch.

March 19, 2018

Image above: The Soyuz rocket is raised into a vertical position on the launch pad, Monday, March 19, 2018 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: Roscosmos.

A pair of U.S. astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut are just two days away from launching on a 50-hour, 34-orbit flight to the International Space Station. Flight Engineers Ricky Arnold and Drew Feustel will flank Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft and blast off Wednesday at 1:44 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Roll-out of ILV Soyuz-FG with TPK Soyuz MS-08

The Soyuz rocket that will shoot the new Expedition 55-56 trio to space rolled out to its launch pad early this morning. A train slowly hauled the rocket, as it laid horizontally on its side, from the processing facility to its pad where it was raised vertically for servicing ahead of its launch.

All three crewmates are veteran space-flyers and are due to arrive at their new home Friday when they dock to the Poisk module at 3:41 p.m.  NASA TV will broadcast all the launch and docking activities including the hatch opening and crew greeting ceremony live.

Image above: Flying over Argentina seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'580 Km/h, altitude: 415,96 Km, image captured by Roland Berga (on Earth in Switzerland) from International Space Station (ISS) using ISS-HD Live application with EarthCam's from ISS on March 19, 2018 at 21:02 UTC.

Waiting for them onboard the orbital laboratory are Flight Engineers Scott Tingle and Norishige Kanai and Expedition 55 Commander Anton Shkaplerov who have been living in space since Dec. 17. The orbiting trio continues to ensure the station is flying in tip-top shape while conducting advanced space science to benefit humans on Earth and in space.

Related links:


Expedition 55:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/Roscosmos/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,