samedi 17 novembre 2018

NASA, Northrop Grumman Launch Space Station, National Lab Cargo

Northrop Grumman - NG-10 CRS Cygnus patch.

Nov. 17, 2018

Image above: Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft launches on an Antares rocket at 4:01 a.m. EST Nov. 17, 2018, from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Northrop Grumman's 10th contracted cargo resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station will deliver about 7,400 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Northrop Grumman's Cygnus spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station with about 7,400 pounds of cargo after launching at 4:01 a.m. EST Saturday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Image above: Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft blasted off at 4:01 a.m. EST today loaded with about 7,400 pounds of science, supplies and goodies for the station crew. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

The spacecraft launched on an Antares 230 Rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at Wallops on the company’s 10th cargo delivery flight, and is scheduled to arrive at the orbital laboratory Monday, Nov. 19. Expedition 57 astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) will use the space station’s robotic arm to grapple Cygnus about 5:20 a.m. Installation coverage will begin at 4 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NG CRS-10: Antares 230 launches SS John Young Cygnus spacecraft

This Commercial Resupply Services contract mission will support dozens of new and existing investigations as Expeditions 57 and 58 contribute to some 250 science and research studies. Highlights from the new experiments include a demonstration of 3D printing and recycling technology and simulating the creation of celestial bodies from stardust.

Recycling and Fabrication in Space

The Refabricator is the first-ever 3D printer and recycler integrated into one user-friendly machine. Once it’s installed in the space station, it will demonstrate recycling of waste plastic and previously 3D printed parts already on-board into high-quality filament (i.e. 3D printer ‘ink’). This recycled filament will then be fed into the printer to make new tools and parts on-demand in space. This technology could enable closed-loop, sustainable fabrication, repair and recycling on long-duration space missions, and greatly reduce the need to continually launch large supplies of new material and parts for repairs and maintenance.

The demonstration, which NASA’s Space Technology Mission and Human Exploration and Operations Directorates co-sponsored, is considered a key enabling technology for in-space manufacturing. NASA awarded a Small Business Innovation Research contract valued to Tethers Unlimited Inc. to build the recycling system.

Cygnus 5 approaching the ISS. Image Credit: NASA/ISS-45

Formation of the Early Solar System

The Experimental Chondrule Formation at the International Space Station (EXCISS) investigation will explore how planets, moons and other objects in space formed by simulating the high-energy, low-gravity conditions that were present during formation of the early solar system. Scientists plan to zap a specially formulated dust with an electrical current, and then study the shape and texture of the resulting pellets.

Understanding Parkinson’s Disease

The Crystallization of LRRK2 Under Microgravity Conditions-2 (PCG-16) investigation grows large crystals of an important protein, leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2), in microgravity for analysis back on Earth. This protein is implicated in development of Parkinson’s disease, and improving our knowledge of its structure may help scientists better understand the pathology of the disease and develop therapies to treat it. LRRK2 crystals grown in gravity are too small and too compact to study, making microgravity an essential part of this research. This investigation is sponsored by the U.S. National Laboratory on the space station, which Congress designated in 2005 to maximize its use for improving quality of life on Earth.

Northrop Grumman CRS-10 Mission to the Space Station: What's On Board?

The Cygnus spacecraft will remain at the space station until February before its destructive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, disposing of several thousand pounds of trash. This is the seventh flight of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft, and the fourth using Northrop Grumman's upgraded Antares 230 launch vehicle featuring new RD-181 engines that provide increased performance and flexibility.

The spacecraft for this mission is named in honor of astronaut John Young. Young was selected for NASA’s second astronaut class and flew during the Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs. He walked on the Moon during Apollo 16 in 1972 and commanded the first space shuttle mission in 1981. Young passed away in January.

Learn more about Northrop Grumman’s mission at:

For more than 18 years, humans have lived and worked continuously aboard the International Space 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, 230 people from 18 countries have visited the unique microgravity laboratory that has hosted more than 2,500 research investigations from researchers in 106 countries.

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

Commercial Resupply:


Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: NASA/Josh Finch/Karen Northon/JSC/Gary Jordan/NASA TV/SciNews.

Best regards,

Kepler Space Telescope Bid ‘Goodnight’ With Final Set of Commands

NASA - Kepler Space Telescope patch.

Nov. 17, 2018

On Thursday evening, NASA’s Kepler space telescope received its final set of commands to disconnect communications with Earth. The “goodnight” commands finalize the spacecraft’s transition into retirement, which began on Oct. 30 with NASA’s announcement that Kepler had run out of fuel and could no longer conduct science.

Reflections from NASA's Kepler Mission

Video above: Kepler’s astounding success in proving there are more planets than stars in our galaxy, and the existence of many worlds that could be favorable to life has forever changed our perspective. Many members of the Kepler team and scientists offered thoughts on what this mission, and its finding of “more planets than stars,” has meant to them. Video Credit: NASA.

Coincidentally, Kepler’s “goodnight” coincides with the anniversary of the death of its namesake, German astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion and died 388 years ago on Nov. 15, 1630.

The final commands were sent over NASA’s Deep Space Network from Kepler’s operations center at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, or LASP, at the University of Colorado in Boulder. LASP runs the spacecraft’s operations on behalf of NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation in Boulder, Colorado.

 Kepler’s team disabled the safety modes that could inadvertently turn systems back on, and severed communications by shutting down the transmitters. Because the spacecraft is slowly spinning, the Kepler team had to carefully time the commands so that instructions would reach the spacecraft during periods of viable communication. The team will monitor the spacecraft to ensure that the commands were successful. The spacecraft is now drifting in a safe orbit around the Sun 94 million miles away from Earth.

Kepler Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA

The data Kepler collected over the course of more than nine years in operation will be mined for exciting discoveries for many years to come.

NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from LASP.

Related article:

NASA Retires Kepler Space Telescope, Passes Planet-Hunting Torch:

Kepler and K2:

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rick Chen.


vendredi 16 novembre 2018

Russia’s Cargo Craft Blasts Off to Station for Sunday Delivery

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

November 16, 2018

Image above: Russia’s Progress 71 cargo craft blasts off on time to the International Space Station for a Sunday delivery. Image Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA.

Carrying almost three tons of food, fuel and supplies for the International Space Station crew, the unpiloted Russian Progress 71 cargo spacecraft launched at 1:14 p.m. EST (12:14 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, Baikonur) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

At the time of launch, the International Space Station was flying about 252 statute miles over southern Kazakhstan.

The resupply ship reached preliminary orbit and deployed its solar arrays and navigational antennas as planned. The Russian cargo craft will make 34 orbits of Earth before docking to the orbiting laboratory at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 18. NASA Television coverage of rendezvous and docking will begin at 1:45 p.m.

Soyuz-FG launches Progress MS-10

Progress 71 will remain docked at the station for more than four months before departing in March for its deorbit in Earth’s atmosphere.

Crew aboard the space station are scheduled to receive two cargo resupply missions in the coming days. Tomorrow, launch of Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket with Cygnus cargo spacecraft bound for the International Space Station is targeted for 4:01 a.m. from Pad 0A of Virginia Space’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. NASA TV will provide launch broadcast coverage online beginning at 3:30 a.m. A Cygnus launch Saturday would result in capture and berthing on Monday, Nov. 19.

Related links:

Expedition 57:


ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Io Rising

NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Nov. 16, 2018

Jupiter's moon Io rises just off the horizon of the gas giant planet in this image from NASA's Juno spacecraft. Slightly larger than Earth's moon, Io is the most volcanically active world in the solar system.

This color-enhanced image was taken at 2:26 p.m. PDT (5:56 p.m. EDT) on Oct. 29, 2018 as the spacecraft performed its 16th close flyby of Jupiter. At the time, Juno was about 11,400 miles (18,400 kilometers) from the planet's cloud tops, at approximately 32 degrees south latitude.

Citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Justin Cowart created this image using data from the spacecraft's JunoCam imager. This image has been rotated approximately 155 degrees from the source image.

Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter

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

More information about Juno is at: and

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Gerald Eichstädt/Justin Cowart.


Electric blue thrusters propelling BepiColombo to Mercury

ESA - BepiColombo Mission patch.

16 November 2018

In mid-December, twin discs will begin glowing blue on the underside of a minibus-sized spacecraft in deep space. At that moment Europe and Japan’s BepiColombo mission will have just come a crucial step closer to Mercury.

This week sees the in-flight commissioning and test firing of the four thrusters – with one or two firing at a time – of the Solar Electric Propulsion System that BepiColombo relies on to reach the innermost planet. This marks the first in-flight operation of the most powerful and highest-performance electric propulsion system flown on any space mission to date.

Twin ion thrusters firing

Each thruster and its associated power processing and propellant flow control units will be tested to full power to check no ill-effects were incurred from launch, culminating in the first twin thruster operations – the configuration to be used throughout most of the mission.

Their first routine firing is scheduled for the middle of next month, and the propulsion system will operate continuously for three months to optimise the spacecraft’s trajectory for the long voyage to Mercury.

The voyage inward

BepiColombo, launched from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana on 20 October, faces a different challenge from ESA planetary science missions before it: it is headed inward, toward the Sun, not out, and needs to lose velocity instead of gaining it.

Animation visualising BepiColombo’s journey to Mercury

Like all objects in the Solar System, the spacecraft is in solar orbit, moving perpendicular to the pull of the Sun’s gravity. BepiColombo therefore has to slow down through a series of braking manoeuvres and flybys, making it more susceptible to the Sun’s gravity and letting it spiral closer to the heart of the Solar System.

The thrust produced by the electric propulsion system serves to decelerate the spacecraft, or in some cases accelerates it to make its braking flybys more effective. No less than nine planetary flybys of Earth (once), Venus (twice) and Mercury itself (six times) are required to place the multi-module spacecraft in orbit around Mercury in seven years’ time.

Space tug

The Mercury Transfer Module portion of the spacecraft, containing the propulsion system, is in essence a high performance ‘space tug’. Its task is to perform all the active trajectory control manoeuvres needed to convey the other portions of the BepiColombo ‘stack’ – ESA’s Mercury Planet Orbiter and Japan’s Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter – to Mercury orbit.

Thrusters firing on BepiColombo

The high performance of the propulsion system, in terms of the amount of fuel the thrusters require, is critical. Inert xenon gas is fed in to the thrusters, where electrons are first stripped off the xenon atoms. The resulting electrically charged atoms, referred to as ions, are then focused and ejected out of the thrusters using a high voltage grid system at a velocity of 50 000 meters per second.

This exhaust velocity is 15 times greater than conventional chemical rocket thrusters, allowing a dramatic reduction in the amount of propellant required to achieve the mission.

“The propulsion system transforms electricity generated by the Mercury Transfer Module’s twin 15 m-long solar arrays into thrust,” explains ESA electric propulsion engineer Neil Wallace.

MTM at base of BepiColombo

“At full power, a thrust equivalent to the weight of three 1-euro coins is developed, meaning that the thrusters have to keep firing for long periods to be effective, but in the absence of any drag and assuming you are patient, the manoeuvres that are possible and the payload that can be carried are dramatic.”

Electrifying spacecraft propulsion

The four T6 thrusters around which the solar electric propulsion system is designed, have a heritage dating back decades. QinetiQ in the UK – formerly the UK Defence Evaluation and Research Agency and before that the Farnborough Royal Aircraft Establishment – has been researching electric propulsion since the 1960s.

The first flight of their technology came with the 10 cm-diameter T5 thruster, a key element of ESA’s 2009 gravity-mapping GOCE mission, where it allowed the satellite to orbit at the top of Earth’s atmosphere for over three years, skimming through the diffuse atmosphere at the unprecedentedly low orbital altitude needed for the mission.

T6 test firing

The scaled-up T6 thrusters are 22 cm in diameter, the increase in size required for the higher thrust and lifetime requirements of the BepiColombo mission. And unlike GOCE’s T5, these T6 thrusters are manoeuverable, courtesy of gimbal systems developed by RUAG Space in Austria.

“They are clever mechanisms that complicate the system design a bit – all the electrical cables and pipes have to cross a moving boundary – but add a lot to performance,” adds Neil. “They ensure the thrust vector of either a single or double engine firing crosses through the centre of gravity of the spacecraft, which changes over time as propellant is used up.”

Thruster steering test

Thruster operations are controlled using two Power Processing Units, the architecture of which are designed to support the firing of two T6s simultaneously even in the event of any system anomaly, guaranteeing the maximum thrust of 250 mN can be maintained.

Injecting intelligence

“The intelligence of the system for autonomous thruster operation comes from these Power Processing Units – contributed by Airbus Crisa in Spain,” explains Neil, “which supply the regulated voltages and currents to the thrusters based on instructions from ground control via the spacecraft on-board computer.”

Propulsion system

The other key elements are propellant Flow Control Units, also overseen by the PPUs, and the high-voltage electrical harness. The FCUs ensure the correct flows of xenon gas are supplied to the thrusters and were developed by Bradford Engineering in the Netherlands to provide programmable flow rates.

The various elements of the propulsion system have undergone individual and extensive performance and qualification testing ultimately concluding in a series of tests performed at QinetiQ's Farnborough site.

Testing times

The spacecraft configuration and the extreme nature of the BepiColombo mission – needing to function in thermal conditions akin to placing it in a pizza oven – often demanded similarly extreme test scenarios, pushing the solar electric propulsion technology and test facilities to their limits.

“One important test early in the programme was to ensure that two thrusters could be operated in close proximity for prolonged periods without harmful interactions,” adds Neil. “They turned out to be remarkably tolerant of each other with no measureable effects.”

Test setup

One of the biggest ironies of the thruster qualification for BepiColombo, heading close to the Sun, was the extreme minimum temperatures experienced by its ion thrusters.

Neil explains: “Despite the fact the mission is headed to Mercury, the bulk of the spacecraft shadows the thrusters for very long periods and when not operating they naturally cool to temperatures way lower than ever tested in the past. We needed to prove they would turn-on and operate within specification when cooled to minus 150 C.

BepiColombo plasma simulation

“It was a remarkable testament to the robustness of the technology that even after temperatures sufficient to freeze the xenon in the pipes the thrusters were able to start and operate flawlessly.”

End of the journey

The propulsion system is dependent on the Mercury Planetary Orbiter’s onboard computer for its control and command, so by itself it will not be able to function. Its ultimate fate is to be cast off, when the three-module BepiColombo stack separates before entering Mercury orbit, to circle the Sun indefinitely in the vicinity of the planet, letting the two science modules go to work.

BepiColombo arrival at Mercury timeline

“At one point while planning the BepiColombo mission, the Mercury Transfer Module was planned to impact the planet,” Neil comments, “a sort of Viking funeral that seemed fitting to all of us engineers.”

Gridded ion thruster technology will have a life far beyond BepiColombo however, with commercial applications in development, and future, even more ambitious ESA science missions set to rely on the technology.

Related links:

ESA's BepiColombo:

T6 ion thrusters installed on BepiColombo:

Propulsion and Aerothermodynamics:

Propulsion Laboratory:

QinetiQ Space:

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ESA/Félicien Filleul/QinetiQ/ATG medialab/ESA/D.Tagliafierro (TAS-I)/CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO.

Best regards,

jeudi 15 novembre 2018

SpaceX - Es'hail-2 Mission Success

SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Es'hail-2 Mission patch.

Nov. 15, 2018

SpaceX Falcon 9 Es'hail-2 lift off

SpaceX successfully launched the Es’hail-2 satellite on Thursday, November 15 from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liftoff occurred at 3:46 p.m. EST, or 20:46 UTC, and the satellite was deployed to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) about 32 minutes after liftoff.

Es’hail-2 Mission

Falcon 9’s first stage for the Es’hail-2 mission previously supported the Telstar 19 VANTAGE mission in July 2018. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

Falcon 9 first stage after landing on Droneship "Of Course I Still Love You"

Es’hail 2 communications satellite. Built by Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and owned by Qatar’s national satellite communications company Es’hailSat, Es’hail 2 will provide television broadcasts, broadband connectivity and government services to Qatar and neighboring parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Es’hail 2 communications satellite

Es’hail 2 also carries the first amateur radio payload to fly in geostationary orbit.

For more information about SpaceX, visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Mitsubishi Electric Corp./ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Huge impact crater found under Greenland Hiawatha glacier

NASA - Operation IceBridge patch.

Nov. 15, 2018

City-size impact crater found under Greenland ice

The first large crater ever found under ice, the discovery could possibly be linked to a controversial extinction theory.

Today, an international team of scientists describes what they say is a huge new impact crater that lies under northwestern Greenland’s Hiawatha Glacier. If confirmed, it would be the first impact crater on Earth discovered under ice, the team reports in the journal Science Advances. At an estimated 19 miles wide, it is larger than Washington, D.C., and would rank among the top 25 known craters in the world.

Image Credits: Brian T. Jacobs, NG Staff/Source: IceBridge BedMachine Greenland, ArcticDEM.

“Until 2015, no one had paid much attention to this part of the planet,” says study coauthor Joseph MacGregor, a glaciologist with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. But that year, scientists began flying over the area with highly sensitive scanning instruments, such as lasers and radar, through NASA’s Operation IceBridge.

Like all IceBridge data, the scans were made public, and a group of Danish glaciologists noticed something interesting when they reviewed the material: A large, bowl-shaped depression was clearly visible in the bedrock under the ice.

“Could that be an impact crater? they asked,” MacGregor says. “They all laughed. But then they said, Maybe it is.”

As they looked closer, someone on the team also pointed out that a large meteorite in the collection at the Natural History Museum of Denmark—near where they parked their bicycles every day—had come from that same region of Greenland.

“We asked ourselves, could the two be linked?” says lead author Kurt Kjær, a glacial geologist and curator at the Natural History Museum of Denmark and the University of Copenhagen.

Uncovering a crater

To find out more, the Danish scientists reached out to MacGregor, who is the chief scientist for the IceBridge project. To get more high-resolution scans of the Hiawatha Glacier, the team also enlisted the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, which provided them with additional surveying flights in May 2016 carrying newer, more sensitive instruments. They also sent a ground team in July 2016 to map surrounding structures on the surface and collect samples of sediments that had drained out from under the glacier.

With the precise radar data, the team was able to more completely work out the shape of the proposed crater. The walls of the circular rim are roughly 1,050 feet above the floor of the crater, they found. The team also identified an uplifted area 164 to 230 feet high in the center of the crater, which Kjær says is an expected feature and is the result of the force of the strike.

Massive Crater Discovered Under Greenland Ice

In the sediment samples, the researchers found grains of what's known as shocked quartz—a rare form of the ubiquitous mineral that has been deformed in a characteristic way by very high-energy events, such as in a large impact. Some of the grains also showed a brown color known as toasting, again a sign of intense energy release. Other minerals showed signs of shock metamorphism, to the point of turning into glass.

Based on the size of the crater, the team estimates that the asteroid would have been around 0.75 miles across and would have weighed 11 to 12 billion tons as it entered the atmosphere. And based on their mineral analysis, they believe it was an iron-rich space rock—the same type of rock as the meteorite fragment in the museum, although more tests would need to be done to establish a firm link, Kjær notes.

Now that he knows the circular depression is there, Kjær adds that he can even see its outline on the surface of the ice.

Image above: Seen in pastel artwork based on the view from a NASA IceBridge flight, Greenland's Hiawatha Glacier holds a startling new secret—and raises new questions about Earth's recent past. ("Hiawatha Basin, Greenland," soft pastel on paper, 2017.) Image Credit: NASA.

MacGregor agrees: “I have a coffee mug with a three-inch map of Greenland on it. I can see the Hiawatha Glacier on there. So this really was hiding in plain sight.”
Icy impact

But impact crater expert Ludovic Ferriere of the Natural History Museum in Vienna, who was not associated with the study, is skeptical of these conclusions.

“I can say what they are presenting as shock quartz is definitely shock quartz,” says Ferriere, who is also a National Geographic Explorer. But he cautions that he would like to see a larger sample size of sediments tested, as he isn’t sure that the quartz taken from under the glacier necessarily came from the presumed impact crater.

Kjær counters that they have many more samples still to sort through, grain by grain. And based on their radar mapping of the drainage system under the glacier, “where could the material come from if it didn’t come from inside the glacier?”

Image above: Hiawatha Glacier has long been known but little studied, until recently. NASA/John Sonntag.

Ferriere also says that the uplift the team reports for such a large impact crater is too small for what should be expected. Either it isn’t what they suspect, or the uplift feature has been heavily eroded. Kjær responded that the impact through the ice sheet can explain the more muted central uplift, as well as the debris and sloping sediments they observed with radar.

Both Kjær and Ferriere agree that the next steps likely include additional analysis of the existing samples, including the possibility of radioisotope dating, as well as collecting more material from the site. Ideally, the scientists say it would be best to drill through the glacier—which is nearly 0.6 miles thick over the crater—and into the rock below. A heavy drilling operation in such a remote area would be challenging and expensive, but not without precedent.

“I think they have something here, but they make strong conclusions based on very preliminary data and a lot of gaps,” Ferriere says. “With drilling, they might find something very different.” As it stands, Ferriere argues, their discovery of the shock quartz “is like if you arrive on the scene of a murder and you find one poor guy there; he’s not necessarily the murderer.”

World-changing event?

The scientists also don’t currently have enough information to assign an age to the proposed impact crater, but based on their analysis, they have suggested bookends for the date of the event. Given the structure of the rock and ice that can be “read” with radar, the team believes that the glacier was in place at the time of the strike, and that the impact punched a hole in the ice and resulted in a significant amount of melting and refreezing. That would suggest that the impact happened sometime before the end of the Pleistocene epoch around 11,700 years ago.

“It’s likely quite young, geologically speaking,” MacGregor says. “It’s likely less than three million years old and possibly as young as 12,000 to 15,000 years old.”

Animation above: Two views of the Hiawatha crater region: one covered by the Greenland Ice Sheet, the other showing the topography of the rock beneath the ice sheet, including the crater. Animation Credits: NASA/Cindy Starr.

If the discovery holds, the Hiawatha Crater could therefore be a tantalizing new piece of evidence for a very controversial idea. Called the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis, the notion is that some kind of large impact occurred in northern North America about 10,900 to 12,900 years ago, during the Younger Dryas Ice Age. This impact, the idea goes, caused massive wildfires across much of the continent that in turn led to the extinction of many of the large Ice Age mammals, like mammoths and mastodons, as well as the human Clovis culture.

One big problem with this hypothesis has long been the lack of a suitably large impact crater. If it's real and the dates match up, the Hiawatha Crater could be a plausible explanation, MacGregor says: “It’s a very speculative idea, but if this does turn out to be [the link], it would have had an outsize impact on human history.”

“We do not discuss it in the paper, but I think it is a possibility,” Kjær adds. “This may generate a lot of discussion, and we need to find out. We won’t know until we have a proper date.”

Related links:

Science Advances:

NASA’s Operation IceBridge:

Natural History Museum of Denmark:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: National Geographic/Brian Clark Howard/NASA.


US Cargo Mission Slips a Day; Station Tests Free-Flying AI Assistant

ISS - Expedition 57 Mission patch.

November 15, 2018

The launch of the Cygnus space freighter from Northrop Grumman has slipped another day due to inclement weather at the Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Atlantic coast. Cygnus is now scheduled to launch atop the Antares rocket Saturday at 4:01 a.m. EST with a much improved weather forecast.

The U.S. resupply ship will deliver approximately 7,400 pounds of food, fuel and supplies to the station two days later. Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor will command the Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture Cygnus Monday at 5:20 a.m. Commander Alexander Gerst will back her up and monitor telemetry from the vehicle during its approach and rendezvous.

Image above: Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor practices on a computer the maneuvers she will use with Canadarm2 robotic arm to capture the U.S. Cygnus space freighter on Monday. Image Credit: NASA.

The Progress 71 (71P) cargo craft from Russia is at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch pad in Kazakhstan ready to blast off Friday at 1:14 p.m. EST. Prokopyev will be monitoring the Russian resupply ship when it arrives Sunday for an automated docking to the rear port of the Zvezda service module at 2:30 p.m.

The International Space Station Program is testing the use of artificial intelligence today to contribute to mission success aboard the orbital laboratory. Meanwhile, the space residents from the U.S., Germany and Russia continued more human research and prepared for the upcoming U.S. and Russian space deliveries.

CIMON, or Crew Interactive MObile CompanioN, is a free-flying robotic assistant based on artificial intelligence currently being tested on the station. The astronaut support device from ESA (European Space Agency) was powered up and commissioned today by the station commander inside the Columbus lab module. The CIMON technology seeks to demonstrate astronaut-robot interaction by answering crew questions, assisting with science experiments and navigating autonomously in the lab.

Image above: Flying over South Pacific Ocean, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'569 Km/h, altitude: 418,00 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 November 15, 2018 at 19:46 UTC. Image Credits: Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev and fellow crewmates Gerst and Auñón-Chancellor started Thursday with ongoing eye checks. Gerst and Serena swapped roles as Crew Medical Officer scanning each other’s eyes including Prokopyev’s using an ultrasound device with guidance from a doctor on the ground. The data is downlinked to Earth real-time and helps scientists understand how microgravity affects astronaut vision as well as the components and shape of the eye.

Related links:

Expedition 57:

Cygnus space freighter:

Progress 71 (71P) cargo craft:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Finding an Elusive Star Behind a Supernova

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Nov. 15, 2018

Located 65 million light-years away ia a blue supergiant star that once existed inside a cluster of young stars in the spiral galaxy NGC 3938, as shown in this artist's concept. It exploded as a supernova in 2017 and Hubble Space Telescope archival photos were used to locate the doomed progenitor star, as it looked in 2007. The star may have been as massive as 50 suns and burned at a furious rate, making it hotter and bluer than our Sun. It was so hot, it lost its outer layers of hydrogen and helium. When it exploded, astronomers categorized it as a Type Ic supernova because of the lack of hydrogen and helium in the supernova's spectrum.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Yvette Smith/ESA and J. Olmsted (STScI).


The Most Luminous Galaxy Is Eating Its Neighbors

NASA - Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) patch.

November 15, 2018

Image above: This artist's impression shows galaxy WISE J224607.55-052634.9, the most luminous galaxy ever discovered. A new study using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) shows that this galaxy is syphoning dust and other material from three of its smaller galactic neighbors. Image Credits: (NRAO/AUI/NSF) S. Dagnello.

The most luminous galaxy ever discovered is cannibalizing not one, not two, but at least three of its smaller neighbors, according to a new study published today (Nov. 15) in the journal Science and coauthored by scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The material that the galaxy is stealing from its neighbors is likely contributing to its uber-brightness, the study shows.

Discovered by NASA's space-based Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) in 2015, the galaxy, called WISE J224607.55-052634.9, is by no means the largest or most massive galaxy we know of, but it radiates at 350 trillion times the luminosity of the Sun. If all galaxies were positioned an equal distance from us, WISE J224607.55-052634.9 (or W2246-0526 for short) would be the brightest.

New observations using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile reveal distinct trails of dust being pulled from three smaller galaxies into W2246-0526. The trails contain about as much material as the smaller galaxies themselves, and it's unclear whether those galaxies will escape their current fate or will be completely consumed by their luminous neighbor.

Image above: This image, created using radio data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), shows W2246-0526 as it syphons material away from three smaller galaxies. W2246-0526 and one of its companions are in the center; the second galaxy is above them; the third is to the lower left. Image Credits: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF).

Most of W2246-0526's record-breaking luminosity comes not only from stars, but also a collection of hot gas and dust concentrated around the center of the galaxy. At the heart of this cloud is a supermassive black hole, recently determined to be 4 billion times more massive than the Sun. In the intense gravity, matter falls toward the black hole at high speeds, crashing together and heating up to millions of degrees, causing the material to shine with incredible brilliance. Galaxies that contain these types of luminous, black-hole-fueled structures are known as quasars.

Like any engine on Earth, W2246-0526's enormous energy output requires an equally high fuel input. In this case, that means gas and dust to form stars and to replenish the cloud around the central black hole. The new study shows that the amount of material being accreted by WJ2246-0526 from its neighbors is enough to replenish what is being consumed, thereby sustaining the galaxy's tremendous luminosity.

"It is possible that this feeding frenzy has already been ongoing for some time, and we expect the galactic feast to continue for at least a few hundred million years," said Tanio Diaz-Santos of the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile, lead author of the study.

In the new study, the scientists used images from ALMA - a collection of individual radio antennas that work together as single telescope - to identify the dusty trails of material. The position of the accretion trails strongly suggests they contain material flowing between W2246-0526 and the other galaxies. In addition, the trails exhibit the right morphology - that is, the shape of the trails is consistent with how the material should flow if it is being pulled from one galaxy into another.

Image above: This annotated image made using radio data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) shows how W2246-0526 is being fed by three companion galaxies (C1, C2, and C3). A large tidal tail connects C2 with the main galaxy; dust bridges connect the other two galaxies to W2246-0526. Image Credits: T. Diaz-Santos et al.; N. Lira; ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO).

This kind of galactic cannibalism is not uncommon. Astronomers have previously observed galaxies merging with or accreting matter from their neighbors in the nearby universe. For example, the pair of galaxies collectively known as "the Mice" are so named because each has a long, thin tail of accreting material stretching away from it.

W2246-0526 is the most distant galaxy ever found to be accreting material from multiple sources. The light from W2246-0526 took 12.4 billion years to reach us, so astronomers are seeing the object as it was when our universe was only a tenth of its present age of 13.8 billion years. At that distance, the streams of material falling into W2246-0526 are particularly faint and difficult to detect. The study relies on 2.5 hours of observation time using 40 of ALMA's 12-meter radio dishes.

"We knew from previous data that there were three companion galaxies, but there was no evidence of interactions between these neighbors and the central source," said Diaz-Santos. "We weren't looking for cannibalistic behavior and weren't expecting it, but this deep dive with the ALMA observatory makes it very clear."

W2246-0526 falls into a special category of particularly luminous quasars known as hot, dust-obscured galaxies, or Hot DOGs. Astronomers think that most quasars get some of their fuel from external sources. One possibility is that these objects receive a slow trickle of material from the space between galaxies. Another is that they feed in bursts by eating up other galaxies, which appears to be occurring with W2246-0526. It's unclear whether W2246-0526 is representative of other obscured quasars (those with their central engines obscured by thick clouds of dust) or if it is a special case.

"This galaxy may be one of a kind, because it's nearly twice as luminous as any other galaxy we've found with WISE and it formed very early in the universe's history," said Peter Eisenhardt, JPL project scientist for WISE and a coauthor on the new paper. "But we've discovered many other galaxies with WISE that are similar to this one: distant, dusty and thousands of times more luminous than typical galaxies are today. So with W2246-0526, we may be seeing what goes on during a key stage in the evolution of galaxies and obscured quasars."

Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA

Ultimately, the galaxy's gluttony may only lead to self-destruction. Scientists hypothesize that obscured quasars that gather too much material around them end up vomiting gas and dust back out through the galaxy. This onslaught of material halts the formation of new stars, essentially pushing the galaxy into retirement while other galaxies continue to renew themselves with the birth of new stars.

A companion study about W2246-0526, published on Nov. 14 in the Astrophysical Journal, provided the mass measurement for the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center - 4 billion times the mass of the Sun. This mass is large, but the extreme luminosity of W2246-0526 was thought to require a supermassive black hole with a mass at least three times larger, according to the paper authors. Solving this apparent contradiction will require more observations.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) in Taiwan and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI).

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed and operated WISE for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The spacecraft operated until 2011. In September 2013, WISE was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a new mission to assist NASA's efforts to identify potentially hazardous near-Earth objects.

Related links:


Astrophysical Journal:


Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Calla Cofield/NRAO/Charles Blue.


NASA Learns More About Interstellar Visitor 'Oumuamua

NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

November 15, 2018

In November 2017, scientists pointed NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope toward the object known as 'Oumuamua - the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system. The infrared Spitzer was one of many telescopes pointed at 'Oumuamua in the weeks after its discovery that October.

Image above: An artist's concept of interstellar asteroid 1I/2017 U1 ('Oumuamua) as it passed through the solar system after its discovery in October 2017. Observations of 'Oumuamua indicate that it must be very elongated because of its dramatic variations in brightness as it tumbled through space. Image Credits: European Southern Observatory/M. Kornmesser.

'Oumuamua was too faint for Spitzer to detect when it looked more than two months after the object's closest aproach to Earth in early September. However, the "non-detection" puts a new limit on how large the strange object can be. The results are reported in a new study published today in the Astronomical Journal and coauthored by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Animation above: Scientists have concluded that vents on the surface of 'Oumuamua must have emitted jets of gases, giving the object a slight boost in speed, which researchers detected by measuring the position of the object as it passed by Earth in 2017. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The new size limit is consistent with the findings of a research paper published earlier this year, which suggested that outgassing was responsible for the slight changes in 'Oumuamua's speed and direction as it was tracked last year: The authors of that paper conclude the expelled gas acted like a small thruster gently pushing the object. That determination was dependent on 'Oumuamua being relatively smaller than typical solar system comets. (The conclusion that 'Oumuamua experienced outgassing suggested that it was composed of frozen gases, similar to a comet.)

"'Oumuamua has been full of surprises from day one, so we were eager to see what Spitzer might show," said David Trilling, lead author on the new study and a professor of astronomy at Northern Arizona University. "The fact that 'Oumuamua was too small for Spitzer to detect is actually a very valuable result."

'Oumuamua was first detected by the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope on Haleakala, Hawaii (the object's name is a Hawaiian word meaning "visitor from afar arriving first"), in October 2017 while the telescope was surveying for near-Earth asteroids.

Subsequent detailed observations conducted by multiple ground-based telescopes and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope detected the sunlight reflected off 'Oumuamua's surface. Large variations in the object's brightness suggested that 'Oumuamua is highly elongated and probably less than half a mile (2,600 feet, or 800 meters) in its longest dimension.

But Spitzer tracks asteroids and comets using the infrared energy, or heat, that they radiate, which can provide more specific information about an object's size than optical observations of reflected sunlight alone would.

Spitzer Space Telescope

The fact that 'Oumuamua was too faint for Spitzer to detect sets a limit on the object's total surface area. However, since the non-detection can't be used to infer shape, the size limits are presented as what 'Oumuamua's diameter would be if it were spherical. Using three separate models that make slightly different assumptions about the object's composition, Spitzer's non-detection limited 'Oumuamua's "spherical diameter" to 1,440 feet (440 meters), 460 feet (140 meters) or perhaps as little as 320 feet (100 meters). The wide range of results stems from the assumptions about 'Oumuamua's composition, which influences how visible (or faint) it would appear to Spitzer were it a particular size.

Small but Reflective

The new study also suggests that 'Oumuamua may be up to 10 times more reflective than the comets that reside in our solar system - a surprising result, according to the paper's authors. Because infrared light is largely heat radiation produced by "warm" objects, it can be used to determine the temperature of a comet or asteroid; in turn, this can be used to determine the reflectivity of the object's surface - what scientists call albedo. Just as a dark T-shirt in sunlight heats up more quickly than a light one, an object with low reflectivity retains more heat than an object with high reflectivity. So a lower temperature means a higher albedo.

A comet's albedo can change throughout its lifetime. When it passes close to the Sun, a comet's ice warms and turns directly into a gas, sweeping dust and dirt off the comet's surface and revealing more reflective ice.

'Oumuamua had been traveling through interstellar space for millions of years, far from any star that could refresh its surface. But it may have had its surface refreshed through such "outgassing" when it made an extremely close approach to our Sun, a little more than five weeks before it was discovered. In addition to sweeping away dust and dirt, some of the released gas may have covered the surface of 'Oumuamua with a reflective coat of ice and snow - a phenomenon that's also been observed in comets in our solar system.

'Oumuamua is on its way out of our solar system - almost as far from the Sun as Saturn's orbit - and is well beyond the reach of any existing telescopes.

"Usually, if we get a measurement from a comet that's kind of weird, we go back and measure it again until we understand what we're seeing," said Davide Farnocchia, of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at JPL and a coauthor on both papers. "But this one is gone forever; we probably know as much about it as we're ever going to know."

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

Astronomical Journal:

For more information about Spitzer, visit:

Image (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Calla Cofield.

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ISRO - GSLV Mk III-D2/GSAT-29 Mission Success

ISRO - Indian Space Research Organisation logo.

Nov. 15, 2018

GSLV Mk III-D2/GSAT-29 Mission lift off

GSLV Mk III-D2/GSAT-29 Mission: The first orbit raising operation of GSAT-29 satellite has been successfully carried out today (15th November) by firing the Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) engine of the satellite at 0834 Hrs IST for a duration of 4875 seconds.

Orbit Determination results from this LAM firing are:

- Apogee X perigee height was changed from 35897 km X 189 km  to 35745 km X 7642 km.

- Inclination was changed from 21.46 deg to 8.9 deg.

- Orbital period is 13 hours.

Lift-off and Onboard Camera View - ISRO

Video above: Onboard camera view of the GSLV Mk III-D2 rocket launching the GSAT-29 communication satellite from the Second Launch Pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota, on 14 November 2018, at 11:38 UTC (14:50 IST).

GSAT-29 satellite with a lift-off mass of 3423 kg, is a multi-beam, multiband communication satellite of India, configured around the ISRO’s enhanced I-3K bus. This is the heaviest satellite launched from India.

GSAT-29 satellite

GSAT-29 carries Ka/Ku-band high throughput communication transponders which will bridge the digital divide of users including those in Jammu & Kashmir and North Eastern regions of India. It also carries Q/V-band payload, configured for technology demonstration at higher frequency bands and Geo-stationary High Resolution Camera. carried onboard GSAT-29 spacecraft. An optical communication payload, for the first time, will be utilized for data transmission.

For more information about Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), visit:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)/Günter Space Page/SciNews.


mercredi 14 novembre 2018

Super-Earth Orbiting Barnard’s Star

ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

14 November 2018

Red Dots campaign uncovers compelling evidence of exoplanet around closest single star to Sun
Artist’s impression of the surface of a super-Earth orbiting Barnard’s Star

The nearest single star to the Sun hosts an exoplanet at least 3.2 times as massive as Earth — a so-called super-Earth. One of the largest observing campaigns to date using data from a world-wide array of telescopes, including ESO’s planet-hunting HARPS instrument, have revealed this frozen, dimly lit world. The newly discovered planet is the second-closest known exoplanet to the Earth. Barnard’s star is the fastest moving star in the night sky.

Artist’s impression of super-Earth orbiting Barnard’s Star

A planet has been detected orbiting Barnard’s Star, a mere 6 light-years away. This breakthrough — announced in a paper published today in the journal Nature — is a result of the Red Dots and CARMENES projects, whose search for local rocky planets has already uncovered a new world orbiting our nearest neighbour, Proxima Centauri.

Barnard’s Star in the constellation Ophiuchus

The planet, designated Barnard's Star b, now steps in as the second-closest known exoplanet to Earth [1]. The gathered data indicate that the planet could be a super-Earth, having a mass at least 3.2 times that of the Earth, which orbits its host star in roughly 233 days. Barnard’s Star, the planet’s host star, is a red dwarf, a cool, low-mass star, which only dimly illuminates this newly-discovered world. Light from Barnard’s Star provides its planet with only 2% of the energy the Earth receives from the Sun.

Widefield image of the sky around Barnard’s Star showing its motion

Despite being relatively close to its parent star — at a distance only 0.4 times that between Earth and the Sun — the exoplanet lies close to the snow line, the region where volatile compounds such as water can condense into solid ice. This freezing, shadowy world could have a temperature of –170 ℃, making it inhospitable for life as we know it.

Named for astronomer E. E. Barnard, Barnard’s Star is the closest single star to the Sun. While the star itself is ancient — probably twice the age of our Sun — and relatively inactive, it also has the fastest apparent motion of any star in the night sky [2]. Super-Earths are the most common type of planet to form around low-mass stars such as Barnard’s Star, lending credibility to this newly discovered planetary candidate. Furthermore, current theories of planetary formation predict that the snow line is the ideal location for such planets to form.

Artist’s impression of Barnard’s Star and its super-Earth

Previous searches for a planet around Barnard’s Star have had disappointing results — this recent breakthrough was possible only by combining measurements from several high-precision instruments mounted on telescopes all over the world [3].

“After a very careful analysis, we are 99% confident that the planet is there,” stated the team’s lead scientist, Ignasi Ribas (Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia and the Institute of Space Sciences, CSIC in Spain). “However, we’ll continue to observe this fast-moving star to exclude possible, but improbable, natural variations of the stellar brightness which could masquerade as a planet.”

Exploring the surface of a super-Earth orbiting Barnard’s Star (Artist’s impression)

Among the instruments used were ESO’s famous planet-hunting HARPS and UVES spectrographs. “HARPS played a vital part in this project. We combined archival data from other teams with new, overlapping, measurements of Barnard’s star from different facilities,” commented Guillem Anglada Escudé (Queen Mary University of London), co-lead scientist of the team behind this result [4]. “The combination of instruments was key to allowing us to cross-check our result.”

The astronomers used the Doppler effect to find the exoplanet candidate. While the planet orbits the star, its gravitational pull causes the star to wobble. When the star moves away from the Earth, its spectrum redshifts; that is, it moves towards longer wavelengths. Similarly, starlight is shifted towards shorter, bluer, wavelengths when the star moves towards Earth.

Barnard’s Star in the Solar neighborhood

Astronomers take advantage of this effect to measure the changes in a star’s velocity due to an orbiting exoplanet — with astounding accuracy. HARPS can detect changes in the star’s velocity as small as 3.5 km/h — about walking pace. This approach to exoplanet hunting is known as the radial velocity method, and has never before been used to detect a similar super-Earth type exoplanet in such a large orbit around its star.

“We used observations from seven different instruments, spanning 20 years of measurements, making this one of the largest and most extensive datasets ever used for precise radial velocity studies.” explained Ribas. ”The combination of all data led to a total of 771 measurements — a huge amount of information!”

“We have all worked very hard on this breakthrough,” concluded Anglada-Escudé. “This discovery is the result of a large collaboration organised in the context of the Red Dots project, that included contributions from teams all over the world. Follow-up observations are already underway at different observatories worldwide.”


[1] The only stars closer to the Sun make up the triple star system Alpha Centauri. In 2016, astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth in this system, Proxima Centauri. That planet lies just over 4 light-years from Earth, and was discovered by a team led by Guillem Anglada Escudé.

[2] The total velocity of Barnard’s Star with respect to the Sun is about 500 000 km/h. Despite this blistering pace, it is not the fastest known star. What makes the star’s motion noteworthy is how fast it appears to move across the night sky as seen from the Earth, known as its apparent motion. Barnard’s Star travels a distance equivalent to the Moon's diameter across the sky every 180 years — while this may not seem like much, it is by far the fastest apparent motion of any star.

[3] The facilities used in this research were: HARPS at the ESO 3.6-metre telescope; UVES at the ESO VLT; HARPS-N at the Telescopio Nazionale Galileo; HIRES at the Keck 10-metre telescope; PFS at the Carnegie’s Magellan 6.5-m telescope; APF at the 2.4-m telescope at Lick Observatory; and CARMENES at the Calar Alto Observatory. Additionally, observations were made with the 90-cm telescope at the Sierra Nevada Observatory, the 40-cm robotic telescope at the SPACEOBS observatory, and the 80-cm Joan Oró Telescope of the Montsec Astronomical Observatory (OAdM).

[4] The story behind this discovery will be explored in more detail in this week’s ESOBlog:

More information:

This research was presented in the paper A super-Earth planet candidate orbiting at the snow-line of Barnard’s star published in the journal Nature on 15 November.

The team was composed of I. Ribas (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai, Spain & Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, Spain), M. Tuomi (Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom), A. Reiners (Institut für Astrophysik Göttingen, Germany), R. P. Butler (Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), J. C. Morales (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai, Spain & Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, Spain), M. Perger (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai, Spain & Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, Spain), S. Dreizler (Institut für Astrophysik Göttingen, Germany), C. Rodríguez-López (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain), J. I. González Hernández (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias Spain & Universidad de La Laguna, Spain), A. Rosich (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai, Spain & Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, Spain), F. Feng (Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom), T. Trifonov (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Germany), S. S. Vogt (Lick Observatory, University of California, USA), J. A. Caballero (Centro de Astrobiología, CSIC-INTA, Spain), A. Hatzes (Thüringer Landessternwarte, Germany), E. Herrero (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai, Spain & Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, Spain), S. V. Jeffers (Institut für Astrophysik Göttingen, Germany), M. Lafarga (Institut de Ciències de l’Espai, Spain & Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya, Spain), F. Murgas (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain & Universidad de La Laguna, Spain), R. P. Nelson (School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom), E. Rodríguez (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain), J. B. P. Strachan (School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom), L. Tal-Or (Institut für Astrophysik Göttingen, Germany & School of Geosciences, Tel-Aviv University, Israel), J. Teske (Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, USA & Hubble Fellow), B. Toledo-Padrón (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain & Universidad de La Laguna, Spain), M. Zechmeister (Institut für Astrophysik Göttingen, Germany), A. Quirrenbach (Landessternwarte, Universität Heidelberg, Germany), P. J. Amado (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain), M. Azzaro (Centro Astronómico Hispano-Alemán, Spain), V. J. S. Béjar (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain & Universidad de La Laguna, Spain), J. R. Barnes (School of Physical Sciences, The Open University, United Kingdom), Z. M. Berdiñas (Departamento de Astronomía, Universidad de Chile), J. Burt (Kavli Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA), G. Coleman (Physikalisches Institut, Universität Bern, Switzerland), M. Cortés-Contreras (Centro de Astrobiología, CSIC-INTA, Spain), J. Crane (The Observatories, Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), S. G. Engle (Department of Astrophysics & Planetary Science, Villanova University, USA), E. F. Guinan (Department of Astrophysics & Planetary Science, Villanova University, USA), C. A. Haswell (School of Physical Sciences, The Open University, United Kingdom), Th. Henning (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Germany), B. Holden (Lick Observatory, University of California, USA), J. Jenkins (Departamento de Astronomía, Universidad de Chile), H. R. A. Jones (Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom), A. Kaminski (Landessternwarte, Universität Heidelberg, Germany), M. Kiraga (Warsaw University Observatory, Poland), M. Kürster (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie, Germany), M. H. Lee (Department of Earth Sciences and Department of Physics, The University of Hong Kong), M. J. López-González (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain), D. Montes (Dep. de Física de la Tierra Astronomía y Astrofísica & Unidad de Física de Partículas y del Cosmos de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain), J. Morin (Laboratoire Univers et Particules de Montpellier, Université de Montpellier, France), A. Ofir (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Weizmann Institute of Science. Israel), E. Pallé (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain & Universidad de La Laguna, Spain), R. Rebolo (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain, & Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas & Universidad de La Laguna, Spain), S. Reffert (Landessternwarte, Universität Heidelberg, Germany), A. Schweitzer (Hamburger Sternwarte, Universität Hamburg, Germany), W. Seifert (Landessternwarte, Universität Heidelberg, Germany), S. A. Shectman (The Observatories, Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), D. Staab (School of Physical Sciences, The Open University, United Kingdom), R. A. Street (Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network, USA), A. Suárez Mascareño (Observatoire Astronomique de l'Université de Genève, Switzerland & Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias Spain), Y. Tsapras (Zentrum für Astronomie der Universität Heidelberg, Germany), S. X. Wang (Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, USA), and G. Anglada-Escudé (School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom & Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain).

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


ESOcast 184 Light: Super-Earth Orbiting Barnard’s Star:

Research paper:

Red Dots project:

Pale Red Dot campaign discovers Proxima Centauri b:

Red Dots:



ESO 3.6-metre telescope:



Telescopio Nazionale Galileo:

2.4-m telescope at Lick Observatory:

Calar Alto Observatory:

Sierra Nevada Observatory:

Joan Oró Telescope of the Montsec Astronomical Observatory (OAdM):

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/Calum Turner/Queen Mary University of London/Guillem Anglada-Escudé/Institut d’Estudis Espacials de Catalunya and the Institute of Space Sciences (CSIC)/Ignasi Ribas/M. Kornmesser/IAU and Sky & Telescope/Digitized Sky Survey 2 Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin/E — Red Dots/Videos: ESO/M. Kornmesser/L. Calçada/Vladimir Romanyuk ( Music: Astral Electronics.

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