vendredi 14 décembre 2018

NASA Seeks US Partners to Develop Reusable Systems to Land Astronauts on Moon

NASA logo.

Dec. 14, 2018

As the next major step to return astronauts to the Moon under Space Policy Directive-1, NASA announced plans on Dec. 13 to work with American companies to design and develop new reusable systems for astronauts to land on the lunar surface. The agency is planning to test new human-class landers on the Moon beginning in 2024, with the goal of sending crew to the surface in 2028.

Image above: Artist's concept of undocking Human Landing System from Lunar Orbital Outpost. Image Credit: NASA.

Through upcoming multi-phased lunar exploration partnerships, NASA will ask American companies to study the best approach to landing astronauts on the Moon and start the development as quickly as possible with current and future anticipated technologies.

“Building on our model in low-Earth orbit, we’ll expand our partnerships with industry and other nations to explore the Moon and advance our missions to farther destinations such as Mars, with America leading the way,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “When we send astronauts to the surface of the Moon in the next decade, it will be in a sustainable fashion.”

The agency’s leading approach to sending humans to the Moon is using a system of three separate elements that will provide transfer, landing, and safe return. A key aspect of this proposed approach is to use the Gateway for roundtrip journeys to and from the surface of the Moon.

Using the Gateway to land astronauts on the Moon allows the first building blocks for fully reusable lunar landers. Initially NASA expects two of the lander elements to be reusable and refueled by cargo ships carrying fuel from Earth to the Gateway. The agency is also working on technologies to make rocket propellants using water ice and regolith from the Moon.  Once the ability to harness resources from the Moon for propellant becomes viable, NASA plans to refuel these elements with the Moon’s own resources. This process, known as in-situ resource utilization or ISRU, will make the third element also refuelable and reusable.

NASA expects to publish a formal request for proposals to an appendix of the second Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) in early January.

According to the synopsis, NASA will fund industry-led development and flight demonstrations of lunar landers built for astronauts by supporting critical studies and risk reduction activities to advance technology requirements, tailor applicable standards, develop technology, and perform initial demonstrations by landing on the Moon.

Image above: Artist's concept of Human Landing System on the lunar surface with astronaut nearby. Image Credit: NASA.

When NASA again sends humans to the Moon, the surface will be buzzing with new research and robotic activity, and there will be more opportunities for discovery than ever before. Private sector innovation is key to these NASA missions, and the NextSTEP public-private partnership model is advancing capabilities for human spaceflight while stimulating commercial activities in space.

The President’s direction from Space Policy Directive-1 galvanizes NASA’s return to the Moon and builds on progress on the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft, efforts with commercial and international partners, and knowledge gained from current robotic presence at the Moon and Mars.

For more information about NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration plans, visit:

Related links:

Space Policy Directive-1:

Landing astronauts on the Moon:



Cargo ships carrying fuel:

Formal request for proposals:

Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Shanessa Jackson.

Best regards,

See a Passing Comet This Sunday

Asteroid Watch logo.

Dec. 14, 2018

Image above: This 120 second image of the comet was taken Dec. 2 by an iTelescope 50 mm refractor located at an observatory near Mayhill, New Mexico. The streak below the comet was produced by a rocket body (upper stage) passing through the telescope's field of view during the exposure. Image Credit: NASA.

On Sunday, Dec. 16, the comet known as 46P/Wirtanen will make one of the 10 closest comet flybys of Earth in 70 years, and you may even be able to see it without a telescope.

Although the approach will be a distant 7.1 million miles (11.4 million kilometers, or 30 lunar distances) from Earth, it's still a fairly rare opportunity. "This will be the closest comet Wirtanen has come to Earth for centuries and the closest it will come to Earth for centuries," said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. What's more, Chodas said, "This could be one of the brightest comets in years, offering astronomers an important opportunity to study a comet up close with ground-based telescopes, both optical and radar."

Comet Wirtanen has already been visible in larger amateur telescopes, and while the brightness of comets is notoriously difficult to predict, there is the possibility that during its close approach comet Wirtanen could be visible with binoculars or to the naked eye.

Comet. Animation Credit: NASA

Astronomer Carl Wirtanen discovered the comet in 1948 at Lick Observatory on Mt. Hamilton in Santa Clara County, California. With a width of 0.7 miles (1.1 kilometers), 46P/Wirtanen orbits the Sun fairly quickly for a comet — once every 5.4 years — making it a short-period comet. (Long-period comets, on the other hand, have orbital periods greater than 200 years.) At the time of closest approach, the comet will appear to be located in the constellation Taurus close to the Pleiades.

An observation campaign is underway to take advantage of the close approach for detailed scientific study of the properties of this "hyperactive" comet, which emits more water than expected, given its relatively small nucleus. The campaign, led by the University of Maryland, has worldwide participation across the professional and amateur astronomical communities. NASA-sponsored ground, air and space-based observatories getting in on the action include NASA's Goldstone Solar System Radar in California; the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility on Maunakea, Hawaii; the Hubble, Chandra, Swift and Spitzer space telescopes; and an airborne observatory known as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). The comet will even pass through the observing field of the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

The Comet Wirtanen Observing Campaign website is:

Amateur imagery is available on multiple websites, including:

A NASA ScienceCast on Comet Wirtanen is available at:

JPL hosts the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) for NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program, an element of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office within the agency's Science Mission Directorate. Along with the resources NASA puts into understanding asteroids and comets, the Planetary Defense Coordination Office partners with other U.S. government agencies, university-based astronomers and space science institutes across the country. It also collaborates with international space agencies and institutions that are working to track and better understand these smaller objects of the solar system. In addition, NASA values the work of numerous highly skilled amateur astronomers, whose accurate observational data help improve comet and asteroid orbits after discovery.

More information about CNEOS, asteroids and near-Earth objects can be found at:

For more information about NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, visit:

NASA Infrared Telescope Facility:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/JoAnna Wendel/Tony Greicius/JPL/DC Agle​.


Cosmic Fountain Powered by Giant Black Hole

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Dec. 14, 2018

Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO/G. Tremblay et al; Radio:ALMA: ESO/NAOJ/NRAO/G.Tremblay et al, NRAO/AUI/NSF/B.Saxton; Optical: ESO/VLT.

Before electrical power became available, water fountains worked by relying on gravity to channel water from a higher elevation to a lower one. This water could then be redirected to shoot out of the fountain and create a centerpiece for people to admire.

In space, awesome gaseous fountains have been discovered in the centers of galaxy clusters. One such fountain is in the cluster Abell 2597. There, vast amounts of gas fall toward a supermassive black hole, where a combination of gravitational and electromagnetic forces sprays most of the gas away from the black hole in an ongoing cycle lasting tens of millions of years.

Scientists used data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the Multi-Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE) on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to find the first clear evidence for the simultaneous inward and outward flow of gas being driven by a supermassive black hole.

Cold gas falls toward the central black hole, like water entering the pump of a fountain. Some of this infalling gas (seen in the image as ALMA data in yellow) eventually reaches the vicinity of the black hole, where the black hole's gravity causes the gas to swirl around with ever-increasing speeds, and the gas is heated to temperatures of millions of degrees. This swirling motion also creates strong electromagnetic forces that launch high-velocity jets of particles that shoot out of the galaxy.

These jets push away huge amounts of hot gas detected by Chandra (purple) surrounding the black hole, creating enormous cavities that expand away from the center of the cluster. The expanding cavities also lift up clumps of warm and cold gas and carry them away from the black hole, as observed in the MUSE/VLT data (red).

Chandra X-ray Observatory. Animation Credit: NASA/CXC

Eventually this gas slows down and the gravitational pull of material in the center of the galaxy causes the gas to rain back in on the black hole, repeating the entire process.

A substantial fraction of the three billion solar masses of gas are pumped out by this fountain and form a filamentary nebula — or cosmic "spray" — that spans the innermost 100,000 light years of the galaxy.

These observations agree with predictions of models describing how matter falling towards black holes can generate powerful jets. Galaxy clusters like Abell 2597, containing thousands of galaxies, hot gas, and dark matter, are some of the largest structures in the entire Universe. Abell 2597 is located about 1.1 billion light years from Earth.

A paper by Grant Tremblay (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) et al. describing these results appeared in the September 18, 2018 issue of The Astrophysical Journal ( NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

Read more from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory:

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit:

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lee Mohon.


Chang'e-4 Probe Enters Lunar Orbit

CLEP - China Lunar Exploration Program logo.

14 December 2018

China's Chang'e-4 probe decelerated and entered the lunar orbit Wednesday, completing a vital step on its way to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.

Chang'e-4 probe reach the Moon

After flying about 110 hours from earth, an engine on the probe was ignited when it was 129 km above the surface of the moon, in line with instructions sent from a control center in Beijing at 4:39 p.m., and then the probe slowed and entered an elliptical lunar orbit with the perilune at about 100 km at 4:45 p.m., said CNSA.

The probe, including a lander and a rover, was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket last Saturday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province, opening a new chapter in lunar exploration.

As the rocket was able to send the probe into orbit precisely as planned, the control center only adjusted the probe's orbit once on Sunday and also canceled two pre-planned orbit trimmings before the near-moon deceleration, CNSA said.

Chang'e-4 Mission to the Moon

Next, the control center will adjust the probe's orbit around the moon and test the communication link between the probe and the relay satellite "Queqiao," which is operating in the halo orbit around the second Lagrangian (L2) point of the earth-moon system.

Afterward, the control center will choose a proper time to land the probe on the far side of the moon, according to CNSA.

CASC Press Release:

For more information about China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), visit:

For more information about China National Sapce Administration (CNSA):

Images, Text, Credits: CASC/CNSA/China Space News.


jeudi 13 décembre 2018

Crew Prepares to Split Up While Researching Space Biology

ISS - Expedition 57 Mission patch.

December 13, 2018

Half of the Expedition 57 crew is getting ready to depart International Space Station while the other half is getting used to life on orbit. Amidst those preparations, all six space residents are researching what microgravity does to their bodies while keeping the orbital lab in tip-top shape.

Image above: NASA astronauts Anne McClain (background) and Serena Auñón-Chancellor are pictured inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. McClain watches as Auñón-Chancellor trains on the robotics workstation ahead of the rendezvous and capture of the SpaceX Dragon cargo craft on Dec. 8, 2018. Image Credit: NASA.

Commander Alexander Gerst continues unpacking the Space Dragon cargo craft today with its near 5,700 pounds of science, supplies and hardware. The German astronaut from ESA (European Space Agency) is also packing the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship that will take him and two crewmates home next week. He’ll parachute to a landing aboard the Soyuz in Kazakhstan Dec. 20 at 12:03 a.m. EST with fellow crew members Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Sergey Prokopyev after 197 days in space.

Auñón-Chancellor spent Thursday working with a variety of research gear supporting space biology. She processed research samples today in the NanoRacks Plate Reader that enables pharmaceutical and biotechnology science in space. She also stowed biological samples in a science freezer for a cellular adaptation study.

Image above: Flying over Coral Sea, seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'569 Km/h, altitude: 410,81 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 December 13, 2018 at 21:11 UTC. Image Credits: Aerospace/Roland Berga.

The newest trio aboard the station that arrived last week are hard at work today on human research and getting up to speed on station systems. Flight Engineers Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques collected blood and urine samples to be analyzed for the Biochemical Profile space adaptation study. The duo also scheduled some time today to get used to life in space. Four-time station cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko joined Prokopyev for more spacesuit maintenance after Tuesday’s spacewalk.

Related links:

Expedition 57:

NanoRacks Plate Reader:

Cellular adaptation:

Biochemical Profile:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Four NASA-Sponsored Experiments Set to Launch on Virgin Galactic Spacecraft

Virgin Galactic logo.

Dec. 13, 2018

A winged spacecraft will soon take off with four NASA-supported technology experiments onboard. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will separate from the WhiteKnightTwo twin-fuselage carrier aircraft and continue its rocket-powered test flight.

Image above: Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo conducted a supersonic test flight in July 2018. Image Credit: Virgin Galactic.

The flight, scheduled for no earlier than Dec. 13, is Virgin Galactic’s first mission for NASA. The agency’s Flight Opportunities program helped the four experiments hitch a ride on SpaceShipTwo. The program purchased flight services, the accommodation and ride, from Virgin Galactic for the payloads. During the flight, the payloads will collect valuable data needed to mature the technologies for use on future missions.

“The anticipated addition of SpaceShipTwo to a growing list of commercial vehicles supporting suborbital research is exciting,” said Ryan Dibley, Flight Opportunities campaign manager at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. “Inexpensive access to suborbital space greatly benefits the technology research and broader spaceflight communities.”

NASA’s investment in the growing suborbital space industry and strong economy in low-Earth orbit allows the agency to focus on farther horizons. NASA will venture forward to the Moon – this time to stay, in a measured, sustainable fashion - in order to develop new opportunities and prepare for astronauts to explore Mars.

Animation above: Video of the Physics of Regolith Impacts in Microgravity Experiment, or PRIME, to study the response of asteroidal or lunar regolith in reduced gravity conditions on parabolic airplane flights. The Collisions Into Dust Experiment, or COLLIDE, studies the same phenomena but with longer duration and better quality microgravity on a suborbital flight. Data collected onboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will help the experiment obtain data from slower impacts as well as study the behavior of the regolith and ejecta after the impact. Animation Credits: Josh Colwell/University of Central Florida.

The planned technology demonstrations onboard SpaceShipTwo could prove useful for exploration missions. For Principal Investigator Josh Colwell at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, the Virgin Galactic flight will help further refine the Collisions Into Dust Experiment (COLLIDE). The experiment aims to map the behavior of dust particles on planetary surfaces. Suborbital flights let Colwell and his team gather data useful for designing exploration architectures at the Moon, Mars and beyond.

The presence of dust on asteroids and moons with low surface gravity introduces challenges for both human and robotic missions. Particles can damage hardware and contaminate habitats. Understanding dust dynamics could help NASA design better tools and systems for exploration missions.

On this microgravity flight, COLLIDE will simulate the dusty surface of an asteroid and a surface impact. The experiment will collect high-quality video of the dust dispersing.

“We want to see how dust in microgravity behaves when it’s disturbed. How fast will it fly around? How careful do you have to be to avoid disturbing the surface too much? If you have a hard landing and disturb the surface a lot, how long will you have to wait for the dust to clear?” Colwell explained.

Here on Earth, this isn’t as much of a concern. Colwell explained that in space, where the absence of gravity complicates every task at hand, such considerations are significant for mission planning.

Image above: The Vibration Isolation Platform from Controlled Dynamics Inc. has completed five successful Flight Opportunities-sponsored flights on suborbital reusable launch vehicles (sRLVs). The scheduled flight on SpaceShipTwo will mark its sixth. Image Credit: Controlled Dynamics Inc.

“If you have a small dust disturbance and can work around it, great. If the dust particles have enough speed, they can contaminate and stick to equipment well above the surface, posing problems for safety as well as mission success,” Colwell said.

COLLIDE data collected on its first to suborbital space, as well as data from a related experiment previously tested on NASA-sponsored parabolic aircraft flights, could help future human and robotic explorers throughout the solar system. The other technology payloads slated for the SpaceShipTwo flight are:

- Microgravity Multi-Phase Flow Experiment for Suborbital Testing
NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston
Life support systems are an integral part of a deep space habitation capability. They typically include processes where liquids and gases interact, therefore requiring special treatment in space. This two-phase system separates gas and liquid in microgravity. The technology could also be applied to in-situ resource utilization, power systems, propellant transfer and more.
- Validating Telemetric Imaging Hardware for Crew-Assisted and Crew-Autonomous Biological Imaging in Suborbital Applications
University of Florida in Gainesville
In order to live in deep space, astronauts will have to grow their own food. This experiment studies how microgravity affects plant growth. The experiment uses a biological fluorescent imaging instrument designed to collect data on the biological response of a plant, or plant tissue.
- Vibration Isolation Platform
Controlled Dynamics Inc. in Huntington Beach, California
Spacecraft and payloads are subject to intense launch environments. This mounting interface for orbital and suborbital vehicles is designed to lessen disturbances on payloads during launch, re-entry and landing.      

All four payloads are currently scheduled for future flight demonstrations, enabling researchers to gather additional data and mature their technologies.

About Flight Opportunities

The Flight Opportunities program is funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington and managed at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA's Ames Research Center in California's Silicon Valley manages the solicitation and selection of technologies to be tested and demonstrated on commercial flight vehicles.

Virgin Galactic and other U.S. commercial spaceflight providers are contracted to provide flight services to NASA for flight testing and technology demonstration. Researchers from academia and industry with concepts for exploration, commercial space applications or other space utilization technologies of potential interest to NASA can receive grants from the Flight Opportunities program to purchase suborbital flights from these and other U.S. commercial spaceflight providers. The next solicitation for potential payloads is anticipated for release in January 2019. For information about current opportunities, visit:

Editor’s Note:

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo successfully flew to suborbital space Dec. 13 with four NASA-supported technology payloads onboard. The rocket motor burned for 60 seconds, taking the piloted spacecraft and payloads beyond the mission’s 50-mile altitude target.

Space Technology Mission Directorate:

Armstrong Flight Research Center:

Ames Research Center:

Virgin Galactic:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Clare Skelly/Loura Hall/Armstrong Flight Research Center/Leslie Williams.


Mars InSight Lander Seen in First Images from Space

NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) logo.

Dec. 13, 2018

Image above: NASA's InSight spacecraft, its heat shield and its parachute were imaged on Dec. 6 and 11 by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

On Nov. 26, NASA's InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight's exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful camera onboard another NASA spacecraft, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The InSight lander, its heat shield and parachute were spotted by HiRISE (which stands for High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) in one set of images last week on Dec. 6, and again on Tuesday, Dec. 11. The lander, heat shield and parachute are within 1,000 feet (several hundred meters) of one another on Elysium Planitia, the flat lava plain selected as InSight's landing location.

Image above: NASA's InSight lander on the surface of Mars imaged by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

Image above: NASA's InSight parachute on the surface of Mars imaged by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

Image above: NASA's InSight heat shield on the surface of Mars imaged by the HiRISE camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

In images released today, the three new features on the Martian landscape appear teal. That's not their actual color: Light reflected off their surfaces causes the color to be saturated. The ground around the lander appears dark, having been blasted by its retrorockets during descent. Look carefully for a butterfly shape, and you can make out the lander's solar panels on either side.

This isn't the first time HiRISE has photographed a Mars lander. InSight is based largely on 2008's Phoenix spacecraft, which the camera aboard MRO captured on the surface of Mars as well as descending on its parachute. While the HiRISE team at the University of Arizona also tried to take an image of InSight during landing, MRO was at a much less opportune angle and wasn't able to take a good picture.

Image above: An annotated image of the surface of Mars, taken by the HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) on May 30, 2014. The annotations — added after InSight landed on Nov. 26, 2018 — display the locations of NASA's InSight lander, its heat shield and parachute. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

About InSight

JPL manages InSight for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA's Discovery Program, managed by the agency's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the InSight spacecraft, including its cruise stage and lander, and supports spacecraft operations for the mission.

A number of European partners, including France's Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES and the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP) provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany, the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) in Switzerland, Imperial College and Oxford University in the United Kingdom, and JPL. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument, with significant contributions from the Space Research Center (CBK) of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Astronika in Poland. Spain’s Centro de Astrobiología (CAB) supplied the wind sensors.

Image above: The red dot marks the final landing location of NASA's InSight lander in this annotated image of the surface of Mars, taken by the THEMIS camera on NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter in 2015. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU.

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

Related links:

InSight Mars Lander:


Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO):

2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter:

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


In Search of Missing Worlds, Hubble Finds a Fast Evaporating Exoplanet

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Dec. 13, 2018

Fishermen would be puzzled if they netted only big and little fish, but few medium-sized fish. Astronomers likewise have been perplexed in conducting a census of star-hugging extrasolar planets. They have found hot Jupiter-sized planets and hot super-Earths (planets no more than 1.5 times Earth's diameter). These planets are scorching hot because they orbit very close to their star. But so-called "hot Neptunes," whose atmospheres are heated to more than 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, have been much harder to find. In fact, only about a handful of hot Neptunes have been found so far.

In fact, most of the known Neptune-sized exoplanets are merely "warm," because they orbit farther away from their star than those in the region where astronomers would expect to find hot Neptunes. The mysterious hot-Neptune deficit suggests that such alien worlds are rare, or, they were plentiful at one time, but have since disappeared.

Image above: This graphic plots exoplanets based on their size and distance from their star. Each dot represents an exoplanet. Planets the size of Jupiter (located at the top of the graphic) and planets the size of Earth and so-called super-Earths (at the bottom) are found both close to and far from their star. But planets the size of Neptune (in the middle of the plot) are scarce close to their star. This so-called desert of hot Neptunes shows that such alien worlds are rare, or, they were plentiful at one time, but have since disappeared. The detection that GJ 3470b, a warm Neptune at the border of the desert, is fast losing its atmosphere suggests that hotter Neptunes may have eroded down to smaller, rocky super-Earths.
Image Credits: NASA, ESA and A. Feild (STScI).

A few years ago astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope found that one of the warmest known Neptunes (GJ 436b) is losing its atmosphere. The planet isn't expected to evaporate away, but hotter Neptunes might not have been so lucky.

Now, astronomers have used Hubble to nab a second "very warm" Neptune (GJ 3470b) that is losing its atmosphere at a rate 100 times faster than that of GJ 436b. Both planets reside about 3.7 million miles from their star. That's one-tenth the distance between our solar system's innermost planet, Mercury, and the Sun.

"I think this is the first case where this is so dramatic in terms of planetary evolution," said lead researcher Vincent Bourrier of the University of Geneva in Sauverny, Switzerland. "It's one of the most extreme examples of a planet undergoing a major mass-loss over its lifetime. This sizable mass loss has major consequences for its evolution, and it impacts our understanding of the origin and fate of the population of exoplanets close to their stars."

As with the previously discovered evaporating planets, the star's intense radiation heats the atmosphere to a point where it escapes the planet's gravitational pull like an untethered hot air balloon. The escaping gas forms a giant cloud around the planet that dissipates into space. One reason why GJ 3470b may be evaporating faster than GJ 436b is that it is not as dense, so it is less able to gravitationally hang on to the heated atmosphere.

Image above: This artist's illustration shows a giant cloud of hydrogen streaming off a warm, Neptune-sized planet just 97 light-years from Earth. The exoplanet is tiny compared to its star, a red dwarf named GJ 3470. The star's intense radiation is heating the hydrogen in the planet's upper atmosphere to a point where it escapes into space. The alien world is losing hydrogen at a rate 100 times faster than a previously observed warm Neptune whose atmosphere is also evaporating away. Image Credit: NASA, ESA and D. Player (STScI).

What's more, the star hosting GJ 3470b is only 2 billion years old, compared to the 4-billion- to 8-billion-year-old star that planet GJ 436b orbits. The younger star is more energetic, so it bombards the planet with more blistering radiation than GJ 436b receives. Both are red dwarf stars, which are smaller and longer-lived than our Sun.

Uncovering two evaporating warm Neptunes reinforces the idea that the hotter version of these distant worlds may be a class of transitory planet whose ultimate fate is to shrink down to the most common type of known exoplanet, mini-Neptunes—planets with heavy, hydrogen-dominated atmospheres that are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. Eventually, these planets may downsize even further to become super-Earths, more massive, rocky versions of Earth.

"The question has been, where have the hot Neptunes gone?" said Bourrier. "If we plot planetary size and distance from the star, there's a desert, a hole, in that distribution. That's been a puzzle. We don't really know how much the evaporation of the atmospheres played in forming this desert. But our Hubble observations, which show a large amount of mass loss from a warm Neptune at the edge of the desert, is a direct confirmation that atmospheric escape plays a major role in forming this desert."

The researchers used Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph to detect the ultraviolet-light signature of hydrogen in a huge cocoon surrounding the planet as it passed in front of its star. The intervening cocoon of hydrogen filters out some of the starlight. These results are interpreted as evidence of the planet's atmosphere bleeding off into space.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

The team estimates that the planet has lost as much as 35 percent of its material over its lifetime, because it was probably losing mass at a faster rate when its red-dwarf star was younger and emitting even more radiation. If the planet continues to rapidly lose material, it will shrink down to a mini-Neptune in a few billion years.

Hydrogen probably isn't the only element evaporating away: it may be a tracer for other material streaming off into space. The researchers plan to use Hubble to hunt for elements heavier than hydrogen and helium that have hitched a ride with the hydrogen gas to escape the planet. "We think that the hydrogen gas could be dragging heavy elements such as carbon, which reside deeper in the atmosphere, upward and out into space," Bourrier said.

The observations are part of the Panchromatic Comparative Exoplanet Treasury (PanCET) survey, a Hubble program to look at 20 exoplanets, mostly hot Jupiters, in the first large-scale ultraviolet, visible and infrared comparative study of distant worlds.

Observing the evaporation of these two warm Neptunes is encouraging, but team members know they need to study more of them to confirm predictions. Unfortunately, there may be no other planets of this class residing close enough to Earth to observe. The problem is that hydrogen gas cannot be detected in warm Neptunes farther away than 150 light-years from Earth because it is obscured by interstellar gas. GJ 3470b resides 97 light-years away.

However, helium is another tracer for material escaping a warm Neptune's atmosphere. Astronomers could use Hubble and the upcoming NASA James Webb Space Telescope to search in infrared light for helium, because it is not blocked by interstellar material in space.

"Looking for helium could expand our survey range," Bourrier said. "Webb will have incredible sensitivity, so we would be able to detect helium escaping from smaller planets, such as mini-Neptunes."

The researcher's paper will appear in the Dec. 13 issue of Astronomy and Astrophysics:

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.

Science paper by V. Bourrier et al.:

For NASA's Hubble website, visit:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Space Telescope Science Institute/Donna Weaver/Ray Villard/University of Geneva, Sauverny, Switzerland/Vincent Bourrier.

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Preparing for Discovery With NASA's Parker Solar Probe

NASA - Parker Solar Probe patch.

Dec. 13, 2018

Weeks after Parker Solar Probe made the closest-ever approach to a star, the science data from the first solar encounter is just making its way into the hands of the mission's scientists. It's a moment many in the field have been anticipating for years, thinking about what they'll do with such never-before-seen data, which has the potential to shed new light on the physics of our star, the Sun.

On Dec. 12, 2018, four such researchers gathered at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Washington, D.C., to share what they hope to learn from Parker Solar Probe.

Image above: Illustration of Parker Solar Probe at the Sun. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

"Heliophysicists have been waiting more than 60 years for a mission like this to be possible," said Nicola Fox, director of the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. Heliophysics is the study of the Sun and how it affects space near Earth, around other worlds and throughout the solar system. "The solar mysteries we want to solve are waiting in the corona."

From Oct. 31 to Nov. 11, 2018, Parker Solar Probe completed its first solar encounter phase, speeding through the Sun's outer atmosphere — the corona — and collecting unprecedented data with four suites of cutting-edge instruments.

Parker Solar Probe is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind — the Sun's constant outpouring of material — in 1958.

"This is the first NASA mission to be named for a living individual," said Fox. "Gene Parker’s revolutionary paper predicted the heating and expansion of the corona and solar wind. Now, with Parker Solar Probe we are able to truly understand what drives that constant flow out to the edge of the heliosphere.”

Our Sun's influence is far-reaching. The solar wind, its outflow of material, fills up the inner part of our solar system, creating a bubble that envelops the planets and extends far past the orbit of Neptune. Embedded in its energized particles and solar material, the solar wind carries with it the Sun's magnetic field. Additional one-off eruptions of solar material called coronal mass ejections also carry this solar magnetic field — and in both cases, this magnetized material can interact with Earth's natural magnetic field and cause geomagnetic storms. Such storms can trigger the aurora or even power outages, and other types of solar activity can cause communications problems, disrupt satellite electronics and even endanger astronauts — especially beyond the protective bubble of Earth's magnetic field.

Animation above: The solar wind, the Sun's outflow of material, along with one-off eruptions of solar material called coronal mass ejections carry the Sun's magnetic field out through the heliosphere, producing space weather effects on Earth and other worlds. Animation Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scientific Visualization Studio/Greg Shirah.

Other worlds in our solar system experience their own versions of these effects, and far beyond the planets, the Sun's material butts up against the interstellar medium, which fills the space between the stars. The interaction in this region plays a role in how often high-energy galactic cosmic rays shoot into our solar system. All of these effects result from complicated systems — but they all start back at the Sun, making it critical to grasp the fundamental physics that drive our star's activity.

Parker Solar Probe is designed to address three major questions about the physics of the Sun. First: How is the Sun's outer atmosphere, the corona, heated to temperatures about 300 times higher than the visible surface below? Second — how is the solar wind accelerated so quickly to the high speeds we observe? And finally, how do some of the Sun's most energetic particles rocket away from the Sun at more than half the speed of light?

"Parker Solar Probe is providing us with the measurements essential to understanding solar phenomena that have been puzzling us for decades," said Nour Raouafi, Parker Solar Probe project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. "To close the link, local sampling of the solar corona and the young solar wind is needed and Parker Solar Probe is doing just that."

Parker's instruments are designed to look at these phenomena in question in ways that haven't been possible before, giving scientists the opportunity to make new strides in the study of the solar atmosphere.

For instance, Parker Solar Probe's imagers, in the WISPR suite, will have a new perspective on the young solar wind, capturing a view of how it evolves as Parker Solar Probe travels through the solar corona.

The spacecraft's ISʘIS suite will help scientists dig down into the causes of energetic particle acceleration. Right now, theories diverge on how solar energetic particles are accelerated within the thin shock wave structures usually driven by fast coronal mass ejections — but energetic particle measurements gathered as the spacecraft travels through such waves will help shed light on this problem.

The electric field antennas of the spacecraft's FIELDS instrument suite can pick up radio bursts that could shed light on the causes of coronal heating.

Image above: This image from Parker Solar Probe's WISPR (Wide-field Imager for Solar Probe) instrument shows a coronal streamer, seen over the east limb of the Sun on Nov. 8, 2018, at 1:12 a.m. EST. Coronal streamers are structures of solar material within the Sun's atmosphere, the corona, that usually overlie regions of increased solar activity. The fine structure of the streamer is very clear, with at least two rays visible. Parker Solar Probe was about 16.9 million miles from the Sun's surface when this image was taken. The bright object near the center of the image is Mercury, and the dark spots are a result of background correction. Image Credits: NASA/Naval Research Laboratory/Parker Solar Probe.

The Solar Probe Cup instrument — which extends beyond the spacecraft's heat shield and is exposed to the full solar environment — measures the thermal properties of different ion species in the solar wind. Coupled with data from the FIELDS suite, these measurements could help reveal how the solar wind is heated and accelerated.

The science team also expects to be surprised by some of what they learn.

"We don't know what to expect so close to the Sun until we get the data, and we'll probably see some new phenomena," said Raouafi. "Parker is an exploration mission — the potential for new discoveries is huge."

Parker Solar Probe's reports indicate that good science data was collected during the first solar encounter, and the data itself began downlinking to Earth on Dec. 7. Because of the relative positions of Parker Solar Probe, the Sun and Earth and their effects on radio transmission, some of the science data from this encounter will not downlink until after the mission's second solar encounter in April 2019.

Parker Solar Probe at the Sun. Animation Credit: NASA

The mission team did get a chance for some real-world instrument tests during Parker Solar Probe's Venus flyby in September 2018. Parker Solar Probe made a close pass at the planet while performing a gravity assist to draw its orbit closer to the Sun. Though not expected to study the environment around Venus, Parker's instruments successfully recorded data, giving scientists an early look at what their instruments are capable of in the harsh environment of space.

As the newest addition to NASA's fleet of heliophysics missions, Parker Solar Probe works alongside prolific solar and heliospheric research satellites like NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory and the Advanced Composition Explorer. For years — or decades, in some cases — these observatories have scrutinized the Sun and its outflowing material, changing the way we see our star. But they are limited by where they live.

Even as Parker uncovers new information, scientists working with its data will rely on the rest of NASA's heliophysics fleet to put those details in context.

"Parker Solar Probe is going to a region we've never visited before," said Terry Kucera, a solar physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "Meanwhile, from a distance, we can observe the Sun's corona, which is driving the complex environment around Parker Solar Probe."

Animation above: This video clip shows actual data from NASA's Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory Ahead (STEREO-A) spacecraft, along with the location of Parker Solar Probe as it flies through the Sun’s outer atmosphere during its first solar encounter phase in November 2018. Such images will allow us to provide key context for understanding Parker Solar Probe's observations. Image Credits: NASA/STEREO.

The distinct perspectives of these observatories should be a boon for contextualizing Parker's observations. While SDO is in geosynchronous Earth orbit, STEREO orbits the Sun at slightly less than 1 AU — one astronomical unit is the average distance between Earth and the Sun — making it just a little bit faster than Earth. That means STEREO usually observes the Sun from a different angle than we do here on Earth. Along with Parker's measurements close to the Sun and often from a different angle than any of our other satellites, this will give scientists a fuller picture of how solar events change and develop as they propagate out into the solar system.

"The STEREO mission is all about observing the heliosphere from different locations and Parker is a part of that – making measurements from a perspective we've never had before,” said Kucera.

Modeling is another critical tool for painting the complete picture around Parker's observations.

"Our simulation results provide a way to interpret both the localized measurements from the in situ instruments, like FIELDS and SWEAP, as well the more global images produced by WISPR," said Pete Riley, a research scientist at Predictive Science Inc., in San Diego, California.

Image above: Parker Solar Probe will give scientists another new perspective on the Sun, joining those from other Sun-observing spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Models are a good way to test theories about the underlying physics of the Sun. By creating a simulation that relies on a certain mechanism to explain coronal heating — for instance, a certain kind of plasma wave called an Alfvén wave — scientists can check the model's prediction against actual data from Parker Solar Probe to see if they line up. If they do, that means the underlying theory may be what's actually happening.

"We’ve had a lot of success predicting the structure of the solar corona during total solar eclipses," said Riley. "Parker Solar Probe will provide unprecedented measurements that will further constrain the models and the theory that’s embedded within them."

Parker Solar Probe is in a unique position to help improve models — in part because of its record-breaking speed.

The Sun rotates about once every 27 days as viewed from Earth, and the solar structures that drive much of its activity move along with it. That creates a problem for scientists, who can't always tell if the variability they see is driven by actual changes to the region producing the activity — temporal variation — or is caused by simply receiving solar material from a new source region — spatial variation.

Animation above: Numerical models provide a global context for interpreting Parker Solar Probe observations. This animation is from a model showing how the solar wind flows out from the Sun, with the perspective of Parker Solar Probe’s WISPR instrument overlaid. Animation Credits: Predictive Science Inc.

For part of its orbit, Parker Solar Probe will outrun that problem. At certain points, Parker Solar Probe is traveling fast enough to almost exactly match the Sun's rotational speed, meaning that Parker "hovers" over one area of the Sun for a short amount of time. Scientists can be certain that changes in data during this period are caused by actual changes on the Sun, rather than the Sun's rotation.

Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed, built and operates the spacecraft.

Related links:

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO):

Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO):

Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE):

Parker Solar Probe:

Animations (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Sarah Frazier.


An astronaut returns to Earth

ESA - European Astronauts patch.

13 December 2018

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will return to Earth alongside NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Prokopiev on 20 December. After more than six months living and working on the International Space Station, their Soyuz is expected to touch down in Kazakhstan at around 05:06 GMT (06:06 CET).

Soyuz undocking, reentry and landing explained

The trio’s journey from the Space Station to Earth will take approximately three hours, during which the speed of their Soyuz capsule will reduce from 28 000 to 0 km/h.

It will be a bumpy ride as they reenter the atmosphere and jettison parts of their spacecraft. Parachutes will deploy and retrorockets will fire an instant before touchdown to slow the capsule for a dramatic but safe landing.

Alexander upon return from his Blue Dot mission in 2014

Once the Soyuz lands, ground teams from Russia, ESA and NASA will help the astronauts out of their capsule and into chairs. From there, ESA flight surgeons and crew support teams will step in to take good care of Alexander’s health, comfort and safety as he his flies back to Cologne, Germany.

From Kazakhstan to Cologne

Once Alexander has passed medical checks, he will be helicoptered to Karaganda, Kazakhstan, where he will take part in a traditional welcoming ceremony alongside Serena and Sergei before boarding a NASA plane to Norway with Serena while Sergei heads to Star City near Moscow, Russia.

Alexander will say farewell to Serena in Norway as he is transferred to an awaiting ESA plane. This marks the final leg of Alexander’s journey to Cologne.

ESA flight surgeon Sergi Vaquer says there are a number of medical considerations when returning an astronaut to Earth. These include cardiovascular issues, weakened bones, muscle loss, and vestibular disturbances which can cause a loss of balance and feelings of nausea. An astronaut’s immune system may also be compromised, so it is important to follow strict hygiene procedures and avoid contact with anyone who may be unwell.

Serena tests Alexander's muscle tone

In spite of this, Sergi says ESA astronauts come back in good health and he expects Alexander to readapt quickly to life on Earth.

“I believe the reason our astronauts are in such good shape when they return is because they prepare so intensely before their mission, but also thanks to the physical exercise programme they undergo while in orbit,” Sergi says. “Exercise is a key medical countermeasure and ESA’s specialists play a vital role in helping the astronaut reduce many negative effects of spaceflight.”

A team effort

Upon his return, Alexander will undertake a minimum 21 days of rehabilitation under the care of ESA doctors and exercise specialists, supported by facilities at the German Aerospace Centre’s state-of-the-art ‘:envihab’ facility, next to ESA’s astronaut centre.

He will also continue to provide data for researchers as he completes ground-based sessions of experiments performed on the Station.


ESA project manager of Alexander’s return to Europe Stephane Ghiste says this demonstrates the way in which many different teams work together to ensure an astronaut's safe return.

“These kinds of operations are only possible thanks to the cooperation and dedication of several ESA teams including space medicine, crew support, training, communication and the EAC office in Star City, Moscow, as well as close collaboration with our external partners NASA, Roscosmos and German Aerospace Centre – DLR,” he adds.

Follow the live transmission of Alexander’s landing from 04:30–05:45 GMT (05:30–06:45 CET):

Related links:

Space Station live:

Where is the International Space Station?:

German Aerospace Center DLR:

Human Spaceflight:

ESA's Astronauts:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/S. Corvaja, 2014/NASA/Andreas Schütz.


mercredi 12 décembre 2018

Well Rested Crew Moves To Human Research, Departure Preps After Spacewalk

ISS - Expedition 57 Mission patch.

December 12, 2018

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

The Expedition 57 crew were allowed to catch a few extra hours of sleep today after a lengthy spacewalk Tuesday by the two cosmonauts on board. They then went to work on a variety of microgravity science and lab maintenance aboard the International Space Station.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev performed routine maintenance on their Russian Orlan spacesuits after a seven-hour, 45-minute spacewalk to inspect the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship docked to the station. The duo took detailed photos and captured video of some of the sealant on the outer hull of the Habitation Module used in the repair of a hole discovered inside the vehicle in August.

The other four orbital residents also put in a good night’s sleep after supporting the eighth spacewalk at the station this year. The quartet moved headlong into human research and departure preps after waking up a few hours later than usual today.

Image above: NASA astronauts Serena Auñón-Chancellor (background) and Anne McClain work inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module cleaning vents to maintain air circulation aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

Alexander Gerst and Serena Auñón-Chancellor drew their own blood samples today and processed them in the Human Research Facility’s centrifuge. The samples were then coagulated and stowed in a science freezer for later analysis. The Biochemical Profile is a long-running study on astronauts and is providing insight into the human body’s adaptation to living in space.

Gerst is also packing the Soyuz spacecraft that will take him, Auñón-Chancellor and Prokopyev back to Earth Dec. 19. This is the same spaceship that was inspected Tuesday by the two Russian spacewalkers.

The station’s newest astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are still getting used to their new home in space. The pair also went about the day working on a variety of maintenance and research.  McClain strapped on an armband monitoring how her body adapts to orbiting Earth 16 times a day after setting up research hardware for two separate experiments. Saint-Jacques deployed over a dozen radiation monitors throughout the station today before some light plumbing work with Gerst in the orbital restroom.

Related article:

Russian Spacewalkers Complete Crew Vehicle Inspection

Related links:

Expedition 57:

Soyuz MS-09:

Biochemical Profile:

Body adapts:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Seeking Answers in Cosmic Dust: Simulating our Solar System’s Formation

ISS - International Space Station logo.

Dec. 11, 2018

An investigation delivered to the International Space Station aboard Northrop Grumman’s tenth commercial resupply services mission (NG CRS-10) in November may help uncover the electrifying origins of our solar system. The Experimental Chondrule Formation on the ISS (EXCISS), housed in a NanoRacks container, aims to replicate chondrule formation as seen in the early solar system.

Image above: ARISE, EXCISS, and PAPELL NanoRacks Modules onboard the Space Station.
Image Credit: NASA.

Chondrules are tiny, sphere-like particles found in meteorites and asteroids, but their formation is still a mystery. Scientists suggest that lightning agitated dust particles in the early nebula that eventually became our solar system, providing the energy necessary for chondrule formation. To find evidence for or against this theory, this investigation simulates the electrical and environmental conditions similar to that of the early solar system.

The results could reveal new information about particle velocities and behavior. This information adds to our fundamental understanding of physics but may also be a leaping-off point for manufacturing processes that require a deeper understanding of microstructures. The research goes beyond any study of chondrules conducted on Earth.

Image above: European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst with the ARISE, EXCISS, and PAPELL NanoRacks modules. Image Credit: NASA.

Relying on microgravity to suspend a silicate dust within a gaseous glass chamber, lightning-like charges are sent through closely-placed electrodes inside the chamber to agitate the dust. Researchers expect free-floating particles to melt, collide and come together, forming aggregates that may melt and form chondrules when hit with additional electricity.

“Drop towers and parabolic flights do not simulate microgravity conditions long enough to allow larger chondrules to form,” said Dominik Spahr, who works with fellow EXCISS researchers Tamara Koch and David Merges from the University of Frankfurt and the nonprofit Hackerspace organization.

While the team tested many mockups, Sphar said, “The final chamber we’re sending up cannot be activated and tested on Earth. The gravity of our planet would interfere with results.”

Image above: Trial run of an electrode test chamber. Aboard the space station, lightning strikes within the chamber will agitate dust along the electrodes to create chondrules. Image Credit: Dominick Sphar.

The investigation opens new doors for chondrule research.

“It is very important to know how chondrules were formed because then we can explain so many other features that we see in meteorites and asteroids,” said Koch.

Theoretical investigations are critical building blocks for application-based research, and the answers derived from this investigation may greatly advance our fundamental understanding of some of the oldest materials in our solar system.

Related links:

NG CRS-10:



International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/International Space Station Program Science Office/Morgan McAllister.

Best regards,