samedi 6 juillet 2019

What’s happening to Greenland’s ice?

ESA - European Space Agency patch.

6 July 2019

Heatwave conditions catapulted Greenland into an early Arctic summer in June, prompting widespread melting across its icesheet surface, according to researchers at the Danish Meteorological Institute.

Although unusually early, this weather-related event is not unprecedented, according to climate scientist Dr Ruth Mottram, who has published a comprehensive assessment that details major longer-term changes occurring across the planet’s second largest icesheet, in the journal Remote Sensing.

Meltwater lake

The research, involving scientists from DMI, the Technical University of Denmark and the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, combined 30 years of satellite observations of the icesheet’s surface height, mass and movement with climate model output. Collectively this work provides a ‘health check on the icesheets current status and helps to establish the extent of ice loss due to surface melt or from other ocean processes, such as iceberg calving.

An average 255 gigatonnes of ice was lost each year from 2003 to 2016, according to the research team’s findings.

Worringly, the loss of ice shows a marked three-fold acceleration (83 Gt) compared to the preceding decade and consistent with similar studies at the North and South poles, and a potential concern for the international community.

Loss of land ice is a potential indicator of climate change and contributes directly to sea level rise, posing a risk to people living near the coast across the world.

“The Greenland losses have raised sea level by around half a millimeter each year over the observed period,” explains Dr Mottram. She also emphasises the importance of continuing monitoring as scientists are still yet to fully understand the reasons for interannual variability that they observe.

Changing Greenland icesheet height 1995-2017

Almost all of the ice loss was due to changes in surface mass budget, with thinning found virtually everywhere. At some locations, the icesheet surface decreased by over two and a half metres per year between 1995 and 2017 based on measurements using space-borne radar altimeters.

The researchers point to increased melting and changes in snowfall rates for the decrease.

“If an icesheet is to maintain its mass balance, or volume, we would expect to see the height increase at its centre due to snow accumulation. It is striking how this pattern has changed when comparing the early 1990s to the last few years,” explains Dr Mottram.

The rate of ice flow and iceberg calving of glaciers can also be measured from Space, with the study finding that all but one from a representative sample of 28 Greenland glaciers had substantially retreated since the 1990s.

Such changes were found in areas around Jakobshavn Isbrae in western Greenland and Helheim glacier in south east Greenland with the increase in ice flow pulling more ice out of the interior, contributing to a thinning of the icesheet.

The observational datasets used in this study have been developed through the European Space Agency’s Climate Change Initiative. Covering 21 key components of the Earth climate system, including information on the cryosphere and the Greenland icesheet, the continuous and long-term time series are generated by merging historic satellite missions with today’s current satellites, including the Copernicus Sentinels. Referred to as Essential Climate Variables, they provide the empirical evidence of a changing climate and support policy and decision-makers to address the consequences.

Ice velocity maps of Greenland

This latest study used these observations to validate and identify improvements to the existing climate and icesheet computer models, used to simulate the icesheet’s current state and predict how it may change into the future.

Despite huge strides being made in understanding the icesheet, the models and observations did not fully agree in certain areas, such as Southern Greenland, nor were the simulations able to fully capture the variability in year to year ice loss.

The authors emphasise the importance of continuing accurate monitoring of the icesheet to help investigate and model its dynamic processes and point to the Copernicus Sentinel satellites as game-changers.

“With Copernicus Sentinel-1 and -3, we are moving from only being able to take a short snapshot of icesheet flow speeds or calving front changes beginning to be able to monitor the Greenland icesheet remotely, in almost real time.

“We now get consistent, weekly repeat, and with such a richness of data we can more accurately understand how Greenland is responding to a changing environment.”

Related links:

Remote Sensing:

Observing the Earth:

Space for our climate:

Climate Change Initiative:




Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Nasa/Jim Yungel/Mottram et al.


vendredi 5 juillet 2019

Another successful launch from Vostochny Cosmodrome


July 05, 2019

Soyuz-2.1b launches Meteor-M No. 2-2 and 32 small satellites

Today, on July, 5 2019 at 08:41:46 Moscow time Soyuz 2.1b carrier rocket with Fregat booster was successfully launched from Vostochny Cosmodrome. The rocket carried Meteor-M Russian meteorological spacecraft No. 2-2 as well as 32 spacecraft as secondary payload. The injection into orbit took place during 4.5 hours after the launch.

The launch vehicle including Soyuz 2.1 (built by Progress Russian Space Center), Fregat booster (built by NPO Lavochkin) operated as expected. According to the flight program the booster put the main and secondary spacecraft into three different orbits. After the completion of the program the booster will be sunk in a non-navigable district of the Pacific ocean.

Soyuz-2.1b launches Meteor-M No. 2-2 and 32 small satellites

Meteor-M spacecraft No. 2-2 was built by VNIIEM Corporation and falls into the category of Earth remote sensing satellites. The spacecraft is capable of providing images of clouds, Earth surface, ice and snow cover in visible, infrared and microwave bands. It is also capable of receiving data about the sea surface temperature and ozone layer condition, as well as measuring humidity level. This data will help to improve weather forecast accuracy in Russia.

29 satellites were launched for Germany, France, USA, Israel, UK, Sweden, Finland, Thailand, Ecuador, Czech Republic and Estonia. Three Russian academic CubeSats were launched as well.

Meteor-M Russian meteorological spacecraft No. 2-2

To make the injection into orbit as precise and comfortable as possible, Fregat booster formed three various orbits depending on the spacecraft mission. The first orbit is a heliosynchronous one with the height of 828 kilometers and inclination of 98.57 degrees, the second one is 580 kilometers high and with the inclination of 97.7 degrees, the third orbit is 530 kilometers high with the inclination of 97.5 degrees. All the spacecraft separated from the booster as expected and will further be managed by the customer companies of the launch.

Roscosmos Press Release:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Роскосмос/ЦЭНКИ/SciNews/Wikipedia.

Best regards,

New Crew in Final Preps Before Historic July 20 Launch

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

July 5, 2019

The next crew to liftoff to the International Space Station arrived at the Baikonur Cosmodrome launch site on the U.S. Independence Day awaiting a historic July 20 liftoff.

New Expedition 60 crewmates Andrew Morgan, Luca Parmitano and Alexander Skvortsov are in final mission preparations in Kazakhstan. The trio arrived July 4 counting down to a July 20 launch to the orbiting lab 50 years to the NASA landed humans on the Moon for the first time.

Image above: Expedition 60 crewmembers (from left) Drew Morgan, Alexander Skvortsov and Luca Parmitano affix a crew insignia sticker to the hull of the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center aircraft as they flew to their training base in Kazakhstan July 4. Image Credit: NASA.

Morgan is going to space for the first time and will meet his fellow Class of 2013 NASA astronaut members, Christina Koch and Nick Hague, who have been at the station since March. Parmitano is on his second mission. Skvortsov, who is leading the mission aboard the Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft, is making his third visit to the space station.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Back aboard the station, the three orbiting Expedition 60 crewmembers continued science and maintenance duties. Koch sampled the station’s life support system for microbes while Hague serviced a specialized science furnace. Skvortsov checked on Russian station systems and monitored a radiation exposure study.

Related links:

Expedition 60:

Specialized science furnace:

Radiation exposure study:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Watches Stars in Bloom

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

July 5, 2019

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows bright, colorful pockets of star formation blooming like roses in a spiral galaxy named NGC 972.

The orange-pink glow is created as hydrogen gas reacts to the intense light streaming outwards from nearby newborn stars; these bright patches can be seen here amid dark, tangled streams of cosmic dust.

Astronomers look for these telltale signs of star formation when they study galaxies throughout the cosmos, as star formation rates, locations, and histories offer critical clues about how these colossal collections of gas and dust have evolved over time. New generations of stars contribute to — and are also, in turn, influenced by — the broader forces and factors that mold galaxies throughout the universe, such as gravity, radiation, matter, and dark matter.

German-British astronomer William Herschel is credited with the discovery of NGC 972 in 1784. Astronomers have since measured its distance, finding it to be just under 70 million light-years away.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: ESA (European Space Agency)/NASA/Rob Garner/Image, Animation, Credits: ESA/Hubble, NASA, L. Ho.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of July 1, 2019

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

July 5, 2019

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations last week that tracked radiation, studied heat transfer in space and supported future explorations. The current crew includes Expedition 60 Commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos and NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) are scheduled to join them on July 20 – the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. Research on the space station supports Artemis, NASA’s program to return humans to the Moon and establish a sustained presence there.

Here are details on some of the science conducted on the orbiting lab during the week of July 1:

A direct line to the space station

Image above: During an ISS HAM radio session, NASA astronaut Nick Hague answers questions from students on the ground. Image Credit: NASA.

Crew members conducted an ISS Ham session last week. Using amateur or ham radio, groups of students talk directly to the crew aboard the space station when it passes overhead. The students learn about the space station, radio waves, and other science and engineering topics and prepare questions before their scheduled calls. Hundreds more listen in from classrooms or auditoriums. This real-time contact with the orbiting lab sparks interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and inspires the next generation of explorers.

Tracking neutron radiation

The RADI N2 investigation seeks to better characterize the neutron radiation environment aboard the space station using bubble detectors attached to fixed locations and carried by crew members. The data could help define the risk that this type of radiation poses to crew members and support development of advanced protective measures for future spaceflight. The crew continued to deploy detectors on the space station last week.

A better way to keep cool

Image above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch demonstrates behavior of fluids in the microgravity environment aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

Last week, the crew conducted a session for the Two Phase Flow investigation, which examines the heat transfer characteristics of flow boiling in microgravity. Boiling removes heat by turning liquid into vapor at the heated surface. Returning that vapor to a liquid by way of a condenser creates a cooling system. In microgravity, though, liquid and bubble behaviors differ drastically from that on Earth. The investigation creates a database on the heat transfer efficiency of liquids in space that can inform design of thermal management systems for future spacecraft. It also can support development of improved cooling systems for hybrid cars and other electronics systems that generate high heat in small spaces on Earth.

Meeting the demand for small satellites

Image above: The sun glints off the Celebes Sea of Southeast Asia in this image captured as the space station flew 225 miles above Indonesia. Image Credit: NASA.

Crew members installed the NanoRacks External Cygnus CubeSat Deployer (extCygnus NRCSD), a stackable, modular case for launching small satellites. Each deployer accommodates up to eight launch cases, helping to meet the growing demand for this type of satellite for a variety of customers. The extCygnus NRCSD releases CubeSats from the Cygnus resupply vehicle after it completes its resupply mission and leaves the space station.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- The Veg-04A investigation focuses on how light quality and fertilizer affect growth of Mizuna mustard, a leafy green crop, as part of an effort to develop the capability to produce fresh food in space. It also looks at microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and the overall behavioral health benefits of having plants and fresh food in space:

- Team Task Switching looks at whether crew members have difficulty switching from one task to another and the effects of such switches to reduce negative consequences and improve individual and team motivation and effectiveness:

- The ISS Experience creates short virtual reality videos from footage taken during the yearlong investigation covering different aspects of crew life, execution of science, and the international partnerships involved on the space station:

- Standard Measures captures a consistent and simple set of measures from crew members throughout the ISS Program to characterize adaptive responses to and risks of living in space:

Space to Ground: On the Bubble: 07/05/2019

Related links:

Expedition 60:

ISS Ham:


Two Phase Flow:

NanoRacks External Cygnus CubeSat Deployer (extCygnus NRCSD):

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Vic Cooley, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 60.

Best regards,

X-rays Spot Spinning Black Holes Across Cosmic Sea

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

July 5, 2019

Like whirlpools in the ocean, spinning black holes in space create a swirling torrent around them. However, black holes do not create eddies of wind or water. Rather, they generate disks of gas and dust heated to hundreds of millions of degrees that glow in X-ray light.

Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and chance alignments across billions of light years, astronomers have deployed a new technique to measure the spin of five supermassive black holes. The matter in one of these cosmic vortices is swirling around its black hole at greater than about 70% of the speed of light.

The astronomers took advantage of a natural phenomenon called a gravitational lens. With just the right alignment, the bending of space-time by a massive object, such as a large galaxy, can magnify and produce multiple images of a distant object, as predicted by Einstein.

In this latest research, astronomers used Chandra and gravitational lensing to study six quasars, each consisting of a supermassive black hole rapidly consuming matter from a surrounding accretion disk. Gravitational lensing of the light from each of these quasars by an intervening galaxy has created multiple images of each quasar, as shown by these Chandra images of four of the targets. The sharp imaging ability of Chandra is needed to separate the multiple, lensed images of each quasar.

The key advance made by researchers in this study was that they took advantage of “microlensing,” where individual stars in the intervening, lensing galaxy provided additional magnification of the light from the quasar. A higher magnification means a smaller region is producing the X-ray emission.  

The researchers then used the property that a spinning black hole is dragging space around with it and allows matter to orbit closer to the black hole than is possible for a non-spinning black hole. Therefore, a smaller emitting region corresponding to a tight orbit generally implies a more rapidly spinning black hole. The authors concluded from their microlensing analysis that the X-rays come from such a small region that the black holes must be spinning rapidly.

The results showed that one of the black holes, in the lensed quasar called the “Einstein Cross,” is spinning at, or almost at, the maximum rate possible. This corresponds to the event horizon, the black hole’s point of no return, spinning at the speed of light, which is about 670 million miles per hour. Four other black holes in the sample are spinning, on average, at about half this maximum rate. (The 6th did not enable an estimate of spin.)

For the Einstein Cross the X-ray emission is from a part of the disk that is less than about 2.5 times the size of the event horizon, and for the other 4 quasars the X-rays come from a region four to five times the size of the event horizon.

How can these black holes spin so quickly? The researchers think that these supermassive black holes likely grew by accumulating most of their material over billions of years from an accretion disk spinning with a similar orientation and direction of spin, rather than from random directions. Like a merry-go-round that keeps getting pushed in the same direction, the black holes kept picking up speed.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

The X-rays detected by Chandra are produced when the accretion disk surrounding the black hole creates a multimillion-degree cloud, or corona, above the disk near the black hole. X-rays from this corona reflect off the inner edge of the accretion disk, and the strong gravitational forces near the black hole distort the reflected X-ray spectrum, that is, the amount of X-rays seen at different energies. The large distortions seen in the X-ray spectra of the quasars studied here imply that the inner edge of the disk must be close to the black holes, giving further evidence that they must be spinning rapidly.

The quasars are located at distances ranging from 8.8 billion to 10.9 billion light years from Earth, and the black holes have masses between 160 and 500 million times that of the sun. These observations were the longest ever made with Chandra of gravitationally lensed quasars, with total exposure times ranging between 1.7 and 5.4 days.

A paper describing these results is published in the July 2nd issue of The Astrophysical Journal, and is available online. The authors are Xinyu Dai, Shaun Steele and Eduardo Guerras from the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, Christopher Morgan from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and Bin Chen from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

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, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA/Lee Mohon/CXC/Univ. of Oklahoma/X. Dai et al.


jeudi 4 juillet 2019

KWISP detector searches for dark energy from the Sun

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

4 July, 2019

First results are in for the KWISP detector’s hunt for hypothetical dark-energy particles from the Sun

Image above: The KWISP detector is looking for hypothetical “chameleon” particles that could be causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate. (Image: NASA, ESA, H.Teplitz and M.Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), 
A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (ASU), Z. Levay (STScI).

Astronomers observe that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, but what causes this acceleration is unknown. A form of energy known as dark energy is the most popular explanation, and is keeping scientists the world over occupied searching for it. Now, a team of researchers working with the KWISP detector at CERN has presented the first results of their search for hypothetical “chameleon” particles from the Sun that could make up dark energy.

Like their reptilian namesakes, chameleon particles would change depending on their surroundings. In regions of high density, such as on Earth, their mass would be large, and as a result their force would act over short distances. By contrast, in regions of low density, such as in empty space, their mass would be extremely small and their force would be long-ranged. This changing behaviour makes chameleon particles good candidate particles for dark energy, but it also makes them difficult to search for on Earth.

Enter KWISP, a unique detector recently installed at the CAST experiment to sense the force exerted on a thin membrane by a stream of chameleon particles from the Sun. On hitting the membrane, such a hypothetical stream would move it from its normal rest position by less than a proton’s radius – about a quadrillionth of a metre. This tiny displacement would be revealed by light from a laser beam that travels through a special optical configuration that includes the membrane.

The new results from KWISP were obtained with data taken at CAST in July 2017 for about 90 minutes, during which the experiment tracked the Sun. The data were part of a 10-day data-taking campaign to test KWISP. To increase the chances of finding solar chameleons, the team added two elements to the KWISP detector before taking the data: a mirror system to focus the incoming stream of solar chameleons, and a so-called mechanical chopper, placed between the mirror system and the detector, to modulate the force exerted by the stream in a way that maximises the detector’s sensitivity to the particles.

The researchers observed no signal of solar chameleons, but the data allowed them to derive an upper limit on the force exerted on the membrane by the particles of 44 ± 18 piconewtons – about the weight of a single human cell.

Together with theoretical calculations of the number of solar chameleons expected to reach the detector, this upper limit allowed bounds to be placed on the strength of the interactions of solar chameleons with matter and light. These bounds are complementary to those obtained from other experiments, such as the GridPix detector at CAST, which looks for X-ray photons from solar chameleons.


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 23 Member States.

Related links:

KWISP first results:

CAST experiment:

GridPix detector at CAST:

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

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Ana Lopes.

Best regards,

Dust storms swirl at the north pole of Mars

ESA - Mars Express Mission patch.

4 July 2019

ESA’s Mars Express has been keeping an eye on local and regional dust storms brewing at the north pole of the Red Planet over the last month, watching as they disperse towards the equator.

Spiral dust storm on Mars

Local and regional storms lasting for a few days or weeks and confined to a small area are common place on Mars, but at their most severe can engulf the entire planet, as experienced last year in a global storm that circled the planet for many months.

It is currently spring in the northern hemisphere of Mars, and water-ice clouds and small dust-lifting events are frequently observed along the edge of the seasonally retreating ice cap.

Many of the spacecraft at Mars return daily weather reports from orbit or from the surface, providing global and local impressions of the changing atmospheric conditions. ESA’s Mars Express observed at least eight different storms at the edge of the ice cap between 22 May and 10 June, which formed and dissipated very quickly, between one and three days.

Mars dust storm in motion

The two cameras onboard the spacecraft, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) and the Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC), have been monitoring the storms over the last weeks. The image at the top of this page, taken by HRSC on 26 May, captures a spiral-shaped dust storm, its brown colour contrasting against the white ice of the north polar ice cap below.

Meanwhile the animated sequence (above) was compiled from images of a different storm captured by the VMC over a period of 70 minutes on 29 May. This particular storm started on 28 May and continued to around 1 June, moving towards the equator during that time.

Mars Express

The montage of images (below) shows three different storms developing on 22 May, on 26 May, and between 6 and 10 June. In the latter case, the cameras watched the storm evolve for several days as it moved in an equatorward direction.

At the same time, wispy patches of light-coloured clouds can be seen at the outer margin of the polar cap and also several thousand kilometres away, close to the volcanoes Elysium Mons and Olympus Mons.

Dust storm season on Mars

Together with the MARCI camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Express observed that when the dust storms reached the large volcanoes, orographic clouds – water ice clouds driven by the influence of the volcano’s leeward slope on the air flow – that had previously been developing started to evaporate as a result of the air mass being heated by the influx of dust.

Mars dust storm

These regional dust storms only last a few days; the elevated dust is transported and spread out by global circulation into a thin haze in the lower atmosphere, around 20–40 km altitude. Some traces of dust and clouds remained in the volcanic province into mid-June.

Related links:

Mars Express:



HRSC data viewer:

Mars Webcam:

Images, Animation, Text, Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/GCP/UPV/EHU Bilbao.

Best regards,

mercredi 3 juillet 2019

Crew Explores Space Biology, Radiation Exposure Before Independence Day

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

July 3, 2019

The Expedition 60 crew explored space biology and radiation exposure aboard the International Space Station today. The orbital residents also filmed a virtual reality experience and oversaw the deployment of a set microsatellites.

NASA astronaut Christina Koch tended plants and stored microalgae samples for a pair of biology studies investigating ways to support long-term missions farther away from Earth. The two-part VEG-04 study is researching space agriculture as a method to nourish future crews as NASA prepares to go to the Moon and beyond. Microalgae is being observed for the Photobioreactor experiment that aims to demonstrate a hybrid life support system.

Image above: Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA playfully demonstrates how fluids behave in the weightless environment of microgravity aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

A series of seven CubeSats were deployed outside Japan’s Kibo laboratory module today. NASA Flight Engineer Nick Hague configured the seven microsatellites last week and installed them in a Kibo’s small satellite deployer. An international team of engineers and students designed the CubeSats for a variety of experiments and technology demonstrations.

Both astronauts teamed up in the afternoon for another filming session depicting life aboard the orbital outpost. The crew has been videotaping a cinematic, virtual reality experience on the station to share with audiences on Earth.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Commander Alexey Ovchinin set up radiation detectors throughout the station’s Russian segment this morning. The Matroyshka experiment is observing the amount of radiation the station and the crew are exposed to on its flight path.

The orbiting trio will take a day off on July 4 and relax aboard the station. Back on Earth, a new set of Expedition 60 crewmates will fly from Russia on the U.S. Independence Day to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano are in final preparations with cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov for a July 20 liftoff to their new home in space. Their launch comes 50 years to the day NASA landed humans on the Moon for the first time.

Related links:

Expedition 60:



Kibo laboratory module:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA's First Rover on the Red Planet

NASA - Mars Pathfinder Mission patch.

July 3, 2019

This 8-image mosaic is of Sojourner, NASA's first rover on Mars, and was acquired during the late afternoon on Sol 2, the second Martian day on the planet as part of an "insurance panorama." Sojourner arrived aboard the Mars Pathfinder on July 4, 1997.

This color image was designed as "insurance" against camera failure upon deployment. However, the camera deployment was successful, leaving the insurance panorama to be downlinked to Earth several weeks later. Ironically enough, the insurance panorama contains some of the best quality image data because of the lossless data compression and relatively dust-free state of the camera and associated lander/rover hardware on Sol 2.

Sojourner spent 83 days of a planned seven-day mission exploring the Martian terrain, acquiring images, and taking chemical, atmospheric and other measurements. The final data transmission received from Pathfinder was at 10:23 UTC on September 27, 1997. Although mission managers tried to restore full communications during the following five months, the successful mission was terminated on March 10, 1998.

Right now, NASA is taking steps to begin a new era of exploration. Working with U.S. companies and international partners, NASA will push the boundaries of human exploration forward to the Moon and on to Mars, establishing a permanent human presence on the Moon within the next decade.

Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner:

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Yvette Smith/JPL.


Atmosphere of Midsize Planet Revealed by Hubble, Spitzer

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch / NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

July 3, 2019

Two NASA space telescopes have teamed up to identify, for the first time, the detailed chemical "fingerprint" of a planet between the sizes of Earth and Neptune. No planets like this can be found in our own solar system, but they are common around other stars.

Image above: This artist's illustration shows the theoretical internal structure of the exoplanet GJ 3470 b. It is unlike any planet found in the Solar System. Weighing in at 12.6 Earth masses the planet is more massive than Earth but less massive than Neptune. Unlike Neptune, which is 3 billion miles from the Sun, GJ 3470 b may have formed very close to its red dwarf star as a dry, rocky object. It then gravitationally pulled in hydrogen and helium gas from a circumstellar disk to build up a thick atmosphere. The disk dissipated many billions of years ago, and the planet stopped growing. The bottom illustration shows the disk as the system may have looked long ago. Observation by NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have chemically analyzed the composition of GJ 3470 b's very clear and deep atmosphere, yielding clues to the planet's origin. Many planets of this mass exist in our galaxy. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, and L. Hustak (STScI).

The planet, Gliese 3470 b (also known as GJ 3470 b), may be a cross between Earth and Neptune, with a large rocky core buried under a deep, crushing hydrogen-and-helium atmosphere. Weighing in at 12.6 Earth masses, the planet is more massive than Earth but less massive than Neptune (which is more than 17 Earth masses).

Many similar worlds have been discovered by NASA's Kepler space observatory, whose mission ended in 2018. In fact, 80% of the planets in our galaxy may fall into this mass range. However, astronomers have never been able to understand the chemical nature of such a planet until now, researchers say.

By inventorying the contents of GJ 3470 b's atmosphere, astronomers are able to uncover clues about the planet's nature and origin.

"This is a big discovery from the planet-formation perspective. The planet orbits very close to the star and is far less massive than Jupiter - 318 times Earth's mass - but has managed to accrete the primordial hydrogen/helium atmosphere that is largely 'unpolluted' by heavier elements," said Björn Benneke of the University of Montreal in Canada. "We don't have anything like this in the solar system, and that's what makes it striking."

Astronomers enlisted the combined multi-wavelength capabilities NASA's Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to do a first-of-a-kind study of GJ 3470 b's atmosphere.

This was accomplished by measuring the absorption of starlight as the planet passed in front of its star (transit) and the loss of reflected light from the planet as it passed behind the star (eclipse). All told, the space telescopes observed 12 transits and 20 eclipses. The science of analyzing chemical fingerprints based on light is called "spectroscopy."

"For the first time we have a spectroscopic signature of such a world," said Benneke. But he is at a loss for classification: Should it be called a "super-Earth" or "sub-Neptune?" Or perhaps something else?

Fortuitously, the atmosphere of GJ 3470 b turned out to be mostly clear, with only thin hazes, enabling the scientists to probe deep into the atmosphere.

"We expected an atmosphere strongly enriched in heavier elements like oxygen and carbon which are forming abundant water vapor and methane gas, similar to what we see on Neptune," said Benneke. "Instead, we found an atmosphere that is so poor in heavy elements that its composition resembles the hydrogen/helium-rich composition of the Sun."

Other exoplanets, called "hot Jupiters," are thought to form far from their stars and over time migrate much closer. But this planet seems to have formed just where it is today, said Benneke.

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

The most plausible explanation, according to Benneke, is that GJ 3470 b was born precariously close to its red dwarf star, which is about half the mass of our Sun. He hypothesizes that essentially it started out as a dry rock and rapidly accreted hydrogen from a primordial disk of gas when its star was very young. The disk is called a "protoplanetary disk."

"We're seeing an object that was able to accrete hydrogen from the protoplanetary disk but didn't run away to become a hot Jupiter," said Benneke. "This is an intriguing regime."

One explanation is that the disk dissipated before the planet could bulk up further. "The planet got stuck being a sub-Neptune," said Benneke.

NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope will be able to probe even deeper into GJ 3470 b's atmosphere, thanks to Webb's unprecedented sensitivity in the infrared. The new results have already spawned great interest from American and Canadian teams developing the instruments on Webb. They will observe the transits and eclipses of GJ 3470 b at light wavelengths where the atmospheric hazes become increasingly transparent.

Spitzer Space Telescope. Animation Credit: NASA

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.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, 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. Space operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at IPAC at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information on Hubble, visit:

Hubble Space Telescope (HST): and

For more information on Spitzer, visit: and

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


NASA's ECOSTRESS Maps European Heat Wave From Space

ISS - ECOSTRESS Mission logo.

July 3, 2019

Images above: These maps of four European cities show ECOSTRESS surface temperature images acquired in the early mornings of June 27 and 28, 2019, during a heatwave. The images have been sharpened to delineate key features such as airports. Airports and city centers are hotter than surrounding regions because they have more surfaces that retain heat (asphalt, concrete, etc.). Images Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Europe's massive heat wave is on its way out - and it's leaving a slew of broken temperature records in its wake. Many countries were gripped by temperatures above 104 Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) between June 26 and June 30. According to the World Meteorological Organization, June 2019 is now the hottest month on record for the continent as a whole.

NASA's Ecosystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) measures Earth's surface temperature from the International Space Station at different times of day. Although its primary objective is to monitor the health of plants, ECOSTRESS can also detect heat events such as the one much of Europe just experienced.

ECOSTRESS mapped the surface, or ground temperature, of four European cities - Rome, Paris, Madrid and Milan - during the mornings of June 27 and June 28.In the images, hotter temperatures appear in red and cooler temperatures appear in blue. They show how the central core of each city is much hotter than the surrounding natural landscape due to the urban heat island effect - a result of urban surfaces storing and re-radiating heat throughout the day.

The fact that surface temperatures were as high as 77-86 degrees Fahrenheit (25-30 degrees Celsius) in the early morning indicates that much of the heat from previous days was stored by surfaces with high heat capacity (such as asphalt, concrete and water bodies) and unable to dissipate before the next day. The trapped heat resulted in even higher midday temperatures, in the high 40s (Celsius) in some places, as the heat wave continued.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

ECOSTRESS launched to the space station last summer and began collecting its first heat data just days after installation. The instrument measures variations of ground temperatures to within a few tenths of a degree, and it does so with unprecedented detail: It's able to detect temperature changes at various times of day over areas the size of a football field. These measurements help scientists assess plant health and response to water shortages, which can be an indicator of future drought. They can also be used in observing heat trends, spotting wildfires and detecting volcanic activity.

ECOSTRESS provides a wide range of image products for studying the land surface and recently made all these products publicly available through the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LPDAAC):

JPL built and manages the ECOSTRESS mission for NASA's Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. ECOSTRESS is an Earth Venture Instrument mission; the program is managed by NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Related articles:

New Earth Obs Study Installed Before Monday Russian Cargo Mission

Space Station ‘Space Botanist’ Observes California, Nevada Wildfires

For more information on ECOSTRESS visit:

For more information on Earth science activities aboard the International Space Station, visit:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Esprit Smith.

Great Heating!

mardi 2 juillet 2019

Life Support Work Aboard Lab as Next Crew Preps for Mission

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

July 2, 2019

The three Expedition 60 crewmembers aboard the International Space Station focused primarily on keeping the orbiting lab in tip-top shape today. At the end of the workday, the trio split up for some space gardening and Earth photography.

NASA Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Nick Hague teamed up on Tuesday replacing components in the station’s Water Recovery System (WRS). The time-consuming maintenance work requires the rotation of racks and a treadmill to access the WRS in the Tranquility module. The life support device processes water vapor and urine and converts it into drinkable water.

Image above: Earth’s atmospheric glow, highlighted by the Moon and a starry orbital nighttime background, are pictured as the International Space Station orbited 256 miles above the Pacific Ocean, southeast of the Hawaiian island chain. Image Credit: NASA.

Hague wrapped up his workday servicing a science freezer before watering plants growing for a space botany study. Koch worked out on the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device then called down to Mission Control for a conference with flight surgeons.

On the Russian side of the station, Commander Alexey Ovchinin explored advanced photography techniques before an afternoon of lab cleaning work. In the evening, the veteran cosmonaut photographed Earth targets documenting the effects of human and natural catastrophes.

Image above: Flying over South Pacific Ocean (day), seen by EarthCam on ISS, speed: 27'561 Km/h, altitude: 423,81 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 July 2, 2019 at 23:15 UTC. Image Credits: Aerospace/Roland Berga.

The orbiting trio will take a day off on July 4 and relax aboard the station. Back on Earth, a new set of Expedition 60 crewmates will fly from Russia on the U.S. Independence Day to their launch site at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano are in final preparations with cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov for a July 20 liftoff to their new home in space. Their launch comes 50 years to the day NASA landed humans on the Moon for the first time.

Related links:

Expedition 60:

Space botany study:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Successful Orion Test Brings NASA Closer to Moon, Mars Missions

NASA - Space Launch System (SLS) logo / NASA - Orion Crew Vehicle patch.

July 2, 2019

Image above: Ascent Abort-2 successfully launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Image Credit: NASA.

NASA successfully demonstrated Tuesday the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system can outrun a speeding rocket and pull astronauts to safety during an emergency during launch. The test is another milestone in the agency’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon that will lead to astronaut missions to Mars.

During the approximately three-minute test, called Ascent Abort-2, a test version of the Orion crew module launched at 7 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a modified Peacekeeper missile procured through the U.S. Air Force and built by Northrop Grumman.

The Orion test spacecraft traveled to an altitude of about six miles, at which point it experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent. The abort sequence triggered and, within milliseconds, the abort motor fired to pull the crew module away from the rocket. Its attitude control motor flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

A team is collecting the 12 data recorders that were ejected during the test capsule’s descent. Analysis of the information will provide insight into the abort system’s performance.

“We're building the most powerful rocket in the world to send astronauts to the Moon in the Orion spacecraft for Artemis missions,” said Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for Exploration Systems Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With this exploration system designed to safely carry humans farther into space than ever before, we'll also have an equally powerful launch abort system that will pull the crew away if there is a problem with the rocket during the early portion of ascent.”

NASA’s Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test Launches atop Northrop Grumman Provided Booster

Video above: Ascent Abort-2, a test version of the Orion crew module. Video Credit: NASA.

The tower-like abort structure consists of two parts: the fairing assembly, which is a shell composed of a lightweight composite material that protects the capsule from the heat, air flow and acoustics of the launch, ascent, and abort environments; and the launch abort tower, which includes the abort motor, attitude control motor, and jettison motor. The system is built specifically for deep space missions and to ride on NASA’s powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

“Launching into space is one of the most difficult and dangerous parts of going to the Moon,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston. “This test mimicked some of the most challenging conditions Orion will ever face should an emergency develop during the ascent phase of flight. Today, the team demonstrated our abort capabilities under these demanding conditions and put us one huge step closer to the first Artemis flight carrying people to the Moon.”

NASA was able to accelerate the test schedule and lower costs by simplifying the test spacecraft and eliminating parachutes and related systems. NASA already qualified the parachute system for crewed flights through an extensive series of 17 developmental tests and eight qualification tests completed at the end of 2018.

Engineers are making progress building and testing the Orion spacecraft for Artemis 1, the first uncrewed mission with the SLS rocket – an integrated system traveling thousands of miles beyond the Moon – and for Artemis 2, the first mission with astronauts.

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, technicians are preparing to attach the Orion crew and service modules before testing at the agency’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, later this year. The crew module for Artemis 2 is being outfitted with thousands of elements – from bolts and strain gauges to parachutes and propulsion lines.

The agency recently reached major milestones for the SLS rocket, assembling four of the five parts that make up the massive core stage that will launch Artemis 1 and delivering the four engines that will be integrated into the core stage, along with the engine section, later this summer. When completed, the entire core stage will be the largest rocket stage NASA has built since manufacturing the Saturn V stages for NASA’s Apollo lunar missions in the 1960s.

Orion is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration, along with the SLS and Gateway, that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024. Through the Artemis program, the next American Moon walkers will depart Earth aboard Orion and begin a new era of exploration.

Related links:

Deep space missions:

Space Launch System (SLS):

Orion Spacecraft:

Artemis 1:

Artemis 2:


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

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Katherine Brown/Kathryn Hambleton/KSC/Brittney Thorpe/JSC/Laura Rochon.


lundi 1 juillet 2019

NASA Selects 12 New Lunar Science, Technology Investigations

NASA logo.

July 1, 2019

NASA has selected 12 new science and technology payloads that will help us study the Moon and explore more of its surface as part of the agency’s Artemis lunar program. These investigations and demonstrations will help the agency send astronauts to the Moon by 2024 as a way to prepare to send humans to Mars for the first time.

The selected investigations will go to the Moon on future flights through NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) project. The CLPS project allows rapid acquisition of lunar delivery services for payloads like these that advance capabilities for science, exploration, or commercial development of the Moon. Many of the new selections incorporate existing hardware, such as parts or models designed for missions that have already flown. Seven of the new selections are focused on answering questions in planetary science or heliophysics, while five will demonstrate new technologies.

Image above: Commercial landers will carry NASA-provided science and technology payloads to the lunar surface, paving the way for NASA astronauts to land on the Moon by 2024. Image Credit: NASA.

"The selected lunar payloads represent cutting-edge innovations, and will take advantage of early flights through our commercial services project,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "Each demonstrates either a new science instrument or a technological innovation that supports scientific and human exploration objectives, and many have broader applications for Mars and beyond.”

The 12 selected investigations are:


- MoonRanger is a small, fast-moving rover that has the capability to drive beyond communications range with a lander and then return to it. This will enable investigations within a 0.6-mile (1 kilometer) range from the lander. MoonRanger will aim to continually map the terrain it traverses, and transmit data for future system improvement.

- The principal investigator is Andrew Horchler of Astrobotic Technology, Inc., Pittsburgh.


- Heimdall is a flexible camera system for conducting lunar science on commercial vehicles. This innovation includes a single digital video recorder and four cameras: a wide-angle descent imager, a narrow-angle regolith imager, and two wide-angle panoramic imagers. This camera system is intended to model the properties of the Moon's regolith – the soil and other material that makes up the top later of the lunar surface – and characterize and map geologic features, as well characterize potential landing or trafficability hazards, among other goals.

- The principal investigator is R. Aileen Yingst of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.

Lunar Demonstration of a Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System.

- Lunar Demonstration of a Reconfigurable, Radiation Tolerant Computer System aims to demonstrate a radiation-tolerant computing technology. Due to the Moon's lack of atmosphere and magnetic field, radiation from the Sun will be a challenge for electronics. This investigation also will characterize the radiation effects on the lunar surface.

- The principal investigator is Brock LaMeres of Montana State University, Bozeman.

Regolith Adherence Characterization (RAC) Payload

- RAC will determine how lunar regolith sticks to a range of materials exposed to the Moon's environment at different phases of flight. Components of this experiment are derived from a commercial payload facility called MISSE currently on the International Space Station.

- The principal investigator is Johnnie Engelhardt of Alpha Space Test and Research Alliance, LLC, Houston.

The Lunar Magnetotelluric Sounder

- The Lunar Magnetotelluric Sounder is designed to characterize the structure and composition of the Moon’s mantle by studying electric and magnetic fields. The investigation will make use of a flight-spare magnetometer, a device that measures magnetic fields, originally made for the MAVEN spacecraft, which is currently orbiting Mars.

- The principal investigator is Robert Grimm of the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio.

The Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment (LuSEE)

- LuSEE will integrate flight-spare and repurposed hardware from the NASA Parker Solar Probe FIELDS experiment, the STEREO/Waves instrument, and the MAVEN mission to make comprehensive measurements of electromagnetic phenomena on the surface of the Moon.

- The principal investigator is Stuart Bale of University of California, Berkeley.

The Lunar Environment heliospheric X-ray Imager (LEXI)

- LEXI will capture images of the interaction of Earth's magnetosphere with the flow of charged particles from the Sun, called the solar wind.

- The principal investigator is Brian Walsh of Boston University.

Next Generation Lunar Retroreflectors (NGLR)

- NGLR will serve as a target for lasers on Earth to precisely measure the Earth-Moon distance. They are designed to provide data that could be used to constrain various aspects of the lunar interior and address questions of fundamental physics.

- The principal investigator is Douglas Currie of University of Maryland, College Park.

The Lunar Compact InfraRed Imaging System (L-CIRiS)

- L-CLRiS is targeted to deploy a radiometer, a device that measures infrared wavelengths of light, to explore the Moon's surface composition, map its surface temperature distribution, and demonstrate the instrument's feasibility for future lunar resource utilization activities.

- The principal investigator is Paul Hayne University of the University of Colorado, Boulder.

The Lunar Instrumentation for Subsurface Thermal Exploration with Rapidity (LISTER)

- LISTER is an instrument designed to measure heat flow from the interior of the Moon. The probe will attempt to drill 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) into the lunar regolith to investigate the Moon's thermal properties at different depths.

- The principal investigator is Seiichi Nagihara of Texas Tech University, Lubbock.


- PlanetVac is a technology for acquiring and transferring lunar regolith from the surface to other instruments that would analyze the material, or put it in a container that another spacecraft could return to Earth.

- The principal investigator is Kris Zacny of Honeybee Robotics, Ltd., Pasadena, California.

SAMPLR: Sample Acquisition, Morphology Filtering, and Probing of Lunar Regolith

- SAMPLR is another sample acquisition technology that will make use of a robotic arm that is a flight spare from the Mars Exploration Rover mission, which included the long-lived rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

-The principal investigator is Sean Dougherty of Maxar Technologies, Westminster, Colorado.

NASA’s lunar exploration plans are based on a two-phase approach: the first is focused on speed – landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024 – while the second will establish a sustained human presence on the Moon by 2028. The agency will use what we learn on the Moon to prepare for the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.

Related links:

Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS):


Parker Solar Probe:

Mars Exploration Rover (MER):

For more information about NASA and agency programs, visit:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Northon/Grey Hautaluoma.