samedi 28 septembre 2019

Japan’s Kounotori Spaceship Attached to Station

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

September 28, 2019

Image above: The Japanese HTV-8 cargo vehicle during installation on Saturday Sept. 28, 2019. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Ground controllers successfully installed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) Kounotori 8 H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV-8) to the Earth-facing port of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:09 a.m. EDT.

Image above: Sept. 28, 2019: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are attached to the space station including Japan’s HTV-8 cargo craft with Russia’s Progress 73 resupply ship and Soyuz MS-12, MS-13 and MS-15 crew ships. Image Credit: NASA.

Named Kounotori, meaning “white stork” in Japanese, the craft delivered six new lithium-ion batteries and corresponding adapter plates that will replace aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for two power channels on the station’s far port truss segment. The batteries will be installed through a series of robotics and spacewalks the station’s crew members will conduct later this year.

HTV-8 berthing

Additional experiments on board HTV-8 include an upgrade to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF-L), a small-sized satellite optical communication system (SOLISS), and a payload for testing the effects of gravity on powder and granular material (Hourglass).

Related article:

U.S. Astronauts Captured Japanese Cargo Spacecraft at 7:12 a.m. EDT

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Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF-L):



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Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Norah Moran/NASA TV/SciNews.

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U.S. Astronauts Captured Japanese Cargo Spacecraft at 7:12 a.m. EDT

JAXA - H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) Mission patch.

September 28, 2019

Image above: The Japanese HTV-8 cargo vehicle captured by the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm at 7:12 am EDT on Saturday Sept. 28, 2019. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Using the International Space Station’s robotic arm, Canadarm2, Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA, backed up by her NASA crewmate Andrew Morgan, operated the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to capture the 12-ton spacecraft as it approached from below. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) monitored HTV-8 systems during its approach to the station.

HTV-8 capture

Next, robotic ground controllers will install it on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module. NASA TV coverage of the berthing will begin at 9:30 a.m.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) cargo spacecraft launched at 12:05 p.m. EDT Sept. 24 (1:05 a.m. Sept. 25 Japan standard time) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan.

Related links:


Expedition 60:

H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8):

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Norah Moran/NASA TV/SciNews.


vendredi 27 septembre 2019

Slime and Cancer Research Before Japan Cargo Ship Arrives Saturday

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

September 27, 2019

A Japanese space freighter is on track to deliver more than four tons of cargo to the International Space Station on Saturday morning. The Expedition 60 crew is preparing for its arrival while also researching a variety of microgravity phenomena.

Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan are practicing on a computer the techniques they will use to maneuver the Canadarm2 robotic arm and capture the HTV-8 resupply ship on Saturday. The duo will be in the cupola monitoring the cargo craft’s approach when Koch will command the Canadarm2 to reach out and grapple the HTV-8 at 7:15 a.m. EDT.

Image above: NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan stow biological research samples into a science freezer located inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) started his morning playing with slime for the Non-Newtonian Fluids in Microgravity experiment. Koch and Morgan joined him for the fun research being filmed for students on Earth to excite them about space research.

New station resident Jessica Meir of NASA began her day observing and photographing protein crystal samples in a microscope. The research is exploring cancer therapies targeting a protein responsible for tumor growth and survival.

Earth views from ISS. Animation Credits: NASA/ISS HD-Live/ Aerospace

Meir and the station’s other new crewmates, cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates, joined the rest of the station crew to review their roles in the event of an emergency. All nine crewmembers practiced evacuating the station, communications and using safety hardware during the afternoon.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague are less than a week away from returning to Earth after 203 days in space. They are finalizing packing and readying their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft for the undocking on Oct. 3. The duo will parachute to Earth with Almansoori aboard their Soyuz crew ship and land in Kazakhstan.

Related links:


Expedition 60:


Non-Newtonian Fluids in Microgravity:

Exploring cancer therapies:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Catherine Williams.

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Hubble Tracks a Galaxy on the Move

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Sept. 27, 2019

This image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows the galaxy Messier 86. Despite its being discovered over 235 years ago by astronomer Charles Messier, the morphological classification of Messier 86 remains unclear; astronomers are still debating over whether it is elliptical or lenticular (the latter being a cross between an elliptical and spiral galaxy).

Messier 86 is part of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies and is situated about 50 million light-years from Earth. The galaxy is moving through space remarkably quickly — its current trajectory is bringing it in our direction, back towards the center of its cluster from the far side, at the incredible speed of over 543,000 mph! Because of the speed with which it is moving through the cluster, Messier 86 is undergoing a process known as ram-pressure stripping. The resistive material filling the gaps between individual cluster galaxies is pulling at the gas and dust in Messier 86 and stripping them out as the galaxy moves, creating a long trail of hot gas that is emitting X-ray radiation.

Astronomers are using Hubble observations such as this to study elliptical and lenticular galaxies, both of which are often found at the centers of galaxy clusters. By studying the cores of these galaxies, astronomers hope to determine details of the central structure and to analyze both the history of the galaxy and the formation of its core.

Messier 86 is featured in Hubble’s Messier catalog, which includes some of the most fascinating celestial objects that can be observed from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. See the NASA-processed image and other Messier objects at:

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, P. Cote et al.


Enigmatic radio burst illuminates a galaxy’s tranquil ​halo

ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

27 September 2019

Artist’s impression of a fast radio burst traveling through space and reaching Earth

Astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope have for the first time observed that a fast radio burst passed through a galactic halo. Lasting less than a millisecond, this enigmatic blast of cosmic radio waves came through almost undisturbed, suggesting that the halo has surprisingly low density and weak magnetic field. This new technique could be used to explore the elusive halos of other galaxies.

Using one cosmic mystery to probe another, astronomers analysed the signal from a fast radio burst to shed light on the diffuse gas in the halo of a massive galaxy [1]. In November 2018 the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) radio telescope pinpointed a fast radio burst, named FRB 181112. Follow-up observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and other telescopes revealed that the radio pulses have passed through the halo of a massive galaxy on their way toward Earth. This finding allowed astronomers to analyse the radio signal for clues about the nature of the halo gas.

Image above: Infographic showing the path of FRB 18112 passing through the halo of an intervening galaxy.

“The signal from the fast radio burst exposed the nature of the magnetic field around the galaxy and the structure of the halo gas. The study proves a new and transformative technique for exploring the nature of galaxy halos,” said J. Xavier Prochaska, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California Santa Cruz and lead author of a paper presenting the new findings published today​ in the journal ​Science.​

Astronomers still don’t know what causes fast radio bursts and only recently have been able to trace some of these very short, very bright radio signals back to the galaxies in which they originated. “When we overlaid the radio and optical images, we could see straight away that the fast radio burst pierced the halo of this coincident foreground galaxy and, for the first time, we had a direct way of investigating the otherwise invisible matter surrounding this galaxy,” said coauthor Cherie Day, a PhD student at Swinburne University of Technology, Australia.

VLT image of the location of FRB 181112

A galactic halo contains both dark and ordinary—or baryonic—matter that is primarily in the form of a hot ionised gas. While the luminous part of a massive galaxy might be around 30 000 light years across, its roughly spherical halo is ten times larger in diameter. Halo gas fuels star formation as it falls towards the centre of the galaxy, while other processes, such as supernova explosions, can eject material out of the star-forming regions and into the galactic halo. One reason astronomers want to study the halo gas is to better understand these ejection processes which can shut down star formation.

“This galaxy’s halo is surprisingly tranquil,” Prochaska said. “The radio signal was largely unperturbed by the galaxy, which is in stark contrast to what previous models predict would have happened to the burst.”

Animation of FRB 181112 signal traveling through space

The signal of FRB 181112 was comprised of a few pulses, each lasting less than 40 microseconds (10 000 times shorter than the blink of an eye). The short duration of the pulses puts an upper limit on the density of the halo gas because passage through a denser medium would broaden the duration of the radio signal. The researchers calculated that the density of the halo gas must be less than 0.1 atoms per cubic centimeter (equivalent to several hundred atoms in a volume the size of a child’s balloon) [2].

“Like the shimmering air on a hot summer’s day, the tenuous atmosphere in this massive galaxy should warp the signal of the fast radio burst. Instead we received a pulse so pristine and sharp that there is no signature of this gas at all,” said coauthor Jean-Pierre Macquart, an astronomer at the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research at Curtin University, Australia.

The study found no evidence of cold turbulent clouds or small dense clumps of cool halo gas. The fast radio burst signal also yielded information about the magnetic field in the halo, which is very weak—a billion times weaker than that of a refrigerator magnet.

At this point, with results from only one galactic halo, the researchers cannot say whether the low density and low magnetic field strength they measured are unusual or if previous studies of galactic halos have overestimated these properties. Prochaska said he expects that ASKAP and other radio telescopes will use fast radio bursts to study many more galactic halos and resolve their properties.

“This galaxy may be special,” he said. “We will need to use fast radio bursts to study tens or hundreds of galaxies over a range of masses and ages to assess the full population.” Optical telescopes like ESO’s VLT play an important role by revealing how far away the galaxy that played host to each burst is, as well as whether the burst would have passed through the halo of any galaxy in the foreground.


[1] A vast halo of low-density gas extends far beyond the luminous part of a galaxy where the stars are concentrated. Although this hot, diffuse gas makes up more of a galaxy’s mass than stars do, it is very difficult to study.

[2] The density constraints also limit the possibility of turbulence or clouds of cool gas within the halo. Cool here is a relative term, referring to temperatures around 10 000°C, versus the hot halo gas at around 1 million degrees.

More information:

This research was presented in a paper published on 26 September 2019 in the journal Science.

The team is composed of J. Xavier Prochaska (University of California Observatories-Lick Observatory, University of California, USA and Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe, Japan), Jean-Pierre Macquart (International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research, Curtin University, Australia), Matthew McQuinn (Astronomy Department, University of Washington, USA), Sunil Simha (University of California Observatories-Lick Observatory, University of California, USA), Ryan M. Shannon (Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia), Cherie K. Day (Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia and Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia Telescope National Facility, Australia), Lachlan Marnoch (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia Telescope National Facility, Australia and Department of Physics and Astronomy, Macquarie University, Australia), Stuart Ryder (Department of Physics and Astronomy, Macquarie University, Australia), Adam Deller (Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia), Keith W. Bannister (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia Telescope National Facility, Australia), Shivani Bhandari (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia Telescope National Facility, Australia), Rongmon Bordoloi (North Carolina State University, Department of Physics, USA),  John Bunton (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia Telescope National Facility, Australia), Hyerin Cho (School of Physics and Chemistry, Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, Korea), Chris Flynn (Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, Australia), Elizabeth Mahony (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia Telescope National Facility, Australia), Chris Phillips (Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia Telescope National Facility, Australia), Hao Qiu (Sydney Institute for Astronomy, School of Physics, University of Sydney, Australia), Nicolas Tejos (Instituto de Fisica, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Valparaiso, Chile).

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


ESOcast 207 Light: Enigmatic radio burst illuminates a galaxy’s tranquil ​halo:

Research paper:

Photos of the VLT:

ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT):

Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESO/M. Kornmesser/X. Prochaska et al.

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Found: Three Black Holes on Collision Course

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

September 27, 2019

Astronomers have spotted three giant black holes within a titanic collision of three galaxies. The unusual system was captured by several observatories, including three NASA space telescopes.

Image above: Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/George Mason Univ./R. Pfeifle et al.; Optical: SDSS & NASA/STScI.

"We were only looking for pairs of black holes at the time, and yet, through our selection technique, we stumbled upon this amazing system," said Ryan Pfeifle of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, the first author of a new paper in The Astrophysical Journal describing these results. "This is the strongest evidence yet found for such a triple system of actively feeding supermassive black holes."

A Quik Look at Triplet Black Holes

The system is known as SDSS J084905.51+111447.2 (SDSS J0849+1114 for short) and is located a billion light years from Earth.

To uncover this rare black hole trifecta, researchers needed to combine data from telescopes both on the ground and in space. First, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) telescope, which scans large swaths of the sky in optical light from New Mexico, imaged SDSS J0849+1114. With the help of citizen scientists participating in a project called Galaxy Zoo, it was then tagged as a system of colliding galaxies.

Then, data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission - managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory - revealed that the system was glowing intensely in infrared light during a phase in the galaxy merger when more than one of the black holes is expected to be feeding rapidly. To follow up on these clues, astronomers then turned to Chandra and the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona.

The Chandra data revealed X-ray sources - a telltale sign of material being consumed by the black holes - at the bright centers of each galaxy in the merger, exactly where scientists expect supermassive black holes to reside. Chandra and NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) - managed by JPL as well - also found evidence for large amounts of gas and dust around one of the black holes, typical of a merging black hole system.

Meanwhile, optical light data from SDSS and LBT showed characteristic spectral signatures of material being consumed by the three supermassive black holes.

"Optical spectra contain a wealth of information about a galaxy," said co-author Christina Manzano-King of University of California, Riverside. "They are commonly used to identify actively accreting supermassive black holes and can reflect the impact they have on the galaxies they inhabit."

One reason it is difficult to find a triplet of supermassive black holes is that they are likely to be shrouded in gas and dust, blocking much of their light. The infrared images from WISE, the infrared spectra from LBT and the X-ray images from Chandra bypass this issue, because infrared and X-ray light pierce clouds of gas much more easily than optical light.

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

"Through the use of these major observatories, we have identified a new way of identifying triple supermassive black holes. Each telescope gives us a different clue about what's going on in these systems," said Pfeifle. "We hope to extend our work to find more triples using the same technique."

"Dual and triple black holes are exceedingly rare," said co-author Shobita Satyapal, also of George Mason, "but such systems are actually a natural consequence of galaxy mergers, which we think is how galaxies grow and evolve."

Three supermassive black holes merging behave differently than just a pair. When there are three such black holes interacting, a pair should merge into a larger black hole much faster than if the two were alone. This may be a solution to a theoretical conundrum called the "final parsec problem," in which two supermassive black holes can approach to within a few light-years of each other but would need some extra pull inwards to merge because of the excess energy they carry in their orbits. The influence of a third black hole, as in SDSS J0849+1114, could finally bring them together.

Computer simulations have shown that 16% of pairs of supermassive black holes in colliding galaxies will have interacted with a third supermassive black hole before they merge. Such mergers will produce ripples through spacetime called gravitational waves. These waves will have lower frequencies than the National Science Foundation's Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and European Virgo gravitational-wave detector can detect. However, they may be detectable with radio observations of pulsars, as well as future space observatories, such as the European Space Agency's Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), which will detect black holes up to one million solar masses.

The paper describing these results appears in the latest issue of The Astrophysical Journal, and a preprint is also available. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Related links:

Astrophysical Journal:

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Image (mentioned), Video, Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA Marshall Space Flight Center/Molly Porter/JPL/Calla Cofield/Chandra X-ray Center/Megan Watzke.


jeudi 26 septembre 2019

LRO Mission Images India's Chandrayaan-2 Lander Site

NASA - Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) patch.

Sept. 26, 2019

Obscured in the Lunar Highlands?

Image above: The Chandrayaan-2 lander, Vikram, attempted a landing Sept. 7 (Sept. 6 in the United States), on a small patch of lunar highland smooth plains between Simpelius N and Manzinus C craters. Vikram had a hard landing and the precise location of the spacecraft in the lunar highlands has yet to be determined. The scene above was captured from a Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) Quickmap fly-around of the targeted landing site image width is about 150 kilometers across the center. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Image Credit: NASA

The lander, Vikram, was scheduled to touch down on Sept. 6 at 4:24 pm Eastern Daylight Time. This event was India's first attempt at a soft landing on the Moon. The site was located about 600 kilometers (370 miles) from the south pole in a relatively ancient terrain (70.8°S latitude, 23.5°E longitude). In order to visualize the site, take a quick fly-around. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) passed over the landing site on Sept. 17 and acquired a set of high resolution images of the area; so far the LROC team has not been able to locate or image the lander.  It was dusk when the landing area was imaged and thus large shadows covered much of the terrain; it is possible that the Vikram lander is hiding in a shadow. The lighting will be favorable when LRO passes over the site in October and once again attempts to locate and image the lander.

Image above: A view looking down on the Vikram landing site (image acquired before the landing attempt), image width 87 kilometers (54 miles). Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

Image above: A wide view of a series of Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter Camera's narrow angle camera images collected on Sept. 17 showing the area of the targeted Vikram landing site. The pixel scale is 28314 pixels by 1041 lines. The resolution is 34 meters per pixel. The full resolution mosaic can be found at: Note this mosaic is quite large (28314 pixels by 57851 lines) with approximately 900 million illuminated pixels (1.25 meter pixels, 1000 meter grid, polar stereographic projection). Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

Related articles:

ISRO Just Found Its Lost Vikram Lander on the Moon

Chandrayaan-2 Vikram Moon lander lost signal

Related link:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille.


Death of Cosmonaut Mikhailovich Manakov


September 26, 2019

On September 26, 2019 in the 70th year of life, the hero of the Soviet Union, an astronaut pilot of the USSR, Colonel Heinrich Mikhailovich Manakov died.

G.M. was born June 1, 1950 in the family of teachers in the s. Efimovka is a rural settlement in Orenburg Oblast, Russia. In 1967, he graduated from Efimovskuû high school 1967-1969. He studied at the Kuibyshev Aviation Institute (Samara) and received aviation training at the kuybyshev dosaaf school. In 1973, he moved into the air defense aviation army of air defense pilots, in 1973 he graduated with distinction and a gold medal in the field of "Command Fighter Aviation" with the qualification of a pilot-engineer. In 1985, he graduated from the evening department of the Faculty of Aeronautical Engineering of the Moscow Aviation Institute named after c. Ordzhonikidze "takeoff".

After his success, he was a pilot, a senior pilot in the Air Defense Division. The 19 th division of the Russian division of air defense,, the senior pilot, deputy commander of the aviation squadron in the Far East District Defense (G. In the same position he served in the Moscow district of Moscow, Morchansk, Tambov Oblast.

Cosmonaut Mikhailovich Manakov

In 1979, he was sent to the 267th Aviation Test Center and training of test pilots. From 1980 to 1985-pilot test, chief engineer and senior test pilot of the 1st department of the Red-Famous State Scientific and Test Institute (Gknii) of the Russian Federation Defense of the Russian Federation.

In 1985, the decision of the State Inter-Agency Commission (Gmvk) was selected as a candidate for air force astronauts and sent to the space training center for space training. In 1988, by order of the Minister of Defense of the USSR was assigned to the 2nd group of astronauts for the post of test cosmonaut (9th recruitment).

He made his first space flight from 1 August to 1990 December 10 as the crew commander of the transport ship "Soyuz TM -10" under the program of the 7th main expedition (EO-7) on the orbital complex "Mir" and the Soviet-Japanese spaceflight program with Soviet-Japanese spaceflight. On board the station, he worked with one. Straw, huh. Balandinym, the. Afanasieff, m. Manarovym and t. Akiyama (Japan). During the flight, he made an exit to the open space (2 hours 45 minutes), during which he received information on the number of works needed to repair the exit hatch of the "Quantum-2" module. ". During the flight, the astronaut has conducted extensive scientific research. Research program. The results of the experiments conducted by g. It has been used in various fields of the national economy. In space, the crew of the cc "Soyuz TM -10" spent more than 130 days.

For the first time in the history of the domestic inhabited space, the cargo ship "Progress M-16" at the station "Progress M-16" at the station "Mir" was realized as part of the experiment.

For courage and heroism shown in flight, the country's seventy-ninth cosmonaut received the title of hero of the Soviet Union with the Gold Medal Award and the Order of Lenin.

The Peoples Friendship Order was awarded for the second spaceflight, from January 22 to July 24, 1993, as the Commander of the TM-16 Union Vessel under the program of the 13th Main Expedition. In flight, he made two exits from the open space with a total length of 9 hours 58 minutes. The 1993 July 22, a crew of Russian cosmonauts in the Russian city. Manakova, a. Poleŝuka and French astronaut F.-P. Angela returned to earth safely. The duration of the flight was 179 days.

Gennady Mikhailovich received the qualification "1st class military pilot" (1977), "1st pilot class" (1987), "2nd class cosmonaut" (1990), "2nd class cosmonaut" (1990), "L Parachute Training Instructor (PDP) of the Air Force ". the total flight - more than 1620 hours, mastered 42 types and modifications of planes, realized 248 jumps.

In 1996, he retired from cosmonauts. His experience and knowledge remained in demand at the Astronaut Training Center: he was appointed Chief of the 32nd Division (for providing life for cosmonauts in special conditions) from the 3rd Bureau, from 1997 to 2000 he been head of 2 the department of state department of the Rgniicpk. In July 2000, the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation was rejected.

He belonged to the generation of Soviet and Russian cosmonauts who wrote brilliant pages in the glorious history of the Russian inhabited space. He has dedicated his entire life to the cause of space and aviation, giving his rich experience to the younger generation.

He received the orders and medals of our country, he was an officer of the order of the Legion of Honor (France), and was an honorable citizen of the cities of arkalyk and dzhezkazgan.

Leadership, pilots of the USSR and Russian Federation, team and veterans of the center for training astronauts named after y.a. Gagarin are sorry for the family and loved ones of Genaddy Mikhailovich.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release (In Russian):

Image, Text, Credit: ROSCOSMOS.


ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz-2.1b launches Kosmos-2541


September 26, 2019

Soyuz-2.1b launches Kosmos-2541

Today, on September 26, 2019, at 10:46 Moscow time, from the Plesetsk State Testing Cosmodrome in the Arkhangelsk Region, the combat crew of the VKS Space Forces successfully launched the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle with a spacecraft in the interests of the Russian Ministry of  Defense.

The launch of the launch vehicle and the launch of the spacecraft into the calculated orbit took place as usual. Two minutes after the launch, the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle was accepted for escort by means of the ground-based automated control complex of the German Titov Main Test Space Center.

Soyuz-2.1b launches Kosmos-2541

At the estimated time, the spacecraft was launched into the target orbit and taken into control by the ground-based means of the aerospace forces. A stable telemetric communication has been established and maintained with the satellite, its on-board systems are functioning normally.
Kosmos-2541 (Tundra) satellite

This is the fourth launch of the Soyuz-2 launch vehicle from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in 2019. Flight tests of the Soyuz-2 space rocket complex began at the Plesetsk cosmodrome on November 8, 2004. Over the past fifteen years, 40 launches of Soyuz-2 launch vehicles of modernization stages 1a, 1b and 1c were carried out from the northern spaceport.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: Russian Ministry of  Defense/ROSCOSMOS/SciNews.


Expanded Station Crew Relaxes Before Cargo Delivery, Crew Departure

ISS - Expedition 60 Mission patch.

September 26, 2019

The Expedition 60 crew is relaxing today after welcoming three new space residents to the International Space Station on Wednesday. They will receive a cargo shipment on Saturday before turning their attention to a crew departure next week.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir took a five-hour and 45-minute ride to the orbiting lab on Wednesday with Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates. They blasted off from Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship and docked to the rear port of the Zvezda service module. Family and mission officials on the ground congratulated the trio shortly after the new crew boarded the station expanding the population of the space lab to nine.

Image above: The International Space Station is pictured orbiting Earth in October of 2018. Image Credit: NASA.

All nine crewmembers are sleeping in today and will soon be getting ready for more space traffic. The new crew was briefed on station safety procedures and will be getting up to speed with life in microgravity over the next several days.

Japan’s HTV-8 space freighter has been orbiting Earth since Tuesday after launching to the station from the Tanegashima Space Center. It will arrive Saturday carrying over four tons of crew supplies, station hardware and new science experiments.

Soyuz MS-15 hatch opening

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will capture the HTV-8 on Saturday with the Canadarm2 robotic arm around 7:15 a.m. EDT. Ground controllers will then take over and remotely install the Japanese resupply ship to the Harmony module about three hours later. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the capture and installation activities starting at 5:45 a.m.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Flight Engineer Nick Hague are getting ready for their return to Earth on Oct. 3. They will take Almansoori home with them aboard their Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft and parachute to a landing in Kazakhstan.

Related article:

Soyuz Spacecraft With Three Crewmates Docks to Orbiting Lab

Related links:


Expedition 60:

Expedition 61:


Harmony module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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NASA’s TESS Mission Spots Its 1st Star-shredding Black Hole

NASA - TESS Mission logo.

Sept. 26, 2019

For the first time, NASA’s planet-hunting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) watched a black hole tear apart a star in a cataclysmic phenomenon called a tidal disruption event. Follow-up observations by NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and other facilities have produced the most detailed look yet at the early moments of one of these star-destroying occurrences.

“TESS data let us see exactly when this destructive event, named ASASSN-19bt, started to get brighter, which we’ve never been able to do before,” said Thomas Holoien, a Carnegie Fellow at the Carnegie Observatories in Pasadena, California. “Because we identified the tidal disruption quickly with the ground-based All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN), we were able to trigger multiwavelength follow-up observations in the first few days. The early data will be incredibly helpful for modeling the physics of these outbursts.”

A paper describing the findings, led by Holoien, was published in the Sept. 27, 2019, issue of The Astrophysical Journal and is now available online:

TESS Catches its First Star-destroying Black Hole

Video above: When a star strays too close to a black hole, intense tides break it apart into a stream of gas. The tail of the stream escapes the system, while the rest of it swings back around, surrounding the black hole with a disk of debris. This video includes images of a tidal disruption event called ASASSN-19bt taken by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and Swift missions, as well as an animation showing how the event unfolded. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

ASAS-SN, a worldwide network of 20 robotic telescopes headquartered at Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, discovered the event on Jan. 29. Holoien was working at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile when he received the alert from the project’s South Africa instrument. Holoien quickly trained two Las Campanas telescopes on ASASSN-19bt and then requested follow-up observations by Swift, ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) XMM-Newton and ground-based 1-meter telescopes in the global Las Cumbres Observatory network.

TESS, however, didn’t need a call to action because it was already looking at the same area. The planet hunter monitors large swaths of the sky, called sectors, for 27 days at a time. This lengthy view allows TESS to observe transits, periodic dips in a star’s brightness that may indicate orbiting planets.

ASAS-SN began spending more time looking at TESS sectors when the satellite started science operations in July 2018. Astronomers anticipated TESS could catch the earliest light from short-lived stellar outbursts, including supernovae and tidal disruptions. TESS first saw ASASSN-19bt on Jan. 21, over a week before the event was bright enough for ASAS-SN to detect it. However, the satellite only transmits data to Earth every two weeks, and once received they must be processed at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, California. So the first TESS data on the tidal disruption were not available until March 13. This is why obtaining early follow-up observations of these events depends on coordination by ground-based surveys like ASAS-SN.

Fortunately, the disruption also occurred in TESS’s southern continuous viewing zone, which was always in sight of one of the satellite’s four cameras. (TESS shifted to monitoring the northern sky at the end of July.) ASASSN-19bt’s location allowed Holoien and his colleagues to follow the event across several sectors. If it had occurred outside this zone, TESS might have missed the beginning of the outburst.

“The early TESS data allow us to see light very close to the black hole, much closer than we’ve been able to see before,” said Patrick Vallely, a co-author and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at OSU. “They also show us that ASASSN-19bt’s rise in brightness was very smooth, which helps us tell that the event was a tidal disruption and not another type of outburst, like from the center of a galaxy or a supernova.”

Holoien’s team used UV data from Swift — the earliest yet seen from a tidal disruption — to determine that the temperature dropped by about 50%, from around 71,500 to 35,500 degrees Fahrenheit (40,000 to 20,000 degrees Celsius), over a few days. It’s the first time such an early temperature decrease has been seen in a tidal disruption before, although a few theories have predicted it, Holoien said.

More typical for these kinds of events was the low level of X-ray emission seen by both Swift and XMM-Newton. Scientists don’t fully understand why tidal disruptions produce so much UV emission and so few X-rays.

Image above: This illustration shows a tidal disruption, which occurs when a passing star gets too close to a black hole and is torn apart into a stream of gas. Some of the gas eventually settles into a structure around the black hole called an accretion disk. Image Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

“People have suggested multiple theories — perhaps the light bounces through the newly created debris and loses energy, or maybe the disk forms further from the black hole than we originally thought and the light isn’t so affected by the object’s extreme gravity,” said S. Bradley Cenko, Swift’s principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “More early-time observations of these events may help us answer some of these lingering questions.”

Astronomers think the supermassive black hole that generated ASASSN-19bt weighs around 6 million times the Sun’s mass. It sits at the center of a galaxy called 2MASX J07001137-6602251 located around 375 million light-years away in the constellation Volans. The destroyed star may have been similar in size to our Sun.

Tidal disruptions are incredibly rare, occurring once every 10,000 to 100,000 years in a galaxy the size of our own Milky Way. Supernovae, by comparison, happen every 100 years or so. In total, astronomers have observed only about 40 tidal disruptions so far, and scientists predicted TESS would see only one or two in its initial two-year mission.

“For TESS to observe ASASSN-19bt so early in its tenure, and in the continuous viewing zone where we could watch it for so long, is really quite extraordinary,” said Padi Boyd, the TESS project scientist at Goddard. “Future collaborations with observatories around the world and in orbit will help us learn even more about the different outbursts that light up the cosmos.”

TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts; MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. More than a dozen universities, research institutes and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages the Swift mission in collaboration with Penn State in University Park, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems in Dulles, Virginia. Other partners include the University of Leicester and Mullard Space Science Laboratory of the University College London in the United Kingdom, Brera Observatory and ASI.

Related Links:

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS):

NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory:

Carnegie Observatories:

All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN):

Ohio State University (OSU):

Las Campanas Observatory:

ESA’s (European Space Agency’s) XMM-Newton:

Las Cumbres Observatory:

Video (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/The Ohio State University/Laura Arenschield/Carnegie Institution/Natasha Metzler/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, by Jeanette Kazmierczak/Claire Andreoli.

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Fly your experiment to the Space Station with Bioreactor Express Service

ISS - International Space Station logo.

26 September 2019

ESA is partnering with Kayser Italia to offer the Kubik facility on the International Space Station to commercial customers. The new Bioreactor Express Service allows users to conduct experiments in weightlessness.

Kubik on Space Station

Customers can use existing experiment containers, customise them, or develop an entirely new container to match their requirements. The starting price is €160 000 and covers the flight using an existing experiment container – from conception to launch and returning scientific data within a year.

Kubik has been running experiments for ESA’s SciSpace programme since 2004 in the European Columbus module that is part of the International Space Station. The miniature laboratory offers room for 24 experiment containers and is equipped with features such as temperature control and a centrifuge that simulates a range of gravity levels by spinning the containers. These features allow for comparison between different environments, for example how samples of bacteria, human cells or plant seeds react to gravity levels on Earth, the Moon and Mars.

ESA astronaut Paolo Nespoli with Kubik

David Zolesi from Kayser Italia says “with Bioreactor Express Service, we want to make Kubik accessible to everyone, providing an end-to-end service from concept to implementation, for a reasonable price and within an acceptable time-frame.”

Bioreactor Express Service was developed within ESA’s commercial partnership initiative for European industry to propose joint development of new commercial services and applications using the unique conditions that space provides.

First Contract: BioAsteroid


The announcement of Bioreactor Express Service comes with the first experiment to fly. The BioAsteroid project from the University of Edinburgh will investigate how gravity affects the interaction between microbes and rock in reduced gravity. Two bio-mining reactors will allow researchers to see how the microbes develop a biofilm on the surface of a rock sample. Biofilms are collections of microbes that grow on a surface, a form of biofilms are dental plaques. The experiment is scheduled to fly in October next year.

For more information and how to get on board visit the Bioreactor Express Service website:

Related links:

ESA’s commercial partnership initiative:

ESA’s SciSpace programme:


International Space Station Benefits for Humanity:

European space laboratory Columbus:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/University of Edinburgh.


Gigantic Chinese telescope opens to astronomers worldwide

Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) logo.

26 September 2019

FAST has superior sensitivity to detect cosmic phenomena, including fast radio bursts and pulsars. 

Image above: FAST will enable highly sensitive measurements of astronomical phenomenon. Image Credits: Ou Dongqu/Xinhua/ZUMA.

The world’s largest single-dish radio observatory is preparing to open to astronomers around the world, ushering in an era of exquisitely sensitive observations that could help in the hunt for gravitational waves and probe the mysterious fleeting blasts of radiation known as fast radio bursts.

The Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in southern China has just passed a series of technical and performance assessments, and the Chinese government is expected to give the observatory the final green light to begin full operations at a review meeting scheduled for next month. “We do not see any roadblocks for the remaining transition,” says Di Li, the chief scientist of FAST. “I feel both excited and relieved.”

The complex project has not been without challenges — it has a radical design and initially struggled to attract staff, in part because of its remote location. But the pay-off for science will be immense. FAST will collect radio waves from an area twice the size of the next-largest single-dish telescope, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

The Chinese observatory’s massive size means that it can detect extremely faint radio-wave whispers from an array of sources across the Universe, such as the spinning cores of dead stars, known as pulsars, and hydrogen in distant galaxies. It will also explore a frontier in radioastronomy — using radio waves to locate exoplanets, which may harbour extraterrestrial life.

Since testing began in 2016, only Chinese scientists have been able to lead projects studying the telescope’s preliminary data. But now, observation time will be accessible to researchers from around the world, says Zhiqiang Shen, director of the Shanghai Astronomical Observatory and co-chair of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ FAST supervisory committee.

“I’m super excited to be able to use the telescope,” says Maura McLaughlin, a radioastronomer at West Virginia University in Morgantown, who wants to use FAST to study pulsars, including hunting for them in galaxies outside the Milky Way, that are too faint to see with current telescopes.

During the testing phase, the telescope discovered more than 100 pulsars.
Eye in the sky

The 1.2-billion-yuan (US$171-million) telescope, also known as Tianyan or ‘Eye of Heaven’, took half a decade to build in the remote Dawodang depression in the Guizhou province of southwest China. Its 500-metre-wide dish is made up of around 4,400 individual aluminium panels that more than 2,000 mechanical winches tilt and manoeuvre to focus on different areas of the sky. Although it sees less of the sky than some other cutting-edge radio telescopes, and has lower resolution than multidish arrays, FAST’s size makes it uniquely sensitive, says Li.

In August and September, the instrument detected hundreds of bursts from a repeating fast radio burst (FRB) source known as 121102. Many of these bursts were too faint to be perceived by other telescopes, says Li. “This is very exciting news,” says Yunfan Gerry Zhang, who studies FRBs at the University of California, Berkeley. No one knows what causes the mysterious bursts, but “the more pulses we have, the more we can learn about them”, he says.

FAST examines only a tiny fraction of the sky at any one time, making it unlikely to discover many new FRBs, which are fleeting and occur in seemingly random locations. But the telescope’s

It's “impressive sensitivity” will be useful for following up on sources in detail, says Laura Spitler, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany. Repeat observations could allow scientists to learn about the environment from which an FRB emerged, and to determine whether the blasts vary in energy or recur with any set pattern.

FAST will also boost the efforts of an international collaboration that is trying to spot ripples in space-time as they sweep through the Galaxy, says McLaughlin. The International Pulsar Timing Array is using radio telescopes around the world to monitor the regular emissions from pulsars, looking for distortions that would reveal the passing of these low-frequency gravitational waves. By the 2030s, FAST should have racked up enough sensitive measurements to study individual sources of such waves, such as collisions of supermassive black holes, says McLaughlin. “That’s where FAST is really going to shine,” she says.

Li says that he is particularly excited about the study of planets outside the Solar System. No exoplanets have yet been conclusively detected by their radio emissions, but FAST’s ability to spot faint, polarized waves might allow it to find the first examples, says Li. Polarized radio signals might come from planets with magnetic fields that, if similar to the one on Earth, could protect potential sources of life against radiation and keep the planets’ atmospheres attached.

Identifying a planet in FAST’s wide beam is a challenge, because they are so faint and small. But Li’s team wants to boost the telescope’s performance by adding 36 dishes, each 5 metres wide. Although the dishes are relatively cheap, off-the-shelf products, together they will improve FAST’s spatial resolution by 100 times, he says.

Li hopes that FAST’s telescope operations will soon move from near the remote site to a $23-million data-processing centre being built in the city of Guiyang. He expects that the move to a major city will help attract more technical and engineering staff.

Now the team’s biggest hurdle is working out how to store and process the enormous amount of data that the telescope will churn out. The team are negotiating with the Chinese government to get additional funding for more data storage. “A successful review will definitely help,” he says.

Related articles:

FAST - The World largest radiotelescope in service

China FAST hunt for alien life with giant telescope

Related link:

For more information about Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), visit:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NATURE/Elizabeth Gibney.


mercredi 25 septembre 2019

Soyuz Spacecraft With Three Crewmates Docks to Orbiting Lab

ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz MS-15 Mission patch.

September 25, 2019

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) docked to the International Space Station at 3:42 p.m. EDT.

Image above: The camera on the rear port of the Zvezda service module captures the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft approaching for a docking. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The new crew members will be greeted by station commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Nick Hague, Andrew Morgan, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov.

Soyuz MS-15 docking

During Expedition 61, crew members will install new lithium-ion batteries for two of the station’s solar array power channels through a series of spacewalks. Later in the expedition, spacewalkers are scheduled to upgrade and repair the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS), a key science instrument housed outside the station to study dark matter and the origins of the universe.

NASA TV coverage will begin at 5 p.m. for the hatch opening at 5:45 p.m.

Related article:

Soyuz Rocket Blasts Off to Station With Multinational Crew

Related links:

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS):


Expedition 60:

Expedition 61:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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NASA Visualization Shows a Black Hole’s Warped World

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center logo.

Sept. 25, 2019

This new visualization of a black hole illustrates how its gravity distorts our view, warping its surroundings as if seen in a carnival mirror. The visualization simulates the appearance of a black hole where infalling matter has collected into a thin, hot structure called an accretion disk. The black hole’s extreme gravity skews light emitted by different regions of the disk, producing the misshapen appearance.

Bright knots constantly form and dissipate in the disk as magnetic fields wind and twist through the churning gas. Nearest the black hole, the gas orbits at close to the speed of light, while the outer portions spin a bit more slowly. This difference stretches and shears the bright knots, producing light and dark lanes in the disk.

Animation above: Seen nearly edgewise, the turbulent disk of gas churning around a black hole takes on a crazy double-humped appearance. The black hole’s extreme gravity alters the paths of light coming from different parts of the disk, producing the warped image. The black hole’s extreme gravitational field redirects and distorts light coming from different parts of the disk, but exactly what we see depends on our viewing angle. The greatest distortion occurs when viewing the system nearly edgewise. Animation Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman.

Viewed from the side, the disk looks brighter on the left than it does on the right. Glowing gas on the left side of the disk moves toward us so fast that the effects of Einstein’s relativity give it a boost in brightness; the opposite happens on the right side, where gas moving away us becomes slightly dimmer. This asymmetry disappears when we see the disk exactly face on because, from that perspective, none of the material is moving along our line of sight.

Image above: This image highlights and explains various aspects of the black hole visualization. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman.

Closest to the black hole, the gravitational light-bending becomes so excessive that we can see the underside of the disk as a bright ring of light seemingly outlining the black hole. This so-called “photon ring” is composed of multiple rings, which grow progressively fainter and thinner, from light that has circled the black hole two, three, or even more times before escaping to reach our eyes. Because the black hole modeled in this visualization is spherical, the photon ring looks nearly circular and identical from any viewing angle. Inside the photon ring is the black hole’s shadow, an area roughly twice the size of the event horizon — its point of no return.

Image above: Seen nearly edgewise, the turbulent disk of gas churning around a black hole takes on a crazy double-humped appearance. The black hole’s extreme gravity alters the paths of light coming from different parts of the disk, producing the warped image. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman.

"Simulations and movies like these really help us visualize what Einstein meant when he said that gravity warps the fabric of space and time,” explains Jeremy Schnittman, who generated these gorgeous images using custom software at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “Until very recently, these visualizations were limited to our imagination and computer programs. I never thought that it would be possible to see a real black hole." Yet on April 10, the Event Horizon Telescope team released the first-ever image of a black hole’s shadow using radio observations of the heart of the galaxy M87.

Related links:

Black Holes:

Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC):

Animation (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Francis Reddy.


Growing a Smarter Model for Brain Research in Space

ISS - International Space Station logo.

Sept. 25, 2019

Researchers studying neurological diseases face several daunting challenges. For one thing, these conditions may take years or even decades to develop. On top of that, experimenting on the brains of healthy human beings simply is not ethical, and suitable human neurological models have not been readily available.

An investigation that sent brain organoids to the International Space Station may help meet both challenges.

Image above: The CubeLab hardware for Space Tango-Human Brain Organoids investigation, which observes the response of brain organoids to microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

The Effect of Microgravity on Human Brain Organoids (Space Tango-Human Brain Organoids) studies how microgravity affects basic functions of brain cells, including survival, migration and metabolism, and the formation of neural networks. The human brain consists of many of these networks of neurons or nerve cells connected together to transmit and process the information received from our senses.

Brain organoids are small living masses of brain cells that form functional neural networks and self-organize into 3D structures resembling parts of the human brain. Scientists recently have begun using these organoids for a range of studies on brain function here on Earth. The white, pea-sized structures mimic the early stages of human brain development and provide a model for studying the biological processes involved in neurological disease and aging.

The space-based investigation takes advantage of the fact that in microgravity, the human body experiences changes that resemble accelerated aging. Studies show that artery walls become stiffer and thicker in space, for example, the same as when people grow older on Earth.

“Late onset Alzheimer’s, for example, takes 60 or 70 years to develop in an individual,” said principal investigator Alysson Muotri, head of a research laboratory at the University of California San Diego in La Jolla. “With organoids in the lab, it might take a similar amount of time. That’s a long time to keep these cells alive. If we could speed up the disease development, we could create a model that would allow us to see how problems develop and, perhaps, how to mitigate them.”

Image above: A cross-section of a brain organoid using immunofluorescence to show ventricles (inside) and a cortical plate (outside). Image Credits: Muotri Lab/UC San Diego.

Organoids model just a fraction of the brain, Muotri explained, yet can mimic some of the organization of brain tissues. “They provide a tool to access the developmental stage of the brain, which is a very important stage for setting up the first wiring of neural networks,” he said. “A problem at that stage can affect you for the rest of your life.”

When they launched into space in July, the organoids were a month old, a point at which their cells were rapidly proliferating and differentiating, or becoming different types of cells. They stayed on the orbiting laboratory for 27 days before returning to Earth for analysis.

Previous research provides evidence for how some cells and tissues in the body ‘age’ more quickly in space. These are the first human brain organoids to travel to space, so it is not yet clear how microgravity may affect their development.

At first glance, Muotri says it appears that the space-traveling organoids maintained their shape and may have grown larger. Further analysis could confirm that and identify any changes in their DNA and gene expression.

Caring for organoids during studies that cover months, if not years, can be very time-consuming. The investigation developed special hardware for growing the organoids autonomously, which could greatly simplify their use for research in space and on Earth.

Image above: Brain organoids grown in the Muotri Laboratory at University of California San Diego in La Jolla for one month and then sent to the International Space Station. Image Credits: Muotri Lab/UC San Diego.

In addition to advancing understanding of the development of diseases affecting the brain, this research is fundamental to protecting human health during space exploration.

“We want to see whether the organoids survive and whether cells replicate and form connections,” Muotri said. “This has implications for long term space travel and colonization of future planets.”

Muotri says future studies could create new organoids from single cells in space, and others could keep them on the space station longer in order to study later phases of development.

For now, the current investigation advances organoid technology, which helps address challenges involved in learning more about the human brain.

The ISS U.S. National Laboratory sponsored this investigation and Space Tango engineered the hardware for its CubeLabs platform.

Related links:

Space Tango-Human Brain Organoids:

ISS U.S. National Laboratory:

Space Tango:

CubeLabs platform:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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