vendredi 18 octobre 2019

Mars InSight's 'Mole' Is Moving Again

NASA - InSight Mission patch.

October 18, 2019

NASA's InSight spacecraft has used its robotic arm to help its heat probe, known as "the mole," dig nearly 2 centimeters (3/4 of an inch) over the past week. While modest, the movement is significant: Designed to dig as much as 16 feet (5 meters) underground to gauge the heat escaping from the planet's interior, the mole has only managed to partially bury itself since it started hammering in February 2019.

Animation above: This GIF shows NASA InSight's heat probe, or "mole," digging about a centimeter (half an inch) below the surface last week. Using a technique called "pinning," InSight recently pressed the scoop on its robotic arm against the self-hammering mole in order to help it dig. Animation Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The recent movement is the result of a new strategy, arrived at after extensive testing on Earth, which found that unexpectedly strong soil is holding up the mole's progress. The mole needs friction from surrounding soil in order to move: Without it, recoil from its self-hammering action will cause it to simply bounce in place. Pressing the scoop on InSight's robotic arm against the mole, a new technique called "pinning," appears to provide the probe with the friction it needs to continue digging.

Since Oct. 8, 2019, the mole has hammered 220 times over three separate occasions. Images sent down from the spacecraft's cameras have shown the mole gradually progressing into the ground. It will take more time - and hammering - for the team to see how far the mole can go.

The mole is part of an instrument called the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, or HP3, which was provided by the German Aerospace Center (DLR).

"Seeing the mole's progress seems to indicate that there's no rock blocking our path," said HP3 Principal Investigator Tilman Spohn of DLR. "That's great news! We're rooting for our mole to keep going."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leads the InSight mission. JPL has tested the robotic arm's movement using full-scale replicas of InSight and the mole. Engineers continue to test what would happen if the mole were to sink beneath the reach of the robotic arm. If it stops making progress, they might scrape soil on top of the mole, adding mass to resist the mole's recoil.

InSight on Mars. Image Credits: NASA/JPL

If no other options exist, they would consider pressing the scoop down directly on the top of the mole while trying to avoid the sensitive tether there; the tether provides power to and relays data from the instrument.

"The mole still has a way to go, but we're all thrilled to see it digging again," said Troy Hudson of JPL, an engineer and scientist who has led the mole recovery effort. "When we first encountered this problem, it was crushing. But I thought, 'Maybe there's a chance; let's keep pressing on.' And right now, I'm feeling giddy."

About InSight

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

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

Related article:

NASA's Push to Save the Mars InSight Lander's Heat Probe

More about InSight:

Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS):

Animation (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Alana Johnson/JPL/Andrew Good.


Astronauts Christina Koch, Jessica Meir Complete First All-Woman Spacewalk

ISS - Expedition 61 Mission patch / EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

October 18, 2019

Image above: NASA spacewalkers Christina Koch (foreground, suit with red stripe) and Jessica Meir (suit with no stripes) replaced a failed battery charge-discharge unit with a new one during a 7-hour, 17-minute spacewalk. Image Credit: NASA TV.

At 2:55 p.m. EDT, Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA concluded their spacewalk, the first with only women. During the 7-hour, 17-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts completed the replacement a failed power charging component, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). The BCDU regulates the charge to the batteries that collect and distribute solar power to the orbiting lab’s systems. Mission control activated the newly installed BCDU and reported it is operating properly.

The astronauts were also able to accomplish some get-ahead tasks including installation of a stanchion on the Columbus module for support of a new external ESA (European Space Agency) payload platform called Bartolomeo scheduled for launch to the station in 2020.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir begin spacewalk

Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan assisted the spacewalkers. Parmitano operated the Canadarm2 robotics arm and Morgan provided airlock and spacesuit support.

It was the eighth spacewalk outside the station this year. Space station crew members have now conducted 221 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have spent a total of 57 days, 20 hours, and 29 minutes working outside the station.

Image above: NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir conduct the first all-women spacewalk. Image Credit: NASA.

It was the first spacewalk for Meir and the fourth for Koch, who now has spent a total of 27 hours and 48 minutes spacewalking. It is the first spaceflight for both women, who were selected in the 2013 astronaut class that had equal numbers of women and men. Koch arrived to the orbiting laboratory in March 2019 and will remain in space for an extended duration mission of 11 months to provide researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman to prepare for human missions to the Moon and Mars.

Meir became the 15th woman to spacewalk, and the 14th U.S. woman. It was the 43rd spacewalk to include a woman. Women have been performing spacewalks since 1984, when Russian cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya spacewalked in July and NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan spacewalked in October.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir end spacewalk

The faulty BCDU is due to return to Earth on the next SpaceX Dragon resupply ship for inspection. Station managers will reschedule the three battery replacement spacewalks for a future date. In the meantime, the five planned spacewalks to repair a cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, are still on the calendar for November and December.

Spacewalk Preps Today amid Cancer, Robotics and Agriculture Research

Science experiments continue aboard the International Space Station as two NASA astronauts prepare for their first spacewalk together, which is set to take place Friday. The Expedition 61 crew researched a variety of space phenomena today and reviewed procedures for tomorrow’s excursion.

Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will venture out into the vacuum of space on Friday to replace a failed power controller, also known as a battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). The BCDU regulates the charge to the batteries that collect and distribute solar power to the orbiting lab’s systems. They will set their spacesuits to battery power around 7:50 a.m. EDT and exit the Quest airlock for the 5.5-hour repair job on the Port 6 truss structure. NASA TV begins its live coverage at 6:30 a.m.

Image above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch (right) poses for a portrait with fellow Expedition 61 Flight Engineer Jessica Meir of NASA who is inside a U.S. spacesuit for a fit check. Image Credit: NASA.

Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA Flight Engineer Andrew Morgan will assist the spacewalkers. Parmitano will control the Canadarm2 robotics arm and Morgan will provide airlock and spacesuit support. All four astronauts gathered together today for a final procedures review.

In the midst of the spacewalk preparations, the crew continued ongoing microgravity science. The astronauts had time set aside today for researching cancer therapies, DNA sequencing, planetary robotics and space agriculture.

Morgan set up protein crystals critical to tumor growth and survival in a microscope for observation and photography. Koch continued exploring the viability of sequencing microbial DNA in microgravity.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Parmitano is readying hardware that will enable an astronaut on the station to control a robot on the Earth’s surface. Future astronauts could use the robotic technology to explore a planetary surface such as the Moon or Mars while orbiting in a spacecraft.

The crew is also in the second week of growing a crop of Mizuna mustard greens. Meir watered the Mizuna plants today for the ongoing space agriculture study to learn how to provide fresh food to space crews.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Skripochka had their own slate of human research to conduct today. The duo studied cardiac output changes and blood flow regulation including the effects of space on enzymes.

Related links:

Expedition 61:

Truss structure:

Canadarm2 robotics arm:

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS):

Tumor growth and survival:

Sequencing microbial DNA:

Explore a planetary surface:

Space agriculture study:

Cardiac output changes:

Blood flow regulation:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

The Tycho Supernova: Death of a Star

NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Oct. 18, 2019

In 1572, Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe was among those who noticed a new bright object in the constellation Cassiopeia. Adding fuel to the intellectual fire that Copernicus started, Tycho showed this “new star” was far beyond the Moon, and that it was possible for the universe beyond the Sun and planets to change.

Astronomers now know that Tycho’s new star was not new at all. Rather it signaled the death of a star in a supernova, an explosion so bright that it can outshine the light from an entire galaxy. This particular supernova was a Type Ia, which occurs when a white dwarf star pulls material from, or merges with, a nearby companion star until a violent explosion is triggered. The white dwarf star is obliterated, sending its debris hurtling into space.

In its two decades of operation, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has captured unparalleled X-ray images of many supernova remnants.

Chandra reveals an intriguing pattern of bright clumps and fainter areas in Tycho. What caused this thicket of knots in the aftermath of this explosion? Did the explosion itself cause this clumpiness, or was it something that happened afterward?

Chandra X-ray Observatory

This latest image of Tycho from Chandra is providing clues. To emphasize the clumps in the image and the three-dimensional nature of Tycho, scientists selected two narrow ranges of X-ray energies to isolate material (silicon, colored red) moving away from Earth, and moving towards us (also silicon, colored blue). The other colors in the image (yellow, green, blue-green, orange and purple) show a broad range of different energies and elements, and a mixture of directions of motion. In this new composite image, Chandra’s X-ray data have been combined with an optical image of the stars in the same field of view from the Digitized Sky Survey.

Chandra X-ray Observatory:

Images, Animation, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA/Yvette Smith/CXC/RIKEN & GSFC/T. Sato et al; Optical: DSS.


jeudi 17 octobre 2019

Moon Shadow (on Jupiter)

NASA - JUNO Mission patch.

October 17, 2019

Jupiter’s volcanically active moon Io casts its shadow on the planet in this dramatic image from NASA’s Juno spacecraft. As with solar eclipses on the Earth, within the dark circle racing across Jupiter’s cloud tops one would witness a full solar eclipse as Io passes in front of the Sun.

Such events occur frequently on Jupiter because it is a large planet with many moons. In addition, unlike most other planets in our solar system, Jupiter’s axis is not highly tilted relative to its orbit, so the Sun never strays far from Jupiter’s equatorial plane (+/- 3 degrees). This means Jupiter’s moons regularly cast their shadows on the planet throughout its year.

Juno’s close proximity to Jupiter provides an exceptional fish-eye view, showing a small fraction near the planet’s equator. The shadow is about 2,200 miles (3,600 kilometers) wide, approximately the same width as Io, but appears much larger relative to Jupiter.

A little larger than Earth’s Moon, Io is perhaps most famous for its many active volcanoes, often caught lofting fountains of ejecta well above its thin atmosphere.

Citizen scientist Kevin M. Gill created this enhanced-color image using data from the spacecraft's JunoCam imager. The raw image was taken on Sept. 11, 2019 at 8:41 p.m. PDT (11:41 p.m. EDT) as the Juno spacecraft performed its 22nd close flyby of Jupiter.  At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 4,885 miles (7,862 kilometers) from the cloud tops at a latitude of 21 degrees.

JUNO spacecraft orbiting Jupiter. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL

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

More information about Juno is at and

Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Image processing by Kevin M. Gill, © CC BY 3.0/Animation (mentioned)//Text,Tony Greicius.


HiRISE Views NASA's InSight and Curiosity on Mars

NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) logo.

October 17, 2019

The HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently sent home eye-catching views of the agency's InSight lander and its Curiosity rover.

HiRISE has been monitoring InSight's landing site in the Elysium Planitia region of the Red Planet for changes to the surface, such as dust-devil tracks. Taken on Sept. 23, 2019, at an altitude of 169 miles (272 kilometers) above the surface, the new image is NASA's best view yet of InSight from space. It clearly shows the two circular solar panels on either side of the lander body, spanning 20 feet (6 meters) from end to end.

Image above: The HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter got its best view yet of the InSight lander on September 23, 2019. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

The bright spot on the lower side of the spacecraft is the dome-shaped protective cover over InSight's seismometer. The dark halo surrounding the spacecraft resulted from retrorocket thrusters scouring the surface during landing, while dust devils created the dark streaks that run diagonally across the surface.

Several factors make this image crisper than a set of images released after InSight's November 2018 landing. For one thing, there's less dust in the air this time. Shadows are offset from the lander because this is an oblique view looking west. The lighting was also optimal for avoiding the bright reflections from the lander or its solar panels that have obscured surrounding pixels in other images. However, bright reflections are unavoidable with the seismometer cover just south of the lander because of its dome shape.

Driven by Curiosity

HiRISE has also been keeping tabs on NASA's Curiosity, which is roughly 373 miles (600 kilometers) from InSight, exploring a region called "the clay-bearing unit."

Animation above: This animation shows the position of NASA's Curiosity rover as it journeyed through "the clay-bearing unit" on Mars between May 31 and July 20, 2019. The HiRISE camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter took both images. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona.

A GIF released today shows Curiosity as a gray speck as it traveled 1,106 feet (337 meters) from a location within the clay-bearing unit called "Woodland Bay" (top center) to "Sandside Harbour" (bottom center, near the dark sand patch) between May 31 and July 20, 2019.

Look carefully and you can even see the rover's tracks arcing to the right side of the second image.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages the InSight, MRO and Curiosity missions for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of Caltech. The University of Arizona in Tucson operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado. MRO was built by Lockheed Martin Space.

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

Find more information about InSight, Curiosity, MRO and HiRISE at:

About InSight

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

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

InSight's seismometer (SEIS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Alana Johnson/JPL/Andrew Good.

Best regards,

Research launching to the space station ranges from radiation protection to rover control

ISS - International Space Station logo.

Oct. 17, 2019

Supplies and scientific experiments ride to the International Space Station on a Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft (NG-12) scheduled for launch on Nov. 2. The investigations making the trip range from research into human control of robotics in space to reprocessing fibers for 3D printing. Cygnus lifts off on the Antares rocket from pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island in Virginia.

Resupply missions from U.S. companies ensure NASA’s capability to deliver critical science research to the space station and significantly increase its ability to conduct new investigations in the only laboratory in space. This is the first mission under Northrop’s Commercial Resupply Services-2 contract with NASA.

Here are some of the scientific investigations NG-12 delivers to the space station:

More Probing of Mysteries of the Universe

Stars, planets and the molecules of which they are made represent only about 15 percent of the mass content of the universe. The rest is dark matter. However, no one has ever seen this material or been able to study it directly. The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer - 02 (AMS-02) has been looking for evidence of this mysterious substance from the vantage point of the International Space Station since 2011. AMS consists of an international team from 16 countries under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Image above: View of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer - 02 (AMS-02) on the outside of the space station, taken during an Expedition 50 extravehicular activity (EVA). Image Credit: NASA.

NG-12 carries components needed for prolonging the operational life of AMS-02. In a series of spacewalks planned for later this year, astronauts will update the instrument, including cutting and reconnecting fluid lines in space for the first time.

Driving a Rover on the Ground from Space

Future missions to the Moon, Mars and other celestial bodies are likely to involve landing robotic explorers to “test the waters” on uncharted planets before sending humans. ANALOG-1, part of a European Space Agency initiative, tests communications, operations and control strategies for robots. Previous studies have shown that humans experience degraded sensorimotor functions in microgravity that could affect their operation of a robot. The space station makes it possible to investigate these issues under true microgravity conditions by having crew members in space control a rover on Earth. Maneuvers include selection, collection and storage of geologic samples with a multi-purpose robotic arm and navigating the rover along a defined path.

Testing Personal Protective Equipment for Astronauts

Image above: The AstroRad vest undergoes fit testing at the Kennedy Space Center before launching to the space station for astronaut evaluation of ease of use and comfort.
Credits: Lockheed Martin Space. Image Credits: NASA.

Astronauts need protection from exposure to radiation, especially as they travel to the Moon and Mars. Unpredictable solar particle events, for example, could deliver, in just a few hours, a radiation dose high enough to cause serious health problems. The AstroRad Vest investigation tests a garment that shields specific, radiation-sensitive organs, tissues and stem cell concentrations, which could reduce the risk. Astronauts wear the garment while performing daily tasks and provide feedback such as how easy it is to put on, how it fits and feels, and the range of motion it allows.

3D Printing with Recycled Materials

Image above: The Made in Space Recycler hardware prepared for launch to the space station to test reprocessing plastic into 3D printing filament. Image Credit: Made In Space, Inc.

Made in Space Recycler (MIS Recycler) tests systems for reprocessing plastic into 3D printing filament for creating new items in microgravity. It recycles polymers into filament for use in the Additive Manufacturing Facility, a 3D printer operating on the orbiting laboratory since 2016. The investigation looks at which materials process most effectively into 3D printing filament and which ones can be reprocessed many times without degrading. Researchers plan to analyze samples printed in space after they return to Earth and compare them to samples printed similarly on the ground.

Malting Barley in Microgravity

Barley contains antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Malting converts starches from the raw grain into various sugars suitable for use in brewing, distilling and food production. Understanding how barley responds to microgravity could identify ways to adapt it for nutritional use on long-duration spaceflights. Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity tests an automated malting procedure and compares malt produced in space and on the ground for genetic and structural changes.

Faster, Cheaper Access to Space

NanoRacks-Craig-X FTP  is a platform for several investigations, including a collaboration between Automobili Lamborghini and the Houston Methodist Research Institute that tests the performance of 3D-printed carbon fiber composites in the extreme environment of space. The materials are designed for use in aerospace applications, but results could replace lengthy and expensive carbon fiber manufacturing methods on Earth. In addition, the study may help improve the design of implantable devices for therapeutic drug delivery developed by Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Dinner, Fresh from the Oven

Image above: The specially-designed Zero-G Oven, a tool for examining heat transfer properties and the process of baking food in microgravity. Testing this oven on the space station may lead to the capability of preparing fresh-baked food on spacecraft for future deep space explorers. Image Credit: Zero G Kitchen.

Everyone enjoys the aroma of fresh-baked cookies, even astronauts. On future long-duration space missions, fresh-baked food could have psychological and physiological benefits for crew members, providing them with a greater variety of more nutritious meals. Zero-G Oven examines heat transfer properties and the process of baking food in microgravity. It uses a specially-designed toaster-like oven with a top temperature of 363.3 degrees Celsius or 685 degrees Fahrenheit.

Studying the Effect of Dark and Light on Liver Health

Microgravity as a Disruptor Of The 12-hour Circatidal Clock (Rodent Research-14) studies how disruptions to daily light cycles affect human cells and organs. Recent research shows that genes associated with 12-hour light and dark phases, or the 12-hour molecular clock, also are associated with the most common form of human liver disease. Liver disease contributes to insulin resistance and diabetes. The 12-hour clock’s role in controlling proper liver function has major implications for maintaining human health. Results could provide insights into liver disease and reveal new therapies, including pharmaceuticals.

Scientific Investigations Set for Space on Northrop Grumman CRS-12

Related links:

Northrop Grumman Cygnus:

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer - 02 (AMS-02):


AstroRad Vest:

Made in Space Recycler (MIS Recycler):

Additive Manufacturing Facility:

Malting ABI Voyager Barley Seeds in Microgravity:

NanoRacks-Craig-X FTP:

Zero-G Oven:

Rodent Research-14:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Koch, Meir Spacewalk Moves to Friday as Crew Adjusts Schedule

ISS- Expedition 61 Mission patch.

October 17, 2019

NASA is targeting a spacewalk for no earlier than Friday to replace a failed power controller, also known as the battery charge-discharge unit (BCDU). The Expedition 61 crew is adjusting its schedule this week to accommodate the new spacewalk plans at the International Space Station.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir are continuing their preparations for the upcoming excursion. The duo will set their suits to battery power on Friday at 7:50 a.m. when the spacewalk officially starts and exit the Quest airlock. NASA TV begins its live coverage beginning at 6:30 a.m.

Image above: NASA astronauts Jessica Meir (left) and Christina Koch are inside the Quest airlock preparing the U.S. spacesuits and tools they will use on their first spacewalk together. Image Credit: NASA.

The pair in their U.S. spacesuits will venture to the far side of the station on the Port 6 truss structure. Once there, the spacewalkers will take about five-and-a-half hours to replace the failed power regulator with a spare BCDU. The BCDU had been in operation since December 2000 and is due to return to Earth on the next SpaceX Dragon resupply ship for inspection. The device regulates the charge to batteries that collect and distribute power to the station.

Station managers will investigate the loss of the BCDU and reschedule the three battery replacement spacewalks for a future date. In the meantime, the five planned spacewalks to repair a cosmic particle detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, are still on the calendar for November and December.

Related links:


Expedition 61:

Quest airlock:

Truss structure:

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS):

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Selects Space Biology Experiments to Study Living Organisms on Russian Bion-M2 Mission

ROSCOSMOS - Bion-M1 Mission patch.

Oct. 17, 2019

NASA has selected nine grant proposals for space biology research experiments, the results of which will contribute to the understanding of health risks humans will experience in deep space, including exploration at the Moon through the Artemis program and future missions to Mars. Selected investigators will have an opportunity to conduct rodent experiments to be flown on a biosatellite mission, known as Bion-M2, with the Russian space agency Roscosmos.

In 2022, Roscosmos and the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IBMP RAS) plan to launch the second biosatellite in the Bion-M series. The goal of the uncrewed Cosmos/Bion missions, the first of which was launched in 1973, is to investigate how the space environment affects living organisms, with emphasis on animal morphology and physiology, gravitational biology, and radiation biology. American investigators have taken part in a great number of experiments flown on nine Cosmos/Bion missions of different durations between 1975 and 1996, the Foton-M1 and Foton-M2 missions completed in 2005 and 2007, as well as a 30-day Bion-M1 mission successfully implemented in 2013.

Radiations belt

In 2017, NASA Space Biology released a Research Announcement  (NNH16ZTT001N-BION/NNH18ZTT002N) entitled, “Solicitation of Proposals for Possible Inclusion in a Russian Bion-M2 Mission” that sought research proposals for Space Biology investigations using laboratory mice, cell cultures, invertebrate animals, and microorganisms.

Bion-M2 will carry 75 mice and launch to an altitude of 500-620 miles (800-1000 km) within the inner Van Allen Belt where they will be exposed to radiation levels much greater than those on the International Space Stations which operates at an altitude of about 250 miles (350 km) above Earth.

Selected proposals are compatible with the Bion-M2 research program and will help obtain new science results from the experiments performed at the above orbital altitudes. NASA expects that the selected investigations will advance our understanding of spaceflight-induced changes in biological systems and will therefore help inform human exploration missions at the Moon or beyond.

NASA’s participation in the Bion-M2 mission will be another stage in NASA/IBMP research collaboration, which has successfully continued for over 30 years and profoundly expanded our knowledge of spaceflight effects on living systems.  When fully implemented, a total of ~$3.2 million will be awarded for US investigations on Bion-M2.

Awards for Bion-M2 Studies:

Elizabeth Blaber, Ph.D., NASA Ames Research Center
Single cell analysis of bone marrow progenitor and differentiated progeny populations in response to long-duration spaceflight

Mary Bouxsein, Ph.D., Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School
The Effects of Spaceflight and Reloading on Skeletal Muscle and Bone

Michael Delp, Ph.D., Florida State University
High Altitude Spaceflight on the Bion-M2: Effects on Arterial and Venous Vessels

Lesya Holets, Ph.D., University of Kansas Medical Center Research Institute, Inc.
The impact of the prolonged LEO on male reproductive health and fertility in mice on the Bion-M2 mission.

Peter Lee, Ph.D., Ohio State University
Biomarkers Associated with Spaceflight-induced Cardiac Dysfunction

Xiao Wen Mao, Ph.D., Loma Linda University
Bion-M2 Spaceflight-induced Effects on Neurovascular Remodeling and Blood-retina Barrier Function: Role of Oxidative Stress

Kanokporn Rithidech, Ph.D., State University New York, Stony Brook
Proteomic analysis of mouse plasma after space flight with the Bion-M2 Mission

Candice Tahimic, Ph.D., KBR/Wyle, NASA Ames Research Center
Re-adaptation after spaceflight: mechanisms and impact on long-term tissue health

Russell Turner, Ph.D., Oregon State University
Time Course for re-adaption of thermoregulation and bone following spaceflight

The Space Biology Program is managed by the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division in NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the Agency's Headquarters in Washington, DC.

Related links:

Inner Van Allen Belt:


Human Research Program:

Moon to Mars:

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/Carlyle Webb/ROSCOSMOS.


Hubble Observes New Interstellar Visitor

ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

17 October 2019

Comet 2I/Borisov

On 12 October 2019, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope provided astronomers with their best look yet at an interstellar visitor — Comet 2I/Borisov — which is believed to have arrived here from another planetary system elsewhere in our galaxy.

This observation is the sharpest  view ever of the interstellar comet. Hubble reveals a central concentration of dust around the solid icy nucleus.

Comet 2I/Borisov is only the second such interstellar object known to have passed through our Solar System. In 2017, the first identified interstellar visitor, an object dubbed ‘Oumuamua, swung within 38 million kilometres of the Sun before racing out of the Solar System.

“Whereas ‘Oumuamua looked like a bare rock, Borisov is really active, more like a normal comet. It’s a puzzle why these two are so different,” explained David Jewitt of UCLA, leader of the Hubble team who observed the comet.

Orbital Path of Comet 2I/Borisov

As the second interstellar object found to enter our Solar System, the comet provides various invaluable insights. For example, it offers clues to the chemical composition, structure, and dust characteristics of a planetary building block presumably forged in an alien star system a long time ago and far away.

“Because another star system could be quite different from our own, the comet could have experienced  significant changes during its long interstellar journey. Yet its properties are very similar to those of the Solar System’s building blocks, and this is very remarkable,” said Amaya Moro-Martin of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

Hubble photographed the comet at a distance of approximately 420 million kilometres from Earth [1]. The comet is travelling toward the Sun and will make its closest approach to the Sun on 7 December, when it will be twice as far from the Sun as Earth. It is also following a hyperbolic path around the Sun, and is currently blazing along at the extraordinary velocity of over 150 000 kilometres per hour. By the middle of 2020, the comet will be on its way back into interstellar space where it will drift for millions of years before maybe one day approaching another star system.

Crimean amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov first discovered the comet on 30 August 2019. After a week of observations by amateur and professional astronomers all over the world, the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center computed an orbit for the comet which showed that it came from interstellar space. Until now, all catalogued comets have come either from a ring of icy debris at the periphery of our Solar System, called the Kuiper belt, or from the Oort cloud, a shell of icy objects which is thought to be in the outermost regions of our Solar System, with its innermost edge at about 2000 times the distance between the Earth and the Sun.

Animation of Comet 2I/Borisov

2I/Borisov and ‘Oumuamua are only the beginning of the discoveries of interstellar objects paying a brief visit to our Solar System. There may be thousands of such interstellar objects here at any given time; most, however, are too faint to be detected with present-day telescopes.

Observations by Hubble and other telescopes have shown that rings and shells of icy debris encircle young stars where planet formation is underway. A gravitational interaction between these comet-like objects and other massive bodies could hurtle them deep into space where they go adrift among the stars.

Future Hubble observations of 2I/Borisov are planned through January 2020, with more being proposed.


[1] This observation was made as part of DD Program #16009.
More information

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.


Images of Hubble:

Hubblesite release:

Images, Animation, Video, Text, Credits: NASA/ESA, Bethany Downer, D. Jewitt, Stuart Wolpert (UCLA)/ J. Olmsted, F. Summers (STScI).

Best regards,

NASA Announces Changes to Spacewalk Schedule, First All-Female Spacewalk

EVA - Extra Vehicular Activities patch.

Oct. 17, 2019

NASA is hosting a media teleconference at 4:30 p.m. EDT today to discuss this week’s first all-female spacewalk at the International Space Station. Audio of the teleconference will stream live on the agency’s website:

Kenny Todd, manager of International Space Station Operations Integration, and Megan McArthur, deputy chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office, will talk to and take questions from media about recent changes to the agency’s spacewalk schedule and moving forward with efforts to upgrade the space station’s power system.

NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will venture outside the space station at 7:50 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 17 or Friday, Oct. 18. Live coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Image above: NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir. Image Credit: NASA.

Space station managers have postponed three spacewalks previously scheduled for this and next week to install new batteries in order to first replace a faulty battery charge/discharge unit (BCDU). The BCDU failed to activate following the Oct. 11 installation of new lithium-ion batteries on the space station’s truss. The three spacewalks previously planned to continue the installation of additional lithium-ion batteries will be rescheduled.

The BCDU failure has not impacted station operations, safety of the crew, or the ongoing experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory, many in preparation for future human missions to the Moon and Mars. The station’s overall power supply, which is fed by four sets of batteries and solar arrays, remains sufficient for all operations. However, the faulty power unit does prevent a set of batteries installed earlier this month from providing increased station power.

The BCDU’s regulate the amount of charge put into the batteries that collect energy from the station’s solar arrays to power station systems during periods when the station orbits during nighttime passes around Earth. Two other charge/discharge units on the affected 2B power channel did activate as planned and are providing power to station systems.

This will be Koch’s fourth spacewalk and Meir’s first. Watch video of the two discussing the possibility of conducting a spacewalk together at:

Learn more about International Space Station research, operations, and its crew at:

Expedition 61:

International Space Station (ISS):

Moon and Mars:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Northon/Stephanie Schierholz/JSC/Brandi Dean.

Best regards,

Artemis, meet ARTEMIS: Pursuing Sun Science at the Moon

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center logo.

Oct. 17, 2019

By 2024, NASA will land astronauts, including the first woman and next man, on the Moon as part of the Artemis lunar exploration program. This won’t be the first time NASA takes the name Artemis to the Moon though. Two robotic spacecraft orbiting the Moon today were initially known as ARTEMIS — short for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun. Since 2011, these spacecraft have been sending scientists valuable information about the lunar environment, and laying groundwork critical to returning humans to the Moon.

The mission, now renamed THEMIS-ARTEMIS, uses spacecraft that were originally apart of the mission known as Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms, or THEMIS, for short, which launched five spacecraft in 2007 to discover the physical processes that occurred during the events that cause the auroras.

“THEMIS-ARTEMIS has been a pathfinder for technologies that will be important for NASA’s new Artemis program,” said Jasper Halekas, THEMIS-ARTEMIS scientist and researcher at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. “Some of the work we’ve done in terms of navigation and operations will be used by future missions.”

Image above: NASA’s twin ARTEMIS spacecraft have studied the solar wind's interaction with the Moon, including the lunar wake that distorts nearby magnetic fields. Image Credits: E. Masongsong, UCLA EPSS.

One Mission into Two

The five THEMIS spacecraft were sent into carefully designed orbits that brought them in alignment every four days. After two productive years of discoveries about radiation and particles in the near-Earth environment, the spacecrafts’ orbits had significantly precessed, or drifted. Orbit precession is a natural and expected phenomenon for spacecraft that typically doesn’t affect scientific studies. But in the case of THEMIS, it meant the spacecraft would no longer align every four days.

THEMIS Sees Magnetic Reconnection

Video above: This animation of a substorm shows how particles from the Sun can cause Earth’s magnetic field lines to realign and release stored energy and particles, some of which is funneled down into Earth’s upper atmosphere, causing the auroras. Video Credits: NASA/Goddard/Conceptual Image Lab.

Knowing the orbits would eventually precess, the THEMIS scientists, in a joint effort coordinated through NASA and the Space Sciences Lab at the University of California, Berkeley, decided in advance to do something new with two of the spacecraft. Instead of spending the remaining fuel to reset the orbits, they’d send them off in a radically new direction — to the Moon.

“NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Goddard Space Flight Center did some wonderful orbit navigation design for us and came up with these very clever orbits that allowed us to get to the Moon,” Halekas said. “And we’re still there.”

Thus, the THEMIS-ARTEMIS mission was born. The mission’s acronym was created to reflect its science and position at the Moon, since in Greek mythology, Artemis was goddess of the Moon. Artemis was also the twin of Apollo. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recently named the new lunar program Artemis for these reasons, plus the fact that the agency will send the first woman to the Moon as part of the program.

“THEMIS-ARTEMIS is NASA’s only long-term monitor of conditions in and around the lunar environment,” said David Sibeck, THEMIS project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

ARTEMIS Orbits Magnetic Moon

Video above: A series of complex maneuvers, created through a joint effort of NASA and UCB’s Space Sciences Lab, sent two of the THEMIS spacecraft into orbit around the Moon to initiate the THEMIS-ARTEMIS mission. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Spacecraft Reborn

With the same instruments it used to look for events around Earth, the new mission uses the two spacecraft to learn about how the Moon interacts with the space around it.

“Before THEMIS-ARTEMIS was at the Moon, most people had the idea that the Moon was just a big rock in the sky and it didn’t interact a lot with its environment,” Halekas said. “The understanding that we’ve built up over the last eight years is that the Moon is really connected to the space environment around it. The space environment affects the Moon and vice versa.”

Over the years scientists have made discoveries about the solar wind  and its impact on the Moon’s surface, interplanetary electromagnetic fields, the structure of the lunar interior, and the particles in the tenuous lunar atmosphere and ionosphere.

Magnetic Bubbles on the Moon Reveal Evidence of Sunburn

Video above: Research using data from NASA's ARTEMIS mission suggests how the solar wind and the Moon's crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls. Video Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Working Together

In addition to furthering our understanding of the Moon, the measurements THEMIS-ARTEMIS has made will be useful for upcoming missions, including the Artemis program.

“When we’re designing robotic systems and systems for humans on the Moon, we have to understand the conditions they’ll be exposed to,” Halekas said. “The measurements from THEMIS-ARTEMIS have helped us find what those conditions are and how they change with time.”

THEMIS-ARTEMIS could provide real-time measurements of highly energetic particles that can be hazardous to spacecraft and astronauts. It will also provide valuable information for instruments placed on the lunar surface. Just like a weather satellite can provide information about incoming storms, THEMIS-ARTEMIS can give information about the space environment to help contextualize discoveries made on the surface.

“THEMIS-ARTEMIS would be a natural partner for any heliophysics mission that is sent to the Moon either on a spacecraft or on the lunar surface,” Sibeck said. “Both spacecraft are working just fine, taking their full sets of measurements, and could last for a very, very long time in that environment.”

As part of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative under the Artemis program, NASA will send a suite of new instruments and technology demonstrations to study the Moon ahead of a human return. The first two lunar deliveries on commercial landers are targeted to launch in July 2021. While many of these investigations focus on lunar science, some hark back to THEMIS’s roots in the science of heliophysics, the study of the Sun’s interaction with the solar system. The Lunar Surface Electromagnetics Experiment, or LUSEE instrument, will look at electromagnetic phenomena on the lunar surface. The Lunar Environment heliospheric X-ray Imager, or LEXI instrument, will plant a telescope on the Moon to study the Earth’s magnetosphere and its interaction with the solar wind.

In the coming years, THEMIS-ARTEMIS, like the agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, will continue to provide valuable information to NASA as preparations continue to send astronauts forward to the Moon, and ultimately on to Mars.

Related Links:

Commercial Lunar Payload Services:

NASA Mission Reveals Origin of Moon’s ‘Sunburn’:

Studying Magnetic Space Explosions with NASA Missions:

Learn more about NASA's ARTEMIS and THEMIS Missions:

Learn more about NASA’s Artemis Program:

Earth's Moon:

Image (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Goddard Space Flight Center, By Mara Johnson-Groh.


mercredi 16 octobre 2019

NASA's Juno Prepares to Jump Jupiter's Shadow

NASA - JUNO Mission patch.

Oct. 16, 2019

Animation above: This animated gif depicts the point of view of NASA's Juno spacecraft during its eclipse-free approach to the gas giant Nov. 3, 2019. The Sun is depicted as the yellow dot rising up just to left of the planet. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SWRI.

NASA's Juno mission to Jupiter successfully executed a 10.5-hour propulsive maneuver — extraordinarily long by mission standards. The goal of the burn, as it's known, will keep the solar-powered spacecraft out of what would have been a mission-ending shadow cast by Jupiter on the spacecraft during its next close flyby of the planet on Nov. 3, 2019.

Juno began the maneuver yesterday, on Sept. 30, at 7:46 p.m. EDT (4:46 p.m. PDT) and completed it early on Oct. 1. Using the spacecraft's reaction-control thrusters, the propulsive maneuver lasted five times longer than any previous use of that system. It changed Juno's orbital velocity by 126 mph (203 kph) and consumed about 160 pounds (73 kilograms) of fuel. Without this maneuver, Juno would have spent 12 hours in transit across Jupiter's shadow — more than enough time to drain the spacecraft's batteries. Without power, and with spacecraft temperatures plummeting, Juno would likely succumb to the cold and be unable to awaken upon exit.

"With the success of this burn, we are on track to jump the shadow on Nov. 3," said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "Jumping over the shadow was an amazingly creative solution to what seemed like a fatal geometry. Eclipses are generally not friends of solar-powered spacecraft. Now instead of worrying about freezing to death, I am looking forward to the next science discovery that Jupiter has in store for Juno."

Juno spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/JPL

Juno has been navigating in deep space since 2011. It entered an initial 53-day orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Originally, the mission planned to reduce the size of its orbit a few months later to decrease the period between science flybys of the gas giant to every 14 days. But the project team recommended to NASA to forgo the main engine burn due to concerns about the spacecraft's fuel delivery system. Juno's 53-day orbit provides all the science as originally planned; it just takes longer to do so. The spacecraft's longer life at Jupiter is what led to the need to avoid the gas giant's shadow.

"Pre-launch mission planning did not anticipate a lengthy eclipse that would plunge our solar-powered spacecraft into darkness," said Ed Hirst, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "That we could plan and execute the necessary maneuver while operating in Jupiter's orbit is a testament to the ingenuity and skill of our team, along with the extraordinary capability and versatility of our spacecraft."

NASA's JPL manages the Juno mission for the principal investigator, Scott Bolton, of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. Juno is part of NASA's New Frontiers Program, which is managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency's Science Mission Directorate. The Italian Space Agency (ASI) contributed two instruments, a Ka-band frequency translator (KaT) and the Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM). Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

More information about Juno is available at:

More information on Jupiter is at:

Animation (mentioned), Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Randal Jackson/Alana Johnson/JPL/DC Agle/Southwest Research Institute/Deb Schmid.


dimanche 13 octobre 2019

From cosmic rays to clouds

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

13 October, 2019

A new run of the CLOUD experiment examines the direct effect of cosmic rays on clouds 

Image above: The CLOUD experiment in the CERN East Hall at the start of the CLOUDy run, on 23 September 2019. The chamber is enclosed inside a thermal housing that precisely controls the temperature between -65 °C and +40 °C. Instruments surrounding the chamber continuously sample and analyse its contents. (Image: CERN).

CERN’s colossal complex of accelerators is in the midst of a two-year shutdown for upgrade work. But that doesn’t mean all experiments at the Laboratory have ceased to operate. The CLOUD experiment, for example, has just started a data run that will last until the end of November.

The CLOUD experiment studies how ions produced by high-energy particles called cosmic rays affect aerosol particles, clouds and the climate. It uses a special cloud chamber and a beam of particles from the Proton Synchrotron to provide an artificial source of cosmic rays. For this run, however, the cosmic rays are instead natural high-energy particles from cosmic objects such as exploding stars.

“Cosmic rays, whether natural or artificial, leave a trail of ions in the chamber,” explains CLOUD spokesperson Jasper Kirkby, “but the Proton Synchrotron provides cosmic rays that can be adjusted over the full range of ionisation rates occurring in the troposphere, which comprises the lowest ten kilometres of the atmosphere. That said, we can also make progress with the steady flux of natural cosmic rays that make it into our chamber, and this is what we’re doing now.”

In its 10 years of operation, CLOUD has made several important discoveries on the vapours that form aerosol particles in the atmosphere and can seed clouds. Although most aerosol particle formation requires sulphuric acid, CLOUD has shown that aerosols can form purely from biogenic vapours emitted by trees, and that their formation rate is enhanced by cosmic rays by up to a factor 100.

Most of CLOUD’s data runs are aerosol runs, in which aerosols form and grow inside the chamber under simulated conditions of sunlight and cosmic-ray ionisation. The run that has just started is of the “CLOUDy” type, which studies the ice- and liquid-cloud-seeding properties of various aerosol species grown in the chamber, and direct effects of cosmic-ray ionisation on clouds.

The present run uses the most comprehensive array of instruments ever assembled for CLOUDy experiments, including several instruments dedicated to measuring the ice- and liquid-cloud-seeding properties of aerosols over the full range of tropospheric temperatures. In addition, the CERN CLOUD team has built a novel generator of electrically charged cloud seeds to investigate the effects of charged aerosols on cloud formation and dynamics.

“Direct effects of cosmic-ray ionisation on the formation of fair-weather clouds are highly speculative and almost completely unexplored experimentally,” says Kirkby. “So this run could be the most boring we’ve ever done – or the most exciting! We won’t know until we try, but by the end of the CLOUD experiment, we want to be able to answer definitively whether cosmic rays affect clouds and the climate, and not leave any stone unturned.”


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:

CLOUD experiment:

Proton Synchrotron:

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

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

Best regards,

Tests start at CERN for large-scale prototype of new technology to detect neutrinos

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

13 October, 2019

Image above: A track made by a cosmic-ray muon, observed in the dual-phase ProtoDUNE detector. The ionisation released by the muon track in liquid argon and by the correlated electromagnetic activity can be seen (Image: ProtoDUNE).

Scientists working at CERN have started tests of a prototype for a new neutrino detector, using novel and very promising technology called “dual phase”. If successful, this technology will be used at a much larger scale for the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), hosted at Fermilab in the US.

Scientists began operating the dual-phase ProtoDUNE detector at CERN at the end of August, and have observed the first particle tracks. The detector is a cube about six metres long in each direction – the size of a three-storey house – and is filled with 800 tonnes of argon.

The new technology would be used in addition to so-called single-phase detectors that have been successfully operated for many years. “The single-phase technology is a proven method that will be used to build the first module for the DUNE detector,” said DUNE co-spokesperson Ed Blucher of the University of Chicago. “The dual-phase technology provides a second method that has great potential to add to the DUNE detector’s capabilities.” Indeed, the dual-phase technology may be game-changing: it would significantly amplify the faint signals that particles create when moving through the detector.

The single-phase ProtoDUNE, which began taking data at CERN in September 2018, is filled entirely with liquid argon. Sensors submerged in the liquid record the faint signals generated when a neutrino smashes into an argon atom. The dual-phase version uses liquid argon as the target material and a layer of gaseous argon above the liquid to amplify faint particle signals before they arrive at sensors located at the top of the detector, inside the argon gas. The dual-phase set-up could yield stronger signals and would enable scientists to look for lower-energy neutrino interactions.

The innovative data-collection electronics, each with a surface area of nine square metres, are individually suspended a few millimetres above the liquid level. They sit in the gas layer near the top of the detector, which has special chimneys that open from the outside. This offers the advantage that the electronics can be accessed even when most of the detector is filled with liquid argon at a temperature below -184 °C.

The dual-phase detector features a single active volume with no detector components in the middle of the liquid argon and a reduced number of readout elements at the top. This reduces “dead space” within the detector volume and offers the neutrinos a larger target.

The single- and dual-phase prototypes at CERN are small components of the detector that the DUNE collaboration plans to build in the United States over the next decade: a DUNE detector module will house the equivalent of twenty ProtoDUNEs and operate at up to 600 000 volts.

DUNE plans to build four full-size detector modules based on argon technology. These will be located around 1.5 km underground, at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota. Scientists will use them to understand whether neutrinos could be the reason that matter dominates over antimatter in our universe.

The outcomes of the test at CERN will help with deciding how many modules will feature the single-phase technology and how many will use the dual-phase technology.


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:

ProtoDUNE, which began taking data at CERN in September 2018:

Dual-phase version:

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

Image, Text, Credit: European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).