samedi 18 janvier 2020

How ‘spooky’ is quantum physics? The answer could be incalculable

Quantum Physics logo.

Jan. 18, 2020

Proof at the nexus of pure mathematics and algorithms puts ‘quantum weirdness’ on a whole new level.

Image above: Quantum entanglement is at the centre of a mathematical proof. Image Credit: Victor De Schwanberg/Science Photo Library.

Albert Einstein famously said that quantum mechanics should allow two objects to affect each other’s behaviour instantly across vast distances, something he dubbed “spooky action at a distance”. Decades after his death, experiments confirmed this, but to this day, it remains unclear exactly how much coordination nature allows between distant objects. Now, five researchers say they have solved a theoretical problem that shows that the answer is, in principle, unknowable.

The team’s 165-page paper appeared on the arXiv preprint repository, and has yet to be peer reviewed. If it checks out, it solves a number of related problems in pure mathematics, quantum mechanics and a branch of computer science known as complexity theory in one fell swoop. In particular, it answers a mathematical question that had been unsolved for more than 40 years.

If their proof holds up, “it’s a super-beautiful result” says Stephanie Wehner, a theoretical quantum physicist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.

At the heart of the paper is a proof of a theorem in complexity theory, which is concerned with efficiency of algorithms. Earlier studies had shown this problem to be mathematically equivalent to the question of spooky action at a distance — also known as quantum entanglement.

The theorem concerns a game-theory problem, with a team of two players who are able to coordinate their actions through quantum entanglement, even though they are not allowed to talk to each other. This enables both players to ‘win’ much more often than they would without quantum entanglement. But it is intrinsically impossible for the two players to calculate an optimal strategy, the authors show. This implies that it is impossible to calculate how much coordination they could theoretically reach. “There is no algorithm that is going to tell you what is the maximal violation you can get in quantum mechanics,” says co-author Thomas Vidick of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

“What’s amazing is that quantum complexity theory has been the key to the proof,” says Toby Cubitt, a quantum-information theorist at University College London.

News of the paper spread quickly through social media after the work was posted on 14 January, sparking excitement. “I thought it would turn out to be one of those complexity-theory questions that might take 100 years to answer,” tweeted Joseph Fitzsimons, chief executive of Horizon Quantum Computing, a start-up company in Singapore.

“I’m shitting bricks here,” commented another physicist, Mateus Araújo of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. “I never thought I’d see this problem being solved in my lifetime.”

Observable properties

On the pure-mathematics side, the problem was known as the Connes embedding problem, after the French mathematician and Fields medalist Alain Connes. It is a question in the theory of operators, a branch of maths that itself arose from efforts to provide the foundations of quantum mechanics in the 1930s. Operators are matrices of numbers that can have either a finite or an infinite number of rows and columns. They have a crucial role in quantum theory, whereby each operator encodes an observable property of a physical object.

In a 1976 paper, using the language of operators, Connes asked whether quantum systems with infinitely many measurable variables could be approximated by simpler systems that have a finite number.

But the paper by Vidick and collaborators shows that the answer is no: there are, in principle, quantum systems that cannot be approximated by ‘finite’ ones. According to work by physicist Boris Tsirelson, who reformulated the problem, this also means that it is impossible to calculate the amount of correlation that two such systems can display across space when entangled.

Disparate fields

The proof has come as a surprise to much of the community. “I was sure that Tsirelson’s problem had a positive answer,” wrote Araújo in his comments, adding that the result shook his basic conviction that “Nature is in some vague sense fundamentally finite.”

But researchers have barely begun to grasp the implications of the results. Quantum entanglement is at the heart of the nascent fields of quantum computing and quantum communications, and could be used to make super-secure networks. In particular, measuring the amount of correlation between entangled objects across a communication system can provide proof that it is safe from eavesdropping. But the results probably do not have technological implications, Wehner says, because all applications use quantum systems which are ‘finite’. In fact, it could be difficult to even conceive an experiment that could test quantum weirdness on an intrinsically ‘infinite’ system, she says.

The confluence of complexity theory, quantum information and mathematics means that there are very few researchers who say that they are able to grasp all the facets of this paper. Connes himself told Nature that he was not qualified to comment. But he added that he was surprised by how many ramifications it turned out to have. “It is amazing that the problem went so deep and I never foresaw that!”

Related article:

A Swiss researcher creates a mathematical language

Related links:

Paper: “spooky action at a distance”:

Delft University of Technology:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NATURE/Davide Castelvecchi.


vendredi 17 janvier 2020

Elon Musk says he plans to send 1 million people to Mars

SpaceX logo.

Jan. 17, 2020

Elon Musk says he plans to send 1 million people to Mars by 2050 by launching 3 Starship rockets every day and creating 'a lot of jobs' on the red planet.

Image above: SpaceX Starship Spaceship steel mars rocket illustration & Elon Musk. Image Credit: SpaceX.

Elon Musk recently shared details on Twitter about his plans to send 1 million people to Mars by 2050. The SpaceX founder said there would be "a lot of jobs" in the city he hopes to build on Mars. Musk said he plans to build a fleet of 1,000 Starships — the 387-foot rocketship that SpaceX is developing for deep-space travel — and launch three of them each day.

In a series of tweets on Thursday, Elon Musk revealed new details about his plan to build a city of 1 million people on Mars by 2050.

Musk said he hopes to build 1,000 Starships — the towering and ostensibly fully reusable spaceship that SpaceX is developing in South Texas — over 10 years. That's 100 new Starships per year.

Eventually, Musk added, the goal is to launch an average of three Starships per day and make the trip to Mars available to anybody.

"Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don't have money," Musk wrote.

- Not enough to convince you to leave Earth behind?

- "There will be a lot of jobs on Mars!" he added.

Fleets of Starships to make humans multi-planetary

Image above: SpaceX Starship steel rocket at planet mars martian base colony city (illustration). Image Credit: SpaceX.

Starship, if realized as designed, would be the most powerful launch system ever created; each launch would pack enough thrust to send more than 100 tons (about seven fully loaded school buses' worth of mass) and 100 people into orbit at a time.

Musk didn't specify what, exactly, the rockets would need to carry to Mars, but lots of food, water, building materials, tools, and advanced life support systems are a given. Thus he estimated he'll need a whole fleet of Starships to build a permanent settlement.

"Megatons per year to orbit are needed for life to become multiplanetary," he tweeted on Thursday.

In total, 1,000 Starships could hypothetically transport about 100 megatons of stuff to Mars; that's the volume Musk has said he hopes to send to the red planet per year. With ship ferrying about 100 passengers, that would make for a total migration of about 100,000 people.

Musk also suggested he plans to capitalize on the brief windows of time in which the orbits of Earth and Mars align — this comes about every 25 months. That allows spacecraft to spring off of Earth's rotation and set themselves on a low-fuel journey towards Mars.

Musk said he would take advantage of that opportunity by "loading the Mars fleet into Earth orbit," then sending all 1,000 ships on a Mars-bound trajectory over that 30-day window every 26 months.

That seems to contradict an earlier tweet in which Musk said 1,000 Starships would fly to Mars each year, rather than every 26 months. Either way, SpaceX has a long way to go before reaching those goals.

A Starship prototype could launch within months

Musk has said a new version of a Starship prototype may launch before the end of March.

"First flight is hopefully 2 to 3 months away," Musk tweeted on December 27.

The development of the prototype hit delays after an accidental explosion during a fuel-tank pressurization test on November 20, which blew the top off SpaceX's first 16-story Starship prototype.

Image above: SpaceX Starship Mark mk 1 mk1 steel spaceship prototype Boca Chica Texas launch site 2019 09 29. Image Credits: Loren Elliott/Getty Images.

The company could build as many as 20 different prototypes before engineers settle on a "1.0" design to fly cargo and people.

The full Starship launch system would also include a 22-story rocket booster called Super Heavy; combined, the whole thing would stand about 387 feet (118 meters) tall. During launch, a Starship spaceship would ride atop the booster then disconnect after the booster runs low on fuel, and rocket its way into orbit.

Image above: Spacex Starhopper Starship NASA Saturn V Apollo mk1 height comparison graphic (illustration chart). Image Credits: Samantha Lee/Business Insider.

Both parts are being designed to be fully reusable. If that vision comes to pass, Musk estimates the cost of a single launch would be just $2 million — that would be hundreds of times cheaper than the current cost of launching a similar amount of people and cargo into space on any planned or existing rocket (including SpaceX's own Falcon 9 system).

Musk said in September that he hopes to launch a Starship into orbit by mid-2020 and maybe even fly a person in it before the end of the year. Gwynne Shotwell, the president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said during a NASA teleconference that the company is "aiming to be able to drop Starship on the lunar surface in 2022" and fly Japanese tech entrepreneur and billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon in 2023.

However, all of those statements came before the Starship prototype explosion. SpaceX will also have to clear several regulatory and practical hurdles — including securing the safety of residents of Boca Chica Village, which sits within 2 miles of SpaceX's Texas launch pad — before it can launch any prototypes to orbit.

"Helping to pay for this is why I'm accumulating assets on Earth," Musk tweeted on Thursday.

Related articles:

SpaceX - Private Lunar & Martian Missions

SpaceX - Elon Musk unveiled his "Big Fucking Rocket"

Related link:


Images, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Twitter/Business Insider/Morgan McFall-Johnsen/Dave Mosher.


Nutrition Studies, Spacewalk Preps Ahead of SpaceX Crew Escape Test

ISS - Expedition 61 Mission patch.

January 17, 2020

The Expedition 61 crew split its time today between upcoming spacewalk preparations and continuous microgravity research. SpaceX is also preparing for a final test of its commercial crew ship before it launches humans.

The International Space Station is bustling with activity as two astronauts keep their U.S. spacesuits ready for another spacewalk set for Monday at 6:50 a.m. EST. NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch will wrap up installing new lithium-ion batteries upgrading the orbiting lab’s power systems. NASA TV will start its live coverage at 5:30 a.m.

Image above: NASA astronauts Christina Koch (left) and Jessica Meir work on their U.S. spacesuits. Image Credit: NASA.

The spacewalking duo also had time for science work in their busy schedule today. Koch provided inputs on how spaceflight is impacting her cognition and documented her meals for a nutrition study. Meir also documented her nutritional intake before researching how flames spread in space.

Andrew Morgan of NASA worked on a secondary nutrition study that may produce vitamins and dietary supplements to support future long-term missions. Commander Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) had hearing checks today then moved on with Morgan to support Monday’s spacewalkers.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Flight Engineer Alexander Skvortsov of Roscosmos spent the day researching ways to maintain sterile conditions while conducting biotechnology experiments in space. Fellow cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka serviced combustion research gear and Earth observation hardware before exploring crew behavior.

The Commercial Crew Program is set for a critical milestone as SpaceX readies its Dragon crew ship for major test. The uncrewed Crew Dragon vehicle will blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday at 8 a.m. and demonstrate its ability to safely escape in the event of a launch failure.

Related links:

Expedition 61:


Nutrition study:

How flames spread:

Vitamins and dietary supplements:

Hearing checks:

Sterile conditions:

Combustion research gear:

Earth observation hardware:

Crew behavior:

Commercial Crew Program:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Views Galaxy From Famous Catalog

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Jan. 17, 2020

This bright, somewhat blob-like object — seen in this image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope — is a galaxy named NGC 1803. It is about 200 million light-years away, in the southern constellation of Pictor (the Painter’s Easel).

NGC 1803 was discovered in 1834 by astronomer John Herschel. Herschel is a big name in astronomy; John, his father William and his aunt Caroline all made huge contributions to the field, and their legacies remain today. William systematically cataloged many of the objects he viewed in the night sky, named many moons in the solar system, discovered infrared radiation and more. Caroline discovered several comets and nebulas. John took this aforementioned catalog of night-sky objects and reworked and expanded it into his General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars. This was the basis for the cataloging system still used today by astronomers, John Louis Emil Dreyer’s New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars, or the New General Catalogue for short.

This gives rise to the NGC names assigned to a vast number of galaxies — including NGC 1803. This galaxy is one of a galactic pair. It was described by Dreyer as being “faint, small, [and] round,” and located near to a very bright star to the southeast. This star is in fact the nebulous lenticular galaxy PGC 16720 — not visible in this image.

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, A. Bellini et al.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of January 13, 2020

ISS - Expedition 61 Mission patch.

Jan. 17, 2020

Scientific investigations under way on the International Space Station the week of Jan. 13 included research on flame spread, the spacecraft food menu and how human bodies adapt to space. NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch partnered for the second all-female spacewalk on Jan. 15, which, along with a second spacewalk scheduled for Jan. 20, replaces batteries that store and distribute solar power on the space station.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credits: NASA/STS-135

Now in its 20th year of continuous human presence, the space station provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space. Experience gained on the orbiting lab supports Artemis, NASA’s program to go forward to the Moon and on to Mars.

Here are details on some of the microgravity investigations currently taking place:

The physics of flame spread

Image above: This image shows multiple burns conducted for the Confined Combustion investigation, which studies flame spread in confined spaces, specifically the interactions between spreading flames and surrounding walls. Image Credit: NASA.

The Confined Combustion investigation studies flame spread in confined spaces, specifically the interactions between spreading flames and surrounding walls. Flame spread in spaces such as buildings and vehicles may pose a more serious hazard than it does in open spaces. Because gravity complicates the process of fire growth, microgravity allows scientists to better study the underlying physics of flame spread.

Crew members continued ongoing operations for the experiment, including ignition of different samples without baffles and with different types of baffles installed. Baffles change the airflow path and alter the radiated heat environment around the flame.

Eat this, not that

Crew members completed surveys for Food Acceptability, an investigation examining the effect of repetitive consumption of the food currently available during spaceflight. “Menu fatigue” from a limited choice of foods over time may contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases. The investigation could help develop strategies to improve the food system and support better crew health and performance on future long duration missions.

Image above: NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan prepares the JAXA Mouse Habitat Unit-5 (MHU-5) in the Centrifuge-equipped Biological Experiment Facility-L (CBEF-L). MHU-5 uses the set up to examine the effects of partial gravity on mice. Image Credit: NASA.

Adapting to life in space

Standard Measures captures an ongoing, optimized set of measures from crew members to characterize how their bodies adapt to living in space. Researchers use these measures to create a data repository for high-level monitoring of the effectiveness of countermeasures and better interpretation of health and performance outcomes. Questionnaires completed before sleep and after waking focus on specifics such as the amount, quantity and quality of sleep; individual mood; team cohesion and performance; and the habitability of the space station. During the week, crew members collected blood and saliva samples for analysis for the repository.

Image above: BioNutrients packets in the Space Automated Bioproduct Laboratory (SABL) incubator are part of an investigation into technology for on-demand production of nutrients for crew members during long-duration space missions. Image Credit: NASA.

A 250-mile call

The crew participated in an ISS HAM pass with Sayama Mizutomi Community Center in Sayama, Japan.  Some of the questions answered by crew members included what they consider the most beautiful place on Earth from the space station perspective and whether meteor showers can be seen from space. ISS HAM gives students an opportunity to talk directly with crew members via ham radio when the space station passes over their school. This interaction engages and educates students, teachers, parents and other members of the community in science, technology, engineering and math.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:
- Acoustic Diagnostics tests the hearing of crew members before, during, and after flight to assess possible adverse effects of noise and the microgravity environment of the space station.

- Bionutrients demonstrates a technology for on-demand production of human nutrients using engineered microbes such as yeast to generate carotenoids from an edible medium. These nutrients could supplement potential loss of vitamins in food stored on future long-duration space missions.

- JAXA Mouse Habitat Unit-5 (MHU-5) examines the effects of partial gravity on mice using habitat cage units (HCU) developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) that can be installed in the newly developed Centrifuge-equipped Biological Experiment Facility-L (CBEF-L).

- Crew Earth Observations (CEO) provides images of Earth from digital handheld cameras on the space station, recording how the planet is changing over time from human activity and natural events. Anyone can use these publicly available images to educate, entertain, or contribute to further scientific knowledge.

- Advanced Colloids Experiment-Temperature-5 (ACE-T-5) examines the physical and chemical characteristics of bicontinuous interfacially jammed emulsion gels, or bijels. Their unique structure of two liquid phases separated by a layer of small particles or colloids has significant potential for the design and synthesis of composite materials.

- Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) is a set of six independent studies of gaseous flames conducted in the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR). ACME supports spacecraft fire prevention as well as improved fuel efficiency and reduced pollutant production in practical combustion on Earth.

- The Structure and Response of Spherical Diffusion Flames (s-Flame), part of the ACME project, advances prediction of the structure and dynamics of soot-free and sooty flames. Results could contribute to engines with improved efficiency and reduced emissions on Earth.

Space to Ground: Final Test: 01/17/2020

Related links:

Expedition 61:

Confined Combustion:

Food Acceptability:

Standard Measures:


ISS National Lab:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/John Love, Lead Increment Scientist Expedition 61.


First Spacebus Neo satellite launched

ARIANESPACE - Ariane 5 / Flight VA251 Mission poster.

Jan. 17, 2020

 Ariane 5 liftoff

Ariane 5’s first launch of 2020 has delivered two telecom satellites, Konnect and GSAT-30, into their planned transfer orbits. Arianespace announced liftoff at 21:05 GMT (22:05 CET, 18:05 local time) this evening from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Konnect, with a launch mass of 3619 kg, was the first to be released after about 27 minutes.

Ariane 5 ECA launches EUTELSAT KONNECT and GSAT-30 satellites

Konnect will provide broadband services for Europe and Africa and has a design life of 15 years. It was built by Thales Alenia Space for Eutelsat, its commercial operator, and is the first satellite from the new Spacebus Neo product line developed under an ESA Partnership Project managed jointly by ESA and the French Space Agency, CNES.

GSAT-30 satellite encapsulation ahead of launch

ESA Partnership Projects such as Neosat federate European industry around large-scale programmes, developing innovative cutting-edge solutions in partnership with private or public partners. This approach allows European prime contractors and equipment suppliers to be competitive on the world commercial market.

The Konnect satellite is sent for encapsulation ahead of launch

The Spacebus Neo platform is the result of a European-wide cooperation with contributions from 17 Member States, with more than 90% of the platform sourced in Europe.

So far, eleven Neosat satellites have already been sold, seven of which are Spacebus Neo. Through those recurring sales the ESA Partnership Project has generated an exceptional return on investment to the programme's Participating States and their industries.


The second satellite – the 3357 kg GSAT-30 – was released 11 minutes after Konnect. Owned and operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation ISRO, GSAT-30 will provide high-quality television, telecommunications and broadcasting services over the Indian mainland and islands. The satellite has a design life of more than 15 years.

EUTELSAT KONNECT and GSAT-30 satellites separation

Overall the performance requested for the launch was about 7888 kg. The satellites totalled about 6976 kg, with payload adapters and carrying structures making up the rest.

Flight VA251 was the 107th Ariane 5 mission.

Related links:

Telecommunications & Integrated Applications:

European Space Agency (ESA):

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO):


Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ESA/CNES/Arianespace - Optique Vidéo du CSG/SciNews/EUTELSAT.

Best regards,

Kuaizhou-1A launches Galaxy-1, the first Galaxy Space satellite

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo / CASIC - China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation logo.

Jan. 17, 2020

China launches Yinhe-1 commercial low Earth orbit 5G satellite

A Kuaizhou-1A (KZ-1A) launch vehicle launched the Galaxy-1 communications satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China, on 16 January 2020, at 03:02 UTC (11:02 local time).

Kuaizhou-1A launches Galaxy-1, the first Galaxy Space satellite (Yinhe-1)

Galaxy-1, also known as Yinhe-1, is the fist satellite of the low Earth orbit (LEO) communications constellation developed by Galaxy Space (银河航天), a private Chinese company.

Yinhe-1 satellite

KZ-1A (快舟一号) is a type of low-cost solid-fuelled carrier rocket with high reliability, short preparation period and designed to launch low-orbit satellites weighing under 300 kg each.

KZ-1A (快舟一号) rocket

Kuaizhou-1A is developed by ExPace Technology Corporation, a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC).

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC):

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Credits: CASIC/China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


jeudi 16 janvier 2020

LHCb sees new hints of odd lepton behaviour

CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

16 January, 2020

If confirmed, this would signal a crack in the Standard Model of particle physics 

The LHCb experiment at CERN (Image: CERN)

The LHCb collaboration has reported an intriguing new result in its quest to test a key principle of the Standard Model called lepton universality. Although not statistically significant, the finding – a possible difference in the behaviour of different types of lepton particles – chimes with other previous results. If confirmed, as more data are collected and analysed, the results would signal a crack in the Standard Model.

Lepton universality is the idea that all three types of charged lepton particles – electrons, muons and taus – interact in the same way with other particles. As a result, the different lepton types should be created equally often in particle transformations, or “decays”, once differences in their mass are accounted for. However, some measurements of particle decays made by the LHCb team and other groups over the past few years have indicated a possible difference in their behaviour. Taken separately, these measurements are not statistically significant enough to claim a breaking of lepton universality and hence a crack in the Standard Model, but it is intriguing that hints of a difference have been popping up in different particle decays and experiments.

The latest LHCb result is the first test of lepton universality made using the decays of beauty baryons – three-quark particles containing at least one beauty quark. Sifting through proton–proton collision data at energies of 7, 8 and 13 TeV, the LHCb researchers identified beauty baryons called Λb0 and counted how often they decayed to a proton, a charged kaon and either a muon and antimuon or an electron and antielectron.

The team then took the ratio between these two decay rates. If lepton universality holds, this ratio should be close to 1. A deviation from this prediction could therefore signal a violation of lepton universality. Such a violation could be caused by the presence in the decays of a never-before-spotted particle not predicted by the Standard Model.

The team obtained a ratio slightly below 1 with a statistical significance of about 1 standard deviation, well below the 5 standard deviations needed to claim a real difference in the decay rates. The researchers say that the result points in the same direction as other results, which have observed hints that decays to a muon–antimuon pair occur less often than those to an electron–antielectron pair, but they also stress that much more data is needed to tell whether this oddity in the behaviour of leptons is here to stay or not.


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.

Read more on the LHCb site and the CERN Courier.:

Related links:

Standard Model:

Latest LHCb result:

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

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


Astronauts Stay Focused on Spacewalks and Keep Science Running

ISS - Expedition 61 Mission patch.

January 16, 2020

The Expedition 61 crew is fresh off the first spacewalk of 2020 and preparing for two more before the end of the month. Meanwhile, the International Space Station residents continue ongoing microgravity research and life support maintenance.

NASA spacewalkers Jessica Meir and Christina Koch successfully installed two new lithium-ion batteries on Wednesday that store and distribute power collected from solar arrays on the station’s Port-6 truss structure. They will finish the battery replacement work during another six-and-a-half-hour spacewalk scheduled for Monday at 6:50 a.m. EST. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 5:30 a.m.

Image above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch is pictured working in the vacuum of space 265 miles above the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa during a spacewalk on Jan. 15. Image Credit: NASA.

The third spacewalk is planned for Jan. 25 with astronauts Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano. They will finish the complex thermal repair work they began last year on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, an astrophysics device searching for evidence of antimatter and dark matter.

All four astronauts met in the afternoon and called down to Mission Control for a briefing with spacewalk specialists. The quartet had a routine discussion with the engineers about spacewalking gear and procedures.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

On the Russian side of the orbiting lab, the two veteran cosmonauts worked back and forth on space science and the upkeep of the space station. Alexander Skvortsov spent a portion of his day on cell biology research before servicing an exercise cycle. Oleg Skripochka checked out a variety of hardware that detects micrometeoroid impacts on the station and observes natural catastrophes on Earth.

Related links:

Expedition 61:

Port-6 truss structure:


Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS):

Detects micrometeoroid impacts:

Natural catastrophes on Earth:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

XMM-Newton discovers scorching gas in Milky Way’s halo

ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch.

Jan. 16, 2020

The hot, gaseous components of the Milky Way’s halo – artist’s impression

ESA’s XMM-Newton has discovered that gas lurking within the Milky Way’s halo reaches far hotter temperatures than previously thought and has a different chemical make-up than predicted, challenging our understanding of our galactic home.

A halo is a vast region of gas, stars and invisible dark matter surrounding a galaxy. It is a key component of a galaxy, connecting it to wider intergalactic space, and is thus thought to play an important role in galactic evolution.

Until now, a galaxy’s halo was thought to contain hot gas at a single temperature, with the exact temperature of this gas dependent on the mass of the galaxy.

However, a new study using ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray space observatory now shows that the Milky Way’s halo contains not one but three different components of hot gas, with the hottest of these being a factor of ten hotter than previously thought. This is the first time multiple gas components structured in this way have been discovered in not only the Milky Way, but in any galaxy.

“We thought that gas temperatures in galactic haloes ranged from around 10,000 to one million degrees – but it turns out that some of the gas in the Milky Way’s halo can hit a scorching 10 million degrees,” says Sanskriti Das, a graduate student at The Ohio State University, USA, and lead author of the new study.

“While we think that gas gets heated to around one million degrees as a galaxy initially forms, we’re not sure how this component got so hot. It may be due to winds emanating from the disc of stars within the Milky Way.”

The study used a combination of two instruments aboard XMM-Newton: the Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS) and European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC). EPIC was used to study the light emitted by the halo, and RGS to study how the halo affects and absorbs light that passes through it.


To probe the Milky Way’s halo in absorption, Sanskriti and colleagues observed an object known as a blazar: the very active, energetic core of a distant galaxy that is emitting intense beams of light.

Having travelled almost five billion light-years across the cosmos, the X-ray light from this blazar also passed through our galaxy’s halo before reaching XMM-Newton’s detectors, and thus holds clues about the properties of this gaseous region.

Unlike previous X-ray studies of the Milky Way’s halo, which normally last a day or two, the team performed observations over a period of three weeks, enabling them to detect signals that are usually too faint to see.

“We analysed the blazar’s light and zeroed in on its individual spectral signatures: the characteristics of the light that can tell us about the material it’s passed through on its way to us,” says co-author Smita Mathur, also of The Ohio State University, and Sanskriti’s advisor.

“There are specific signatures that only exist at specific temperatures, so we were able to determine how hot the halo gas must have been to affect the blazar light as it did.”

The Milky Way’s hot halo is also significantly enhanced with elements heavier than helium, which are usually produced in the later stages of a star’s life. This indicates that the halo has received material created by certain stars during their lifetimes and final stages, and flung out into space as they die.

Animated view of the Milky Way’s hot halo and its elements – artist’s impression

“Until now, scientists have primarily looked for oxygen, as it’s abundant and thus easier to find than other elements,” explains Sanskriti.

“Our study was more detailed: we looked at not only oxygen but also nitrogen, neon and iron, and found some hugely interesting results.”

Scientists expect the halo to contain elements in similar ratios to those seen in the Sun. However, Das and colleagues noticed less iron in the halo than expected, indicating that the halo has been enriched by massive dying stars, and also less oxygen, likely due to this element being taken up by dusty particles in the halo.

“This is really exciting – it was completely unexpected, and tells us that we have much to learn about how the Milky Way has evolved into the galaxy it is today,” adds Sanskriti.

The cosmic budget of ‘ordinary’ matter

The newly discovered hot gas component also has wider implications that affect our overall understanding of the cosmos. Our galaxy contains far less mass than we expect: this is known as the ‘missing matter problem’, in that what we observe does not match up with theoretical predictions.

From its long-term mapping of the cosmos, ESA’s Planck spacecraft predicted that just under 5% of the mass in the Universe should exist in the form of ‘normal’ matter – the kind making up stars, galaxies, planets, and so on.

“However, when we add up everything we see, our figure is nowhere near this prediction,” adds co-author Fabrizio Nicastro of Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma—INAF, Italy, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA.

“So where’s the rest? Some suggest that it may be hiding in the extended and massive halos surrounding galaxies, making our finding really exciting.”

As this hot component of the Milky Way’s halo has never been seen before, it may have been overlooked in previous analyses – and may thus contain a large amount of this ‘missing’ matter.

“These observations provide new insights into the thermal and chemical history of the Milky Way and its halo, and challenge our knowledge of how galaxies form and evolve,” concludes ESA XMM project scientist Norbert Schartel.

“The study looked at the halo along one sightline – that towards the blazar – so it will be hugely exciting to see future research expand on this.”

Notes for editors:

“Discovery of a very hot phase of the Milky Way circumgalactic medium with non-solar abundance ratios” by S. Das, S. Mathur, F. Nicastro, and Y. Krongold; and “Multiple temperature components of the hot circumgalactic medium of the Milky Way” by S. Das, S. Mathur, A,  Gupta, F. Nicastro, and Y. Krongold are published in Astrophysical Journal Letters and Astrophysical Journal, respectively.

These studies use data from ESA's XMM-Newton space observatory. The blazar is named 1ES 1553+113.

Related links:

ESA’s XMM-Newton:

Reflection Grating Spectrometer (RGS):

European Photon Imaging Camera (EPIC):

ESA’s Planck:

Images, Animation, Text, Credits: ESA/C. Carreau/XMM-Newton project scientist/Norbert Schartel/Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma—INAF/Fabrizio Nicastro/The Ohio State University/Smita Mathur/Sanskriti Das.

Best regards,

NASA Says Goodbye to One of Agency's Great Observatories

NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

January 16, 2020

An artist's concept of the Spitzer Space Telescope.Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA will host a live program at 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST) Wednesday, Jan. 22, to celebrate the far-reaching legacy of the agency's Spitzer Space Telescope - a mission that, after 16 years of amazing discoveries, soon will come to an end.

One of NASA's four Great Observatories, Spitzer launched on Aug. 25, 2003, and has studied the cosmos in infrared light. Its breathtaking images have revealed the beauty of the infrared universe.

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (Mission Overview)

Spitzer made some of the first studies of exoplanet atmospheres (atmospheres of planets around stars other than our Sun). It confirmed two and discovered five ofthe seven Earth-size exoplanets around the star TRAPPIST-1 - the largest batch of terrestrial planets ever found around a single star. On Thursday, Jan. 30, engineers will decommission the Spitzer spacecraft and bring this amazing mission to a close.

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

Related articles:

Sixteen Images for Spitzer's Sweet 16

How NASA's Spitzer Has Stayed Alive for So Long

For more information about Spitzer, visit:

Image (mentioned), Video (JPL), Text, Credits: NASA/Liz Landau/JPL/Calla Cofield.


mercredi 15 janvier 2020

CASC - Long March-2D launches Jilin-1 “Red Flag-1 H9” satellite

CASC - Jilin-1 “Red Flag-1 H9” satellite Mission patch.

Jan. 15, 2020

Long March-2D carrying Jilin-1 liftoff

A Long March-2D rocket launched the a new Jilin-1 optical remote-sensing satellite, known as Red Flag-1 H9, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, Shanxi Province, northern China, on 15 January 2020, at 02:53 UTC (10:53 local time).

Long March-2D launches Jilin-1 “Red Flag-1 H9” satellite

Red Flag-1 H9 (红旗一号—H9) was developed by the Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd. and has a super-wide coverage and a resolution at the sub-meter level. It is also capable of high-speed data storage and transmission and will provide remote-sensing data and services for governmental and industrial users. On the same rocket, three small satellites, including NewSat7 and NewSat8 developed by an Argentinian company, were also launched into orbit.

Jilin-1 satellite

A Chinese Long March 2D launches a small satellite for the Jilin 1 Earth observation constellation owned by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd. The Long March 2D also launches the ÑuSat 7 and ÑuSat 8 Earth observation microsatellites for Satellogic, a company based on Argentina.

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

Images, Video, Text, Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/Günter Space Page/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Astronauts Wrap Up First Spacewalk of 2020

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

January 15, 2020

At 2:04 p.m. EST, Expedition 61 Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Jessica Meir of NASA concluded their spacewalk. During the 7-hour, 29-minute spacewalk, the two NASA astronauts successfully replaced nickel-hydrogen batteries with newer, more powerful lithium-ion batteries for the power channel on one pair of the station’s solar arrays. Meir and Koch are scheduled to venture outside the station again Monday, Jan. 20, for a second battery replacement spacewalk.

The astronauts were also able to accomplish a get-ahead task of relocating the an additional nickel-hydrogen battery to the external pallet in preparation for next week’s spacewalk.

Image above: NASA astronaut Jessica Meir enters the Quest airlock to complete a spacewalk after swapping batteries that store and distribute solar power collected from the solar arrays on the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

This was the first spacewalk outside the station this year. Space station crew members have now conducted 225 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have spent a total of 58 days, 23 hours, and 12 minutes working outside the station. It is the second time all spacewalkers have been women and the 44th spacewalk to include women.

Extra Vehicular Activities (EVA) or spacewalk. Animation Credit: NASA

It was the second spacewalk for Meir, who now has spent a total of 14 hours and 46 minutes spacewalking, and the fifth for Koch for a total of 35 hours and 17 minutes.

Koch arrived to the orbiting laboratory in March 2019 and marked 300 days in space on Jan. 9. She currently holds the record for longest single spaceflight by a woman and will return to Earth on Feb. 6 from an extended duration mission of 11 months in space. Her extended missions provides researchers the opportunity to observe effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman to prepare for human missions to the Moon and Mars. Meir arrived in Sept. 2019 and is due to return in April.

Related links:

Expedition 61:

Extended duration mission:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

The Betelgeuse star turns pale: "It's boiling!"

Astrophysics logo.

Jan. 15, 2020

The brightness of one of the brightest stars in the Milky Way has dropped drastically since mid-November.

The Betelgeuse star weakens. (Photo: AFP / P. Kervella)

The giant star Betelgeuse has seen its luminosity fall for a few weeks. The event puts astronomers in effervescence, because it could announce its explosion in supernova, an extremely rare phenomenon in our galaxy.

Located in the constellation Orion, this "red super giant", almost a thousand times larger than the Sun, shines brightly in the winter sky, where it is visible to the naked eye thanks to its orange color.

The star was among the ten brightest in the galaxy, but since mid-November, "its luminosity has dropped drastically, in the order of 70%", explains to AFP Pierre Kervalla, from Paris Observatory - PSL.

Image above: Wide-field view of the region o Betelgeuse Orion Alpha Orionis star (yellow pale star) . Image Credits: IAU and Sky & Telescope.

Alerted by amateur observers, astronomers launched a vast observation campaign in December, mobilizing the largest telescopes on the planet, including the Very Large Telescope in Chile.

"It's boiling!" We have set up a research group around the world to use all the instruments capable of imaging the surface of Betelgeuse, ”says Eric Lagadec, from the Lagrange laboratory of the Côte d'Azur observatory.

Hundreds of amateur astronomers are involved, and "spend their nights in their gardens or their favorite observation sites" in order to provide additional measures, says this CNRS researcher.

Several hypotheses

Several hypotheses have been put forward: it could be an ejection of gas forming dust and hiding the radiation, or else the death of Betelgeuse.

The latter scenario would result in a supernova explosion. If it seems unlikely in the near future, it makes astronomers dream: the star at the end of its life having no more "fuel" (from nuclear fusion), its heart would collapse on itself and would form a neutron star, a very compact object that creates a shock wave completely dislocating the star, all in just a few hours.

Image above: Location of Betelgeuse Alpha Orionis. Image Credits:NASA/ESA/STSci/OPO/Hubble/A. Dupree (CIA).

From Earth, we would then observe with the naked eye a point as bright as the Moon in the day and night sky. To this would be added a nice spectacle, "that of an echo of light propagating around, like circles in the water", specifies Pierre Kervalla.

After several weeks, this point would disappear and form a nebula, visible in the sky for thousands of years, like that of the Crab, residue of the supernova which occurred in 1054 which was reported by Chinese astronomers.

"An unforgettable spectacle"

“It would be an unforgettable spectacle for all of humanity. I hope to be able to see a supernova in my lifetime, ”says Eric Lagadec. Because this phenomenon only happens once a century in the Milky Way, and the last formation of supernova observed dates back to 1604.

The Betelgeuse explosion is expected since the star, "only" 10 million years old, is indeed at the end of its life. But it's hard to predict exactly when she will die, as there are no warning signs.

“It's a bit like an earthquake; the day before the explosion, the star will be the same, ”underlines Pierre Kervalla. It could therefore happen in the coming weeks as in 100,000 years.

Giant star (supernova) explosion

Either way, it would be safe for our planet, which Betelgeuse is 600 light years away. "If we see it explode from here, it will mean that the explosion took place physically 600 years ago," recalls Pierre Kervalla.

Scientifically, the event would allow astronomers to follow directly, and for the first time in history, the different phases of the explosion, a precious gauge to measure the expansion of the Universe. We would also understand what will happen to the future generation of stars.

Related articles:

A giant red star is acting weird and scientists think it may be about to explode

Betelgeuse Braces for a collision

The Flames of Betelgeuse

Related link:

Paris Observatory - PSL:

Images (mentioned), Animation, Text, Credits: ATS/Paris Observatory (PSL)/NASA/Wikipedia/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.