samedi 12 septembre 2020

Two failed launches in one day: Astra Rocket 3.1 and Kuaizhou-1A

Astra Space logo / China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) logo.

Sept. 12, 2020

Astra Space’s Rocket 3.1 rocket drifted from its planned trajectory, the engines were shut down ending the flight during the first stage burn and the rocket crashed near the Pacific Spaceport Complex - Alaska (PSCA), Kodiak Island, on 12 September 2020, at 12 September, 03:19 UTC (11 September, 20:19 local time).

A Kuaizhou-1A (KZ-1A) launch vehicle launched the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02C satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China, on 12 September 2020, at 05:02 UTC (13:02 local time).

Two failed launches in one day: Astra Rocket 3.1 and Kuaizhou-1A

Abnormal performance was identified during the rocket’s flight and the satellite failed to enter the preset orbit. Jilin-1 Gaofen 02C (吉林一号高分02C) was a new optical remote sensing satellite, developed by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd.

Related links:

Astra Space:

China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Astra Space/Eric Van Dongen/CASIC/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


On the rapprochement of the ISS with a former US military satellite

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

Sept. 12, 2020

On Monday, September 14, 2020, at 02:23 Moscow time, the International Space Station is predicted to approach the US military satellite BRICSat-2, which has turned into the so-called "space debris".


BRICSat-2 is a communications experimental satellite (CubeSat) operated by the US Navy. It was launched into low-earth orbit in 2019 by SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch vehicle.

According to the calculations of Russian specialists of ASPOS OKP, the probability of convergence is 3.47E-04. Thus, the necessity of the station evasion maneuver from the dangerous object is confirmed. An evasion maneuver can be scheduled from 00:00 to 01:00 Moscow time on September 14, 2020. Specialists of the Roscosmos State Corporation continue to monitor this situation.

International Space Station (ISS)

The Russian side has repeatedly drawn the attention of partners to new threats in outer space that arise in connection with the creation of low-orbit satellite constellations, and proposes to develop the necessary interaction rules.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Related article:

Planned correction of the ISS orbit was carried out

Images, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/NASA/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


vendredi 11 septembre 2020

Research into Fluid Dynamics, Astronaut Health and Earth Wraps Up Science-Centered Week

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 11, 2020

Aboard the International Space Station, a flurry of research activity is underway before the Expedition 63 crew winds down to the weekend, along with essential maintenance tasks to ensure the longevity of the orbiting laboratory.

Commander Chris Cassidy crossed off a few housekeeping items, like replacing the carbon dioxide sensor for the Cell Biology Experiment Facility and stowing Rodent Research hardware for return on a future SpaceX mission, in addition to completing additional tests runs and closeout activities in support of the Fluidics experiment. Future spacecraft and their fuel systems will get a boost from this investigation, which uses the measurement of liquid displacement within a sphere to gather observations in how fluids behave inside a fuel tank.

Image above: A view of Earth from the International Space Station, taken using an external high-definition camera. Image Credit: NASA.

Cassidy also spent time working with the Advanced Plant Habitat mounted in the station’s EXPRESS rack to gather sound-level measurements. The habitat itself provides a large and enclosed chamber with stringent environmental controls, designed to give commercial and other bioscience research suitable conditions in which to grow despite the hostile environment to the station’s exterior: space.

Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, cosmonauts from the Russian space agency Roscosmos, worked together to complete life-support hardware maintenance tasks such as inspecting and inventorying the gear. Ivanishin continued the routine chores, cleaning out the ventilation system within the Zvezda service module and also doing a check of Russian video-recording equipment.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

After setting up an electrocardiogram for a 24-hour survey of his own heart health, Vagner terminated the test. In addition to investigating the effects of long-duration space travel on astronauts, he continued with setup and observation of our own planet using Earth photography. While the universe remain the ultimate unknown, there are still phenomena on Earth that scientists do not fully understand. For those particular mysteries, observations from station could prove eminently useful.

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Cell Biology Experiment Facility:

Rodent Research:


Advanced Plant Habitat:

Zvezda service module:

Heart health:

Earth photography:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

NASA/Catherine Williams.

Winds of Change Move Western Smoke Into the Pacific

NOAA / NASA - Suomi NPP Mission patch.

Sept. 11, 2020

NOAA/NASA's Suomi NPP satellite captured these series of images (made into an animated GIF) showing the winds changing direction on Sep. 06, 2020 when choking clouds of brown smoke began to billow and cascade into the Pacific Ocean. (Dates displayed in lower left hand corner.) By Sep. 10, the smoke cloud had traveled over 1,300 miles. The square miles of smoke in the image below totals 963,269. That estimate has been computed using the measurement tool within the NASA Worldview application.

A stunning 3.1 million acres have burned this year in California alone (per CAL fire), which is up from a total of 2.5 million acres as of Wednesday, Sep. 09, 2020. In addition, 805,314 acres have been lost in Oregon (State of Oregon Fires and Hotspots Dashboard, as of 9:30am EDT Sep. 11) and 500,000 acres (Northwest Interagency Coordination Center) in Washington state. Winds blowing through the west have been stoking fires and helping spread them quickly as evidenced in the growth of over a half million acres in less than two days. There have been 12 wildfire-related fatalities this year. Records have been shattered during this fire season and experts continue to blame drought, excessive heat and strong winds for this tragedy. Because the climate continues to change, scientists also believe that these types of fire events will not only continue but will worsen. Predictive meterologist for the National Interagency Fire Center, Nick Nausler, tweeted: "Multiple fires made 20-plus mile runs in 24 hours over the last few days in California, Oregon and Washington. Such distances traveled so quickly may not be all that rare in grassland fires. However, most of these fires are making massive runs in timber and burning tens of thousands of acres and in some cases 100,000-plus acres in one day. The sheer amount of fire on the landscape is surreal."

Image above: The square miles of smoke in the image below totals 963,269. That estimate has been computed using the measurement tool within the NASA Worldview application. Image Credits: NASA Worldview.

NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) Worldview application provides the capability to interactively browse over 700 global, full-resolution satellite imagery layers and then download the underlying data. Many of the available imagery layers are updated within three hours of observation, essentially showing the entire Earth as it looks "right now.” Actively burning fires, detected by thermal bands, are shown as red points. Image Courtesy: NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). Caption: Lynn Jenner.

Related articles:

NASA's ECOSTRESS Takes Surface Temperature Around California Fires

NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP Captures Fires and Aerosols Across America

Related links:

NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS):

Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership):

Animation, Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lynn Jenner.


Hubble Stows a Pocketful of Stars

NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Sept. 11, 2020

Many colorful stars are packed close together in this image of the globular cluster NGC 1805, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This tight grouping of thousands of stars is located near the edge of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our own Milky Way. The stars orbit closely to one another, like bees swarming around a hive. In the dense center of one of these clusters, stars are 100 to 1,000 times closer together than the nearest stars are to our Sun, making planetary systems around them unlikely.

The striking difference in star colors is illustrated beautifully in this image, which combines different types of light: blue stars, shining brightest in near-ultraviolet light, and red stars, illuminated in red and near-infrared. Space telescopes like Hubble can observe in the ultraviolet because they are positioned above Earth’s atmosphere, which absorbs most ultraviolet light, making it inaccessible to ground-based facilities.

This young globular cluster can be seen from the Southern Hemisphere, in the Dorado constellation, which is Portuguese for dolphinfish. Usually, globular clusters contain stars that are born at the same time. NGC 1805, however, is unusual as it appears to host two different populations of stars with ages millions of years apart. Observing such clusters of stars can help astronomers understand how stars evolve, and what factors determine whether they end their lives as white dwarfs or explode as supernovae.

 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, J. Kalirai.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of September 7, 2020

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

Sept. 11, 2020

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific studies on fluid dynamics, durable coatings for spacecraft, and confocal microscope technology during the week of Sept. 7.

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:

Turbulence in the tank

Image above: This image shows the FLUIDICS experiment equipment featuring one of the three transparent spheres. The investigation evaluate the phenomena of liquid sloshing and surface wave turbulence in a spacecraft fuel tank. Image Credit: CNES.

During this week, crew members conducted several runs of the FLUIDICS investigation. Sponsored by ESA (European Space Agency), this experiment uses three transparent, liquid-filled spheres to evaluate the phenomena of liquid sloshing and surface wave turbulence in a spacecraft fuel tank. A better understanding of sloshing may enable hardware designers to reduce its effects on guidance and precision of satellites and optimize satellite lifetime through improved fuel management. Observing surface wave turbulence in microgravity can provide insights into measuring the existing volume in a sphere – or, in other words, help more accurately determine how much fuel is in the tank. On Earth, gravity and surface tension affect turbulence, but microgravity allows scientists to focus only on the specific effects of surface tension.

Testing spacecraft paint jobs

Image above: Colored test strips for the Space Test Program - Houston 5 - Innovative Coatings Experiment (STP-H5-ICE) are visible in this image attached to surfaces of the Expedite the Processing of Experiments to Space Station (ExPRESS) Logistics Carrier-1 (ELC-1) on the exterior of the space station. STP-H5-ICE evaluates the durability of new coatings for use on spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA.

The Space Test Program-H5-Innovative Coatings Experiment (STP-H5 ICE) examines the durability of new coatings for use on spacecraft in low-Earth orbit. Radiation and extreme temperatures in space can corrode the paint and coatings that protect spacecraft exteriors, potentially leading to damage of a spacecraft’s hull. In addition, robotic and human navigators rely on specialized markings or optical coatings to capture or repair spacecraft, and these markings need to remain sharp. This investigation exposes eight new and two reference coatings to the environment outside the space station for two years, with periodic visual and photographic observations to evaluate each of the new coatings relative to the reference standards. During this week, crew members took photographs of the STP-H5 ICE experiment through the JEM window as part of that imagery requirement.

A better look at biological samples

Animation above: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy sets up the JAXA Confocal Space Microscope, intended to support biological research by providing clearer fluorescent images and real-time data on cellular and tissue structure and functions. Animation Credit: NASA.

The Confocal Space Microscope (Confocal Microscope) is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) facility that provides fluorescent images of biological samples. This technology eliminates out-of-focus light or glare in specimens that are thicker than the immediate plane of focus, providing real-time data on cellular and tissue structure and functions. Biological experiments are the first area of concentration, but the microscope also could be used for chemical studies. After the technology is verified as effective in microgravity, it could be used for research on regenerative medicine using 3D organ culture technology. The crew reconfigured hardware to set up the microscope during the week.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- Genes in Space-6 examines the entire process of DNA damage and repair in space for the first time, inducing DNA damage in a yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, and assessing mutations and repairs using the miniPCR and Biomolecule Sequencer tools aboard the space station.

Image above: One of the free-flying Astrobees floats in front of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy. These autonomous robots are testing computer vision, robotic manipulation, control algorithms, and human-robot Interaction aboard the space station. Image Credit: NASA.

- Astrobee tests three self-contained, free-flying robots designed to assist astronauts with routine chores, give ground controllers additional eyes and ears, and perform crew monitoring, sampling, and logistics management.

- An investigation titled Integrated Impact of Diet on Human Immune Response, the Gut Microbiota, and Nutritional Status During Adaptation to Spaceflight (Food Physiology) documents the effects of dietary improvements on immune function and the gut microbiome and the ability of those improvements to support adaptation to spaceflight.

- The Space Test Program-Houston 6-Spacecraft PlasmA Diagnostic suitE (STP-H6-SPADE) investigation monitors the interaction between the space station and the environment along its orbit, including hazardous charging events.

- Crew members photographed Earth using digital handheld cameras for Crew Earth Observations (CEO), capturing images of Typhoon Haishen, the Nile River, and storms over Africa. Photographs are publically available at the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.

Space to Ground: Studying DNA Breaks: 09/11/2020

Related links:



Confocal Microscope:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 63.

Best regards,

jeudi 10 septembre 2020

Planned correction of the ISS orbit was carried out

ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

Sept. 10, 2020

On Thursday, September 10, 2020, specialists of the Roscosmos State Corporation carried out a planned orbit correction of the International Space Station. For this, the engines of the Progress MS-14 transport cargo vehicle docked to the Zvezda module of the ISS Russian segment were switched on at 23:32 Moscow time. They worked for 225 seconds, as a result, the average altitude of the ISS orbit increased by 0.8 km, the magnitude of the velocity impulse - 0.45 m / s.

ISS orbit reboost by Progress. Image Credit: NASA

According to the data of the ballistic and navigation support service of the Flight Control Center of the Central Scientific Research Institute of Mechanical Engineering (MCC TsNIIMash, part of the State Corporation Roscosmos), the parameters of the space station's orbit after the correction were:

    Orbital period: 92.90 min;
    Orbital inclination: 51.66 degrees;
    Minimum height above the Earth's surface: 419.6 km;
    Maximum height above the Earth's surface: 437.9 km.

This operation was carried out with the aim of forming ballistic conditions before the launch and docking of the Soyuz MS-17 manned transport vehicle, which are scheduled for October 14, 2020. The crew includes Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov, as well as NASA astronaut Kathleen Rubins. The backup crew consists of Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Peter Dubrov, and NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hai.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Related article:

Space Station Upkeep a Priority as Astrobee Sweeps the Interior

ISS Orbit Correction

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Space Station Upkeep a Priority as Astrobee Sweeps the Interior

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 10, 2020

As a free-flying, cube-shaped robot dubbed Astrobee zipped through the International Space Station today, the Expedition 63 trio aboard was occupied with upkeep and experiment maintenance tasks.

Astrobee is autonomous, and therefore no additional burden to the busy schedule of Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Masterminded to assist the spare-faring crew with routine chores and give controllers on the ground an easy way to survey the station’s interior, the robot is currently flying about to capture additional video and imagery for later study.

Image above: This long-exposure photograph from the International Space Station was taken during an orbital night period and reveals the Milky Way glittering above a bright but exaggerated atmospheric glow that blankets the Earth’s horizon. Image Credit: NASA.

Cassidy spent significant time in the Columbus laboratory module installing Fluidics hardware and setting it up for test runs. The experiment itself consists of three small transparent spheres with a centrifuge to move the liquids within. Data compiled from the investigation will one day improve applications in space, optimizing fuel systems, as well as on Earth, providing insight into how oceans work and the phenomenon of “rogue waves.” In addition, Cassidy replaced components in the Waste and Hygiene Compartment and performed life-support maintenance.

Vagner, meanwhile, helped with the life-support maintenance and serviced the Russian oxygen generator. With Ivanishin accompanying, they tackled cleaning air vents and dust filters to ensure the smooth running of the orbiting outpost. Smoke detectors within the Zarya module were also changed out during the housekeeping work.

Astrobee, crew monitoring sampling logistic management. Animation Credit: NASA

The Russian crewmates contributed to the space station’s legacy as a microgravity testbed by furthering research objectives, with Ivanishin monitoring and identifying catastrophic events through the aid of Earth photography. Vagner added to the heart health study his counterpart had completed earlier in the week by setting up his own wearable monitor for a 24-hour electrocardiogram evaluation.

At 4:32 p.m. EDT, a planned reboost will put the orbiting laboratory in the proper positioning for the anticipated Soyuz launch of Expedition 64 on Oct. 14, followed by the landing of the current crew on Oct. 21.

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Expedition 64:

Columbus laboratory module:

Zarya module:

Earth photography:

Heart health study:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

New Hubble Data Suggests There is an Ingredient Missing from Current Dark Matter Theories

ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

10 September 2020

Hubble Sheds Light on Small-Scale Concentrations of Dark Matter (Artist’s Impression)

Observations by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile have found that something may be missing from the theories of how dark matter behaves. This missing ingredient may explain why researchers have uncovered an unexpected discrepancy between observations of the dark matter concentrations in a sample of massive galaxy clusters and theoretical computer simulations of how dark matter should be distributed in clusters. The new findings indicate that some small-scale concentrations of dark matter produce lensing effects that are 10 times stronger than expected.

Hubble Examines the Galaxy Cluster MACSJ 1206

Dark matter is the invisible glue that keeps stars, dust, and gas together in a galaxy. This mysterious substance makes up the bulk of a galaxy's mass and forms the foundation of our Universe's large-scale structure. Because dark matter does not emit, absorb, or reflect light, its presence is only known through its gravitational pull on visible matter in space. Astronomers and physicists are still trying to pin down what it is.

Small-Scale Concentrations of Dark Matter (Artist’s Impression)

Galaxy clusters, the most massive and recently assembled structures in the Universe, are also the largest repositories of dark matter. Clusters are composed of individual member galaxies that are held together largely by the gravity of dark matter.

"Galaxy clusters are ideal laboratories in which to study whether the numerical simulations of the Universe that are currently available reproduce well what we can infer from gravitational lensing," said Massimo Meneghetti of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science of Bologna in Italy, the study's lead author [1].

Hubble image of galaxy cluster MACS J0416.1–2403

"We have done a lot of testing of the data in this study, and we are sure that this mismatch indicates that some physical ingredient is missing either from the simulations or from our understanding of the nature of dark matter," added Meneghetti.

"There's a feature of the real Universe that we are simply not capturing in our current theoretical models," added Priyamvada Natarajan of Yale University in Connecticut, USA, one of the senior theorists on the team. "This could signal a gap in our current understanding of the nature of dark matter and its properties, as these exquisite data have permitted us to probe the detailed distribution of dark matter on the smallest scales."

Hubble image of Abell S1063

The distribution of dark matter in clusters is mapped by measuring the bending of light — the gravitational lensing effect — that they produce. The gravity of dark matter concentrated in clusters magnifies and warps light from distant background objects. This effect produces distortions in the shapes of background galaxies which appear in images of the clusters. Gravitational lensing can often also produce multiple images of the same distant galaxy.

The higher the concentration of dark matter in a cluster, the more dramatic its light-bending effect. The presence of smaller-scale clumps of dark matter associated with individual cluster galaxies enhances the level of distortions. In some sense, the galaxy cluster acts as a large-scale lens that has many smaller lenses embedded within it.

Hubble Sheds Light on Small-Scale Concentrations of Dark Matter

Hubble's crisp images were taken by the telescope's Wide Field Camera 3 and Advanced Camera for Surveys. Coupled with spectra from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), the team produced an accurate, high-fidelity, dark-matter map. By measuring the lensing distortions astronomers could trace out the amount and distribution of dark matter. The three key galaxy clusters, MACS J1206.2-0847, MACS J0416.1-2403, and Abell S1063, were part of two Hubble surveys: The Frontier Fields and the Cluster Lensing And Supernova survey with Hubble (CLASH) programs.

To the team's surprise, in addition to the dramatic arcs and elongated features of distant galaxies produced by each cluster's gravitational lensing, the Hubble images also revealed an unexpected number of smaller-scale arcs and distorted images nested near each cluster's core, where the most massive galaxies reside. The researchers believe the nested lenses are produced by the gravity of dense concentrations of matter inside the individual cluster galaxies. Follow-up spectroscopic observations measured the velocity of the stars orbiting inside several of the cluster galaxies to therby pin down their masses.

Animation of gravitational lensing (artist’s impression)

"The data from Hubble and the VLT provided excellent synergy," shared team member Piero Rosati of the Università degli Studi di Ferrara in Italy, who led the spectroscopic campaign. "We were able to associate the galaxies with each cluster and estimate their distances."

"The speed of the stars gave us an estimate of each individual galaxy's mass, including the amount of dark matter," added team member Pietro Bergamini of the INAF-Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science in Bologna, Italy.

By combining Hubble imaging and VLT spectroscopy, the astronomers were able to identify dozens of multiply imaged, lensed, background galaxies. This allowed them to assemble a well-calibrated, high-resolution map of the mass distribution of dark matter in each cluster.

 Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

The team compared the dark-matter maps with samples of simulated galaxy clusters with similar masses, located at roughly the same distances. The clusters in the computer model did not show any of the same level of dark-matter concentration on the smallest scales — the scales associated with individual cluster galaxies.

"The results of these analyses further demonstrate how observations and numerical simulations go hand in hand", said team member Elena Rasia of the INAF-Astronomical Observatory of Trieste, Italy.

"With advanced cosmological simulations, we can match the quality of observations analysed in our paper, permitting detailed comparisons like never before," added Stefano Borgani of the Università degli Studi di Trieste, Italy.

Astronomers, including those of this team, look forward to continuing to probe dark matter and its mysteries in order to finally pin down its nature.


[1] The team’s paper will appear in the 11 September 2020 issue of the journal Science.
More information

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

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of M. Meneghetti, G. Davoli, P. Bergamini, P. Rosati, P. Natarajan, C. Giocoli, G. B. Caminha, R. B. Metcalf, E. Rasia, S. Borgani, F. Calura, C. Grillo, A. Mercurio, and E. Vanzella.

Related links:

Images of Hubble:

HubbleSite release:

Link to Space Scoop:

Science paper:

Wide Field Camera 3:

Advanced Camera for Surveys:

ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT):

Images, Animation, Text, Credits: NASA, ESA, G. Caminha (University of Groningen), M. Meneghetti  (Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science of Bologna), P. Natarajan (Yale University), the CLASH team, and M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble)/ESA/Bethany Downer/Department of Astronomy & Physics, Yale University/Priyamvada Natarajan/INAF-Osservatorio di Astrofisica e Scienza dello Spazio di Bologna/Massimo Meneghetti/ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser/ESA/Hubble, NASA, HST Frontier Fields/Acknowledgement: Mathilde Jauzac (Durham University, UK and Astrophysics & Cosmology Research Unit, South Africa) and Jean-Paul Kneib (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland)/J. Lotz (STScI)/Videos: NASA, ESA, G. Caminha (University of Groningen), M. Meneghetti  (Observatory of Astrophysics and Space Science of Bologna), P. Natarajan (Yale University), the CLASH team, and M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble).


8K Camera on the Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) Spacecraft to Take Ultra High Definition Images of Mars

JAXA - Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) patch.

September 10, 2020

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) have decided to jointly develop a “Super Hi-Vision Camera” that is capable of filming 4K and 8K images in space for JAXA’s Martian Moons eXploration (MMX) mission. This would be the first time in history that 8K ultra high definition images of Mars and its moons are taken in proximity. By combining the actual flight data of the MMX spacecraft and the images taken by the Super Hi-Vision Camera, the exploration of the MMX spacecraft around Mars and its moons (the Martian system), 300 million kilometers from the Earth, will be recreated.

JAXA is currently developing the MMX spacecraft to be launched in JFY 2024, with the aim of clarifying the origin of the Martian moons and the evolutionary process of the Martian system. MMX is an internationally high-profile sample-return mission that aims to conduct scientific observations of the Martian moons, Phobos and Deimos, and of Mars, as well as land on Phobos to collect "sand" from its surface to return to Earth.

NHK is developing the Super Hi-Vision Camera in order to visualize MMX's challenges in ultra high definition images and broadcast them widely, with cooperation from JAXA. Images taken at regular intervals are partially transmitted to Earth to create a smooth image. The original image data is planned to be stored in a recording device in MMX's return capsule and brought back to Earth.

The Martian Moons eXploration (MMX): Exploring the Mars system with Super Hi-Vision (8K) Cameras

Over the years, JAXA and NHK have continued to take on the challenge of delivering images of space development since the live broadcasting from the space shuttle in 1992, followed by high-definition filming from the Kaguya lunar orbiter, 4K filming from the International Space Station (ISS), and visualizing the asteroid probe Hayabusa2 landing operation. This time, JAXA and NHK aim to take the world's first 8K images of Mars and its moons by utilizing the expertise accumulated through the past cooperation. In addition, JAXA and NHK aim to visualize the actual behavior of the spacecraft with the Super Hi-Vision Camera, providing a high level of reality by combining the 4K/8K images and MMX's flight data. These can also be used for the operation of the spacecraft.
By filming MMX's mission in the Martian system, 300 million kilometers away from Earth, with the newly developed Super Hi-Vision Camera, JAXA and NHK will work together to convey the appeal of a new horizon that has never been seen in detail before, to many people in a vivid and inspiring way.

Related Link:

Martian Moons eXploration (MMX):

Image, Video, Text, Credits: National Research & Development Agency/Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK)/Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Best regards,

mercredi 9 septembre 2020

Scans and Housekeeping Tasks Dominate with an Eye for the Future

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 9, 2020

The three Expedition 63 crewmates continued working on tasks aboard the International Space Station that will not only extend the outpost beyond its current 20-year tenure maximizing science in space, but also facilitate human travel deeper into the solar system.

Commander Chris Cassidy was again in the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module to continue setup with the Confocal Space Microscopy. The apparatus provides many advantages over conventional optical microscopy, some of which include the ability to control depth of field and collect sequential optical sections from thick biological specimens. Next up, Cassidy disconnected and stowed the Biomolecule Sequencer, which he had just used the day before with the Genes in Space 6 investigation.

Image above: Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy servicing microbial DNA samples for sequencing and identification aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

The station commander also served as the test subject for additional ultrasound eye scans, performed by cosmonaut Ivan Vagner, who serves as the crew medical officer approximately 240 miles above Earth. It has now long been understood that crew members’ bodies change in a variety of ways during spaceflight, and some can even experience impaired vision. Gathering data on how ocular health changes during the course of a months-long mission will help inform scientists and mission planners for future expeditions requiring greater time in space and exploration at different destinations, like the Moon and Mars.

Vagner, along with fellow cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin, spent time transferring waste to the two cargo vehicles docked at station, Progress 75 and Progress 76. In addition, Ivanishin wiped down surfaces in the Russian segment and disconnected his electrocardiogram monitor after a full 24-hour test that surveyed the health of his heart.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA commercial provider Northrop Grumman announced that it will name the NG-14 Cygnus spacecraft, the cargo ship slated to launch Sept. 29 to replenish station with supplies and new science, after astronaut Kalpana Chawla. It is the company’s tradition to name each Cygnus after an individual who has played a pivotal role in human spaceflight, and Chawla was selected in honor of her prominent place in history as the first woman of Indian descent to go to space.

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Kibo laboratory module:

Confocal Space Microscopy:

Biomolecule Sequencer:

Genes in Space 6:

Health of his heart:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Where Rocks Come Alive: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Observes an Asteroid in Action

NASA - OSIRIS-REx Mission patch.

Sept. 9, 2020

It's 5 o'clock somewhere – and while here on Earth, "happy hour" is commonly associated with winding down and the optional cold beverage, that's when things get going on Bennu, the destination asteroid of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission.

In a special collection of research papers published Sep. 9 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, the OSIRIS-REx science team reports detailed observations that reveal Bennu is shedding material on a regular basis. The OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has provided planetary scientists with the opportunity to observe such activity at close range for the first time ever, and Bennu’s active surface underscores an emerging picture in which asteroids are quite dynamic worlds. The fleeing particles are the beginning of many revelations – from its gravitational field, to its interior compostion, Bennu’s charisma continues to unfold for the team.

OSIRIS-REx Observes an Asteroid in Action

Video above: Using data collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission, this animation shows the trajectories of particles after their emission from asteroid Bennu’s surface. The animation emphasizes the four largest particle ejection events detected at Bennu from December 2018 through September 2019. Additional particles, some with lifetimes of several days, that are not related to the ejections are also visible. Video Credits: M. Brozovic/JPL-Caltech/NASA/University of Arizona.

The publications provide the first in-depth look at the nature of Bennu's particle ejection events, detail the methods used to study these phenomena, and discuss the likely mechanisms at work that cause the asteroid to release pieces of itself into space.

The first observation of particles popping off the asteroid's surface was made in January 2019, mere days after the spacecraft arrived at Bennu. This event may have gone completely unnoticed were it not for the keen eye of the mission's lead astronomer and University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory scientist, Carl Hergenrother, one of the lead authors of the collection.

Much like ocean-going explorers in centuries past, the space probe relies on stars to fix its position in space and remain on course during its years-long voyage across space. A specialized navigation camera onboard the spacecraft takes repeat images of background stars. By cross-referencing the constellations the spacecraft “sees” with programmed star charts, course corrections can be made as necessary.

Hergenrother was poring over these images that the spacecraft had beamed back to Earth when something caught his attention. The images showed the asteroid silhouetted against a black sky dotted with many stars – except there seemed to be too many.

"I was looking at the star patterns in these images and thought, 'huh, I don't remember that star cluster,'" Hergenrother said. "I only noticed it because there were 200 dots of light where there should be about 10 stars. Other than that, it looked to be just a dense part of the sky."

A closer inspection and an application of image-processing techniques unearthed the mystery: the "star cluster" was in fact a cloud of tiny particles that had been ejected from the asteroid's surface. Follow-up observations made by the spacecraft revealed the telltale streaks typical of objects moving across the frame, setting them apart from the background stars that appear stationary due to their enormous distances.

"We thought that Bennu’s boulder-covered surface was the wild card discovery at the asteroid, but these particle events definitely surprised us," said Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator and professor at LPL. "We’ve spent the last year investigating Bennu’s active surface, and it’s provided us with a remarkable opportunity to expand our knowledge of how active asteroids behave."

Image above: This is a mosaic image of asteroid Bennu, from NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. The discovery of sugars in meteorites supports the hypothesis that chemical reactions in asteroids – the parent bodies of many meteorites – can make some of life’s ingredients. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona.

Since arriving at the asteroid, the team has observed and tracked more than 300 particle ejection events on Bennu. According to the authors, some particles escape into space, others briefly orbit the asteroid, and most fall back onto its surface after being launched. Ejections most often occur during Bennu’s local two-hour afternoon and evening timeframe.

The spacecraft is equipped with a sophisticated set of electronic eyes – the Touch-and-Go Camera Suite, or TAGCAMS. Although its primary purpose is to assist in spacecraft navigation, TAGCAMS has now been placed into active duty spotting any particles in the vicinity of the asteroid.

Using software algorithms developed at the Catalina Sky Survey, which specializes in discovering and tracking near-Earth asteroids by detecting their motion against background stars, the OSIRIS-REx team found the largest particles erupting from Bennu to be about 6 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter. Due to their small size and low velocities – this is like a shower of tiny pebbles in super-slo-mo – the mission team does not deem the particles a threat to the spacecraft.

"Space is so empty that even when the asteroid is throwing off hundreds of particles, as we have seen in some events, the chances of one of those hitting the spacecraft is extremely small," Hergenrother said, "and even if that were to happen, the vast majority of them are not fast or large enough to cause damage."

During a number of observation campaigns between January and September 2019 dedicated to detecting and tracking mass ejected from the asteroid, a total of 668 particles were studied, with the vast majority measuring between 0.5 and 1 centimeters (0.2-0.4 inches), and moving at about 20 centimeters (8 inches) per second, about as fast – or slow – as a beetle scurrying across the ground. In one instance, a speedy outlier was clocked at about 3 meters (9.8 feet) per second.

On average, the authors observed one to two particles kicked up per day, with much of the material falling back onto the asteroid. Add to that the small particle sizes, and the mass loss becomes minimal, Hergenrother explained.

"To give you an idea, all of those 200 particles we observed during the first event after arrival would fit on a 4-inch x 4-inch tile," he said. "The fact that we can even see them is a testament to the capabilities of our cameras."

The authors investigated various mechanisms that could cause these phenomena, including released water vapor, impacts by small space rocks known as meteoroids and rocks cracking from thermal stress. The two latter mechanisms were found to be the most likely driving forces, confirming predictions about Bennu's environment based on ground observations preceding the space mission.

OSIRIS-REx spacecraft science survey

As Bennu completes one rotation every 4.3 hours, boulders on its surface are exposed to a constant thermo-cycling as they heat during the day and cool during the night. Over time, the rocks crack and break down, and eventually particles may be thrown from the surface. The fact that particle ejections were observed with greater frequency during late afternoon, when the rocks heat up, suggests thermal cracking is a major driver. The timing of the events is also consistent with the timing of meteoroid impacts, indicating that these small impacts could be throwing material from the surface. Either, or both, of these processes could be driving the particle ejections, and because of the asteroid's microgravity environment, it doesn't take much energy to launch an object from Bennu's surface.

"The particles were an unexpected gift for gravity science at Bennu since they allowed us to see tiny variations in the asteroid's gravity field that we would not have known about otherwise," said Steve Chesley, lead author of one of the studies published in the collection and senior research scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. "The trajectories show that the interior of Bennu is not uniform. Instead, there are pockets of higher and lower density material inside the asteroid."

Of the particles the team observed, some had suborbital trajectories, keeping them aloft for a few hours before they settled back down, while others fly off the asteroid to go into their own orbits around the sun.

In one instance, the team tracked one particle as it circled the asteroid for almost a week. The spacecraft's cameras even witnessed a ricochet, according to Hergenrother.

"One particle came down, hit a boulder and went back into orbit," he said. "If Bennu has this kind of activity, then there is a good chance all asteroids do, and that is really exciting."

As Bennu continues to unveil itself, the OSIRIS-REx team continues to discover that this small world is glowingly complex. These findings could serve as a cornerstone for future planetary missions that seek to better characterize and understand how these small bodies behave and evolve.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, provides overall mission management, systems engineering, and the safety and mission assurance for OSIRIS-REx. Dante Lauretta of the University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator, and the University of Arizona also leads the science team and the mission's science observation planning and data processing. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built the spacecraft and provides flight operations. Goddard and KinetX Aerospace are responsible for navigating the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in 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 in Washington.

Related link:

Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets:

For more information on the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit: and

Image (mentioned), Animation, Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille.


NASA's ECOSTRESS Takes Surface Temperature Around California Fires

ISS - ECOSTRESS Mission logo.

Sept. 9, 2020

On Sept. 6, NASA’s ECOsystem Spaceborne Thermal Radiometer Experiment on Space Station (ECOSTRESS) imaged active fires across California, including the El Dorado fire near Yucaipa and the Valley fire in Japatul Valley in the southern part of the state. As of Sept. 8, there were 25 major wildfires burning in California.

Both images, taken at 12:13 a.m. PDT (3:13 a.m. EDT), show multiple concentrated areas of surface temperatures (in red) higher than 375 degrees Fahrenheit (191 degrees Celsius). These high temperature regions were likely where the active fires were occurring. The surrounding areas show abnormally warm middle-of-the-night background surface temperatures (orange) due to the ongoing heat wave.

 ECOSTRESS, Studying Plant Water Use and Stress on ISS

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California built and manages the ECOSTRESS mission for the Earth Science Division in the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. ECOSTRESS is an Earth Venture Instrument mission; the program is managed by NASA's Earth System Science Pathfinder program at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Future studies could use ECOSTRESS data products in a similar fashion as land surface temperature was used to assess the fires pictured above.

Image above: This NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite image from Sept. 7, 2020, shows the night band image of the Creek Fire at night as well as the smoke from the fire causing lights at night to diffuse or "bloom." NASA’s satellite instruments are often the first to detect wildfires burning in remote regions, and the locations of new fires are sent directly to land managers worldwide within hours of the satellite overpass. Together, NASA instruments detect actively burning fires, track the transport of smoke from fires, provide information for fire management, and map the extent of changes to ecosystems, based on the extent and severity of burn scars. NASA has a fleet of Earth-observing instruments, many of which contribute to our understanding of fire in the Earth system. Satellites in orbit around the poles provide observations of the entire planet several times per day, whereas satellites in a geostationary orbit provide coarse-resolution imagery of fires, smoke and clouds every five to 15 minutes. Image Credits: NOAA/NASA.
Related article:

NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP Captures Fires and Aerosols Across America

More information about ECOSTRESS is available here:

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

Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership):

Taken from CALFire daily wildfire update:

Images, Animation,Text Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL-Caltech/NOAA.


mardi 8 septembre 2020

NOAA-NASA Suomi NPP Captures Fires and Aerosols Across America

NOAA / NASA - Suomi NPP Mission patch.

Sept. 8, 2020

Images above: The NOAA/NASA Suomi NPP satellite captured an image of fires across America on Sep. 07, 2020 on the above and below. On the below, the OMPS (Ozone Mapper and Profiler Suite) on the Suomi NPP satellite was used to provide this image of the aerosols released from the burning fires which has traveled east. Images Credits: NOAA/NASA.

On Sep. 07, 2020, NOAA/NASA's Suomi NPP satellite provided two different views of how fires are affecting the U.S. A true-color image of the United States appears on the left side. Obscuring the surface is a blanket of smoke from California to Arkansas with a haze present over the East Coast as well. The Suomi NPP satellite also provided information about aerosols that were released from these fires and have traveled across the United States' landscape as shown in the right side of the image.

Although the OMPS suite was designed to measure ozone it also has the capability of measuring other atmospheric particles like sulfur dioxide and ash. The aerosol index (AI) value is related to both the thickness and height of the atmospheric aerosol layer. For most atmospheric events involving aerosols, the AI ranges from 0.0 to 5.0, with 5.0 indicating heavy concentrations of aerosols that could reduce visibilities or impact health. Color codes range from colorless (0.0) through yellow (.5 - 2.6), orange (2.7-3) deep red (>3 - 5.0). This image shows a significant area of deep red range which means aerosols in the area could potentially be dangerous to the health of those in that area.

The smoke released by any type of fire (forest, brush, crop, structure, tires, waste or wood burning) is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot). Smoke can contain many different chemicals, including aldehydes, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, toluene, styrene, metals and dioxins. The type and amount of particles and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what is burning, how much oxygen is available, and the burn temperature.

Suomi NPP satellite. Image Credits: NOAA/NASA

High aerosol concentrations not only can affect climate and reduce visibility, they also can impact breathing, reproduction, the cardiovascular system, and the central nervous system, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Since aerosols are able to remain suspended in the atmosphere and be carried in prevailing high-altitude wind streams, they can travel great distances away from their source as evidenced in these images and their effects can linger.

NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) Worldview application provides the capability to interactively browse over 700 global, full-resolution satellite imagery layers and then download the underlying data. Many of the available imagery layers are updated within three hours of observation, essentially showing the entire Earth as it looks "right now.” Actively burning fires, detected by thermal bands, are shown as red points. Image Courtesy: NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS). Caption: Lynn Jenner.

Related links:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS):

Suomi NPP (National Polar-orbiting Partnership):

Fire and Smoke:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lynn Jenner.


Studies on the Human Condition Take Flight Along With Piloting Investigation

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 8, 2020

Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner spent a full day after the holiday weekend on investigations that will help demystify the effects of space on the human body, as well as some routine maintenance tasks to ensure the health of the International Space Station — now in its 20th year supporting crews in space.

International Space Station external view by EarthCam. Animation Credit: ISS HD Live Now

In the JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo laboratory module, Cassidy spent the first part of his Tuesday with Aquatic Habitat, a unique closed-water circulatory aquarium capable of accommodating small freshwater fish such as medaka or zebrafish, which serve as ideal subjects in the study of vertebrates. The station commander performed lens collection for the Confocal Space Microscopy setup and closeout, helping to maintain the microscope capable of providing fluorescence images of biological samples that inform scientists on the ground about the fundamental nature of cellular and tissue structure and functions. Cassidy later used the Biomolecule Sequencer for Genes in Space 6, which evaluates how exposure to radiation affects the long-term health of astronauts. The investigation, part of a series, will aid in finding the optimal DNA repair mechanisms that cells use in microgravity.

Image above: A view of NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy during hardware setup aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

Meanwhile, on the Russian segment, Ivanishin furthered understanding in how the heart performs during long-duration spaceflight by setting up, and then wearing, an electrocardiogram for a 24-hour period. The crew member also wiped down instrumentation during routine maintenance and configured Earth-observation hardware to capture changes in the planet below.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Vagner, too, did some housekeeping for the outpost, performing transfers to Progress 75 cargo ship tanks in anticipation of its deorbit in Earth’s atmosphere sometime in December. The cosmonaut also focused on the Pilot-T piloting spacecraft and robots study, which uses a mathematical assessment model to develop recommendations and improve the training for cosmonauts expected to perform complicated operator tasks such as docking or flying spacecraft.

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Kibo laboratory module:

Aquatic Habitat:

Confocal Space Microscopy:

Biomolecule Sequencer:

Genes in Space 6:

How the heart performs during long-duration spaceflight:


Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,