vendredi 18 septembre 2020

Robotics, Space Tech and Heart Research Wrap Up Work Week


ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 18, 2020

A set of free-flying robotic helpers buzzed around the International Space Station today for visual tests. Meanwhile, the Expedition 63 trio conducted a variety of advanced space research and maintained the upkeep of the orbiting lab.

Astrobee is the name given to a trio of small cube-shaped, autonomous robots being tested on the station for its ability to help crews in space. Commander Chris Cassidy powered up the robotic assistants this morning and set them free inside Japan’s Kibo lab module. Ground engineers are testing Astrobee’s visual and navigation system and watching video streamed from station cameras and from the devices themselves.

Image above: Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy poses with two Astrobee robotic assistants during visual and navigation tests inside the Kibo laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

Cassidy then spent the rest of the afternoon tearing down the Packed Bed Reactor Experiment that is exploring technology to support water recovery, planetary surface processing and oxygen production. The research hardware observes gas and liquid flows that could inform the optimal design of chemical and biological reactors benefitting Earth and space industries.

Cardiac research is also a space research priority as doctors learn to keep astronauts safe and healthy during long-term exploration missions. Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin attached sensors to himself Friday morning to monitor the adaptation of his blood circulation system for the Russian Cardiovector study. He then moved on to a technology investigation that observes the magnetic and dynamic forces the space station experiences on orbit.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Flight Engineer Ivan Vagner continued the weeklong power connection and life support systems checks. Vagner also was back on photography duty shooting Earth landmarks to help scientists forecast natural and man-made catastrophes.

Related links:

Expedition 63:


Kibo lab module:

Packed Bed Reactor Experiment:

Cardiac research:


Magnetic and dynamic forces:

Natural and man-made catastrophes:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

A new view of Enceladus


NASA & ESA - Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn & Titan patch.

Sept. 18, 2020

A global infrared mosaic of Saturn’s moon Enceladus created using a complete dataset from the Cassini spacecraft has revealed new detail on the moon’s surface.

A new view of Enceladus
Cassini orbited Saturn and its moons from 2004 to 2017. The mission ended when the spacecraft was intentionally plunged into the planet’s atmosphere, but new discoveries are still being made with the data.

During the mission lifetime, Cassini flew by Enceladus 147 times, with 23 close encounters of the icy moon. The Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) collected data that can be used to reveal information on the temperature and composition of the surface, as well as the sizes and crystallinity of ice grains.

A study published in Icarus has produced a global spectral mosaic using the complete VIMS dataset. The full-colour images were created by combining three IR channels of the VIMS spectro-imager, represented here by red, green, and blue colours, and overlapping these on a mosaic created using the Imaging Science Subsystem on Cassini by another team.

Cassini Enceladus flyby. Image Credit: NASA

The image shows five infrared views of Enceladus centred on the leading side, the Saturn-facing side, and the trailing side in the top row, and the North and South Pole in the bottom row.

The scientists used a photometric correction to reveal new details on the surface of the moon. Enceladus has a surface composed almost of pure water ice, which makes it highly reflective, but the observed brightness depends on the properties of the surface material, the surface shape, and the angle at which it is viewed. Correcting for these variations was necessary to show the differences in composition and physical state at the surface.

Image above: In these detailed infrared images of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, reddish areas indicate fresh ice that has been deposited on the surface. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/LPG/CNRS/University of Nantes/Space Science Institute.

By using these improved photometric corrections, the scientists have been able to reveal spectral variations which correspond to the different colours in the images. These are particularly striking in the region with four large tectonic faults known as the Tiger Stripes at the South Pole. The image of the South Pole also reveals a clear boundary between terrains where the light red colour meets the blue region. The smooth red colour seen in the first image is likely due to recently exposed freshwater ice. This could be the surface signature of hotspots on the seafloor.

In the future the scientists plan to apply their technique to other icy moons to compare them with Enceladus. Similar infrared mapping by the Juice and Europa Clipper missions will be able to detect recent activity on Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede.

The Cassini mission is a cooperative project between NASA, ESA, and Italy's ASI space agency.

ESA Cassini-Huygens:

NASA Cassini:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/LPG/CNRS/University of Nantes/Space Science Institute.


Space Station Science Highlights: Week of September 14, 2020


ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

Sept. 18, 2020

Scientific work conducted during the week of September 14 aboard the International Space Station included studies of the simultaneous flow of gas and liquid and the behavior of high-temperature materials in space, as well as a continuation of the Advanced Colloid Experiments (ACE).

Image above: NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy spent time during the week on maintenance and upkeep in preparation for the arrival of additional crew members at the end of the month. Here he speaks with Mission Control prior to work inside the Waste and Hygiene Compartment. Image Credit: NASA.

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:

Examining two-phase flow in space

The Packed Bed Reactor Experiment-Water Recovery (PBRE-WR) investigation, which uses the Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG), examines the rates at which a gas and liquid flow simultaneously (known as two-phase flow) through a filter in the space station water processor. This investigation could help define the best flow rates for gas and liquid in water processors in microgravity, improving their efficiency and performance for future long-term space exploration. A better understanding of two-phase flow also could benefit design and manufacturing of systems that use it on Earth. This week, crew members stowed the PBRE hardware in anticipation of the arrival on the next cargo resupply mission of scientific investigations that require use of the MSG.

Using levitation for better materials

Image above: The JAXA Electrostatic Levitation Furnace, used to examine the behavior of materials in high temperature manufacturing. Image Credit: NASA.

In order to produce glass, metal alloys, or other materials on Earth, mixtures of raw materials are heated in a container called a crucible. But chemical reactions between the materials and the crucible can cause imperfections and contaminations in the final product. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (JAXA-ELF) uses electrostatic levitation to eliminate the need for a container, something only possible in microgravity, and examine the behavior of the materials. The crew configured cables to allow ground teams to initiate software updates for ELF during the week.

Assembling 3D colloid structures

Image above: Hardware for the ACE-T-Ellipsoids investigation, which uses microgravity to examine the relationships among particle shape, crystal symmetry, density, and other fundamental properties of complex three-dimensional colloids. Colloids are small particles suspended within a fluid medium. Image Credit: NASA.

During the week, crew members reconfigured the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR) in preparation for runs of The Nonequilibrium Processing of Particle Suspensions with Thermal and Electrical Field Gradients (ACE-T-Ellipsoids), part of ongoing colloid research on the space station. This investigation designs and assembles complex three-dimensional colloids – small particles suspended within a fluid – and controls density and behavior of the particles with temperature. This control is important for the use of colloids in 3D printing and additive manufacturing. Colloidal structures also are vital to the design of advanced optical materials. Microgravity provides insight into the relationships among particle shape, crystal symmetry, density, and other fundamental properties.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- The Confocal Space Microscope (Confocal Microscope) is a Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) facility that provides fluorescent images of biological samples.

- The Burning Rate Emulator (BRE) investigation is a fire safety study conducted in the Combustion Integrated Rack (CIR) as part of the Advanced Combustion via Microgravity Experiments (ACME) project.

- The Japanese Experiment Module (JEM) Water Recovery System (JWRS) investigation from JAXA demonstrates a way to generate drinkable water from urine.

- ISS Ham Radio gives students an opportunity to talk directly with crew members via ham radio when the space station passes over their schools. This interaction engages and educates students, teachers, parents, and other members of the community in science, technology, engineering, and math.

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

- 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.

- Crew members regularly photograph various features and natural events on Earth using digital handheld cameras for the Crew Earth Observations (CEO) investigation. Photographs are publically available at the Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth.


Space to Ground: Honoring Kalpana: 09/18/2020

Related links:

Expedition 63:


Microgravity Science Glovebox (MSG):



Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR):

Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Locks Eyes With a Snake


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Sept. 18, 2020

The twisting patterns created by the multiple spiral arms of NGC 2835 create the illusion of an eye. This is a fitting description, as this magnificent galaxy resides near the head of the southern constellation of Hydra, the water snake. This stunning barred spiral galaxy, with a width of just over half that of the Milky Way, is brilliantly featured in this image taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Although it cannot be seen in this image, a supermassive black hole with a mass millions of times that of our Sun is known to nestle in the very center of NGC 2835.

This galaxy was imaged as part of PHANGS-HST, a large galaxy survey with Hubble that aims to study the connections between cold gas and young stars in a variety of galaxies in the local universe. Within NGC 2835, this cold, dense gas produces large numbers of young stars within large star formation regions. The bright blue areas, commonly observed in the outer spiral arms of many galaxies, show where near-ultraviolet light is being emitted more strongly, indicating recent or ongoing star formation.

Expected to image over 100,000 gas clouds and star-forming regions outside our Milky Way, this survey hopes to uncover and clarify many of the links between cold gas clouds, star formation, and the overall shape and morphology of galaxies. This initiative is a collaboration with the international Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope's MUSE instrument, through the greater PHANGS program.

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. Lee, and the PHANGS-HST Team; acknowledgment: Judy Schmidt (Geckzilla).


Russian spectrometer did not detect phosphine in the atmosphere of Mars


ESA & ROSCOSMOS - ExoMars Mission patch.

Sept. 18, 2020

As shown by the on-line analysis of data from the MIR mid-infrared spectrometer (part of the ACS complex, English - Atmospheric Chemistry Suite) on board the Trace Gas Orbiter orbital module of the Russian-European mission ExoMars-2016, there is no phosphine in the atmosphere of the Red Planet, the measurement sensitivity is 2 ppb (parts per billion).

Spectrometer MIR during assembly and as part of the ACS complex

Interest in phosphine as a possible indicator of biological activity arose after the recent publication of results on the discovery of this substance in the atmosphere of Venus at a concentration of about 20 ppb.

“It became interesting for us to see if there are any“ traces ”of phosphine in the data of the MIR spectrometer for two years of measurements. Our device operates in a wide range of wavelengths, including where the absorption bands of phosphine are located - 4.2 microns, ”says Alexander Trokhimovskiy, leader of the MIR spectrometer, an employee of the planetary physics department of the Institute of Space Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Spectrometer MIR during assembly and as part of the ACS complex

MIR (MIR - short for Mid-IR, mid-infrared range) is one of three spectrometers in the Russian ACS instrument, which has been operating on board the TGO mission spacecraft since 2018. Its task is to search for small constituents in the atmosphere of Mars, primarily methane, which is still considered the main candidate for biomarkers. However, as the recent "news from Venus" shows, it is not only methane that may be interesting in terms of life.

“The spectral resolution of the device is very high, and it could register rather low concentrations of phosphine,” notes Alexander Trokhimovsky. - But, as our data show, there is no phosphine in the atmosphere of Mars, or very little, no more than 2 particles per billion. Unfortunately, this biomarker is apparently missing on the Red Planet. "

Spectrometer MIR during assembly and as part of the ACS complex

These results are scheduled to be published shortly.

The search for methane is still relevant for Mars. According to the ACS, the content of this gas in the atmosphere is also small - no more than 5 particles per trillion. The more mysterious are the phenomena of sharp increases in concentrations that were recorded by the instruments of the Curiosity rover - up to 21 particles per billion at the planet's surface. How these "emissions" occur and why they are destroyed so quickly in the atmosphere is a question that remains to be answered, including during the second phase of the ExoMars project.

More information:

The ExoMars project is a joint project of Roscosmos and the European Space Agency. It is implemented in two stages. The first mission, launched in 2016, includes two spacecraft: the Trace Gas Orbiter for observing the planet's atmosphere and surface and the Schiaparelli lander for testing landing technologies.

Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO)

The scientific tasks of the TGO apparatus are registration of small components of the Martian atmosphere, including methane, mapping the abundance of water in the upper layer of the soil with a high spatial resolution of the order of tens of kilometers, and stereo imaging of the surface. The spacecraft is equipped with two instruments made in Russia: the ACS spectrometric complex and the FREND high-resolution neutron telescope. Russia also provides a Proton-M carrier rocket with a Briz-M upper stage for launch.

The second stage of the project (launch in 2022) provides for the delivery to the surface of Mars of the Russian landing platform Kazachok with the European rover Rosalind Franklin on board. Russia is providing the Proton-M launch vehicle with the Briz-M upper stage for launch. As part of both stages, a ground-based scientific complex of the ExoMars project is being created in Russia, combined with the European Space Agency, for receiving, archiving and processing scientific information.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Related article:

Possible Marker of Life Spotted on Venus

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

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Air pollution in a post-COVID-19 world


ESA - Sentinel -5P logo.

Sept. 18, 2020

Air pollution is one of the biggest environmental problems of our time. According to a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA), air pollution now contributes to one in eight deaths in Europe. Observations from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite have been vital in tracking the evolution of air pollution, specifically nitrogen dioxide concentrations, across Europe.


Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over Europe

This year, satellite data have been widely used to monitor fluctuations in air quality brought on by strict COVID-19 measures. The Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite, part of the European Copernicus programme, has been continuously mapping changes of air pollution since its launch in 2017.

Scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) and the Royal Belgian Institute for Space Aeronomy (BIRA-IASB) have used satellite data from Sentinel-5P and ground-based data in order to pinpoint the correlation between COVID-19 and the effects of air pollution across Europe.

The graph below shows the averaged nitrogen dioxide concentrations over five major European cities – Milan, Madrid, Paris, Berlin and Budapest. The upper panel shows concentrations (using a 14-day moving average) in 2019 compared to 2020 using Sentinel-5P data, while the lower panel shows in situ observations.


Nitrogen dioxide concentrations observed over major European cities

The shades of grey denote the lockdown periods in 2020, moving progressively from strict (dark grey) to loose (light grey) measures. The percentages shown in red represent the reduction in 2020 compared to 2019 over the same period.

The data shows that the strongest reductions of 40–50% were seen in the first stage of the lockdown in southern Europe, specifically Spain, Italy and France. In July and August 2020, the data suggests that the concentrations are still 10% to 20% lower than pre-COVID levels.

Bas Mijling, atmospheric scientist at KNMI, comments, “Quarantine measures implemented in Berlin led to a drop of about 20% with small variations seen until August 2020. In eastern Europe, the impact of the measures has been generally less dramatic than in southern Europe, and in France, where reductions of approximately 40–50% were observed during the strict lockdowns of March and April.

“More research is currently taking place as part of ESA’s ICOVAC project, or impact study of COVID-19 lockdown measures on air quality and climate.”


Jenny Stavrakou, atmospheric scientist at BIRA-IASB, adds, “The impact of meteorology on the nitrogen dioxide observations could be significant and should not be overlooked. This is why it is necessary to analyse data over longer periods of time, to better estimate the impact of human activity on the observations.”

She continues, “For the monthly mean comparison of 2019 and 2020, we estimate an uncertainty on the COVID-19 induced reduction of around 15–20%.  By comparing the reductions in satellite based data and ground-based data for different cities, we find a satisfactory agreement differences lying well within the uncertainties due to meteorological variability.”

ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-5P Mission Manager, Claus Zehner, says, “What is really remarkable is the good agreement between the Sentinel-5P satellite data and the ground-based measurements. This demonstrates that air quality monitoring from space can contribute to regular air quality reporting in European countries, which has been only done, so far, using ground-based measurements.”

Nitrogen dioxide concentrations over densely populated and industrialised areas of Europe

The lockdowns around March–April in Europe led to significant drops of nitrogen dioxide levels across densely populated and industrialised areas of Europe, including the Ruhr region in Germany and the Po Valley in northern Italy.

These decreases are attributed to the significant contribution of traffic, as well as of the industrial and energy sectors to nitrogen dioxide levels. The concentrations appear to return to near-normal levels in July–August 2020, except over large cities where human activities have not yet fully resumed.

Nitrogen dioxide is released into the atmosphere during fuel combustion from vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities and can have significant impacts on human health – increasing the likelihood of developing respiratory problems. The Copernicus Sentinel-5P carries the Tropomi instrument – a state-of-the-art instrument that detects the unique fingerprint of atmospheric gases to image air pollutants more accurately and at a higher spatial resolution than ever before.

Related link:



Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019-20), processed by KNMI/BIRA-IASB.


jeudi 17 septembre 2020

DNA Repairs, Self-Replicating Materials Highlight Thursday’s Research


ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 17, 2020

Thursday’s science schedule aboard the International Space Station focused primarily on DNA and physics research including ongoing Earth photography sessions. The Expedition 63 trio also maintained life support gear and packed a Russian cargo ship.

The space environment affects a variety of biological and physical phenomena adapted and designed for Earth’s gravity and atmosphere. Organisms from microbes to humans experience a variety of critical changes in microgravity. Fuels, materials and a host of other physical conditions also go through a series of important modifications. NASA and its international partners study these effects to ensure the health of astronauts and safety of spacecraft planned for future missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Image above: (From left) Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy of NASA with Roscosmos Flight Engineers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner pictured during various station activities. Image Credit: NASA.

DNA studies have been ongoing for years on the station to understand the long-term impacts of radiation and weightlessness on biology. This morning, Commander Chris Cassidy set up and checked out a DNA-monitoring device for the Genes In Space-6 experiment. The portable, handheld miniPCR-16 device, also used in Earth laboratories, provides insight into the repair mechanisms of DNA-damaged cells caused by space radiation.

Cassidy then turned his attention to unique materials that self-assemble and self-replicate with powerful implications for future space voyages. He set up a specialized microscope during the afternoon to observe particles suspended in fluids that self-organize into crystalline structures. The experiment takes place inside the Fluids Integrated Rack and explores the possibilities of 3D printing and additive manufacturing in microgravity.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The two station cosmonauts from Russia, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, swapped out and activated Earth observation hardware to continue monitoring and forecasting natural and man-made catastrophes. Ivanishin then serviced communications equipment before cleaning ventilation filters in the Zarya module. Vagner contributed to the ventilation system cleaning inside the Zvezda service module while also loading the Progress 75 resupply ship with trash and discarded gear.

Related links:

Expedition 63:



Genes In Space-6:

Self-assemble and self-replicate:

Specialized microscope:

Fluids Integrated Rack:

Natural and man-made catastrophes:

Zarya module:

Zvezda service module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Captures Crisp New Image of Jupiter and Europa



ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

17 September 2020

Hubble’s Crisp New Image of Jupiter and Europa

This latest image of Jupiter, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope on 25 August 2020, was captured when the planet was 653 million kilometres from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the Great Red Spot changing colour — again. The new image also features Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

A unique and exciting detail of Hubble’s new snapshot appears at mid-northern latitudes as a bright, white, stretched-out storm moving at 560 kilometres per hour. This single plume erupted on 18 August 2020 and another has since appeared.

While it’s common for storms to pop up in this region, often several at once, this particular disturbance appears to have more structure behind it than observed in previous storms. Trailing behind the plume are small, counterclockwise dark clumps also not witnessed in the past. Researchers speculate this may be the beginning of a longer-lasting northern hemisphere spot, perhaps to rival the legendary Great Red Spot that dominates the southern hemisphere.

Hubble’s New Rainbow View of Jupiter

Hubble shows that the Great Red Spot, rolling counterclockwise in the planet’s southern hemisphere, is ploughing into the clouds ahead of it, forming a cascade of white and beige ribbons. The Great Red Spot is currently an exceptionally rich red colour, with its core and outermost band appearing deeper red.

Researchers say the Great Red Spot now measures about 15 800 kilometres across, big enough to swallow the Earth. The super-storm is still shrinking, as noted in telescopic observations dating back to 1930, but its rate of shrinkage appears to have slowed. The reason for its dwindling size is a complete mystery.

Researchers are noticing that another feature has changed: the Oval BA, nicknamed by astronomers as Red Spot Jr., which appears just below the Great Red Spot in this image. For the past few years, Red Spot Jr. has been fading in colour to its original shade of white after appearing red in 2006. However, now the core of this storm appears to be darkening to a reddish hue. This could hint that Red Spot Jr. is on its way to reverting to a colour more similar to that of its cousin.

Hubble’s New Views of Jupiter

Hubble’s image shows that Jupiter is clearing out its higher-altitude white clouds, especially along the planet’s equator, which is enveloped in an orangish hydrocarbon smog.

Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is visible to the left of the gas giant. Europa is already thought to harbour a liquid ocean beneath its icy crust, making this moon one of the main targets in the search for habitable worlds beyond Earth. In 2013 it was announced that the Hubble Space Telescope discovered water vapour erupting from the frigid surface of Europa, in one or more localised plumes near its south pole. ESA's JUpiter ICy moons Explorer, a mission planned for launch in 2022, aims to explore both Jupiter and three of its largest moons: Ganymede, Callisto, and Europa.

Hubble’s New Views of Jupiter

Hubble also captured a new multiwavelength observation in ultraviolet/visible/near-infrared light of Jupiter on 25 August 2020, which is giving researchers an entirely new view of the giant planet. Hubble’s near infrared imaging, combined with ultraviolet views, provides a unique panchromatic look that offers insights into the altitude and distribution of the planet’s haze and particles. This complements Hubble’s visible-light picture that shows the ever-changing cloud patterns.


These new Hubble images form part of yearly maps of the entire planet taken under the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy programme, or OPAL. The programme provides yearly Hubble global views of the outer planets to look for changes in their storms, winds, and clouds.
More information

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


Images of Hubble:

HubbleSite release:

Hubble Images of Jupiter:

Link to Space Scoop:

Images Credits: NASA, ESA, Bethany Downer, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M. H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley) and the OPAL team/Video: NASA, ESA, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), and M. H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), the OPAL team, and M. Kornmesser (ESA/Hubble).

Best regards,

Emissions Could Add 15 Inches to 2100 Sea Level Rise, NASA-led Study Finds


NASA logo.

Sept. 17, 2020

The new estimates project the impact that the planet's melting ice sheets could have if greenhouse gas emissions continue apace.

Image above: Ice shelves in Antarctica, such as the Getz Ice Shelf seen here, are sensitive to warming ocean temperatures. Ocean and atmospheric conditions are some of the drivers of ice sheet loss that scientists considered in a new study estimating additional global sea level rise by 2100. Image Credits: Jeremy Harbeck/NASA.

An international effort that brought together more than 60 ice, ocean, and atmosphere scientists from three dozen international institutions has generated new estimates of how much of an impact Earth's melting ice sheets could have on global sea levels by 2100. If greenhouse gas emissions continue apace, Greenland and Antarctica's ice sheets could together contribute more than 15 inches (38 centimeters) of global sea level rise - and that's beyond the amount that has already been set in motion by Earth's warming climate.

Results from this effort are in line with projections in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2019 Special Report on Oceans and the Cryosphere. Meltwater from ice sheets contribute about a third of the total global sea level rise. The IPCC report projected that Greenland would contribute 3.1 to 10.6 inches (8 to 27 cm) to global sea level rise between 2000 and 2100 and Antarctica could contribute 1.2 to 11 inches (3 to 28 cm).

These new results, published this week in a special issue of the journal The Cryosphere, come from the Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project (ISMIP6) led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The study is one of many efforts scientists are involved in projecting the impact of a warming climate on melting ice sheets, understanding its causes, and tracking sea level rise.

"One of the biggest uncertainties when it comes to how much sea level will rise in the future is how much the ice sheets will contribute," said project leader and ice scientist Sophie Nowicki, now at the University at Buffalo and formerly at NASA Goddard. "And how much the ice sheets contribute is really dependent on what the climate will do."

"The strength of ISMIP6 was to bring together most of the ice sheet modeling groups around the world, and then connect with other communities of ocean and atmospheric modelers as well, to better understand what could happen to the ice sheets," said Heiko Goelzer, a scientist from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, now at NORCE Norwegian Research Centre in Norway. Goelzer led the Greenland ice sheet ISMIP6 effort.

With warming air temperatures melting the surface of the ice sheet and warming ocean temperatures causing ocean-terminating glaciers to retreat, Greenland's ice sheet is a significant contributor to sea level rise. The ISMIP6 team investigated two different scenarios the IPCC has set for future climate to predict sea level rise between 2015 and 2100: one with carbon emissions increasing rapidly and another with lower emissions.

In the high emissions scenario, they found that the Greenland ice sheet would lead to an additional global sea level rise of about 3.5 inches (9 cm) by 2100. In the lower-emissions scenario, the loss from the ice sheet would raise global sea level by about 1.3 inches (3 cm). This is beyond what is already destined to be lost from the ice sheet due to warming temperatures between pre-industrial times and now; previous studies have estimated that "locked in" contribution to global sea level rise by 2100 to be about a quarter-inch (6 millimeters) for the Greenland ice sheet.

The ISMIP6 team also analyzed the Antarctic ice sheet to understand how much ice melt from future climate change would add to sea level rise, beyond what recent warming temperatures have already put in motion. Ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet is more difficult to predict: In the west, warm ocean currents erode the bottom of large floating ice shelves, causing loss, while the vast East Antarctic ice sheet can gain mass, as warmer temperatures cause increased snowfall.

The results point to a greater range of possibilities, from ice sheet change that decreases sea level by 3.1 in (7.8 cm), to increasing it by 12 in (30 cm) by 2100, with different climate scenarios and climate model inputs. The regional projections show the greatest loss in West Antarctica, responsible for up to 7.1 in (18 cm) of sea level rise by 2100 in the warmest conditions, according to the research.

"The Amundsen Sea region in West Antarctica and Wilkes Land in East Antarctica are the two regions most sensitive to warming ocean temperatures and changing currents, and will continue to lose large amounts of ice," said Hélène Seroussi, an ice scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Seroussi led the Antarctic ice sheet modeling in the ISMIP6 effort. "With these new results, we can focus our efforts in the correct direction and know what needs to be worked on to continue improving the projections."

Different groups within the ISMIP6 community are working on various aspects of the ice sheet modeling effort. All are designed to better understand why the ice sheets are changing and to improve estimates of how much ice sheets will contribute to sea level rise. Other recent ISMIP6 studies include:

- How historical conditions and warming ocean temperatures that melt floating ice shelves from below play a significant role in Antarctic ice loss? [Reese et al]

- How sudden and sustained collapse of the floating ice shelves impact the Antarctic ice sheet as a whole? [Sun et al. (2020),]

- How to convert large scale climate output into local conditions that ice sheet models can use? [Barthel et al (2020), Slater et al (2019, 2020), Nowicki et al (2020), and Jourdain et al]

"It took over six years of workshops and teleconferences with scientists from around the world working on ice sheet, atmosphere, and ocean modeling to build a community that was able to ultimately improve our sea level rise projections," Nowicki said. "The reason it worked is because the polar community is small, and we're all very keen on getting this problem of future sea level right. We need to know these numbers."

The new results will help inform the Sixth IPCC report scheduled for release in 2022.

Related link:

Ice Sheet Model Intercomparison Project (ISMIP6):

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/GSFC/Jake Richmond, written by Kate Ramsayer/JPL/Ian J. O'Neill/Jane J. Lee.


mercredi 16 septembre 2020

Science Hardware Upkeep All Day on Station

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 16, 2020

The International Space Station’s advanced microgravity research systems continue to be serviced today ensuring innovative results and insights to benefit humans on and off the Earth.

The Kibo lab module from JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) contains an airlock used to transfer science experiments into the vacuum of space. Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy installed a variety of components and connected cables this morning that operate the airlock and control the pressure.

Image above: Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy poses for a portrait wearing his flight suit inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s window to the world. Image Credit: NASA.

JAXA’s robotic arm grapples and maneuvers the experiments back and forth from the airlock to an external pallet. Air pressure inside the airlock is turned off and on as materials exposure investigations are installed outside Kibo or retrieved for analysis.

Cassidy also checked a memory card for a laptop computer that runs the COLBERT treadmill inside the Tranquility module. The NASA astronaut then photographed the front panel display of a GLACIER science freezer for review on the ground. Finally, he cleaned dust and debris inside a server supporting the MUSES Earth-imaging platform.

 External view from EarthCam. Animation Credit: ISS HD Live Now

Cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner spent a good portion of Wednesday checking Russian power supply connections and battery temperatures. Ivanishin then researched ways to optimize interactions between station crews and mission controllers from around the world. Vagner also worked on fluid and pressure checks inside the Progress 76 resupply ship docked to the Pirs docking compartment.

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Kibo lab module:

Materials exposure investigations:


Tranquility module:

GLACIER science freezer:

MUSES Earth-imaging platform:

Optimize interactions:

Pirs docking compartment:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

NASA Missions Spy First Possible ‘Survivor’ Planet Hugging White Dwarf Star

NASA - Tess Mission logo / NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

Sept. 16, 2020

Image above: In this illustration, WD 1856 b, a potential Jupiter-size planet, orbits its much smaller host star, a dim white dwarf. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

An international team of astronomers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and retired Spitzer Space Telescope has reported what may be the first intact planet found closely orbiting a white dwarf, the dense leftover of a Sun-like star, only 40% larger than Earth.

The Jupiter-size object, called WD 1856 b, is about seven times larger than the white dwarf, named WD 1856+534. It circles this stellar cinder every 34 hours, more than 60 times faster than Mercury orbits our Sun.

“WD 1856 b somehow got very close to its white dwarf and managed to stay in one piece,” said Andrew Vanderburg, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The white dwarf creation process destroys nearby planets, and anything that later gets too close is usually torn apart by the star’s immense gravity. We still have many questions about how WD 1856 b arrived at its current location without meeting one of those fates.”

A paper about the system, led by Vanderburg and including several NASA co-authors, appears in the Sept. 17 issue of Nature and is now available online:

TESS monitors large swaths of the sky, called sectors, for nearly a month at a time. This long gaze allows the satellite to find exoplanets, or worlds beyond our solar system, by capturing changes in stellar brightness caused when a planet crosses in front of, or transits, its star.

The satellite spotted WD 1856 b about 80 light-years away in the northern constellation Draco. It orbits a cool, quiet white dwarf that is roughly 11,000 miles (18,000 kilometers) across, may be up to 10 billion years old, and is a distant member of a triple star system.

When a Sun-like star runs out of fuel, it swells up to hundreds to thousands of times its original size, forming a cooler red giant star. Eventually, it ejects its outer layers of gas, losing up to 80% of its mass. The remaining hot core becomes a white dwarf. Any nearby objects are typically engulfed and incinerated during this process, which in this system would have included WD 1856 b in its current orbit. Vanderburg and his colleagues estimate the possible planet must have originated at least 50 times farther away from its present location.

TESS, Spitzer Spot Potential Giant World Circling Tiny Star

Video above: Watch to learn how a possible giant planet may have survived its tiny star’s chaotic history. Jupiter-size WD 1856 b is nearly seven times larger than the white dwarf it orbits every day and a half. Astronomers discovered it using data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Goddard Space Flight Center.

“We’ve known for a long time that after white dwarfs are born, distant small objects such as asteroids and comets can scatter inward towards these stars. They’re usually pulled apart by a white dwarf's strong gravity and turn into a debris disk,” said co-author Siyi Xu, an assistant astronomer at the international Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii, which is a program of the National Science Foundation’s NOIRLab. “That’s why I was so excited when Andrew told me about this system. We’ve seen hints that planets could scatter inward, too, but this appears to be the first time we’ve seen a planet that made the whole journey intact.”

The team suggests several scenarios that could have nudged WD 1856 b onto an elliptical path around the white dwarf. This trajectory would have become more circular over time as the star’s gravity stretched the object, creating enormous tides that dissipated its orbital energy.

“The most likely case involves several other Jupiter-size bodies close to WD 1856 b’s original orbit,” said co-author Juliette Becker, a 51 Pegasi b Fellow in planetary science at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) in Pasadena. “The gravitational influence of objects that big could easily allow for the instability you’d need to knock a planet inward. But at this point, we still have more theories than data points.”

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Animation Credit: NASA

Other possible scenarios involve the gradual gravitational tug of the two other stars in the system, red dwarfs G229-20 A and B, over billions of years and a flyby from a rogue star perturbing the system. Vanderburg’s team thinks these and other explanations are less likely because they require finely tuned conditions to achieve the same effects as the potential giant companion planets.

Jupiter-size objects can occupy a huge range of masses, from planets only a few times more massive than Earth to low-mass stars thousands of times Earth’s mass. Others are brown dwarfs, which straddle the line between planet and star. Usually scientists turn to radial velocity observations to measure an object’s mass, which can hint at its composition and nature. This method works by studying how an orbiting object tugs on its star and alters the color of its light. But in this case, the white dwarf is so old that its light has become both too faint and too featureless for scientists to detect noticeable changes.

Instead, the team observed the system in the infrared using Spitzer, just a few months before the telescope was decommissioned. If WD 1856 b were a brown dwarf or low-mass star, it would emit its own infrared glow. This means Spitzer would record a brighter transit than it would if the object was a planet, which would block rather than emit light. When the researchers compared the Spitzer data to visible light transit observations taken with the Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain’s Canary Islands, they saw no discernible difference. That, combined with the age of the star and other information about the system, led them to conclude that WD 1856 b is most likely a planet no more than 14 times Jupiter’s size. Future research and observations may be able to confirm this conclusion.

Finding a possible world closely orbiting a white dwarf prompted co-author Lisa Kaltenegger, Vanderburg, and others to consider the implications for studying atmospheres of small rocky worlds in similar situations. For example, suppose that an Earth-size planet were located within the range of orbital distances around WD 1856 where water could exist on its surface. Using simulated observations, the researchers show that NASA’s upcoming James Webb Space Telescope could detect water and carbon dioxide on the hypothetical world by observing just five transits.

The results of these calculations, led by Kaltenegger and Ryan MacDonald, both at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and are available online:

“Even more impressively, Webb could detect gas combinations potentially indicating biological activity on such a world in as few as 25 transits,” said Kaltenegger, the director of Cornell’s Carl Sagan Institute. “WD 1856 b suggests planets may survive white dwarfs’ chaotic histories. In the right conditions, those worlds could maintain conditions favorable for life longer than the time scale predicted for Earth. Now we can explore many new intriguing possibilities for worlds orbiting these dead stellar cores.”

There is currently no evidence suggesting there are other worlds in the system, but it’s possible additional planets exist and haven’t been detected yet. They could have orbits that exceed the time TESS observes a sector or are tipped in a way such that transits don’t occur. The white dwarf is also so small that the possibility of catching transits from planets farther out in the system is very low.

Spitzer Space Telescope. Animation Credit: NASA

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

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California managed the Spitzer mission for the agency's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Spitzer science data continue to be analyzed by the science community via the Spitzer data archive, located at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC) at Caltech. Science operations were conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at Caltech. Spacecraft operations were based at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information on TESS, visit:

For more information on Spitzer, visit:

Image (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Felicia Chou/GSFC/Claire Andreoli​.


mardi 15 septembre 2020

CASC - Long March-11 launches Jilin-1 Gaofen-03-1

CASC - China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

Sept. 15, 2020

Long March-11 launches Jilin-1 Gaofen-03-1 from a ship at sea

A Long March-11 launch vehicle launched Jilin-1 Gaofen-03-1, a group of nine satellites, from a ship in the Yellow Sea, on 15 September 2020, at 01:23 UTC (09:23 local time).

Long March-11 launches Jilin-1 Gaofen-03-1 from a ship at sea

The Jilin-1 Gaofen-03-1 group of satellites was developed by Changguang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd.

Related articles:

CASC - Long March-4B launches Gaofen-11 02

Long March-2D launches Gaofen-9 05, Tiantuo-5 and a multifunctional test satellite

CASC - Long March-2D launches Gaofen-9 04

CASC - Long March-2D launches Gaofen-9 03 and HEAD-5 satellites

CASC - Long March-2D launches Gaofen-9 02 and HEAD-4 satellites

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

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


Biology, Physics Hardware and Software Updates During Pilot Studies

ISS - Expedition 63 Mission patch.

September 15, 2020

The Expedition 63 crew tended to a variety of science hardware Tuesday servicing the gear and updating software that operates the advanced research devices. Fitness tests and ongoing lab maintenance rounded out the schedule aboard the International Space Station.

A trio of science facilities supporting physics and biology investigations received hands-on attention throughout the day. Commander Chris Cassidy first connected a laptop computer to the Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF) and updated the software that runs the extreme temperature research device.

Image above: Expedition 63 Commander Chris Cassidy replaces components inside the Waste and Hygiene Compartment, the International Space Station’s bathroom. Image Credit: NASA.

The veteran NASA astronaut also set up the Confocal Space Microscope, which observes cellular and tissue functions using fluorescence and spatial filtering techniques. Cassidy then replaced filters inside the Life Science Glovebox (LSG) which enables two crew members to conduct biology and technology research at the same time.

The ELF, among numerous other research facilities, is housed inside the Columbus lab module from the European Space Agency (ESA). The specialized confocal and wide-field microscope and the LSG reside in JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) Kibo lab module. Columbus has been attached to the station since February 2008, while the three-part Kibo was installed over a period between March and July 2008.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Today was cosmonaut Ivan Vagner’s turn to take a fitness test on the Zvezda service module’s treadmill. The once-a-month physical evaluation sends data down to researchers collected from sensors attached to a crew member during the 90-minute exercise. Vagner also studied ways cosmonauts might pilot spacecraft and robots on future planetary missions.

Cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin deactivated gear that observed Earth’s nighttime atmosphere in near-ultraviolet wavelengths. The three-time station resident then spent the rest of the day inspecting Russian life support gear.

Related links:

Expedition 63:

Electrostatic Levitation Furnace (ELF):

Confocal Space Microscope:

Life Science Glovebox (LSG):

Columbus lab module:

Kibo lab module:

Zvezda service module:

Pilot spacecraft and robots:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Solar Cycle 25 Is Here. NASA, NOAA Scientists Explain What That Means

NASA - Space Weather logo.

Sept. 15, 2020

Solar Cycle 25 has begun. During a media event on Tuesday, experts from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) discussed their analysis and predictions about the new solar cycle – and how the coming upswing in space weather will impact our lives and technology on Earth, as well as astronauts in space.

Image above: This split image shows the difference between an active Sun during solar maximum (on the left, captured in April 2014) and a quiet Sun during solar minimum (on the right, captured in December 2019). December 2019 marks the beginning of Solar Cycle 25, and the Sun’s activity will once again ramp up until solar maximum, predicted for 2025. Image Credits: NASA/SDO.

The Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel, an international group of experts co-sponsored by NASA and NOAA, announced that solar minimum occurred in December 2019, marking the start of a new solar cycle. Because our Sun is so variable, it can take months after the fact to declare this event. Scientists use sunspots to track solar cycle progress; the dark blotches on the Sun are associated with solar activity, often as the origins for giant explosions – such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections – which can spew light, energy, and solar material into space.

“As we emerge from solar minimum and approach Cycle 25’s maximum, it is important to remember solar activity never stops; it changes form as the pendulum swings,” said Lika Guhathakurta, solar scientist at the Heliophysics Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA and NOAA, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies and departments, work together on the National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan to enhance space weather preparedness and protect the nation from space weather hazards. NOAA provides space weather predictions and satellites to monitor space weather in real time; NASA is the nation’s research arm, helping improve our understanding of near-Earth space, and ultimately, forecasting models.

Space weather predictions are also critical for supporting Artemis program spacecraft and astronauts. Surveying this space environment is the first step to understanding and mitigating astronaut exposure to space radiation. The first two science investigations to be conducted from the Gateway will study space weather and monitor the radiation environment in lunar orbit. Scientists are working on predictive models so they can one day forecast space weather much like meteorologists forecast weather on Earth.

“There is no bad weather, just bad preparation,” said Jake Bleacher, chief scientist for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency’s Headquarters. “Space weather is what it is – our job is to prepare.”

Understanding the cycles of the Sun is one part of that preparation. To determine the start of a new solar cycle, the prediction panel consulted monthly data on sunspots from the World Data Center for the Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observations, located at the Royal Observatory of Belgium in Brussels, which tracks sunspots and pinpoints the solar cycle’s highs and lows.

“We keep a detailed record of the few tiny sunspots that mark the onset and rise of the new cycle,” said Frédéric Clette, the center’s director and one of the prediction panelists. “These are the diminutive heralds of future giant solar fireworks. It is only by tracking the general trend over many months that we can determine the tipping point between two cycles.”

With solar minimum behind us, scientists expect the Sun’s activity to ramp up toward the next predicted maximum in July 2025. Doug Biesecker, panel co-chair and solar physicist at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Boulder, Colorado, said Solar Cycle 25 is anticipated to be as strong as the last solar cycle, which was a below-average cycle, but not without risk.

“Just because it’s a below-average solar cycle, doesn’t mean there is no risk of extreme space weather,” Biesecker said. “The Sun’s impact on our daily lives is real and is there. SWPC is staffed 24/7, 365 days a year because the Sun is always capable of giving us something to forecast.”

Elsayed Talaat, director of Office of Projects, Planning, and Analysis for NOAA’s Satellite and Information Service in Silver Spring, Maryland, described the nation’s recent progress on the Space Weather Action Plan as well as on upcoming developments, including NOAA’s Space Weather Follow-On L-1 observatory, which launches in 2024, before Solar Cycle 25’s predicted peak.

“Just as NOAA’s National Weather Service makes us a weather-ready nation, what we’re driving to be is a space weather-ready nation,” Talaat said. “This is an effort encompassing 24 agencies across the government, and it has transformed space weather from a research perspective to operational knowledge.”

For more information on NASA programs and activities, visit:

Related links:

National Space Weather Strategy and Action Plan:

World Data Center for the Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observations:

Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC):

Space Weather Follow-On L-1:,%2Dstream%E2%80%9D%20of%20the%20Earth.

Space Weather:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Grey Hautaluoma/Karen Fox/NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center/Maureen O’Leary/NOAA Satellites/John Leslie/Solar-Terrestrial Centre of Excellence, Royal Observatory of Belgium/Petra Vanlommel.