samedi 13 mars 2021

NASA Astronauts Complete Year’s Fifth Spacewalk at Station


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March 13, 2021

NASA astronauts Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins concluded their spacewalk at 3:01 p.m. EST, after 6 hours and 47 minutes. In the fifth spacewalk of the year outside the International Space Station, the two astronauts successfully completed tasks to service the station’s cooling system and communications gear.

Image above: NASA astronauts (from left) Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins conducted their third spacewalk together on Saturday morning. Image Credit: NASA.

The duo began their work on the station’s port truss, or “backbone,” completing tasks that were deferred from previous spacewalks. The spacewalkers successfully vented the early ammonia system, relocated one of its jumper lines, and serviced the Columbus Bartolomeo payload platform, including routing three of four cables on the Payload Position (PAPOS) interface and configuring a cable for an amateur radio system. The astronauts deferred the task of installing clamps on Bartolomeo in order to route cables for high-definition cameras. The pair also replaced a wireless antenna assembly on the Unity module and installed hardware to provide additional structural integrity on the airlock.

Spacewalk to Conduct Maintenance Outside the International Space Station

This was the fourth career spacewalk for Glover and the fifth in Hopkins’s career. Glover has now spent a total of 26 hours and 7 minutes spacewalking. Hopkins now has spent a total of 32 hours and 1 minute spacewalking.

Space station crew members have conducted 237 spacewalks in support of assembly and maintenance of the orbiting laboratory. Spacewalkers have now spent a total of 62 days, 3 hours and 54 minutes working outside the station.

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

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Remembering Samuel J. Scott, One of NASA's First Black Engineers


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Mar 13, 2021

The NASA family is saddened by the passing of Samuel J. Scott, one of the agency's first black engineers. He died Friday, March 5, 2021, after a short illness.

Scott got his start at NASA's Langley Research Center and worked with the likes of Kathryn Johnson and Mary W. Jackson, luminaries known through the book and movie Hidden Figures. According to his obituary on WAVY TV, he was one of the first four black engineers hired at Langley. He applied and was hired in 1962 soon after graduating from University of Pittsburgh’s aeronautical engineering program. Based on his qualifications, he was hired sight unseen. Upon arriving at Langley: “One of the guys in the branch said ‘I didn’t know he was Black,'” said Scott, with roaring laughter in an interview from February 2021. Like his more famous counterparts, his engineering skills also were instrumental in landing humanity on the Moon.

Later in his career, he served as president of The National Technical Association (NTA), the oldest African American technical organization in the United States founded in 1925. Throughout his career, especially his work with NTA, he worked to advance STEM education and fight for opportunities for African Americans in technical fields.

In this image from 1974, Scott is pictured at his desk in the Office of Director for Structures.

View the Samuel J. Scott image gallery:

Image, Text Credit: NASA/Yvette Smith.


vendredi 12 mars 2021

ISS orbital altitude increased by 0.45 km


ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

March 12, 2021

In accordance with the flight program of the International Space Station, on March 12, 2021, specialists from the TsNIIMash Mission Control Center (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) corrected the altitude of its orbit. For this, the engines of the Progress MS-14 transport cargo vehicle docked to the Zvezda service module were automatically switched on at 22:09 Moscow time.

ISS reboost by Progress cargo vehicle. Image Credit: NASA

The orbit was corrected in full accordance with the calculated data. The spacecraft engines worked for 114.2 s, as a result of which the average altitude of the station's orbit increased by 0.45 km and amounted to 419.7 km. According to preliminary information from the ballistic and navigation support service of MCC TsNIIMash, the ISS orbit parameters are now:

- Orbital period: 92.90 min;
- Orbital inclination: 51.66 degrees;
- Minimum height above the Earth's surface: 418.82 km;
- Maximum height above the Earth's surface: 439.69 km.

This maneuver was performed to form ballistic conditions before the launch of the Soyuz MS-18 manned spacecraft, which is scheduled for April 2021. Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Pyotr Dubrov, as well as NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hai will go to the ISS on it.

 ISS reboost

Currently, the crew of the 64th long-term expedition, consisting of Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov, as well as NASA astronauts Kathleen Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi, are working on board the International Space Station.

Related article:

ISS orbital altitude will be raised before the arrival of the Soyuz MS-18 crew

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

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


Sound Checks, Eye Scans as Crew Preps for Saturday Spacewalk


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March 12, 2021

The Expedition 64 crew is wrapping up final preparations before two astronauts exit the International Space Station for a maintenance spacewalk on Saturday morning. The orbital residents also measured lab sound levels and checked their crewmates’ eyes to end the workweek.

NASA spacewalkers Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins will take part in their third spacewalk together on Saturday when they set their U.S. spacesuits to battery power at 7:30 a.m. EST. The duo is scheduled to spend about six-and-a-half hours servicing the station’s cooling system and communications gear. NASA TV begins its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 6 a.m.

Image above: NASA spacewalkers (front left) Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins are pictured with (rear left) astronauts Kate Rubins and Soichi Noguchi before the start of a spacewalk on Jan. 27, 2021. Image Credit: NASA.

Astronauts Kate Rubins and Soichi Noguchi will assist the spacewalkers in and out of their suits on Saturday while monitoring the spacewalk. Glover and Hopkins readied their spacesuits and tools in the U.S. Quest airlock on Friday. The quartet also met for a final procedures review and a conference with spacewalk specialists in Mission Control.

Toward the end of the day, Rubins set up acoustic monitors and recorded sound levels emanating from the Life Science Glovebox operating inside the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. NASA astronaut Shannon Walker was the crew medical officer on Friday and scanned the eyes of cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov using an ultrasound device and optical coherence tomography.

Maintenance spacewalk on ISS. Animation Credit: NASA

The orbital lab will boost its orbit today at 2:09 p.m. placing it at the correct altitude for a crew swap taking place next month. The next crew to visit the station will launch aboard the Soyuz MS-18 crew ship on April 9 carrying NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei and Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov. The trio will join the Expedition 64/65 crew for a six-month research mission in Earth orbit.

Finally, the Expedition 64 trio with Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov, will finish their mission on April 17 when their Soyuz MS-17 spacecraft undocks. They will parachute in their crew ship to a landing in Kazakhstan completing a six-month stay on the station.

Related article:

ISS orbital altitude will be raised before the arrival of the Soyuz MS-18 crew

Related links:


Expedition 64:

U.S. Quest airlock:

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Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

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Record number of asteroids seen whizzing past Earth in 2020


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March 12, 2021

Despite pandemic disruption, astronomers detected thousands of previously unknown near-Earth asteroids last year.

Image above: he near-Earth asteroid Apophis (artist’s impression) will fly within 40,000 kilometres of the planet in 2029 — much closer than it came this month. Image Credits: Detlev van Ravensway/SPL.

A 340-metre-wide space rock named Apophis whizzed safely past Earth on 6 March. The next time it returns, in 2029, won’t be so uneventful: Apophis will come within 40,000 kilometres of the planet, skimming just above the region where some high-flying satellites orbit. It will be the first time that astronomers will be able to watch such a big asteroid pass so close to us.

Last week’s fly-by gave scientists a chance to test the worldwide planetary defence system, in which astronomers quickly assess the chances of an asteroid hitting Earth as they follow its path across the night sky. “It’s a fire drill with a real asteroid,” says Vishnu Reddy, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson who coordinated the observing campaign.

The Apophis fly-by highlights how much astronomers have learnt about near-Earth asteroids — and how much they still have to learn. Since 1998, when NASA kicked off the biggest search for near-Earth asteroids, scientists have detected more than 25,000 of them. And 2020 turned out to be a record year for discoveries. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic interrupting many of the surveys, astronomers catalogued 2,958 previously unknown near-Earth asteroids over the course of the year (see ‘Space rocks’).

Source: NASA Center for Near Earth Object Studies

A large number came from the Catalina Sky Survey, which uses three telescopes in Arizona to hunt for threatening space rocks. Operations closed briefly last spring because of the pandemic, and a wildfire in June caused a longer closure, yet the Catalina survey still discovered 1,548 near-Earth objects. These included a rare ‘minimoon’ named 2020 CD3, a tiny asteroid less than 3 metres in diameter that had been temporarily captured by Earth’s gravity. The minimoon broke away from Earth’s pull last April.

Another batch of discoveries last year — 1,152 — came from the Pan-STARRS survey telescopes in Hawaii. The finds included an object named 2020 SO, which turned out to be not an asteroid, but a leftover rocket booster that had been looping around in space since it helped to launch a NASA mission to the Moon in 1966.

Close calls

Some of the asteroids discovered last year came close to Earth — at least 107 of them passed the planet at a distance less than that of the Moon. Last year’s close shaves included the tiny asteroid 2020 QG, which skimmed just 2,950 kilometres above the Indian Ocean in August. That made it the closest known approach — a record broken just three months later by another small object, 2020 VT4. That one passed less than 400 kilometres from the planet, and wasn’t spotted until 15 hours after it had whizzed by. Had it hit, it would probably have broken apart in Earth’s atmosphere.

All of these discoveries are making astronomers more conscious of the billiard-ball nature of the Solar System, where plenty of asteroids ping around in the space near Earth. The recent push to observe Apophis highlights how astronomers around the world can work together to assess the threat posed by asteroids, says Reddy. “It’s been a huge international effort,” he says, “and a lot of fun.” By the time Apophis comes around again, in eight years’ time, scientists will have an even more detailed census of threatening space rocks.


Related links:

Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS):

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office:

Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR):

For asteroid and comet news and updates, follow @AsteroidWatch on Twitter:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: Nature/Alexandra Witze.


NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Resumes Science Operations


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March 12, 2021

The Hubble Space Telescope returned to science operations on Thursday, March 11 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Wide Field Camera 3 remains suspended while the team investigates a low voltage issue that prevented it from returning to operations. The telescope has completed its first observation since returning to science mode, using the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph instrument to map gas flows in active galactic nuclei.

NASA is working to return the Hubble Space Telescope to science operations after resolving a problem with a safeguard aboard. Hubble entered safe mode on Sunday, March 7, shortly after 4 a.m. EST, following detection of a software error within the spacecraft’s main computer.

The spacecraft has been moved out of safe mode into a pre-science state with the plan of returning to normal operations by Thursday night.

Image above: NASA Hubble Space Telescope (HST). Image Credit: NASA.

Safe mode puts the telescope into a stable configuration until solutions can be implemented from the ground to correct a problem and return the mission to normal operations. There are varying versions of safe mode depending on the problem encountered.

The mission operations team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center identified the software error in an enhancement recently uploaded to the spacecraft to help compensate for fluctuations from one of its gyroscopes. These devices are used to help Hubble turn and lock on to new targets by measuring the speed at which the spacecraft is turning. They determined that the enhancement did not have permission to write to a specific location in computer memory, which caused an issue with the main flight computer and subsequently caused the spacecraft to enter a safe mode.

The team will update the software enhancement so the fix can be uploaded to the spacecraft in the future. In the meantime, the enhancement will be prohibited from being used.

In entering safe mode on Sunday, however, the team discovered that the aperture door located at the top of the telescope failed to automatically close. This door is a safeguard designed to keep the Sun's damaging light and heat out of the telescope’s interior, protecting its sensitive instruments and their surroundings. It serves as a safety net if Hubble accidently points in the direction of the Sun due to an error or hardware problem. In more than 30 years Hubble has been in orbit, the aperture door has never closed because of the detection of such bright objects.

The team has looked at spacecraft engineering data, run various tests, and verified that the door did indeed remain open despite the commands and power being sent to close it. Additional attempts to move the door by sending commands from the ground to its primary motor also failed to make the door move. However, the same commands sent from the ground to its backup motor did indicate movement, and that motor is now set as the primary motor. The team is looking at options to further reduce any associated risk.

During the process of moving the spacecraft into its pre-science state, the Wide Field Camera 3 instrument experienced an unexpected error, suspending it from returning to operations. The team is currently reviewing that issue and possible solutions.

All other instruments have been recovered with no issues. Hubble will be returned to science operations Thursday night, with no Wide Field Camera 3 observations scheduled until the team resolves that issue.

Hubble’s instruments are expected to produce ground-breaking science for years to come.

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lynn Jenner/Elizabeth Landau/GSFC/Claire Andreoli.

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Space Station Science Highlights: Week of March 8, 2021


ISS - Expedition 64 Mission patch.

March 12, 2021

Scientific experiments conducted aboard the International Space Station the week of March 8 included studies of how liquids behave in closed spaces, optimal conditions for producing high-quality protein crystals, and plant growth in space.  

The seven crew members currently inhabiting the station include four from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, providing increased crew time for science activities on the orbiting lab. The space station has been continuously inhabited by humans for 20 years and has supported many scientific breakthroughs during that time. The station provides a platform for long-duration research in microgravity and for learning to live and work in space, experience that 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:

Sloshing in space

Image above: This image shows hardware set up for the FLUIDICS investigation. The study looks at how liquids move inside closed spaces to improve measurement of fuel remaining in a tank and optimize satellite maneuvering and lifetime. Image Credit: NASA.

An investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), FLUIDICS looks at how liquids move inside closed spaces (sloshing) and movement on the surface of a liquid in motion (wave turbulence) using small, transparent spheres. Results could be used to develop methods for more accurately determining how much fuel remains in a tank. In addition, a better understanding of sloshing could help improve guidance and movement of satellites, since fuel sloshing can cause a satellite to wobble, and optimize satellite lifetime by better managing fuel. On Earth, the study of wave turbulence is affected by interaction with the forces of gravity and surface tension, so observing this phenomenon in microgravity allows scientists to focus only on the effect of surface tension. During the week, crew members conducted operations for the investigation.

Microscopic imaging of protein crystals

Image above: NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins loads protein solution into crystallography plates for the Real-time Protein Crystal Growth-2 experiment, which demonstrates new methods for producing high-quality crystals in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

Real-time Protein Crystal Growth-2 demonstrates new methods for producing high-quality crystals in microgravity, producing crystals from up to eight proteins for detailed analysis on Earth. Previous work has shown that microgravity produces high-quality protein crystals that could help identify possible targets for drugs to treat disease. For RTPCG-2, investigators examine microscopic imagery of the crystals and design the next round of growth conditions based on those observations, going through up to three rounds, if necessary, to establish optimal conditions. The methodology used in this investigation could lead to broader application of protein crystal growth in space, including for pharmaceutical and biotechnology purposes. During the week, crew members observed and photographed sample wells using the microscope.

Harvest time on the space station

Image above: Amara mustard plants are pictured growing inside the Veggie facility aboard the space station for the Veg-03 investigation, which continues work exploring how to grow food in space. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew harvested samples from plants growing in the space station’s Veggie facilities for the Veg-03 investigation during the week. Future long-duration space missions will require crew members to grow their own food, but all organisms grow differently in space, including plants. Understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important step toward growing them for food in space. This investigation cultivates Extra Dwarf Pak Choi, Amara mustard, and Red Romaine lettuce. Middle and high school students participating in the Growing Beyond Earth challenge, run by partners at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, selected the ‘Extra Dwarf’ Pak Choi variety. Samples harvested on orbit are returned to Earth for testing.

Space to Ground: Tale of the Tape: 03/12/2021

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

- An investigation from the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Asian Herb in Space studies several fast-growing plants used for traditional medicine and flavoring food, examining differences in their aroma that may result from microgravity-related cellular changes. Results could benefit future plant growth efforts in space.

- Plant Water Management tests using concepts of capillary fluidics such as surface tension, wetting, and geometry to deliver adequate water and nutrients to plants.

- Grape Juice Fermentation observes the complete process of fermentation in microgravity and measures physical and genetic differences in the microbes involved. Characterizing the differences seen in microgravity could provide a better understanding of how microbes affect their host crops.

- The Packed Bed Reactor Experiment-Water Recovery (PBRE-WR) investigation examines flow rates of gas and liquid through filters in the space station water processor.

- ACME is a set of six independent studies of gaseous flames. ACME’s goals are to advance fuel efficiency and reduce pollutant production in practical combustion on Earth, and to improve spacecraft fire prevention.

- Loss of muscle mass and strength represent a major challenge for astronauts on future long space voyages. Micro-16 uses a model organism, the C. elegans worm, to test whether decreased expression of muscle proteins is associated with decreased strength.

- Antimicrobial Coatings tests a coating to control microbial growth on several different materials that represent high-touch surfaces. Some microbes change characteristics in microgravity, potentially creating new risks to crew health and spacecraft.

- Food Acceptability looks at how the appeal of food changes during long-duration missions. Whether crew members like and actually eat foods directly affects caloric intake and associated nutritional benefits.

Related links:


Real-time Protein Crystal Growth-2:


Growing Beyond 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 64.


jeudi 11 mars 2021

ISS orbital altitude will be raised before the arrival of the Soyuz MS-18 crew


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March 11, 2021

The orbital altitude of the International Space Station is planned to be increased by 450 meters on March 12, 2021 using the engines of the Progress MS-14 transport cargo vehicle before the arrival of the crew of the 65th long-term expedition in April this year.

According to preliminary data from the ballistic and navigation support service of the TsNIIMash Flight Control Center (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation), at 22:09 Moscow time, a command will be issued and the engines of the Progress MS-14 spacecraft will be turned on, which will operate for 144 seconds. The average height of the station's orbit will be about 419.7 km above the Earth's surface.

ISS reboost by Progress. Image Credit: NASA

The previous correction of the ISS orbit was performed on January 21, 2021 by the engines of the same Progress, with an increase in the average altitude of the station's orbit by 1.25 kilometers. The launch of the Soyuz MS-18 manned transport vehicle by the Soyuz-2.1a launch vehicle from the Baikonur cosmodrome is scheduled for April 9.

Currently, the ISS-64 crew of Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergei Ryzhikov and Sergei Kud-Sverchkov, NASA astronauts Kathleen Rubins, Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi are working on board the International Space Station.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

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


Hubble Sees New Atmosphere Forming on a Rocky Exoplanet


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Mar. 11, 2021

For the first time, scientists using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have found evidence of volcanic activity reforming the atmosphere on a rocky planet around a distant star. The planet, GJ 1132 b, has a similar density, size, and age to those of Earth.

Artist’s Impression of GJ 1132 b

The planet GJ 1132 b appears to have begun life as a gaseous world with a thick blanket of atmosphere. Starting out at several times the radius of Earth, this so-called “sub-Neptune” quickly lost its primordial hydrogen and helium atmosphere, which was stripped away by the intense radiation from its hot, young star. In a short period of time, it was reduced to a bare core about the size of Earth.

To the surprise of astronomers, new observations from Hubble [1] have uncovered a secondary atmosphere that has replaced the planet’s first atmosphere. It is rich in hydrogen, hydrogen cyanide, methane and ammonia, and also has a hydrocarbon haze. Astronomers theorise that hydrogen from the original atmosphere was absorbed into the planet’s molten magma mantle and is now being slowly released by volcanism to form a new atmosphere. This second atmosphere, which continues to leak away into space, is continually being replenished from the reservoir of hydrogen in the mantle’s magma.

Wide-Field View of GJ 1132 b’s Host Star

“This second atmosphere comes from the surface and interior of the planet, and so it is a window onto the geology of another world,” explained team member Paul Rimmer of the University of Cambridge, UK. “A lot more work needs to be done to properly look through it, but the discovery of this window is of great importance.”

“We first thought that these highly radiated planets would be pretty boring because we believed that they lost their atmospheres,” said team member Raissa Estrela of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California, USA. But we looked at existing observations of this planet with Hubble and realised that there is an atmosphere there.”

GJ 1132 b’s Spectrum

“How many terrestrial planets don’t begin as terrestrials? Some may start as sub-Neptunes, and they become terrestrials through a mechanism whereby light evaporates the primordial atmosphere. This process works early in a planet’s life, when the star is hotter,” said team leader Mark Swain of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Then the star cools down and the planet’s just sitting there. So you’ve got this mechanism that can cook off the atmosphere in the first 100 million years, and then things settle down. And if you can regenerate the atmosphere, maybe you can keep it.”

In some ways, GJ 1132 b has various parallels to Earth, but in some ways it is also very different. Both have similar densities, similar sizes, and similar ages, being about 4.5 billion years old. Both started with a hydrogen-dominated atmosphere, and both were hot before they cooled down. The team’s work even suggests that GJ 1132 b and Earth have similar atmospheric pressure at the surface.

However, the planets’ formation histories are profoundly different. Earth is not believed to be the surviving core of a sub-Neptune. And Earth orbits at a comfortable distance from our yellow dwarf Sun. GJ 1132 b is so close to its host red dwarf star that it completes an orbit the star once every day and a half. This extremely close proximity keeps GJ 1132 b tidally locked, showing the same face to its star at all times — just as our moon keeps one hemisphere permanently facing Earth.

Artist’s Impression of GJ 1132 b

“The question is, what is keeping the mantle hot enough to remain liquid and power volcanism?” asked Swain. “This system is special because it has the opportunity for quite a lot of tidal heating.”

The phenomenon of tidal heating occurs through friction, when energy from a planet’s orbit and rotation is dispersed as heat inside the planet. GJ 1132 b is in an elliptical orbit, and the tidal forces acting on it are strongest when it is closest to or farthest from its host star. At least one other planet in the host star’s system also exerts a gravitational pull on the planet. The consequences are that the planet is squeezed or stretched by this gravitational “pumping.” That tidal heating keeps the mantle liquid for a long time. A nearby example in our own Solar System is the Jovian moon, Io, which has continuous volcanism as a result of a tidal tug-of-war between Jupiter and the neighbouring Jovian moons.

The team believes the crust of GJ 1132 b is extremely thin, perhaps only hundreds of feet thick. That’s much too feeble to support anything resembling volcanic mountains. Its flat terrain may also be cracked like an eggshell by tidal flexing. Hydrogen and other gases could be released through such cracks.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

“This atmosphere, if it’s thin — meaning if it has a surface pressure similar to Earth — probably means you can see right down to the ground at infrared wavelengths. That means that if astronomers use the James Webb Space Telescope to observe this planet, there’s a possibility that they will see not the spectrum of the atmosphere, but rather the spectrum of the surface,” explained Swain. “And if there are magma pools or volcanism going on, those areas will be hotter. That will generate more emission, and so they’ll potentially be looking at the actual geological activity — which is exciting!”

This result is significant because it gives exoplanet scientists a way to figure out something about a planet's geology from its atmosphere,” added Rimmer. “It is also important for understanding where the rocky planets in our own Solar System — Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars, fit into the bigger picture of comparative planetology, in terms of the availability of hydrogen versus oxygen in the atmosphere.”


[1] The observations were conducted as part of the Hubble observing program #14758 (PI: Zach Berta-Thomson).

More information:

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

The team’s findings will be published in an upcomming issue of The Astronomical Journal.

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of M. R. Swain, R. Estrela, G. M. Roudier, C. Sotin, P. Rimmer, A. Valio, R. West, K. Pearson, N. Huber-Feely, and R. T. Zellem.


Space Sparks Episode 2

Hubblecast 121: What can we learn from exoplanet transits?

Images of Hubble:
HubbleSite release:

Science paper:


Image credits: NASA, ESA, and R. Hurt (IPAC/Caltech)/Digitized Sky Survey 2.
Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin/NASA, ESA, and P. Jeffries (STScI)/Animation: NASA/ESA/Video: NASA, ESA, and R. Hurt (IPAC/Caltech)/Text: ESA/Hubble, Bethany Downer/Department of Earth Sciences, University of Cambridge/Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Paul Rimmer/NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology, Raissa Estrela/Mark Swain.

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Gravity mission still unearthing hidden secrets


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Mar. 11, 2021

Despite ESA’s GOCE mission ending over seven years ago, scientists continue to use this remarkable satellite’s gravity data to delve deep and unearth secrets about our planet. Recent research shows how scientists have combined GOCE data with measurements taken at the surface to generate a new model of Earth’s crust and upper mantle. This is the first time such a model has been created this way – and it is shedding new light on processes of plate tectonics, which, in turn, are related to phenomena such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The lithosphere, which includes the planet’s hard crust and the partially molten top part of the upper mantle, is fundamental to plate tectonics.

Plate tectonics describes how the crust is divided into a mosaic of plates that slide laterally over the malleable top of the upper mantle and in doing so give rise to new seafloor along mid-ocean ridges, mountains, volcanoes and earthquakes. A better understanding of these processes relies on knowledge of differences in the lithosphere’s temperature and chemical composition.

Geophysicists traditionally measure the speed at which seismic waves propagate when an earthquake occurs to determine the distribution of subsurface physical properties. The speed of seismic waves is governed mostly by the temperature of subsurface rocks and to a lesser extent by density.

Here, gravity data from space can add to picture because the strength of the gravity signal is related to density. In addition, data from satellites is uniform in coverage and in accuracy, and satellites cover areas where ground measurements are scarce.

For over four years, GOCE mapped Earth’s gravity with extreme detail and accuracy. This has led to some remarkable discoveries, from deep below the surface of our planet to high up in the atmosphere and beyond.

GOCE helps create new model of crust and upper mantle

New research published in Geophysical Journal International describes how scientists generated a new model of the lithosphere using the joint power of GOCE gravity data and seismological observations combined with petrological data, which comes from the study of rocks brought to the surface and from laboratories where the extreme pressures and temperatures of Earth’s interior are replicated.

Javier Fullea, from Complutense University of Madrid and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, and also co-author of the paper, said, “Earlier global models of the crust or lithosphere suffered from limited resolution or were based on a single method or dataset.

“Only recently available models were able to combine multiple geophysical data, but they were often only on regional scales or they were limited by how the different data are integrated.

“For the first time, we’ve been able to create a new model that combines global-scale multiple terrestrial and GOCE satellite datasets in a joint inversion that describes the actual temperature and composition of mantle rocks.”

Jesse Reusen, from Delft University of Technology, added, “This novel model provides an image of the present-day composition and thermal structure of the upper mantle that can be used to estimate the viscosity. In fact, it has already been used to estimate the remaining post-glacial uplift – or the rise of the land after the removal of weight of the ice – following the melting of the Laurentide ice sheet in Canada, improving our understanding of interactions between the cryosphere and the solid Earth. This research was published last year in the Journal of Geophysical Research.”

The new model produced in ESA’s 3D Earth study shows for the first time how dissimilar the sub-lithospheric mantle is beneath different oceans, and provides insight as to how the morphology and spreading rates of mid-oceanic ridges may be connected with the deep chemical and thermal structure.


ESA’s Roger Haagmans, commented, “Our GOCE mission never ceases to impress. The data it delivered during its four-year life in orbit continue to be used to understand the complexities of our planet. Here we see it shining new light on the structure of Earth deep below our feet. Even though processes are occurring deep down, they have an effect on Earth’s surface – from the generation of renewed seafloor to earthquakes, so in turn, affect us all.

“Moreover, this is a remarkable result from the 3D Earth project and another significant step towards the realisation of one of the main goals of our Science for Society programme: develop the most advanced reconstruction of our solid Earth from the core to the surface, and its dynamic processes.”

The algorithms and results of these studies will be topic of the 3D Earth Spring School: a virtual event being held on 29 March to 1 April.

Related links:

Journal of Geophysical Research:

3D Earth Spring School:


Image, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/AOES-Medialab/Planetary Visions.


Worm Observations, Eye Checks as Weekend Spacewalk Approaches


ISS - Expedition 64 Mission patch.

Mar. 11, 2021

The Expedition 64 crew had a busy science day observing worms, readying small satellites for deployment, and conducting vision tests. Two astronauts are also pressing ahead with preparations for the third spacewalk in two weeks at the International Space Station.

Tiny worms were launched to the orbiting lab in February to study how weightlessness affects genetic expression in muscles. Today, NASA Flight Engineer Shannon Walker loaded cassette samples containing the live worms into a microscope for viewing. Next, NASA Flight Engineer Kate Rubins recorded microscopic video of the worm activities to understand the effects of spaceflight on muscles. Observations may lead to ways to maintain and improve muscle health for humans on and off the Earth.

Image above: The Last Quarter Moon is pictured above the Earth’s horizon as the station orbited over the Indian Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

Soon, a set of small satellites will be deployed outside of the Japanese Kibo laboratory module. JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Soichi Noguchi loaded the tiny satellites, also called CubeSats, in a deployer that will be placed inside Kibo’s airlock. The airlock will be closed and depressurized before the Japanese robotic arm grabs the deployer and stages it in position where the CubeSats will be ejected into orbit a few days later.

It has been a busy period for spacewalks at the station as two astronauts gear up for another excursion to maintain cooling system and communications gear. Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins of NASA readied their spacewalk tools and safety tethers in the U.S. Quest airlock where their spacesuits are already located. Afterward, they were joined by Rubins and Noguchi, who will assist the spacewalkers this weekend, for procedure reviews. NASA TV will go on the air Saturday at 6 a.m. EST to broadcast the spacewalk set to begin at 7:30 a.m.

Vision is critical to mission success and researchers are continuously studying how microgravity affects the human eye. Cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov partnered together Thursday afternoon reading an eye chart as part of regularly scheduled eye checks. Some crew members have documented eye pressure and vision issues after living in space for months at a time.

Sunrise seen from ISS. Animation Credit: NASA

Mission controllers in Houston commanded the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release an external pallet loaded with old nickel-hydrogen batteries into Earth orbit on Thursday morning. It is safely moving away from the station and will orbit Earth between two to four years before burning up harmlessly in the atmosphere.

Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov have completed the work to repair small cracks in the transfer compartment of the Russian Zvezda service module. The repairs were part of ongoing work to isolate and fix the source of a slight cabin air leak which is an increase above the standard rate that station teams have been investigating over the past year. At the current rate, the crew is in no danger, and the space station has ample consumables aboard to manage and maintain the nominal environment.

In the coming days, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov will close the hatches to the transfer compartment to enable Russian flight controllers to conduct pressure level checks to analyze the results of the sealing procedures.

Related links:

Expedition 64:

Genetic expression in muscles:

Kibo laboratory module:

U.S. Quest airlock:

Canadarm2 robotic arm:

Zvezda service module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Asteroid 2001 FO32 Will Safely Pass by Earth March 21


Asteroid Watch logo.

Mar 11, 2021

The interplanetary interloper won’t come closer than 1.25 million miles to Earth, but it will present a valuable scientific opportunity for astronomers.

Image above: This photo shows the view from inside the dome of NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility during a night of observing. The 3.2-meter (10.5-foot) telescope atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea will be used to measure the infrared spectrum of asteroid 2001 FO32. Image Credits: UH/IfA.

The largest asteroid predicted to pass by our planet in 2021 will be at its closest on March 21, providing astronomers a rare opportunity to get a good look at a rocky relic that formed at the dawn of our solar system.

Called 2001 FO32, the near-Earth asteroid will make its closest approach at a distance of about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) – or 5 1/4 times the distance from Earth to the Moon. There is no threat of a collision with our planet now or for centuries to come.

“We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the Sun very accurately, since it was discovered 20 years ago and has been tracked ever since,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “There is no chance the asteroid will get any closer to Earth than 1.25 million miles.”

Still, that distance is close in astronomical terms, which is why 2001 FO32 has been designated a “potentially hazardous asteroid.” CNEOS computes high-precision orbits for near-Earth objects (NEOs) in support of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, relying on telescopes and ground-based radar to help precisely characterize every NEO’s orbit to improve long-term hazard assessments.

During this approach, 2001 FO32 will pass by at about 77,000 mph (124,000 kph) – faster than the speed at which most asteroids encounter Earth. The reason for the asteroid’s unusually speedy close approach is its highly inclined and elongated (or eccentric) orbit around the Sun, an orbit that is tilted 39 degrees to Earth’s orbital plane. This orbit takes the asteroid closer to the Sun than Mercury and twice as far from the Sun as Mars.

As 2001 FO32 makes its inner solar system journey, the asteroid picks up speed like a skateboarder rolling down a halfpipe, and then slows after being flung back out into deep space and swinging back toward the Sun. It completes one orbit every 810 days (about 2 1/4 years).

Image above: This diagram depicts the elongated and inclined orbit of 2001 FO32 as it travels around the Sun (white ellipse). Because of this orbit, when the asteroid makes its close approach to Earth, it will be traveling at an unusually fast speed of 77,000 mph (124,000 kph). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

After its brief visit, 2001 FO32 will continue its lonely voyage, not coming this close to Earth again until 2052, when it will pass by at about seven lunar distances, or 1.75 million miles (2.8 million kilometers).

Astronomical Geology

Asteroid 2001 FO32 was discovered in March 2001 by the Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR) program in Socorro, New Mexico, and had been estimated, based on optical measurements, to be roughly 3,000 feet (1 kilometer) wide. In more recent follow-up observations by NEOWISE, 2001 FO32 appears to be faint when observed in infrared wavelengths, which suggests the object is likely less than 1 kilometer in diameter. Analysis by the NEOWISE team shows that it is between 1,300 to 2,230 feet (440 to 680 meters) wide.

Even if it is at the smaller end of the scale, 2001 FO32 will still be the largest asteroid to pass this close to our planet in 2021. The last notably large asteroid close approach was that of 1998 OR2 on April 29, 2020. While 2001 FO32 is somewhat smaller than 1998 OR2, it will be three times nearer to Earth.

The March 21 encounter will provide an opportunity for astronomers to get a more precise understanding of the asteroid’s size and albedo (i.e. how bright, or reflective, its surface is), and a rough idea of its composition.

This will be achieved, in part, with the use of NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), a 3.2-meter (10.5-foot) telescope atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea that will observe the asteroid in the days leading up to close approach using its workhorse infrared spectrograph, SpeX. “We’re trying to do geology with a telescope,” said Vishnu Reddy, associate professor at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson.

When sunlight hits an asteroid’s surface, minerals in the rock absorb some wavelengths while reflecting others. By studying the spectrum of light reflecting off the surface, astronomers can measure the chemical “fingerprints” of the minerals on the surface of the asteroid. “We’re going to use the IRTF to get the infrared spectrum to see its chemical makeup,” Reddy explained. “Once we know that, we can make comparisons with meteorites on Earth to find out what minerals 2001 FO32 contains.”

For example, should 2001 FO32 be identified as iron-rich, that would mean it’s denser and therefore more massive than a stony asteroid of a similar size; observations showing a surface with low albedo (meaning that it’s dark) may indicate the asteroid contains a lot of carbon, suggesting it could be the nucleus of a long-dead comet.

A Closer Look

In addition, radar observations by the Deep Space Network (DSN) may be carried out to get a detailed view of the asteroid. An operation of NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program (SCaN), the DSN comprises three ground stations – one in California (Goldstone), one in Spain (Madrid), and one in Australia (Canberra). Their dish antennas can be used to bounce radio signals off 2001 FO32 so that other radio antennas can receive them. Such radar observations can offer additional insight into the asteroid’s orbit, provide a better estimate of its dimensions and rotation rate, and help glimpse surface features (like large boulders or craters). They could even reveal any small satellites that may be in tow.

“Observations dating back 20 years revealed that about 15% of near-Earth asteroids comparable in size to 2001 FO32 have a small moon,” said Lance Benner, principal scientist at JPL. “Currently little is known about this object, so the very close encounter provides an outstanding opportunity to learn a great deal about this asteroid.”

Over 95% of near-Earth asteroids the size of 2001 FO32 or larger have been discovered, tracked, and cataloged. None of the large asteroids in the catalog has any chance of impacting Earth over the next century, and it is extremely unlikely that any of the remaining undiscovered asteroids of this size could impact Earth, either. Still, efforts continue to discover all asteroids that could pose an impact hazard. The more information that can be gathered about these objects, the better mission designers can prepare to deflect them if any were to threaten Earth in the future.

Meanwhile, amateur astronomers can gather information of their own about 2001 FO32. “The asteroid will be brightest while it moves through southern skies,” said JPL’s Chodas. “Amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere and at low northern latitudes should be able to see this asteroid using moderate size telescopes with apertures of at least 8 inches in the nights leading up to closest approach, but they will probably need star charts to find it.”

JPL hosts CNEOS for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Observations Program in NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. The University of Hawaii manages IRTF under contract with NASA. The SpeX instrument was built at the University of Hawaii.

Related links:

Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS):

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office:

Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research (LINEAR):

NASA’s Space Communications and Navigation program (SCaN):

More information about CNEOS, asteroids, and near-Earth objects can be found at:

For more information about NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office, visit:

For asteroid and comet news and updates, follow @AsteroidWatch on Twitter:

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Joshua Handal/JPL/Ian J. O’Neill.


Perseverance Rover’s SuperCam Science Instrument Delivers First Results


NASA - Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover logo.

Mar 11, 2021

Data from the powerful science tool includes sounds of its laser zapping a rock in order to test what it’s made of.

Image above: Combining two images, this mosaic shows a close-up view of the rock target named “Yeehgo” from the SuperCam instrument on NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. The component images were taken by SuperCam’s Remote Micro-Imager (RMI). To be compatible with the rover’s software, “Yeehgo” is an alternative spelling of “Yéigo,” the Navajo word for diligent. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/CNRS/ASU/MSSS.

The first readings from the SuperCam instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover have arrived on Earth. SuperCam was developed jointly by the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico and a consortium of French research laboratories under the auspices of the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES). The instrument delivered data to the French Space Agency’s operations center in Toulouse that includes the first audio of laser zaps on another planet.

“It is amazing to see SuperCam working so well on Mars,” said Roger Wiens, the principal investigator for Perseverance’s SuperCam instrument from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “When we first dreamed up this instrument eight years ago, we worried that we were being way too ambitious. Now it is up there working like a charm.”

Image above: This image shows a close-up view of the rock target named “Máaz” from the SuperCam instrument on NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover. It was taken by SuperCam’s Remote Micro-Imager (RMI). “Máaz” means Mars in the Navajo language. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/CNRS.

Perched atop the rover’s mast, SuperCam’s 12-pound (5.6-kilogram) sensor head can perform five types of analyses to study Mars’ geology and help scientists choose which rocks the rover should sample in its search for signs of ancient microbial life. Since the rover’s Feb. 18 touchdown, the mission has been performing health checks on all of its systems and subsystems. Early data from SuperCam tests – including sounds from the Red Planet – have been intriguing.

“The sounds acquired are remarkable quality says Naomi Murdoch, a research scientist and lecturer at the ISAE-SUPAERO aerospace engineering school in Toulouse. “It’s incredible to think that we’re going to do science with the first sounds ever recorded on the surface of Mars!”

On March 9, the mission released three SuperCam audio files. Obtained only about 18 hours after landing, when the mast remained stowed on the rover deck, the first file captures the faint sounds of Martian wind.

New audio recordings from Perseverance: Martian wind and laser shots on Mars

SuperCam’s third file, from Sol 12, includes the zapping sounds of the laser impacting a rock target 30 times at a distance of about 10 feet (3.1 meters). Some zaps sound slightly louder than others, providing information on the physical structure of the targets, such as its relative hardness.

“I want to extend my sincere thanks and congratulations to our international partners at CNES and the SuperCam team for being a part of this momentous journey with us,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “SuperCam truly gives our rover eyes to see promising rock samples and ears to hear what it sounds like when the lasers strike them. This information will be essential when determining which samples to cache and ultimately return to Earth through our groundbreaking Mars Sample Return Campaign, which will be one of the most ambitious feats ever undertaken by humanity.”

Image above: Stitched together from five images, this mosaic shows the calibration target for the SuperCam instrument aboard NASA’s Perseverance rover on Mars. The component images were taken by SuperCam’s remote micro-imager (RMI). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL/CNES/CNRS.

The SuperCam team also received excellent first datasets from the instrument’s visible and infrared (VISIR) sensor as well as its Raman spectrometer. VISIR collects light reflected from the Sun to study the mineral content of rocks and sediments. This technique complements the Raman spectrometer, which uses a green laser beam to excite the chemical bonds in a sample to produce a signal depending on what elements are bonded together, in turn providing insights into a rock’s mineral composition.

“This is the first time an instrument has used Raman spectroscopy anywhere other than on Earth! said Olivier Beyssac, CNRS research director at the Institut de Minéralogie, de Physique des Matériaux et de Cosmochimie in Paris. “Raman spectroscopy is going to play a crucial role in characterizing minerals to gain deeper insight into the geological conditions under which they formed and to detect potential organic and mineral molecules that might have been formed by living organisms.”

More About the Mission

SuperCam is led by Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where the instrument's Body Unit was developed. That part of the instrument includes several spectrometers, control electronics and software.

The Mast Unit was developed and built by several laboratories of the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) and French universities under the contracting authority of CNES. Calibration targets on the rover deck are provided by Spain’s University of Valladolid.

A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).

Subsequent NASA missions, in cooperation with ESA (European Space Agency), would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these sealed samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis.

The Mars 2020 Perseverance mission is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach, which includes Artemis missions to the Moon that will help prepare for human exploration of the Red Planet.

JPL, which is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California, built and manages operations of the Perseverance rover.

For more about Perseverance: and

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Alana Johnson/Grey Hautaluoma/JPL/DC Agle/Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNRS)/Raphaël Sart/SciNews.

Best regards,

mercredi 10 mars 2021



CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

March 10, 2021

The next-generation successor of the COMPASS experiment will measure fundamental properties of the proton and its relatives

The COMPASS experiment. (Image: CERN)

Protons are one of the main building blocks of the visible universe. Together with neutrons, they make up the nuclei of every atom. Yet, several questions loom about some of the proton’s most fundamental properties, such as its size, internal structure and intrinsic spin. In December 2020, the CERN Research Board approved the first phase (“phase-1”) of a new experiment that will help settle some of these questions. AMBER, or Apparatus for Meson and Baryon Experimental Research, will be the next-generation successor of the Laboratory’s COMPASS experiment.

COMPASS receives particle beams from CERN’s Super Proton Synchrotron and directs them onto various targets to study how quarks and gluons form hadrons (such as protons, pions and kaons) and give these composite particles their distinctive properties. Using this approach, COMPASS has obtained many important results, including several results linked to the proton’s spin structure and a measurement of the pion’s polarisability; the polarisability of a hadron is the degree to which its constituent positive and negative electric charges can be separated in an electric field.

AMBER will build on COMPASS’s legacy and take it to the next level. By upgrading existing COMPASS components and introducing new detectors and targets, as well as using state-of-the-art read-out technology, the team behind AMBER plans to take three kinds of measurements in the experiment’s first phase.

First, by sending muons, heavier cousins of the electron, onto a hydrogen target, the AMBER team plans to determine with high precision the proton’s charge radius – the extent of the spatial distribution of the particle’s electric charge. This measurement would help resolve the proton radius puzzle, which emerged in 2010 when a new measurement of the proton radius was found to be substantially different from the previously accepted measurements.

Second, by directing protons onto proton and helium-4 targets, AMBER will determine the little-known production rate of antiprotons, the antimatter counterparts of protons, in these collisions. These measurements will improve the accuracy of predictions of the flux of antiprotons in cosmic rays, which are needed to interpret data from experiments searching for evidence of dark matter in the flux of antiproton cosmic rays.

Third, by focusing pions on nuclear targets, AMBER will measure the momentum distributions of the quarks and gluons that form the pion. These measurements will cast light on the particle dynamics that holds the pion together and ultimately on the origin of the masses of hadrons, which is known technically as the emergence of hadron mass.

Further insights into the emergence of hadron mass are anticipated from studies of the internal structure of kaons in the second phase (“phase-2”) of AMBER. These studies require the beamline that feeds COMPASS to be upgraded to deliver a charged-kaon beam of high energy and intensity.

Combining AMBER’s pion and kaon results will lead to a better understanding of the interplay between nature’s two mass-generating mechanisms: the mechanism that gives hadrons their masses and the Higgs mechanism, which endows massive elementary particles with mass.

AMBER is expected to start taking data in 2022, after the completion of the last run of COMPASS in 2021–2022.

Read more about COMPASS and AMBER in this Experimental Physics newsletter article:


CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 23 Member States.

Related links:



Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS):


Cosmic rays:

Dark matter:

Higgs mechanism:

Pion’s polarisability:

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

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


Spacesuit Checks During Space Research and Russian Maintenance


ISS - Expedition 64 Mission patch.

March 10, 2021

Two astronauts are focusing in preparations for this weekend’s spacewalk as the rest of the Expedition 64 crew keeps up research and maintenance on the International Space Station.

NASA Flight Engineers Victor Glover and Michael Hopkins checked on the U.S. spacesuits today they will wear during a spacewalk scheduled for 7:30 a.m. EST on Saturday. The duo also reviewed the procedures they will use when working on the station’s cooling system and communications gear. NASA TV will begin its live coverage of the spacewalk activities at 6 a.m.

Image above: NASA astronauts Kate Rubins and Victor Glover work on the new NanoRacks Bishop airlock. Image Credit: NASA.

Advanced space science is always ongoing aboard the orbital lab even though the crew may be getting ready for mission events such as spaceship arrivals and departures or spacewalks. Scientists and engineers on Earth use the knowledge gained from the microgravity research observations to improve life for humans on and off the planet.

Veteran station resident Kate Rubins on NASA replaced fuel canisters for a suite of combustion studies exploring fuel efficiency, pollution control and spacecraft fire prevention. NASA astronaut Shannon Walker, on her second station mission, viewed high-quality protein crystals grown in a microscope for a space commercialization study that could benefit the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Soichi Noguchi of JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) serviced components inside the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock where experiments are staged before exposure to the harsh environment of space.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

Roscosmos cosmonauts Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov continued work to repair small cracks in the transfer compartment of the Russian Zvezda service module this week. This was part of ongoing work to isolate and fix the source of a slight cabin air leak which is an increase above the standard rate that station teams have been investigating over the past year. At the current rate, the crew is in no danger, and the space station has ample consumables aboard to manage and maintain the nominal environment.

The cosmonauts are applying a second layer of specialized paste to further seal the cracks. On March 12, hatches to the transfer chamber will be closed to enable Russian flight controllers to conduct pressure level checks to analyze the results of the sealing procedures.

Related links:

Expedition 64:

Suite of combustion studies:

Space commercialization study:

Kibo laboratory module:

Zvezda service module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,