samedi 30 octobre 2021

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of October 25, 2021


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Oct 30, 2021

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Oct. 25 that included assessing how muscle tissue adapts to spaceflight, observing liquid shear flow, and studying more efficient removal of heat. The crew also prepared for the arrival of a SpaceX Crew Dragon, carrying Crew-3 mission astronauts along with additional science experiments, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 3.

 International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

The space station has been continuously inhabited by humans for 20 years, supporting many scientific breakthroughs. The orbiting lab 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:

Muscles in microgravity

Myotones, an ongoing investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), observes tone, stiffness, and other properties of muscles and assesses the mechanisms involved in muscle adaptation to spaceflight. The work could provide a better understanding of the principles of human resting muscle tone, supporting development of ways to protect muscular function on future space missions and in clinical settings on Earth, such as for sedentary people and those experiencing muscle changes due to normal aging. The crew located and marked measurement points, performed ultrasound scans, and collected blood samples during the week.

Studying shear flow

Image above: The Ring Sheared Drop investigation installed aboard the space station. The device creates shear flow, or a difference in velocity between adjacent liquid layers, allowing researchers to study protein aggregations called amyloid fibrils that may be a factor in development of some neurological diseases. Image Credit: NASA.

On Earth, gravity and interactions between liquids and the containers that hold them can affect results of some scientific research. The Ring Sheared Drop investigation created a device that contains a liquid using surface tension rather than a solid container. The device “pins” a drop of liquid between two rings and rotates one while keeping the other stationary to create shear flow, or a difference in velocity between adjacent liquid layers. The device allows researchers to study protein aggregations called amyloid fibrils, which form a waxy plaque in the brain and could be a factor in development of some neurological diseases. Previous research shows that shear flow plays an important role in the early formation of amyloids. This ability to process materials without containers in microgravity could benefit other experiments, including research on pharmaceuticals. During the week, crew members conducted an experiment run and stowed the equipment.

Taking out the heat

Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei works on uninstalling the space station’s Light Microscopy Module, a tool that enabled novel research of microscopic phenomena in microgravity by providing remote digital images and videos across many levels of magnification. The LMM was removed to make way for hardware for the FBCE, which studies two-phase heat transfer in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

During the week, crew members worked to remove the Light Microscopy Module (LMM), which has supported research on the space station for more than a decade, from the Fluid Integrated Rack (FIR) in order to install the new Flow Boiling Condensation Experiment (FBCE). On future long-duration space missions, dissipating the heat created by power generation could pose a problem. Current heat transfer systems use a liquid such as water or ammonia to remove heat from one location and move it to another. The liquid remains in the same phase, so these systems are designated single-phase. Two-phase systems use the source of heat to boil the liquid, changing the liquid into another phase, a gas, through vaporization. Such systems would reduce size and weight and remove heat more efficiently than single-phase systems. FBCE collects data on two-phase heat transfer in microgravity, potentially validating simulation tools for designing thermal management systems. This research is a joint effort between the Purdue University Boiling and Two-Phase Flow Laboratory (BTPFL) and the NASA Glenn Research Center.

Picking peppers

Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei tends to chile pepper plants in the station’s Advanced Plant Habitat prior to harvesting of the peppers for taste tests as part of the Plant Habitat-04 investigation. Image Credit: NASA.

During the week, crew members got their first taste of chile peppers grown for the Plant Habitat-04 investigation. The investigation involved microbial analysis to improve understanding of plant-microbe interactions in space and the crew’s assessment of flavor, texture, and nutrition of the first peppers grown in space.

Animation above: ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet photographs, from left, NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei and Shane Kimbrough, JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and NASA astronaut Megan McArthur with chile peppers harvested from the Plant Habitat-04 investigation. Pepper seeds were placed into the APH on July 12, 2021 and astronauts sampled some of the peppers during the week of Oct. 25. Animation Credit: NASA.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- PK-4, a collaboration between ESA and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), studies complex plasmas, which are low-temperature gaseous mixtures of ionized gas, neutral gas, and micron-sized particles. Understanding how plasma crystals form in microgravity could shed light on these common phenomena in space and possibly lead to new research methods, better spacecraft designs, and improvements in industries that use plasmas on Earth.

- Touching Surfaces tests laser-structured antimicrobial surfaces as a method for reducing microbial contamination aboard the space station. Results from this ESA investigation could help determine the most suitable design for antimicrobial surfaces for spacecraft and habitats as well as for terrestrial applications such as public transportation and clinical settings.

- Airborne Particulate Monitor (APM) demonstrates an instrument to measure and quantify the concentration of both small and large particles in spacecraft air. Data could help show the efficiency of current filtration systems and support design of better hardware for environmental monitoring of future space vehicles and habitats, helping to keep crews safe on future missions.

- Flame Design studies the production and control of soot, which can adversely affect combustion efficiency, emissions, and equipment lifetime. Part of the ACME series of studies, this investigation could lead to more efficient and cleaner burner designs.

- Data indicate that some crew members experience accelerated aging-like changes, particularly with respect to their arteries. Vascular Aging, an investigation from the Canadian Space Agency, analyzes ultrasounds of the arteries, blood samples, oral glucose tolerance, and wearable sensors from crew members, which could help assess risks to astronaut cardiovascular health and identify mechanisms to reduce that risk.

- Probiotics, an investigation of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), studies whether probiotics or beneficial bacteria can improve immune function on long-duration space missions.

- HRF Veg focuses on the overall health benefits to crew members of having various plants and fresh food available. The investigation uses psychological surveys and crew evaluations of the flavor and appeal of plants that are grown on the space station for other investigations.

Space to Ground: A Halloween Space Ride: 10/29/2021

Related links:

Expedition 66:


Ring Sheared Drop:

Light Microscopy Module (LMM):

Fluid Integrated Rack (FIR):

Flow Boiling Condensation Experiment (FBCE):

NASA Glenn Research Center:

Plant Habitat-04:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Ana Guzman/John Love, ISS Research Planning Integration Scientist Expedition 66.

Best regards,

Weather Moves NASA's SpaceX Crew-3 Launch to Nov. 3


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-3 Mission patch.

October 30, 2021

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 1:10 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Nov. 3, for the agency’s Crew-3 launch to the International Space Station due to a large storm system meandering across the Ohio Valley and through northeastern United States this weekend, elevating winds and waves in the Atlantic Ocean along the Crew Dragon flight path for the Oct. 31 launch attempt.

Weather conditions along the ascent corridor are expected to improve for a Nov. 3 launch attempt, and the 45th Weather Squadron forecast predicts an 80% chance of favorable weather conditions at the launch site.

Image above: NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts participate in a countdown dress rehearsal at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 28, 2021, to prepare for the upcoming Crew-3 launch. The astronauts are at Launch Pad 39A with the Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon behind them during the rehearsal. Photo credit: SpaceX.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari, mission commander, Tom Marshburn, pilot, and Kayla Barron, mission specialist and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, also a mission specialist, will launch on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Crew-3 astronauts are scheduled for a long-duration science mission aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew.

Image above: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is seen at sunset on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A as preparations continue for the Crew-3 mission, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch of Crew-3 now is targeted for 1:10 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Nov. 3. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Launch Nov. 3 would have Crew-3 arriving at the space station later the same day about 11 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 3, for a short handover with the astronauts that flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission.

Crew-2 NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet are currently targeting return in early November. Crew-3 astronauts are set to return in late April 2022.

Related links:


Commercial Crew Program:

Expedition 66:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Danielle Sempsrott.


Russian Cargo Ship Docks to Station with Food, Fuel and Supplies


ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

October 30, 2021

Image above: Uncrewed Russian Progress 79 spacecraft arrival at the International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: ROSCOSMOS.

An uncrewed Russian Progress 79 spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station’s Zvezda module at 9:31 p.m. EDT, two days after lifting off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Progress MS-18 docking

Carrying almost three tons of food, fuel, and supplies for the Expedition 66 crew, the Progress 79 resupply spacecraft will spend about seven months at the station.

Image above: Oct. 29, 2021: International Space Station Configuration. Five spaceships are parked at the space station including Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus space freighter; the SpaceX Crew Dragon vehicle; and Russia’s Soyuz MS-19 crew ship and ISS Progress 78 and 79 resupply ships. Image Credit: NASA.

Related article:

Spaceship Progress MS-18 on the way to the ISS

Related link:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

vendredi 29 octobre 2021

Crew-3 Astronauts, Launch Teams to Conduct Dry Dress Rehearsal Ahead of Launch


SpaceX - Dragon Crew-3 Mission patch.

Oct 29, 2021

Yesterday night, Oct. 28, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn, and Kayla Barron, as well as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, will participate in a countdown dress rehearsal at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for the upcoming Crew-3 launch.

Image above: Seen here is an up-close view of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket on Oct. 28, 2021, with a sunrise serving as the backdrop at Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida. Photo credit: SpaceX.

Rehearsal will begin with launch teams assisting the Crew-3 astronauts into their SpaceX spacesuits inside the Astronaut Crew Quarters at the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building – just as they will on launch day. Next, the crew will take the elevator down to the ground floor and exit the building’s double doors, where Tesla Model Xs will be waiting to drive them the short distance to Launch Complex 39A.

Image above: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is vertical with the Crew Dragon atop for the Crew-3 mission at Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Oct. 27, 2021. Photo credit: SpaceX.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft that will carry them to the International Space Station arrived at the launch pad and was raised into a vertical position for launch on Wednesday, Oct. 27. After they arrive to the launch pad, Spacecraft Commander Chari, Pilot Marshburn, and Mission Specialists Barron and Maurer will ride the launch tower’s elevator up to the crew access arm – the walkway they will use to enter the Crew Dragon spacecraft.

Image above: ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, left, and NASA astronauts Tom Marshburn, second from left, Raja Chari, second from right, and Kayla Barron, right, wearing SpaceX spacesuits, are seen as they prepare to depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building for Launch Complex 39A during a dress rehearsal prior to the Crew-3 mission launch, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Once securely seated inside, the crew will check their communications systems before the spacecraft’s hatch is closed. The rehearsal will conclude with the Go/No-Go poll for Falcon 9 fueling, which normally occurs about 45 minutes before liftoff.

Falcon 9 / Dragon Crew liftoff. Animation Credit: SpaceX

The third crew rotation flight for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, Crew-3 is targeted to launch at 2:21 a.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 31.

Related links:


Commercial Crew Program:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Danielle Sempsrott.


Hubble Gets Galactic Déjà Vu (Already Seen)


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Oct 29, 2021

This jewel-bright image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope features the spiral galaxy NGC 2903. Hubble captured this image using the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) and Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), installed in 2002 and 2009 respectively. Interestingly, Hubble observed this particular galaxy in 2001, before the ACS and the WFC3 were installed. The 2021 image boasts higher resolution, which means NGC 2903 is more finely detailed than in the 2001 image. The ACS and WFC3 collectively cover a wide range of ultraviolet, optical, and infrared wavelengths, so the 2021 image also has improved wavelength coverage to that of its 20-year-old predecessor. Hubble’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) took the 2001 image. The WFPC2 was Hubble’s workhorse instrument from 1993 until 2009 when the WFC3 replaced it.

One of Hubble’s most remarkable features is its incredible longevity, made possible by its successful servicing missions that corrected imperfections in the observatory’s mirror, updated its technical systems, and removed old instruments and installed new ones. The juxtaposition of the 2001 and 2021 images of NGC 2903 – both remarkable images for their time – highlights the value of a stable, accessible platform in space that can reliably collect data, not only year after year, but decade after decade.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Text Credits: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Andrea Gianopoulos/Image, Animation Credits: ESA/Hubble, NASA, and L. Ho, J. Lee and the PHANGS-HST Team.

Best regards,

CERN - A triple treat from CMS


CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

In a first for particle physics, the CMS collaboration has observed three J/ψ particles emerging from a single collision between two protons

Image above: A proton–proton collision event with six muons (red lines) produced in the decays of three J/ψ particles. (Image: CMS/CERN).

It’s a triple treat. By sifting through data from particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the CMS collaboration has seen not one, not two but three J/ψ particles emerging from a single collision between two protons. In addition to being a first for particle physics, the observation opens a new window into how quarks and gluons are distributed inside the proton.

The J/ψ particle is a special particle. It was the first particle containing a charm quark to be discovered, winning Burton Richter and Samuel Ting a Nobel prize in physics and helping to establish the quark model of composite particles called hadrons.

Experiments including ATLAS, CMS and LHCb at the LHC have previously seen one or two J/ψ particles coming out of a single particle collision, but never before have they seen the simultaneous production of three J/ψ particles – until the new CMS analysis.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Animation Credit: CERN

The trick? Analysing the vast amount of high-energy proton–proton collisions collected by the CMS detector during the second run of the LHC, and looking for the transformation of the J/ψ particles into pairs of muons, the heavier cousins of the electrons.

From this analysis, the CMS team identified five instances of single proton–proton collision events in which three J/ψ particles were produced simultaneously. The result has a statistical significance of more than five standard deviations – the threshold used to claim the observation of a particle or process in particle physics.

These three-J/ψ events are very rare. To get an idea, one-J/ψ events and two-J/ψ events are about 3.7 million and 1800 times more common, respectively. “But they are well worth investigating,” says CMS physicist Stefanos Leontsinis, “A larger sample of three-J/ψ events, which the LHC should be able to collect in the future, should allow us to improve our understanding of the internal structure of protons at small scales.”

Read more on the CMS website:


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:

Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

ATLAS experiments:

CMS: experiments:

LHCb experiments:

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

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


NASA’s Artemis Rover Passes Critical Design Review



NASA - Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) logo.

Oct 29, 2021

NASA’s first lunar mobile robot, the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) has passed its Critical Design Review (CDR), a critical milestone indicating that the rover has a completed design and has been approved by an independent NASA review board. The mission can now turn its attention to the construction of the rover itself, which will launch on a SpaceX Falcon-Heavy rocket for delivery to the Moon by Astrobotic’s Griffin lander under NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative.

Image above: An artist's concept of the completed design of NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER. VIPER will get a close-up view of the location and concentration of ice and other resources at the Moon's South Pole, bringing us a significant step closer to NASA’s ultimate goal of a long-term presence on the Moon – making it possible to eventually explore Mars and beyond. Image Credits: NASA/Daniel Rutter.

As part of the Artemis program, the VIPER mission is managed out of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and its primary objective is to get a close-up view of the location and concentration of ice as well as other resources at the Moon’s South Pole. By using an onboard suite of instruments developed across the agency and with commercial partners, the mission will be able to identify and eventually map where ice and other resources exist across and below the lunar surface. This resource mapping mission will bring NASA a significant step closer to its goal of the first long-term presence on the Moon and add to our understanding of the origin of lunar water.

“The VIPER team has been focused on completing the design of this clever little mission, bringing us to this culminating review,” said Daniel Andrews, VIPER project manager. “With an approved design, the team now looks toward turning that design into real hardware, bringing VIPER to life in 2022.”

Construction of the rover will begin in late 2022 at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, while the rover flight software and navigation system design will take place at Ames. Astrobotic will receive the complete rover with its scientific instruments in mid-2023 in preparation for launch later that year.

VIPER’s Design Passed its Final Test

The CDR is the final review that focuses on the system’s design. Ensuring that the rover’s systems and the instruments are able to work together is no easy task. Passing the mission’s CDR builds upon a series of previous Critical Design Assessments (CDA), where independent reviewers evaluated VIPER’s systems individually.

The earlier CDA’s focused on functions such as flight navigation systems and software, thermal and mechanical systems, and more. The CDR ensured these components are all capable of working together in a fully functional robotic system ready to explore the lunar surface.

Since VIPER passed its earlier milestone called the Preliminary Design Review, or PDR, the system design has evolved considerably, focusing on how to safely conduct maximum science on the lunar surface. The selection of the region west of Nobile Crater as the rover’s landing site was specifically chosen to be a good match for the capabilities of the overall VIPER system while also meeting all science goals.

A Design Ready to Reveal the Moon’s Secrets

This final, approved rover design weighs 992 pounds in total and can travel at a speed of 0.45 miles per hour. It uses a solar-charged battery with a peak power of 450 watts and features mounted headlights – the first NASA rover to do so. Using its cameras and headlights, VIPER will navigate around hazards and traverse into craters while staying connected to Earth using the Deep Space Network.

Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER). Animation Credit: NASA

The rover and its components have been tested to endure the extreme lunar environment and answer key questions about the composition of the Moon. Using a hammer drill and three science instruments, VIPER will analyze drill cuttings for ice and other resources. VIPER will also study the soil and gasses in the lunar environment.

“Science will influence the VIPER mission in real-time unlike any mission that has come before this,” said Anthony Colaprete, VIPER lead project scientist. “It’s exciting to have the design approved and our collective ideas realized with this mission.”

Learn more about the VIPER mission at:

Related links:

Commercial Lunar Payload Services:

Artemis program:

Deep Space Network (DSN):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Frank Tavares/Ames Research Center/Katie Cousins.

Best regards,

NASA, National Geographic Partner to Show Inside Artemis Moon Mission


NASA - ARTEMIS Program logo.

Oct 29, 2021

NASA has selected National Geographic to help tell the story of Artemis II, the first Artemis flight that will carry astronauts around the Moon and back to Earth aboard the agency’s Orion spacecraft.

Following a competitive selection process, NASA and National Geographic entered into a non-reimbursable (no-exchange-of-funds) Space Act Agreement to collaborate on compact, lightweight audiovisual hardware to fly inside Orion and related support for the project.

Image above: An illustration of the Orion spacecraft. Throughout this decade, NASA will explore more of the Moon than ever before and establish a sustainable human presence under Artemis in preparation for future human missions to Mars. Image Credit: NASA.

“Returning humans to the Moon with Artemis II will inspire the next generation of explorers,” said Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for the Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, who served as the selection official. “This time, we are bringing partners and technologies that will create additional opportunities for the world to share in the experience along with our astronauts.”

National Geographic plans to leverage its portfolio of media assets, including magazines, social and digital content, and television programming, for engagement opportunities. Those would include capabilities for creating an immersive experience aboard Orion to share the story of human exploration of the Moon.

In November 2020, NASA called for proposals to collaborate on unique public engagement, starting with Artemis II. National Geographic media company responded with a proposal to use content captured during the mission to create a multi-platform story-telling campaign aimed at a global audience.

Artemis mission activities will include Artemis I, an uncrewed flight test that will launch Orion on the NASA’s Space Launch System rocket to orbit the Moon and return to Earth. Artemis II will carry a crew aboard Orion, paving the way for future missions to send the first woman and first person of color to the surface of the Moon. Subsequent missions will explore more of the Moon and test the technologies and procedures needed for human exploration of Mars.

Learn more about NASA’s Artemis program at:

Related links:

Orion Spacecraft:

Artemis I:

Artemis II:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Sean Potter/Kathryn Hambleton.


jeudi 28 octobre 2021

Crew Dragon Nears Launch as Russian Space Cargo Races to Station


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Oct. 28, 2021

Four commercial crew astronauts await their launch to join the Expedition 66 crew this weekend as a Russian space cargo mission is on its way to the International Space Station. Meanwhile, the seven station residents orbiting the Earth today are headlong into a series of life science and physics experiments.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with the Crew Dragon Endurance attached at top, stands at its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The SpaceX Crew-3 mission, with its four commercial crew astronauts inside Endurance, will blast off on Sunday at 2:21 a.m. EDT for a 22-hour ride to the orbiting lab.

Image above: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the Crew Dragon Endurance atop is pictured at its launch pad in Florida during sunset. Image Credits: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Crew-3 Commander Raja Chari, along with Pilot Thomas Marshburn and Mission Specialists Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer, will automatically dock inside Endurance to the Harmony module’s forward docking port on Monday at 12:10 a.m. The quartet will then open the hatches at 1:45 a.m., enter the station, and begin a six-month orbital research mission as Expedition 66 flight engineers.

Back in space, the ISS Progress 79 resupply ship, with nearly three tons of food, fuel and supplies packed inside, is racing toward the station after launching Wednesday at 8 p.m. EDT from Kazakhstan. Cosmonauts Pyotr Dubrov and Anton Shkaplerov will be on duty Friday monitoring the Progress 79’s arrival when it automatically docks to the Zvezda service module’s aft port on at 9:34 p.m.

Resupply Ship on the way to Space Station. Image Credit: NASA

The Roscosmos duo practiced and reviewed procedures on a computer in Zvezda for Friday’s Progress 79 arrival. Dubrov also continued his space exercise research while Shkaplerov was back on plasma-dust structures physics research.

While the station awaits the new cargo and crewmates, the orbital residents continued their intense schedule of advanced microgravity research.

Flight Engineers Megan McArthur, Shane Kimbrough and Akihiko Hoshide collected and stowed their blood samples for a pair of human research studies this morning. One long-running study looks at how an astronaut’s body adapts to microgravity before, during and after a space mission. The other observes the cardiovascular health risks of a long-term spaceflight.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

Commander Thomas Pesquet and Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei worked in the Columbus laboratory module on different science maintenance tasks. Pesquet restocked the Human Research Facility with electrodes, needles, and biological sample kits. Vande Hei reinstalled the Light Ions Detector, an advanced radiation detection device, that provides data into the health risk astronauts are exposed to.

Related links:


Expedition 66:

Harmony module:

Zvezda service module:

Space exercise research:

Plasma-dust structures:

How an astronaut’s body adapts to microgravity:

Cardiovascular health risks:

Columbus laboratory module:

Human Research Facility:

Light Ions Detector:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Sun Releases Significant Solar Flare


NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

Oct. 28, 2021

The Sun emitted a significant solar flare peaking at 11:35 a.m. EDT on Oct. 28, 2021. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured an image of the event.

Image above: NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare — as seen in the bright flash at the Sun’s lower center — on Oct. 28, 2021. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares and which is colorized here in teal. Image Credits: NASA/SDO.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

This flare is classified as an X1-class flare.

Image above: An X1.0 class solar flare flashes in center of the Sun on Oct. 28, 2021. This image was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and shows a blend of light from the 171 and 304 angstrom wavelengths. Image Credits: NASA/GSFC/SDO.

X-class denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc. Flares that are classified X10 or stronger are considered unusually intense.

Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Animation Credit: NASA

To see how such space weather may affect Earth, please visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the U.S. government’s official source for space weather forecasts, watches, warnings, and alerts. NASA works as the research arm of the nation’s space weather effort. NASA observes the Sun and our space environment constantly with a fleet of spacecraft that study everything from the Sun’s activity to the solar atmosphere, and to the particles and magnetic fields in the space surrounding Earth.

Related links:

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center

NASA's space weather:

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lina Tran.

Best regards,

NASA’s Juno: Science Results Offer First 3D View of Jupiter Atmosphere


NASA - JUNO Mission logo.

Oct. 28, 2021

New findings from NASA’s Juno probe orbiting Jupiter provide a fuller picture of how the planet’s distinctive and colorful atmospheric features offer clues about the unseen processes below its clouds. The results highlight the inner workings of the belts and zones of clouds encircling Jupiter, as well as its polar cyclones and even the Great Red Spot.

Images above: This illustration combines an image of Jupiter from the JunoCam instrument aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft with a composite image of Earth to depict the size and depth of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Images Credits: JunoCam Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS; JunoCam Image processing by Kevin M. Gill (CC BY); Earth Image: NASA.

Researchers published several papers on Juno’s atmospheric discoveries today in the journal Science and the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets. Additional papers appeared in two recent issues of Geophysical Research Letters.

“These new observations from Juno open up a treasure chest of new information about Jupiter’s enigmatic observable features,” said Lori Glaze, director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “Each paper sheds light on different aspects of the planet’s atmospheric processes – a wonderful example of how our internationally-diverse science teams strengthen understanding of our solar system.”

Juno entered Jupiter’s orbit in 2016. During each of the spacecraft’s 37 passes of the planet to date, a specialized suite of instruments has peered below its turbulent cloud deck.

“Previously, Juno surprised us with hints that phenomena in Jupiter’s atmosphere went deeper than expected,” said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and lead author of the Journal Science paper on the depth of Jupiter’s vortices. “Now, we’re starting to put all these individual pieces together and getting our first real understanding of how Jupiter’s beautiful and violent atmosphere works – in 3D.”

Juno’s microwave radiometer (MWR) allows mission scientists to peer beneath Jupiter’s cloud tops and probe the structure of its numerous vortex storms. The most famous of these storms is the iconic anticyclone known as the Great Red Spot. Wider than Earth, this crimson vortex has intrigued scientists since its discovery almost two centuries ago.

The new results show that the cyclones are warmer on top, with lower atmospheric densities, while they are colder at the bottom, with higher densities. Anticyclones, which rotate in the opposite direction, are colder at the top but warmer at the bottom.

Image above: This illustration combines an image of Jupiter from the JunoCam instrument aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft with a composite image of Earth to depict the size and depth of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. Image Credits: JunoCam Image data: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS; JunoCam Image processing by Kevin M. Gill (CC BY); Earth Image: NASA.

The findings also indicate these storms are far taller than expected, with some extending 60 miles (100 kilometers) below the cloud tops and others, including the Great Red Spot, extending over 200 miles (350 kilometers). This surprise discovery demonstrates that the vortices cover regions beyond those where water condenses and clouds form, below the depth where sunlight warms the atmosphere.

The height and size of the Great Red Spot means the concentration of atmospheric mass within the storm potentially could be detectable by instruments studying Jupiter’s gravity field. Two close Juno flybys over Jupiter’s most famous spot provided the opportunity to search for the storm’s gravity signature and complement the MWR results on its depth.

With Juno traveling low over Jupiter’s cloud deck at about 130,000 mph (209,000 kph) Juno scientists were able to measure velocity changes as small 0.01 millimeter per second using a NASA’s Deep Space Network tracking antenna, from a distance of more than 400 million miles (650 million kilometers). This enabled the team to constrain the depth of the Great Red Spot to about 300 miles (500 kilometers) below the cloud tops.

“The precision required to get the Great Red Spot’s gravity during the July 2019 flyby is staggering,” said Marzia Parisi, a Juno scientist from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California and lead author of a paper in the Journal Science on gravity overflights of the Great Red Spot. “Being able to complement MWR’s finding on the depth gives us great confidence that future gravity experiments at Jupiter will yield equally intriguing results.”

Belts and Zones

In addition to cyclones and anticyclones, Jupiter is known for its distinctive belts and zones – white and reddish bands of clouds that wrap around the planet. Strong east-west winds moving in opposite directions separate the bands. Juno previously discovered that these winds, or jet streams, reach depths of about 2,000 miles (roughly 3,200 kilometers). Researchers are still trying to solve the mystery of how the jet streams form. Data collected by Juno’s MWR during multiple passes reveal one possible clue: that the atmosphere’s ammonia gas travels up and down in remarkable alignment with the observed jet streams.

“By following the ammonia, we found circulation cells in both the north and south hemispheres that are similar in nature to ‘Ferrel cells,’ which control much of our climate here on Earth”, said Keren Duer, a graduate student from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and lead author of the Journal Science paper on Ferrel-like cells on Jupiter. “While Earth has one Ferrel cell per hemisphere, Jupiter has eight – each at least 30 times larger.”

JUNO spacecraft orbiting around Jupiter. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Juno’s MWR data also shows that the belts and zones undergo a transition around 40 miles (65 kilometers) beneath Jupiter’s water clouds. At shallow depths, Jupiter’s belts are brighter in microwave light than the neighboring zones. But at deeper levels, below the water clouds, the opposite is true – which reveals a similarity to our oceans.

“We are calling this level the ‘Jovicline’ in analogy to a transitional layer seen in Earth’s oceans, known as the thermocline – where seawater transitions sharply from being relative warm to relative cold,” said Leigh Fletcher, a Juno participating scientist from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom and lead author of the paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets highlighting Juno’s microwave observations of Jupiter's temperate belts and zones.

Polar Cyclones

Juno previously discovered polygonal arrangements of giant cyclonic storms at both of Jupiter’s poles – eight arranged in an octagonal pattern in the north and five arranged in a pentagonal pattern in the south. Now, five years later, mission scientists using observations by the spacecraft’s Jovian Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) have determined these atmospheric phenomena are extremely resilient, remaining in the same location.

“Jupiter’s cyclones affect each other’s motion, causing them to oscillate about an equilibrium position,” said Alessandro Mura, a Juno co-investigator at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Rome and lead author of a recent paper in Geophysical Research Letters on oscillations and stability in Jupiter’s polar cyclones. “The behavior of these slow oscillations suggests that they have deep roots.”

JIRAM data also indicates that, like hurricanes on Earth, these cyclones want to move poleward, but cyclones located at the center of each pole push them back. This balance explains where the cyclones reside and the different numbers at each pole.  

More About the Mission

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Juno mission. Juno is part of NASA’s New Frontiers Program, which is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space in Denver built and operates the spacecraft.

Follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter, and get more information about Juno online at:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karen Fox/Alana Johnson/JPL/DC Agle/Southwest Research Institute/Deb Schmid.


Hubble Celebrates Halloween With A Glowering Carbon Star


NASA / ESA - Hubble Space Telescope (HST) patch.

28 October 2021

CW Leonis

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope celebrates Halloween this year with a striking observation of the carbon star CW Leonis, which resembles a baleful orange eye glaring from behind a shroud of smoke.

CW Leonis glowers from deep within a thick shroud of dust in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Lying roughly 400 light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo, CW LEonis is a carbon star — a luminous type of red giant star with a carbon-rich atmosphere. The dense clouds of sooty gas and dust engulfing this dying star were created as the outer layers of CW Leonis itself were thrown out into the void.

Wide-Field View of CW Leonis

When small to intermediate-mass stars run out of hydrogen fuel in their cores, the outwards pressure that balances the crush of gravity within their cores falls out of equilibrium, causing the star to start collapsing [1]. As the core collapses, the shell of plasma surrounding the core becomes hot enough to begin fusing hydrogen, generating enough heat to dramatically expand the outer layers of the star and turn it into a bloated red giant. Stars in that phase of life eject huge amounts of gas and dust outwards into space, eventually jettisoning their outer layers. In the case of the carbon star CW Leonis, this process has surrounded the star with a dense pall of sooty dust.

Along with CW Leonis’s smoky veil, the vibrant orange and green tints of this image make it a fitting celebration of Halloween. Hubble has captured a ghoulish gallery of halloween images over the years — from ghostly faces and cosmic bats to a carved pumpkin formed from binary stars. This year’s image resembles a single, baleful eye of cosmic proportions glaring out from within a cloud of smoke.

Time-lapse of CW Leonis

While these observations make for a striking image, they were originally made to answer pressing scientific questions about CW Leonis. As the closest carbon star to Earth, CW Leonis gives astronomers the chance to understand the interaction between the star and its surrounding envelope. This is a particularly interesting object to study as the envelope of CW Leonis is relatively turbulent, with a complex inner structure that astronomers believe may be sculpted by a nearby companion star.

Pan of CW Leonis

The bright beams of light radiating outwards from CW Leonis are one of the most intriguing parts of this image, as they've changed in brightness within a 15 year period — an incredibly short span of time in astronomical terms. Astronomers speculate that gaps in the shroud of dust surrounding CW Leonis may allow these beams of starlight to pierce through and illuminate dust further from the star. However the exact cause of the dramatic changes in their brightness is as yet unexplained.

Detailed Hubble observations of CW Leonis taken over the last two decades also show the expansion of ring-like threads of ejected material around the star — CW Leonis’s sloughed-off outer layers.

Zoom Into CW Leonis

This image incorporates observations from 2011 and 2016 by one of Hubble’s workhorse instruments, the Wide Field Camera 3. CW Leonis is brightest in the red filters, R and I, and therefore the simmering orange colour pervading the centre of the image well represents the real colour of the star.


[1] Hydrogen-burning stars roughly 0.3–8 times as massive as the Sun will eventually become red giants, but stars that begin outwith this mass range will evolve differently, the less massive ones never reaching the red giant stage and the more massive ones becoming incredibly luminous supergiants.

More information:

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

These images were taken as part of the Hubble Observing Programmes #12205 and #14501.


Images of Hubble:

Hubblesite release:


Image Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, T. Ueta, H. Kim/ESA/Hubble, Digitized Sky Survey 2.
Acknowledgement: D. De Martin/Videos Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Trauger, P. Seitzer, T. Ueta, H. Kim, M. Zamani; Music: zero-project - The Lower Dungeons (, NASA, Dark Energy Survey/DOE/FNAL/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA, Digitized Sky Survey 2,  E. Slawik, N. Risinger, M. Zamani; Music: tonelabs - Happy Hubble ( Credits: ESA/Hubble/Bethany Downer.

Best regards,

Physicists fail to find mysterious 'sterile neutrino' particles

Fermilab logo.

Oct. 28, 2021

After decades of looking, physicists are no closer to discovering theorised particles that could help solve ongoing problems in physics.

Image above: Part of the MicroBooNE neutrino experiment. Image Credit: Cindy Arnold.

The hunt for mysterious theoretical particles known as sterile neutrinos has turned up empty again. Neutrinos are extremely light subatomic particles that barely interact with regular matter. There are three known types and the search for a fourth has been going on for decades. Now, a new set of analyses has failed to find any sign that it exists.

Sterile neutrinos get their name because, unlike the other three types, they would only interact via gravity and not the other fundamental forces. Many theoretical physicists found the idea of a sterile neutrino promising because it had the potential to explain several anomalies found in particle physics experiments, as well as being relevant to the mystery of dark matter. But because neutrinos are so small and interact so weakly with other matter, we can only observe them indirectly, via the products of collisions with other particles.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, two neutrino experiments found more of these products than expected. However, neither of them was able to tell the difference between electrons and photons in its results – and sterile neutrinos would only produce extra electrons, not photons. A newer experiment called MicroBooNE at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois can tell the difference, but its first three years of data show no extra neutrino products at all.

“I would have really expected to see an excess in either the photons or the electrons and we haven’t seen one in either, which opens up more questions,” says MicroBooNE spokesperson Justin Evans at the University of Manchester in the UK. We still have no way to explain the earlier results, so they might point to more exotic physical processes that haven’t yet been considered, he says.

So is the hunt for the sterile neutrino over? “We definitely are not seeing any evidence for a sterile neutrino,” says Evans. “As to whether it is completely dead, I think that depends who you ask, but you’ve certainly got to get a lot more inventive to get a sterile neutrino into your particle physics models now.”

MicroBooNE neutrino experiment:

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NewScientist/By Leah Crane.


How to Find Hidden Oceans on Distant Worlds? Use Chemistry








NASA / ESA / CSA-ASC - James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) patch.

Oct 28, 2021

A new study shows how the chemicals in an exoplanet’s atmosphere can, in some cases, reveal whether or not the temperature on its surface is too hot for liquid water.

Image above: Planets that are between 1.7 and 3.5 times the diameter of Earth are sometimes called “sub-Neptunes.” There are no planets in this size range in Earth’s solar system, but scientists think many sub-Neptunes have thick atmospheres, potentially cloaking rocky surfaces or liquid oceans. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

In our solar system, planets are either small and rocky (like Earth) or large and gaseous (like Neptune). But around other stars, astronomers have found planets that fall in between – worlds slightly larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. These planets may have rocky surfaces or liquid-water oceans, but most are likely to be topped with atmospheres that are many times thicker than Earth’s and opaque.

In the new study, accepted in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, researchers show how the chemistry of those atmospheres could reveal clues about what lies beneath – specifically, which planets are too hot to support liquid-water oceans. Since liquid water is a necessary ingredient for life as we know it, this technique could help scientists narrow their search for potentially habitable exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system. More than 4,500 exoplanets have been confirmed in our galaxy, with over 7,700 candidates yet to be confirmed, but scientists estimate that hundreds of billions of exoplanets exist in our galaxy.

Some NASA space telescopes equipped with spectrometers can reveal the chemical makeup of an exoplanet’s atmosphere. A chemical profile of Earth wouldn’t be able to reveal pictures of, say, cows or humans on the planet’s surface, but it would show carbon dioxide and methane produced by mammals, and oxygen produced by trees. None of these chemicals alone would be a sign of life, but in combination they would point to the possibility that our planet is inhabited.

The new paper shows which chemicals might point to hidden oceans on exoplanets between 1.7 and 3.5 times the diameter of Earth. Since Neptune is about four times Earth’s diameter, these planets are sometimes called “sub-Neptunes.”

Exoplanet Types: Worlds Beyond Our Solar System

Video above: To help understand the incredible variety of exoplanets that exist in our galaxy, scientists sometimes use terms like “hot Jupiter” and “sub-Neptune” to indicate the similarities and differences between exoplanets (planets beyond our solar system) and planets within in our solar system. Video Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

A thick atmosphere on a sub-Neptune planet would trap heat on the surface and raise the temperature. If the atmosphere reaches a certain threshold – typically about 1,430 degrees Fahrenheit (770 degrees Celsius) – it will undergo a process called thermochemical equilibrium that changes its chemical profile. After thermochemical equilibrium occurs – and assuming the planet’s atmosphere is composed mostly of hydrogen, which is typical for gaseous exoplanets – carbon and nitrogen will predominantly be in the form of methane and ammonia.

Those chemicals would largely be missing in a cooler, thinner atmosphere where thermochemical equilibrium has not occurred. In that case, the dominant forms of carbon and nitrogen would be carbon dioxide and molecules of two nitrogen atoms.

A liquid-water ocean underneath the atmosphere would leave additional signs, according to the study, including the absence of nearly all stray ammonia, which would be dissolved in the ocean. Ammonia gas is highly soluble in water, depending on the pH of the ocean (its level of acidity). Over a wide range of plausible ocean pH levels the researchers found the atmosphere should be virtually free of ammonia when there is a massive ocean underneath.

In addition, there would be more carbon dioxide than carbon monoxide in the atmosphere; by contrast, after thermochemical equilibrium, there should be more carbon monoxide than carbon dioxide if there are detectable amounts of either.

“If we see the signatures of thermochemical equilibrium, we would conclude that the planet is too hot to be habitable,” said Renyu Hu, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who led the study. “Vice versa, if we do not see the signature of thermochemical equilibrium and also see signatures of gas dissolved in a liquid-water ocean, we would take those as a strong indication of habitability.”

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Animation Credits: NASA/ESA

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, set to launch Dec. 18, will carry a spectrometer capable of studying exoplanet atmospheres. Scientists like Hu are working to anticipate what kinds of chemical profiles Webb will see in those atmospheres and what they could reveal about these distant worlds. The observatory has the capabilities to identify signs of thermochemical equilibrium in sub-Neptune atmospheres – in other words, signs of a hidden ocean – as identified in the paper.

As Webb discovers new planets or does more in-depth studies of known planets, this information could help scientists decide which of them are worthy of additional observations, especially if scientists want to target planets that might harbor life.

“We don’t have direct observational evidence to tell us what the common physical characteristics for sub-Neptunes are,” said Hu. “Many of them may have massive hydrogen atmospheres, but quite a few could still be ‘ocean planets.’ I hope this paper will motivate many more observations in the near future to find out.”

JPL is managed for NASA by Caltech in Pasadena, California.

Related links:

Astrophysical Journal Letters:


James Webb Space Telescope (JWST):

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

Best regards,