samedi 8 janvier 2022

Webb Telescope Reaches Major Milestone as Mirror Unfolds


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

Jan 8, 2022

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope team fully deployed its 21-foot, gold-coated primary mirror, successfully completing the final stage of all major spacecraft deployments to prepare for science operations.

A joint effort with the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency, the Webb mission will explore every phase of cosmic history – from within our solar system to the most distant observable galaxies in the early universe.

Image above: This artist’s conception of the James Webb Space Telescope in space shows all its major elements fully deployed. The telescope was folded to fit into its launch vehicle, and then was slowly unfolded over the course of two weeks after launch. Image Credits: NASA GSFC/CIL/Adriana Manrique Gutierrez.

“Today, NASA achieved another engineering milestone decades in the making. While the journey is not complete, I join the Webb team in breathing a little easier and imagining the future breakthroughs bound to inspire the world,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “The James Webb Space Telescope is an unprecedented mission that is on the precipice of seeing the light from the first galaxies and discovering the mysteries of our universe. Each feat already achieved and future accomplishment is a testament to the thousands of innovators who poured their life’s passion into this mission.”

The two wings of Webb’s primary mirror had been folded to fit inside the nose cone of an Arianespace Ariane 5 rocket prior to launch. After more than a week of other critical spacecraft deployments, the Webb team began remotely unfolding the hexagonal segments of the primary mirror, the largest ever launched into space. This was a multi-day process, with the first side deployed Jan. 7 and the second Jan. 8.

Mission Operations Center ground control at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore began deploying the second side panel of the mirror at 8:53 a.m. EST. Once it extended and latched into position at 1:17 p.m. EST, the team declared all major deployments successfully completed.

James Webb Space Telescope - Deployment Animation

The world’s largest and most complex space science telescope will now begin moving its 18 primary mirror segments to align the telescope optics. The ground team will command 126 actuators on the backsides of the segments to flex each mirror – an alignment that will take months to complete. Then the team will calibrate the science instruments prior to delivering Webb’s first images this summer.

“I am so proud of the team – spanning continents and decades – that delivered this first-of-its kind achievement,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate in NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Webb’s successful deployment exemplifies the best of what NASA has to offer: the willingness to attempt bold and challenging things in the name of discoveries still unknown.”

Soon, Webb will also undergo a third mid-course correction burn – one of three planned to place the telescope precisely in orbit around the second Lagrange point, commonly known as L2, nearly 1 million miles from Earth. This is Webb’s final orbital position, where its sunshield will protect it from light from the Sun, Earth, and Moon that could interfere with observations of infrared light. Webb is designed to peer back over 13.5 billion years to capture infrared light from celestial objects, with much higher resolution than ever before, and to study our own solar system as well as distant worlds.

“The successful completion of all of the Webb Space Telescope’s deployments is historic,” said Gregory L. Robinson, Webb program director at NASA Headquarters. “This is the first time a NASA-led mission has ever attempted to complete a complex sequence to unfold an observatory in space – a remarkable feat for our team, NASA, and the world.”

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate oversees the mission. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the project for the agency and oversees the Space Telescope Science Institute, Northrop Grumman, and other mission partners. In addition to Goddard, several NASA centers contributed to the project, including Johnson Space Center in Houston, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and others.

For more information about the Webb mission, visit:

Image (mentioned), Video (ESA/NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Robert Margetta/Natasha Pinol/Alise Fisher/GSFC/Laura Betz.

Best regards,

China Space Station (CSS) - Tianzhou-2 manual docking test


CMS - China Manned Space logo.

Jan 8, 2022

Tianzhou-2 manual docking test

On 7 January 2022, at 23:55 UTC (8 January, at 07:55 China Standard Time), the astronauts of the Shenzhou-13 mission (神舟十三) docked the Tianzhou-2 (天舟二号) cargo spacecraft to the Tianhe core module, successfully completing the first manual rendezvous and docking of a cargo spacecraft to the China Space Station.

Tianzhou-2 manual docking test

The Tianhe core module (天和核心舱) is the first and main component of the China Space Station (中国空间站), informally known as Tiangong (天宫, Heavenly Palace).

Related articles & link:

CSS - Robotic Arm Transposition Test on China Space Station

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 astronauts complete second spacewalk

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission’s second spacewalk begins

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 crew space lecture highlights

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 astronauts complete first spacewalk

China Space Station - Astronaut Wang Yaping begins first spacewalk

What’s next for the China Space Station (CSS)

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-13 hatch opening

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission

For more information about China National Space Administration (CNSA), visit:

Image, Video. Text, Credits: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


Results of 2021: the asteroid "Apophis" and the new near-Earth asteroid



Jan 8, 2022

In 2021, the Institute of Applied Mathematics named after M.V. Keldysh of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 5797 measurements for 106 asteroids and 31 comets were received and transferred to the Automated Warning System for Hazardous Situations in Near-Earth Space of the State Corporation Roscosmos.

Among them: for the asteroid (99942) "Apophis" - 339 positional measurements in 28 files (each file contains a set of measurements for one night). At the time of observation, the apparent brightness of the asteroid was about 16 magnitude.

Image above: The footage was taken by the 50-cm telescope of the Kuban State University (KubSU) in Krasnodar (observatory code C40).

The results of the large-scale IAWN * campaign to observe Apophis, carried out in 2020-2021, significantly refined the parameters of its orbital motion. This increased the reliability of long-term forecasts of its approach to the Earth. The new knowledge allowed the celestial mechanics to confidently say that there is no danger of a collision at a probability level higher than 10-6.

Report on the discovery of a new asteroid 2021 UL17, approaching the Earth

From October 27 to December 29, 2021 (in one opposition), the world observatories received 74 positional measurements of the asteroid. The current probability of a collision with the Earth is 1.9 × 10-4 (the probability is 0.02 percent). The updated absolute stellar magnitude is 25.8, which, assuming a standard albedo (reflectivity less than 10 percent), corresponds to an asteroid diameter of about 24 meters and a mass of about 18 thousand tons. The semi-major axis of the 2021 UL17 orbit is 1.08 AU. (1 AU is the distance from the Sun to the Earth), perigee 0.96 AU, inclination 0.66 degrees, orbiting the Sun for 410 days. Based on preliminary calculations, a dangerous approach to Earth is predicted on April 5, 2095. The asteroid belongs to the near-Earth asteroids of the Apollo group.

Image above: The footage was taken by the 50-cm telescope of the Kuban State University (KubSU) in Krasnodar (observatory code C40).

Information support for the activities of the Institute of Applied Mathematics named after M.V. Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences on asteroid-comet hazard was carried out by optical monitoring devices coordinated by the Institute of Applied Mathematics named after M.V. Keldysh RAS, located in Kabardino-Balkaria, Krasnodar Territory, Republic of Crimea, Republic of Altai, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Mexico.

Image above: The footage was taken by the 50-cm telescope of the Kuban State University (KubSU) in Krasnodar (observatory code C40).

* Reference: IAWN (International Asteroid Warning Network) is an international organization founded by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs with the aim of coordinating the efforts of states, international intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations in solving problems of warning and countering the asteroid-cometary hazard. As of early 2022, the IAWN includes 35 members (scientific organizations, space agencies and amateur astronomers), including six RAS institutes.

According to the Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:





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


Death of a red giant star - "It's like looking at a time bomb"


W.M. Keck Observatory logo.

Jan 8, 2022

For the first time, the end of a very massive star could be observed, before it exploded into a supernova. Moments less peaceful than what had been envisaged.

Image above: Artist's impression of a red supergiant star in the last year of its life here emitting a tumultuous cloud of gas. Image Credit: W.M. Keck Observatory/Adam Makarenko.

For the first time ever, astronomers have been able to capture in real time the end of the life of a red supergiant, a type of very massive star. Using the WM Keck telescope in Maunakea, Hawaii, the team - made up of astronomers from Northwestern (Illinois) and Berkeley (California) universities - was able to follow for 130 days, during the summer of 2020, The massive star's rapid self-destruction and its last jolts before it collapsed into a Type II supernova. The observation is reported in an article in "The Astrophysical Journal" dated January 6, 2022.

Previous examinations had shown that the red supergiants were relatively calm before their death, with no evidence of violent eruptions or light emissions. The new observations, however, have detected light radiation from one of these stars in the last year before it exploded. This suggests that at least some of them must undergo significant changes in their internal structure.

Also violent activity "never confirmed"

"This is a breakthrough in our understanding of what massive stars do moments before they die," study lead author Wynn Jacobson-Galán said in a statement from the Keck Observatory. “Direct detection of pre-supernova activity in a red supergiant star has never been observed before in an ordinary Type II supernova. For the first time, we have witnessed the explosion of a red supergiant star. "

Red Supergiant Star Goes Supernova

In the same statement, Raffaella Margutti, co-author of the paper, said: “It's like looking at a time bomb. We have never confirmed such violent activity in a dying red supergiant - a supergiant that we have clearly seen emit light, collapse, and burn."

W.M. Keck Observatory:

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: W.M. Keck Observatory/AFP/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

vendredi 7 janvier 2022

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of January 3, 2022


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Jan 7, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Jan. 3 that included testing processing of superalloys in microgravity, studying gene expression in cotton plants, and examining the stability and function of detergent ingredients.

The space station, continuously inhabited by humans for 21 years, has supported many scientific breakthroughs. A robust microgravity laboratory with dozens of research facilities and tools, the station supports investigations spanning every major scientific discipline, conveying benefits to future space exploration and advancing basic and applied research on Earth. The orbiting lab also provides a platform for a growing commercial presence in low-Earth orbit that includes research, satellite services, and in-space manufacturing.

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

Seeking superior superalloys

Animation above: ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer installs the Turbine SCM hardware. This investigation tests the processing of superalloy turbine parts in microgravity, which could improve the performance of turbine engines in industries such as aerospace and power generation. Animation Credit: NASA.

Turbine SCM tests a commercial in-space manufacturing device to process superalloy parts in microgravity. Superalloys are metal alloys with excellent heat resistant properties. Researchers expect processing in microgravity to provide more homogeneous structure and improved mechanical properties such as microhardness. These superior qualities could improve the performance of turbine engines in industries such as aerospace and power generation. The investigation also helps demonstrate the benefits of conducting manufacturing processes aboard the orbiting lab. During the week, crew members installed the hardware.

Engineering cotton genes

Image above: NASA astronaut Kayla Barron sets up Plant Habitat-05, an experiment studying the genetics of cotton plants to identify possible ways to engineer plants with specific qualities such as drought resistance. Image Credit: NASA.

Cotton calluses are masses of identical cells that can be programmed to develop into specific plant parts, much like stem cells in mammals. Crops such as cotton plants have been cultivated to be resistant to this plant regeneration process, making it difficult to engineer varieties with specific or enhanced traits such as drought resistance. Previous research has shown that microgravity affects gene expression and associated genetic mechanisms behind regeneration. Plant Habitat-05 studies gene expression in several types of cotton calluses, which could provide a better understanding of resistance to genetic engineering and identify ways to engineer specific qualities into cotton. Crew members took photographs and harvested specific experiment plants for analysis during the week.

Safe space suds

Image above: This image shows, clockwise from bottom, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Kayla Barron, and Thomas Marshburn and ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer. Since crew members cannot do laundry on the space station, some of their clothes eventually must be discarded. The PGTIDE investigation examines the properties of a detergent specially formulated for use in space so future missions can wash their clothes instead. Image Credit: NASA.

Crew members on the space station wear an item of clothing several times, then replace it with new clothes delivered on resupply missions. Such resupply is limited and is not an option for longer missions to the Moon and Mars. Any laundering system in space must be compatible with air purification systems in spacecraft or habitats, use a limited amount of water, and enable purification of post-laundry water back to drinkable water. Procter and Gamble Company developed a fully degradable detergent specifically for use in space. PGTIDE studies the performance of the formulation’s stain removal ingredients and stability in microgravity. The ISS U.S. National Laboratory sponsors the experiment. Crew members recently have been taking imagery of detergent samples.

Other investigations involving the crew:

- SERFE investigates the effect of contamination and corrosion on a spacesuit thermal control system and microgravity’s effect on the system’s ability to regulate astronaut body temperature under various conditions. The technology, which uses water evaporation to remove heat, supports development of spacesuits for future exploration missions.

- SoundSee tests the use of a sensor on the station’s Astrobee robotic platform to monitor sounds made by equipment such as life support infrastructure and exercise machines. Sounds can provide an early indication of equipment failure, and this system could provide autonomous monitoring of space station equipment.

- Cytoskeleton, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), examines whether microgravity affects the function of cellular signaling molecules known as RhoGTPases. Results could expand knowledge about cellular function in space and on Earth and contribute to clinical medical research.

- Phospho-aging, an investigation from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), examines the molecular mechanism behind aging-like symptoms, such as bone and muscle loss, that can occur more rapidly in microgravity. Results could provide evidence that bone loss experienced due to aging on Earth is a cause of aging, justifying prevention of bone and muscle loss as practical anti-aging therapies that may contribute to longer healthy life spans in humans.

- EHS BioMole Facility demonstrates technology for monitoring the microbial environment aboard the station, an important capability for future missions that cannot return samples to Earth for analysis. Such technology has potential for monitoring microbial environments on Earth, such as water supplies in remote areas.

- MVP Plant-01 examines shoot and root development in plants and the molecular mechanisms behind how plants sense and adapt to changes in their environment. Results could contribute to the design of plants better able to withstand adverse environmental conditions, including long-duration spaceflight.

- Fluid Boiling and Condensation Experiment (FBCE) tests a two-phase heat transfer in microgravity. Two-phase systems use the heat source to change a liquid into another phase, a gas, through vaporization. These systems can be smaller and provide more efficient heat removal, important for future space missions.

Space to Ground: More to Come: 01/07/2022

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Turbine SCM:

Plant Habitat-05:


ISS U.S. National Laboratory:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


BASE breaks new ground in matter–antimatter comparisons


CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

Jan 7, 2022

The collaboration has made the most precise comparison yet between protons and antiprotons and tested whether or not they behave in the same way under the influence of gravity

View of the BASE experiment (Image: CERN)

In a paper published today in the journal Nature, the BASE collaboration at CERN reports the most precise comparison yet between protons and antiprotons, the antimatter counterparts of protons.

Analysing proton and antiproton measurements taken over a year and a half at CERN’s antimatter factory, a unique facility for antimatter production and analyses, the BASE team measured the electric charge-to-mass ratios of the proton and the antiproton with record precision. The results found these are identical to within an experimental uncertainty of 16 parts per trillion.

“This result represents the most precise direct test of a fundamental symmetry between matter and antimatter, performed with particles made of three quarks, known as baryons, and their antiparticles,” says BASE spokesperson Stefan Ulmer.

According to the Standard Model, which represents physicists’ current best theory of particles and their interactions, matter and antimatter particles can differ, for example in the way they transform into other particles, but most of their properties, including their masses, should be identical. Finding any slight difference between the masses of protons and antiprotons, or between the ratios of their electric charge and mass, would break a fundamental symmetry of the Standard Model, called CPT symmetry, and point to new physics phenomena beyond the Model.

The BASE experiment at CERN's Antimatter Factory

Such a difference could also shed light on why the universe is made up almost entirely of matter, even though equal amounts of antimatter should have been created in the Big Bang. The differences between matter and antimatter particles that are consistent with the Standard Model are smaller by orders of magnitude to be able to explain this observed cosmic imbalance.

To make their proton and antiproton measurements, the BASE team confined antiprotons and negatively charged hydrogen ions, which are negatively charged proxies for protons, in a state-of-the-art particle trap called a Penning trap. In this device, a particle follows a cyclical trajectory with a frequency, close to the cyclotron frequency, that scales with the trap’s magnetic-field strength and the particle's charge-to-mass ratio.

Alternately feeding antiprotons and negatively charged hydrogen ions one at a time into the trap, the BASE team measured, under the same conditions, the cyclotron frequencies of these two kinds of particle, allowing their charge-to-mass ratios to be compared.

Performed over four campaigns between December 2017 and May 2019, these measurements resulted in more than 24000 cyclotron-frequency comparisons, each lasting 260 seconds, between the charge-to-mass ratios of antiprotons and negatively charged hydrogen ions. From these comparisons, and after accounting for the difference between a proton and a negatively charged hydrogen ion, the BASE researchers found that the charge-to-mass ratios of protons and antiprotons are equal to within 16 parts per trillion.

“This result is four times more precise than the previous best comparison between these ratios, and the charge-to-mass ratio is now the most precisely measured property of the antiproton.” says Stefan Ulmer. “To reach this precision, we made considerable upgrades to the experiment and carried out the measurements when the antimatter factory was closed down, using our reservoir of antiprotons, which can store antiprotons for years.” Making cyclotron-frequency measurements when the antimatter factory is not in operation is ideal, because the measurements are not affected by disturbances to the experiment’s magnetic field.

In addition to comparing protons and antiprotons with an unprecedented precision, the BASE team used their measurements to place stringent limits on models beyond the Standard Model that violate CPT symmetry, as well as to test a fundamental physics law known as the weak equivalence principle.

According to this principle, different bodies in the same gravitational field undergo the same acceleration in the absence of friction forces. Because the BASE experiment is placed on the surface of the Earth, its proton and antiproton cyclotron-frequency measurements were made in the gravitational field on the Earth’s surface. Any difference between the gravitational interaction of protons and antiprotons would result in a difference between the proton and antiproton cyclotron frequencies.

Sampling the varying gravitational field of the Earth as the planet orbits around the Sun, the BASE scientists found no such difference and set a maximum value on this differential measurement of three parts in 100.

“This limit is comparable to the initial precision goals of experiments that aim to drop antihydrogen in the Earth’s gravitational field,” says Ulmer. “BASE did not directly drop antimatter in the Earth’s gravitational field, but our measurement of the influence of gravity on a baryonic antimatter particle is conceptually very similar, indicating no anomalous interaction between antimatter and gravity at the achieved level of uncertainty.”


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:


BASE collaboration:

CERN’s antimatter factory:

Standard Model:

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

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

Best regards,

jeudi 6 janvier 2022

Biology, Agriculture Studies as Astronaut Begins Record-Breaking Spree


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Jan 6, 2022

Biology and agriculture were the dominant research themes aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. Also, an Expedition 66 Flight Engineer is beginning a set of record-breaking milestones before returning to Earth at the end March.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari and Kayla Barron started work Thursday morning inside the Kibo laboratory module examining mice for the Rodent Research-18 study. The space biology experiment observes how microgravity affects the visual function and changes the retina. Barron transferred the mice back and forth into the Life Science Glovebox and restocked their habitats with food throughout the day. NASA Flight Engineer Thomas Marshburn took over the mice investigation during the afternoon.

Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei is scheduled to return to Earth on March 30 after 355 days in space. Image Credit: NASA.

Flight Engineer Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) started his day with a hearing test for the Acoustics Diagnostics study. The human research investigation seeks to understand how sound levels on the station affect astronauts. Maurer then spent the afternoon setting up AstroPi computer hardware to promote coding and engineering education on Earth.

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei photographed operations for the Plant Habitat-05 experiment that is studying cotton genetics. Space botany is an important area of study as NASA and its international partners learn to sustain healthy crews on long-term missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: ESA

As of Thursday, Vande Hei has lived in space continuously for 273 days, surpassing NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan‘s record of 272 days which was set on April 17, 2020. He will go on to break three more NASA records before the end of his mission at the end of March.

Vande Hei, along with Roscosmos Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov, arrived at the station on April 9, 2021, and are staying on the station for 355 days. Cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, who has been aboard the station since Oct. 5, 2021, will lead Vande Hei and Dubrov to a parachuted landing in Kazakhstan inside the Soyuz MS-19 crew ship on March 30.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Kibo laboratory module:

Rodent Research-18:

Life Science Glovebox:

Thomas Marshburn:

Acoustics Diagnostics:


Plant Habitat-05:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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

Best regards,

Hubble Spots Star-Hatching frEGGs!


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

Jan 6, 2022

This image shows knots of cold, dense interstellar gas where new stars are forming. These Free-floating Evaporating Gaseous Globules (frEGGs) were first seen in Hubble’s famous 1995 image of the Eagle Nebula. Because these lumps of gas are dark, they are rarely seen by telescopes. They can be observed when the newly forming stars ignite, their intense ultraviolet radiation eroding the surrounding gas away and letting the denser, more resistant frEGGs remain. These frEGGs are located in the Northern Coalsack Nebula in the direction of Cygnus, the Swan.

This Hubble image also features two giant stars. The left star is a rare, giant O-type star, very bright, blue-white stars known to be the hottest in the universe. These massive stars are 10,000 to a million times the brightness of the Sun and burn themselves out quickly, in a few million years. The right star is an even more massive supergiant B-type star. Supergiant stars also burn through their fuel quickly, anywhere between a few hundred thousand years to tens of millions of years, and die in titanic supernova explosions.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

For more information about Hubble, visit:

Image, Animation Credits: NASA, ESA, and R. Sahai (Jet Propulsion Laboratory); Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)/Text Credits: NASA/Yvette Smith.


CSS - Robotic Arm Transposition Test on China Space Station


CMS - China Manned Space logo.

Jan 6, 2022

Robotic Arm Transposition Test on China Space Station

The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft was undocked from the Tianhe core module of the China Space Station on 5 January 2022, at 22:12 UTC (6 January, at 06:12 China Standard Time). The station’s robotic arm was used by controllers to move Tianzhou-2 in front of another docking port of the core module.

Robotic Arm Transposition Test on China Space Station

Tianzhou-2 was returned and re-docked to the front docking port of the Tianhe core module, on on 5 January 2022, at 22:59 UTC (6 January, at 06:59 China Standard Time). The test was conducted in preparation for the arrival of two large modules: Wentian Experiment Capusule-1 and Mengtian Experiment Capsule-2. The Tianhe core module (天和核心舱) is the first and main component of the China Space Station (中国空间站), informally known as Tiangong (天宫, Heavenly Palace).

Related articles & link:

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 astronauts complete second spacewalk

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission’s second spacewalk begins

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 crew space lecture highlights

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 astronauts complete first spacewalk

China Space Station - Astronaut Wang Yaping begins first spacewalk

What’s next for the China Space Station (CSS)

China Space Station (CSS) - Shenzhou-13 hatch opening

China Space Station - Shenzhou-13 mission

For more information about China National Space Administration (CNSA), visit:

Image, Video. Text, Credits: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

Stars may form 10 times faster than thought




Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) logo.

Jan 6, 2022

Weak magnetic fields detected by China’s FAST telescope could upend theory of star formation

Image above: ust in the Taurus Molecular Cloud, seen as pink hues in far-infrared light, traces dense regions of gas where stars form. A study of one of the cloud’s stellar embryos suggests the process is fast. Image Credits: ESA/Herschel/NASA/JPL-Caltech; R. Hurt/JPL-Caltech/CC-BY-SA.

Astronomers have long thought it takes millions of years for the seeds of stars like the Sun to come together. Clouds of mostly hydrogen gas coalesce under gravity into prestellar cores dense enough to collapse and spark nuclear fusion, while magnetic forces hold matter in place and slow down the process. But observations using the world’s largest radio telescope are casting doubt on this long gestational period. Researchers have zoomed in on a prestellar core in a giant gas cloud—a nursery for hundreds of baby stars—and found the tiny embryo may be forming 10 times faster than thought, thanks to weak magnetic fields.

“If this is proven to be the case in other gas clouds, it will be revolutionary for the star formation community,” says Paola Caselli from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, who was not involved with the research.

Studying star birth and the tug of war between gravity and magnetic forces has been a challenge because the magnetic fields can be 100,000 times weaker than Earth’s. The only direct way to detect them comes from a phenomenon called the Zeeman effect, in which the magnetic fields cause so-called spectral lines to split in a way that depends on the strength of the field. These spectral lines are bright or dark patterns where atoms or molecules emit or absorb specific wavelengths of light. For gas clouds, the Zeeman splitting occurs in radio wavelengths, so radio telescopes are needed. And the dishes must be big in order to zoom in on a small region of space and reveal such a subtle effect.

Previously, researchers had used Puerto Rico’s Arecibo radio telescope—which collapsed in 2020—to study Lynds 1544, a relatively isolated stellar embryo within the Taurus Molecular Cloud, just 450 light-years away from Earth. They measured the magnetic fields in the wispy layers of gas far out from the core, where magnetic forces dominated over gravity. They also analyzed the stronger fields inside the core, where gravity nevertheless dominated because the core is 10,000 times denser than the outer layer, says Richard Crutcher, a radio astronomer at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

What was missing was an examination of the intermediate region between the core and the outer layer. That has now come into focus with a new tracer of the Zeeman effect—a particular hydrogen absorption line—detected by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), a giant dish built inside a natural basin in southwestern China.

Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST)

In a study published today in Nature, researchers report a magnetic field strength of 4 microgauss—no stronger than in the outer layer. “If the standard theory worked, the magnetic field needs to be much stronger to resist a 100-fold increase in cloud density. That didn’t happen,” says Di Li, the chief scientist of FAST who led the study.

“The paper basically says that gravity wins in the cloud: That’s where stars start to form, not in the dense core,” Caselli adds. “That’s a very big statement.”

The finding implies that a gas cloud could evolve into a stellar embryo 10 times quicker than previously thought, says lead author Tao-Chung Ching of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’s National Astronomical Observatories.

Li says he wants to study other molecular clouds to see whether the lessons from Lynds 1544 apply more generally. This could be done with FAST or radio telescope arrays such as the Very Large Array in New Mexico, or the upcoming Square Kilometre Array in South Africa and Australia.

Using the Zeeman effect tracer detected by FAST, astronomers might even be able to measure the magnetic field strength in the accretion disks of gas and dust around newly born stars. That would help scientists better understand the initial conditions of planet formation, says Patrick Hennebelle, a theoretical astrophysicist at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission.

Since it opened in 2016, FAST has been a major force in the search for spinning, collapsed stars known as pulsars. The new result shows how its sharp vision and exquisite sensitivity “should lead to major advances in all areas of radio astronomy, including star formation,” Crutcher says.

In April 2021, FAST was officially opened up to astronomers from outside China. Li says FAST received applications from 16 countries, and that some 10% to15% of the facility’s observing time has now been allocated to users outside China.

doi: 10.1126/science.acz9950

Related articles:

China to hunt aliens

Gigantic Chinese telescope opens to astronomers worldwide

FAST - The World largest radiotelescope in service

China FAST hunt for alien life with giant telescope

Related link:

For more information about Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), visit:

Image (mentioned), Animation (FAST), Text, Credits: Science/Ling Xin.


New Year’s science in space for a healthier life


ESA - Cosmic Kiss Mission patch.


Jan 6, 2022

Matthias Maurer in the Cupola

Another year passes, and our muscles, bones, eyes and ears deteriorate as we age – even more so in space. Reactions in ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer’s body after barely two months on the International Space Station are giving European scientists clues on how to fight the downsides of growing old on Earth.

Vision and hearing loss

Around 70% of astronauts experience changes in the optic nerve during a long stay in space, a phenomenon known as Space-Associated Neuro-ocular Syndrome (SANS). This vision pathology is also regarded as the number two risk to human health during a mission to Mars.

Matthias and his NASA crewmates Thomas Marshburn and Raja Chari lent their eyes to the Retinal Diagnostics experiment. A special ocular lens clipped to the back of a tablet allowed the astronauts to record images of their eyes and send them to Earth.

Image above: Eóin Tuohy has his retina imaged by ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer during training at EAC.

These images will be used to train an AI model that could detect ocular changes and automatically give a diagnosis. The device will not only help astronauts exploring deep space, but also facilitate sustainable health care on our planet.

The International Space Station is far from being a quiet place. Creaking noises, humming fans and constant conferences with ground control are part of the sounds that fill Matthias’s life in space. The Acoustic Diagnostics experiment studies the effects of the background noise in the Station on the hearing of the astronauts.

Feeble muscles

Matthias’s muscles weaken in orbit, much like they do as people grow old. He is helping a team of medical scientists on Earth to identify how muscle mass is lost and how to prevent it.

After receiving a fresh delivery of science from the SpaceX Dragon vehicle in time for Christmas, Matthias sorted synthetic muscle cells the size of a grain of rice inside the Kubik minilab. Part of these cells will be electrically stimulated to trigger contractions in weightlessness, while others will experience artificial gravity via centrifugation.

Cells packing for ageing study

Researchers of the MicroAge project will monitor how the tissue responds to microgravity and accelerated ageing processes. This could one day help people to better maintain their strength and mobility into old age.

Another experiment looking into muscle health is Myotones. Matthias used a non-invasive, portable device on the Space Station to monitor the tone, stiffness and elasticity of certain muscles in the leg. He is one of the 12 astronauts taking part in this study to identify the best countermeasures for many people affected by strained muscles.

Image above: ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer enjoys potato soup from his home region on the International Space Station.

Matthias is also trying to optimise his fitness in space, an exercise routine that takes about two hours each day. During several workouts using the treadmill and doing squats, he put on a wearable electro muscle stimulation (EMS) suit that activated his muscles. The EasyMotion research aims to better understand physiological strain for astronauts and could lead to new rehabilitation treatments on Earth.

Maintaining body fat and muscle also comes down to diet. Matthias keeps logging his meals to track his energy intake and assess his nutrition. The NutrISS study introduces a new approach to calibrate diet and exercise for long stays in space. The science teams on Earth hope that a carefully-tailored high-protein diet could limit the typical microgravity-driven loss of bone and muscle.

Space fever and cosmic dreams

Body temperature is known to be higher in space. This 'space fever' poses a potential risk to astronaut health. The Thermo-Mini experiment has recorded Matthias’s core body temperature and circadian rhythm using a tiny thermal sensor strapped to his forehead for nearly 40 hours over three sessions.

The data will help understand this phenomenon and prove that this small device could be used in hospitals and by people working in extreme environments on Earth such as miners or firefighters.

Space fever device

When it comes to recovery, sleep plays a major role in human health and well-being. Insufficient sleep or sleep disorders can increase the risk of diseases and has an impact on people’s performance.

Matthias has been wearing a headband during his sleep for the Dreams experiment.

Sleeping crew quarters in Columbus

The device gives information about the different sleep phases and sleep efficiency. This user friendly technology could help astronauts and people on Earth to improve their sleep routines and identify potential disorders.

Related links:

Retinal Diagnostics:

Acoustic Diagnostics:

Kubik minilab:

MicroAge project:



Human and Robotic Exploration:

Cosmic Kiss mission:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA/ESA/M.Maurer.

Best regards,

SpaceX Starlink 34 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Starlink Mission patch.

Jan 6, 2022

SpaceX Starlink 34 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched 49 Starlink satellites (Starlink-34) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on 6 January 2022, at 21:49 UTC (16:49 EST).

SpaceX Starlink 34 launch & Falcon 9 first stage landing, 6 January 2022

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage (B1062) landed on the “A Shortfall of Gravitas” droneship, having previously supported three missions: GPS III Space Vehicle 04 (GPS III SV04), GPS III SV05 and Inspiration4.

Related links:


Image, Video, Text, Credits: SpaceX/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.


mercredi 5 janvier 2022

Moon - Klondike on the surface (2)



Jan 5, 2022

The discovery of water ice on the Moon on an industrial scale would open up great prospects for its development. Almost all existing projects for the construction of lunar bases provide for the use of local water resources. They are needed in the life support systems of manned stations, and are also required to obtain rocket fuel components. The second part of the article on the resources of the Moon will focus on water, California and, of course, the legendary helium-3.

One of the most unexpected discoveries made during the study of the moon was the discovery of signs of a significant amount of water ice under its surface. And this is in the absence of the atmosphere and traces of water bodies!

The first guesses appeared in 1994 thanks to a radar experiment carried out by the American probe "Clementine". The intensity and degree of polarization of the reflected radio waves recorded by ground-based radio telescopes made it possible to think about the presence of water ice in the region of the south pole of the moon. The authors of the discovery estimated the volume of deposits at about one cubic kilometer.

The studies continued in 1998. The neutron spectrometer installed on the Lunar Prospector spacecraft recorded an increased concentration of hydrogen on the surface near the lunar poles. According to new calculations, the share of water ice in the polar regions could be three to four percent of the mass of the upper soil layer.

More accurate information was obtained in 2009 thanks to an interesting experiment.

In a cloud of dust and gas

The American interplanetary station LRO was launched into orbit around the Moon with the Russian neutron detector LEND, developed and manufactured at IKI RAS under the guidance of Doctor of Phys.-Math. sciences Igor Mitrofanov. Studying the surface, the device indicated that in the area of ​​the Cabeus crater, there may be a particularly large amount of water ice.

To test the hypothesis, it was decided to use the upper stage Centaur, with the help of which the LRO flew to the Moon. It was to become a projectile fired at Cabeo crater for scientific purposes. The idea was that the fall of a heavy structure at high speed would inevitably lead to a flash of light and the ejection of a cloud of gas and dust. And the LCROSS research probe, sent after the Centaur block, flying through the ejected cloud, was supposed to analyze the chemical composition of the material raised from the bottom of the crater. We managed to carry out our plans in full.

As a result of the fall of the upper stage Centaur, an impact crater with a diameter of about 80 m was formed, from which a vapor cloud with a temperature of about 827 ° C rose. Following it, a dust cloud "grew", in which LCROSS was able to detect about 155 ± 12 kg of water in the form of steam.

Fig. 1

Taking into account the estimated total mass of the ejected regolith, the concentration of water ice in the surface layer at the site of the LCROSS fall was estimated at 2.7–8.5% of the mass. Some scientists believe that some of the steam passed the LCROSS sensors and the water concentration in the ground raised by the impact may be even higher.

In addition to water, spectral bands were also observed for a number of other volatile compounds, including light hydrocarbons, sulfur compounds, and carbon dioxide.

According to scientists from the PK Sternberg State Astronomical Institute (GAISh), Moscow State University, the total area of ​​eternally shaded areas in the Cabeo crater, in which water ice accumulates, may be ~ 530 km2 (Fig. 1). Based on these estimates, it can be assumed that the total mass of water ice in the ground of the Cabeo crater reaches ~ 18,000 tons. If this assumption is correct, then the total ice reserves in the south polar region of the Moon can be 100-200 thousand tons.

Ice caps

Over the past decade, the LEND instrument has completed more than 12,400 orbits of the Moon and transmitted more than 110 gigabytes of scientific information to Earth. On its basis, maps of the mass fraction of water in the lunar matter were constructed. Perhaps the main conclusion is that in the vicinity of the north and south lunar poles there are likely to be permafrost regions with a relatively high content of water ice, increasing at some points to several percent of the soil mass (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2

Similar studies were carried out by the Indian spacecraft "Chandrayan-1" with a multispectral scanner, the task of which was to map the locations of various minerals on the lunar surface. With its help, regions of distribution of minerals enriched in hydroxyl and water were discovered (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3

And in the region of the North Pole, in a relatively small area, the researchers found about 40 craters filled with ice. The diameters of these craters range from 2 km to 15 km. Calculations show that the total mass of ice deposits in them can reach 600 million tons.

Ice under your feet

In reality, there may be even more water resources on the moon. As already mentioned, before the launch of the LRO probe, it was believed that the most likely areas of the Moon with deposits of water ice are the so-called "cold traps" - shaded areas at the bottom of craters or depressions where the sun's rays do not fall. It was assumed that water molecules can no longer evaporate from such areas due to the constantly low temperature (about 60 degrees Kelvin, or −213 ° С).

Fig. 4

As a result of generalization of the research carried out with the help of LEND, it was concluded that frozen water can be found not only in "cold traps", but also on the normal surface of the Moon illuminated by the Sun. This was indicated by the weak emission of neutrons, which most likely indicates the concentration of hydrogen. This result was unexpected: it was believed that areas with a high content of hydrogen, and therefore ice, should coincide with the eternally shaded areas in the vicinity of the lunar poles.

Fig. 5

Trying to understand the metamorphosis, scientists looked closely at the photographs taken earlier during the lunar missions, in particular the Soviet "Lunokhod-1" (Fig. 4). It turned out that the loose, rough structure of the relief creates shadow micro-areas that can occupy up to half of the Moon's area. These "patches" of the lunar surface, most likely, hide ice in their shadow from heating by the rays of the Sun (Fig. 5).

Not only comets

For several years now, the discussion of options for the origin of lunar water ice has been going on. The initial versions - that water got to the moon with comets - are gradually being supplemented by more complex ones, which take into account the processes of interaction at the molecular level of the lunar surface with the surrounding space.

According to one of the modern hypotheses, water could be formed not only with the help of comets, but also by combining hydrogen atoms brought with the solar wind with oxygen, which is part of the lunar minerals. As a result of such a compound, hydroxyl could be formed (it consists of an oxygen atom and a hydrogen atom and resembles a water molecule - Ed.). Then the energy released by the impact of meteorites could contribute to the conversion of hydroxyl into water in the form of microscopic deposits of water ice.

Rarity in the Universe

The interaction of the solar wind and other types of cosmic radiation with the surface material of the Moon may present another surprise to earthlings.

In the description of the developments that are supposed to be included in the program of the China National Space Administration (CNSA), another truly unique material is mentioned. We are talking about California (Cf) - a radioactive chemical element. This metal is the most expensive in the world: the price of one gram reaches $ 30 million. Californium is used for scientific research and in medicine. Despite the high cost, the economic effect from the use of this rare metal covers the costs of its production.

On Earth, californium (isotope 252) is created in nuclear reactors by fissioning products irradiated with radioactive plutonium, curium, or neutrons. The essence of the production of this metal lies in the repeatedly repeated stages of decay and transformation of the initial element into an intermediate state - an isotope of another element.

Fig. 6

Chinese scientists suggest that californium can form on the lunar surface in natural conditions (Fig. 6). In their opinion, the concentration of californium on the moon is steadily increasing as a result of the bombardment of the surface by protons formed during solar flares.

Extraction of elements like california on the moon is likely to pay off any lunar program. But until the US Congress allocated funding for the entire Artemis program, and China's planned costs for a manned lunar program are not advertised, it is almost impossible to reliably estimate the cost of mining California on the Moon and delivering it to Earth.

But what about helium-3?

We should also recall the “legendary” helium-3, the “hero” of publications popular 10-15 years ago about saving mankind from energy hunger. It was supposed to be used as fuel in thermonuclear reactors in order to generate electricity for the entire Earth. It must be admitted that the efficiency of such a power plant would be really great. In addition, a helium-3 fusion reactor would be safer than a traditional one.

The problem, however, is that the temperature required to maintain the reaction with helium-3 is on the order of a billion degrees ... a billion! It is difficult even to imagine technical solutions for creating and maintaining such a temperature.

And as a last argument, it should be noted that the amount of helium-3 that falls on the moon as part of the particles of the solar wind and lingers in the lunar soil is catastrophically small. Its amount, according to the journal "Geokhimiya" (volume 51, No. 12 for 2013), varies from 0.02 mg to 130 mg per ton of surface soil, and it will be very difficult to extract it. Those who are interested in this issue, we can refer to the detailed article by A. A. Petrukovich "The moon and a penny of lunar energy" in the journal "Science and Life" No. 8, 2004.

Lunar reckoning

The stage of exploration of the Moon is far from over, and from the now begun new round of the "Lunar Race" (in which the domestic automatic devices "Luna-25", -26 and -27, and, hopefully, manned expeditions will also take a worthy part), we expect the next discoveries. It happens that in the process of such a search, researchers often find not at all what they originally planned, but something much more interesting. It is possible that the picture of lunar resources attractive to earthlings will look different in a few decades.

For example, you can recall that the main result of Columbus's travels to a new continent (then not yet called America, after the name of his main competitor) was not piles of gold (however, not too large), delivered to the Spanish crown, but the most ordinary potatoes, without which it is difficult imagine the life of medieval Europe in a couple of centuries.

The concept of lunar resources from the science fiction section should move in the coming years into a concrete practical plane. According to experts, the global concept of space exploration and the real use of extraterrestrial natural resources requires allocating up to a third of the total costs for the development of an industrial complex to space science.

Such a level of funding will be unattainable for any country in the world for a very long time. Society has not yet realized the gravity of the impending global problems. As a result, truly vital scientific space programs receive only very limited support, losing out to projects that, from the perspective of the future, can only be seen as petty fuss.

The authors hope that this article will help draw attention to the possibility of using space (in our case, lunar) resources to solve the serious problems that humanity will face in this century. The exploration of the Moon - actually the seventh continent of the Earth - should be a logical continuation of the space expansion that began on October 4, 1957 with the launch of the First artificial Earth satellite.

Credits: Lev Zeleny, Vladislav Shevchenko, Russian space.

Related article:

Moon - Klondike on the surface

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Russian space:


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

Best regards,