samedi 15 janvier 2022

At the bottom of Richie Crater


ESA & ROSCOSMOS - ExoMars Missions patch.

Jan 15, 2022

Photo: Roscosmos/ESA/CaSSIS (Click on the image for enlarge)

This image of part of the 79 km diameter Richie crater in the Proteus region of Mars was taken by the CaSSIS camera of the Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) of the joint Russian-European mission ExoMars 2016.

The image shows the central uplift of the crater, which emerged from the depths during the impact, which formed the crater itself - and a lot of the debris that also arose from the impact. These fragments are also called "breccia" - crushed fragments of the planet's rocky surface, cemented by finer-grained material.

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). Image Credit: ESA/ATG Medialab

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has already found signs and minerals in this crater that suggest that there was once water here. Ritchie Crater is located at 309.06°E/28.13°S, south of the Mariner Valleys, where TGO has also recently found massive amounts of water, either in the form of ice or hydrated minerals.

TGO entered orbit around Mars in 2016 and began its scientific work in 2018. The spacecraft not only transmits impressive images, but also provides a detailed analysis of the planet's atmospheric gases and surface mapping in search of places that may contain water. It will also provide data relay for the ExoMars 2022 mission, which will bring the European rover Rosalind Franklin and the Russian landing platform Kazachok to Mars in 2023.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

ROSCOSMOS - ExoMars-2016:

European Space Agency (ESA) ExoMars:

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

Best regards,

Hubble Views a Tranquil Galaxy with an Explosive Past


NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Jan 15, 2022

The lazily winding spiral arms of the spectacular galaxy NGC 976 fill the frame of this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. This spiral galaxy lies around 150 million light-years from the Milky Way in the constellation Aries. Despite its tranquil appearance, NGC 976 has played host to one of the most violent astronomical phenomena known – a supernova explosion. These cataclysmically violent events take place at the end of the lives of massive stars and can outshine entire galaxies for a short period. While supernovae mark the deaths of massive stars, they are also responsible for the creation of heavy elements that are incorporated into later generations of stars and planets.

Supernovae are also a useful aid for astronomers who measure the distances to faraway galaxies. The amount of energy thrown out into space by some types of supernova explosions is very uniform, allowing astronomers to estimate their distances from how bright they appear to be when viewed from Earth. This image – which was created using data from Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 – comes from a large collection of Hubble observations of nearby galaxies which host supernovae as well as a pulsating class of stars known as Cepheid variables. Both Cepheids and supernovae are used to measure astronomical distances, and galaxies containing both objects provide useful natural laboratories where the two methods can be calibrated against one another.

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, D. Jones, A. Riess et al.


vendredi 14 janvier 2022

Week Ends With Spacesuit Checks, Dragon Packing and Eye Exams


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Jan 14, 2022

Image above: The SpaceX Cargo Dragon spacecraft is set to depart the International Space Station on Friday, Jan. 21, for a splashdown Saturday, Jan. 22, off the coast of Florida. Image Credit: NASA.

The Expedition 66 crew is wrapping up the work week continuing its Russian spacewalk preparations while packing a U.S. resupply ship for departure next week. The orbital residents also had time set aside for eye checks and science hardware work.

The SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle is due to complete its mission at the International Space Station on Jan. 21 after 30 days docked to the Harmony module’s space-facing port. NASA Flight Engineers Raja Chari and Thomas Marshburn began Friday loading up the Dragon with a variety of cargo that will be returned to Earth one day after the vehicle’s undocking. ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer assisted the duo in the afternoon organizing and securing the cargo inside the U.S. commercial cargo craft.

Image above: Cosmonaut Pyotr Dubrov is pictured during a spacewalk on Sept. 3, 2021, to begin outfitting the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Chari and Maurer also led a pair of eye checks aboard the orbiting lab on Friday afternoon with NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei as the subject. Maurer started the first exam scanning Vande Hei’s eye with the Ultrasound 2 device. Following that, Chari looked at the veteran astronaut’s retinas using standard medical imaging gear, optical coherence tomography, that can be found inside a doctor’s office.

NASA Flight Engineer Kayla Barron spent Friday working on experiment hardware throughout the space station’s U.S. segment. She started the morning retrieving research components exposed to the harsh environment of space from inside the Kibo laboratory module’s airlock. During the afternoon, Barron began setting up and photographing science gear in several station modules to prepare for upcoming research.

Image above: Pictured from left are the Soyuz MS-19 crew spacecraft and the Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module with the Prichal docking module attached as the International Space Station orbited 266 miles above the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia. Image Credit: NASA.

Cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov spent the last day of the week trying on their Russian Orlan spacesuits, checking for pressure leaks and testing their communication systems. They will exit the Poisk module on Jan. 19 for a seven hour spacewalk to outfit and configure the Prichal and Nauka modules.

Related articles:

NASA Sets Coverage for Russian Spacewalk Outside Space Station

NASA TV to Air SpaceX Cargo Dragon Departure from Space Station

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Harmony module:

Ultrasound 2:

Kibo laboratory module:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Heidi Lavelle.


Citizen Scientists Spot Jupiter-like Planet in NASA TESS Data


NASA - Tess Mission patch.

Jan 14, 2022

Tom Jacobs of Bellevue, Washington, loves treasure hunts. Since 2010, the former U.S. naval officer has participated in online volunteer projects that allow anyone who is interested — “citizen scientists” — to look through NASA telescope data for signs of exoplanets, planets beyond our solar system.

Now, Jacobs has helped discover a giant gaseous planet about 379 light-years from Earth, orbiting a star with the same mass as the Sun. The Jupiter-size planet is special for astronomers because its 261-day year is long compared to many known gas giants outside our solar system. The result also suggests the planet is just a bit farther from its star than Venus is from the Sun. The finding was published in the Astronomical Journal and presented at an American Astronomical Society virtual press event on Jan. 13.

Image above: This illustration depicts a Jupiter-like exoplanet called TOI-2180 b. It was discovered in data from NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt.

Uncovering this planet and pinning down its size and mass required a large collaboration between professional astronomers and citizen scientists like Jacobs. To track the planet, they engaged in “a global uniting effort, because we all need to go after it together to keep eyes on this particular planet,” said Paul Dalba, astronomer at the University of California, Riverside, and lead author of the study.

“Discovering and publishing TOI-2180 b was a great group effort demonstrating that professional astronomers and seasoned citizen scientists can successfully work together,” Jacobs said. “It is synergy at its best.”

How the discovery happened

The signature for the newly discovered planet was hiding in data from NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, or TESS. Using TESS data, scientists look for changes in brightness of nearby stars, which could indicate the presence of orbiting planets.

Jacobs is part of a group of citizen scientists who look at plots of TESS data, showing the change in a star’s brightness over time, in search of new planets. While professional astronomers use algorithms to scan tens of thousands of data points from stars automatically, these citizen scientists use a program called LcTools, created by Alan R. Schmitt, to inspect telescope data by eye. That’s why Jacobs’ group, which includes several citizen scientists and two veteran astronomers, calls themselves the Visual Survey Group. Many of them met while working on Planet Hunters, a NASA-funded citizen science project through Zooniverse that focused on data from NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.

On February 1, 2020, Jacobs happened to notice a plot showing starlight from TOI-2180 dim by less than half a percent and then return to its previous brightness level over a 24-hour period, which may be explained by an orbiting planet that is said to “transit” as it passes in front of the star from our point of view. By measuring the amount of light that dims as the planet passes, scientists can estimate how big the planet is and, in combination with other measurements, its density. But a transit can only be seen if a star and its planet line up with telescopes looking for them.

A graph showing starlight over time is called a “light curve.” The Visual Survey Group alerted two professional scientist collaborators — Paul Dalba at the University of California, Riverside, and Diana Dragomir, assistant professor at the University of New Mexico, that this light curve was potentially interesting.

“With this new discovery, we are also pushing the limits of the kinds of planets we can extract from TESS observations,” Dragomir said. “TESS was not specifically designed to find such long-orbit exoplanets, but our team, with the help of citizen scientists, are digging out these rare gems nonetheless.”

Computer algorithms used by professional astronomers are designed to search for planets by identifying multiple transit events from a single star. That’s why citizen scientists’ visual inspection is so useful when there is only one transit available. Since this is the only instance of the TOI-2180 b star dimming in this dataset, it is called a “single transit event.”

Image above: Tom Jacobs, a citizen scientist who collaborates with professional scientists to look for exoplanets, at the Haleakalā High Altitude Observatory Site in Hawaii. Image Credit: Tom Jacobs.

“The manual effort that they put in is really important and really impressive, because it's actually hard to write code that can go through a million light curves and identify single transit events reliably,” Dalba said. “This is one area where humans are still beating code.”

But how could the team rule out other explanations for the brief dip in starlight? Could they be sure they had found a planet? They would need follow-up observations.

Fortunately, Dalba was able to recruit the Automated Planet Finder Telescope at Lick Observatory in California. “I use that telescope to measure the wobble of the star to then determine how massive this planet is, if it is a planet at all,” he said. The research team also used the Keck I telescope at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii to perform some of these measurements when Lick Observatory was threatened by wildfires.

With 27 hours of observations spread over more than 500 days, Dalba and colleagues observed the planet’s gravitational tug on the star, which allowed them to calculate the planet’s mass and estimate a range of possibilities for its orbit. Still, they wanted to observe the planet’s transit when it came back around to confirm the orbit. Unfortunately, finding a second transit event was going to be difficult because there was so much uncertainty about when the planet would cross the face of its star again.

Dalba pressed on, and organized an observing campaign including both professional astronomers and citizen scientists using telescopes at 14 sites across three continents in August 2020. To support the campaign, Dalba camped for five nights in California’s Joshua Tree National Park and looked for the transit with two portable amateur telescopes. The collaborative effort yielded 55 datasets over 11 days.

Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite or TESS. Animation Credit: NASA

Ultimately, none of these telescopes detected the planet with confidence. Still, the lack of a clear detection in this time period put a boundary on how long the orbit could be, indicating a period of about 261 days. Using that estimate, they predict TESS will see the planet transit its star again in February 2022.

About the planet

TOI-2180 b is almost three times more massive than Jupiter but has the same diameter, meaning it is more dense than Jupiter. This made scientists wonder whether it formed in a different way than Jupiter.

Another clue about the planet’s formation could be what’s inside it. Through computer models they determined that the new planet may have as much as 105 Earth masses worth of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium. “That’s a lot,” says Dalba. “That’s more than what we suspect is inside Jupiter.”

Astronomers still have much to learn about the range of planets that are out there. About 4,800 exoplanets have been confirmed, but there are thought to be billions of planets in our galaxy. The new finding indicates that among giant planets, some have many more heavy elements than others.

In our solar system, gigantic Jupiter orbits the Sun every 12 years; for Saturn, a “year” is 29 years. We don’t have giant planets like TOI-2180 b between the Earth and Sun. But outside the solar system, astronomers have found dozens of exoplanets that are even bigger than Jupiter and orbit much closer to their stars, even closer than the orbit of Mercury.

With an average temperature of about 170 degrees Fahrenheit, TOI-2180 b is warmer than room temperature on Earth, and warmer than the outer planets of our solar system including Jupiter and Saturn. But compared to the array of transiting giant exoplanets that astronomers have found orbiting other stars, TOI-2180 b is abnormally chilly.

“It's a nice stepping stone in between most giant exoplanets we’ve found, and then really cold Jupiter and Saturn,” Dalba said.

What’s next

When TESS observes the star again in February, Dalba and the citizen scientists are eager to get the data and dive back in. If they find the planet’s signature, confirming the 261-day period, that would give more meaning to the data from their global campaign to find it in 2020.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which launched on Dec. 25, could potentially observe this planet and its atmosphere. But there’s another reason Dalba is excited about Webb’s capabilities. Given that in our own solar system, Jupiter has rings and moons, Webb could be used to look for the presence of small objects orbiting TOI-2180 b.

So far, no rings or moons have been found outside of our solar system with certainty, but one reason could be that many exoplanets are found very close to their star, whose gravity might strip such objects away. TOI-2180 b, located at a farther distance from its host star, might present an interesting opportunity for such a search. “I think this is a fun system for that later on in the future,” Dalba said.

When he’s not pursuing his planet-hunting hobby, Jacobs, the citizen scientist, works with nonprofits that help people with disabilities find employment in their communities.

The Visual Survey Group members “devote many hours each day surveying the data out of pure joy and interest in furthering science,” said Jacobs. Collectively, the team has co-authored more than 68 peer-reviewed science papers, including the discovery of transiting “exocomets” or comets outside the solar system crossing the face of a star.

“We love contributing to science,” Jacobs said. “And I love this type of surveying, knowing that one is in new undiscovered territory not seen by any humans before.”

More About Citizen Science

NASA has a wide variety of citizen science collaborations across topics ranging from Earth science to the Sun to the wider universe. Anyone in the world can participate. Check out the latest opportunities at

About TESS

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

The National Science Foundation Astronomy and Astrophysics Postdoctoral Fellowship Program contributed support to this study.

Related links:

Astronomical Journal:

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS):

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/By Elizabeth Landau.

Best regards,

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of January 10, 2022


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Jan 14, 2022

Crew members aboard the International Space Station conducted scientific investigations during the week of Jan. 10 that included testing a new cooling technology for spacesuits, examining cellular signaling molecules, and monitoring microbes on the space station.

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:

Cooler, cleaner spacesuits

Image above: A simulated spacesuit setup for conducting the SERFE investigation, which examines the effect of contamination and corrosion on a spacesuit thermal control system and microgravity’s effect on the system’s thermoregulatory abilities. Image Credit: NASA.

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 and could contribute to improvements in technology using evaporation for cooling on Earth. Results also may improve the tolerance of spacesuits and cooling systems on Earth to contamination and corrosion. Crew members extracted water from the SERFE hardware for post-flight analysis on the ground.

A different kind of cellular signal

Cytoskeleton, an investigation from ESA (European Space Agency), examines whether microgravity affects the function of cellular signaling molecules known as RhoGTPases. These proteins operate as "molecular switches" and are involved in control of programmed cell death, gene expression, and organization of the cytoskeleton (the network of protein filaments and tubules that give cells their shape). Results could expand knowledge about cellular function in space and on Earth and contribute to clinical medical research. Crew members transferred experiment culture chambers to the Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG) and performed the third and final round of operations during the week.

Microbial monitoring

Image above: A sample taken for Microbial Tracking-3 floats in the space station. This investigation seeks to characterize the types of microbial populations present on board. Image Credit: NASA.

Crew members gathered several consecutive days of samples for the Microbial Tracking-3 investigation, which continues a series focused on ongoing monitoring of bacteria and fungi present on the space station, especially their pathogenicity (ability to cause disease) and antibiotic resistance. Identifying and characterizing these microbes contributes to the NASA GeneLab, a database of microbes associated with closed habitation that seeks to predict those that may pose a threat to crew health. On Earth, antibiotic resistance has become a world-wide health concern, and this investigation could yield important discoveries related to its development.

Other investigations involving the crew:

Image above: NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei works on the Plant Habitat-05 investigation, which studies gene expression in cotton calluses, masses of identical cells that can be programmed to develop into specific plant parts. Image Credit: NASA.

- Plant Habitat-05 studies gene expression in several types of cotton calluses, masses of identical cells that can be programmed to develop into specific plant parts, much like stem cells in mammals. Results could provide a better understanding of resistance to genetic engineering and identify ways to engineer specific qualities into cotton.

- Ring Sheared Drop uses a special device to contain liquids using surface tension rather than a solid container, allowing researchers to study protein aggregations called amyloid fibrils, which may be a factor in development of some neurological diseases. The device also could benefit other experiments, including research on pharmaceuticals.

- ESA’s AstroPi uses two computers equipped with a variety of sensors and cameras to support an education program for schools across Europe that allows students to compete on a number of thematic software and hardware challenges.

- Advanced Nano Step from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) monitors, records, and analyzes how specific impurities affect the quality of protein crystals grown in space. Results could advance capabilities for research on and production of materials and drugs in space, and may prove useful for crystallization trials conducted on Earth.

- Vascular Aging, an investigation by the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), analyzes changes in the arteries of crew members. Results could point to mechanisms for reducing cardiovascular risk and help identify and detect blood biomarkers that predict early signs of cardiovascular aging.

- EasyMotion from ESA tests a suit worn during pre- and postflight exercise that provides Electro-Myo-Stimulation (EMS). It could save crew time and improve outcomes of inflight exercise on future space missions and in healthy populations on Earth.

- 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.

- NutrISS, an investigation from ESA, periodically assesses body composition and measures long-term energy balance modification over time. Results may improve understanding of the mechanisms behind body composition changes during spaceflight and help lead to ways to mitigate any negative effects of those changes.

Space to Ground: Spacewalks and Research: 01/14/2022

Related links:

Expedition 66:



Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG):

Microbial Tracking-3:

ISS National Lab:

Spot the Station:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

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


Virgin Orbit - LauncherOne launches “Above the Clouds”


Virgin Orbit - LauncherOne “Above the Clouds” Mission patch.

Jan 14, 2022

Image above: “Cosmic Girl” traveled off the Pacific coast to about 9.6 km (31500ft) in altitude, then released the LauncherOne rocket.

For Virgin Orbit’s “Above the Clouds” mission, the “Cosmic Girl” aircraft took off from the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, on 13 January 2022, at 21:39 UTC (13:39 PST).

LauncherOne launches “Above the Clouds”

“Cosmic Girl” traveled off the Pacific coast to about 9.6 km (31500ft) in altitude, then released the LauncherOne rocket that launched several small satellites into orbit, at 22:53 UTC (14:53 PST).

Virgin Orbit’s 747 carrier aircraft Cosmic Girl took off from Mojave Air and Space Port this afternoon at approximately 1:39 PM PST/09:39 PM UTC and flew to a launch site over the Pacific Ocean, about 50 miles south of the Channel Islands. After a smooth release from the aircraft, the LauncherOne rocket ignited and propelled itself towards space, ultimately deploying its payload into a precise target orbit approximately 500km above the Earth’s surface at 45 degrees inclination. This is the first time that anyone has reached this orbit from the West Coast.

The launch was the company’s third successful flight, occurring less than one year from its first mission. Virgin Orbit has now successfully delivered commercial, government, international, and national security satellites to space, including new Above the Clouds customer Spire Global, Inc. (NYSE: SPIR), and first ever repeat customers: the U.S. Department of Defense Space Test Program and Polish company SatRevolution. This launch was awarded to Virgin Orbit through its subsidiary VOX Space by the DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) as part of the DoD Space Test Program’s (STP) Rapid Agile Launch (RALI) Initiative.

The satellites launched on the company’s latest mission include experiments in space-based communications, space debris detection, and in-space navigation and propulsion, as well as satellites that will serve the global agricultural sector. The launch brings the total number of satellites launched by Virgin Orbit to 26.

Because of the unique air-launch system Virgin Orbit has developed, the Above the Clouds mission was launched in an orbit never before directly accessible from the West Coast of the Americas. Rather than launching from a fixed pad on the ground, Virgin Orbit conducts its launches from under the wing of a modified 747 aircraft, and by flying the aircraft further out over the ocean, the company was able to launch on a trajectory no ground-launch rocket could have achieved. That direct injection into the target orbit saved the satellites onboard this mission months of time and kilograms of fuel they might have otherwise spent correcting their orbit from what a landlocked launch site could provide them.

LauncherOne rocket launch

“Our customers are starting to hear back from their satellites that are checking in from orbit — and for us, that’s what success looks like. It’s a thrill for our team that this mission included our first repeat customers as well as our first ‘last minute ticket’ customers and reached an orbit that no one had ever reached from the West Coast before, all of which confirms the team’s ability to provide top tier launch service anywhere, anytime,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “On top of that, we flew through weather and a cloud layer that would have grounded any other launch I’ve worked on in my career, something only made possible by air-launch and our incredible team. We can say with confidence that in this new era of regular, frequent, successful missions, we can help our customers and partners use space technology to advance human knowledge and open space for good.”

“This accomplishment today really shows the future of space launch capabilities, something that is of paramount importance to national security,” said VOX Space President Mark Baird, a retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General. “We have the ability to launch anywhere, anytime and unwarned, which allows us to customize the launches to serve a government’s mission and goals, allowing us to be better mission partners in their space operations.”

“What an unforgettable experience to watch the Virgin Orbit team complete another perfect mission to space. I could not be prouder of the work they are doing. I am beaming alongside them,” said Virgin Orbit founder Richard Branson. “We supported experimental, important work for our three happy customers today. I congratulate them and our wonderful team.”

LauncherOne liftoff “Above the Clouds”

Above the Clouds is named after the fifth track on Gang Starr’s 1998 album Moment of Truth, featuring Inspectah Deck of Wu-Tang Clan. The record was released by Virgin Records in collaboration with Noo Trybe Records and is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time.

About Virgin Orbit

Virgin Orbit (Nasdaq: VORB) operates one of the most flexible and responsive space launch systems ever built. Founded by Sir Richard Branson in 2017, the company began commercial service in 2021, and has already delivered commercial, civil, national security, and international satellites into orbit. Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne rockets are designed and manufactured in Long Beach, California, and are air-launched from a modified 747- 400 carrier aircraft that allows Virgin Orbit to operate from locations all over the world in order to best serve each customer’s needs.

Virgin Orbit:

Related add-on for Flight Simulator X (FSX):

Boeing 747-400 Virgin Orbit for FSX. Image & Add-on by Aerospace / Roland Berga. Available for free at:
Images, Video, Text, Credits: Virgin Orbit/SciNews/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Best regards,

A crunching multiverse to solve two physics puzzles at once


CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

Jan 14, 2022

A duo of theorists proposes a new theory to explain both the surprisingly small mass of the Higgs boson and the puzzling symmetry properties of the strong force

Image above: In D’Agnolo and Teresi’s model, in its early moments the universe is a collection of many universes each with a different value of the Higgs mass, including light-Higgs universes. After a very short time, heavy-Higgs universes collapse in a big crunch, whereas light-Higgs universes survive this collapse and expand (bottom figure). (Image: D’Agnolo and Teresi).

The discovery of the Higgs boson was a landmark in the history of physics. It explained something fundamental: how elementary particles that have mass get their masses. But it also marked something no less fundamental: the beginning of an era of measuring in detail the particle’s properties and finding out what they might reveal about the nature of the universe.

One such property is the particle’s mass, which at 125 GeV is surprisingly small. Many theories have been put forward to explain this small mass, but none has so far been confirmed with data. In a paper just published in Physical Review Letters, Raffaele Tito D’Agnolo of the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and Daniele Teresi of CERN propose a new theory to explain both the lightness of the Higgs boson and another fundamental physics puzzle.

In broad brushes, the duo’s theory works like this. In its early moments, the universe is a collection of many universes each with a different value of the Higgs mass, and in some of these universes the Higgs boson is light. In this multiverse model, universes with a heavy Higgs boson collapse in a big crunch in a very short time, whereas universes with a light Higgs boson survive this collapse. Our present-day universe would be one of these surviving light-Higgs universes.

What’s more, the model, which includes two new particles in addition to the known particles predicted by the Standard Model, can also explain the puzzling symmetry properties of the strong force, which binds quarks together into protons and neutrons, and protons and neutrons into atomic nuclei.

Although the theory of the strong force, known as quantum chromodynamics, predicts a possible breakdown in strong interactions of a fundamental symmetry called CP symmetry, such a breakdown is not observed in experiments. One of the new particles in D’Agnolo and Teresi’s model can solve this so-called strong CP problem, making strong interactions CP symmetric. Moreover, the same new particle could also account for the dark matter that is thought to make up most of the matter in the universe.

The jury is of course out on whether the new model, or any of the many other models that have been proposed to explain the Higgs boson mass or the strong CP problem, will fly.

“Each model comes with perks and limitations,” says Teresi. “Our model stands out because it is simple, generic and it solves these two seemingly unrelated puzzles at once. And it predicts distinctive features in data from experiments that aim to search for dark matter or for an electric dipole moment in the neutron and other hadrons.”

Image above: The surviving light-Higgs universes. (Image: D’Agnolo and Teresi).

Other recent theoretical proposals to explain the Higgs mass include the relaxion field model, a new phenomenon in quantum cosmology and the selfish Higss model, to mention a few. Older, more traditional theories are based on a Higgs boson that is a composite particle or on a new type of symmetry called supersymmetry. Only time and data will tell which – if any – of the models will prevail.


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:

Physical Review Letters:

Standard Model:

Dark matter:

The relaxion field model:

A new phenomenon in quantum cosmology:

The selfish Higss model:

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

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


jeudi 13 janvier 2022

Busy Day for Biology Research as Spacewalk Preps Continue


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Jan 13, 2022

Space biology research and spacewalk preparations kept the Expedition 66 crew busy aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. The orbital residents also ensured space hardware including exercise gear, a specialized microscope, and fluid systems continued operating in tip-top shape.

Living long-term in microgravity affects every aspect of the human body and the eyes are no exception. A study recently delivered aboard the SpaceX Cargo Dragon vehicle and under way today at the orbital lab is exploring how visual function is impacted by extended space missions. Three NASA astronauts, Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, and Kayla Barron were on duty throughout the day contributing to the investigation that may protect astronaut’s vision and improve eye treatments on Earth.

Image above: Astronauts Kayla Barron and Matthias Maurer participate in a robotics training session inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module. Image Credit: NASA.

Marshburn first started his day in the Tranquility module strengthening cables on the advanced resistive exercise device. Chari, toward the end of his work shift, cleaned the Veggie space botany facility before uninstalling and packing a spacecraft atmosphere monitor for return to the ground.

Microbe collections continued for the third day this week as ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer swabbed station surfaces and stowed the samples for later analysis. The German astronaut also serviced the Mochii electron-scanning microscope, set up a computer for Earth observations, and worked on the Cytoskeleton human cell experiment.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei was on duty Thursday afternoon in the U.S. Destiny laboratory module conducting life support maintenance. The three-time station visitor worked on the fluid servicer system that removes gas bubbles and cleans fluid lines throughout the orbital lab.

Vande Hei also joined cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov helping the Russian duo install lights, batteries and video gear on their Orlan spacesuit helmets. The pair started the day with a physical fitness test to prepare for a spacewalk planned for Jan. 19. They will spend about seven hours in the vacuum of space configuring both the Prichal and Nauka modules.

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Visual function:



U.S. Destiny laboratory module:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Heidi Lavelle.

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NASA’s Spitzer Illuminates Exoplanets in Astronomical Society Briefing


NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

Jan 13, 2022

The infrared observatory may help answer questions about planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, including how they form and what drives weather in their atmospheres.

Image above: Planet XO-3b has an internal source of heat, possibly from tidal heating, which is caused by the squeezing of the planet’s interior by the gravity of its parent star. This could be increased by the planet’s slightly elliptical orbit (shown on the right), meaning it’s more oval-shaped than circular. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Two new studies using data from NASA’s retired Spitzer Space Telescope shed light on giant exoplanets and brown dwarfs, objects that aren’t quite stars but aren’t quite planets either. Both studies will be the focus of virtual news conferences hosted by the American Astronomical Society on Jan. 13.

One investigation shows that the weather on brown dwarfs – which form like stars but don’t have sufficient mass to start burning hydrogen in their cores as stars do – varies with age. Brown dwarfs and giant exoplanets are similar in diameter, mass, and composition, so understanding the atmospheric properties of one can provide insights about those of the other.

The second study belongs to a body of work looking at hot Jupiters – gas exoplanets that orbit extremely close to their parent stars. How do these massive planets come to be, and could there be subclasses of hot Jupiters with different formation stories? To look for answers, the study authors looked at exoplanet XO-3b, a rare example of a hot Jupiter observed while migrating closer to its host star.

Exoplanet Analogs

Age often brings stability in humans, and that appears to be true for cosmic objects as well. Johanna Vos, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, will discuss a Spitzer survey published in the Astrophysical Journal that found higher variability in the weather on young brown dwarfs compared to old ones.

With regard to brown dwarfs, the word variability refers to short-term changes in the intensity of different wavelengths of infrared light coming from the object’s atmosphere. Astronomers think these variations are caused by clouds, which reflect and absorb light in the atmosphere.

Image above: This illustration shows what clouds might look like in the atmosphere of a brown dwarf. Using NASA's retired Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists were able to detect clouds and other weather features in brown dwarf atmospheres. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPAC/T. Pyle.

High variability might indicate a major atmospheric feature, perhaps like Jupiter’s Great Red Spot – a storm larger than Earth that’s been swirling for hundreds of years. It can also indicate a rapidly changing atmosphere, which can have multiple causes such as major temperature differences in the atmosphere or turbulence (sometimes caused by powerful winds).

Comparing the young brown dwarfs to previous Spitzer observations of older brown dwarfs, the authors found that the young objects are more likely to show atmospheric variation. They also found that variations are larger and more dramatic in younger brown dwarfs. Vos and her colleagues attribute the difference to the fact that brown dwarfs are puffier when they’re young but become more compact as they age, which likely makes the atmosphere appear more uniform.

Young brown dwarfs are similar in diameter, mass, and composition to giant exoplanets primarily made of gas. But studying large exoplanets is complicated by the close presence of their parent stars: The companion irradiates the planet’s atmosphere, which changes the temperature, or even the chemistry, and affects the weather. The bright light from the star also makes seeing the much fainter planet more difficult.

Brown dwarfs, on the other hand, can act as a sort of control group and be observed in isolation in space. The study’s authors plan to incorporate the new finding into models of how brown dwarf and giant exoplanet atmospheres evolve with age.

Migrating Giants

Though hot Jupiters are the most studied type of exoplanet, major questions remain about how they form. For example, do these planets take shape far from their parent stars – at a distance where it’s cold enough for molecules such as water to become solid – or closer? The first scenario fits better with theories about how planets in our own solar system are born, but what would drive these types of planets to migrate so close to their parent stars remains unclear.

Lisa Dang, an exoplanet scientist at McGill University in Montreal, and her colleagues used Spitzer data to study an exoplanet named XO-3b, which has an eccentric (oval) orbit rather than the circular orbit of almost all other known hot Jupiters. The eccentric orbit indicates XO-3b may have recently migrated toward its parent star; if that’s the case, it will eventually settle into a more circular orbit.

Observations by Gaia, an ESA (European Space Agency) space observatory, and Spitzer both suggest the planet produces some of its own heat, but scientists don’t know why. The Spitzer data also provides a map of the placessnet’s climate patterns. It’s possible that the excess warmth is coming from the planet’s interior, through a pro called tidal heating. The star’s gravitational squeeze on the planet oscillates as the irregular orbit takes the planet farther and then closer to the star. The resulting changes in interior pressure produce heat.

For Dang, an unusual hot Jupiter provides an opportunity to test ideas about which formation processes may produce certain characteristics in these exoplanets. For example, could tidal heating in other hot Jupiters also be a sign of recent migration? XO-3b alone won’t solve the mystery, but it serves as an important test for emerging ideas about these scorching giants.

More About the Mission

Spitzer Space Telescope. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The entire body of scientific data collected by Spitzer during its lifetime is available to the public via the Spitzer data archive, housed at the Infrared Science Archive at IPAC at Caltech in Pasadena, California. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California managed the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Science operations were conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at IPAC. Spacecraft operations were based at Lockheed Martin Space in Littleton, Colorado.

Related links:

Spitzer data archive:

Spitzer Space Telescope:

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Calla Cofield.


SpaceX Transporter-3 launch


SpaceX - Falcon 9 / Transporter Mission patch.

Jan 13, 2022

SpaceX Transporter-3 liftoff

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched Transporter-3, SpaceX’s third dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program mission with 105 small spacecraft (nano-satellites, 6 for Spain), from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, on 13 January 2022, at 15:25 UTC (10:25 EST).

SpaceX Transporter-3 launch and Falcon 9 first stage landing

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage landed on Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Falcon 9’s first stage (B1058) previously supported nine missions: Crew Demo-2, ANASIS-II, CRS-21, Transporter-1 and five Starlink missions.


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

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2021 Tied for 6th Warmest Year in Continued Trend, NASA Analysis Shows


NASA - Goddard Space Flight Center logo.

January 13, 2022

Earth’s global average surface temperature in 2021 tied with 2018 as the sixth warmest on record, according to independent analyses done by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Continuing the planet’s long-term warming trend, global temperatures in 2021 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.85 degrees Celsius) above the average for NASA’s baseline period, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. NASA uses the period from 1951-1980 as a baseline to see how global temperature changes over time.

Image above: The image shows global surface temperature anomalies for 2021. Higher than normal temperatures, shown in red, can be seen in regions such as the Arctic. Lower than normal temperatures are shown in blue. Image Credit: NASA.

Collectively, the past eight years are the warmest years since modern recordkeeping began in 1880. This annual temperature data makes up the global temperature record – which tells scientists the planet is warming.

According to NASA’s temperature record, Earth in 2021 was about 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit (or about 1.1 degrees Celsius) warmer than the late 19th century average, the start of the industrial revolution.

“Science leaves no room for doubt: Climate change is the existential threat of our time,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Eight of the top 10 warmest years on our planet occurred in the last decade, an indisputable fact that underscores the need for bold action to safeguard the future of our country – and all of humanity. NASA’s scientific research about how Earth is changing and getting warmer will guide communities throughout the world, helping humanity confront climate and mitigate its devastating effects.”

This warming trend around the globe is due to human activities that have increased emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The planet is already seeing the effects of global warming: Arctic sea ice is declining, sea levels are rising, wildfires are becoming more severe and animal migration patterns are shifting. Understanding how the planet is changing – and how rapidly that change occurs – is crucial for humanity to prepare for and adapt to a warmer world.

Weather stations, ships, and ocean buoys around the globe record the temperature at Earth’s surface throughout the year. These ground-based measurements of surface temperature are validated with satellite data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Scientists analyze these measurements using computer algorithms to deal with uncertainties in the data and quality control to calculate the global average surface temperature difference for every year. NASA compares that global mean temperature to its baseline period of 1951-1980. That baseline includes climate patterns and unusually hot or cold years due to other factors, ensuring that it encompasses natural variations in Earth’s temperature.

Temperature Record 101: How We Know What We Know about Climate Change

Many factors affect the average temperature any given year, such as La Nina and El Nino climate patterns in the tropical Pacific. For example, 2021 was a La Nina year and NASA scientists estimate that it may have cooled global temperatures by about 0.06 degrees Fahrenheit (0.03 degrees Celsius) from what the average would have been.

A separate, independent analysis by NOAA also concluded that the global surface temperature for 2021 was the sixth highest since record keeping began in 1880. NOAA scientists use much of the same raw temperature data in their analysis and have a different baseline period (1901-2000) and methodology.

“The complexity of the various analyses doesn’t matter because the signals are so strong,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of GISS, NASA’s leading center for climate modeling and climate change research. “The trends are all the same because the trends are so large.”

NASA’s full dataset of global surface temperatures for 2021, as well as details of how NASA scientists conducted the analysis, are publicly available from GISS.

GISS is a NASA laboratory managed by the Earth Sciences Division of the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science missions, visit:

Editor's note:

To continue to deny global warming is either intellectual dishonesty or worse, ignorance. And those who do not want to do anything to change the situation because they do not want to lose their comfort of life or money, it is a crime against humanity and all forms of life.

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Tylar Greene/GSFC/Peter Jacobs.


mercredi 12 janvier 2022

Cosmonauts Prep for Spacewalk as Astronauts Work Science and Maintenance


ISS - Expedition 66 Mission patch.

Jan 12, 2022

In one week the first spacewalk of 2022 is set begin at the International Space Station. Two Expedition 66 crew members are getting their spacesuits ready as the rest of the crew works research and maintenance.

Station Commander Anton Shkaplerov and Flight Engineer Pyotr Dubrov are due to exit the Poisk module in their Russian Orlan spacesuits on Jan. 19 at 7 a.m. EDT. They will spend about seven hours configuring both the Prichal docking module and the Nauka multipurpose laboratory module in the vacuum of space.

Image above: NASA astronaut Thomas Marshburn peers out from a window inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world.” Image Credit: NASA.

Both cosmonauts continued setting up and attaching components to their spacesuits on Wednesday. NASA Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei, who will assist the spacewalkers next week, joined the pair during the afternoon and reviewed the Poisk airlock depressurization/repressurization timeline.

The station’s other crew members focused on space physics, life science and lab maintenance. NASA Flight Engineer Raja Chari started his day working on hardware maintenance for the Ring Sheared Drop experiment then took a robotics test for a behavioral study. Astronaut Matthias Maurer of ESA (European Space Agency) continued collecting microbe samples swabbed from station surfaces for analysis.

ISS 2030: NASA Extends Operations of the International Space Station

NASA astronaut Kayla Barron collected microbe samples from the station’s atmosphere then took samples from a carbon dioxide removal system for analysis. At the end of the day, Vande Hei gathered equipment ahead of operations planned for station fluid systems.

Related article:

Biden-Harris Administration Extends Space Station Operations Through 2030

Related links:

Expedition 66:

Nauka multipurpose laboratory module:

Behavioral study:'

Microbe samples:

Space Station Research and Technology:

International Space Station (ISS):

Image (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Heidi Lavelle.

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ISS orbit elevated by more than 1 km


ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

Jan 12, 2022

The orbital altitude of the International Space Station was adjusted in order to form ballistic conditions before the launch of the Soyuz MS-21 manned spacecraft into orbit and the landing of the Soyuz MS-19 descent vehicle. According to preliminary data, after the maneuver, the ISS orbital altitude increased by 1.2 km.

On Wednesday, January 12, 2022, at 21:24 Moscow time, a command was issued and the engines of the Progress MS-18 cargo vehicle docked to the Russian segment of the ISS were turned on. They worked for 395.4 seconds, and the impulse value was 0.73 m / s. At present, specialists of the ballistic and navigation support service of the TsNIIMash Flight Control Center (part of the Roscosmos State Corporation) are studying telemetry. The parameters of the ISS orbit after the maneuver will be reported additionally.

International Space Station (ISS)

The launch of the Soyuz MS-21 manned spacecraft with the crew of the 67th long-term expedition is scheduled for March 18, 2022 at 18:55 Moscow time. The landing of the Soyuz MS-19 descent vehicle with Roscosmos cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Peter Dubrov, as well as NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, is scheduled for March 30 at 14:27 Moscow time.

In addition to Shkaplerov, Dubrov and Vande Haya, NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Tom Marshburn and Kayla Barron, as well as ESA astronaut Matthias Maurer, are currently working on board the International Space Station.

Related links:

ROSCOSMOS Press Release:

Progress MS-18:



International Space Station (ISS):

Image, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS/MCC/ Aerospace/Roland Berga.