samedi 23 avril 2011

Ariane 5 delivers a record performance with two payloads for new Arianespace customers







Arianespace Logo labelled

April 22, 2011 – Ariane Flight VA201


A heavy-lift Ariane 5 successfully orbited two satellite payloads today that will supply telecommunications services for two new customers who join the growing list of Arianespace commercial launch services users.

n a flight conducted from the Spaceport in French Guiana, the Ariane 5 deployed Yahsat Y1A, the first satellite to be operated by the United Arab Emirates’ Al Yah Satellite Communications Company; along with Intelsat New Dawn, which was built for the new joint venture of Intelsat and Convergence Partners.

Adding to this mission’s milestones was the lift performance record for Ariane 5: delivering a total mass of 10,050 kg. to geostationary transfer orbit, of which 8,956 kg. was the combined weight of its two satellite payloads.


Ariane 5 lifts off from the Spaceport carrying a record payload mass with its Yahsat Y1A and Intelsat New Dawn satellite passengers.

Lifting off on time at 6:37 p.m. in French Guiana, the Ariane 5 climbed through a partial cloud cover at sunset, and continued its downrange flight in clear skies.  This allowed a direct view of the separation for Ariane 5’s two solid propellant boosters at an altitude of 66.5 kilometers, followed by the payload fairing’s jettison at a 105-kilometer altitude.

It marked another of Ariane 5’s highly accurate flights, with the following estimated orbital parameters at the injection of its cryogenic upper stage:
- Perigee: 249.8 km. for a target of 249.7 km.
- Apogee: 35,975 km. for a target of 35,956 km.
- Inclination:  5.98 deg. for a target of 6.00 deg.

For tonight’s mission, Yahsat Y1A was positioned in the upper passenger slot of Ariane 5’s dual-payload “stack,” and was released at 27 minutes into the flight.  This spacecraft was built by Astrium based on the Eurostar E3000 platform, while its Ku-band and C-band communications payload was supplied by Thales Alenia Space.

Yahsat Y1A will have a coverage footprint spanning the Middle East, Africa, and Southwest Asia, creating regionally-focused capacity to meet the region’s expanding requirements for government, commercial and consumer satellite communication services.  Operating from an orbital slot of 52.5 deg. East, it will support Abu Dhabi’s ambition to become a hub for media broadcasting and telecommunications services – enabling customers from Europe and South Asia to connect with customers across the entire coverage area.

Intelsat New Dawn – which was deployed from Ariane 5’s lower payload position at 35 minutes into tonight’s flight – is owned by a joint venture of Intelsat and a consortium led by Convergence Partners. This satellite’s C-band and Ku-band transponders are to support the communications infrastructure for African customers who have experienced exceptional growth, and contribute to the region’s development.  It is tailored for voice, wireless backhaul, Internet and media applications services.


Built by Orbital Sciences Corporation using its STAR-2 platform, Intelsat New Dawn will be integrated with Intelsat’s global satellite fleet and stationed at the 32.8 deg. East orbital location.  It was the 52nd satellite launched by Arianespace for Intelsat, the world’s leading satellite operator.

Following today’s successful mission, Arianespace Chairman & CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall announced the date for its next Ariane 5 launch: a May 19 liftoff from the Spaceport with the ST-2 payload for ST-2 Satellite Ventures Pte Ltd., and the GSAT-8 spacecraft for the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Related links:

Al Yah Satellite Communications Company (Yahsat) : http://www.yahsat.ae/
EADS Astrium : http://www.astrium.eads.net/
Thales Alenia Space : http://www.thalesgroup.com/Markets/Space/Related_Activities/Thales_Alenia_Space/
Intelsat New Dawn : http://www.intelsatnewdawn.com/
Orbital Sciences Corporation : http://www.orbital.com/
Convergence Partners : http://www.convergencepartners.co.za/


For more information on this successful mission, see the Press release : http://www.arianespace.com/news-press-release/2011/4-22-2011-mission-success.asp

Read about this flight’s symbolic “boost” from South Africa’s Nelson Mandela : http://www.arianespace.com/news-mission-update/2011/790.asp

See the Arianespace launch kit for further details : http://www.arianespace.com/news-launch-kits/2006-2010-archive.asp

Images, Texts, Videos, Credits : Arianespace/YouTube.

Best regards,
Orbiter,.ch

vendredi 22 avril 2011

Advanced Land Observing Satellite 'DAICHI' (ALOS) Power Generation Anomaly








ALOS logo labeled.

April 22, 2011 (JST)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been operating the Advanced Land Observing Satellite "DAICHI" (ALOS) exceeding its design life of three years, and even after its target life of five years. However, at around 7:30 a.m. on April 22 (JST), we found that the satellite shifted its operation mode to the low load mode (*1), and all the onboard observation devices were turned off due to power generation precipitation. The anomaly was detected through relayed data via the Data Relay Test Satellite "KODAMA."

Since then, the power generation has been rapidly deteriorating, and we currently cannot confirm power generation.

 ALOS satellite description

The DAICHI was launched on January 24, 2006. JAXA is investigating the cause of this phenomenon while taking necessary measures.

*1: Low generation mode: the mode to save power consumption to maintain the minimum function of the satellite.

ALOS in orbit (Artist's view)

Mission website:

Advanced Land Observing Satellite "DAICHI" (ALOS): http://www.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/alos/index_e.html

Images, Text, Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) / ESA.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

LHC sets world record beam intensity












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

22 Apr 2011

  A screenshot of 'LHC Page One' — which displays the status of the accelerator

Around midnight this night CERN's Large Hadron Collider set a new world record for beam intensity at a hadron collider when it collided beams with a luminosity of 4.67 × 1032cm-2s-1. This exceeds the previous world record of 4.024 × 1032cm-2s-1, which was set by the US Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory’s Tevatron collider in 2010, and marks an important milestone in LHC commissioning.

“Beam intensity is key to the success of the LHC, so this is a very important step,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “Higher intensity means more data, and more data means greater discovery potential.”

Luminosity gives a measure of how many collisions are happening in a particle accelerator: the higher the luminosity, the more particles are likely to collide. When looking for rare processes, this is important. Higgs particles, for example, will be produced very rarely if they exist at all, so for a conclusive discovery or refutation of their existence, a large amount of data is required.

The current LHC run is scheduled to continue to the end of 2012. That will give the experiments time to collect enough data to fully explore the energy range accessible with 3.5 TeV per beam collisions for new physics before preparing the LHC for higher energy running. By the end of the current running period, for example, we should know whether the Higgs boson exists or not.

“There’s a great deal of excitement at CERN today,” said CERN’s Director for Research and Scientific Computing, Sergio Bertolucci, “and a tangible feeling that we’re on the threshold of new discovery.”

After two weeks of preparing the LHC for this new level of beam intensity, the machine is now moving in to a phase of continuous physics running scheduled to last until the end of the year. There will then be a short technical stop, before physics running resumes for 2012.

Note:

1. CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is the world's leading laboratory for particle physics. It has its headquarters in Geneva. At present, its Member States are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United States of America, Turkey, the European Commission and UNESCO have Observer status.

Images, Text, Credit: CERN.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 21 avril 2011

Cassini Probe Sees Electric Link With Saturn And One Of Its Moons









NASA - Cassini Insider's Mission logo.

April 21, 2011

NASA is releasing the first images and sounds of an electrical connection between Saturn and one of its moons. The data collected by the agency's Cassini spacecraft enable scientists to improve their understanding of the complex web of interaction between the planet and its numerous moons. The results of the data analysis are published in the journals Nature and Geophysical Research Letters.

Scientists previously theorized an electrical circuit should exist at Saturn. After analyzing data that Cassini collected in 2008, scientists saw a glowing patch of ultraviolet light emissions near Saturn's north pole that marked the presence of a circuit, even though the moon is 150,000 miles (240,000 kilometers) away from the planet.


This artist's concept shows a glowing patch of ultraviolet light near Saturn's north pole that occurs at the "footprint" of the magnetic connection between Saturn and its moon Enceladus. Image credit: NASA / JPL / JHUAPL / University of Colorado / Central Arizona College / SSI.

The patch occurs at the end of a magnetic field line connecting Saturn and its moon Enceladus. The area, known as an auroral footprint, is the spot where energetic electrons dive into the planet's atmosphere, following magnetic field lines that arc between the planet's north and south polar regions.

video
Hiss from Aurora Caused by Enceladus

"The footprint discovery at Saturn is one of the most important fields and particle revelations from Cassini and ultimately may help us understand Saturn's strange magnetic field," said Marcia Burton, a Cassini fields and particles scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It gives us the first visual connection between Saturn and one of its moons."

The auroral footprint measures approximately 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) by less than 250 miles (400 kilometers), covering an area comparable to California or Sweden. At its brightest, the footprint shone with an ultraviolet light intensity far less than Saturn's polar auroral rings, but comparable to the faintest aurora visible at Earth without a telescope in the visible light spectrum. Scientists have not found a matching footprint at the southern end of the magnetic field line.


Image above: NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted a glowing patch of ultraviolet light near Saturn's north pole that marks the presence of an electrical circuit that connects Saturn with its moon Enceladus. Image credit: NASA / JPL / University of Colorado / Central Arizona College.

"Cassini fields and particles instruments found particle beams aligned with Saturn's magnetic field near Enceladus, and scientists started asking if we could see an expected ultraviolet spot at the end of the magnetic field line on Saturn," said Wayne Pryor, a lead author of the Nature study released today, and Cassini co-investigator at Central Arizona College in Coolidge, Ariz. "We were delighted to find the glow close to the 'bulls-eye' at the center of our target."

Jupiter's active moon Io creates glowing footprints near Jupiter's north and south poles, so scientists suspected there was an analogous electrical connection between Saturn and Enceladus. It is the only known active moon in the Saturn system with jets spraying water vapor and organic particles into space. For years, scientists used space telescopes to search Saturn's poles for footprints, but none were found.

In 2008, Cassini detected a beam of energetic protons near Enceladus aligned with the magnetic field and field-aligned electron beams. A team of scientists analyzed the data and concluded the electron beams had sufficient energy flux to generate a detectable level of auroral emission at Saturn. A few weeks later, Cassini captured images of an auroral footprint in Saturn's northern hemisphere. In 2009, a group of Cassini scientists led by Donald Gurnett at the University of Iowa in Iowa City detected more complementary signals near Enceladus consistent with currents that travel from the moon to the top of Saturn's atmosphere, including a hiss-like sound from the magnetic connection. That paper was published in March in Geophysical Research Letters.

video
Saturn and Enceladus Electrical Link

The water cloud above the Enceladus jets produces a massive, ionized "plasma" cloud through its interactions with the magnetic bubble around Saturn. This cloud disturbs the magnetic field lines. The footprint appears to flicker in these new data, so the rate at which Enceladus is spewing particles may vary.

"The new data are adding fuel to the fire of some long-standing debates about this active little moon," said Abigail Rymer, the other lead author of the Nature study and a Cassini team scientist based at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "Scientists have been wondering whether the venting rate is variable, and these new data suggest that it is."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more informations about Cassini, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini

Images (mentioned), Videos, Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / University of Colorado / Central Arizona College / SSI.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

PSLV-C16 / RESOURCESAT-2 Mission to be launched












ISRO logo.

April 21, 2011

The Launch Authorisation Board (LAB) for PSLV-C16/RESOURCESAT-2 mission, which met on April 16, 2011 at Satish Dhawan Space Centre - SHAR, Sriharikota has cleared the launch of PSLV-C16 at 10:12 hrs (IST) on Wednesday, April 20, 2011.

PSLV-C16/RESOURCESAT-2 launch

LAB reviewed the readiness of the launch vehicle, spacecraft systems and ground stations and has authorised the commencement of the 54 hour Count Down during the early hours of April 18, 2011.

During the Count Down, propellant-filling operations of the liquid propellant second stage (PS2) and fourth stage (PS4) of the launch vehicle will be carried out. Mandatory checks on the launch vehicle and spacecraft - including charging of batteries and pressurisation of propellant tanks will be performed. Readiness of launch infrastructure such as tracking radar systems and communication networks will also be checked.

video

PSLV-C16 will launch RESOURCESAT-2, YOUTHSAT and X-SAT satellites. RESOURCESAT-2 built by ISRO - the primary satellite is an advanced remote sensing satellite weighing 1206 kg for facilitating the study and management of natural resources. YOUTHSAT weighing 92 kg is a joint Indo-Russian satellite for stellar and atmospheric studies. X-SAT weighing 106 kg is a microsatellite for imaging applications built by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore.

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ISRO / ANI.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA Spacecraft Reveals Dramatic Changes In Mars' Atmosphere












NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

April 21, 2011

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) has discovered the total amount of atmosphere on Mars changes dramatically as the tilt of the planet's axis varies. This process can affect the stability of liquid water if it exists on the Martian surface and increase the frequency and severity of Martian dust storms.

Researchers using MRO's ground-penetrating radar identified a large, buried deposit of frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice, at the Red Planet's south pole. The scientists suspect that much of this carbon dioxide enters the planet's atmosphere and swells the atmosphere's mass when Mars' tilt increases. The findings are published in a report in the journal Science.

Mars atmosphere

The newly found deposit has a volume similar to Lake Superior's nearly 3,000 cubic miles. The deposit holds up to 80 percent as much carbon dioxide as today's Martian atmosphere. Collapse pits caused by dry ice sublimation and other clues suggest the deposit is in a dissipating phase, adding gas to the atmosphere each year. Mars' atmosphere is about 95 percent carbon dioxide, in contrast to Earth's much thicker atmosphere, which is less than .04 percent carbon dioxide.

"We already knew there is a small perennial cap of carbon-dioxide ice on top of the water ice there, but this buried deposit has about 30 times more dry ice than previously estimated," said Roger Phillips of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. Phillips is deputy team leader for MRO's Shallow Radar instrument and lead author of the report.


"We identified the deposit as dry ice by determining the radar signature fit the radio-wave transmission characteristics of frozen carbon dioxide far better than the characteristics of frozen water," said Roberto Seu of Sapienza University of Rome, team leader for the Shallow Radar and a co-author of the new report.

Additional evidence came from correlating the deposit to visible sublimation features typical of dry ice.

"When you include this buried deposit, Martian carbon dioxide right now is roughly half frozen and half in the atmosphere, but at other times it can be nearly all frozen or nearly all in the atmosphere," Phillips said.

MRO orbits

An occasional increase in the atmosphere would strengthen winds, lofting more dust and leading to more frequent and more intense dust storms. Another result is an expanded area on the planet's surface where liquid water could persist without boiling. Modeling based on known variation in the tilt of Mars' axis suggests several-fold changes in the total mass of the planet's atmosphere can happen on time frames of 100,000 years or less.

The changes in atmospheric density caused by the carbon-dioxide increase also would amplify some effects of the changes caused by the tilt. Researchers plugged the mass of the buried carbon-dioxide deposit into climate models for the period when Mars' tilt and orbital properties maximize the amount of summer sunshine hitting the south pole. They found at such times, global, year-round average air pressure is approximately 75 percent greater than the current level.

Artist's view of MRO in orbit

"A tilted Mars with a thicker carbon-dioxide atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect that tries to warm the Martian surface, while thicker and longer-lived polar ice caps try to cool it," said co-author Robert Haberle, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Our simulations show the polar caps cool more than the greenhouse warms. Unlike Earth, which has a thick, moist atmosphere that produces a strong greenhouse effect, Mars' atmosphere is too thin and dry to produce as strong a greenhouse effect as Earth's, even when you double its carbon-dioxide content."

The Shallow Radar, one of MRO's six instruments, was provided by the Italian Space Agency and its operations are led by the Department of Information Engineering, Electronics and Telecommunications at Sapienza University of Rome. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the MRO project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems in Denver built the spacecraft.

For more information about MRO, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mro

Images, Text, Credits: NASA / JPL.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 20 avril 2011

A galactic rose highlights Hubble's 21st anniversary












ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

20 April 2011

A rose made of galaxies

In celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope’s deployment into space, astronomers pointed Hubble at an especially photogenic group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273.

This image, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows a group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273. The larger of the spiral galaxies, known as UGC 1810, has a disc that is tidally distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational pull of the companion galaxy below it, known as UGC 1813. The swathe of blue jewels across the top is the combined light from clusters of intensely bright and hot young blue stars. These massive stars glow fiercely in ultraviolet light.

The smaller, nearly edge-on companion shows distinct signs of intense star formation at its nucleus, perhaps triggered by the encounter with the companion galaxy.

A series of uncommon spiral patterns in the large galaxy are a telltale sign of interaction. The large, outer arm appears partially as a ring, a feature that is seen when interacting galaxies actually pass through one another. This suggests that the smaller companion actually dived deeply, but off-centre, through UGC 1810. The inner set of spiral arms is highly warped out of the plane, with one of the arms going behind the bulge and coming back out the other side. How these two spiral patterns connect is still not precisely known.

video
Zoom into Arp 273 
 
A possible mini-spiral may be visible in the spiral arms of UGC 1810 to the upper right. It is noticeable how the outermost spiral arm changes character as it passes this third galaxy, from smooth with lots of old stars (reddish in colour) on one side, to clumpy and extremely blue on the other. The fairly regular spacing of the blue star-forming knots fits with what is seen in the spiral arms of other galaxies and can be predicted from the known instabilities in the gas contained within the arm.

The larger galaxy in the UGC 1810–UGC 1813 pair has a mass that is about five times that of the smaller galaxy. In unequal pairs such as this, the relatively rapid passage of a companion galaxy produces the lopsided or asymmetric structure in the main spiral. Also in such encounters, the starburst activity typically begins earlier in the minor galaxy than in the major galaxy. These effects could be due to the fact that the smaller galaxies have consumed less of the gas present in their nucleus, from which new stars are born.

Arp 273 lies in the constellation Andromeda and is roughly 300 million light-years away from Earth. The image shows a tenuous tidal bridge of material between the two galaxies that are separated by tens of thousands of light-years from each other.

The interaction was imaged on 17 December 2010, with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3).

Hubble in orbit

This Hubble image is a composite of data taken with three separate filters on WFC3 that allow a broad range of wavelengths covering the ultraviolet, blue, and red portions of the spectrum.

Notes:

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

Links:

    * Images of Hubble: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/archive/category/spacecraft/

    * NASA press release: http://hubblesite.org/news/2011/11

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Credit: NASA / ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA).

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

A Disturbed Galactic Duo












ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

20 April 2011

The disturbed galactic duo NGC 3169 and NGC 3166

The galaxies in this cosmic pairing, captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, display some curious features, demonstrating that each member of the duo is close enough to feel the distorting gravitational influence of the other. The gravitational tug of war has warped the spiral shape of one galaxy, NGC 3169, and fragmented the dust lanes in its companion NGC 3166. Meanwhile, a third, smaller galaxy to the lower right, NGC 3165, has a front-row seat to the gravitational twisting and pulling of its bigger neighbours.

NGC 3169 and NGC 3166 in the constellation of Sextans

This galactic grouping, found about 70 million light-years away in the constellation Sextans (The Sextant), was discovered by the English astronomer William Herschel in 1783. Modern astronomers have gauged the distance between NGC 3169 (left) and NGC 3166 (right) as a mere 50 000 light-years, a separation that is only about half the diameter of the Milky Way galaxy. In such tight quarters, gravity can start to play havoc with galactic structure.

Wide-field view of the sky around NGC 3169 and NGC 3166

Spiral galaxies like NGC 3169 and NGC 3166 tend to have orderly swirls of stars and dust pinwheeling about their glowing centres. Close encounters with other massive objects can jumble this classic configuration, often serving as a disfiguring prelude to the merging of galaxies into one larger galaxy. So far, the interactions of NGC 3169 and NGC 3166 have just lent a bit of character. NGC 3169’s arms, shining bright with big, young, blue stars, have been teased apart, and lots of luminous gas has been drawn out from its disc. In NGC 3166’s case, the dust lanes that also usually outline spiral arms are in disarray. Unlike its bluer counterpart, NGC 3166 is not forming many new stars.

Supernova 2003cg in the galaxy NGC 3169

NGC 3169 has another distinction: the faint yellow dot beaming through a veil of dark dust just to the left of and close to the galaxy’s centre [1]. This flash is the leftover of a supernova detected in 2003 and known accordingly as SN 2003cg. A supernova of this variety, classified as a Type Ia, is thought to occur when a dense, hot star called a white dwarf — a remnant of medium-sized stars like our Sun — gravitationally sucks gas away from a nearby companion star. This added fuel eventually causes the whole star to explode in a runaway fusion reaction.

video
Zooming in on the disturbed galactic duo NGC 3169 and NGC 3166
 
The new image presented here of a remarkable galactic dynamic duo is based on data selected by Igor Chekalin for ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 astrophotography competition. Chekalin won the first overall prize and this image received the second highest ranking of the nearly 100 contest entries [2].

Notes:

[1] Other much more noticeable points of light, such as the one toward the left end of the spiral arm running underneath of NGC 3169’s core, are stars within the Milky Way that happen to fall by chance very close to the line of sight between our telescopes and the galaxies.

[2] ESO’s Hidden Treasures 2010 competition gave amateur astronomers the opportunity to search through ESO’s vast archives of astronomical data, hoping to find a well-hidden gem that needed polishing by the entrants. To find out more about Hidden Treasures, visit http://www.eso.org/public/outreach/hiddentreasures/.
More information

ESO, the European Southern Observatory, is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive astronomical observatory. It is supported by 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and VISTA, the world’s largest survey telescope. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning a 42-metre European Extremely Large optical/near-infrared Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Links:

    * Photos of La Silla Observatory: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/category/lasilla/

    * The MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope: http://www.eso.org/public/images/esopia00046teles/

Images, Text, Credit: ESO / Igor Chekalin / IAU and Sky & Telescope / Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin / Video: ESO/A. Fujii/Digitized Sky Survey 2/Igor Chekalin. Music: John Dyson (from the album Moonwind).

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Preliminary results of the initial analysis of particles brought back by Hayabusa











JAXA - Hayabusa Mission patch.

March 19, 2011 (JST).

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has been engaged in collecting and categorizing particles in the sampler container (*1), which was brought back by the instrumental module of the asteroid exploration spacecraft "Hayabusa."

As a part of that, JAXA is conducting an initial analysis (*2) of the particles identified as rocky using the scanning electron microscope (SEM) observations among the particles collected from sample catcher compartment "A". We would like to announce that some of the results of the initial analysis were presented at the 42nd Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) held in the USA. Please see the attachments for the brief summary.

*1 The Hayabusa sample container consists of 2 compartments that are called Sample Catcher A and B.
*2 "Initial analysis" means the analysis of typical particles to obtain information necessary for categorizing (identification, classification and numbering) as a part of curation activity (*3).
*3 "Curation activity" means the retrieval of particles, preservation, categorizing and allocation and their necessary analysis.

Attachment 1: Program of "SPECIAL SESSION: RESULTS FROM HAYABUSA!" in LPSC (PDF:340KB): http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2011/03/20110311_hayabusa_e.pdf

Attachment 2: Summary of the preliminary results of the initial analysis

The initial analysis of particles (about 50 grains) collected from the instrumental module of "Hayabusa", which commenced in late January, has revealed the following facts.

   1. According to results from the analyses of 3D tomography, major element compositions, and oxygen isotope ratios, material scientific properties of the particles (0.03 - 0.1 mm) identified as rocky are consistent with those of a specific kind of stony meteorite.
   2. The evidence of space weathering effects and the result from the noble gas analysis have revealed that the particles originated at the surface of Itokawa.
   3. There are several minerals in most rocky particles, and they have complex 3-dimensional textures (see the following image for an example).
   4. No organic matter has been identified so far.


Example of the rocky particle (image obtained by the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)


Example of the X-ray CT image (left) and the bird's eye view image (right) obtained at the synchrotron radiation facility SPring-8.
(Provided by Prof. Akira Tsuchiyama (Osaka Univ.)


Mission website:

Asteroid Explorer "HAYABUSA" (MUSES-C): http://www.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/muses_c/index_e.html

Images, Text, Credit: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Last Shuttle ride to ISS for ESA astronaut with ‘dark matter’ hunter













NASA - STS-134 Mission patch / AMS-02 Mission patch.

19 April 2011

ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori and the five other astronauts of the STS-134 mission will be launched to the International Space Station on Space Shuttle Endeavour on 29 April to deliver a pioneering scientific experiment.

This penultimate flight of NASA’s spaceplane will deliver an instrument designed to track elusive antimatter and ‘dark matter’ in the Universe.

Liftoff on the 14-day STS-134 mission is scheduled for 19:47 GMT (21:47 CEST), with the docking to the International Space Station (ISS) due two days later, on 1 May.

Roberto Vittori in his space suit

The last European to fly on a Shuttle, Roberto Vittori will be the first ESA astronaut to make a third visit to the ISS. It will also be his first flight on the Shuttle. On his two previous missions, in 2002 and 2005, he travelled on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Arriving at the ISS, he will meet another Italian ESA astronaut, Paolo Nespoli, who has been aboard since 17 December.

On her last flight before retirement, Endeavour will carry a highly sophisticated European fundamental physics experiment. Mounted on the Station’s main truss, the AMS-02 alpha magnetic spectrometer will probe the little-explored realm of high-energy cosmic rays to look for signs of antimatter and the mysterious dark matter.

Roberto Vittori and Andrew Feustel

Antimatter is believed to have been created on a par with normal matter but it seems to have disappeared from the Universe we know today. Dark matter is estimated to account for around 90% of our Universe’s mass but it has not been detected directly so far. This dark matter element is reflected in the name ‘DAMA’ of Roberto Vittori’s mission.

The AMS-02 observations could be of paramount importance for understanding the origin, nature and evolution of the Universe.

Endeavour on the Launch Pad 39A

STS-134 marks the end of ESA’s participation in Space Shuttle missions, which started in November 1981 with the first flight of Europe’s Spacelab pallet on the second launch of Columbia. Over three decades, ESA astronauts will have flown on 26 missions and, counting payloads, hardware and experiments, Europe will have been involved in 86 missions by the time of the Shuttle’s final venture, STS-135, in June.

Beginning with the Spacelab agreement in 1973, this historical and close partnership with NASA will live on through the ISS and future international human spaceflight ventures.

Roberto Vittori and Michael Fincke in the' White Room'

This last Shuttle flight of an ESA astronaut will not mean the end of ESA’s presence on the Station, which will continue at least through 2020. Two ESA astronauts are training for future 6-month missions on the orbital outpost: André Kuipers will be launched in November this year and Luca Parmitano in December 2013, both in Soyuz spacecraft.

Covering the launch:

ESA TV is providing extensive coverage of this penultimate Shuttle mission. Several stories are available on ESA TV’s FTP server and transmitted via satellite on the Europe by Satellite (EbS) service.

ESA TV will relay NASA TV live via satellite for broadcasters in Europe from the Kennedy Space Center before launch, in addition to providing the latest images of the Shuttle on the pad and interviews on location. ESA TV will also relay NASA TV daily highlights throughout the mission.

Details will be given and updated on the ESA TV website, at http://television.esa.int.

The latest high-resolution images can be found by registering on ESA’s Photo Library for Professionals, at http://www.esa-photolibrary.com.

Questions on images for media can be directed to esa.photolibrary@esa.int.

Realated link:

AMS-02 homepage: http://www.ams02.org/

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / NASA.

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