samedi 26 mai 2012

M101: A Pinwheel in Many Colors











NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

May 25, 2012


This image of the Pinwheel Galaxy, or also known as M101, combines data in the infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-rays from four of NASA's space-based telescopes. This multi-spectral view shows that both young and old stars are evenly distributed along M101's tightly-wound spiral arms. Such composite images allow astronomers to see how features in one part of the spectrum match up with those seen in other parts. It is like seeing with a regular camera, an ultraviolet camera, night-vision goggles and X-ray vision, all at the same time.

The Pinwheel Galaxy is in the constellation of Ursa Major (also known as the Big Dipper). It is about 70 percent larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy, with a diameter of about 170,000 light years, and sits at a distance of 21 million light years from Earth. This means that the light we're seeing in this image left the Pinwheel Galaxy about 21 million years ago - many millions of years before humans ever walked the Earth.

The hottest and most energetic areas in this composite image are shown in purple, where the Chandra X-ray Observatory observed the X-ray emission from exploded stars, million-degree gas, and material colliding around black holes.

The red colors in the image show infrared light, as seen by the Spitzer Space Telescope. These areas show the heat emitted by dusty lanes in the galaxy, where stars are forming.

The yellow component is visible light, observed by the Hubble Space Telescope. Most of this light comes from stars, and they trace the same spiral structure as the dust lanes seen in the infrared.

The blue areas are ultraviolet light, given out by hot, young stars that formed about one million years ago, captured by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX).

For more information about Chandra X-ray Observatory, visit: http://chandra.harvard.edu/index.html

Image, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; IR & UV: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Optical: NASA/STScI.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

vendredi 25 mai 2012

Spacex Dragon Attached To Space Station In Spaceflight First












NASA / SpaceX Dragon Cost Demo-2 patch.

May 25, 2012

The International Space Station's Expedition 31 crew grappled and attached SpaceX's Dragon capsule to the space station Friday. This is the first time a commercial company has accomplished this type of space operation.


Image above: The Dragon commercial space ferry seen from the International Space Station during a demonstration of its manoeuvring capabilities on 24 May 2012.

"Today marks another critical step in the future of American spaceflight," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Now that a U.S. company has proven its ability to resupply the space station, it opens a new frontier for commercial opportunities in space -- and new job creation opportunities right here in the U.S. By handing off space station transportation to the private sector, NASA is freed up to carry out the really hard work of sending astronauts farther into the solar system than ever before. The Obama Administration has set us on an ambitious path forward and the NASA and SpaceX teams are proving they are up to the task."

video
Station Crew Video of the Dragon Grapple and Berthing

Statement from John P. Holdren, assistant to the President for science and technology policy: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2012/may/HQ_12-173_Holdren_Statement_on_Berth.html

Blog post from NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden on the SpaceX launch: http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/bolden/posts/post_1337631161687.html

Following a series of system tests and a successful fly-under of the space station Thursday, the Dragon capsule was cleared by NASA to approach the station Friday. Dragon then performed a series of intricate test maneuvers as it approached the orbiting laboratory. These maneuvers were required to demonstrate the maneuvering and abort capability of Dragon prior to approaching and moving into a 65-foot (20-meter) "berthing box" where it was grappled by NASA astronaut Don Pettit using the station's robotic arm at 9:56 a.m. EDT.

European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers installed the capsule on the bottom of the station's Harmony node at 11:52 a.m. NASA astronaut Joe Acaba completed berthing operations by bolting the Dragon to Harmony at 12:02 p.m.


Image above: The robotic workstation in Europe’s Cupola observatory module on the International Space Station. ESA astronaut André Kuipers and NASA astronaut Don Pettit flew the Station’s robotic arm to grab and dock the first commercial space ferry Dragon on 25 May 2012.

"Congratulations to the SpaceX and NASA teams," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "There is no limit to what can be accomplished with hard work and preparation. This activity will help the space station reach its full research potential and open up space-based research to a larger group of researchers. There is still critical work left in this test flight. Dragon-attached operations and cargo return are challenging and yet to be accomplished."

The Dragon capsule lifted off Tuesday from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The demonstration mission is the second under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, which provides investments intended to lead to regular resupply missions to the space station and stimulate the commercial space industry in America.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule is berthed to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA TV

"The investments made by the United States to stimulate the commercial space industry are paying off," said Philip McAlister, director for Commercial Spaceflight Development at NASA Headquarters. "SpaceX achieved what until now was only possible by a few governments, and the company did it with relatively modest funding from the government.

The Dragon capsule is delivering 1,014 pounds of supplies to the station, which includes non-critical experiments, food, clothing and technology. Crew members will open the hatch to the capsule Saturday and unload the cargo during a four-day period. Dragon then will be loaded with 1,367 pounds of hardware and cargo no longer needed aboard the station in preparation for the spacecraft's return to Earth. Dragon and station hatches will be closed on May 30.

On May 31, the Expedition 31 crew members will detach Dragon from Harmony, maneuver it to a 33-foot release point and un-grapple the capsule. Dragon will deorbit approximately four hours after leaving the station, taking about 30 minutes to re-enter Earth's atmosphere and landing in the Pacific Ocean about 250 miles west of southern California.

For up-to-date SpaceX mission information and a schedule of NASA Television coverage, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spacex

For more information about the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station

For more information about NASA's commercial space programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA / NASA TV / SpaceX.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 24 mai 2012

NASA Funded Research Shows Existence Of Reduced Carbon On Mars









Exo-Geology - Exo-Biology logo.

May 24, 2012

NASA-funded research on Mars meteorites that landed on Earth shows strong evidence that very large molecules containing carbon, which is a key ingredient for the building blocks of life, can originate on the Red Planet. These macromolecules are not of biological origin, but they are indicators that complex carbon chemistry has taken place on Mars.

Researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington who found reduced carbon molecules now have better insight into the chemical processes taking place on Mars. Reduced carbon is carbon that is bonded to hydrogen or itself. Their findings also may assist in future quests for evidence of life on the Red Planet. The findings are published in Thursday's online edition of Science Express.

"These findings show that the storage of reduced carbon molecules on Mars occurred throughout the planet's history and might have been similar to processes that occurred on the ancient Earth," said Andrew Steele, lead author of the paper and researcher from Carnegie. "Understanding the genesis of these non-biological, carbon-containing macromolecules on Mars is crucial for developing future missions to detect evidence of life on our neighboring planet."

Finding molecules containing large chains of carbon and hydrogen has been one objective of past and present Mars missions. Such molecules have been found previously in Mars meteorites, but scientists have disagreed about how the carbon in them was formed and whether it came from Mars. This new information proves Mars can produce organic carbon.

Carbon Compounds from Mars Found Inside Meteorites

Image above: This 4.5 billion-year-old rock, labeled meteorite ALH84001, is one of 10 rocks from Mars in which researchers have found organic carbon compounds that originated on Mars without involvement of life. Organic carbon compounds are chemical ingredients for life, but can be created by non-biological processes as well as by biological processes. The report of finding Martian organic carbon in this and nine other meteorites was published in May 2012. The rock is about 3.5 inches (9 centimeters) across.

"Although this study has not yielded evidence that Mars has or once may have supported life, it does address some important questions about the sources of organic carbon on Mars," said Mary Voytek, director of NASA's Astrobiology Program at the agency's Headquarters in Washington. "With the Curiosity rover scheduled to land in August, these new research results may help Mars Science Laboratory scientists fine-tune their investigations on the surface of the planet by understanding where organic carbon may be found and how it is preserved."

Scientists have theorized that the large carbon macromolecules detected on Martian meteorites could have originated from terrestrial contamination from Earth or other meteorites, or chemical reactions or biological activity on Mars.

Steele's team examined samples from 11 Martian meteorites from a period spanning about 4.2 billion years of Martian history. They detected large carbon compounds in 10 of them. The molecules were found inside grains of crystallized minerals.

Using an array of sophisticated research techniques, the team was able to show that at least some of the macromolecules of carbon were indigenous to the meteorites themselves and not contamination from Earth.

The team next looked at the carbon molecules in relation to other minerals in the meteorites to see what kinds of chemical processing these samples endured before arriving on Earth. The crystalline grains encasing the carbon compounds provided a window into how the carbon molecules were created. Their findings indicate that the carbon was created by volcanic activity on Mars and show that Mars has been doing organic chemistry for most of its history.

In a separate paper published by American Mineralogist, Steele and his team report their findings on the same meteorite announced in 1996 to contain possible -- but subsequently discounted -- relics of ancient biological life on Mars. Called ALH84001, the meteorite was found to also contain organic macromolecules of non-biological origin.

The Steele team's research indicates that Mars does have a pool of reduced carbon. Their findings should help scientists involved in current and future Mars missions distinguish non-biologically formed carbon molecules from potential life.

For an image and more information about the meteorite, visit: http://1.usa.gov/mars052412

Image, Text,  Credit: NASA / JSC / Stanford University.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

The solar aircraft Solar Impulse good way to Madrid









SolarImpulse Flight to Morocco patch.

May 24, 2012

The first intercontinental flight of Solar Impulse took place without incident Thursday. Party at 8:24 Payerne (VD), the solar airplane has crossed the Pyrenees in the late afternoon. He had to reach Madrid overnight for a technical stop.

The vehicle driven by solar energy is driven by Andre Borschberg, commercial pilot and co-founder of the project with Bertrand Piccard. The aircraft took off from the airport with Broyard 1:20 behind the scheduled time, due to fog. But then largely caught up and he was ahead of his flight plan in the early evening.


Image above: Pilot Andre Borschberg walks to the Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse before takeoff in Payerne. The Swiss sun-powered aircraft Solar Impulse took off for Morocco on its first intercontinental flight attempt without using a drop of fuel.

The solar plane would have to wait in the area of ​​Torrejon the end of the traditional traffic on Madrid airport Barrajas. It could well run for nearly three hours at 3600 meters before the green light to land Friday at 2:00 as originally planned.

A 9000 meters

Solar Impulse began earlier this afternoon to rise gradually to reach 9000 meters, target altitude to cross the main barrier, the Pyrenees. The first part of the flight took place around 3000 meters to avoid resorting to oxygen, which is limited on board because of the weight.

SolarImpulse


Burkhalter was present on the tarmac Thursday morning Broyard. For Federal Councillor, this project is a symbol for the future, fueled by new technologies and new ideas.

Payerne, the aircraft flew towards Pontarlier, flying over the Jura, the Massif Central and Toulouse and Tarbes, around 17:00, at the foot of the Pyrenees.

To Rabat

It takes the first intercontinental flight of Solar Impulse Payerne in Rabat, Morocco, with a technical stop in Madrid. The second leg of the flight between the capital Rabat and Spanish will be held Monday at the earliest. Bertrand Piccard will be in charge.

Wingspan of SolarImpulse

Solar Impulse went to Morocco at the invitation of King Mohammed VI. The trip coincides with the start of construction in the region of Ouarzazate of the largest solar thermal plant ever conducted to date.

SolarImpulse Control Mission online: http://live.solarimpulse.com/

Images, Text, Credits: ATS / SolarImpulse / Translation: Orbiter.ch.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 23 mai 2012

Opportunity's Selfie











NASA - Mars Exploration Rover "Opportunity" (MER-B) patch.

May 23, 2012


NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity catches its own late-afternoon shadow in this dramatically lit view eastward across Endeavour Crater on Mars.

The rover used the panoramic camera (Pancam) between about 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. local Mars time to record images taken through different filters and combined into this mosaic view.

Most of the component images were recorded during the 2,888th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity's work on Mars (March 9, 2012). At that time, Opportunity was spending low-solar-energy weeks of the Martian winter at the Greeley Haven outcrop on the Cape York segment of Endeavour's western rim. In order to give the mosaic a rectangular aspect, some small parts of the edges of the mosaic and sky were filled in with parts of an image acquired earlier as part of a 360-degree panorama from the same location.

 Mars Exploration Rover

Opportunity has been studying the western rim of Endeavour Crater since arriving there in August 2011. This crater spans 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter, or about the same area as the city of Seattle. This is more than 20 times wider than Victoria Crater, the largest impact crater that Opportunity had previously examined. The interior basin of Endeavour is in the upper half of this view.

The mosaic combines about a dozen images taken through Pancam filters centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). The view is presented in false color to make some differences between materials easier to see, such as the dark sandy ripples and dunes on the crater's distant floor.

For more information about Mars Exploration Rover Mission, visit: http://marsrover.nasa.gov/home/index.html

Images, Text, Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell / Arizona State Univ.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mardi 22 mai 2012

SpaceX Launches NASA Demonstration Mission to Space Station












NASA / SpaceX - Cots Demo 2 patch.

May 22, 2012

 SpaceX ready for launch

The second demonstration mission for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program is under way as SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lifted off Tuesday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:44 a.m. EDT.

video
Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9

"I want to congratulate SpaceX for its successful launch and salute the NASA team that worked alongside them to make it happen," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Today marks the beginning of a new era in exploration; a private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time. And while there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are certainly off to good start. Under President Obama’s leadership, the nation is embarking upon an ambitious exploration program that will take us farther into space than we have ever traveled before, while helping create good-paying jobs right here in the United States of America."

The Dragon capsule will conduct a series of checkout procedures to test and prove its systems, including the capability to rendezvous and berth with the International Space Station. On Thursday, May 24, Dragon will perform a flyby of the space station at a distance of approximately 1.5 miles to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous and approach. Live NASA TV coverage beginning at 2:30 a.m.

Dragon capsule will be captured by ISS

Following analysis of the flyby by NASA and SpaceX managers, the Dragon capsule will be cleared to rendezvous and berth with the space station on Friday, May 25, marking the first time a commercial company has attempted this feat. The Expedition 31 crew on board the station will use the orbiting complex's robotic arm to capture Dragon and install it on the bottom side of the Harmony node. NASA TV will provide live coverage beginning at 2 a.m.

"This flight is an important milestone as NASA and SpaceX develop the next generation of U.S. spacecraft to carry the critically important experiments, payloads and supplies to our remarkable laboratory in space," said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA's Human Exploration Operations Directorate at the agency's Headquarters in Washington.

Dragon capsule capture and docking to ISS

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, which will perform its own test flight later this year, have been working under NASA's COTS program, which provides investments to stimulate the commercial space industry in America. Once the companies have successfully completed their test flights, they will begin delivering regular cargo shipments to the station.

"NASA is working with private industry in an unprecedented way, cultivating innovation on the path toward maintaining America's leadership in space exploration," said Philip McAlister, director for NASA's Commercial Spaceflight Development.

Dragon capsule description

In parallel to COTS, NASA's Commercial Crew Program is helping spur innovation and development of new spacecraft and launch vehicles from the commercial industry to develop safe, reliable and cost-effective capabilities to transport astronauts to low Earth orbit and the space station.

NASA also is developing the Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System (SLS), a crew capsule and heavy-lift rocket that will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Designed to be flexible for launching spacecraft for crew and cargo missions, SLS and Orion will expand human presence beyond low Earth orbit and enable new missions of exploration across the solar system.

For up-to-date SpaceX mission information and a schedule of NASA TV coverage, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spacex

For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv

For more information about NASA's commercial space programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial

For an interactive overview of NASA's commercial space programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/commercializingspace

For an interactive overview of the future of American human spaceflight, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/externalflash/human_space

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA / SpaceX.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

lundi 21 mai 2012

Cassini Spots Tiny Moon, Begins to Tilt Orbit












NASA / ESA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

May 21. 2012


This raw, unprocessed image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on May 20, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Methone. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI.

NASA's Cassini spacecraft made its closest approach to Saturn's tiny moon Methone as part of a trajectory that will take it on a close flyby of another of Saturn's moons, Titan. The Titan flyby will put the spacecraft in an orbit around Saturn that is inclined, or tilted, relative to the plane of the planet's equator. The flyby of Methone took place on May 20 at a distance of about 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometers). It was Cassini's closest flyby of the 2-mile-wide (3-kilometer-wide) moon. The best previous Cassini images were taken on June 8, 2005, at a distance of about 140,000 miles (225,000 kilometers), and they barely resolved this object.

Also on May 20, Cassini obtained images of Tethys, a larger Saturnian moon that is 660 miles (1,062 kilometers) across. The spacecraft flew by Tethys at a distance of about 34,000 miles (54,000 kilometers).


This raw, unprocessed image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on May 20, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Tethys at approximately 81,580 miles (131,290 kilometers) away. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI.

Cassini's encounter with Titan, Saturn's largest moon, on May 22, is the first of a sequence of flybys that will put the spacecraft into an inclined orbit. At closest approach, Cassini will fly within about 593 miles (955 kilometers) of the surface of the hazy Titan. The flyby will angle Cassini's path around Saturn by about 16 degrees out of the equatorial plane, which is the same plane in which Saturn's rings and most of its moons reside.

Cassini's onboard thrusters don't have the capability to place the spacecraft into orbits so inclined. But mission designers have planned trajectories that take advantage of the gravitational force exerted by Titan to boost Cassini into inclined orbits. Over the next few months, Cassini will use several flybys of Titan to change the angle of its inclination, building one on top of the other until Cassini is orbiting Saturn at around 62 degrees relative to the equatorial plane in 2013. Cassini hasn't flown in orbits this inclined since 2008, when it orbited at an angle of 74 degrees.


This raw, unprocessed image was taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft on May 20, 2012. The camera was pointing toward Tethys at approximately 37,196 miles (59,861 kilometers) away. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI.

This set of inclined orbits is expected to provide spectacular views of the rings and poles of Saturn. Further studies of Saturn's other moons will have to wait until around 2015, when Cassini returns to an equatorial orbit.

"Getting Cassini into these inclined orbits is going to require the same level of navigation accuracy that the team has delivered in the past, because each of these Titan flybys has to stay right on the money," said Robert Mitchell, Cassini program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "However, with nearly eight years of experience to rely on, there's no doubt about their ability to pull this off."


Saturn's moon Tethys orbits in front of the wide shadows cast by the rings onto the planet for this Cassini spacecraft view. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute.

Cassini discovered Methone and two other small moons, Pallene and Anthe, between the orbits of Mimas and Enceladus between 2004 and 2007. The three tiny moons, called the Alkyonides group, are embedded in Saturn's E ring, and their surfaces are sprayed by ice particles originating from the jets of water ice, water vapor and organic compounds emanating from the south polar area of Enceladus.

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

Tethys image gallery: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/gallery-indexTethys.html

For more information on the Cassini mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.esa.int/esaMI/Cassini-Huygens/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA / JPL / Jia-Rui C. Cook.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Proba-2 catches solar eclipse







ESA - PROBA-2 logo.

21 May 2012

video
 Proba-2 observes partial solar eclipse

Europe missed Sunday’s solar eclipse on the other side of the planet but ESA’s space weather microsatellite Proba-2 passed repeatedly through the Moon’s shadow.

As a result, four partial eclipses were observed from Proba-2 as it flew 700 km above Earth. The first contact was made on Sunday May 20 at 21:09 GMT. The last contact finished at 03:04 GMT.

The solar eclipse gives researchers at the Royal Observatory of Belgium the chance to check the health of Proba-2’s main SWAP instrument, which monitors the Sun in extreme ultraviolet light. The places where the lunar disc covers the Sun should show up as black at these wavelengths. 

Proba-2

Scattered light and instrument noise can render a pixel less black, however. The solar eclipse therefore helps to determine how well each pixel is performing.

Proba-2’s second Sun-watching instrument, LYRA – which measures solar output – gathered ‘extinction curves’ as the Moon gradually obscured the Sun. The signal became less intense during the eclipse as part of the solar radiation was blocked by the Moon.

Eclipse observed

But the decrease and subsequent increase are not symmetrical: stormier ‘active regions’ contribute the most to the signal and they are not spread uniformly across the solar disc.

Meanwhile, the microsatellite’s other two instruments surveyed the hole formed in the ionosphere, the electrically active topmost layers of Earth’s atmosphere, by the shadow of the eclipse.

Related links:

Proba-2: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Proba/index.html

Royal Observatory of Belgium: http://www.astro.oma.be/

ROB Proba-2 science centre: http://proba2.sidc.be/index.html/

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA / Pierre Carril / ROB.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch