vendredi 14 septembre 2012

LHC collides protons with lead ions for the first time












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

13 September 2012


Image above: Protons collide with lead nuclei, sending a shower of particles through the ALICE detector. The ATLAS, CMS and LHCb experiments also recorded collisions this morning (Image: ALICE/CERN).

At 1.26am today the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) collided protons with lead ions for the first time.

The switch to colliding different types of particle, rather than like with like, presents technical challenges. "First of all, the collisions are asymmetric in energy which presents a challenge for the experiments," says accelerator physicist and lead-ion team leader John Jowett.  "At the accelerator level we don’t really see the difference in particle size but the difference in the beam size and the fact that the beam sizes change at different rates may affect how they behave in collisions."

There are further challenges. The LHC usually accelerates two beams of protons in opposite directions – from 0.45 TeV to 4 TeV – before they collide at a total energy of 8 TeV. Radiofrequency (RF) cavities – accelerator components containing electromagnetic fields that kick particles forwards – provide the energy but also keep the two beams in strict synchrony, by kicking backwards when appropriate.

A problem arises because the separate rings for the two beams are contained within a single magnet – a system that ties the momentum of one beam to the momentum of the other, so a lead nucleus, containing 82 protons, is accelerated from 36.9 to 328 TeV, or from 0.18 to 1.58 TeV per proton or neutron.

To account for differences between protons and the heavy lead ions, the RF cavities need to be tuned to different frequencies for each beam. This keeps both particle types on stable central orbits inside their respective rings during injection and acceleration. Similar situations have caused instabilities in other colliders.


Image above: Radiofrequency cavities in the LHC tunnel had be retuned to accelerate protons and lead ions (Image: CERN).

 "The RF systems of the two rings can be locked together only at top energy before collisions, when the small speed difference that still remains can be absorbed by shifts of the orbits that are acceptably small," says Jowett. The beams then have to be further adjusted, again by the RF system, so that collisions take place inside detectors, where experiments take physics data.  Much detailed work has gone on behind the scenes to prepare LHC systems for this new operational cycle.

This week’s short run will give the experiments a first taste of proton-nucleus collisions before the main run in January to February 2013, the last LHC physics before the accelerator is shut down for maintenance. This will give the experiments vital data to benchmark the lead-lead collision data taken in 2010 and 2011 and also open up exploration of new physics topics.

Note:

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 20 Member States.

FIND OUT MORE:
    ALICE: http://aliceinfo.cern.ch/Public/Welcome.html

    ATLAS: http://atlas.ch/

    CMS: http://cms.web.cern.ch/

    LHCb: http://lhcb-public.web.cern.ch/lhcb-public/

Follow CERN on Twitter: http://twitter.com/cern/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: CERN.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

NASA Mars Rover Opportunity Reveals Geological Mystery











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

Sept. 14, 2012

NASA's long-lived rover Opportunity has returned an image of the Martian surface that is puzzling researchers.

Spherical objects concentrated at an outcrop Opportunity reached last week differ in several ways from iron-rich spherules nicknamed "blueberries" the rover found at its landing site in early 2004 and at many other locations to date.

Opportunity is investigating an outcrop called Kirkwood in the Cape York segment of the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The spheres measure as much as one-eighth of an inch (3 millimeters) in diameter. The analysis is still preliminary, but it indicates that these spheres do not have the high iron content of Martian blueberries.

Puzzling Little Martian Spheres That Don't Taste Like 'Blueberries'

Image above: Small spherical objects fill the field in this mosaic combining four images from the Microscopic Imager on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The view covers an area about 2.4 inches (6 centimeters) across, at an outcrop called "Kirkwood" in the Cape York segment of the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The individual spherules are up to about one-eighth inch (3 millimeters) in diameter. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./ USGS/Modesto Junior College.

"This is one of the most extraordinary pictures from the whole mission," said Opportunity's principal investigator, Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "Kirkwood is chock full of a dense accumulation of these small spherical objects. Of course, we immediately thought of the blueberries, but this is something different. We never have seen such a dense accumulation of spherules in a rock outcrop on Mars."

The Martian blueberries found elsewhere by Opportunity are concretions formed by action of mineral-laden water inside rocks, evidence of a wet environment on early Mars. Concretions result when minerals precipitate out of water to become hard masses inside sedimentary rocks. Many of the Kirkwood spheres are broken and eroded by the wind. Where wind has partially etched them away, a concentric structure is evident.

Opportunity used the microscopic imager on its arm to look closely at Kirkwood. Researchers checked the spheres' composition by using an instrument called the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer on Opportunity's arm.

"They seem to be crunchy on the outside, and softer in the middle," Squyres said. "They are different in concentration. They are different in structure. They are different in composition. They are different in distribution. So, we have a wonderful geological puzzle in front of us. We have multiple working hypotheses, and we have no favorite hypothesis at this time. It's going to take a while to work this out, so the thing to do now is keep an open mind and let the rocks do the talking."

Just past Kirkwood lies another science target area for Opportunity. The location is an extensive pale-toned outcrop in an area of Cape York where observations from orbit have detected signs of clay minerals. That may be the rover's next study site after Kirkwood. Four years ago, Opportunity departed Victoria Crater, which it had investigated for two years, to reach different types of geological evidence at the rim of the much larger Endeavour Crater.

The rover's energy levels are favorable for the investigations. Spring equinox comes this month to Mars' southern hemisphere, so the amount of sunshine for solar power will continue increasing for months.

Mars Exploration Rover B (MER-B) "Opportunity". Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

"The rover is in very good health considering its 8-1/2 years of hard work on the surface of Mars," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "Energy production levels are comparable to what they were a full Martian year ago, and we are looking forward to productive spring and summer seasons of exploration."

NASA launched the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity in the summer of 2003, and both completed their three-month prime missions in April 2004. They continued bonus, extended missions for years. Spirit finished communicating with Earth in March 2010. The rovers have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life.

JPL manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

To view the image of the area, visit: http://go.nasa.gov/Q92Rjn

For more information about Opportunity, visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers and http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov

You can follow the project on Twitter and on Facebook at: http://twitter.com/MarsRovers and http://www.facebook.com/mars.rovers

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / Dwayne Brown / JPL / Guy Webster / D.C. Agle.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

First Planets Found Around Sun-Like Stars in a Cluster













Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics logo / NASA logo.

Sept. 14, 2012

NASA-funded astronomers have, for the first time, spotted planets orbiting sun-like stars in a crowded cluster of stars. The findings offer the best evidence yet planets can sprout up in dense stellar environments. Although the newfound planets are not habitable, their skies would be starrier than what we see from Earth.


Image above: Astronomers have discovered two gas giant planets orbiting stars in the Beehive cluster, a collection of about 1,000 tightly packed stars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The starry-skied planets are two so-called hot Jupiters, which are massive, gaseous orbs that are boiling hot because they orbit tightly around their parent stars. Each hot Jupiter circles a different sun-like star in the Beehive Cluster, also called the Praesepe, a collection of roughly 1,000 stars that appear to be swarming around a common center.

The Beehive is an open cluster, or a grouping of stars born at about the same time and out of the same giant cloud of material. As such, the stars share a similar chemical composition. Unlike the majority of stars, which spread out shortly after birth, these young stars remain loosely bound together by mutual gravitational attraction.

"We are detecting more and more planets that can thrive in diverse and extreme environments like these nearby clusters," said Mario R. Perez, the NASA astrophysics program scientist in the Origins of Solar Systems Program. "Our galaxy contains more than 1,000 of these open clusters, which potentially can present the physical conditions for harboring many more of these giant planets."


This image of the Beehive star cluster points out the location of its first known planets, Pr0201b and Pr0211b, or, as astronomers call them, the first 'b's' in the Beehive. Image copyright: Stuart Heggie.

The two new Beehive planets are called Pr0201b and Pr0211b. The star's name followed by a "b" is the standard naming convention for planets.

"These are the first 'b's' in the Beehive," said Sam Quinn, a graduate student in astronomy at Georgia State University in Atlanta and the lead author of the paper describing the results, which was published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Quinn and his team, in collaboration with David Latham at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, discovered the planets by using the 1.5-meter Tillinghast telescope at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory in Arizona to measure the slight gravitational wobble the orbiting planets induce upon their host stars. Previous searches of clusters had turned up two planets around massive stars but none had been found around stars like our sun until now.

"This has been a big puzzle for planet hunters," Quinn said. "We know that most stars form in clustered environments like the Orion nebula, so unless this dense environment inhibits planet formation, at least some sun-like stars in open clusters should have planets. Now, we finally know they are indeed there."

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics Concord Ave.

The results also are of interest to theorists who are trying to understand how hot Jupiters wind up so close to their stars. Most theories contend these blistering worlds start out much cooler and farther from their stars before migrating inward.

"The relatively young age of the Beehive cluster makes these planets among the youngest known," said Russel White, the principal investigator on the NASA Origins of Solar Systems grant that funded this study. "And that's important because it sets a constraint on how quickly giant planets migrate inward. And knowing how quickly they migrate is the first step to figuring out how they migrate."

The research team suspects planets were turned up in the Beehive cluster because it is rich in metals. Stars in the Beehive have more heavy elements such as iron than the sun has.

According to White, "Searches for planets around nearby stars suggest that these metals act like a 'planet fertilizer,' leading to an abundant crop of gas-giant planets. Our results suggest this may be true in clusters as well."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages NASA's Exoplanet Exploration Program office. More information about exoplanets and NASA's planet-finding program is available at: http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov
 
Images, Text, Credit: NASA / The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics / Stuart Heggie.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Successful re-entry of H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI 3” (HTV3)












JAXA - H-II Transfer Vehicle “KOUNOTORI 3” (HTV3) patch.

September 14, 2012 (JST)

Successful re-entry of H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI 3" (HTV3) The H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI 3" (HTV3) successfully re-entered the atmosphere after the third de-orbit maneuver at 2:00 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (Japanese Standard Time, JST).

 The HTV3 was released from the station's robot arm at 2:00 p.m. on September 14, 2012

The estimated date/time for the re-entry and waterlanding are as follows (Japanese Standard Time):
Estimated re-entry*: September 14, 2012 / 2:27 p.m.
Estimated waterlanding: September 14, 2012 / 2:38 - 2:59 p.m.
* Altitude at 120 km

KOUNOTORI 3 (HTV3) reentered Earth’s atmosphere at 2:27 p.m. on September 14, over the east coast of New Zealand. KOUNOTORI 3 successfully completed its cargo supply mission to the ISS.

KOUNOTORI 3 (HTV3) reentry in the Earth’s atmosphere (Artist's view)

The "KOUNOTORI 3" has successfully accomplished the main objective of shipping cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), and completed its 56-day mission.

Reference link: For more details, please refer to the following website: http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/htv/

Comment by JAXA President:

Completion of the H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI 3" (HTV3) mission

Today we would like to announce that the H-II Transfer Vehicle "KOUNOTORI3" (HTV3) has successfully completed its mission encompassing a de-orbit maneuver, re-entry into the atmosphere, and safe splashdown to the expected ocean area.

Having successfully berthed to the International Space Station (ISS) on July 28, 2012, the "KOUNOTORI3" remained docked for approximately 45 days, while all of the internal and external cargo were transferred to the ISS. Subsequently, the "KOUNOTORI3" has completed its mission with the re-entry today.

Some components including its main engine and attitude control thruster have shifted from overseas procurement to domestic production. Meanwhile, with three successful missions in a row, the KOUNOTORI has revealed Japanese remarkableness for manufacturing technology of space vehicles and for unique rendezvous flight techniques to the global audiences. There are considerable expectations that KOUNOTORI will help enhance Japan's position world widely by serving as a means of delivering various cargo indispensable for ISS operations such as ISS system spares and exposed equipment.

Continuous KOUNOTORI launch opportunities are contributing to the accumulation of operation techniques for space vehicles and to acquisition of techniques to develop unique manned spacecraft for the future. With a new data collection equipment, the "KOUNOTORI3" has attempted to acquire still image data as well as varied other forms, including the vehicle temperature and velocity upon breakup during re-entry. These data will be reflected in the research and development of return vehicles. They will also be utilized to elucidate the breakup phenomena of vehicle during re-entry and to enhance its safety.

Finally, regarding this "KOUNOTORI 3" mission, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all domestic and overseas organizations, and individuals concerned for their tremendous cooperation and support to date. JAXA will further promote the utilization of the ISS and the Japanese Experiment Module "Kibo", and continue successful cargo transportation using the KOUNOTORI. Your continued support and cooperation will be greatly appreciated.

September 14, 2012

Keiji Tachikawa, President
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Mission website:

KOUNOTORI3/H-IIB Launch Vehicle No. 3 Special Site: http://www.jaxa.jp/countdown/h2bf3/index_e.html

KOUNOTORI3 (HTV3) News (ISS / Kibo Site): http://iss.jaxa.jp/en/htv/mission/htv-3/news/

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

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 12 septembre 2012

Mars Rover Curiosity Arm Tests Nearly Complete










NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

Sept.12, 2012

 Say 'Ahh' on Mars

This image from NASA's Curiosity rover shows the open inlet where powered rock and soil samples will be funneled down for analysis. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

NASA's Mars Curiosity team has almost finished robotic arm tests in preparation for the rover to touch and examine its first Martian rock.

Tests with the 7-foot (2.1-meter) arm have allowed the mission team to gain confidence in the arm's precise maneuvering in Martian temperature and gravity conditions. During these activities, Curiosity has remained at a site it reached by its most recent drive on Sept. 5. The team will resume driving the rover this week and use its cameras to seek the first rock to touch with instruments on the arm.

"We're about to drive some more and try to find the right rock to begin doing contact science with the arm," said Jennifer Trosper, Curiosity mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.


This set of images from NASA's Curiosity rover shows the inlet covers for the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument opening and closing, as the rover continues to check out its instruments in the first phase after landing. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Two science instruments -- a camera called Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) that can take close-up, color images and a tool called Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) that determines the elemental composition of a target rock -- have passed preparatory tests at the rover's current location. The instruments are mounted on a turret at the end of the arm and can be placed in contact with target rocks.

Curiosity's Canadian-made APXS had taken atmospheric readings earlier, but its first use on a solid target on Mars was this week on a calibration target brought from Earth. X-ray detectors work best cold, but even the daytime APXS tests produced clean data for identifying elements in the target.

"The spectrum peaks are so narrow, we're getting excellent resolution, just as good as we saw in tests on Earth under ideal conditions," said APXS principal investigator Ralf Gellert of the University of Guelph, in Ontario, Canada. "The good news is that we can now make high-resolution measurements even at high noon to support quick decisions about whether a sample is worthwhile for further investigations."

The adjustable-focus MAHLI camera this week has produced sharp images of objects near and far.


This image shows the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on NASA's Curiosity rover, with the Martian landscape in the background. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

"Honestly, seeing those images with Curiosity's wheels in the foreground and Mount Sharp in the background simply makes me cry," said MAHLI principal investigator Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego. "I know we're just getting started, but it's already been an incredible journey."

MAHLI is also aiding evaluation of the arm's ability to position its tools and instruments. Curiosity moved the arm to predetermined "teach points" on Sept. 11, including points above each of three inlet ports where it will later drop samples of soil and powdered rock into analytical instruments inside the rover. Images from the MAHLI camera confirmed the placements. Photos taken before and after opening the inlet cover for the chemistry and mineralogy (CheMin) analytical instrument also confirmed good operation of the cover.

"Seeing that inlet cover open heightens our anticipation of getting the first solid sample into CheMin in the coming weeks," said CheMin principal investigator David Blake of NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Curiosity description. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

A test last week that checked X-rays passing through an empty sample cell in CheMin worked well. It confirmed the instrument beneath the inlet opening is ready to start analyzing soil and rock samples.

Curiosity is five weeks into a 2-year prime mission on Mars. It will use 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected field site inside Gale Crater has ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life.

For more about Curiosity, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl . You can follow the mission on Facebook and Twitter at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and http://www.twitter.com/marscuriosity .

Latest images: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/images/index.html

Curiosity gallery: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/multimedia/gallery-indexEvents.html

Curiosity videos: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?collection_id=18895

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / Dwayne Brown / JPL / Guy Webster / D.C. Agle.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

A Celestial Witch’s Broom?












ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

12 September 2012

A New View of The Pencil Nebula

The Pencil Nebula, a strangely shaped leftover from a vast explosion

The Pencil Nebula is pictured in a new image from ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. This peculiar cloud of glowing gas is part of a huge ring of wreckage left over after a supernova explosion that took place about 11 000 years ago. This detailed view was produced by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope.

Despite the tranquil and apparently unchanging beauty of a starry night, the Universe is far from being a quiet place. Stars are being born and dying in an endless cycle, and sometimes the death of a star can create a vista of unequalled beauty as material is blasted out into space to form strange structures in the sky.

The Pencil Nebula in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sails)

This new image from the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the Pencil Nebula [1] against a rich starry background. This oddly shaped cloud, which is also known as NGC 2736, is a small part of a supernova remnant [2] in the southern constellation of Vela (The Sails). These glowing filaments were created by the violent death of a star that took place about 11 000 years ago. The brightest part resembles a pencil; hence the name, but the whole structure looks rather more like a traditional witch’s broom.

The Vela supernova remnant is an expanding shell of gas that originated from the supernova explosion. Initially the shock wave was moving at millions of kilometres per hour, but as it expanded through space it ploughed through the gas between the stars, which has slowed it considerably and created strangely shaped folds of nebulosity. The Pencil Nebula is the brightest part of this huge shell.

Wide-field view of the sky around the Pencil Nebula

This new image shows large, wispy filamentary structures, smaller bright knots of gas and patches of diffuse gas. The nebula's luminous appearance comes from dense gas regions that have been struck by the supernova shock wave. As the shock wave travels through space, it rams into the interstellar material. At first, the gas was heated to millions of degrees, but it then subsequently cooled down and is still giving off the faint glow that was captured in the new image.

By looking at the different colours of the nebula, astronomers have been able to map the temperature of the gas. Some regions are still so hot that the emission is dominated by ionised oxygen atoms, which glow blue in the picture. Other cooler regions are seen glowing red, due to emission from hydrogen.

video
Zooming in on the Pencil Nebula

The Pencil Nebula measures about 0.75 light-years across and is moving through the interstellar medium at about 650 000 kilometres per hour. Remarkably, even at its distance of approximately 800 light-years from Earth, this means that it will noticeably change its position relative to the background stars within a human lifetime. Even after 11 000 years the supernova explosion is still changing the face of the night sky.

video
Panning across the Pencil Nebula, a strangely-shaped leftover from a vast explosion

Notes:

[1] The Pencil Nebula, also known as NGC 2736 and sometimes nicknamed Herschel’s Ray, was discovered by British astronomer John Herschel back in 1835 while he was in South Africa. He described it as “an extraordinary long narrow ray of excessively feeble light”.

[2] A supernova is a violent stellar explosion, resulting from the death of either a high-mass star or a white dwarf in a close double star system. The structure resulting from the explosion is called the supernova remnant. This consists of ejected material expanding at supersonic velocities into the surrounding interstellar medium. Supernovae are the main source of the heavier chemical elements in the interstellar medium, which in turn leads to the chemical enrichment of a new generation of stars and planets.

More information:

The year 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. 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 two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is the European partner of a revolutionary astronomical telescope ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. ESO is currently planning the 39-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 the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&subject_name=mpg

    Other photos taken with the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&facility=15

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

Images, Text, Credits: ESO / IAU and Sky & Telescope / Digitized Sky Survey 2 / Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin / Videos: ESO / Digitized Sky Survey 2 / Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org) Music: Disasterpeace.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Was Kepler's Supernova Unusually Powerful?











NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Sept. 12, 2012

 Kepler supernova remnant

In 1604, a new star appeared in the night sky that was much brighter than Jupiter and dimmed over several weeks. This event was witnessed by sky watchers including the famous astronomer Johannes Kepler. Centuries later, the debris from this exploded star is known as the Kepler supernova remnant. Astronomers have long studied the Kepler supernova remnant and tried to determine exactly what happened when the star exploded to create it. New analysis of a long observation from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory is providing more clues. This analysis suggests that the supernova explosion was not only more powerful, but might have also occurred at a greater distance, than previously thought.

This image shows the Chandra data derived from more than eight days worth of observing time. The X-rays are shown in five colors from lower to higher energies: red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. These various X-ray slices were then combined with an optical image from the Digitized Sky Survey, showing stars in the field.

Previous analysis of this Chandra image has determined that the stellar explosion that created Kepler was what astronomers call a “Type Ia” supernova. This class of supernovas occurs when a white dwarf gains mass, either by pulling gas off a companion star or merging with another white dwarf, until it becomes unstable and is destroyed by a thermonuclear explosion.

Unlike other well-known Type Ia supernovas and their remnants, Kepler’s debris field is being strongly shaped by what it is running into. More specifically, most Type Ia supernova remnants are very symmetrical, but the Kepler remnant is asymmetrical with a bright arc of X-ray emission in its northern region. This indicates the expanding ball of debris from the supernova explosion is plowing into the gas and dust around the now-dead star.

The bright X-ray arc can be explained in two ways. In one model, the pre-supernova star and its companion were moving through the interstellar gas and losing mass at a significant rate via a wind, creating a bow shock wave similar to that of a boat moving through water. Another possibility is that the X-ray arc is caused by debris from the supernova expanding into an interstellar cloud of gradually increasing density.

The wind and bow shock model described above requires that the Kepler supernova remnant is located at a distance of more than 23,000 light years. In the latter alternative, the gas into which the remnant is expanding has higher density than average, and the distance of the remnant from the earth is between about 16,000 and 20,000 light years. Both alternatives give greater distances than the commonly used value of 13,000 light years.

In either model, the X-ray spectrum -- that is, the amount of X-rays produced at different energies -- reveals the presence of a large amount of iron, and indicates an explosion more energetic than the average Type Ia supernova. Additionally, to explain the observed X-ray spectrum in this model, a small cavity must have been cleared out around the star before it exploded. Such a cavity, which would have a diameter less than a tenth that of the remnant’s current size, might have been produced by a fast, dense outflow from the surface of the white dwarf before it exploded, as predicted by some models of Type Ia supernovas.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

Evidence for an unusually powerful Type Ia supernova has previously been observed in another remnant with Chandra and an optical telescope. These results were independently verified by subsequent observations of light from the original supernova explosion that bounced off gas clouds, a phenomenon called light echoes. This other remnant is located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy about 160,000 light years from Earth, making it much farther away than Kepler and therefore more difficult to study.

These results were published in the September 1st, 2012 edition of The Astrophysical Journal. The authors of this study are Daniel Patnaude from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, MA; Carles Badenes from University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA; Sangwook Park from the University of Texas at Arlington, TX, and Martin Laming from the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC.

NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra's science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass.

Read more/access all images: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2012/kepler/

Chandra's Flickr photoset: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasamarshall/sets/72157606205297786/

Images, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA / CXC / SAO / D.Patnaude, Optical: DSS.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mardi 11 septembre 2012

Extreme Life Forms Might be Able to Survive on Eccentric Exoplanets












Exobiology - Exoplanet.

Sept. 11, 2012

Astronomers have discovered a veritable rogues' gallery of odd exoplanets -- from scorching hot worlds with molten surfaces to frigid ice balls.

And while the hunt continues for the elusive "blue dot" -- a planet with roughly the same characteristics as Earth -- new research reveals that life might actually be able to survive on some of the many exoplanetary oddballs that exist.

"When we're talking about a habitable planet, we're talking about a world where liquid water can exist," said Stephen Kane, a scientist with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "A planet needs to be the right distance from its star -- not too hot and not too cold." Determined by the size and heat of the star, this temperature range is commonly referred to as the "habitable zone" around a star.

Kane and fellow Exoplanet Science Institute scientist Dawn Gelino have created a resource called the "Habitable Zone Gallery." It calculates the size and distance of the habitable zone for each exoplanetary system that has been discovered and shows which exoplanets orbit in this so-called "goldilocks" zone. The Habitable Zone Gallery can be found at http://www.hzgallery.org . The study describing the research appears in the Astrobiology journal and is available at http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.2429 .

But not all exoplanets have Earth-like orbits that remain at a fairly constant distance from their stars. One of the unexpected revelations of planet hunting has been that many planets travel in very oblong, eccentric orbits that vary greatly in distance from their stars.

"Planets like these may spend some, but not all of their time in the habitable zone," Kane said. "You might have a world that heats up for brief periods in between long, cold winters, or you might have brief spikes of very hot conditions."


Image above: A hypothetical planet is depicted here moving through the habitable zone and then further out into a long, cold winter. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Though planets like these would be very different from Earth, this might not preclude them from being able to support alien life. "Scientists have found microscopic life forms on Earth that can survive all kinds of extreme conditions," Kane said. "Some organisms can basically drop their metabolism to zero to survive very long-lasting, cold conditions. We know that others can withstand very extreme heat conditions if they have a protective layer of rock or water. There have even been studies performed on Earth-based spores, bacteria and lichens, which show they can survive in both harsh environments on Earth and the extreme conditions of space."

Kane and Gelino's research suggests that habitable zone around stars might be larger than once thought, and that planets that might be hostile to human life might be the perfect place for extremophiles, like lichens and bacteria, to survive. "Life evolved on Earth at a very early stage in the planet's development, under conditions much harsher than they are today," Kane said.

Kane explained that many life-harboring worlds might not be planets at all, but rather moons of larger, gas-giant planets like Jupiter in our own solar system. "There are lots of giant planets out there, and all of them may have moons, if they are like the giant planets in the solar system," Kane says. "A moon of a planet that is in or spends time in a habitable zone can be habitable itself."

As an example, Kane mentioned Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, which, despite its thick atmosphere, is far too distant from the sun and too cold for life as we know it to exist on its surface. "If you moved Titan closer in to the sun, it would have lots of water vapor and very favorable conditions for life."

Kane is quick to point out that there are limits to what scientists can presently determine about habitability on already-discovered exoplanets. "It's difficult to really know about a planet when you don't have any knowledge about its atmosphere," he said. For example, both Earth and Venus experience an atmospheric "greenhouse effect" -- but the runaway effect on Venus makes it the hottest place in the solar system. "Without analogues in our own solar system, it's difficult to know precisely what a habitable moon or eccentric planet orbit would look like."

Still, the research suggests that habitability might exist in many forms in the galaxy -- not just on planets that look like our own. Kane and Gelino are hard at work determining which already-discovered exoplanets might be candidates for extremophile life or habitable moons. "There are lots of eccentric and gas giant planet discoveries," Kane says. "We may find some surprises out there as we start to determine exactly what we consider habitable."

NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech manages time allocation on the Keck Telescope for NASA. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages NASA's Exoplanet Exploration program office. Caltech manages JPL for NASA. More information about exoplanets and NASA's planet-finding program is at http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov .

Image, Text, Credits:  NASA / JPL-Caltech / Written by Josh Rodriguez.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA Orbiter Observations Point to 'Dry Ice' Snowfall on Mars












NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) patch.

Sept. 11, 2012

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter data have given scientists the clearest evidence yet of carbon-dioxide snowfalls on Mars. This reveals the only known example of carbon-dioxide snow falling anywhere in our solar system.

Frozen carbon dioxide, better known as "dry ice," requires temperatures of about minus 193 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 125 Celsius), which is much colder than needed for freezing water. Carbon-dioxide snow reminds scientists that although some parts of Mars may look quite Earth-like, the Red Planet is very different. The report is being published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.


Image above: Observations by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have detected carbon-dioxide snow clouds on Mars and evidence of carbon-dioxide snow falling to the surface. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

"These are the first definitive detections of carbon-dioxide snow clouds," said the report's lead author, Paul Hayne of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We firmly establish the clouds are composed of carbon dioxide -- flakes of Martian air -- and they are thick enough to result in snowfall accumulation at the surface."

The snowfalls occurred from clouds around the Red Planet's south pole in winter. The presence of carbon-dioxide ice in Mars' seasonal and residual southern polar caps has been known for decades. Also, NASA's Phoenix Lander mission in 2008 observed falling water-ice snow on northern Mars.

Hayne and six co-authors analyzed data gained by looking at clouds straight overhead and sideways with the Mars Climate Sounder, one of six instruments on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This instrument records brightness in nine wavebands of visible and infrared light as a way to examine particles and gases in the Martian atmosphere. The analysis was conducted while Hayne was a post-doctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The data provide information about temperatures, particle sizes and their concentrations. The new analysis is based on data from observations in the south polar region during southern Mars winter in 2006-2007, identifying a tall carbon-dioxide cloud about 300 miles (500 kilometers) in diameter persisting over the pole and smaller, shorter-lived, lower-altitude carbon dioxide ice clouds at latitudes from 70 to 80 degrees south.

"One line of evidence for snow is that the carbon-dioxide ice particles in the clouds are large enough to fall to the ground during the lifespan of the clouds," co-author David Kass of JPL said. "Another comes from observations when the instrument is pointed toward the horizon, instead of down at the surface. The infrared spectra signature of the clouds viewed from this angle is clearly carbon-dioxide ice particles and they extend to the surface. By observing this way, the Mars Climate Sounder is able to distinguish the particles in the atmosphere from the dry ice on the surface."


Conceptual image depicting the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in an elliptical low-planet orbit around Mars. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Mars' south polar residual ice cap is the only place on the Red Planet where frozen carbon dioxide persists on the surface year-round. Just how the carbon dioxide from Mars' atmosphere gets deposited has been in question. It is unclear whether it occurs as snow or by freezing out at ground level as frost. These results show snowfall is especially vigorous on top of the residual cap.

"The finding of snowfall could mean that the type of deposition -- snow or frost -- is somehow linked to the year-to-year preservation of the residual cap," Hayne said.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, provided the Mars Climate Sounder instrument and manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mro and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mro .

NASA / Dwayne Brown / JPL / Guy Webster.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Dawn has Departed the Giant Asteroid Vesta












NASA - Dawn Mission patch.

Sept. 11, 2012

video
 Dawn's Greatest Hits at Vesta

This video highlights Dawn's top accomplishments during its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. Video credit: NASA.

Mission controllers received confirmation today that NASA's Dawn spacecraft has escaped from the gentle gravitational grip of the giant asteroid Vesta. Dawn is now officially on its way to its second destination, the dwarf planet Ceres.

NASA Dawn spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Dawn departed from Vesta at about 11:26 p.m. PDT on Sept. 4 (2:26 a.m. EDT on Sept. 5). Communications from the spacecraft via NASA's Deep Space Network confirmed the departure and that the spacecraft is now traveling toward Ceres.

"As we respectfully say goodbye to Vesta and reflect on the amazing discoveries over the past year, we eagerly look forward to the next phase of our adventure at Ceres, where even more exciting discoveries await,” said Robert Mase, Dawn project manager, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.


This image is from the last sequence of images NASA's Dawn spacecraft obtained of the giant asteroid Vesta, looking down at Vesta's north pole as it was departing. When Dawn arrived in July 2011, Vesta's northern region was in darkness. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Launched on Sept. 27, 2007, Dawn slipped into orbit around Vesta on July 15, 2011 PDT (July 16 EDT). Over the past year, Dawn has comprehensively mapped this previously uncharted world, revealing an exotic and diverse planetary building block. The findings are helping scientists unlock some of the secrets of how the solar system, including our own Earth, was formed.

A web video celebrating Dawn's "greatest hits" at Vesta is available at http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=151669301 . Two of Dawn's last looks at Vesta are also now available, revealing the creeping dawn over the north pole.


Image above: The shadowy outlines of the terrain in Vesta's northern region are visible in this image from NASA's Dawn spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA.

Dawn spiraled away from Vesta as gently as it arrived. It is expected to pull into its next port of call, Ceres, in early 2015.

Dawn's mission is managed by JPL for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. Orbital Sciences Corp. in Dulles, Va., designed and built the spacecraft. The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about Dawn, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/dawn and http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov

Dawn journal: http://blogs.jpl.nasa.gov/2012/09/dawn-vesta-split/

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

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

NASA Mars Rover Curiosity's Arm Wields Camera Well












NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) patch.

Sept. 11, 2012


This view of the lower front and underbelly areas of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity combines nine images taken by the rover's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) during the 34th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Sept. 9, 2012). Image credit: ASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems.

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity stepped through activities on Sept. 7, 8 and 9 designed to check and characterize precision movements by the rover's robotic arm and use of tools on the arm.

The activities confirmed good health and usefulness of Mars Hand Lens Imager, or MAHLI, and used that camera to check arm placement during several positioning activities.


Image above: NASA's Mars rover Curiosity carries five cylindrical blocks of organic check material for use in a control experiment if the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) laboratory detects any organic compounds in samples of Martian soil or powdered rock. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems.

MAHLI took an image with its reclosable dust cover open for the first time on Mars, confirming sharp imaging capability that had been obscured by a thin film of dust on the cover during previous use of the camera. It took images of cameras at the top of Curiosity's mast, of the underbelly of the rover and of MAHLI's own calibration target, among other pointings.

"Wow, seeing these images after all the tremendous hard work that has gone into making them possible is a profoundly emotional moment," said MAHLI Principal Investigator Ken Edgett of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "It is so exciting to see the camera returning beautiful, sharp images from Mars."


Image above: A sample of basaltic rock from a lava flow in New Mexico serves as a calibration target carried on the front of NASA's Mars rover Curiosity for the rover's Canadian-made Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) instrument. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems.

Selected MAHLI images, with captions, are available at: http://1.usa.gov/PecY9c . Raw versions of all MAHLI images are available along with raw images from the other cameras on Curiosity at: http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/multimedia/raw/ .

The camera's calibration target includes a 1909 Lincoln penny that Edgett purchased for this purpose. "We're seeing the penny in the foreground and, looking past it, a setting I'm sure the people who minted these coins never imagined," Edgett said.

The penny is a nod to geologists' tradition of placing a coin or other object of known scale as a size reference in close-up photographs of rocks, and it gives the public a familiar object for perceiving size easily when it will be viewed by MAHLI on Mars.

"The folks who drive the rover's arm and turret have taken a 220-pound arm through some very complex tai chi, to center a penny in an image that's only a few centimeters across," said MAHLI Deputy Principal Investigator Aileen Yingst of the Tucson-based Planetary Science Institute. "They make the impossible look easy."

 Mars Science Laboratory (MSL).  Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

The arm characterization activities, including more imaging by MAHLI, will continue for a few days before Curiosity resumes driving toward a mid-term science destination area called Glenelg. In that area, the rover may use its scoop to collect a soil sample, and later its drill to collect a sample of powder from inside a rock.

Curiosity is five weeks into a two-year prime mission on Mars. It will use 10 science instruments to assess whether the selected study area ever has offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

More information about Curiosity is online at: http://www.nasa.gov/msl, http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/msl and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl .

Follow the mission on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/marscuriosity and on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Guy Webster.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

ATLAS and CMS publish observations of a new particle in the search for the Higgs boson












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

11 September 2012

The ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN today published observations of a new particle in the search for the Higgs boson in the journal Physics Letters B.

 CMS experiments detecting Higgs Boson

The papers: "Observation of a new boson at a mass of 125 GeV with the CMS experiment at the LHC" and "Observation of a new particle in the search for the Standard Model Higgs boson with the ATLAS detector at the LHC" are freely available online on ScienceDirect.

"These papers present the first observations of a new particle discovered by two big experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the search for the Standard Model Higgs boson which has spanned many decades and has involved many experiments," says CMS spokesperson Joe Incandela. "They are the most important papers to come from the LHC so far and the findings are key to the field of particle physics. We are very pleased to see them published in Physics Letters B, accessible to all who may want to read them."

An artist rendition of the Higgs boson emerging after a collision

"The discovery reported in these papers is a momentous step forward in fundamental knowledge," says ATLAS spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti. "It is the culmination of more than 20 years of effort of the worldwide high-energy physics community to build and operate instruments of unprecedented technology, complexity and performance: the LHC accelerator and related experiments."

Note:

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 20 Member States.

Read the papers:

"Observation of a new particle in the search for the Standard Model Higgs boson with the ATLAS detector at the LHC": http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S037026931200857X

"Observation of a new boson at a mass of 125 GeV with the CMS experiment at the LHC": http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0370269312008581

Find out more:

Physics Letters B: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/physics-letters-b/

Large Hadron Collider: http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/HowLHC-en.html

ScienceDirect: http://www.sciencedirect.com/

From the CERN Courier

"Discovery of a new boson – the ATLAS perspective": http://cerncourier.com/cws/article/cern/50564

"Inside story: the search in CMS for the Higgs boson": http://cerncourier.com/cws/article/cern/50566

Follow CERN on Twitter: http://twitter.com/cern/

Images, Text, Credit: CERN.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

lundi 10 septembre 2012

Zooming in on clumps in Saturn’s B-ring












NASA / ESA - Cassini-Huygens Mission patch.

10 September 2012

 Ring clumps and strands

Image above: Zooming in on clumps in Saturn’s B-ring (lower left), the image also spans the ringlets of the Cassini Division towards the A-ring in the top right. The view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about 31 degrees below the ring plane. The image scale is approximately 2 km per pixel.

Clumpy particles in Saturn’s B-ring provide stark contrast to the delicately ordered ringlets seen in the rest of this view presented by the Cassini spacecraft.

Saturn’s B-ring is the largest and brightest of the gas giant’s rings, the outer portion of which is seen in the left side of this image.

The ring’s outside edge is influenced by meddling moon Mimas, which orbits the planet once for every two circuits the icy ring particles complete.

These periodic gravity perturbations are thought to compress the ring particles into clumps, while maintaining the ring’s well-defined outer edge.

Beyond the B-ring lies the Huygens gap, the widest dark void visible in this image, punctuated only by the bright Huygens ringlet. The 4800 km-wide Cassini Division separates the B-ring from the outermost A-ring, but itself is marked out with faint, concentric strands of ring material.

From Earth, the Cassini Division appears as a thin black gap in Saturn’s rings, but close-up views from spacecraft expose the delicate structures in fine detail.

Cassini - Huygens wallpaper

This image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on 10 July 2009 from a distance of 320 000 km from Saturn.

Cassini is a joint mission between ESA, NASA and ASI and has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004. It is now in its second extended mission phase, the Cassini Solstice Mission, which will continue until 2017. 

Related links:

At Saturn and Titan: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Cassini-Huygens/index.html

Cassini in depth: http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fareaid=12

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

ISRO's 100th mission: PSLV-C21 launched successfully











ISRO - Indian Space Research Organization logo.


Sept. 10, 2012

 PSLV-C21 Launch from Satish Dhawan Space Center (SDSC), Shriharikota, India

India successfully launched its 100th space mission with the indigenous PSLV-C21 rocket putting in orbit two foreign satellites (yesterday 09.09.2012).

In a copybook launch, witnessed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ISRO's workhorse PSLV placed in orbit France's SPOT 6 satellite and Japanese spacecraft PROTIERES, some 18 minutes after a perfect lift off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.

video
PSLV-C21 Launch, 09.09.2012

The launch, scheduled for 9.51 AM, was delayed by two minutes at the end of the 51-hour countdown.

The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), on its 22nd flight, soared into an overcast sky at 9.53 AM carrying the 720 kg French satellite, the heaviest satellite to be launched by India for a foreign client.

The mission was described as "a spectacular success" and a milestone by Singh, who keenly watched the entire launch sequence and applauded each stage separation culminating in the placing of the two satellites in orbit.

Launch Profile of the PSLV-C21

The launch was a landmark for Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) which began its space odyssey on a humble note when it launched the indigenous 'Aryabhatta' on board a Russian rocket on April 19, 1975.

The launch has yet again demonstrated the versatility and robustness of PSLV with the rocket completing its 21st successful mission in a row since its first failed flight in September 1993.

No Indian satellite was on-board yesterday's flight which is the third wholly commercial launch undertaken by ISRO for foreign clients.

SPOT-6 satellite

SPOT-6 is the biggest commercial lift so far since India forayed into the money spinning commercial satellite launch services after 350 kg Agile of Italy put in orbit in 2007 by PSLV. Twelve other foreign commercial satellites launched by ISRO weighed below 300 kg.

For more information about Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), visit: http://www.isro.org/

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ISRO / The Indian Express / Astrium.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch