jeudi 29 août 2013

NuSTAR Delivers the X-Ray Goods














NASA - Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar) patch.

Aug. 29, 2013

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is giving the wider astronomical community a first look at its unique X-ray images of the cosmos. The first batch of data from the black-hole hunting telescope is publicly available today, Aug. 29, via NASA's High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center, or HEASARC.

"We are pleased to present the world with NuSTAR's first look at the sky in high-energy X-rays with a true focusing telescope," said Fiona Harrison, the mission's principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena.

The images, taken from July to August 2012, shortly after the spacecraft launched, comprise an assortment of extreme objects, including black holes near and far. The more distant black holes are some of the most luminous objects in the universe, radiating X-rays as they ferociously consume surrounding gas. One type of black hole in the new batch of data is a blazar, which is an active, supermassive black hole pointing a jet toward Earth. Pairs of black holes called X-ray binaries, in which one partner feeds off the other, are also in the mix, along with the remnants of stellar blasts called supernovas.

The data set only contains complete observations. Data will be released at a later date for those targets still being observed.


Image above: Artist's concept of NuSTAR on orbit. NuSTAR has a 10-m (30') mast that deployed after launch to separate the optics modules (right) from the detectors in the focal plane (left). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

"Astronomers can use these data to better understand the capabilities of NuSTAR and design future observing proposals. The first opportunity will be this fall, for joint observations with XMM-Newton," said Karl Forster of Caltech, who is leading the effort to package the data for the public.

The European Space Agency's XMM-Newton X-ray telescope, like NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, complements NuSTAR. While XMM-Newton and Chandra see lower-energy X-ray light, NuSTAR is the first telescope capable of focusing high-energy X-ray light, allowing for more detailed images than were possible before.

Astronomers can compare data sets from different missions using HEASARC, which gives them a broader understanding of an object of interest. NuSTAR's high-energy observations help scientists bridge a gap that existed previously in X-ray astronomy, and will lead to new revelations about the bizarre and energetic side of our universe.

Other NASA missions with data available via HEASARC include Chandra, Fermi, Swift, Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and many more.

The HEASARC is a service of the Astrophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Smithsonian Astrophysics Observatory in Cambridge, Mass. HEASARC holdings include data obtained by NASA's high-energy astronomy missions observing in the extreme-ultraviolet, X-ray, and gamma-ray bands, as well as data from missions, balloons and ground-based facilities that have studied the relic cosmic microwave background. HEASARC is online at http://heasarc.gsfc.nasa.gov .

NuSTAR is a Small Explorer mission led by Caltech and managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The spacecraft was built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Va. Its instrument was built by a consortium including Caltech; JPL; the University of California, Berkeley; Columbia University, New York; NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; the Danish Technical University in Denmark; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, Calif.; ATK Aerospace Systems, Goleta, Calif., and with support from the Italian Space Agency (ASI) Science Data Center.

NuSTAR's mission operations center is at UC Berkeley, with ASI providing its equatorial ground station located at Malindi, Kenya. The mission's outreach program is based at Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, Calif. NASA's Explorer Program is managed by Goddard. JPL is managed by Caltech for NASA.

For more information, visit http://www.nasa.gov/nustar and http://www.nustar.caltech.edu/

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Alan Buis.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA's Chandra Observatory Catches Giant Black Hole Rejecting Material











NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Aug. 29, 2013

Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have taken a major step in explaining why material around the giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy is extraordinarily faint in X-rays. This discovery holds important implications for understanding black holes.

Supermassive Black Hole Sagittarius A*

New Chandra images of Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*), which is located about 26,000 light-years from Earth, indicate that less than 1 percent of the gas initially within Sgr A*'s gravitational grasp ever reaches the point of no return, also called the event horizon. Instead, much of the gas is ejected before it gets near the event horizon and has a chance to brighten, leading to feeble X-ray emissions.

These new findings are the result of one of the longest observation campaigns ever performed with Chandra. The spacecraft collected five weeks' worth of data on Sgr A* in 2012. The researchers used this observation period to capture unusually detailed and sensitive X-ray images and energy signatures of super-heated gas swirling around Sgr A*, whose mass is about 4 million times that of the sun.

"We think most large galaxies have a supermassive black hole at their center, but they are too far away for us to study how matter flows near it," said Q. Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, who led of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. "Sgr A* is one of very few black holes close enough for us to actually witness this process."

The researchers found that the Chandra data from Sgr A* did not support theoretical models in which the X-rays are emitted from a concentration of smaller stars around the black hole. Instead, the X-ray data show the gas near the black hole likely originates from winds produced by a disk-shaped distribution of young massive stars.

"This new Chandra image is one of the coolest I’ve ever seen," said co-author Sera Markoff of the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. "We're watching Sgr A* capture hot gas ejected by nearby stars, and funnel it in towards its event horizon."

To plunge over the event horizon, material captured by a black hole must lose heat and momentum. The ejection of matter allows this to occur.

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory

"Most of the gas must be thrown out so that a small amount can reach the black hole", said Feng Yuan of Shanghai Astronomical Observatory in China, the study's co-author. "Contrary to what some people think, black holes do not actually devour everything that’s pulled towards them. Sgr A* is apparently finding much of its food hard to swallow."

The gas available to Sgr A* is very diffuse and super-hot, so it is hard for the black hole to capture and swallow it. The gluttonous black holes that power quasars and produce huge amounts of radiation have gas reservoirs much cooler and denser than that of Sgr A*.

The event horizon of Sgr A* casts a shadow against the glowing matter surrounding the black hole. This research could aid efforts using radio telescopes to observe and understand the shadow. It also will be useful for understanding the effect orbiting stars and gas clouds may have on matter flowing toward and away from the black hole.

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.

The paper is available online at: http://arxiv.org/abs/1307.5845

For Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/chandra

For an additional interactive image, podcast, and video on the finding, visit: http://chandra.si.edu

Images, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA / UMass / D.Wang et al., IR: NASA / STScI.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Arianespace launch VA215: Mission accomplished! Ariane 5 ECA orbits EUTELSAT 25B/Es'hail 1 and GSAT-7


















ARIANESPACE / ESA - Flight VA215 Mission poster.


August 29, 2013

 Ariane 5 launch

On Thursday, August 29, Arianespace carried out the 57th successful Ariane 5 launch in a row, orbiting two telecommunications satellites: EUTELSAT 25B/Es’hail 1 for the Qatari and European operators, Es’hailSat and Eutelsat, and GSAT-7 for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). 

Fourth Ariane 5 launch in 2013, 57th success in a row: Arianespace continues to offer the world's most reliable launch service!

video
Launch of Eutelsat 25B & GSAT-7 on Ariane 5 Rocket (VA-215)

Today's successful mission, the 57th in a row for the European launcher, once again proves the reliability and availability of the Ariane 5 launch system. It also confirms that Arianespace continues to set the standard for guaranteed access to space for all operators, including national and international space agencies, private industry and governments.

Following the announcement of the orbital injection of the EUTELSAT 25B/Es'hail 1 and GSAT-7 satellites, Arianespace Chairman and CEO Stéphane Israël said: "The 57th successful launch in a row of Ariane 5, the 80th for our family of the Ariane 5, Soyuz and Vega launchers, once again confirms the unrivaled reliability of our launch systems. I would like to thank Astrium, as the industrial prime contractor for Ariane 5, along with all other manufacturers involved, and the CNES teams at the Guiana Space Center, for working with us to make this achievement possible. On behalf of everybody at Arianespace, I would like to express our pride this evening in rising to the challenge of meeting the requirements of our three customers, Es'hailSat, Eutelsat and ISRO. Es'hailSat, like 80% of all new players in the telecommunications satellite market, chose Arianespace to orbit their first satellite. I realize that this is a particularly important moment for Es'hailSat, and for its CEO, Ali Ahmed al-Kuwari. Eutelsat and ISRO are both long-standing partners to Arianespace, reaching back over 30 years, and they continue to entrust us with their satellites year after year, within the scope of partnerships that truly honor us. I would like to express my sincere thanks to both of these companies; this latest successful launch shows that they made the right choice by selecting Arianespace! I would also like to personally thank Michel de Rosen, CEO of Eutelsat, and S.K. Shivakumas, Director of the ISRO Satellite Centre, for sharing this launch with us. And last but not least, I would like to thank Nicole Bricq, French Minister of Foreign Trade, and Her Excellency Dr. Hessa Al-Jaber, Qatari Minister for Information and Communication Technology, for kindly agreeing to join us this evening in the Jupiter control room at the Guiana Space Center."

A launch for two long-standing customers, Eutelsat and ISRO, and one new customer, Es'hailSat

The EUTELSAT 25B/Es'hail 1 satellite is a joint program by the Qatari operator Es'hailSat and the European operator Eutelsat. It is the first geostationary telecommunications satellite launched for Qatar, and the 23rd launched by Arianespace for customers in Africa and the Middle East.

EUTELSAT 25B satellite

It carries on the collaboration between Arianespace and Eutelsat that started in June 1983, and therefore marks its 30th anniversary this year. Two-thirds of the Eutelsat fleet have been launched by Ariane rockets, and Eutelsat 25B is the 27th Eutelsat satellite launched by Arianespace.

GSAT-7 is the 17th ISRO satellite to use the European launcher since the Apple experimental satellite was launched on flight L03 in 1981. Arianespace has also launched two other satellites designed by India, for the operators Eutelsat and Avanti Communications.

GSAT-7 satellite

The partnership between Arianespace and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) reaches back to the creation of Arianespace, and has allowed the two companies to define highly effective joint working methods, as shown by today's launch, just a month after the launch of Insat-3D, a meteorological satellite developed by ISRO, by an Ariane 5 ECA from the Guiana Space Center on July 25.

EUTELSAT 25B/Es'hail 1 and GSAT-7 mission at a glance

The mission was carried out by an Ariane 5 ECA launcher from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Liftoff was on Thursday, August 29, 2013 at 5:30 pm local time in Kourou (4:30 pm in Washington, D.C., 20:30 UT, 10:30 pm in Paris, 11:30 pm in Doha, and on Friday, August 30 at 2:00 am in Bangalore).

This was the 215th Ariane launch, with Astrium as industrial prime contractor. The launch vehicle boosted 9,776.5 kg into geostationary transfer orbit, including 8,960 kg for the two satellites.

EUTELSAT 25B/Es'hail 1 was designed and built by Space Systems/Loral in California and weighed 6,310 kg at liftoff. The EUTELSAT 25B/Es'hail 1 satellite is a joint program of Es-hailSat and Eutelsat to operate a high-power satellite at 25.5 degrees East, an orbital position that has been used for many years. This new satellite will serve booming markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. It will replace EUTELSAT 25C to bolster the power and coverage provided from this orbital position. In addition to ensuring Ku-band service continuity for Eutelsat and providing Ku-band capacity for Es'hailSat, the satellite will offer the two partners their initial Ka-band capacity, paving the way for new business development opportunities.

GSAT-7. Designed, developed and integrated by ISRO in Bangalore, southern India, GSAT-7 is dedicated to telecommunications services for the Indian government. It weighed 2,650 kg at launch and offers a design life exceeding seven years. GSAT-7 carries Ku, C, S and UHF band transponders. Positioned at 74 degrees East, its coverage zone encompasses the entire Indian subcontinent.

For more information about Arianespace, visit: http://www.arianespace.com/index/index.asp

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ARIANESPACE / EUTELSAT / ISRO.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Cassini Data: Saturn Moon May Have Rigid Ice Shell












NASA / ESA - Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn & Titan patch.

Aug. 29, 2013

 The Cassini probe jettison the Huygens capsule on Titan. Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL

An analysis of gravity and topography data from the Saturnian moon Titan obtained by NASA's Cassini spacecraft suggests there could be something unexpected about the moon's outer ice shell. The findings, published on Aug. 28 in the journal Nature, suggest that Titan's ice shell could be rigid, and that relatively small topographic features on the surface could be associated with large ice "roots" extending into the underlying ocean.

The study was led by planetary scientists Douglas Hemingway and Francis Nimmo at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who used data from Cassini. The researchers were surprised to find a counterintuitive relationship between gravity and topography.

"Normally, if you fly over a mountain, you expect to see an increase in gravity due to the extra mass of the mountain," said Nimmo, a Cassini participating scientist. "On Titan, when you fly over a mountain, the gravity gets lower. That's a very odd observation."


This image of the surface of Saturn's moon Titan was obtained by the European Space Agency's Huygens Probe on Jan. 14, 2005, after it was delivered to Titan by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Image Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

One potential explanation is that each bump in the topography on the surface of Titan is offset by a deeper "root" that is big enough to overwhelm the gravitational effect of the bump on the surface. The root could act like an iceberg extending below the ice shell into the ocean underneath it. In this model, Cassini would detect less gravity wherever there is a big chunk of ice rather than water because ice is less dense than water.

"It's like a big beach ball under the ice sheet pushing up on it, and the only way to keep it submerged is if the ice sheet is strong," said Hemingway, the paper's lead author and a Cassini team associate. "If large roots under the ice shell are the explanation, this means that Titan's ice shell must have a very thick rigid layer."

If these findings are correct, a thick rigid ice shell makes it very difficult to have ice volcanoes, which some scientists have proposed to explain other features seen on the surface. They also suggest that convection or plate tectonics are not recycling Titan's ice shell, as they do with Earth's geologically active crust.

video
A View from Huygens

This movie was built with data collected during the 147-minute plunge through Titan's thick orange-brown atmosphere to a soft sandy riverbed by the European Space Agency’s Huygens Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer on Jan. 14, 2005. Video Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.

In 4 minutes and 40 seconds, the movie shows what the probe “saw” within the few hours of the descent and the landing. On approach, Titan appeared as just a little disk in the sky among the stars, but after landing, the probe's camera resolved little grains of sand millions of times smaller than Titan.

At first, the Huygens camera just saw fog over the distant surface. The fog started to clear only at about 60 kilometers (37 miles) altitude, making it possible to resolve surface features as large as 100 meters (328 feet). Only after landing could the probe's camera resolve the little grains of sand. The movie provides a glimpse of such a huge change of scale.

The Huygens probe was delivered to Saturn's moon Titan by the Cassini spacecraft, which is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. NASA supplied two instruments on the probe, the descent imager/spectral radiometer and the gas chromatograph mass spectrometer.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Italian Space Agency. The mission is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

More information on Cassini can be found at http://www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov and http://www.esa.int/esaMI/Cassini-Huygens/

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Jia-Rui Cook / University of California / Tim Stephens.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Annular Eclipse of the Sun by Phobos, as Seen by Curiosity










NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) logo.

Aug. 29, 2013


This set of three images shows views three seconds apart as the larger of Mars' two moons, Phobos, passed directly in front of the sun as seen by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity.  Curiosity photographed this annular, or ring, eclipse with the telephoto-lens camera of the rover's Mast Camera pair (right Mastcam) on Aug. 17, 2013, the 369th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars.

Curiosity paused during its drive that sol for a set of observations that the camera team carefully calculated to record this celestial event. The rover's observations of Phobos help make researchers' knowledge of the moon's orbit even more precise.  Because this eclipse occurred near mid-day at Curiosity's location on Mars, Phobos was nearly overhead, closer to the rover than it would have been earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. This timing made Phobos' silhouette larger against the sun -- as close to a total eclipse of the sun as is possible from Mars.

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

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

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems/Texas A&M Univ.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 28 août 2013

Oldest Solar Twin Identified












ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

28 August 2013

ESO’s VLT provides new clues to help solve lithium mystery

The life cycle of a Sun-like star (annotated)

An international team led by astronomers in Brazil has used ESO’s Very Large Telescope to identify and study the oldest solar twin known to date. Located 250 light-years from Earth, the star HIP 102152 is more like the Sun than any other solar twin — except that it is nearly four billion years older. This older, but almost identical, twin gives us an unprecedented chance to see how the Sun will look when it ages. The new observations also provide an important first clear link between a star’s age and its lithium content, and in addition suggest that HIP 102152 may be host to rocky terrestrial planets.

Astronomers have only been observing the Sun with telescopes for 400 years — a tiny fraction of the Sun’s age of 4.6 billion years. It is very hard to study the history and future evolution of our star, but we can do this by hunting for rare stars that are almost exactly like our own, but at different stages of their lives. Now astronomers have identified a star that is essentially an identical twin to our Sun, but 4 billion years older — almost like seeing a real version of the twin paradox in action [1].

Image of HIP 102152

Jorge Melendez (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil), the leader of the team and co-author of the new paper explains: “For decades, astronomers have been searching for solar twins in order to know our own life-giving Sun better. But very few have been found since the first one was discovered in 1997. We have now obtained superb-quality spectra from the VLT and can scrutinise solar twins with extreme precision, to answer the question of whether the Sun is special.”

The team studied two solar twins [2] — one that was thought to be younger than the Sun (18 Scorpii) and one that was expected to be older (HIP 102152). They used the UVES spectrograph on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO's Paranal Observatory to split up the light into its component colours so that the chemical composition and other properties of these stars could be studied in great detail.

Wide-field view of the region around Sun-like star HIP 102152

They found that HIP 102152 in the constellation of Capricornus (The Sea Goat) is the oldest solar twin known to date. It is estimated to be 8.2 billion years old, compared to 4.6 billion years for our own Sun. On the other hand 18 Scorpii was confirmed to be younger than the Sun — about 2.9 billion years old.

Studying the ancient solar twin HIP 102152 allows scientists to predict what may happen to our own Sun when it reaches that age, and they have already made one significant discovery. “One issue we wanted to address is whether or not the Sun is typical in composition,” says Melendez. “Most importantly, why does it have such a strangely low lithium content?”

The evolution of a solar twin

Lithium, the third element in the periodic table, was created in the Big Bang along with hydrogen and helium. Astronomers have pondered for years over why some stars appear to have less lithium than others. With the new observations of HIP 102152, astronomers have taken a big step towards solving this mystery by pinning down a strong correlation between a Sun-like star’s age and its lithium content.

Our own Sun now has just 1% of the lithium content that was present in the material from which it formed. Examinations of younger solar twins have hinted that these younger siblings contain significantly larger amounts of lithium, but up to now scientists could not prove a clear correlation between age and lithium content [3].

 The life cycle of a Sun-like star

TalaWanda Monroe (Universidade de São Paulo), the lead author on the new paper, concludes: “We have found that HIP 102152 has very low levels of lithium. This demonstrates clearly for the first time that older solar twins do indeed have less lithium than our own Sun or younger solar twins. We can now be certain that stars somehow destroy their lithium as they age, and that the Sun's lithium content appears to be normal for its age.” [4]

 Zooming in on the oldest solar twin HIP 102152

A final twist in the story is that HIP 102152 has an unusual chemical composition pattern that is subtly different to most other solar twins, but similar to the Sun. They both show a deficiency of the elements that are abundant in meteorites and on Earth. This is a strong hint that HIP 102152 may host terrestrial rocky planets [5].

Notes:

[1] Many people have heard of the twin paradox: one identical twin takes a space journey and comes back to Earth younger than their sibling. Although there is no time travelling involved here, we see two distinctly different ages for these two very similar stars — snapshots of the Sun’s life at different stages.

[2] Solar twins, solar analogues and solar-type stars are categories of stars according to their similarity to our own Sun. Solar twins are the most similar to our Sun, as they have very similar masses, temperatures, and chemical abundances. Solar twins are rare but the other classes, where the similarity is less precise, are much more common.

[3] Previous studies have indicated that a star’s lithium content could also be affected if it hosts giant planets (eso0942, eso0118, Nature paper), although these results have been debated (ann1046).

[4] It is still unclear exactly how lithium is destroyed within the stars, although several processes have been proposed to transport lithium from the surface of a star into its deeper layers, where it is then destroyed.

[5] If a star contains less of the elements that we commonly find in rocky bodies, this indicates that it is likely to host rocky terrestrial planets because such planets lock up these elements as they form from a large disc surrounding the star. The suggestion that HIP 102152 may host such planets is further reinforced by the radial velocity monitoring of this star with ESO's HARPS spectrograph, which indicates that inside the star’s habitable zone there are no giant planets. This would allow the existence of potential Earth-like planets around HIP 102152; in systems with giant planets existing close in to their star, the chances of finding terrestrial planets are much less as these small rocky bodies are disturbed and disrupted.

More information:

This research was presented in a paper to appear in “High precision abundances of the old solar twin HIP 102152: insights on Li depletion from the oldest Sun”, by TalaWanda Monroe et al. in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The team is composed of TalaWanda R. Monroe, Jorge Meléndez (Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil [USP]), Iván Ramírez (The University of Texas at Austin, USA), David Yong (Australian National University, Australia [ANU]), Maria Bergemann (Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, Germany), Martin Asplund (ANU), Jacob Bean, Megan Bedell (University of Chicago, USA), Marcelo Tucci Maia (USP), Karin Lind (University of Cambridge, UK), Alan Alves-Brito, Luca Casagrande (ANU), Matthieu Castro, José-Dias do Nascimento (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil), Michael Bazot (Centro de Astrofísica da Universidade de Porto, Portugal) and Fabrício C. Freitas (USP).

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:

Research paper: http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1337/eso1337a.pdf

FAQ about ESO and Brazil: http://www.eso.org/public/about-eso/faq/faq-eso-brazil.html

Photos of the VLT: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/category/paranal/

Images, Text, Credits: ESO / Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin / M. Kornmesser / Videos: ESO / M. Kornmesser  / Digitized Sky Survey 2 / Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org). Music: movetwo.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

NASA-Funded Scientists Detect Water on Moon's Surface that Hints at Water Below














NASA patch / NASA / ISRO - Chandrayaan-1 Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) patch's.

Aug. 28, 2013

NASA-funded lunar research has yielded evidence of water locked in mineral grains on the surface of the moon from an unknown source deep beneath the surface.

Using data from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) instrument aboard the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, scientists remotely detected magmatic water, or water that originates from deep within the moon's interior, on the surface of the moon.

The findings, published Aug. 25 in Nature Geoscience, represent the first detection of this form of water from lunar orbit. Earlier studies had shown the existence of magmatic water in lunar samples returned during the Apollo program.

M3 imaged the lunar impact crater Bullialdus, which lies near the lunar equator. Scientists were interested in studying this area because they could better quantify the amount of water inside the rocks due to the crater's location and the type of rocks it held. The central peak of the crater is made up of a type of rock that forms deep within the lunar crust and mantle when magma is trapped underground.

Chandrayaan-1 Moon mission description

"This rock, which normally resides deep beneath the surface, was excavated from the lunar depths by the impact that formed Bullialdus crater," said Rachel Klima, a planetary geologist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md.

"Compared to its surroundings, we found that the central portion of this crater contains a significant amount of hydroxyl - a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom -- which is evidence that the rocks in this crater contain water that originated beneath the lunar surface," Klima said.

In 2009, M3 provided the first mineralogical map of the lunar surface and discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the moon. This water is thought to be a thin layer formed from solar wind hitting the moon's surface. Bullialdus crater is in a region with an unfavorable environment for solar wind to produce significant amounts of water on the surface.

"NASA missions like Lunar Prospector and the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite and instruments like M3 have gathered crucial data that fundamentally changed our understanding of whether water exists on the surface of the moon," said S. Pete Worden, center director at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. "Similarly, we hope that upcoming NASA missions such as the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, will change our understanding of the lunar sky."

LADEE Mission poster

The detection of internal water from orbit means scientists can begin to test some of the findings from sample studies in a broader context, including in regions that are far from where the Apollo sites are clustered on the near side of the moon. For many years, researchers believed that the rocks from the moon were bone-dry and any water detected in the Apollo samples had to be contamination from Earth.

"Now that we have detected water that is likely from the interior of the moon, we can start to compare this water with other characteristics of the lunar surface," said Klima. "This internal magmatic water also provides clues about the moon's volcanic processes and internal composition, which helps us address questions about how the moon formed, and how magmatic processes changed as it cooled."

APL is a not-for-profit division of Johns Hopkins University. Joshua Cahill and David Lawrence of APL and Justin Hagerty of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Ariz., co-authored the paper. NASA's Lunar Advanced Science and Engineering Program, the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) at Ames and the NASA Planetary Mission Data Analysis Program supported the research. NLSI is a virtual organization jointly funded by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate in Washington, to enable collaborative, interdisciplinary research in support of NASA lunar science programs.

For more information about NASA programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov

Images, Text, Credit: NASA / JPL / ISRO.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

lundi 26 août 2013

Orbital "Messenger"












ROSCOSMOS - GLONASS patch.

08/26/2013

In Yakutia, are testing the satellite system "messenger." Task Gontsov to provide communication for remote areas of the North and the Far East. Another important task that can solve a constellation of satellites, space monitoring process facilities. Coming soon will be put into operation the new system of user terminals, and in the middle of September, sent into orbit three more "Gontsov." For 2015 it is planned to increase the number of orbital "Gontsov" up to 12 satellites.

Glonass-M

From Yakutsk to Nerungri, through the wilds of the taiga and impassable mountains. In the footsteps of the first Russian explorers who discovered this land in the 17th century.

Even after three-plus years of space there is still deaf. Network can not be hundreds of miles around. Because the best way of testing the satellite communication system is difficult to come up with.

"In order to be still stable relationship, we will now try to use this nizkoorbitnoy satellite system" - explains the Deputy Minister of Transport and Roads of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Alexander Tarasov.

"Messenger". So called Russian satellite communications system, which should come in every point of our country. And after a while and the world. Testing the "Runner" in these days go in Yakutia.

FAQ:

"Messenger" - a multipurpose personal satellite communication system. Includes space and ground segments. The basis - the grouping of low-orbit satellites. Created the company of "Information Satellite Systems them. Academician Reshetnev. " The first satellite "Messenger" was launched in 1996. This fall is scheduled for launch three new devices "Messenger - M".

"In the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), we have arrived in general, on the initiative of the Ministry of Transport, for the simple reason that we are determined in accordance with the terms of reference experienced R & D areas in which many remote villages not covered bond. Preoccupation of the republic itself with mobile phones are also quite small. And in these circumstances, we believe that the "Messenger" will be able to find the application in the first place, "- says chief designer of" Satellite system "Messenger" Andrey Zharov.

On the water, land and rail. The system is tested in the most remote areas of Russia. If we are going to work, then "a messenger" is not terribly personal.

"Moscow-Peter train rides. You can see that there are breaks where the connection is lost. And what to say about Siberia and the Far East, the Far North. That's what the system is used and the "Messenger", "- says CEO of" Satellite system "Messenger" Dmitry Bakanov.

Two days outside train - green sea taiga, 800 kilometers.

"Globalstar", "Inmarsat" and "Iridium" vs. "The Messenger" - Western satellite systems are competing with Russia in the resistance signal. In the data transfer rate to our companions, of course, to Western competitors so far away. But the problem with "The Messenger" a few others. In the first place - the transfer of technical information in text form. For example, the level of water in hydraulic structures, which today is especially true on the state of the bridge supports, gas pressure in the pipes or the coordinates of the vehicle.

"There is a tube that connects the north-west Russia and the Far East. Of course, no one has paved the way to get into the coverage area of ​​GSM. It paved the way to make it economically profitable: and can go through the woods and over the mountains and through sparsely populated objects. On it are found throughout tubes collection point information. Information such as pressure, temperature, the amount of pumped gas and oil. This information should be required to monitor to see if the pressure rises, there is a possibility of some state of emergency ", - says Dmitry Bakanov.

This is especially true here in Yakutia: difficult terrain, remote locations. Once you get out of the coverage area of ​​GSM, the standby channel. A built-in "GLONASS-GPS» module will identify your location. It may even be someone's lifeline.

Glonass constellation

"The recent case - is falling helicopter, when for a short time could not determine the coordinates. And we understand that there is a system "Messenger" on this helicopter, first search area could be reduced to a minimum. And even if the signal came with a delay of 6:00 in our environment ... In view of the fact that the orbital group is gaining momentum, we would still find people faster and, most importantly, the people who were alive after the fall they would have survived, "- explains the chairman of the State Committee on Science and Innovation Policy of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Maxim Trofimov.

The first satellite "Messenger" beats the world record, he is the most tenacious of the spacecraft. Veteran working in space is the 17 th year that the outstanding case of low-orbit satellites. The normal term of operation of such devices - 3-4 years.

"At this point in orbit four satellites, one of them is old. The first generation of "Messenger-D-1" ninety-six, and three run "Runner-M". For the tactical and technical jobs that is, the grouping will be considered complete when 12 spacecraft. But now we have started to work closely on the new system "Messenger" - a "messenger-M1." The spacecraft will. And now they are spelled out 24 ", - says Dmitry Bakanov.

For those who will use the "Messenger" on the ground, it's simple and reliable. The new design of transceiver terminals made them much smaller and more mobile. And very soon, the system will also be available to private customers.

"Here's the terminalchik if you get lost in the forest, and there is a possibility of wearing it in a bag and belt. That is, you just get lost in the woods if, press a button, and your message is sent to your coordinates ", - says Andrey Zharov.

To locate the person in the taiga without location, communication and even indicative of the motion vector little chance. "Messenger" will be required to help in this situation. The system is getting closer to each person.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release: http://www.federalspace.ru/main.php?id=2&nid=20293

Images, Text, Credits: Roscosmos TV studio / ROSCOSMOS / Translation: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Astronaut Gregory H. Johnson Leaves NASA










NASA logo.

Aug. 26, 2013

NASA astronaut Gregory H. Johnson has left the agency, after a 15-year career that included more than 31 days in space, for a position with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space.

A veteran of two space shuttle flights, Johnson served in 2008 as the pilot of STS-123, a mission vital to the construction of the International Space Station. He followed that up two years later as the pilot of STS-134, the penultimate space shuttle mission.

"Greg contributed greatly to the construction of the International Space Station, and I very much enjoyed my time in orbit with him," said Bob Behnken, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "We are grateful for his service to NASA and wish him well in his new career."

NASA astronaut Gregory H. Johnson

Johnson earned an undergraduate degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Academy. He later earned graduate degrees from Columbia University and the University of Texas, and served in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot. Johnson flew combat missions during Operations Desert Storm and Southern Watch.

Johnson joined NASA as an astronaut in 1998, and filled many technical roles including capsule communicator for the STS-126, 119, 125 and 127 missions; deputy chief and then chief of the Astronaut Safety Branch; and associate director of external programs at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Johnson recently led the Astronaut Office's Visiting Vehicle Working Group, which helped plan and execute missions with NASA's commercial partners.

Johnson retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 2009, after more than 25 years of service. He has logged more than 5,000 flight hours in more than 50 different aircraft.

For Johnson's complete biography, visit: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/johnson-gh.html

Image, Text, Credit: NASA.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Embracing Orion












ESA - Herschel Mission patch.

26 August 2013

 Herschel’s view of Orion A

This new view of the Orion A star-formation cloud from ESA’s Herschel space observatory shows the turbulent region of space that hugs the famous Orion Nebula.

The nebula lies about 1500 light years from Earth within the ‘sword of Orion’ – below the three main stars that form the belt of the Orion constellation.

In this view, the nebula corresponds to the brightest region in the centre of the image, where it is lit up by the Trapezium group of stars at its heart.

The scene is awash with turbulent star formation, the fierce ultraviolet radiation of massive new born stars blasting away their surrounding cloudy cocoons, carving ethereal shapes into the gas and dust.

Wispy tendrils rise like flames away from some of the most intense regions of star formation, while pillars of denser material withstand the searing blaze for longer.

Great arms of gas and dust extend from the Orion Nebula to form a ring, while a spine of cooler material weaves up through the scene to a halo of cloudy star-formation material above.

Artist's view of Herschel space observatory

Embedded within the red and yellow filaments are a handful of point-like sources: these are protostars, the seeds of new stars that will soon ignite and begin to flood their surrounds with intense radiation.

The black regions to the top of the image and to the bottom right may seem like voids, but actually contain hints of much fainter emission that has not been emphasised in this image.

The red ‘islands’ of emission in the bottom right are also a subtle trick of image processing for they are connected to the main cloud by much fainter emission. The bright ‘eyes’ in the two most distinct clouds indicates that the tip of each pillar has already collapsed and is forming stars.

Related links:

Herschel: ESA's giant infrared observatory: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Herschel

Herschel overview: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Herschel_overview

Online Showcase of Herschel Images OSHI: http://oshi.esa.int/

Herschel: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Operations/Herschel

Herschel in depth: http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fareaid=16

Herschel Science Centre: http://herschel.esac.esa.int/

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / Herschel /  Ph. André, V. Könyves, N. Schneider (CEA Saclay, France) for the Gould Belt survey Key Programme.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch