samedi 26 octobre 2013

The upper stage Breeze-M spacecraft brought Sirius FM-6 to the target orbit
















ILS / ROSCOSMOS - Srius FM-6 launch Mission poster / Sirius XM Satellite Radio logo.

26.10.2013

October 26 at 07:20 MSK spacecraft (SC), satellite radio, Sirius FM-6 cleanly separated from the upper stage (RB) Breeze-M. Spacecraft launched into the target orbit.

Breeze-M powered in to the target orbit satellite radio Sirius FM-6

Earlier, on October 25 at 22:08 MSK from the launch complex area 200 Baikonur calculations of rocket launchers and space industry Russia conducted a successful launch Vehicle (ILV) Proton-M with the upper stage Breeze-M and SC Sirius FM-6.

After the separation of the head unit in the Republic of Belarus Breeze-M and SC Sirius FM-6 from the third stage RKN further removal of spacecraft into the target orbit was carried out by the operation of the propulsion system booster.

Sirius FM-6 satellite

Sirius FM-6 is a high-power geostationary satellite for SiriusXM, America’s largest radio broadcaster measured by revenue and one of the world’s largest pure-play audio entertainment companies. Sirius FM-6 will help with the delivery of commercial-free music, and premier sports, news, talk, entertainment and Latin programming, traffic and weather to more than 25.6 million subscribers. Sirius FM-6 will also help in the delivery of traffic and other data service information to markets across North America for vehicles with navigational systems.

Coverage area of ​​the Sirius FM-6 satellite

SiriusXM is installed in vehicles of every major automaker and available for sale at retail locations nationwide. Sirius FM-6 will ensure SiriusXM’s array of audio and data services are received by vehicles, mobile devices and home receivers and will play an important role in bolstering the continuity of service for years to come.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release: http://www.federalspace.ru/19938/

Images, Text, Credits: Press Service of the Russian Federal Space Agency / ILS / ROSCOSMOS / Screen captures, Translation: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

vendredi 25 octobre 2013

Ghostly Specter Haunts the ‘Coldest Place in the Universe’












ALMA - Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array telescope logo.

Oct. 25, 2013

 Ghostly 'Boomerang'

Image above: The Boomerang nebula, called the "coldest place in the universe," reveals its true shape to the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope. Image Credit: NRAO/AUI/NSF/NASA/STScI/JPL-Caltech.

At a cosmologically crisp one degree Kelvin (minus 458 degrees Fahrenheit), the Boomerang nebula is the coldest known object in the universe -- colder, in fact, than the faint afterglow of the Big Bang, the explosive event that created the cosmos.

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile have taken a new look at this object to learn more about its frigid properties and to determine its true shape, which has an eerily ghost-like appearance.

"This ultra-cold object is extremely intriguing and we're learning much more about its true nature with ALMA," said Raghvendra Sahai, a researcher and principal scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and lead author of a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal. “What seemed like a double lobe, or boomerang shape, from Earth-based optical telescopes, is actually a much broader structure that is expanding rapidly into space."

As originally observed with ground-based telescopes, this nebula appeared lopsided, which is how it got its name. Later observations with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope revealed a bow-tie-like structure. The new ALMA data, however, reveal that the Hubble image tells only part of the story, and the twin lobes seen in that image may actually be a trick of light as seen at visible wavelengths.

The researchers discovered a dense lane of millimeter-sized dust grains surrounding the star, which explains why its outer cloud has an hourglass shape in visible light. These minute dust grains have created a mask that shades a portion of the central star and allows its light to leak out only in narrow but opposite directions into the cloud, giving it an hourglass appearance.

"This is important for the understanding of how stars die and become planetary nebulas,” said Sahai. “Using ALMA, we were quite literally, and figuratively, able to shed new light on the death throes of a sun-like star."

Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope. Image credit: ALMA

The Boomerang nebula, located about 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus, is a relatively young example of an object known as a planetary nebula. Planetary nebulas, contrary to their name, are actually the end-of-life phases of stars like our sun that have sloughed off their outer layers. What remains at their centers are white dwarf stars, which emit intense ultraviolet radiation that causes the gas in the nebulae to glow and emit light in brilliant colors.

Read the full ALMA release online at https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/alma-reveals-coldest-place-in-the-universe .

Additional authors on this paper include Wouter Vlemmings, Chalmers University of Technology, Onsala, Sweden; Patrick Huggins, New York University, New York; Lars-Ake Nyman, Joint ALMA Observatory, Santiago de Chile; and Yiannis Gonidakis, CSIRO, Australia Telescope National Facility.

ALMA, an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of Europe, North America and East Asia in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by European Southern Observatory, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA.

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Whitney Clavin.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Carbon Worlds May be Waterless, Finds NASA Study













NASA logo / NASA - Kepler Mission patch.

Oct. 25, 2013

 A Tale of Two Worlds: Silicate Versus Carbon Planets

Image above: This artist's concept illustrates the fate of two different planets: the one on the left is similar to Earth, made up largely of silicate-based rocks with oceans coating its surface. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Planets rich in carbon, including so-called diamond planets, may lack oceans, according to NASA-funded theoretical research.

Our sun is a carbon-poor star, and as result, our planet Earth is made up largely of silicates, not carbon. Stars with much more carbon than the sun, on the other hand, are predicted to make planets chock full of carbon, and perhaps even layers of diamond.

By modeling the ingredients in these carbon-based planetary systems, the scientists determined they lack icy water reservoirs thought to supply planets with oceans.

"The building blocks that went into making our oceans are the icy asteroids and comets," said Torrence Johnson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif, who presented the results Oct. 7 at the American Astronomical Society Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Denver. Johnson, a team member of several NASA planetary missions, including Galileo, Voyager and Cassini, has spent decades studying the planets in our own solar system.

"If we keep track of these building blocks, we find that planets around carbon-rich stars come up dry," he said.

Johnson and his colleagues say the extra carbon in developing star systems would snag the oxygen, preventing it from forming water.

"It's ironic that if carbon, the main element of life, becomes too abundant, it will steal away the oxygen that would have made water, the solvent essential to life as we know it," said Jonathan Lunine of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., a collaborator on the research.

One of the big questions in the study of planets beyond our solar system, called exoplanets, is whether or not they are habitable. Researchers identify such planets by first looking for those that are situated within the "habitable zone" around their parent stars, which is where temperatures are warm enough for water to pool on the surface. NASA's Kepler mission has found several planets within this zone, and researchers continue to scrutinize the Kepler data for candidates as small as Earth.

But even if a planet is found in this so-called "Goldilocks" zone, where oceans could, in theory, abound, is there actually enough water available to wet the surface? Johnson and his team addressed this question with planetary models based on measurements of our sun's carbon-to-oxygen ratio. Our sun, like other stars, inherited a soup of elements from the Big Bang and from previous generations of stars, including hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, silicon, carbon and oxygen.

"Our universe has its own top 10 list of elements," said Johnson, referring to the 10 most abundant elements in our universe.

These models accurately predict how much water was locked up in the form of ice early in the history of our solar system, billions of years ago, before making its way to Earth. Comets and/or the parent bodies of asteroids are thought to have been the main water suppliers, though researchers still debate their roles. Either way, the objects are said to have begun their journey from far beyond Earth, past a boundary called the "snow line," before impacting Earth and depositing water deep in the planet and on its surface.

When the researchers applied the planetary models to the carbon-rich stars, the water disappeared. "There's no snow beyond the snow line," said Johnson.

"All rocky planets aren't created equal," said Lunine. "So-called diamond planets the size of Earth, if they exist, will look totally alien to us: lifeless, ocean-less desert worlds."

The computer model results supporting these conclusions were published in the Astrophysical Journal last year (http://arxiv.org/abs/1208.3289).  The implications for habitability in these systems were the focus of the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting.

The California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages JPL for NASA.

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA  JPL / Whitney Clavin.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Antarctic Ozone Hole Slightly Smaller than Average This Year









NASA - EOS AURA Mission patch.

Oct. 25, 2013


Image above: The Antarctic ozone hole reached its maximum single-day area for 2013 on Sept. 16. The ozone hole (purple and blue) is the region over Antarctica with total ozone at or below 220 Dobson units (a common unit for measuring ozone concentration). Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The ozone hole that forms each year in the stratosphere over Antarctica was slightly smaller in 2013 than average in recent decades, according to NASA satellite data.

The ozone hole is a seasonal phenomenon that starts to form during the Antarctic spring (August and September). The September-October 2013 average size of the hole was 8.1 million square miles (21 million square kilometers). For comparison, the average size measured since the mid-1990s when the annual maximum size stopped growing is 8.7 million square miles (22.5 million square kilometers). However, the size of the hole in any particular year is not enough information for scientists to determine whether a healing of the hole has begun.

"There was a lot of Antarctic ozone depletion in 2013, but because of above average temperatures in the Antarctic lower stratosphere, the ozone hole was a bit below average compared to ozone holes observed since 1990," said Paul Newman, an atmospheric scientist and ozone expert at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The ozone hole forms when the sun begins rising again after several months of winter darkness. Polar-circling winds keep cold air trapped above the continent, and sunlight-sparked reactions involving ice clouds and chlorine from manmade chemicals begin eating away at the ozone. Most years, the conditions for ozone depletion ease before early December when the seasonal hole closes.

Levels of most ozone-depleting chemicals in the atmosphere have gradually declined as the result of the 1987 Montreal Protocol, an international treaty to protect the ozone layer by phasing out production of ozone-depleting chemicals. As a result, the size of the hole has stabilized, with variation from year to year driven by changing meteorological conditions.

video
Daily Ozone from July 1 to Oct 15, 2013

Video above: Daily images from Jul. 1 to Oct. 15 show the evolution of the 2013 ozone hole. The ozone hole maximum occurred on Sept. 16, 2013. Image Credit: NASA/Robert Simmon/Ozone Hole Watch.

The single-day maximum area this year was reached on Sept. 16 when the maximum area reached 9.3 million square miles (24 million square kilometers), about equal to the size of North America. The largest single-day ozone hole since the mid-1990s was 11.5 million square miles (29.9 million square kilometers) on Sept. 9, 2000.

Science teams from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been monitoring the ozone layer from the ground and with a variety of instruments on satellites and balloons since the 1970s. These ozone instruments capture different aspects of ozone depletion. The independent analyses ensure that the international community understands the trends in this critical part of Earth's atmosphere. The resulting views of the ozone hole have differences in the computation of the size of the ozone hole, its depth, and record dates.

AURA satellite. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

NASA observations of the ozone hole during 2013 were produced from data supplied by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument on NASA's Aura satellite and the Ozone Monitoring and Profiler Suite instrument on the NASA-NOAA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite. Long-term satellite ozone-monitoring instruments have included the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer, the second generation Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet Instrument, the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment series of instruments, and the Microwave Limb Sounder.

Related Links:

NASA's Ozone Hole Watch: http://ozonewatch.gsfc.nasa.gov/

2012 Antarctic Ozone Hole Second Smallest in 20 years: http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/search?q=2012+Antarctic+Ozone+Hole+Second+Smallest+in+20+years

NASA, NOAA Data Show Significant Antarctic Ozone Hole Remains: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/ozone-2011.html

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / Steve Cole / Goddard Space Flight Center / Kathryn Hansen.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

SIRIUS FM-6 carried by Proton-M Liftoff!












ILS / ROSCOSMOS - Sirius Fm-6 launch Mission poster.

October 25, 2013

Liftoff of the ILS Proton M Breeze M rocket and the SIRIUS FM-6 satellite

ILS / ROSCOSMOS - At 08:22:54 MSK (Moscow Time) liftoff of the ILS Proton M Breeze M rocket and the SIRIUS FM-6 satellite.

The three stages of the Proton vehicle have performed as planned, and it is up to the Breeze M upper stage to complete the mission.

video
Launch of Sirius FM-6 on Proton-M Rocket

According to the flight cyclogram head unit in the Republic of Belarus Breeze-M and SC Sirius FM-6 cleanly separated from the third stage rocket to 22:18 MSK.

Further removal of the spacecraft to the target orbit at the expense of the propulsion upper stage.

Sirius FM-6 satellite

Satellite Use:
  
Sirius FM-6 is a high-power geostationary satellite for SiriusXM, America’s largest radio broadcaster measured by revenue and one of the world’s largest pure-play audio entertainment companies. Sirius FM-6 will help with the delivery of commercial-free music, and premier sports, news, talk, entertainment and Latin programming, traffic and weather to more than 25.6 million subscribers. Sirius FM-6 will also help in the delivery of traffic and other data service information to markets across North America for vehicles with navigational systems. SiriusXM is installed in vehicles of every major automaker and available for sale at retail locations nationwide. Sirius FM-6 will ensure SiriusXM’s array of audio and data services are received by vehicles, mobile devices and home receivers and will play an important role in bolstering the continuity of service for years to come.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release: http://www.federalspace.ru/19936/

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ILS / ROSCOSMOS / Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Sun Emits 2nd Solar Flare in 2 Days












NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

Oct. 25, 2013

The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 4:01 a.m. EDT on Oct. 25, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. This disrupts the radio signals for as long as the flare is ongoing, anywhere from minutes to hours.


Image above: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of an X1.7 class flare on Oct. 25, 2013. The image shows light in the 131-angstrom wavelength, which is good for seeing material at the intense temperatures of a solar flare, and which is typically colorized in teal. Image Credit: NASA/SDO.

To see how this event may impact Earth, please visit NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

This flare is classified as an X1.7 class flare. "X-class" denotes the most intense flares, while the number provides more information about its strength. An X2 is twice as intense as an X1, an X3 is three times as intense, etc. In the past, X-class flares of this intensity have caused degradation or blackouts of radio communications for about an hour.

Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun's normal 11-year activity cycle is currently near solar maximum conditions. Humans have tracked this solar cycle continuously since it was discovered in 1843, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun's peak activity. The first X-class flare of the current solar cycle occurred in February 2011. The largest X-class flare in this cycle was an X6.9 on Aug. 9, 2011.

Updates will be provided as needed.

Related Links:

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Space Weather: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/spaceweather/index.html

View Other Past Solar Activity: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/multimedia/Solar-Events.html

Image (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Karen C. Fox.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 24 octobre 2013

Completed the planned correction of the orbit of the International Space Station 24.10.2013












ISS - International Space Station patch.

24.10.2013

According to the International Space Station (ISS) October 24, the correction of its orbit.

According to calculations by the service ballistic and navigation support the Mission Control Center FSUE TsNIIMash propulsion system (control) cargo spacecraft ATV- 4 was included in the 15.03 Moscow time. Orbit correction was in normal mode. According to the duration of the telemetry control amounted to 256.6 seconds. As a result, ISS has received the increment speed of 0.62 m / s.

ISS re-boost by ATV

The purpose of the operation - the formation of a working orbit before docking station with transport manned spacecraft (WPK) Soyuz TMA -11M.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release: http://www.federalspace.ru/19929/

Image, Text, Credits: Press Service of the Russian Federal Space Agency / ESA / D. Ducros / Translation: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA's SDO Sees Sun Emit a Mid-level Solar Flare












NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

Oct. 24, 2013


Image above: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory or SDO, captured this image on the sun of an M9.4-class solar flare, which peaked at 8:30 pm EDT on Oct. 23, 2013. The image displays light in the wavelength of 131 Angstroms, which is good for viewing the intense heat of a solar flare and typically colored teal. Image Credit: NASA/SDO.

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare that peaked at 8:30 pm EDT on Oct. 23, 2013. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. Such radiation can disrupt radio signals for as long as the flare is ongoing, anywhere from minutes to hours.

To see how this event may impact Earth, please visit NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center at http://spaceweather.gov, the U.S. government's official source for space weather forecasts, alerts, watches and warnings.

video
Canyon of Fire on the Sun

Video above: A magnetic filament of solar material erupted on the sun in late September, breaking the quiet conditions in a spectacular fashion. The 200,000 mile long filament ripped through the sun's atmosphere, the corona, leaving behind what looks like a canyon of fire. The glowing canyon traces the channel where magnetic fields held the filament aloft before the explosion. Visualizers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. combined two days of satellite data to create a short movie of this gigantic event on the sun.


This flare is classified as an M9.4 flare, on a scale from M1 to M9.9.  This rating puts it at the very top of the scale for M class flares, which are the weakest flares that can cause some space weather effects near Earth. In the past, they have caused brief radio blackouts at the poles.  The next highest level is X-class, which denotes the most intense flares.

Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun is near solar maximum. Humans have tracked solar cycles continuously since they were discovered in 1843, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun's peak activity.

Related Links:

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Space Weather: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/spaceweather/index.html

View Other Past Solar Activity: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/multimedia/Solar-Events.html

Image (mentioned), Video, Text, Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Karen C. Fox.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Great Observatories Begin Deepest Ever Probe of the Universe



NASA / ESA - Hubble Space Telescope patch / NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch / NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Oct. 24, 2013

Great Observatories are teaming up to look deeper into the universe than ever before. With a boost from natural "zoom lenses" found in space, they should be able to uncover galaxies that are as much as 100 times fainter than what the Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra space telescopes can typically see.

This ambitious collaborative program is called The Frontier Fields. Astronomers will spend the next three years peering at six massive clusters of galaxies. Researchers are interested not only as to what's inside the clusters, but also what's behind them. The gravitational fields of the clusters brighten and magnify distant background galaxies that are so faint they would otherwise be unobservable.

The clusters themselves are among the most massive assemblages of matter known.

NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Image credits: NASA / ESA

Astronomers anticipate that these observations will reveal populations of never-before-seen galaxies that existed when the universe was only a few hundred million years old. The Hubble and Spitzer data will be combined to measure the galaxies' distances and masses more accurately than either observatory could measure alone, demonstrating the synergy of these Great Observatories for such studies. The Chandra X-ray Observatory will also peer deep into the fields, imaging them at X-ray wavelengths to help determine the masses and lensing power of the clusters, as well as identify background galaxies with massive black holes.

"The idea is to use nature's natural telescopes in combination with the Great Observatories to look much deeper than before and find the most distant and faint galaxies we can possibly see," said principal investigator Jennifer Lotz of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md.

NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA

"We want to understand when and how the first stars and galaxies formed in the universe, and each Great Observatory gives us a different piece of the puzzle. Hubble tells you which galaxies to look at and how many stars are being born in those systems. Spitzer tells you how old the galaxy is and how many stars have formed," said Peter Capak, the Spitzer principal investigator of the Frontier Fields program.

The high-resolution Hubble data from the Frontier Fields program will also be used to trace the distribution of dark matter within the foreground clusters. Accounting for the bulk of the universe's mass, dark matter is the underlying, invisible scaffolding attached to galaxies. "The apparent positions of those lensed galaxies then tell you what's happening with the cluster itself, where the dark matter is in that cluster," Lotz said. "We'll use that information to make a better model of the cluster to better understand its lensing power."

NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory. Image credit: NASA

The Hubble and Spitzer observations will be much more challenging for researchers than previous deep fields that have been studied by this powerful pair of observatories with great success. "With a deep image, you've got a direct image — what you see is what you get. But when we use a gravitational lens, background galaxies appear distorted and brighter," Lotz said. "In order to understand the true properties of a background galaxy, you have to understand how it is distorted and how it is magnified. This depends on the distribution of dark matter in the gravitational lens — the foreground cluster."

What's more, the galaxies seen in previous ultra-deep fields are just the most massive at those epochs. "They are the tip of the iceberg. If you want to see the galaxies that will turn into ones like our Milky Way, you have to go much fainter," Lotz said. Without using the big natural telescopes in space, astronomers would have to wait for the James Webb Space Telescope. In fact, the Frontier Fields offer a sneak peek of what the Webb telescope will routinely see anywhere it points in space, when it is launched in 2018.

Great Observatories Begin Deepest Ever Probe of the Universe

About this image:

These are NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope natural-color images of four target galaxy clusters that are part of an ambitious new observing program called The Frontier Fields. NASA's Great Observatories are teaming up to look deeper into the universe than ever before. With a boost from natural "zoom lenses" found in space, they should be able to uncover galaxies that are as much as 100 times fainter than what the Hubble, Spitzer, and Chandra space telescopes can typically see. The gravitational fields of the clusters brighten and magnify far-more-distant background galaxies that are so faint they would otherwise be unobservable. The foreground clusters range in distance from 3 billion to 5 billion light-years from Earth.

Object Names: Abell 2744, Pandora's Cluster, MACS J0416.1-2403, MACS J0717.5+3745, MACS J1149.5+2223.

The Hubble Frontier Fields initiative grew out of high-level discussions at STScI concerning what important, forward-looking science Hubble should be doing in upcoming years. Despite several deep field surveys, astronomers realized that a lot was still to be learned about the distant universe. And, such knowledge would help in planning the observing strategy for the Webb telescope.

To get a better assessment of whether doing more deep field observations was scientifically interesting or urgent, STScI chartered a "Hubble Deep Field Initiative" working group, which included U.S. and European astronomers who were expert users of the Great Observatories. The astronomers also considered synergies with other observatories, such as Spitzer, Chandra, and the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array. STScI Director Matt Mountain allocated his director's discretionary time to the program.

The first object to be looked at this month is called Pandora's Cluster (Abell 2744), which has been previously observed by all three Great Observatories but not to the depth of the new observations. The giant galaxy cluster appears to be the result of a simultaneous pile-up of at least four separate, smaller galaxy clusters that took place over a span of 350 million years.

Join several members of the Frontier Fields collaboration during the live Hubble Hangout event at 4:00pm (EDT) on Thursday, October 24 to discuss more on what's to come from these observations, how the clusters were chosen, and what we hope to learn from them. Visit: https://plus.google.com/u/0/events/cpl8pr6rjvls7en3c9ltrgelc80

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

A Glimpse of the Violent Past of Milky Way's Giant Black Hole











NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Oct. 24, 2013

Researchers using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have found evidence that the normally dim region very close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy flared up with at least two luminous outbursts in the past few hundred years.

This discovery comes from a new study of rapid variations in the X-ray emission from gas clouds surrounding the supermassive black hole, a.k.a. Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A* for short.  The scientists show that the most probable interpretation of these variations is that they are caused by light echoes. 

The echoes from Sgr A* were likely produced when large clumps of material, possibly from a disrupted star or planet, fell into the black hole. Some of the X-rays produced by these episodes then bounced off gas clouds about thirty to a hundred light years away from the black hole, similar to how the sound from a person’s voice can bounce off canyon walls. Just as echoes of sound reverberate long after the original noise was created, so too do light echoes in space replay the original event.

X-ray Images of Sagittarius A*

Image above: Sagittarius A*, or Sgr A*, the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/APC/Universite de Paris Diderot/M.Clavel et al.

While light echoes from Sgr A* have been seen before in X-rays by Chandra and other observatories, this is the first time that evidence for two distinct outbursts has been seen within a single set of data.

More than just a cosmic parlor trick, light echoes provide astronomers an opportunity to piece together what objects like Sgr A* were doing long before there were X-ray telescopes to observe them. The X-ray echoes suggest that the area very close to Sgr A* was at least a million times brighter within the past few hundred years. X-rays from the outbursts (as viewed in Earth’s time frame) that followed a straight path would have arrived at Earth at that time. However, the reflected X-rays in the light echoes took a longer path as they bounced off the gas clouds and only reached Chandra in the last few years.

A new animation shows Chandra images that have been combined from data taken between 1999 and 2011. This sequence of images, where the position of Sgr A* is marked with a cross, show how the light echoes behave. As the sequence plays, the X-ray emission appears to be moving away from the black hole in some regions. In other regions it gets dimmer or brighter, as the X-rays pass into or away from reflecting material.

video
Time-Lapse of Supermassive Black Hole Sagittarius A* 
 

Image above: The X-ray emission shown here is from a process called fluorescence. Iron atoms in these clouds have been bombarded by X-rays, knocking out electrons close to the nucleus and causing electrons further out to fill the hole, emitting X-rays in the process. Other types of X-ray emission exist in this region but are not shown here, explaining the dark areas.

This is the first time that astronomers have seen both increasing and decreasing X-ray emission in the same structures. Because the change in X-rays lasts for only two years in one region and over ten years in others, this new study indicates that at least two separate outbursts were responsible for the light echoes observed from Sgr A*.

There are several possible causes of the outbursts: a short-lived jet produced by the partial disruption of a star by Sgr A*; the ripping apart of a planet by Sgr A*; the collection by Sgr A* of debris from close encounters between two stars; and an increase in the consumption of material by Sgr A* because of clumps in the gas ejected by massive stars orbiting Sgr A*. Further studies of the variations are needed to decide between these options.

The researchers also examined the possibility that a magnetar – a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field – recently discovered near Sgr A* might be responsible for these variations. However, this would require an outburst that is much brighter than the brightest magnetar outburst ever observed.

A paper describing these results has been published in the October 2013 issue of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics and is available online. The first author is Maïca Clavel from AstroParticule et Cosmologie (APC) in Paris, France. The co-authors are Régis Terrier and Andrea Goldwurm from APC; Mark Morris from University of California, Los Angeles, CA; Gabriele Ponti from Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany; Simona Soldi from APC and Guillaume Trap from Palais de la découverte – Universcience, Paris, France.

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.

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

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Oil and gas sector gears up for Sentinels












ESA- European Space Agency patch.

24 October 2013

The international body representing the oil and gas industry is promoting the use of satellite Earth observation as the industry explores new frontiers. The upcoming Sentinel suite of satellites will facilitate these new endeavours.

Satellite information can be used by the oil and gas sector for geology mapping, subsidence monitoring and emergency response actions like oil spill clean-up.

Arctic ice

As the oil and gas industry confronts new challenges, such as moving into high latitudes and addressing more demanding legislative requirements for environmental sustainability, Earth observation is becoming increasingly important to the industry.

The challenge for the industry is now to establish good practices for the use of Earth observation to strengthen the position of this technology within the sector. Although many companies have already integrated this technology in their activities, there is a need to establish industry-wide guidelines.

The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers – OGP – promotes safe, responsible and sustainable operations in the industry, as well as produces guidelines for good practices for its members.

ESA and OGP began collaborating three years ago with a joint workshop to explore possibilities for increased use of satellite data within the sector. Recognising such opportunities, the OGP Geomatics committee was asked to establish a dedicated body within the organisation focused on Earth observation.

Gulf of Mexico oil spill seen from space

The ‘Earth Observation Subcommittee’ will deal exclusively with promoting and structuring the use of satellite and aerial remote sensing within the oil and gas sector. The initial focus will be to ensure members are fully informed about the capabilities that Earth observation can bring, and to support the implementation of industry-wide guidelines for how the information can be used.

Some of the OGP guidelines focus on operations in the Arctic, where about 13% of the world’s untapped oil resources are located.

Safe exploration and exploitation in this region will rely heavily on accurate and timely sea-ice and iceberg information. It is therefore of high priority that OGP establishes guidelines on how Earth observation data can support this, and ensure that members have the knowledge and capabilities to use satellite information.

The constellation of Sentinel satellites, being developed for Europe’s Copernicus programme, will play a major role in this new frontier. Although the Arctic is prone to bad weather and long periods of darkness, the radar on Sentinel-1 will provide an all-weather, day-and-night supply of imagery.

Icebergs

“The Sentinel satellites will be a game-changer for the industry in terms of data availability, but we need to ensure we are ready to enter into this new geo-information era,” said Earth Observation Subcommittee member Richard Hall from Statoil.

“The OGP Earth observation committee could play a major role in ensuring Sentinel information will be fully exploited by the oil and gas industry.”

The first satellite in the Sentinel series will be ready for launch next spring.

Related links:

International Association of Oil and Gas Producers: http://www.ogp.org.uk/

OGP to drive Earth Observation uptake in the Industry: http://www.ogp.org.uk/news/press-releases/ogp-to-drive-earth-observation-uptake-in-the-industry/

Watch: OGP surveillance workshop: http://spaceinvideos.esa.int/Videos/2013/02/OGP_surveillance_workshop_part_1

Related missions:

Sentinels: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Sentinels_overview

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / C-CORE / MDA / P. Carril.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 23 octobre 2013

Cassini Gets New Views of Titan's Land of Lakes










Cassini International patch.

October 23, 2013

With the sun now shining down over the north pole of Saturn's moon Titan, a little luck with the weather, and trajectories that put the spacecraft into optimal viewing positions, NASA's Cassini spacecraft has obtained new pictures of the liquid methane and ethane seas and lakes that reside near Titan's north pole. The images reveal new clues about how the lakes formed and about Titan's Earth-like "hydrologic" cycle, which involves hydrocarbons rather than water.

The new images are available online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/multimedia/index.html.

While there is one large lake and a few smaller ones near Titan's south pole, almost all of Titan's lakes appear near the moon's north pole. Cassini scientists have been able to study much of the terrain with radar, which can penetrate beneath Titan's clouds and thick haze. And until now, Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer and imaging science subsystem had only been able to capture distant, oblique or partial views of this area.

Bird's Eye View of the Land of Lakes

Image above: The vast hydrocarbon seas and lakes (dark shapes) near the north pole of Saturn's moon Titan sprawl out beneath the watchful eye of NASA's Cassini spacecraft. Scientists are studying images like these for clues about how Titan's hydrocarbon lakes formed. Titan is the only world other than Earth that is known to have stable bodies of liquid on its surface. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona.

Several factors combined recently to give these instruments great observing opportunities. Two recent flybys provided better viewing geometry. Sunlight has begun to pierce the winter darkness that shrouded Titan's north pole at Cassini's arrival in the Saturn system nine years ago. A thick cap of haze that once hung over the north pole has also dissipated as northern summer approaches. And Titan's beautiful, nearly cloudless, rain-free weather continued during Cassini's flybys this past summer.

The images are mosaics in infrared light based on data obtained during flybys of Titan on July 10, July 26, and Sept. 12, 2013. The colorized mosaic from the visual and infrared mapping spectrometer, which maps infrared colors onto the visible-color spectrum, reveals differences in the composition of material around the lakes. The data suggest parts of Titan's lakes and seas may have evaporated and left behind the Titan equivalent of Earth's salt flats. Only at Titan, the evaporated material is thought to be organic chemicals originally from Titan's haze particles that once dissolved in liquid methane. They appear orange in this image against the greenish backdrop of Titan's typical bedrock of water ice.

Titan's Northern Lakes: Salt Flats?

Image above: This false-color mosaic, made from infrared data collected by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, reveals the differences in the composition of surface materials around hydrocarbon lakes at Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Titan is the only other place in the solar system that we know has stable liquid on its surface, though its lakes are made of liquid ethane and methane rather than liquid water. While there is one large lake and a few smaller ones near Titan's south pole, almost all of Titan's lakes appear near the moon's north pole. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/University of Idaho.

"The view from Cassini's visual and infrared mapping spectrometer gives us a holistic view of an area that we'd only seen in bits and pieces before and at a lower resolution," said Jason Barnes, a participating scientist for the instrument at the University of Idaho, Moscow. "It turns out that Titan's north pole is even more interesting than we thought, with a complex interplay of liquids in lakes and seas and deposits left from the evaporation of past lakes and seas."

The near-infrared images from Cassini's imaging cameras show a bright unit of terrain in the northern land of lakes that had not previously been visible in the data. The bright area suggests that the surface here is unique from the rest of Titan, which might explain why almost all of the lakes are found in this region. Titan's lakes have very distinctive shapes -- rounded cookie-cutter silhouettes and steep sides -- and a variety of formation mechanisms have been proposed. The explanations range from the collapse of land after a volcanic eruption to karst terrain, where liquids dissolve soluble bedrock. Karst terrains on Earth can create spectacular topography such as the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.

Dark Lakes on a Bright Landscape

Image above: Ultracold hydrocarbon lakes and seas (dark shapes) near the north pole of Saturn's moon Titan can be seen embedded in some kind of bright surface material in this infrared mosaic from NASA's Cassini mission. The bright area suggests that the surface here is different from the rest of Titan, which might help explain why almost all of the lakes are found in this region. Titan's lakes have very distinctive shapes -- rounded cookie-cutter silhouettes and steep sides -- and a variety of formation mechanisms have been proposed. The explanations range from the collapse of land after a volcanic eruption to karst terrain, where liquids dissolve soluble bedrock. Karst terrains on Earth can create spectacular topography such as the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona.

"Ever since the lakes and seas were discovered, we've been wondering why they're concentrated at high northern latitudes," said Elizabeth (Zibi) Turtle, a Cassini imaging team associate based at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md. "So, seeing that there's something special about the surface in this region is a big clue to help narrow down the possible explanations."

Launched in 1997, Cassini has been exploring the Saturn system since 2004. A full Saturn year is 30 years, and Cassini has been able to observe nearly a third of a Saturn year. In that time, Saturn and its moons have seen the seasons change from northern winter to northern summer.

Titan's North: The Big Picture

Image above: Almost all of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes on the surface of Saturn's moon Titan cluster around the north pole, as can be seen in this mosaic from NASA's Cassini mission. This mosaic, made from near-infrared images of Titan obtained by Cassini's imaging science subsystem, shows a view from the north pole (upper middle of mosaic) down to near the equator at the bottom. Here, the seas and lakes appear as dark shapes, embedded in some kind of bright terrain. Titan is the only world in the solar system other than Earth that is known to have stable bodies of liquid on the surface. Titan's, however, are composed of liquid ethane and methane rather than liquid water. The bright area suggests the surface material around the lakes is unique and might explain why almost all of Titan's lakes are found in this region. It appears to cover much of the surface north of 65 to 70 degrees north latitude on this side of Titan. Titan's lakes have very distinctive shapes -- rounded cookie-cutter silhouettes and steep sides - and a variety of formation mechanisms have been proposed. The explanations range from the collapse of land after a volcanic eruption to karst terrain, where liquids dissolve soluble bedrock. Karst terrains on Earth can create spectacular topography such as the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/JHUAPL/Univ. of Arizona.

"Titan's northern lakes region is one of the most Earth-like and intriguing in the solar system," said Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist, based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "We know lakes here change with the seasons, and Cassini's long mission at Saturn gives us the opportunity to watch the seasons change at Titan, too. Now that the sun is shining in the north and we have these wonderful views, we can begin to compare the different data sets and tease out what Titan's lakes are doing near the north pole."

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. The California Institute of Technology in Pasadena manages JPL for NASA. The VIMS team is based at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The imaging operations center is based at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo.

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

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / JPL / Jia-Rui Cook.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

NASA Laser Communication System Sets Record with Data Transmissions to and from Moon












NASA - LADEE Mission patch.

Oct. 23, 2013

NASA's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) has made history using a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 239,000 miles between the moon and Earth at a record-breaking download rate of 622 megabits per second (Mbps).

LLCD is NASA's first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon.

"LLCD is the first step on our roadmap toward building the next generation of space communication capability," said Badri Younes, NASA's deputy associate administrator for space communications and navigation (SCaN) in Washington. "We are encouraged by the results of the demonstration to this point, and we are confident we are on the right path to introduce this new capability into operational service soon."

NASA's Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD)

Since NASA first ventured into space, it has relied on radio frequency (RF) communication. However, RF is reaching its limit as demand for more data capacity continues to increase. The development and deployment of laser communications will enable NASA to extend communication capabilities such as increased image resolution and 3-D video transmission from deep space.

"The goal of LLCD is to validate and build confidence in this technology so that future missions will consider using it," said Don Cornwell, LLCD manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "This unique ability developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory has incredible application possibilities."

LLCD is a short-duration experiment and the precursor to NASA's long-duration demonstration, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). LCRD is a part of the agency's Technology Demonstration Missions Program, which is working to develop crosscutting technology capable of operating in the rigors of space. It is scheduled to launch in 2017.

Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD)

LLCD is hosted aboard NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), launched in September from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. LADEE is a 100-day robotic mission operated by the agency's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. LADEE's mission is to provide data that will help NASA determine whether dust caused the mysterious glow astronauts observed on the lunar horizon during several Apollo missions. It also will explore the moon's atmosphere. Ames designed, developed, built, integrated and tested LADEE, and manages overall operations of the spacecraft. NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington funds the LADEE mission.

The LLCD system, flight terminal and primary ground terminal at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M., were developed by the Lincoln Laboratory at MIT. The Table Mountain Optical Communications Technology Laboratory operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., is participating in the demonstration. A third ground station operated by the European Space Agency on Tenerife in the Canary Islands also will be participating in the demonstration.

For more information about LLCD, visit: http://llcd.gsfc.nasa.gov

For more information about the LADEE mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ladee

For more information about LCRD, visit: http://esc.gsfc.nasa.gov/267/LCRD.html

For more information about SCaN, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/scan

Images, Text, Credit: NASA

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mardi 22 octobre 2013

Canadarm2 Releases Cygnus After Successful Demonstration Mission












Obital - ISS Cargo Resupply Service Cygnus patch.

Oct. 22, 2013

The Canadarm2 released Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus commercial craft at 7:31 a.m. EDT Tuesday after three weeks at the International Space Station. Flight Engineers Luca Parmitano and Karen Nyberg were at the controls of the robotics workstation removing Cygnus from the Harmony node then safely releasing it.


Image above: Expedition 37 crew members aboard the International Space Station released Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft from the station's robotic arm at 7:31 a.m. EDT Tuesday. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Parmitano and Flight Engineer Mike Hopkins closed the hatches and depressurized Cygnus Monday morning. On Wednesday, the Cygnus will fire its engines for the last time at 1:41 p.m. and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere for a fiery destruction over the Pacific Ocean.

Cygnus delivered 1,300 pounds of gear on Sept. 29 when it arrived and was captured by Canadarm2 again with Nyberg and Parmitano at the controls. After Cygnus was captured and berthed to the Harmony node it successfully completed its demonstration mission to the International Space Station.


Image above: The first Cygnus commercial cargo spacecraft built by Orbital Sciences is in the grasp of the Canadarm2 and attached to the Harmony node. Image Credit: NASA.

Orbital Sciences' first official commercial resupply mission is scheduled for launch in December when Cygnus on the Orbital 1 mission will launch from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Future Cygnus flights will ensure a robust national capability to deliver critical science research to orbit, significantly increasing NASA's ability to conduct new science investigations to the only laboratory in microgravity.

video
 Cygnus completes mission!

Read more about upcoming launches: http://www.nasa.gov/missions/highlights/schedule.html

The only other commercial resupplier to the space station is SpaceX. The private launch company has conducted two demonstration missions and two resupply missions utilizing its Dragon cargo craft.

For more information about the International Space Station (ISS), visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA / Video: NASA TV.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

SMOS sees triple superstorms









ESA - SMOS Mission logo.

22 October 2013

ESA’s versatile water mission tracked Asia’s recent storms over land and sea.

Over the past three weeks, tropical cyclone activity has intensified over the seas bordering southern and eastern Asia.

Triple storm

Cyclone Phailin began forming on 4 October in the Gulf of Thailand, before moving northwest across the Bay of Bengal and making landfall in northern India. The storm affected about 12 million people and claimed dozens of lives.

Typhoons Nari and Wipha subsequently formed on 8 October: Nari west of the Philippines and Wipha east of Guam. Nari displaced tens of thousands of people in the Philippines and Vietnam, while Wipha lashed Japan’s east coast.

During all three superstorms, ESA’s Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity satellite, SMOS, captured snapshots of surface wind speeds under the intense storms.

SMOS carries a novel microwave sensor to capture images of ‘brightness temperature’. These images correspond to radiation emitted from Earth’s surface, which are then used to derive information on soil moisture and ocean salinity.

video
SMOS tracks hurricane Igor

Strong winds over oceans whip up waves and whitecaps, which in turn affect the microwave radiation from the surface. This means that although strong storms make it difficult to measure salinity, the changes in radiation can, however, be linked directly to the strength of the wind over the sea.

This method of measuring wind speeds, thanks to the fact that SMOS is largely unaffected by atmospheric conditions such as thick clouds or rain, was developed by scientists at France’s Ifremer and CLS research centres. It was first used when Hurricane Igor developed over the Atlantic Ocean in 2010.

ESA's SMOS in orbit

Being able to measure ocean surface wind in stormy conditions with the broad and frequent coverage that SMOS can provide is paramount for tracking and forecasting storm strength.

“The information that SMOS can provide for storm forecasting has great potential for future operational use of such data. Now that the method has been more consolidated, we are planning to deliver data to the community on a regular basis,” says Nicolas Reul from Ifremer.

SMOS sees cyclone over land

In addition to tracking this month’s storms at sea, SMOS also gathered readings of soil moisture when the storms hit land. The data show which areas experienced the most extreme flooding caused by heaving rainfall and overflowing rivers. This information could be valuable for early warnings and hydrological forecasting.

Launched in 2009, the versatile SMOS satellite has gone above and beyond its original objectives of mapping soil moisture and ocean salinity. In addition to tracking major storms, its measurements are also providing new information on sea-ice, permafrost and wetlands.

Related links:

Track SMOS: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/SMOS/Track_SMOS

Access SMOS data: http://earth.esa.int/SMOS/

CESBIO–SMOS blog: http://www.cesbio.ups-tlse.fr/SMOS_blog/

IFREMER: http://www.ifremer.fr/anglais/

CLS: http://www.cls.fr/welcome_en.html

Imges, Video, Text, Credits: ESA / IFREMER / CLS / CESBIO / Ifremer / Planetary Visions.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch