vendredi 28 mars 2014

Expedition 39/40 Crew Opens Hatch to the International Space Station












ISS - Expedition 39 Mission patch.

March 28, 2014

video
Expedition 39 40 Crew Opens Hatch to the International Space Station

The crew opened the hatches to the station at 10:35 p.m. after a series of leak and pressure checks between the two spacecraft before . The new station residents entered Poisk and greeted Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos.

After the welcoming ceremony and congratulatory words with family, friends and mission officials, the newly comprised crew conducted a mandatory safety orientation. All six crew members then will have an off-duty day Friday as they relax, having shifted their schedules to accommodate the busy launch and docking activities.

The original plan for the Soyuz to arrive at the station in just four orbits over six hours defaulted to the more traditional 34-orbit plan after the Soyuz spacecraft failed to conduct an engine firing early in the rendezvous sequence following launch to refine its orbit.


Image above: The Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft is just a few meters away from docking. Image Credit: NASA TV / Screen capture: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

The Soyuz crew was safe the entire time as flight controllers replanned their approach and rendezvous. The two day launch-to-docking profile was the normal Soyuz mission profile used for years before Russian space officials began single-day launch to docking efforts in March 2013.

 As is customary, Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev will have several days set aside to familiarize themselves with their new home in space. The new trio will also assist the veteran crewmates as they adjust to living and working in space for six months.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev are scheduled to return home in September as Expedition 40 crew members. They will officially become Expedition 40 when Expedition 39 crew members Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin end their mission and undock in their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft in May for their return to Earth.

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

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

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 27 mars 2014

Soyuz TMA-12M Docks with International Space Station












ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz TMA-12M Mission patch.

March 27, 2014

The Soyuz TMA-12M vehicle docked to the International Space Station at 7:53 p.m. EDT (23.53 GMT), 252 miles above northern Brazil near the northern coast of South America. Aboard the space station, Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency -- the first Japanese astronaut to lead an expedition -- Richard Mastracchio of NASA and Mikhail Tyurin of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) will welcome Soyuz crew members Steve Swanson of NASA and Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos.


Image above: The Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft is just a few meters away from docking.Image Credit: NASA TV / Screen capture: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

The original plan for the Soyuz to arrive at the station in just four orbits over six hours defaulted to the more traditional 34-orbit plan after the Soyuz spacecraft failed to conduct an engine firing early in the rendezvous sequence following launch to refine its orbit.

video
Expedition 39 Docks to Station After Two Day Trip. Video Credit: NASA TV.

The Soyuz crew was safe the entire time as flight controllers replanned their approach and rendezvous. The two day launch-to-docking profile was the normal Soyuz mission profile used for years before Russian space officials began single-day launch to docking efforts in March 2013.

The crew will go through a series of leak and pressure checks between the two spacecraft before finally opening the hatches to the station. The new station residents will enter Poisk and greet Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos.


Image above: Expedition 39 crew members wave after their final press conference before their Tuesday night lift off. Image Credit: ROSCOSMOS.

After a welcoming ceremony and congratulatory words with family, friends and mission officials, the newly comprised crew will conduct a mandatory safety orientation. All six crew members then will have an off-duty day Friday as they relax, having shifted their schedules to accommodate the busy launch and docking activities.

 As is customary, Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev will have several days set aside to familiarize themselves with their new home in space. The new trio will also assist the veteran crewmates as they adjust to living and working in space for six months.

Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev are scheduled to return home in September as Expedition 40 crew members. They will officially become Expedition 40 when Expedition 39 crew members Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin end their mission and undock in their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft in May for their return to Earth.

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

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

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Rosetta sets sights on destination comet












ESA - Rosetta Mission patch.

27 March 2014

Rosetta’s first sighting of its target in 2014 – narrow angle view

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has caught a first glimpse of its destination comet since waking up from deep-space hibernation on 20 January.

These two ‘first light’ images were taken on 20 and 21 March by the OSIRIS wide-angle camera and narrow-angle camera, as part of six weeks of activities dedicated to preparing the spacecraft’s science instruments for close-up study of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

OSIRIS, the Optical, Spectroscopic and Infrared Remote Imaging System, developed under the leadership of the Max-Planck-Institut für Sonnensystemforschung in Göttingen, Germany, has two cameras for imaging the comet. One covers a wide angle, while the narrow-angle camera covers a smaller field at higher resolution.

OSIRIS is one of a suite of 11 science instruments on the Rosetta orbiter that together will provide details on the comet’s surface geology, its gravity, mass, shape and internal structure, its gaseous, dust-laden atmosphere and its plasma environment.

Rosetta’s first sighting of its target in 2014 – wide angle view

Rosetta has been travelling through the Solar System for 10 years, and will finally arrive at the comet in August this year. It first imaged the comet in a long exposure ­of over 13 hours from a distance of 163 million kilometres, three years ago, before entering deep-space hibernation.

Rosetta is currently around 5 million kilometres from the comet, and at this distance it is still too far away to resolve – its light is seen in less than a pixel and required a series of 60–300 second exposures taken with the wide-angle and narrow-angle camera. The data then travelled 37 minutes through space to reach Earth, with the download taking about an hour per image.

“Finally seeing our target after a 10 year journey through space is an incredible feeling,” says OSIRIS Principal Investigator Holger Sierks from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. “These first images taken from such a huge distance show us that OSIRIS is ready for the upcoming adventure.”

“This is a great start to our instrument commissioning period and we are looking forward to having all 11 instruments plus lander Philae back online and ready for arriving at the comet in just a few month’s time,” says Matt Taylor, ESA’s Rosetta project scientist.

OSIRIS and the spacecraft’s dedicated navigation cameras will regularly acquire images over the coming weeks to help refine Rosetta’s trajectory in order to bring it steadily in line with the comet ahead of the rendezvous.

video
When can we see the comet?

Currently, Rosetta is on a trajectory that would, if unchanged, take it past the comet at a distance of approximately 50 000 km and at a relative speed of 800 m/s. A critical series of manoeuvres beginning in May will gradually reduce Rosetta’s velocity relative to the comet to just 1 m/s and bring it to within 100 km by the first week of August.

Between May and August the 4 km-wide comet will gradually ‘grow’ in Rosetta’s field of view from appearing to have a diameter of less than one camera pixel to well over 2000 pixels – equivalent to a resolution of around 2 m per pixel – allowing the first surface features to be resolved.

These early observations will allow the rotation rate and the shape of the nucleus to be better understood, crucial for planning manoeuvres around the comet. An initial assessment of the comet’s activity will also be possible.

With OSIRIS re-activated in the first week of instrument commissioning, Rosetta’s 10 other science experiments, along with lander Philae, will provide the focus for the next months’ activities.

For an overview of the instrument commissioning schedule, and for regular status reports, visit the Rosetta blog.

More about Rosetta:

Rosetta is an ESA mission with contributions from its member states and NASA. Rosetta’s Philae lander is provided by a consortium led by DLR, MPS, CNES and ASI. Rosetta will be the first mission in history to rendezvous with a comet, escort it as it orbits the Sun, and deploy a lander to its surface. Comets are time capsules containing primitive material left over from the epoch when the Sun and its planets formed. By studying the gas, dust, structure of the nucleus and organic materials associated with the comet, via both remote and in-situ observations, the Rosetta mission should become the key to unlocking the history and evolution of our Solar System, as well as answering questions regarding the origin of Earth’s water and perhaps even life.

More about OSIRIS:

The scientific imaging system OSIRIS was built by a consortium led by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany) in collaboration with CISAS, University of Padova (Italy), the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille (France), the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucia, CSIC (Spain), the Research and Scientific Support Department of the European Space Agency (The Netherlands), the Instituto Nacional de Técnica Aeroespacial (Spain), the Universidad Politéchnica de Madrid (Spain), the Department of Physics and Astronomy of Uppsala University (Sweden), and the Institute of Computer and Network Engineering of the TU Braunschweig (Germany).

Rosetta overview: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta_overview

Rosetta factsheet: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta/Rosetta_factsheet

Frequently asked questions: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Rosetta/Frequently_asked_questions

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / MPS for OSIRIS-Team MPS / UPD / LAM / IAA / SSO / INTA / UPM / DASP / IDA / Video: ESA / C. Carreau.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Hubble Space Telescope Spots Mars-Bound Comet Sprout Multiple Jets












NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

March 27, 2014


Image above: The images above show -- before and after filtering -- comet C/2013 A1, also known as Siding Spring, as captured by Wide Field Camera 3 on NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute).

NASA released Thursday an image of a comet that, on Oct. 19, will pass within 84,000 miles of Mars -- less than half the distance between Earth and our moon.

The image on the left, captured  March 11 by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, shows comet C/2013 A1, also called Siding Spring, at a distance of 353 million miles from Earth. Hubble can't see Siding Spring's icy nucleus because of its diminutive size. The nucleus is surrounded by a glowing dust cloud, or COMA, that measures roughly 12,000 miles across.

The right image shows the comet after image processing techniques were applied to remove the hazy glow of the coma revealing what appear to be two jets of dust coming off the location of the nucleus in opposite directions. This observation should allow astronomers to measure the direction of the nucleus’s pole, and axis of rotation.

Hubble also observed Siding Spring on Jan. 21 as Earth was crossing its orbital plane, which is the path the comet takes as it orbits the sun. This positioning of the two bodies allowed astronomers to determine the speed of the dust coming off the nucleus.

"This is critical information that we need to determine whether, and to what degree, dust grains in the coma of the comet will impact Mars and spacecraft in the vicinity of Mars," said Jian-Yang Li of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.


Images above: Compass and Scale Image for Comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring (3 Epochs). Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and J.-Y. Li (Planetary Science Institute).

Discovered in January 2013 by Robert H. McNaught at Siding Spring Observatory, the comet is falling toward the sun along a roughly 1 million year orbit and is now within the radius of Jupiter's orbit. The comet will make its closest approach to our sun on Oct. 25, at a distance of 130 million miles – well outside of Earth's orbit. The comet is not expected to become bright enough to be seen by the naked eye.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., in Washington.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/hubble and http://www.spacetelescope.org/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / J.D. Harrington / Space Science Telescope Institute / Ray Villard.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Roscosmos has conducted monitoring of suspected areas crash aircraft Boeing-777 of Malaysian Airlines












ROSCOSMOS logo.

03/27/2014

In the period from 13 to 24 March 2014 Roscosmos spent satellite imagery to monitor the district alleged crash of an aircraft Boeing-777 of Malaysian Airlines.

The obtained satellites data for the period shooting distance probed Earth (RSE) promptly transferred to the project manager of the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters, which was initiated in connection with the alleged crash of the aircraft.

(Click on the image for enlarge)

During the period from 13 March to now , the Charter were transferred data from the spacecraft from the Russian group of spacecraft ERS: spacecraft Resource-P № 1 and Canopus-In № 1.

Thus, within the framework of solving the problem of monitoring suspected areas crash aircraft Boeing-777 to the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters materials were transferred to the Russian space shooting spacecraft ERS total area of ​​120 thousand square meters km, including in the waters of the South China Sea transferred 24274 m. km, and in the Indian Ocean - 93369 m. km.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release: http://www.federalspace.ru/20395/

Image, Text, Credits: Roscosmos press service / ROSCOSMOS / Translation: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

The Search for Seeds of Black Holes














NASA - Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) patch / NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

March 27, 2014

Bulgeless Galaxy Hides Black Hole

Image above: The galaxy NGC 4395 is shown here in infrared light, captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

How do you grow a supermassive black hole that is a million to a billion times the mass of our sun? Astronomers do not know the answer, but a new study using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has turned up what might be the cosmic seeds from which a black hole will sprout. The results are helping scientists piece together the evolution of supermassive black holes -- powerful objects that dominate the hearts of all galaxies.

Growing a black hole is not as easy as planting a seed in soil and adding water. The massive objects are dense collections of matter that are literally bottomless pits; anything that falls in will never come out. They come in a range of sizes. The smallest, only a few times greater in mass than our sun, form from exploding stars. The biggest of these dark beasts, billions of times the mass of our sun, grow together with their host galaxies over time, deep in the interiors. But how this process works is an ongoing mystery.

Researchers using WISE addressed this question by looking for black holes in smaller, "dwarf" galaxies. These galaxies have not undergone much change, so they are more pristine than their heavier counterparts. In some ways, they resemble the types of galaxies that might have existed when the universe was young, and thus they offer a glimpse into the nurseries of supermassive black holes.

In this new study, using data of the entire sky taken by WISE in infrared light, up to hundreds of dwarf galaxies have been discovered in which buried black holes may be lurking. Infrared light, the kind that WISE collects, can see through dust, unlike visible light, so it's better able to find the dusty, hidden black holes. The researchers found that the dwarf galaxies' black holes may be about 1,000 to 10,000 times the mass of our sun -- larger than expected for these small galaxies.

"Our findings suggest the original seeds of supermassive black holes are quite massive themselves," said Shobita Satyapal of George Mason University, Fairfax, Va. Satyapal is lead author of a paper published in the March issue of Astrophysical Journal.

Daniel Stern, an astronomer specializing in black holes at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who was not a part of the new study, says the research demonstrates the power of an all-sky survey like WISE to find the rarest black holes. "Though it will take more research to confirm whether the dwarf galaxies are indeed dominated by actively feeding black holes, this is exactly what WISE was designed to do: find interesting objects that stand out from the pack."


Image above: Artist's view of the NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE spacecraft. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The new observations argue against one popular theory of black hole growth, which holds that the objects bulk up in size through galaxy collisions. When our universe was young, galaxies were more likely to crash into others and merge. It is possible the galaxies' black holes merged too, accumulating more mass. In this scenario, supermassive black holes grow in size through a series of galaxy mergers.

The discovery of dwarf galaxy black holes that are bigger than expected suggests that galaxy mergers are not necessary to create big black holes. Dwarf galaxies don't have a history of galactic smash-ups, and yet their black holes are already relatively big.

Instead, supermassive black holes might form very early in the history of the universe. Or, they might grow harmoniously with their host galaxies, feeding off surrounding gas.

"We still don't know how the monstrous black holes that reside in galaxy centers formed," said Satyapal. "But finding big black holes in tiny galaxies shows us that big black holes must somehow have been created in the early universe, before galaxies collided with other galaxies."

Other authors of the study include: N.J. Secrest, W. McAlpine and J.L. Rosenberg of George Mason University; S.L. Ellison of the University of Victoria, Canada; and J. Fischer of the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington.

WISE was put into hibernation upon completing its primary mission in 2011. In September 2013, it was reactivated, renamed NEOWISE and assigned a new mission to assist NASA's efforts to identify the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects. NEOWISE will also characterize previously known asteroids and comets to better understand their sizes and compositions.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages and operates the NEOWISE mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. The WISE mission was selected competitively under NASA's Explorers Program managed by the agency's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. The science instrument was built by the Space Dynamics Laboratory in Logan, Utah. The spacecraft was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colo. Science operations and data processing take place at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

More information on WISE and NEOWISE can be found online at: http://www.nasa.gov/wise, http://wise.astro.ucla.edu and http://jpl.nasa.gov/wise

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

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 26 mars 2014

Last founding father of CERN passes away












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

March 26, 2014


Image above: François de Rose on a visit to the CERN Control Centre in 2010 (Image: CERN).

François de Rose, French Ambassador, President of the CERN Council from 1957 to 1960 and subsequently a CERN Council Delegate, passed away in Paris, France, yesterday aged 103.

François de Rose was one of CERN’s founding fathers. After World War II, he rallied to CERN's cause after meeting the great figures of physics, who were convinced that Europe’s reconstruction should be driven by the development of its fundamental research tools. From then on, he was a staunch supporter of the organization he considered to be one of his finest achievements. His passion for CERN's research endured, and he regularly sent the organization messages of congratulation. During a visit to CERN in 2010, he promised that he would return when the Higgs boson was discovered,  a promise he kept last year when he came and had lively discussions with his hosts with his characteristic curiosity and spirit.

CERN and the whole particle physics community have lost a steadfast supporter and a very dear friend. CERN conveys its condolences to his family.

Read more: "A noble cause" – Opinion piece about CERN written by François de Rose in 2004: http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/people/DeRose-en.html

Note:

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

For more information about the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), visit: http://home.web.cern.ch/

Image (mentioned), Text, Credit: CERN.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

NASA Supported Research Helps Redefine Solar System's Edge












NASA logo / Gemini Observatory logo.

March 26, 2014

The solar system has a new most-distant family member

Scientists using ground based observatories have discovered an object that is believed to have the most distant orbit found beyond the known edge of our solar system. Named 2012 VP113, the observations of the object -- possibly a dwarf planet -- were obtained and analyzed with a grant from NASA. A dwarf planet is an object in orbit around the sun that is large enough to have its own gravity pull itself into a spherical, or nearly round, shape.

The detailed findings are published in the March 27 edition of Nature.

“This discovery adds the most distant address thus far to our solar system’s dynamic neighborhood map,” said Kelly Fast, discipline scientist for NASA's Planetary Astronomy Program, Science Mission Directorate (SMD) at NASA Headquarters, Washington. “While the very existence of the inner Oort Cloud is only a working hypothesis, this finding could help answer how it may have formed.”

The observations and analysis were led and coordinated by Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii and Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution in Washington. They used the National Optical Astronomy Observatory’s 13-foot   (4-meter) telescope in Chile to discover 2012 VP113. The telescope is operated by the Foundation of Universities for Research in Astronomy, under contract with the National Science Foundation. The Magellan 21-foot (6.5-meter) telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile was used to determine the orbit of 2012 VP113 and obtain detailed information about its surface properties.


Images above: These images show the discovery of 2012 VP113 taken about 2 hours apart on Nov. 5, 2012. The motion of 2012 VP113 stands out compared to the steady state background of stars and galaxies. Image Credit: Scott Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science.

“The discovery of 2012 VP113 shows us that the outer reaches of our solar system are not an empty wasteland as once was thought,” said Trujillo, lead author and astronomer. “Instead, this is just the tip of the iceberg telling us that there are many inner Oort Cloud bodies awaiting discovery.  It also illustrates how little we know about the most distant parts of our solar system and how much there is left to explore.”

Our known solar system consists of the rocky planets like Earth, which are close to the sun; the gas giant planets, which are further out; and the frozen objects of the Kuiper belt, which lie just beyond Neptune's orbit. Beyond this, there appears to be an edge to the solar system where only one object somewhat smaller than Pluto, Sedna, was previously known to inhabit for its entire orbit. But the newly found 2012 VP113 has an orbit that stays even beyond Sedna, making it the furthest known in the solar system.

Sedna was discovered beyond the Kuiper Belt edge in 2003, and it was not known if Sedna was unique, as Pluto once was thought to be before the Kuiper Belt was discovered in 1992.  With the discovery of 2012 VP113, Sedna is not unique, and 2012 VP113 is likely the second known member of the hypothesized inner Oort cloud.  The outer Oort cloud is the likely origin of some comets.


Image above: Panorama photo featuring Blanco 4 meter telescope at CTIO Cerro Tololo, Chile. Image Credit: T. Abbott and NOAO/AURA/NSF.

“The search for these distant inner Oort cloud objects beyond Sedna and 2012 VP113 should continue, as they could tell us a lot about how our solar system formed and evolved," says Sheppard.

Sheppard and Trujillo determine that about 900 objects with orbits like Sedna and 2012 VP113 with sizes larger than 621 miles (1000 km) may exist.  2012 VP113 is likely one of hundreds of thousands of distant objects that inhabit the region in our solar system scientists refer to as the inner Oort cloud.  The total population of the inner Oort cloud is likely bigger than that of the Kuiper Belt and main asteroid belt.

“Some of these inner Oort cloud objects could rival the size of Mars or even Earth,” said Sheppard. This is because many of the inner Oort cloud objects are so distant that even very large ones would be too faint to detect with current technology.”

2012 VP113’s closest orbit point to the sun brings it to about 80 times the distance of the Earth from the sun, a measurement referred to as an astronomical unit or AU. The rocky planets and asteroids exist at distances ranging between .39 and 4.2 AU. Gas giants are found between 5 and 30 AU, and the Kuiper belt (composed of hundreds of thousands of icy objects, including Pluto) ranges from 30 to 50 AU.  In our solar system there is a distinct edge at 50 AU. Until 2012 VP113 was discovered, only Sedna, with a closest approach to the Sun of 76 AU, was known to stay significantly beyond this outer boundary for its entire orbit.

Both Sedna and 2012 VP113 were found near their closest approach to the sun, but they both have orbits that go out to hundreds of AU, at which point they would be too faint to discover.  The similarity in the orbits found for Sedna, 2012 VP113 and a few other objects near the edge of the Kuiper Belt suggests the new object’s orbit might be influenced by the potential presence of a yet unseen planet perhaps up to 10 times the size of Earth.  Further studies of this deep space arena will continue.

For more details on the new dwarf planet, visit: http://home.dtm.ciw.edu/users/sheppard/inner_oort_cloud/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: NASA.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Soyuz Docking Delayed Till Thursday as Station Crew Adjusts Schedule












ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz TMA-12M Mission patch.

March 26, 2014

Three crew members headed to the International Space Station are safe and healthy as they continue on their journey to the orbiting outpost today. All systems on their Soyuz spacecraft appear to be functioning normally, and Russian flight controllers confirmed this morning that the Soyuz TMA-12M vehicle performed two rendezvous maneuvers required to put the spacecraft on a trajectory for docking at approximately 7:58 p.m. EDT Thursday, March 27, U.S. time (23:58 GMT).

NASA’s Steve Swanson and Russian cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev launched at 5:17 p.m (09:17 GMT). Tuesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and had been scheduled to arrive to the orbital complex at 11:05 p.m (03:05 GMT). Tuesday. When their spacecraft was unable to complete one of its automated burns to fine-tune its approach for a single day launch-to-docking profile, the crew and Mission Control teams reverted to a two-day rendezvous for which the crew and Mission Control teams are well trained and ready to support. That burn and an additional maneuver have subsequently taken place without issue, setting the stage for Thursday evening’s arrival.

video
Soyuz Docking With Station Delayed to Thursday

Video above: Space Station Mission Operations Integration Manager Kenny Todd talks about the postponement of the Soyuz docking with the International Space Station. Video Credit: NASA TV.

Like the previous Soyuz mission in November 2013, some of the cargo flown aboard this Soyuz TMA-12M will be used in research investigations that are either ongoing or planned aboard the International Space Station. Questionnaires for the Space Headaches investigation will be delivered to obtain in-flight data about the prevalence and characteristics of crew members' headaches in microgravity. Space Headaches researchers use this data to assess crew member headache episodes and provide the basis for developing future countermeasures. The effect of the medication that the crew takes to counteract space headaches helps determine what medication could be effective in treating intracranial pressure change related symptoms on Earth.

Read more about the Space Headaches investigation: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/181.html

Soyuz TMA-12M will also carry hardware for the Microbiome investigation, which will continue the studies on the impact of space travel on the immune system and on human microbiomes – microbes living in and on the human body at any given time. Like the previous Soyuz mission samples from crew members’ bodies and the space station environment will be taken periodically to monitor changes in the immune system and microbiomes. The results of this study may add to research on health impacts to people who live and work in extreme environments on Earth, and help with research on early disease detection, metabolic function and immune system deficiency.

Read more about the Microbiome investigation: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1010.html

Read more about human microbiomes: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/1010.html

Meanwhile, the crew orbiting on the International Space Station has replanned its day after staying up late in anticipation of greeting their new crewmates. After sleeping in, the station residents had a short day working on normal science and maintenance tasks.

Commander Koichi Wakata began his day conducting his periodic fitness evaluation on the station’s exercise bicycle. He checked his blood pressure while also hooked up to an electrocardiogram. After completing his evaluation, Wakata calculated his body mass using the space linear acceleration mass measurement device (SLAMMD). The station commander later conducted a ham radio pass.


Image above: This long expsoure photograph shows the flight path of the Soyuz TMA-12M rocket as it launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio’s first task was to gather gear for collecting samples in the afternoon from the Regenerative Environmental Control and Life Support System. He then opened the Destiny lab’s observation window shutter to allow automatic photography for the ISERV Earth observation experiment.

Mastracchio also assisted Wakata in measuring the commander’s blood pressure during his fitness evaluation and measured his own body mass on the SLAMMD after Wakata completed his session on the device. After lunch, Mastracchio was back at work repairing hardware and checking out gear for the Burning and Suppression of Solids combustion experiment.

Three-time space station resident and veteran cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin worked in the station’s Russian segment updating the inventory management system.

NASA Television coverage of Thursday’s (Friday for the GMT) docking is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. (23:00 GMT). Hatch opening is currently scheduled for 10:40 p.m. (Friday 02:40 GMT), and will be followed by a welcoming ceremony with Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata and Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio and Mikhail Tyurin. NASA TV coverage of hatch opening is scheduled to begin at 10:15 p.m (02:15 GMT).

The change in plans for the trio’s arrival at the station is not expected to affect the plan to launch the third SpaceX Dragon cargo vehicle to the station at 10:49 p.m (02:49 GMT). Sunday (Monday march 31 for the GMT), March 30, from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

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

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

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

First Ring System Around Asteroid












ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

26 March 2014

Chariklo found to have two rings

Artist’s impression of the rings around Chariklo

Observations at many sites in South America, including ESO’s La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings. This is the smallest object by far found to have rings and only the fifth body in the Solar System — after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — to have this feature. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disc of debris. The new results are published online in the journal Nature on 26 March 2014.

Artist’s impression close-up of the rings around Chariklo

The rings of Saturn are one of the most spectacular sights in the sky, and less prominent rings have also been found around the other giant planets. Despite many careful searches, no rings had been found around smaller objects orbiting the Sun in the Solar System. Now observations of the distant minor planet [1] (10199) Chariklo [2] as it passed in front of a star have shown that this object too is surrounded by two fine rings.

Artist’s impression of the view from inside the rings around Chariklo

"We weren’t looking for a ring and didn’t think small bodies like Chariklo had them at all, so the discovery — and the amazing amount of detail we saw in the system — came as a complete surprise!" says Felipe Braga-Ribas (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) who planned the observation campaign and is lead author on the new paper.

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Artist's impression of ring system around asteroid Chariklo

Chariklo is the largest member of a class known as the Centaurs [3] and it orbits between Saturn and Uranus in the outer Solar System. Predictions had shown that it would pass in front of the star UCAC4 248-108672 on 3 June 2013, as seen from South America [4]. Astronomers using telescopes at seven different locations, including the 1.54-metre Danish and TRAPPIST telescopes at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile [5], were able to watch the star apparently vanish for a few seconds as its light was blocked by Chariklo — an occultation [6].

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Artist's impression of ring system around asteroid Chariklo

But they found much more than they were expecting. A few seconds before, and again a few seconds after the main occultation there were two further very short dips in the star’s apparent brightness [7]. Something around Chariklo was blocking the light! By comparing what was seen from different sites the team could reconstruct not only the shape and size of the object itself but also the shape, width, orientation and other properties of the newly discovered rings.

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Artist's impression of ring system around asteroid Chariklo

The team found that the ring system consists of two sharply confined rings only seven and three kilometres wide, separated by a clear gap of nine kilometres — around a small 250-kilometre diameter object orbiting beyond Saturn.

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Observations of the occultation of asteroid Chariklo

"For me, it was quite amazing to realise that we were able not only to detect a ring system, but also pinpoint that it consists of two clearly distinct rings," adds Uffe Gråe Jørgensen (Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark), one of the team. "I try to imagine how it would be to stand on the surface of this icy object — small enough that a fast sports car could reach escape velocity and drive off into space — and stare up at a 20-kilometre wide ring system 1000 times closer than the Moon." [8]

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Artist's impression of ring system around asteroid Chariklo

Although many questions remain unanswered, astronomers think that this sort of ring is likely to be formed from debris left over after a collision. It must be confined into the two narrow rings by the presence of small putative satellites.

"So, as well as the rings, it’s likely that Chariklo has at least one small moon still waiting to be discovered," adds Felipe Braga Ribas.

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Animation of the outer Solar System and orbits of Centaurs

The rings may prove to be a phenomenon that might in turn later lead to the formation of a small moon. Such a sequence of events, on a much larger scale, may explain the birth of our own Moon in the early days of the Solar System, as well as the origin of many other satellites around planets and asteroids.

The leaders of this project are provisionally calling the rings by the nicknames Oiapoque and Chuí, two rivers near the northern and southern extremes of Brazil [9].

Notes:

[1] All objects that orbit the Sun, which are too small (not massive enough) for their own gravity to pull them into a nearly spherical shape are now defined by the IAU as being small solar system bodies. This class currently includes most of the Solar System asteroids, near-Earth objects (NEOs), Mars and Jupiter Trojan asteroids, most Centaurs, most Trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), and comets. In informal usage the words asteroid and minor planet are often used to mean the same thing.

[2] The IAU Minor Planet Center is the nerve centre for the detection of small bodies in the Solar System. The names assigned are in two parts, a number — originally the order of discovery but now the order in which orbits are well-determined — and a name.

[3] Centaurs are small bodies with unstable orbits in the outer Solar System that cross the orbits of the giant planets. Because their orbits are frequently perturbed they are expected to only remain in such orbits for millions of years. Centaurs are distinct from the much more numerous main belt asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and may have come from the Kuiper Belt region. They got their name because — like the mythical centaurs — they share some characteristics of two different things, in this case comets and asteroids. Chariklo itself seems to be more like an asteroid and has not been found to display cometary activity.

[4] The event was predicted following a systematic search conducted with the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory and recently published.

[5] Besides the Danish 1.54-metre and TRAPPIST telescopes at ESO's La Silla Observatory, event observations were also performed by the following observatories: Universidad Católica Observatory (UCO) Santa Martina operated by the Pontifícia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC); PROMPT telescopes, owned and operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Pico dos Dias Observatory from the National Laboratory of Astrophysics (OPD/LNA) - Brazil; Southern Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope; Caisey Harlingten's 20-inch Planewave telescope, which is part of the Searchlight Observatory Network; R. Sandness's telescope at San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations; Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa Observatory; Observatorio Astronomico Los Molinos (OALM) — Uruguay; Observatorio Astronomico, Estacion Astrofisica de Bosque Alegre, Universidad Nacional de Cordoba, Argentina; Polo Astronômico Casimiro Montenegro Filho Observatory and Observatorio El Catalejo, Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina.

[6] This is the only way to pin down the precise size and shape of such a remote body — Chariklo is only about 250 kilometres in diameter and is more than a billion kilometres from Earth. Even in the best telescopic views such a small and distant object just appears as a faint point of light.

[7] The rings of Uranus, and the ring arcs around Neptune, were found in a similar way during occultations in 1977 and 1984, respectively. ESO telescopes were also involved with the Neptune ring discovery.

[8] Strictly speaking the car would have to be rather fast — something like a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 or McLaren F1 — as the escape velocity is around 350 km/hour!

[9] These names are only for informal use, the official names will be allocated later by the IAU, following pre-established rules.

More information:

This research was presented in a paper entitled “A ring system detected around the Centaur (10199) Chariklo”, by F. Braga-Ribas et al., to appear online in the journal Nature on 26 March 2014.

The team is composed of F. Braga-Ribas (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), B. Sicardy (LESIA, Observatoire de Paris, Paris, France [LESIA]), J. L. Ortiz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Granada, Spain), C. Snodgrass (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany), F. Roques (LESIA), R. Vieira- Martins (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Observatório do Valongo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Observatoire de Paris, France), J. I. B. Camargo (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), M. Assafin (Observatório do Valongo/UFRJ, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), R. Duffard (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Granada, Spain), E. Jehin (Institut d’Astrophysique de l’Université de Liege, Liege, Belgium), J. Pollock (Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA), R. Leiva (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile), M. Emilio (Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa, Ponta Grossa, Brazil), D. I. Machado (Polo Astronomico Casimiro Montenegro Filho/FPTI-BR, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil; Universidade Estadual do Oeste do Paraná (Unioeste), Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil), C. Colazo (Ministerio de Educación de la Provincia de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina; Observatorio Astronómico, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina), E. Lellouch (LESIA), J. Skottfelt (Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; Centre for Star and Planet Formation, Geological Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark), M. Gillon (Institut d’Astrophysique de l’Université de Liege, Liege, Belgium), N. Ligier (LESIA), L. Maquet (LESIA), G. Benedetti-Rossi (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), A. Ramos Gomes Jr (Observatório do Valongo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, P. Kervella (LESIA), H. Monteiro (Instituto de Física e Química, Itajubá, Brazil), R. Sfair (UNESP -– Univ Estadual Paulista, Guaratinguetá, Brazil), M. El Moutamid (LESIA; Observatoire de Paris, Paris, France), G. Tancredi (Observatorio Astronomico Los Molinos, DICYT, MEC, Montevideo, Uruguay; Dpto. Astronomia, Facultad Ciencias, Uruguay), J. Spagnotto (Observatorio El Catalejo, Santa Rosa, La Pampa, Argentina), A. Maury (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile), N. Morales (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Granada, Spain), R. Gil-Hutton (Complejo Astronomico El Leoncito (CASLEO) and San Juan National University, San Juan, Argentina), S. Roland (Observatorio Astronomico Los Molinos, DICYT, MEC, Montevideo, Uruguay), A. Ceretta (Dpto. Astronomia, Facultad Ciencias, Uruguay; Observatorio del IPA, Ensenanza Secundaria, Uruguay), S.-h. Gu (National Astronomical Observatories/Yunnan Observatory; Key Laboratory for the Structure and Evolution of Celestial Objects, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China), X.-b. Wang (National Astronomical Observatories/Yunnan Observatory; Key Laboratory for the Structure and Evolution of Celestial Objects, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, China), K. Harpsøe (Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; Centre for Star and Planet Formation, Geological Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark), M. Rabus (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile; Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, Heidelberg, Germany), J. Manfroid (Institut d’Astrophysique de l’Université de Liege, Liege, Belgium), C. Opitom (Institut d’Astrophysique de l’Université de Liege, Liege, Belgium), L. Vanzi (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile), L. Mehret (Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa, Ponta Grossa, Brazil), L. Lorenzini (Polo Astronomico Casimiro Montenegro Filho/FPTI-BR, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil), E. M. Schneiter (Observatorio Astronómico, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina; Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), Argentina; Instituto de Astronomía Teórica y Experimental IATE–CONICET, Córdoba, Argentina; Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina), R. Melia (Observatorio Astronómico, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina), J. Lecacheux (LESIA), F. Colas (Observatoire de Paris, Paris, France), F. Vachier (Observatoire de Paris, Paris, France), T. Widemann (LESIA), L. Almenares (Observatorio Astronomico Los Molinos, DICYT, MEC, Montevideo, Uruguay; Dpto. Astronomia, Facultad Ciencias, Uruguay), R. G. Sandness (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile), F. Char (Universidad de Antofagasta, Antofagasta, Chile), V. Perez (Observatorio Astronomico Los Molinos, DICYT, MEC, Montevideo, Uruguay; Dpto. Astronomia, Facultad Ciencias, Uruguay), P. Lemos (Dpto. Astronomia, Facultad Ciencias, Uruguay), N. Martinez (Observatorio Astronomico Los Molinos, DICYT, MEC, Montevideo, Uruguay; Dpto. Astronomia, Facultad Ciencias, Uruguay), U. G. Jørgensen (Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark; Centre for Star and Planet Formation, Geological Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark), M. Dominik (University of St Andrews, St Andrews, United Kingdom) F. Roig (Observatório Nacional/MCTI, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), D. E. Reichart (University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, North Carolina [UNC]), A. P. LaCluyze (UNC), J. B. Haislip (UNC), K. M. Ivarsen (UNC), J. P. Moore (UNC), N. R. Frank (UNC) and D. G. Lambas (Observatorio Astronómico, Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Córdoba, Argentina; Instituto de Astronomía Teórica y Experimental IATE–CONICET, Córdoba, Argentina).

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:

ESOcast 64: First Ring System Around Asteroid: http://www.eso.org/public/videos/eso1410a/

Research paper in Nature: http://www.eso.org/public/archives/releases/sciencepapers/eso1410/eso1410a.pdf

Photos of the Danish 1.54-metre telescope: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&subject_name=1.54

Photos of TRAPPIST: http://www.eso.org/public/images/archive/search/?adv=&subject_name=TRAnsiting%20Planets%20and%20PlanetesImals%20Small%20Telescope

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger/M. Kornmesser/ (skysurvey.org)/Videos: ESO/L. Calçada/M. Kornmesser/Felipe Braga Ribas.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Expedition 39/40 Trio’s Arrival at Space Station Delayed












ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz TMA-12M Mission patch.

March 25, 2014

The next trio of crew members destined for the International Space Station is now looking forward to a Thursday arrival at the orbiting laboratory after their Soyuz spacecraft was unable to complete its third thruster burn to fine-tune its approach.


Image above: Rick Mastracchio had a great view from the space station and tweeted this image as he saw his crew mates launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA.

Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Flight Engineers Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Steve Swanson of NASA are in good spirits aboard the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft, and their colleagues already aboard the station were informed of the new plan. Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos were expecting their new crewmates to dock at 11:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday night, but now will need to wait a little longer.

Flight controllers in the Mission Control Center outside Moscow are now reverting to a backup 34-orbit rendezvous, which would result in an arrival and docking at 7:58 p.m. Thursday, March 27. Rendezvous experts are reviewing the plan, and may update it later as necessary. Docking will be at the station’s Poisk docking module.

This longer rendezvous and docking pattern was the standard rendezvous profile until last year; this would have been the fifth rendezvous using the accelerated timeline. The last two-day rendezvous was Expedition 34, which launched on Dec. 19, 2012, and docked to the station on Dec. 21, 2012. That Soyuz crew included NASA’s Tom Marshburn, the Canadian Space Agency’s Chris Hadfield and Roscosmos’ Roman Romanenko. The first same-day rendezvous and docking was Expedition 35, which launched on March 28, 2013, and docked to the station March 29. That crew included NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos’ Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin.


Image above: Expedition 39 crew members wave farewell before boarding their Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

Flight controllers in Moscow are reviewing data to determine the reason the third thruster burn did not occur. In conversations between flight controllers in Moscow and Houston, initial information indicates the problem may have been the spacecraft was not in the proper attitude, or orientation, for the burn.

Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev are scheduled to return home in September as Expedition 40 crew members. They will officially become Expedition 40 when Expedition 39 crew members Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin end their mission and undock in their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft in May for their return to Earth.

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.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

mardi 25 mars 2014

Expedition39/40 Trio Launches to Complete ISS Crew












ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz TMA-12M Mission patch.

March 25, 2014


Image above: Liftoff of Soyuz TMA-12M with 3 new crewmembers for ISS. Image Credit: NASA TV / Screen capture: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

A new trio of Expedition 39 crewmembers has departed for the International Space Station, launching at 5:17 p.m. EDT from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. They will arrive less than six hours later for a docking to the Poisk module at 11:04 p.m.

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Launch of Manned Expedition 39 in Soyuz TMA-12M

Soyuz Commander Alexander Skvortsov and Flight Engineer Oleg Artemyev of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) and Flight Engineer Steve Swanson of NASA are riding inside the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft. They will orbit the Earth four times before they rendezvous and approach the orbital laboratory.

Watch Docking Live on NASA TV at 10:30 p.m. EDT: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv

After docking, they will go through a series of leak and pressure checks between the two spacecraft before finally opening the hatches to the station almost two hours later. The trio will enter into the Poisk module and greet Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Flight Engineers Rick Mastracchio of NASA and Mikhail Tyurin of Roscosmos.


Image above: Expedition 39 crew members give a thumbs during a press conference at the Cosmonaut Hotel in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. Image Credit: ROSCOSMOS.

After a welcoming ceremony and congratulatory words with family, friends and mission officials, the new orbiting sextet will conduct a mandatory safety orientation. All six crew members then will have an off-duty day Wednesday as they relax having shifted their schedules to accommodate the busy launch and docking activities.

As is customary, Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev will have several days set aside to familiarize themselves with their new home in space. The new trio will also assist the veteran crewmates as they adjust to living and working in space for six months.


Image above: The gantry arms begin to close around the Soyuz TMA-12M spacecraft to secure the rocket Image Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

Swanson, Skvortsov and Artemyev are scheduled to return home in September as Expedition 40 crew members. They will officially become Expedition 40 when Expedition 39 crew members Wakata, Mastracchio and Tyurin end their mission and undock in their Soyuz TMA-11M spacecraft in May for their return to Earth.

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

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

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

First Images Available from NASA-JAXA Global Rain and Snowfall Satellite













NASA / JAXA - Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) patch.

March 25, 2014

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GPM's Stormy New View

Video above: On March 10, the Core Observatory passed over an extra-tropical cyclone about 1,055 miles (1,700 kilometers) due east of Japan's Honshu Island. Satellite data shows the full range of precipitation in the storm. Video Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) have released the first images captured by their newest Earth-observing satellite, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory, which launched into space Feb. 27.

The images show precipitation falling inside a March 10 cyclone over the northwest Pacific Ocean, approximately 1,000 miles east of Japan. The data were collected by the GPM Core Observatory's two instruments: JAXA's Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR), which imaged a three-dimensional cross-section of the storm; and, NASA's GPM Microwave Imager (GMI), which observed precipitation across a broad swath.

"It was really exciting to see this high-quality GPM data for the first time," said GPM project scientist Gail Skofronick-Jackson at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "I knew we had entered a new era in measuring precipitation from space. We now can measure global precipitation of all types, from light drizzle to heavy downpours to falling snow."


Image above: An extra-tropical cyclone seen off the coast of Japan, March 10, 2014, by the GPM Microwave Imager. The colors show the rain rate: red areas indicate heavy rainfall, while yellow and blue indicate less intense rainfall. The upper left blue areas indicate falling snow. Image Credit:
NASA/JAXA.

The satellite's capabilities are apparent in the first images of the cyclone. Cyclones such as the one imaged -- an extra-tropical cyclone -- occur when masses of warm air collide with masses of cold air north or south of the tropics. These storm systems can produce rain, snow, ice, high winds, and other severe weather. In these first images, the warm front ahead of the cyclone shows a broad area of precipitation -- in this case, rain -- with a narrower band of precipitation associated with the cold front trailing to the southwest. Snow is seen falling in the northern reaches of the storm.

The GMI instrument has 13 channels that measure natural energy radiated by Earth's surface and also by precipitation itself. Liquid raindrops and ice particles affect the microwave energy differently, so each channel is sensitive to a different precipitation type. With the addition of four new channels, the GPM Core Observatory is the first spacecraft designed to detect light rain and snowfall from space.

In addition to seeing all types of rain, GMI's technological advancements allow the instrument to identify rain structures as small as about 3 to 9 miles (5 to 15 kilometers) across. This higher resolution is a significant improvement over the capability of an earlier instrument flown on the Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission in 1997.


Image above: On March 10 the Core Observatory passed over an extra-tropical cyclone about 1,055 miles (1,700 km) east of Japan's Honshu Island. Formed when a cold air mass wrapped around a warm air mass near Okinawa on March 8, it moved NE drawing cold air over Japan before weakening over the North Pacific. Image Credit: NASA/JAXA.

"You can clearly see them in the GMI data because the resolution is that much better," said Skofronick-Jackson.

The DPR instrument adds another dimension to the observations that puts the data into high relief. The radar sends signals that bounce off the raindrops and snowflakes to reveal the 3D structure of the entire storm. Like GMI, its two frequencies are sensitive to different rain and snow particle sizes. One frequency senses heavy and moderate rain. A new, second radar frequency is sensitive to lighter rainfall and snowfall.

"Both return independent measurements of the size of raindrops or snowflakes and how they are distributed within the weather system," said DPR scientist Bob Meneghini at Goddard. "DPR allows scientists to see at what height different types of rain and snow or a mixture occur -- details that show what is happening inside sometimes complicated storm systems."


Image above: The GMI instrument has 13 channels, each sensitive to different types of precipitation. Channels for heavy rain, mixed rain and snow, and snowfall are displayed of the extra-tropical cyclone observed March 10, off the coast of Japan. Multiple channels capture the full range of precipitation. Image Credit: NASA/JAXA.

The DPR data, combined with data from GMI, also contribute to more accurate rain estimates. Scientists use the data from both instruments to calculate the rain rate, which is how much rain or snow falls to Earth. Rain rate is one of the Core Observatory's essential measurements for understanding where water is on Earth and where it's going.

"All this new information comes together to help us better understand how fresh water moves through Earth's system and contributes to things like floods and droughts," said Skofronick-Jackson.


Image above: 3D view inside an extra-tropical cyclone observed off the coast of Japan, March 10, 2014, by GPM's Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar. The vertical cross-section approx. 4.4 mi (7 km) high show rain rates: red areas indicate heavy rainfall while yellow and blue indicate less intense rainfall. Image Credit: JAXA/NASA.

GMI was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Corp., in Boulder, Colo., under contract to NASA. DPR was developed by JAXA with the National Institute of Information and Communication Technology.

These first GPM Core Observatory images were captured during the first few weeks after launch, when mission controllers at the NASA Goddard Mission Operations Center put the spacecraft and its science instruments through their paces to ensure they were healthy and functioning as expected. The engineering team calibrates the sensors, and Goddard's team at the Precipitation Processing System verifies the accuracy of the data.


Image above: The Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar observes rainfall and snowfall that occurs within clouds in three dimensions, across the surface of Earth and upward into the atmosphere. An extra-tropical cyclone was observed over the northwest Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan on March 10, 2014. Image Credit: JAXA/NASA.

This initial science data from the GPM Core Observatory will be validated and then released for free by September online at: http://pps.gsfc.nasa.gov

For more information and the GPM mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/gpm and http://www.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/gpm/index_e.html

The GPM Core Observatory was the first of five planned Earth science launches for the agency in 2014. The joint NASA/JAXA mission will study rain and snow around the world, joining with an international network of partner satellites to make global observations every three hours.

NASA monitors Earth's vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/earthrightnow

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / Steve Cole / Goddard Space Flight Center / Rani Gran / Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) / Takao Akutsu.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch