vendredi 25 avril 2014

NASA's Spitzer and WISE Telescopes Find Close, Cold Neighbor of Sun














NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch / NASA - WISE Mission patch.

April 25, 2014

Cold and Close Celestial Orb

Image above: This artist's conception shows the object named WISE J085510.83-071442.5, the coldest known brown dwarf. Brown dwarfs are dim star-like bodies that lack the mass to burn nuclear fuel as stars do. Image Credit: Penn State University/NASA/JPL-Caltech.

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered what appears to be the coldest "brown dwarf" known -- a dim, star-like body that  surprisingly is as frosty as Earth's North Pole.

Images from the space telescopes also pinpointed the object's distance to 7.2 light-years away, earning it the title for fourth closest system to our sun. The closest system, a trio of stars, is Alpha Centauri, at about 4 light-years away.

"It's very exciting to discover a new neighbor of our solar system that is so close," said Kevin Luhman, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University's Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds, University Park. "And given its extreme temperature, it should tell us a lot about the atmospheres of planets, which often have similarly cold temperatures."


Animation above: This animation shows the coldest brown dwarf yet seen, and the fourth closest system to our sun. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Penn State.

Brown dwarfs start their lives like stars, as collapsing balls of gas, but they lack the mass to burn nuclear fuel and radiate starlight. The newfound coldest brown dwarf is named WISE J085510.83-071442.5. It has a chilly temperature between minus 54 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 48 to minus 13 degrees Celsius). Previous record holders for coldest brown dwarfs, also found by WISE and Spitzer, were about room temperature.

WISE was able to spot the rare object because it surveyed the entire sky twice in infrared light, observing some areas up to three times. Cool objects like brown dwarfs can be invisible when viewed by visible-light telescopes, but their thermal glow -- even if feeble -- stands out in infrared light. In addition, the closer a body, the more it appears to move in images taken months apart. Airplanes are a good example of this effect: a closer, low-flying plane will appear to fly overhead more rapidly than a high-flying one.

"This object appeared to move really fast in the WISE data," said Luhman. "That told us it was something special."


Image above: This diagram illustrates the locations of the star systems closest to the sun. The year when the distance to each system was determined is listed after the system's name. Image Credit: Penn State University.

After noticing the fast motion of WISE J085510.83-071442.5 in March of 2013, Luhman spent time analyzing additional images taken with Spitzer and the Gemini South telescope on Cerro Pachon in Chile. Spitzer's infrared observations helped determine the frosty temperature of the brown dwarf. Combined detections from WISE and Spitzer, taken from different positions around the sun, enabled the measurement of its distance through the parallax effect. This is the same principle that explains why your finger, when held out right in front of you, appears to jump from side to side when you alternate left- and right-eye views.

"It is remarkable that even after many decades of studying the sky, we still do not have a complete inventory of the sun's nearest neighbors," said Michael Werner, the project scientist for Spitzer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. JPL manages and operates Spitzer. "This exciting new result demonstrates the power of exploring the universe using new tools, such as the infrared eyes of WISE and Spitzer."

WISE J085510.83-071442.5 is estimated to be 3 to 10 times the mass of Jupiter. With such a low mass, it could be a gas giant similar to Jupiter that was ejected from its star system. But scientists estimate it is probably a brown dwarf rather than a planet since brown dwarfs are known to be fairly common. If so, it is one of the least massive brown dwarfs known.

In March of 2013, Luhman's analysis of the images from WISE uncovered a pair of much warmer brown dwarfs at a distance of 6.5 light years, making that system the third closest to the sun. His search for rapidly moving bodies also demonstrated that the outer solar system probably does not contain a large, undiscovered planet, which has been referred to as "Planet X" or "Nemesis."

For more information on NASA's WISE mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/wise

For more information on NASA's Spitzer mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

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

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / J.D. Harrington / JPL / Whitney Clavin.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Hubble's Messier 5












NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

April 25, 2014


"Beautiful Nebula discovered between the Balance [Libra] & the Serpent [Serpens] ..." begins the description of the 5th entry in 18th century astronomer Charles Messier's famous catalog of nebulae and star clusters. Though it appeared to Messier to be fuzzy and round and without stars, Messier 5 (M5) is now known to be a globular star cluster, 100,000 stars or more, bound by gravity and packed into a region around 165 light-years in diameter. It lies some 25,000 light-years away. Roaming the halo of our galaxy, globular star clusters are ancient members of the Milky Way. M5 is one of the oldest globulars, its stars estimated to be nearly 13 billion years old. The beautiful star cluster is a popular target for Earthbound telescopes. Of course, deployed in low Earth orbit on April 25, 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope has also captured its own stunning close-up view that spans about 20 light-years near the central region of M5. Even close to its dense core at the left, the cluster's aging red and blue giant stars and rejuvenated blue stragglers stand out in yellow and blue hues in the sharp color image.

video
Hubble orbiting Earth

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. 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/

Image, Video, Text, Credits: NASA, Hubble Space Telescope, ESA.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

X-class Flare Erupts from Sun on April 24












NASA - Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.

April 25, 2014


Image above: NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory sees an X-class flare exploding off the right side of the sun. This image shows light in the 131-angstrom wavelength, which is particularly good for seeing material at the high temperatures present in solar flares and which is typically colorized in teal.
Image Credit: NASA/SDO.

The sun emitted a significant solar flare, peaking at 8:27 p.m. EDT on April 24, 2014. Images of the flare were captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. 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.

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 X1.4 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.

Updates will be provided as needed.

For more information about Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), visit: http://sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov/ and http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/main/

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

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 24 avril 2014

Asteroids as Seen From Mars; A Curiosity Rover First










NASA - Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) logo.

April 24, 2014


Image above: NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has caught the first image of asteroids taken from the surface of Mars. The image includes two asteroids, Ceres and Vesta. This version includes Mars' moon Deimos in a circular, exposure-adjusted inset and square insets at left from other observations the same night. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M.

A new image from NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is the first ever from the surface of Mars to show an asteroid, and it shows two: Ceres and Vesta.

These two -- the largest and third-largest bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter -- are the destinations of NASA's Dawn mission.  Dawn orbited Vesta in 2011 and 2012, and is on its way to begin orbiting Ceres next year. Ceres is a dwarf planet, as well as an asteroid.

Ceres and Vesta appear as short, faint streaks in a 12-second exposure taken by Curiosity's Mast Camera (Mastcam) on April 20, 2014, PDT (April 21, UTC).  An annotated version of the image, also including insets from other observations the same night, is online at: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA17937

"This imaging was part of an experiment checking the opacity of the atmosphere at night in Curiosity's location on Mars, where water-ice clouds and hazes develop during this season," said camera team member Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University, College Station. "The two Martian moons were the main targets that night, but we chose a time when one of the moons was near Ceres and Vesta in the sky."


Image above: First Asteroid Image from the Surface of Mars (Unannotated Version). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/Texas A&M.

Ceres and Vesta are much larger and farther from Earth's orbit than the types of near-Earth asteroids under consideration for NASA's asteroid initiative. That initiative includes two separate, but related activities: the asteroid redirect mission and the grand challenge. NASA is currently developing concepts for the redirect mission that will employ a robotic spacecraft, driven by an advanced solar electric propulsion system, to capture a small near-Earth asteroid or remove a boulder from the surface of a larger asteroid. The spacecraft then will attempt to redirect the object into a stable orbit around the moon.

Astronauts will travel aboard NASA's Orion spacecraft, launched on the Space Launch System rocket, to rendezvous in lunar orbit with the captured asteroid. Once there, they will collect samples to return to Earth for study.

The grand challenge is a search for the best ideas for finding asteroids that pose a potential threat to human populations, and to accelerate the work NASA already is doing for planetary defense.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, built the rover and manages the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, built and operates the rover's Mastcam.

More information about the Dawn mission is available at these websites: http://www.nasa.gov/dawn and http://dawn.jpl.nasa.gov

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

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

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Astronomical Forensics Uncover Planetary Disks in NASA's Hubble Archive











NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

April 24, 2014

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have applied a new image processing technique to obtain near-infrared scattered light photos of five disks observed around young stars in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes database. These disks are telltale evidence for newly formed planets.

If astronomers initially miss something in their review of data, they can make new discoveries by revisiting earlier data with new image processing techniques, thanks to the wealth of information stored in the Hubble data archive. This is what Rémi Soummer, of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Md., and his team recently did while on a hunt for hidden Hubble treasures.

The stars in question initially were targeted with Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS) based on unusual heat signatures obtained from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the Infrared Astronomical Satellite that flew in 1983. The previous data provided interesting clues that dusty disks could exist around these stars. Small dust particles in the disks might scatter light and therefore make the disks visible. But when Hubble first viewed the stars between 1999 and 2006, no disks were detected in the NICMOS pictures.


Imaes above: The two images at top reveal debris disks around young stars uncovered in archival images taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The illustration beneath each image depicts the orientation of the debris disks. Image Credit: NASA/ESA, R. Soummer, Ann Feild (STScI).

Recently, with improvements in image processing, including algorithms used for face-recognition software, Soummer and his team reanalyzed the archived images. This time, they could unequivocally see the debris disks and even determine their shapes.

The NICMOS instrument, which began collecting data in 1997, has been so cutting-edge that ground-based technology only now is beginning to match its power. Because Hubble has been in operation for almost 24 years, it provides a long baseline of high-quality archival observations.

"Now, with such new technologies in image processing, we can go back to the archive and conduct research more precisely than previously possible with NICMOS data," said Dean Hines of STScI.

"These findings increase the number of debris disks seen in scattered light from 18 to 23. By significantly adding to the known population and by showing the variety of shapes in these new disks, Hubble can help astronomers learn more about how planetary systems form and evolve," said Soummer.

The dust in the disks is hypothesized to be produced by collisions between small planetary bodies such as asteroids. The debris disks are composed of dust particles formed from these grinding collisions. The tiniest particles are constantly blown outward by radiation pressure from the star. This means they must be replenished continuously though more collisions. This game of bumper cars was common in the solar system 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's moon and the satellite system around Pluto are considered to be collisional byproducts.

"One star that is particularly interesting is HD 141943," said Christine Chen, debris disk expert and team member. "It is an exact twin of our sun during the epoch of terrestrial planet formation in our own solar system."

Hubble Space Telescope. Image Credit: NASA

Hubble found the star exhibits an asymmetrical, edge-on disk. This asymmetry could be evidence the disk is being gravitationally sculpted by the tug of one or more unseen planets.

"Being able to see these disks now also has let us plan further observations to study them in even more detail using other Hubble instruments and large telescopes on the ground," added Marshall Perrin of STScI.

"We also are working to implement the same techniques as a standard processing method for NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope," said STScI teammate Laurent Pueyo. "These disks will also be prime targets for the Webb telescope."

Soummer's team has just begun its work. They next will search for structures in the disks that suggest the presence of planets.

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. 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.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

NASA Tests Orion’s Parachute Performance over Arizona while Work Progresses in Florida











NASA - Orion MPCV patch.

April 24, 2014

The team designing the parachute system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft has demonstrated almost every parachute failure they could imagine. But on April 23, they tested how the system would perform if the failure wasn’t in the parachutes.

Orion is the safest spacecraft ever built to carry humans, and its Launch Abort System can take a good deal of the credit for that distinction. In an emergency on the launch pad or during the early stages of ascent, it can activate in milliseconds to pull the crew to safety. Once it has pulled the crew away from the emergency, it’s up to the parachutes to bring them down for a safe landing.

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Test Version of Orion is Dropped C-17

Video above: A test version of Orion is dropped from a C-17, while flying 13,000 feet above the Arizona desert at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground on April 23. Image Credit: NASA TV.

“We hope we never have to use the parachutes this way,” said Chris Johnson, project manager for the parachutes. “We want to see them deploy after a successful mission every time. But we need to know they can perform in an emergency, too.”

In a pad abort or a low altitude launch abort, Orion’s three main parachutes would be called on to lower the crew module to the ground without the help of the two drogues that normally precede them. The parachute system won’t have as long to do the job since the spacecraft will be at much lower altitude than for a nominal reentry mission, and with the vehicle going slower, they won’t deploy as quickly. And on top of all of these factors, the crew module will be flying sideways when the parachutes deploy, instead of falling straight down as it does during reentry.

To simulate those conditions, a test version of Orion was dropped from a C-17 at 13,000 feet above the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground, with the main parachutes deploying soon after leaving the plane, before the capsule had a chance to straighten out. All the elements worked together and the parachutes reached a fully open state setting up a soft landing as expected. But the real value of the test will come with the data the engineers were able to gather from it.


Image above: A test version of Orion descends under its three massive main parachutes, which together would cover almost all of a football field. Image Credit: NASA.

“We wanted to record how long it took to inflate the parachutes in a launch pad abort scenario and collect data on how the different conditions affected the quality of the parachute deployment,” Johnson said. “With this test successfully completed, our next step is to dig into that information and use it to fine tune the launch abort trajectories for flight.”

In addition to the new test conditions, this was also the first time that the steel risers connecting the parachute lines to Orion were replaced with the textile risers that will be incorporated into future Orion spacecraft after Orion’s first flight this year. The new risers are lighter and more flexible – two qualities that will come in particularly handy when Orion is ready to carry humans into space.


Image above: Orion's parachutes deflate after a successful touchdown following a test at the U.S. Army's Yuma Proving Ground on April 23. Image Credit: NASA.

While engineers continue to test Orion's parachutes for future missions, engineers at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida continue to make progress on the Orion spacecraft being prepared for its December trip to space. Inside the Operations and Checkout Building high bay, the crew module is positioned on a special portable test chamber for multi-point random vibration testing. Accelerometers and strain gauges have been attached to Orion in various locations. During a series of tests, each lasting only 30 seconds, Orion is being subjected to gradually increasing levels of vibrations that simulate levels the vehicle will experience during launch, orbit and descent. The data will be reviewed to assess the health of the crew module.

Orion’s first flight will launch an uncrewed capsule 3,600 miles into space for a four-hour mission to test several of its most critical systems, including its parachutes. After making two orbits, Orion will return to Earth at almost 20,000 miles per hour and endure temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before its parachutes slow it down for a landing in the Pacific Ocean.

For more information about Orion MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle), visit: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/systems/mpcv/

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

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Professional and Amateur Astronomers Join Forces













NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory pach / NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope logo.

April 24, 2014


Long before the term "citizen science" was coined, the field of astronomy has benefited from countless men and women who study the sky in their spare time. These amateur astronomers devote hours exploring the cosmos through a variety of telescopes that they acquire, maintain, and improve on their own. Some of these amateur astronomers specialize in capturing what is seen through their telescopes in images and are astrophotographers.

What happens when the work of amateur astronomers and astrophotographers is combined with the data from some of the world's most sophisticated space telescopes? Collaborations between professional and amateur astronomers reveal the possibilities and are intended to raise interest and awareness among the community of the wealth of data publicly available in NASA's various mission archives. This effort is particularly appropriate for this month because April marks Global Astronomy Month, the world's largest global celebration of astronomy.

The images in this quartet of galaxies represent a sample of composites created with X-ray data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and optical data collected by an amateur astronomer. In these images, the X-rays from Chandra are shown in pink, infrared emission from Spitzer is red, and the optical data are in red, green, and blue. The two astrophotographers who donated their images for these four images -- Detlef Hartmann and Rolf Olsen -- used their personal telescopes of 17.5 inches and 10 inches in diameter respectively. More details on how these images were made can be found in this blog post: http://chandra.harvard.edu/blog/node/497

Starting in the upper left and moving clockwise, the galaxies are M101 (the "Pinwheel Galaxy"), M81, Centaurus A, and M51 (the "Whirlpool Galaxy"). M101 is a spiral galaxy like our Milky Way, but about 70% bigger. It is located about 21 million light years from Earth. M81 is a spiral galaxy about 12 million light years away that is both relatively large in the sky and bright, making it a frequent target for both amateur and professional astronomers. Centaurus A is the fifth brightest galaxy in the sky -- making it an ideal target for amateur astronomers -- and is famous for the dust lane across its middle and a giant jet blasting away from the supermassive black hole at its center. Finally, M51 is another spiral galaxy, about 30 million light years away, that is in the process of merging with a smaller galaxy seen to its upper left.

For many amateur astronomers and astrophotographers, a main goal of their efforts is to observe and share the wonders of the Universe. However, the long exposures of these objects may help to reveal phenomena that may otherwise be missed in the relatively short snapshots taken by major telescopes, which are tightly scheduled and often oversubscribed by professional astronomers. Therefore, projects like this Astro Pro-Am collaboration might prove useful not only for producing spectacular images, but also contributing to the knowledge of what is happening in each of these cosmic vistas.

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 in Cambridge, Mass., controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

View large image: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2014/proam/

Chandra on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasamarshall/sets/72157606205297786/

Related links:

Citizen Science: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizen_science

Astrophotographers: http://www.fromearthtotheuniverse.org/Enlarged_images/comet_hale_bopp.php

Global Astronomy Month: http://astronomerswithoutborders.org/global-astronomy-month-2014.html

Image, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA / CXC / SAO; Optical: Detlef Hartmann; Infrared: NASA / JPL-Caltech.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 23 avril 2014

NASA Satellites Show Drought May Take Toll on Congo Rainforest

NASA patch.

April 23, 2014

video
Congo Forest Cover

Video above: A view of the entire African rainforest area (green) transitions into a view of the Congo region (mostly brown) that is the subject of new research published in Nature. The study area represents intact areas in the Congo rainforest where satellite data are high quality. Image Credit: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio.

A new analysis of NASA satellite data shows Africa's Congo rainforest, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, has undergone a large-scale decline in greenness over the past decade.

The study, led by Liming Zhou of University at Albany, State University of New York, shows between 2000 and 2012 the decline affected an increasing amount of forest area and intensified. The research, published Wednesday in Nature, is one of the most comprehensive observational studies to explore the effects of long-term drought on the Congo rainforest using several independent satellite sensors.

"It's important to understand these changes because most climate models predict tropical forests may be under stress due to increasing severe water shortages in a warmer and drier 21st century climate," Zhou said.

Scientists use the satellite-derived "greenness" of forest regions as one indicator of a forest's health. While this study looks specifically at the impact of a persistent drought in the Congo region since 2000, researchers say that a continued drying trend might alter the composition and structure of the Congo rainforest, affecting its biodiversity and carbon storage.

Previous research used satellite-based measurements of vegetation greenness to investigate changes in the Amazon rainforest, notably the effects of severe short-term droughts in 2005 and 2010. Until now, little attention has been paid to African rainforests, where ground measurements are even sparser than in the Amazon and where droughts are less severe but last longer.

To clarify the impact of long-term drought on the Congo rainforest, Zhou and colleagues set out to see whether they could detect a trend in a satellite measure of vegetation greenness called the Enhanced Vegetation Index. This measure is developed from data produced by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite. The scientists focused their analysis on intact, forested regions in the Congo basin during the months of April, May and June each year – the first of the area's two peak rainy and growing seasons each year.

The study found a gradually decreasing trend in Congo rainforest greenness, sometimes referred to as "browning," suggesting a slow adjustment to the long-term drying trend. This is in contrast to the more immediate response seen in the Amazon, such as large-scale tree mortality, brought about by more episodic drought events.

The browning of the forest canopy is consistent with observed decreases in the amount of water available to plants, whether that is in the form of rainfall, water stored in the ground, water in near-surface soils, or water within the vegetation.

These changes in available water were detected in part with NASA satellites including the NASA/JAXA Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission, NASA's Quick Scatterometer (QuikScat), and NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, a joint mission with the German Aerospace Center.


Image above: In the Congo rainforest, a browning trend (brown) dominates smaller areas that show a greening trend (green) during April, May and June each year from 2000 to 2012. Image Credit: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio.

"Combining measurements from different sensors has given us more confidence in the results of the MODIS data and provided us with insights into the environmental and physiological mechanisms of the browning observed by the MODIS data," said co-author Sassan Saatchi of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

Climate factors known to affect vegetation growth were also in line with the observed browning. Land surface temperatures, for example, were observed to increase over most of the study area. Decreased cloudiness allowed more solar radiation to reach the plants, which typically promotes photosynthesis, but in this case it likely posed an extra stress on the plants from the resulting depletion of soil moisture.

"Forests of the Congo basin are known to be resilient to moderate climate change because they have been exposed to dry conditions in the past few hundred years," Saatchi said. "However, the recent climate anomalies as a result of climate change and warming of the Atlantic Ocean have created severe droughts in the tropics, causing major impacts on forests."

How the changes affect individual plant species in the area remains to be seen. For example, drier conditions may favor deciduous trees at the expense of evergreen trees.

"Our assessment is a step toward an improved understanding of how African rainforests respond to increasing drought," Zhou said. "We need to consider the complex range of processes affecting different tropical rainforest species before we can fully assess the future resilience of tropical forests."

The other authors for this research include Yuhong Tian at I.M. Systems Group, Inc. at the Center for Satellite Applications and Research, the science arm of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Satellite and Information Service; Ranga Myneni at Boston University; Philippe Ciais at Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, Gif sur Yvette Cedex, France; Yi Y. Liu at University of New South Wales, Australia; Shilong Piao at Peking University, China; Haishan Chen at Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, China; Eric Vermote of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.; and Conghe Song and Taehee Hwang at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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

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

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / Steve Cole / Goddard Space Flight Center / Kathryn Hansen / JPL / Alan Buis.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Astronauts Complete Short Spacewalk to Replace Backup Computer












ISS - Expedition 39 Mission patch.

April 23, 2014

NASA Astronauts Steve Swanson and Rick Mastracchio have completed a short spacewalk to replace a failed Multiplexer/Demultiplexer (MDM) back up computer. They began the re-pressurization of the Quest airlock at 11:32 a.m. EDT signifying the excursion’s end time.


Image above: A spacewalker works on the S0 truss after replacing a failed backup computer. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The backup computer failed April 11 after a routine health check by the Mission Control team in Houston. While the primary computer continues operating flawlessly NASA managers ordered Wednesday’s spacewalk repair to ensure redundancy on critical systems. The computer outage did not pose a risk to the six crew members aboard the space station.

Read NASA’s official statement on the backup computer failure: http://www.nasa.gov/content/back-up-computer-not-responding-to-commands/

The duo worked on the S0 truss which is where the backup MDM is located. The truss is located above the Destiny laboratory module and forms the center of the station’s Integrated Truss Structure, or backbone. The MDM provides telemetry and commands to truss systems, solar alpha rotary joints and the Mobile Transporter rail car which rides along the truss structure.

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 Astronauts Replace Backup Computer During Spacewalk

Read about the S0 Truss and the Integrated Truss Structure: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/its.html

Swanson and Mastracchio installed a spare MDM that was housed inside the Destiny lab since April 2001 when it was delivered aboard space shuttle Endeavour. They removed the failed MDM from the S0 truss where it has been located since the truss was delivered with the MDM already inside in April 2002. The station houses 45 MDMs, 24 internally and 21 externally.


Image above: NASA spacewalkers Rock Mastracchio and Steve Swanson. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Station and SpaceX managers decided the computer failure wouldn’t impact Sunday’s arrival of the Dragon commercial cargo craft on the SpaceX-3 mission. After an engineering review of the station’s systems it was determined the station had enough redundancy for SpaceX-3 to begin its mission when it launched Friday afternoon aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

A few hours earlier today an ISS Progress 53 resupply ship undocked from the Zvezda service module. It will back up about 311 miles from the space station so Russian mission controllers can test its upgraded Kurs automated rendezvous system. The Progress will redock again Friday at 8:15 a.m. to the Zvezda service module after the Kurs tests are complete.

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 / NASA TV.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Undocking of Progress M-21M For Free-Flying Kurs-NA Test











ROSCOSMOS - Russian Vehicles patch.

April 23, 2014

 The Russian spacecraft Progress undocked from the ISS and went to the free flight test

An unmanned Russian re-supply vehicle, Progress M-21M, successfully undocked from the International Space Station today at 08:58 UTC on April 23rd 2014.

video
 Undocking of Progress M-21M For Free-Flying Kurs-NA Test

The craft will spend two days testing a new Kurs-NA system that performs the automated approach and docking to the complex. Progress M-21M will then redock with the orbiting laboratory on April 25th.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release: http://www.federalspace.ru/20479/

Image, Video, Text, Credits: ROSCOSMOS / NASA TV / Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

mardi 22 avril 2014

Crew Set to Conduct Spacewalk and Release Cargo Ship












ISS - Expedition 39 Mission patch.

April 22, 2014

Expedition 39 is finalizing preparations for a 2.5 hour spacewalk scheduled to begin 9:20 a.m. EDT Wednesday. The station crew is also getting ready to send off a Russian space freighter for two days of tests before it redocks again Friday morning.

Spacewalkers Steve Swanson and Rick Mastracchio will install a spare backup computer on the S0 truss located on top of the Destiny laboratory module Wednesday morning. They will remove the old computer which failed April 11 after being shut down then restarted for a periodic health check.

Read more about Wednesday's spacewalk: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/april/nasa-sets-preview-briefing-tv-schedule-for-space-station-spacewalk/

The duo was joined by Commander Koichi Wakata for a short spacewalk procedure conference. The trio also set up the Quest airlock, where they will stage their excursion, and readied spacewalk tools.


Image above: Steve Swanson works on a rack inside the Kibo laboratory. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Known as a Multiplexer/Demultiplexer (MDM), the backup computer provides telemetry and commands to truss systems, solar alpha rotary joints and the Mobile Transporter rail car which rides along the truss structure. Both MDMs have been at the International Space Station for over 10 years.

There are 45 MDMs throughout the space station. There are 24 inside the orbital laboratory and 21 located externally.

Before Wednesday’s spacewalk, an ISS Progress 53 resupply ship will undock from the Zvezda service module at 4:58 a.m. It will back away about 311 miles from the space station. It will return back to the Zvezda docking port Friday morning after Russian flight controllers have tested its new Kurs automated rendezvous system.

Flight Engineer Mikhail Tyurin closed the hatches to the Progress Tuesday morning and conducted leak checks. He also set up video gear to record its undocking, separation and eventual re-rendezvous and redocking to the station.

video
Earth Day Greetings from the ISS

Video above: The crew of the International Space Station send their greetings to everyone around the world on Earth Day, April 22, 2014. Video Credit ; NASA Tv.

The last time a Progress cargo freighter pulled away from the station and redocked was in July 2012. The ISS Progress 47 space freighter undocked from the Pirs docking compartment for eight days of testing before redocking to the same port. Russian flight controllers were also testing its new Kurs automated rendezvous system.

Cosmonauts Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev worked throughout the station’s Russian segment on a host of science and maintenance tasks Tuesday. They performed light plumbing work, checked air ducts and adjusted a gas analyzer. Science work included observing the veins of a crew member’s legs, studying macroparticles in a magnetic field and Earth observations.

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

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Unique pair of hidden black holes discovered by XMM-Newton












ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch.

22 April 2014

A pair of supermassive black holes in orbit around one another have been spotted by XMM-Newton. This is the first time such a pair have been seen in an ordinary galaxy. They were discovered because they ripped apart a star when the space observatory happened to be looking in their direction.

Most massive galaxies in the Universe are thought to harbour at least one supermassive black hole at their centre. Two supermassive black holes are the smoking gun that the galaxy has merged with another. Thus, finding binary supermassive black holes can tell astronomers about how galaxies evolved into their present-day shapes and sizes.

To date, only a few candidates for close binary supermassive black holes have been found. All are in active galaxies where they are constantly ripping gas clouds apart, in the prelude to crushing them out of existence.

Binary supermassive black hole system

Image above: Artist's impression of a binary supermassive black hole system. Credit: ESA / C. Carreau.

In the process of destruction, the gas is heated so much that it shines at many wavelengths, including X-rays. This gives the galaxy an unusually bright centre, and leads to it being called active. The new discovery, reported by Fukun Liu, Peking University, Beijing, China, and colleagues, is important because it is the first to be found in a galaxy that is not active.

"There might be a whole population of quiescent galaxies that host binary black holes in their centres," says co-author Stefanie Komossa, Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie, Bonn, Germany. But finding them is a difficult task because in quiescent galaxies, there are no gas clouds feeding the black holes, and so the cores of these galaxies are truly dark.

The only hope that the astronomers have is to be looking in the right direction at the moment one of the black holes goes to work, and rips a star to pieces. Such an occurrence is called a 'tidal disruption event'. As the star is pulled apart by the gravity of the black hole, it gives out a flare of X-rays.

In an active galaxy, the black hole is continuously fed by gas clouds. In a quiescent galaxy, the black hole is fed by tidal disruption events that occur sporadically and are impossible to predict. So, to increase the chances of catching such an event, researchers use ESA's X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton, in a novel way.

Usually, the observatory collects data from designated targets, one at a time. Once it completes an observation, it slews to the next. The trick is that during this movement, XMM-Newton keeps the instruments turned on and recording. Effectively this surveys the sky in a random pattern, producing data that can be analysed for unknown or unexpected sources of X-rays.

XMM-Newton X-ray slew tracks

Image above: XMM-Newton slew scans (2001-2010). Credit: ESA/ A. Read (University of Leicester).

On 10 June 2010, a tidal disruption event was spotted by XMM-Newton in galaxy SDSS J120136.02+300305.5. Komossa and colleagues were scanning the data for such events and scheduled follow-up observations just days later with XMM-Newton and NASA's Swift satellite.

The galaxy was still spilling X-rays into space. It looked exactly like a tidal disruption event caused by a supermassive black hole but as they tracked the slowly fading emission day after day something strange happened.

The X-rays fell below detectable levels between days 27 and 48 after the discovery. Then they re-appeared and continued to follow a more expected fading rate, as if nothing had happened.

Now, thanks to Fukun Liu, the behaviour can be explained. "This is exactly what you would expect from a pair of supermassive black holes orbiting one another," says Liu.

Liu had been working on models of black hole binary systems that predicted a sudden plunge to darkness and then the recovery because the gravity of one of the black holes disrupted the flow of gas onto the other, temporarily depriving it of fuel to fire the X-ray flare. He found that two possible configurations were possible to reproduce the observations of J120136.

In the first, the primary black hole contained 10 million solar masses and was orbited by a black hole of about a million solar masses in an elliptical orbit. In the second solution, the primary black hole was about a million solar masses and in a circular orbit.

In both cases, the separation between the black holes was relatively small: 0.6 milliparsecs, or about 2 thousandths of a light year. This is about the width of our Solar System.

Being this close, the fate of this newly discovered black hole pair is sealed. They will radiate their orbital energy away, gradually spiralling together, until in about two million years time they will merge into a single black hole.

XMM-Newton X-ray Observatory. Image Credit: ESA

Now that astronomers have found this first candidate for a binary black hole in a quiescent galaxy, the search is inevitably on for more. XMM-Newton will continue its slew survey. This detection will also spur interest in a network of telescopes that search the whole sky for tidal disruption events.

"Once we have detected thousands of tidal disruption events, we can begin to extract reliable statistics about the rate at which galaxies merge," says Komossa.

There is another hope for the future as well. When binary black holes merge, they are predicted to release a massive burst of energy into the Universe but not mostly in X-rays. "The final merger is expected to be the strongest source of gravitational waves in the Universe," says Liu.

Gravitational waves are ripples in the space-time continuum. Astronomers around the world are currently building a new type of observatory to detect these ripples. ESA are also involved in opening this new window on the Universe. In 2015, ESA will launch LISA Pathfinder, which will test the necessary technology for building a space-based gravitational wave detector that must be placed in space. The search for elusive gravitational waves is also the theme for one of ESA's next large science missions, the L3 mission in the Cosmic Vision programme.

In the meantime, XMM-Newton will continue to look out for the tidal disruption events that betray the presence of binary supermassive black holes candidates.

"The innovative use of XMM-Newton's slew observations made the detection of this binary supermassive black hole system possible," says Norbert Schartel, ESA's XMM-Newton Project Scientist. "This demonstrates the import role that long-lasting space observatories have in detecting rare events that can potentially open new areas in astronomy."

Background Information

The results described in this article are reported in "A milli-parsec supermassive black hole binary candidate in the galaxy SDSS J120136.02+300305.5", by F.K. Liu, Shuo Li, and S. Komossa, published in the May 10 issue of The Astrophysical Journal, 2014, Volume 786; doi:10.1088/0004-637X/786/2/103

The European Space Agency's X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission, XMM-Newton, was launched in December 1999. It is the biggest scientific satellite to have been built in Europe and uses over 170 wafer-thin cylindrical mirrors spread over three high throughput X-ray telescopes. Its mirrors are among the most powerful ever developed. XMM-Newton's orbit takes it almost a third of the way to the Moon, allowing for long, uninterrupted views of celestial objects.

Related links:

For more information about XMM-Newton Mission, visit: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/XMM-Newton_overview and http://sci.esa.int/xmm-newton/

LISA Pathfinder: http://sci.esa.int/lisa-pathfinder/

Report on science themes for the L2 and L3 missions: http://sci.esa.int/cosmic-vision/53261-report-on-science-themes-for-the-l2-and-l3-missions/

Related Publications:

Liu, F.K., et al. [2014] preprint: http://sci.esa.int/xmm-newton/53988-liu-et-al-2014/

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: ESA / ESA XMM-Newton Project Scientist /  Norbert Schartel / Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie / Stefanie Komossa / Department of Astronomy Peking University / Fukun Liu.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

lundi 21 avril 2014

CERN - LHCb confirms existence of exotic hadrons












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

April 22, 2014

The Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) collaboration today announced results that confirm the existence of exotic hadrons – a type of matter that cannot be classified within the traditional quark model.

Hadrons are subatomic particles that can take part in the strong interaction – the force that binds protons inside the nuclei of atoms. Physicists have theorized since the 1960s, and ample experimental evidence since has confirmed, that hadrons are made up of quarks and antiquarks that determine their properties. A subset of hadrons, called mesons, is formed from quark-antiquark pairs, while the rest – baryons – are made up of three quarks.

But since it was first proposed physicists have found several particles that do not fit into this model of hadron structure. Now the LHCb collaboration has published an unambiguous observation of an exotic particle – the Z(4430) – that does not fit the quark model.


Image above: A view of the LHCb experiment at underground Point 8 on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The prominent tube is the LHC beam pipe, in which protons circulate at close to the speed of light (Image: Anna Pantelia/CERN).

The Belle Collaboration reported the first evidence for the Z(4430) in 2008. They found a tantalizing peak in the mass distribution of particles that result from the decays of B mesons. Belle later confirmed the existence of the Z(4430) with a significance of 5.2 sigma on the scale that particle physicists use to describe the certainty of a result.

LHCb reports a more detailed measurement of the Z(4430) that confirms that it is unambiguously a particle, and a long-sought exotic hadron at that. They analysed more than 25,000 decays of B mesons selected from data from 180 trillion (180 ×1012) proton-proton collisions in the Large Hadron Collider.

video

Video above: LHCb spokesperson Pierluigi Campana and LHCb physicist Richard Jacobsson discuss the unambiguous observation of an exotic particle which cannot be classified within the traditional quark model (Video: CERN).

"The significance of the Z (4430) signal is overwhelming – at least 13.9 sigma – confirming the existence of this state," says LHCb spokesperson Pierluigi Campana. "The LHCb analysis establishes the resonant nature of the observed structure, proving that this is really a particle, and not some special feature of the data."

Read more:

"Unambiguous observation of an exotic particle which cannot be classified within the traditional quark model" – LHCb public page: http://lhcb-public.web.cern.ch/lhcb-public/

"Major harvest of four-leaf clover" – Quantum Diaries blog by Pauline Gagnon: http://www.quantumdiaries.org/2014/04/09/major-harvest-of-four-leaf-clover/

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.

Related links:

The Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb): http://home.web.cern.ch/about/experiments/lhcb

The Belle Collaboration: http://belle.kek.jp/

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC): http://home.web.cern.ch/topics/large-hadron-collider

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN / Cian O'Luanaigh.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

dimanche 20 avril 2014

New fighter aircraft for the Swiss Air Force, the people will decide on may 18












Swiss Air Force logo.

April 20, 2014

I will not repeat the comparative of the Gripen, I've done in my previous articles, I also mentioned my doubts about the competence of the Minister of Defense, but it crossed the red line at having a totalitarian and anti-democratic behavior with pressure on the headquarters of the Swiss Army and lies repeatedly.

I remind my readers that Mr. Maurer is part of the xenophobic far right party (UDC) which originally initiatives against foreigners and against the European Union.

On these skills, Mr. Maurer is an accountant graduate, but I find that even in this area it is bad, because the total amount of the purchase of Gripen will not be 3.5 billion, but cost more than 10 billion Swiss francs.

A clause in the agreements signed with Saab (Gripen manufacturer) that Switzerland will participate in development costs for the Gripen (the model does not exist, except on paper).

For those who wonder what the Minister of Defence as interest in this matter? It's simple: Mr. Maurer to a disastrous record that in his department, he put the kao in the Swiss Army, his goal is to finish his current term with a successful record, he is afraid to end up like President his party (C. Blocher) to get out through the back door of the Federal Palace, it relies on the folder for the Gripen announced positive results of its mandate to seek re-election in 2015, officers are to disgust Minister right that does more damage to his department in four years that 30 years of GSSA propaganda (Group for a Switzerland without Army, left side association).

May 18 next, the Swiss people will vote against funding the Gripen, it will remind Minister that we are in Switzerland a direct democracy, that the people are sovereign (Switzerland Constitution) and Mr. Maurer is an executive representative of it (personally it does not represent me).


Image above: In August 2008, on the twenty-six test flights carried out by the Swiss Army, the Gripen landed four times with reserve fuel below the minimum level of security. Image Credit: DR.

Of the 98 improvements required by Switzerland , only 7 have been installed on the prototype of the future Gripen tested. The aircraft may not be delivered until 2023 and weaknesses remain as challenging procedures to protect the Swiss airspace.

Reminder, the mission of Wednesday, August 13, 2008 promised yet simple. An airplane flies north of the Alps towards the Ticino and is the intercept. To do this, the evaluation team placed the Gripen D registered 39-822 alert on the military base of Sion (VS). The tarmac is dry, it's big beautiful . The controls of the fighter , the Swiss test pilot Peter Merz, alias "Pablo"; behind him, the Saab Gripen manufacturer, to ensure that everything goes smoothly. After taking off as planned, the Swedish plane flies at supersonic speed to stabilize at Mach 1.42. But suddenly, in the middle approach phase "Bingo Fuel"! The LED alarm fuel placed on the left of the cockpit shows the need abort the mission and return to base.

Gripen arrived barely in contact with the F/A-18 to intercept, but was unable to intervene and had to land in Emmen (LU). The ground, the Swiss Air Force Chief Markus Gygax is stunned: excluded to buy such a flying pan. In comparison, the French Rafale , tested under the same conditions two months later, has made the interception, returned to Zion, and has been able to achieve another successful year. Of the twenty-six test performed at the time by the Gripen flight, the plane landed four times with reserve fuel below the minimum level of security.

The Defence Minister Ueli Maurer swears he will not buy the Gripen then, but an improved version: the Gripen E/F. Its engine is 33% more powerful, it has a completely redesigned electronics board can carry more weapons and especially ... 46% more fuel. To Defence Minister, there is no problem: it's a bit "like one tuning a car", he likes to say (further proof of his imcopétence in this area).

Tests for the gallery Unfortunately, not everything is so simple. Orbiter.ch Aerospace has obtained a list of 98 improvements. It was given to us by an employee of the federal government, and we have it validated by three sources of aerospace. Contacted by the media, the Department of Defense does not want her to take a position on this list confidential part.

At this stage, only six of these upgrades were tested in flight. The rest is either a prototype or even on planes. Gripen NG Demonstrator - the plane is supposed to prove the feasibility of future enhancements device - is certainly equipped with the new General Electric F414G reactor, but it does not have the new wings. Redrawn on the computer, a few centimeters thicker, they will accommodate a few percent of additional kerosene, plus three large drop tanks of 450 gallons (1700 liters). During flight tests made ​​from 2 to 4 May in Linköping, Sweden, the Swiss delegation had just wanted to test at least the famous tanks. Because they are essential to achieve sufficient autonomy surveillance zone, task force assumes example at the Forum in Davos. But in the end, "people of Saab refused", says one of our sources. With three external tanks, the aircraft would have been too constrained. "There was no need for tanks 450 gallons for missions", retorted the spokesman Kaj-Gunnar Sievert from Armasuisse.

The Rafale, the only fighter who spent all the tests to successfully. Image Credit: Dassault Aviation

Despite this less weight, the Armasuisse test pilot Bernhard Berset failed to exceed Mach 1.34, according to our informant. It must be said that the reactor, which will allow the aircraft to reach Mach 2.0, could be pushed only three-quarters of its ability, the air inlets of the Gripen NG has not yet been enlarged. The constraints faced by Swiss pilots were able to submit the aircraft was limited on many other points. And new AMRAAM missiles mounted IRST and the aircraft were in reality as hoaxes. Real missiles themselves are far from being operational.

"It's like a new car if they tried, but the mechanic told you that you do not have the right to exceed 80 Km/h ?, or take turns too tight ... and as for the new radio with GPS, you will board in six years, "laments one of our sources. But essentially Linköping was not to test the aircraft. Rather, it was to do well in the media: some tests that should be conducted during the fourth flight was even sacrificed for a new photo shoot. Images taken on the previous flight, breath our informant, were not beautiful enough.

Overwhelming evidence of Gripen NG does not have either the new radar, which would increase to 200 kilos front of the camera and would nosedive. "For the host, it will lengthen the future Gripen E/F 37 Centimeters", says Björn Danielsson, Swedish former military pilot, now a consultant at Saab. Clearly, we must build a new plane. So, the exercise has nothing to do with the tuning announced by Ueli Maurer. "Rather than modifying old Gripen C/D, it is much more efficient to build all new devices," and admitted Jürg Weber, head of the replacement project Tigers (TTE) in Armasuisse. It was on February 21, before the Subcommittee of the security policy to investigate the subject. Fifteen frames of the Department of Defence (DDPS) there are already cast. The minutes of the hearings were circulated within the administration and the medias could see them.

They highlight the inaccuracies of defense minister since the publication of our paper two confidential reports of the Air Force on February 12, which unveiled the poor performance of the Gripen, even with 98 upgrades . At a press conference on February 14, Ueli Maurer, for example, had argued that these documents were "completely dated. Since then, several officials have countered this statement to ensure before the House Subcommittee that "these reports are only valid". And the qualities of future Gripen are still to be demonstrated. "There is nothing in these reports that can support the decision", for example, stated at the hearing on April 3 Gérald Levrat, chief engineer of the team of Air Force operational assessment. Air Force which, as we know, have recommended the Rafale, Eurofighter with as an alternative. Hearings before the Subcommittee have shown that the planning staff of the army, as the direction of the project TTE in Armasuisse , also proposed the Rafale and the Eurofighter. In fact, it is obviously after intense discussions with subordinates Jürg Weber finally "decided to accept the Gripen", according to his own words. Claim, as did Ueli Maurer, the entire army rallied behind this third choice simply does not correspond to reality.

Worse than the performance of the F/A-18,  the Gripen including in its future version E/F will remain in effect very "average", according to statements by Gérald Levrat before parliamentary "A bit like a knife that does not cut well. You can cut a string, but if it's harder, we'll make it harder". In his fourth appearance before the Subcommittee, 24 April 2012, the project TTE leader Jürg Weber, meanwhile, has finally conceded that weaknesses in the Gripen require "perhaps a change of doctrine commitment".

When today off from Payerne F/A-18 and fly at full power to Davos , he still has enough fuel to intervene on site. "With the Gripen , it can become tight , admitted Jürg Weber [...] And maybe it will patrol continuously over Davos to be able to intervene. "But, according to him, we might find solutions in order to fulfill this reasonably air policing mission", although it will not be as effectively as other aircraft or the F/A-18".

In addition to significant risks performance below the F/A-18 - fifteen years old - the Gripen E/F has a very important industrial risk. The chief engineer Gerald Levrat thirty years of experience in the aerospace test equipment, explained in clear terms: "In general, the seller ensures that deliver the best possible equipment. But there is always a gap between what we wanted and what we receive".


Image above: Caricature of the Swiss Minister of Defence: The model of Gripen would have evolved, it to a cigarette lighter! Credit not specified.

The Gripen E/F, has he confirmed, 70 % of the components are new. During development, problems can arise. Requirements may have been misunderstood, a bug can be accidentally introduced by a programmer, the manufacturer may refuse certain changes to avoid cost overruns.

"Saab has offered a fixed price" say in unison DDPS officials, thus affirming that the financial risk does not exist. Unfortunately, this warranty is not insurance against all risks. For the record, the aircraft A400M European military transport had also been sold at a fixed price. But soon the problems of development have emerged. After the renegotiation of contracts, the additional cost has now reached 38% and behind the initial schedule is four years.

Delays, precisely, are virtually assured with the Gripen. According to current planning, which has been postponed for two years, twenty-two jets should be delivered from 2018. But at the rate things are going, Saab may delay the delivery of the first Gripen E/F "in accordance with this was asked in 2020 or 2023", said Gerald Levrat before the parliamentary sub-committee.

Start from scratch According Frieder Fallscheer in charge of Air Force systems in staff planning, if the commitments were not being held, "the process of selecting a fighter could start from scratch", has he released before the subcommittee.

What annoys most the Swiss people is the Saab interference in this case, apparently the Swedes understood nothing of our direct democracy, they work all round lobby, is very badly perceived by the citizens of Switzerland. Other manufacturers know them, stay in their place without making propaganda or interferences.

And to finish this article apotheosis, here are copies of the test papers of three fighter aircraft tested by the Swiss Air Force (that Maurer tried to hide) you will find that the only aircraft that brilliantly passed all tests is the Dassault Aviation Rafale, the Gripen has passed some tests specifications of the department of Defense, complete failure, this is the worst test.

My previous articles:

Choice of a new fighter aircraft of the Swiss Air Force: Description and comparison: http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2013/01/choice-of-new-fighter-aircraft-of-swiss.html

Swiss Air Force - The Gripen saga continues ...: http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2013/02/swiss-air-force-gripen-saga-continues.html

Patrouille Suisse: a boss flies to the rescue: http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2013/02/patrouille-suisse-boss-flies-to-rescue.html

The Patrouille Suisse will continue to exist: http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2013/02/the-patrouille-suisse-will-continue-to.html

No F/A-18 outside office hours: http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2014/02/no-fa-18-outside-office-hours.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credit: Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch