vendredi 6 juin 2014

'Hello, World!' NASA Beams Video from Space Station via Laser












NASA - Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) patch.

June 6, 2014

"Hello, World!" came the message from the International Space Station as NASA successfully beamed high-definition video via laser from space to ground on Thursday, June 5. The 175-megabit video transmission was the first of its kind for the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) with the goal of improving the way we receive data from orbit and beyond. In fact, this emerging technology of optical communications—or lasercomm—is likened to an upgrade from dial-up to DSL.

"It's incredible to see this magnificent beam of light arriving from our tiny payload on the space station," said Matt Abrahamson, OPALS mission manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.


Image above: This artist's concept shows how the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) laser beams data to Earth from the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

OPALS launched to the space station aboard the SpaceX Dragon earlier this spring. This technology demonstration furthers NASA's exploration of higher-bandwidth methods of communicating with future spacecraft. Optical communications tools like OPALS use focused laser energy to achieve data rates 10 to 1,000 times higher than current space communications, which rely on radio portions of the electromagnetic spectrum.

OPALS' success also is an important step in improving communication rates with spacecraft beyond low-Earth orbit. The instrument allows for communications rates to keep pace with the ever-increasing data generation produced by scientific instruments. The capability could replace the Federally-regulated radio frequencies currently in use from orbit to meet the needs anticipated by researchers for future missions, like Mars.

"We look forward to experimenting with OPALS over the coming months in hopes that our findings will lead to optical communications capabilities for future deep space exploration missions," Abrahamson said.


Image above: Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) team members at the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory ground station at the Table Mountain Observatory in Wrightwood, California. Image Credit: NASA.

The space station moves through Earth's sky at approximately 17,500 mph. This speed requires extreme precise pointing ability. It's equivalent to a person aiming a laser pointer at the end of a human hair 30 feet away and keeping it there while walking. To achieve this precision, OPALS locked onto a ground beacon emitted by the Optical Communications Telescope Laboratory ground station at the Table Mountain Observatory in Wrightwood, California.

Once locked onto the signal, OPALS began to modulate the beam from its 2.5-Watt 1,550-nanometer laser to transmit the video. The entire transmission lasted 148 seconds and achieved a maximum data rate of 50 megabits per second. It took OPALS 3.5 seconds to transmit a single copy of the “Hello World!” video message, which would have taken more than 10 minutes using traditional downlink methods. The message was sent multiple times during the transmission.

video
NASA's OPALS Beams Video from Space

The OPALS instrument was built at JPL as part of the Phaeton hands-on training program and is slated to run for a prime mission of 90 days. The OPALS Project Office is based at JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. During these transmissions, NASA also will train personnel in optical communication systems operations, leading to improved optical communication instrument design.

Commercial ventures can likewise take note of the project, as it proves the use of lasercomm for optimized communications from space. This may mean higher definition video feeds from near-Earth assets, such as satellites, as well as those in deep space, like future Mars rovers. This improves the interaction and experience with the stakeholders, whether they be researchers, engineers or consumers. And if you remember the days of having to leave the room to download a video when using DSL, you know that higher-speed downloads are definitely the way to go!

Related link:

Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/861.html

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

Images, Video, Text, Credits: NASA / Jessica Nimon / JPL / Stephanie L. Smith.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

Asteroid Discovered by NASA to Pass Earth Safely











NASA - NEOWISE Mission logo.

June 6, 2014

A newfound asteroid will safely pass Earth on June 8 from a distance of about 777,000 miles (1.25 million kilometers), more than three times farther away than our moon.

Designated 2014 HQ124, the asteroid was discovered April 23, 2014, by NASA's NEOWISE mission, a space telescope adapted for scouting the skies for asteroids and comets. The telescope sees infrared light, which allows it to pick up the infrared glow of asteroids and obtain better estimates of their true sizes. The NEOWISE data estimate asteroid 2014 HQ124 to be between 800 and 1,300 feet (250 and 400 meters).

"There is zero chance of an impact," said Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "In fact, it's fairly common for asteroids to pass near Earth. You'd expect an object about the size of 2014 HQ124 to pass this close every few years."


Image above: This diagram shows the orbit of asteroid 2014 HQ124, and its location relative to Earth on June 8. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

More than one hundred follow-up observations from NASA-funded, ground-based telescopes and amateur astronomers were used to pin down the orbit of the asteroid out to the year 2200, during which time it poses no risk to Earth. Its trajectory will continue to be recalculated past that time frame as additional observations are received.

Yeomans said that 2014 HQ124 is a good target for radar observations using NASA's Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, and the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, shortly after the closest approach on June 8. Radar measurements of asteroid distances and velocities often enable computation of asteroid orbits much further into the future than otherwise known.

2014 HQ124 is designated a "potentially hazardous asteroid," or PHA, which refers to those asteroids 460 feet (140 meters) in size or larger that pass within 4.6 million miles (7.4 million kilometers) of Earth's orbit around the sun. There are currently 1,484 known PHAs, but none pose a significant near-term risk of impacting Earth.

"Because NEOWISE is a space telescope observing the dawn and twilight sky at infrared wavelengths, it is particularly good at finding large NEOs that make relatively close passes to Earth," said Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator of NEOWISE at JPL. "Using infrared light, we can estimate the object’s size, and we can tell that it reflects a fair amount of light. That means it’s most likely a stony object.”

NEOWISE space telescope. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA detects, tracks and characterizes asteroids and comets passing close to Earth using both ground- and space-based telescopes. The Near-Earth Object Program, commonly called "Spaceguard," discovers these objects, characterizes a subset of them and identifies their orbits to determine if any could be potentially hazardous to our planet. To date, U.S. assets have discovered more than 98 percent of the known near-Earth objects.

Along with the resources NASA puts into understanding asteroids, it also partners with other U.S. government agencies, university-based astronomers, and space science institutes across the country that are working to find, track and understand these objects better, often with grants, interagency transfers and other contracts from NASA. In addition, NASA values the work of numerous highly skilled amateur astronomers, whose accurate observational data helps improve asteroid orbits after they are found.

JPL manages the Near-Earth Object Program Office for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

More information about asteroids and near-Earth objects is available at: http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/ and http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/asteroidwatch

Twitter updates are at: http://www.twitter.com/asteroidwatch

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

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Progress Ready to Undock From ISS Monday Morning












ISS - International Space Station logo.

June 6, 2014

Expedition 40 is preparing to take out the trash when a resupply craft undocks Monday morning. The crew is also counting down to a Russian spacewalk. In the meantime, science, maintenance and exercise are filling the rest of the crew’s time.

The ISS Progress 53 (53P) cargo craft has been filled with trash and discarded gear. Flight Engineers Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Artemyev closed the hatches Friday morning and will monitor for leak checks in the afternoon. It will undock from the aft end of the Zvezda service module Monday at 9:30 a.m. EDT and reenter the Earth’s atmosphere a few hours later for a fiery destruction over the Pacific Ocean.


Image above: NASA astronaut Steve Swanson (right), Expedition 40 commander; and European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, flight engineer, retrieve items from a medical diagnostic pack in the Harmony node of the International Space Station.

The pair of cosmonauts started the morning getting the Pirs docking compartment ready for a June 19 spacewalk. They will exit Pirs in their Russian Orlan spacesuits for a series of installation tasks outside the station’s Russian segment.

Commander Steve Swanson performed more botany work with the Resist Tubule and Veggie experiments. He prepared samples for the investigation that is studying gravity resistance in plants. For Veggie, he watered plant pillows to hydrate the lettuce that will be harvested for later analysis on the ground.

Read more about the Resist Tubule study: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/966.html

Read more about Veggie: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/383.html

In the afternoon, the commander joined European astronaut Alexander Gerst for Cygnus rendezvous training. The commercial cargo craft from Orbital Sciences is scheduled to launch no earlier than mid-June 20 on its second Commercial Resupply Services mission. Later, Swanson began to gather trash to be disposed of on Cygnus when it departs a few weeks later.

Read more about the Orbital-2 mission: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/launch/orbital.html

Before lunch time, the commander joined the station’s newest trio including Gerst, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and cosmonaut Max Suraev for more familiarization tasks. The quartet participated in onboard training to familiarize themselves with emergency hardware inside the International Space Station.


Image above: European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, Expedition 40 flight engineer, performs an eye exam for the Ocular Health experiment which observes and seeks to understand vision changes during long-term space missions.

Wiseman first collected blood samples in the morning and stowed them in a science freezer. After that work he stowed the tools, jumper cables and the Remote Power Controller Modules he removed Thursday from a wall in the Destiny lab. In the afternoon, Wiseman relocated crew water containers then collected surface samples from the Unity node for microbial analysis.

Veteran cosmonaut Suraev replaced dust filters and cleaned fan grids Friday morning. After more orientation and familiarization tasks he removed gear from a Soyuz vehicle descent module for return on another Soyuz spacecraft and disposal on the 53P.

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

Images, Text, Credit: NASA.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Cosmic collision in the Bullet Group












ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch.

06 June 2014

Galaxies are not as isolated as they at first glance may seem; on a cosmic scale they congregate in clumps along with dark matter and hot gas. The colourful blob in this new composite image, based on data from several telescopes including ESA's XMM-Newton, is the group of galaxies known as the Bullet Group. Its components appear to be clearly separated, with the hot gas partitioned from the rest of the mass within the group. This is the smallest object ever found to show such an effect, which was caused by a merger in the group's past.


Composite image of the Bullet Group showing galaxies, hot gas (shown in pink) and dark matter (indicated in blue). Credit: ESA / XMM-Newton / F. Gastaldello (INAF/IASF, Milano, Italy) / CFHTLS.

Despite the large distances between them, galaxies rarely exist in isolation. They are mostly found in large assemblies known as groups and clusters. Groups are the smallest gatherings, containing 50 or so galaxies bound together by gravity, whereas clusters are somewhat larger, consisting of hundreds or thousands more. These structures also contain large amounts of hot gas that fills the space between galaxies and shines brightly in the X-ray part of the spectrum, and even larger amounts of dark matter, which does not emit light but can be detected via its gravitational effect on other objects.

This invisible dark matter provides scaffolding for galaxies and hot gas, and its gravity affects the build-up of large cosmic structures. In most cases, galaxies and hot gas are found in the pockets of the Universe where the dark matter is densest, but when groups or clusters of galaxies collide with one another, their different constituents do not mix well. These cosmic clashes give rise to curious configurations where hot gas, which comprises the bulk of ordinary (baryonic) matter in a group or cluster, may lie in one region, while galaxies and dark matter lie elsewhere.

This is certainly the case in this image of SL2S J08544-0121, an object now nicknamed the Bullet Group. This group was created by such a collision, and what we see is the aftermath of this cosmic tussle. The group's diffuse gas is so hot that it strongly radiates X-rays, detected by ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray Observatory and shown here in pink. While the hot gas is concentrated in one large bubble, the rest of the group's mass – consisting of dark matter (shown here in blue) and galaxies – appears to be split into two distinct parts.

Astronomers believe that the blob to the right of the image centre acted as a "bullet", travelling from the lower left towards the upper right of the image. In the process, it impacted the other sub-structure of the group, and passed through it.

Mergers mix the contents of galaxy groups and clusters, but each component behaves differently. While the galaxies and dark matter from both colliding parties did take part in the Bullet Group merger, they were almost unaffected by this event and remained confined in the original sub-structures, as shown in this image. However, particles in the two colliding clouds of hot gas did interact with one another via the electromagnetic force, and the resulting friction caused the gas from the two merging parties to mix, creating a single billowing cloud.

This curious separation of gas, galaxies, and dark matter has been observed so far in a handful of massive galaxy clusters, including the famous Bullet Cluster. However, it had never been seen before in lower-mass objects such as galaxy groups, making the Bullet Group the smallest structure in which this effect has been detected.

Although it is not visible to the eye – nor to any type of telescope – astronomers were able to map the extent of the Bullet Group's dark matter by tracing the effect it has on the light from distant galaxies lying behind the group. This distortion, called gravitational lensing, is caused when light passes by a massive object such as a galaxy, which gravitationally affects the space around it, causing the space to bend and curve. The paths of light from the more distant object are also bent and curved, sometimes creating bizarre optical effects.


If the lensing object is very massive and favourably aligned with the background source of light, this effect becomes even more dramatic and striking – a phenomenon known as "strong gravitational lensing". It can turn galaxies into rings or bright arcs smeared across the sky, and it even creates multiple images of the same galaxy.

This can be seen in the centre-right part of this image, where a round, bright galaxy that belongs to the Bullet Group is circled by curious arcs of light – the distorted image of another galaxy lying much farther away.

By exploring the contents of these cosmic wrecks, astronomers can learn more about the properties of dark matter. In particular, from the split between the dark matter and the hot gas, they can constrain how much dark matter does – or does not – interact with normal matter. The possibility of observing this effect in smaller objects like the Bullet Group, which are much more numerous than the more massive galaxy clusters, opens up new perspectives to study the role of dark matter across the Universe.

This image is a composite of an X-ray image (shown in pink) from ESA's XMM-Newton observatory, a three-colour (red, green, blue) optical image from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT), and a dark matter overlay (shown in blue) based on data from CFHT, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and the W. M. Keck Observatory. Bright foreground stars that belong to our Galaxy are also visible scattered across the frame.

More information:

ESA's XMM-Newton observatory: http://sci.esa.int/xmm-newton/

Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT): http://www.cfht.hawaii.edu/

NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope: http://www.spacetelescope.org/ and http://hubblesite.org/

W. M. Keck Observatory: http://www.keckobservatory.org/

Related Publications:
Gastaldello, F., et al. [2014]: http://sci.esa.int/xmm-newton/54118-gastaldello-f-et-al-2014/

Limousin, M., et al. [2010]: http://sci.esa.int/xmm-newton/54119-limousin-m-et-al/

Image (mentioned), Text, Credit: ESA.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 5 juin 2014

Giant Landform on Mars












NASA - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) logo.

June 5, 2014

Giant Landform on Mars

Sandy landforms formed by the wind, or aeolian bedforms, are classified by the wavelength--or length--between crests. On Mars, we can observe four classes of bedforms (in order of increasing wavelengths): ripples, transverse aeolian ridges (known as TARs), dunes, and what are called “draa.” All of these are visible in this Juventae Chasma image.

Ripples are the smallest bedforms (less than 20 meters) and can only be observed in high-resolution images commonly superposed on many surfaces. TARs are slightly larger bedforms (wavelengths approximately 20 to 70 meters), which are often light in tone relative to their surroundings. Dark-toned dunes (wavelengths 100 meters to 1 kilometer) are a common landform and many are active today. What geologists call “draa” is the highest-order bedform with largest wavelengths (greater than 1 kilometer), and is relatively uncommon on Mars.

Here, this giant draa possesses steep faces or slip faces several hundreds of meters tall and has lower-order superposed bedforms, such as ripples and dunes. A bedform this size likely formed over thousands of Mars years, probably longer.

This image was acquired by the HiRISE camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Jan. 6, 2014. The University of Arizona, Tucson, operates the HiRISE camera, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

More information and image products: http://www.uahirise.org/ESP_034909_1755

For more information about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/main/

Image, Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona / Matthew Chojnacki.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Alexander’s first week in space












ESA - Blue Dot Mission patch.

5 June 2014

Alexander Gerst

ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst has now spent a week in space on the International Space Station. As he grows accustomed to floating in weightlessness, he has been busy learning about his new home, taking over experiments, drawing blood, keeping fit and, yes, cleaning the toilet.

Alexander arrived in the early morning 29 May together with NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman and Roscosmos commander Maxim Suraev in their Soyuz spacecraft.

They complement the three crewmembers on board since April and will stay in their new home in space for almost six months.

Expedition 40/41 portrait

Immediately after arrival, they held a short conference with family and friends on Earth who they had left behind only six hours earlier. Alexander’s comment: “It is awesome up here!”

One of Alexander’s first experiments was relatively easy, a questionnaire about headaches. Many astronauts suffer from headaches that have been described as “exploding”, and scientists want to find out more about who suffers most and when.

As with many experiments that make use of the Station, ESA’s space headache research is collecting data over many years and from multiple astronauts – 30 for this experiment.

Home visit

Alexander and Reid were taken on tours of the Station – the size of a large six-bedroom house – and shown how the systems work by Station commander Steve Swanson. General maintenance and emergency procedures were run through for the new arrivals.

Eye experiment

A more involving experiment for Alexander checked his eyes for NASA’s Ocular Health research into how astronauts’ eyes adapt to space conditions.

Alexander also replaced a lamp for a Japanese experiment that is looking at how plants resist the pull of gravity and grow upwards. This effect can only be studied in a laboratory in the absence of weight.

In his own words Alexander tweeted from space: “Repaired xenon lamp yesterday in Japanese SAIBO rack, for experiments aiming to grow more effective crops on Earth.” Alexander will work on the  complementary Seedling Growth-2 ESA–NASA study later during his Blue Dot mission.

Exercise time

Just like any large house, the Station requires attention to more menial jobs. As Alexander’s colleagues spent time cleaning and packing waste items for removal, Alexander cleaned and maintained one of the two toilets. He has trained for this many times on Earth, but doing it in space was a new experience.

Sleeping quarters

All astronauts on the Station spend two hours a day keeping fit on exercise machines. In addition to all these tasks and getting acclimatised, Alexander is sharing his experiences via social media – follow his mission at http://alexandergerst.esa.int/

Related links:

All about Blue Dot: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Blue_dot

Blue Dot blog: http://blogs.esa.int/alexander-gerst/

Connect with Alexander Gerst: http://alexandergerst.esa.int/

Where is the International Space Station?: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/International_Space_Station/Where_is_the_International_Space_Station

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / NASA.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 4 juin 2014

On the first start of booster Angara

ROSCOSMOS logo.

04.06.2014

June 25, 2014 first scheduled start of the test booster Angara a touch of class from the cosmodrome Plesetsk.

Angara - a new generation of carrier rockets modular type with the oxygen-kerosene engines. Family Angara LV includes light, medium and heavy classes to output payload weight from 3.8 to 35 tons.

Angara Booster's Family

Head developer and manufacturer of the booster is FSUE "State Research and Production Space Center Khrunichev."

First launches of rockets of various classes will be carried out with a single launch complex. At the moment, various classes of RN run with different launch complexes.

A distinctive feature of Angara LV is to use environmentally friendly and inexpensive fuel-based oxygen and kerosene.

The means set (hence-forth SET) development for ensuring the reusable use of the first stage boosters may be the option of practical realization of technology of reentry and reuse. The conception of this SET includes the division of general task of boosters reentry into the following specific tasks: braking in atmosphere, landing and transportation to cosmodrome. In this case the relatively simple task of braking is placed on the SET onboard part and landing and transportation tasks - on its ground part.

  Angara Booster's Recovery

As per the above conception the authors with consultation with the leading specialists from Mil MHP and "Parachute manufacture" scientific research institute developed the SET configuration. This configuration functioning scheme (on "Angara-A5" LV example) is given in the Fig. 2.  The SET onboard part arrangement is shown in Fig. 3.

Create a space rocket complex Angara is a task of special importance. Work on creating ground infrastructure preparation and launch vehicle Angara conducted under the Federal Space Program "Innovation Development Strategy of Russia until 2020" and "Principles of State Policy of the Russian Federation in the field of space activities for the period up to 2030 and beyond, approved by the President of the Russian Federation on April 19, 2013 ? Pr-906" and "Federal Space Program."

ROSCOSMOS Press Release: http://www.federalspace.ru/20654/

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

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

New Suspect Identified in Supernova Explosion












NASA - Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

June 4, 2014

Supernovas are often thought of as the tremendous explosions that mark the ends of massive stars' lives. While this is true, not all supernovas occur in this fashion. A common supernova class, called Type Ia, involves the detonation of white dwarfs -- small, dense stars that are already dead.

New results from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope have revealed a rare example of Type Ia explosion, in which a dead star "fed" off an aging star like a cosmic zombie, triggering a blast. The results help researchers piece together how these powerful and diverse events occur.


Image above: This infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows N103B -- all that remains from a supernova that exploded a millennium ago in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy 160,000 light-years away from our own Milky Way. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Goddard.

"It's kind of like being a detective," said Brian Williams of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, lead author of a study submitted to the Astrophysical Journal. "We look for clues in the remains to try to figure out what happened, even though we weren't there to see it."

Supernovas are essential factories in the cosmos, churning out heavy metals, including the iron contained in our blood. Type Ia supernovas tend to blow up in consistent ways, and thus have been used for decades to help scientists study the size and expansion of our universe. Researchers say that these events occur when white dwarfs -- the burnt-out corpses of stars like our sun -- explode.

Evidence has been mounting over the past 10 years that the explosions are triggered when two orbiting white dwarfs collide -- with one notable exception. Kepler's supernova, named after the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who was among those who witnessed it in 1604, is thought to have been preceded by just one white dwarf and an elderly, companion star called a red giant. Scientists know this because the remnant sits in a pool of gas and dust shed by the aging star.

Spitzer's new observations now find a second case of a supernova remnant resembling Kepler's. Called N103B, the roughly 1,000 year-old supernova remnant lies 160,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy near our Milky Way.

"It's like Kepler's older cousin," said Williams. He explained that N103B, though somewhat older than Kepler's supernova remnant, also lies in a cloud of gas and dust thought to have been blown off by an older companion star. "The region around the remnant is extraordinarily dense," he said. Unlike Kepler's supernova remnant, no historical sightings of the explosion that created N103B are recorded.

Spitzer Space Telescope. Image Credits: NASA/JPL

Both the Kepler and N103B explosions are thought to have unfolded as follows: an aging star orbits its companion -- a white dwarf. As the aging star molts, which is typical for older stars, some of the shed material falls onto the white dwarf. This causes the white dwarf to build up in mass, become unstable and explode.

According to the researchers, this scenario may be rare. While the pairing of white dwarfs and red giants was thought to underlie virtually all Type Ia supernovas as recently as a decade ago, scientists now think that collisions between two white dwarfs are the most common cause. The new Spitzer research highlights the complexity of these tremendous explosions and the variety of their triggers. The case of what makes a dead star rupture is still very much an unsolved mystery.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Spacecraft operations are based at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colorado. Data are archived at the Infrared Science Archive housed at the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center at Caltech. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about Spitzer, visit: http://spitzer.caltech.edu and http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer

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

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Chandra Captures Galaxy Sparkling in X-rays












NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

June 4, 2014


Nearly a million seconds of observing time with NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has revealed a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way glittering with hundreds of X-ray points of light.

The galaxy is officially named Messier 51 (M51) or NGC 5194, but often goes by its nickname of the “Whirlpool Galaxy.” Like the Milky Way, the Whirlpool is a spiral galaxy with spectacular arms of stars and dust. M51 is located 30 million light years from Earth, and its face-on orientation to Earth gives us a perspective that we can never get of our own spiral galactic home.

By using Chandra, astronomers can peer into the Whirlpool to uncover things that can only be detected in X-rays. In this new composite image, Chandra data are shown in purple. Optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope are red, green and blue.

Most of the X-ray sources are X-ray binaries (XRBs). These systems consist of pairs of objects where a compact star, either a neutron star or, more rarely, a black hole, is capturing material from an orbiting companion star. The infalling material is accelerated by the intense gravitational field of the compact star and heated to millions of degrees, producing a luminous X-ray source. The Chandra observations reveal that at least ten of the XRBs in M51 are bright enough to contain black holes. In eight of these systems the black holes are likely capturing material from companion stars that are much more massive than the sun.

Because astronomers have been observing M51 for about a decade with Chandra, they have critical information about how X-ray sources containing black holes behave over time.  The black holes with massive stellar companions are consistently bright over the ten years of Chandra observations. These results suggest that the high-mass stars in these X-ray sources also have strong winds that allow for a steady stream of material to flow onto the black hole.

Chandra X-ray Observatory

A difference between the Milky Way and the Whirlpool galaxy is that M51 is in the midst of merging with a smaller companion galaxy seen in the upper left of the image.  Scientists think this galactic interaction is triggering waves of star formation. The most massive of the newly formed stars will race through their evolution in a few million years and collapse to form neutron stars or black holes. Most of the XRBs containing black holes in M51 are located close to regions where stars are forming, showing their connection to the oncoming galactic collision.

Previous studies of the Whirlpool Galaxy with Chandra revealed just over 100 X-ray sources. The new dataset, equivalent to about 900,000 seconds of Chandra observing time, reveals nearly 500 X-ray sources. About 400 of these sources are thought to be within M51, with the remaining either being in front of or behind the galaxy itself.

Much of the diffuse, or fuzzy, X-ray emission in M51 comes from gas that has been superheated by supernova explosions of massive stars.

The new Chandra observations were presented at the 224th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Boston, Mass. by Roy Kilgard of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. 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/m51/

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

For more information about Chandra X-ray Observatory, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/main/

Images, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Wesleyan Univ./R.Kilgard, et al; Optical: NASA/STScI.

Cheers, Orbiter.ch

First Light for SPHERE Exoplanet Imager












ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

4 June 2014

Revolutionary new VLT instrument installed

SPHERE images the dust ring around the star HR 4796A

SPHERE — the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument — has been installed on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile and has achieved first light. This powerful new facility for finding and studying exoplanets uses multiple advanced techniques in combination. It offers dramatically better performance than existing instruments and has produced impressive views of dust discs around nearby stars and other targets during the very first days of observations. SPHERE was developed and built by a consortium of many European institutes, led by the Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble, France, working in partnership with ESO. It is expected to revolutionise the detailed study of exoplanets and circumstellar discs.

SPHERE image of Saturn’s moon Titan

SPHERE passed its acceptance tests in Europe in December 2013 and was then shipped to Paranal. The delicate reassembly was completed in May 2014 and the instrument is now mounted on VLT Unit Telescope 3. SPHERE is the latest of the second generation of instruments for the VLT (the first three were X-shooter, KMOS and MUSE).

The SPHERE instrument attached to the VLT

SPHERE combines several advanced techniques to give the highest contrast ever reached for direct planetary imaging — far beyond what could be achieved with NACO, which took the first ever direct image of an exoplanet. To reach its impressive performance SPHERE required early development of novel technologies, in particular in the area of adaptive optics, special detectors and coronagraph components.

The SPHERE instrument attached to the VLT

“SPHERE is a very complex instrument. Thanks to the hard work of the many people who were involved in its design, construction and installation it has already exceeded our expectations. Wonderful!” says Jean-Luc Beuzit, of the Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble, France and Principal Investigator of SPHERE.

SPHERE being prepared for first light

SPHERE’s main goal is to find and characterise giant exoplanets orbiting nearby stars by direct imaging [1]. This is an extremely challenging task as such planets are both very close to their parent stars in the sky and also very much fainter. In a normal image, even in the best conditions, the light from the star totally swamps the weak glow from the planet. The whole design of SPHERE is therefore focused on reaching the highest contrast possible in a tiny patch of sky around the dazzling star.

 The SPHERE instrument on the final stage of its journey to the VLT

The first of three novel techniques exploited by SPHERE is extreme adaptive optics to correct for the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere so that images are sharper and the contrast of the exoplanet increased. Secondly, a coronagraph is used to block out the light from the star and increase the contrast still further. Finally, a technique called differential imaging is applied that exploits differences between planetary and stellar light in terms of its colour or polarisation — and these subtle differences can also be exploited to reveal a currently invisible exoplanet (ann13069, eso0503) [2].

The SPHERE instrument is lifted into the dome of ESO’s VLT Unit Telescope 3

SPHERE was designed and built by the following institutes: Institut de Planétologie et d'Astrophysique de Grenoble; Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie in Heidelberg; Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille; Laboratoire d’Etudes Spatiales et d’Instrumentation en Astrophysique de l’Observatoire de Paris; Laboratoire Lagrange in Nice; ONERA; Observatoire de Genève; Italian National Institute for Astrophysics coordinated by the Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova; Institute for Astronomy, ETH Zurich; Astronomical Institute of the University of Amsterdam; Netherlands Research School for Astronomy (NOVA-ASTRON) and ESO.

Saturn's moon Titan observed using the polarimetric mode of SPHERE

During the first light observations several test targets were observed using the many different modes of SPHERE. These include one of the best images so far of the ring of dust around the nearby star HR 4796A. It not only shows the ring with exceptional clarity but also illustrates how well SPHERE can suppress the glare of the bright star at the centre of the picture.

video
The SPHERE instrument during installation on the VLT

Following further extensive tests and science verification observations SPHERE will be made available to the astronomical community later in 2014.

video
Adaptive Optics and SPHERE

“This is just the beginning. SPHERE is a uniquely powerful tool and will doubtless reveal many exciting surprises in the years to come,” concludes Jean-Luc Beuzit.

video
Cutaway animation of the SPHERE instrument on the VLT

Notes:

[1] Most of the exoplanets currently known were discovered using indirect techniques — such as radial velocity variations of the host star, or the dip in brightness of the star caused by a transiting exoplanet. Only a few exoplanets have so far been directly imaged (eso0515, eso0842).

[2] A further, but simpler trick employed by SPHERE is to take many pictures of an object, but with a significant rotation of the image in between each. Features in the pictures that rotate are artefacts of the imaging process, and features that stay in the same place are real objects in the sky.

More information:

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:

SPHERE science page at ESO: http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/develop/instruments/sphere.html

SPHERE information at Observatoire des Sciences de l'Univers de Grenoble: http://sphere.osug.fr/?lang=en

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

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/J.-L. Beuzit et al./SPHERE Consortium/J. Girard/J.-L. Lizon/Videos: ESO/UHD Team/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (skysurvey.org)/Jean-Luc Beuzit/Eric Stadler/IPAG Grenoble.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mardi 3 juin 2014

Hubble Team Unveils Most Colorful View of Universe Captured by Space Telescope











NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

June 3, 2014

Astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have assembled a comprehensive picture of the evolving universe – among the most colorful deep space images ever captured by the 24-year-old telescope.

Researchers say the image, in new study called the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, provides the missing link in star formation. The Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 image is a composite of separate exposures taken in 2003 to 2012 with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3.

video
 Zoom and pan of Hubble’s colourful view of the Universe

Astronomers previously studied the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) in visible and near-infrared light in a series of images captured from 2003 to 2009. The HUDF shows a small section of space in the southern-hemisphere constellation Fornax. Now, using ultraviolet light, astronomers have combined the full range of colors available to Hubble, stretching all the way from ultraviolet to near-infrared light. The resulting image -- made from 841 orbits of telescope viewing time -- contains approximately 10,000 galaxies, extending back in time to within a few hundred million years of the big bang.


Image above: This is a composite image showing the visible and near infrared light spectrum collected from Hubble's ACS and WFC3 instruments over a nine-year period. Image Credit: NASA/ESA.

Prior to the Ultraviolet Coverage of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field study of the universe, astronomers were in a curious position. Missions such as NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) observatory, which operated from 2003 to 2013, provided significant knowledge of star formation in nearby galaxies. Using Hubble's near-infrared capability, researchers also studied star birth in the most distant galaxies, which appear to us in their most primitive stages due to the significant amount of time required for the light of distant stars to travel into a visible range. But for the period in between, when most of the stars in the universe were born -- a distance extending from about 5 to 10 billion light-years -- they did not have enough data.

 Hubble’s colourful view of the Universe (unlabeled image)

"The lack of information from ultraviolet light made studying galaxies in the HUDF like trying to understand the history of families without knowing about the grade-school children," said principal investigator Harry Teplitz of Caltech in Pasadena, California. "The addition of the ultraviolet fills in this missing range."

Ultraviolet light comes from the hottest, largest and youngest stars. By observing at these wavelengths, researchers get a direct look at which galaxies are forming stars and where the stars are forming within those galaxies.

video
Hubble orbiting the Earth. Video Credit: ESA

Studying the ultraviolet images of galaxies in this intermediate time period enables astronomers to understand how galaxies grew in size by forming small collections of very hot stars. Because Earth's atmosphere filters most ultraviolet light, this work can only be accomplished with a space-based telescope.

"Ultraviolet surveys like this one using the unique capability of Hubble are incredibly important in planning for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope," said team member Dr. Rogier Windhorst of Arizona State University in Tempe. "Hubble provides an invaluable ultraviolet light dataset that researchers will need to combine with infrared data from Webb. This is the first really deep ultraviolet image to show the power of that combination."

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, Maryland, 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 Hubble Ultra Deep Field 2014 images and more information about Hubble, visit: http://hubblesite.org/news/2014/27 and http://www.nasa.gov/hubble

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA / J.D. Harrington / Space Telescope Science Institute  / Ann Jenkins / Ray Villard / Videos: NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI) Acknowledgement: H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI).

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Black Hole ‘Batteries’ Keep Blazars Going and Going











NASA - Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope logo.

June 3, 2014

Astronomers studying two classes of black-hole-powered galaxies monitored by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have found evidence that they represent different sides of the same cosmic coin. By unraveling how these objects, called blazars, are distributed throughout the universe, the scientists suggest that apparently distinctive properties defining each class more likely reflect a change in the way the galaxies extract energy from their central black holes.

"We can think of one blazar class as a gas-guzzling car and the other as an energy-efficient electric vehicle," said lead researcher Marco Ajello, an astrophysicist at Clemson University in South Carolina. "Our results suggest that we're actually seeing hybrids, which tap into the energy of their black holes in different ways as they age."

video
Blazars: Artist Conception

Video above: What astronomers once thought were two blazar families may in fact be one, as shown in this artist's concept. Energy stored in the black hole during its salad days of intense accretion may later be tapped by the blazar to continue its high-energy emissions long after this gas has been depleted. Image Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Active galaxies possess extraordinarily luminous cores powered by black holes containing millions or even billions of times the mass of the sun. As gas falls toward these supermassive black holes, it settles into an accretion disk and heats up. Near the brink of the black hole, through processes not yet well understood, some of the gas blasts out of the disk in jets moving in opposite directions at nearly the speed of light.

Blazars are the highest-energy type of active galaxy and emit light across the spectrum, from radio to gamma rays. They make up more than half of the discrete gamma-ray sources cataloged by Fermi's Large Area Telescope, which has detected more than 1,000 to date. Astronomers think blazars appear so intense because they happen to tip our way, bringing one jet nearly into our line of sight. Looking almost directly down the barrel of a particle jet moving near the speed of light, emissions from the jet and the region producing it dominate our view.

To be considered a blazar, an active galaxy must show either rapid changes in visible light on timescales as short as a few days, strong optical polarization, or glow brightly at radio wavelengths with a "flat spectrum" — that is, one exhibiting relatively little change in brightness among neighboring frequencies.

Astronomers have identified two models in the blazar line. One, known as flat-spectrum radio quasars (FSRQs), show strong emission from an active accretion disk, much higher luminosities, smaller black hole masses and lower particle acceleration in the jets. The other, called BL Lacs, are totally dominated by the jet emission, with the jet particles reaching much higher energy and the accretion disk emission either weak or absent.

Speaking at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston on Tuesday, Ajello said he and his team wanted to probe how the distribution of these objects changed over the course of cosmic history, but solid distance information for large numbers of gamma-ray-producing BL Lac objects was hard to come by.

"One of our most important tools for determining distance is the movement of spectral lines toward redder wavelengths as we look deeper into the cosmos," explained team member Dario Gasparrini, an astronomer at the Italian Space Agency's Science Data Center in Rome. "The weak disk emission from BL Lacs makes it extremely difficult to measure their redshift and therefore to establish a distance."

So the team undertook an extensive program of optical observations to measure the redshifts of BL Lac objects detected by Fermi. 

"This project has taken several years and simply wouldn't have been possible without the extensive use of many ground-based observatories by our colleagues," said team member Roger Romani, an astrophysicist at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, a facility run jointly by Stanford University and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California.

Black hole larger blazar. Image Credit: NASA

The redshift survey included 25 nights on the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas, led by Romani; eight nights on the 200-inch telescope at Palomar Observatory and nine nights on the 10-meter Keck Telescope in Hawaii, led by Anthony Readhead at Caltech in Pasadena, California; and nine nights on telescopes at the European Southern Observatory in Chile, led by Garret Cotter at the University of Oxford in England. In addition, important observations were provided by the Chile-based GROND camera, led by Jochen Greiner at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, and the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope on NASA's Swift satellite, led by Neil Gehrels at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

With distances for about 200 BL Lacs in hand -- the largest and most comprehensive sample available to date -- the astronomers could compare their distribution across cosmic time with a similar sample of FSRQs. What emerged suggests that, starting around 5.6 billion years ago, FSRQs began to decline while BL Lacs underwent a steady increase in numbers. The rise is particularly noticeable among BL Lacs with the most extreme energies, which are known as high-synchrotron-peaked blazars based on a particular type of emission.

"What we think we're seeing here is a changeover from one style of extracting energy from the central black hole to another," adds Romani.

Large galaxies grew out of collisions and mergers with many smaller galaxies, and this process occurs with greater frequency as we look back in time. These collisions provided plentiful gas to the growing galaxy and kept the gas stirred up so it could more easily reach the central black hole, where it piled up into a vast, hot, and bright accretion disk like those seen in "gas-guzzling" FSRQs. Some of the gas near the hole powers a jet while the rest falls in and gradually increases the black hole's spin.

As the universe expands and the density of galaxies decreases, so do galaxy collisions and the fresh supply of gas they provide to the black hole. The accretion disk becomes depleted over time, but what's left is orbiting a faster-spinning and more massive black hole. These properties allow BL Lac objects to maintain a powerful jet even though relatively meager amounts of material are spiraling toward the black hole.

In effect, the energy of accretion from the galaxy's days as an FSRQ becomes stored in the increasing rotation and mass of its black hole, which acts much like a battery. When the gas-rich accretion disk all but disappears, the blazar taps into the black hole's stored energy that, despite a lower accretion rate, allows it to continue operating its particle jet and producing high-energy emissions as a BL Lac object.

One observational consequence of the hybrid blazar notion is that the luminosity of BL Lacs should decrease over time as the black hole loses energy and spins down.

The astronomers say they are eager to test this idea with larger blazar samples provided in part by Fermi's continuing all-sky survey. Understanding the details of this transition also will require better knowledge of the jet, the black hole mass and the galaxy environment for both blazar classes.

Related Links:

Paper: “The Cosmic Evolution of Fermi BL Lacertae Objects”: http://iopscience.iop.org/0004-637X/780/1/73

Active Galaxies and Quasars at Imagine the Universe!: http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/science/know_l2/active_galaxies.html

“NASA'S Fermi Measures Cosmic 'Fog' Produced by Ancient Starlight” (11.01.12): http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2012/11/nasas-fermi-measures-cosmic-fog.html

“Fermi's Latest Gamma-ray Census Highlights Cosmic Mysteries” (09.12.11): http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2011/09/fermis-latest-gamma-ray-census.html

“Fermi Sees Brightest-Ever Blazar Flare” (12.08.09): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/brightest-blazar.html

For more information about Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, visit: http://fermi.gsfc.nasa.gov/ and http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/main/

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center / Francis Reddy.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

CERN’s ALPHA experiment measures charge of antihydrogen












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

June 3, 2014

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications today, the ALPHA experiment at CERN's Antiproton Decelerator (AD) reports a measurement of the electric charge of antihydrogen atoms, finding it to be compatible with zero to eight decimal places. Although this result comes as no surprise, since hydrogen atoms are electrically neutral, it is the first time that the charge of an antiatom has been measured to high precision.

“This is the first time we have been able to study antihydrogen with some precision,” said ALPHA spokesperson Jeffrey Hangst. “We are optimistic that ALPHA’s trapping technique will yield many such insights in the future. We look forward to the restart of the AD program in August, so that we can continue to study antihydrogen with ever increasing accuracy.”


Image above: Detail of the ALPHA experiment: Insertion of the ALPHA Penning trap into the cryostat that holds the antihydrogen trapping magnets (Image: Niels Madsen).

Antiparticles should be identical to matter particles except for the sign of their electric charge. So while the hydrogen atom is made up of a proton with charge +1 and an electron with charge -1, the antihydrogen atom consists of a charge -1 antiproton and a charge +1 positron. We know, however, that matter and antimatter are not exact opposites – nature seems to have a one-part in 10 billion preference for matter over antimatter, so it is important to measure the properties of antimatter to great precision: the principal goal of CERN’s AD experiments. ALPHA achieves this by using a complex system of particle traps that allow antihydrogen atoms to be produced and stored for long enough periods to study in detail. Understanding matter antimatter asymmetry is one of the greatest challenges in physics today. Any detectable difference between matter and antimatter could help solve the mystery and open a window to new physics.


Diagram above: A diagram of the region where antihydrogen is synthesized and trapped in ALPHA. Bottom a diagram of the electric potential in the trap region. Credit: Nature.

To measure the charge of antihydrogen, the ALPHA experiment studied the trajectories of antihydrogen atoms released from the trap in the presence of an electric field. If the antihydrogen atoms had an electric charge, the field would deflect them, whereas neutral atoms would be undeflected. The result, based on 386 recorded events, gives a value of the antihydrogen electric charge as (-1.3±1.1±0.4) × 10-8, the plus or minus numbers representing statistical and systematic uncertainties on the measurement.

With the restart of CERN’s accelerator chain getting underway, the laboratory’s antimatter research programme is set to resume. Experiments including ALPHA-2, an upgraded version of the ALPHA experiment, will be taking data along with the ATRAP and ASACUSA experiments and newcomer AEGIS, which will be studying the influence of gravity on antihydrogen.

Read more: "An experimental limit on the charge of antihydrogen" – Nature Communications: http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140603/ncomms4955/full/ncomms4955.html

Note:

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.

The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 20 Member States.

Related links:

CERN Antiproton Decelerator (AD): http://home.web.cern.ch/about/accelerators/antiproton-decelerator

CERN ALPHA experiment: http://home.web.cern.ch/about/experiments/alpha

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

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

The series of joint Russian-Japanese experiments Aquarium-AQH














ISS - International Space Station patch / JAXA - KIBO Japanese Experiment Module patch.

06/03/2014

The series of joint Russian-Japanese experiments Aquarium -AQH, without exaggeration, is one and the most important experimental steps in recent years. This is one of the first studies that evaluates the "pure" effect of space flight on the work of the genetic apparatus of vertebrate and invertebrate aquatic organisms on an example of the Japanese medaka fish (Oryzias latipes) and chironomid larvae (Polypedilum vanderplanki).

Experiment Aquarium-AQH carried out in accordance with the program of Russian scientific and applied research. On the Russian side in the works according to experiments involving SRC RF-IBMP RAS, RSC Energia SP Korolev, Moscow State University, Research Institute of Human Morphology, Kazan Federal University.

Study Aquarium-AQH differs from the vast majority of biological experiments, which were carried out on the ISS, the following key points:

- The animals spend a lot of time in space under a constant temperature control and water quality in aquariums, and the possible impact on the results of the experiments stress from their delivery on board is reduced to almost zero;

- Fixation of biological material passes directly aboard the space station with the use of reagents for stabilization of RNA and DNA.

Equipment Aquarium-AQH on board module "Kibo"

This completely avoids the effects of stress on the descent living samples to Earth. Thus, the net effect singled out the animal's stay in prolonged space flight on genetics.

Objects of the first series of experiments, the research Aquarium-AQH are Japanese medaka fish Oryzias latipes. This experiment was designed and implemented with the latest advances in genomic technologies. Medaka fish genome was decoded a few years ago, at the same time allowing to reliably estimate the expression (activity) of all genes in space and terrestrial samples.

The experiment uses the best platform to date genome-sequencing (reading from the entire genome) HiSeq 2500 (Illumina) to obtain a complete profile of genetic expression. A total of 14 pairs of genome-wide expression profiles (more than 60 million reads per sample) allowed a high-performance analysis:

- The formation of unique space for expression profiles for individual organs;

- Identification of organ- specific markers of stress activated during space flight;

- Evaluation of the device to stabilize and repair the DNA to identify the potential risk of the cosmic radiation.

Such genome-wide data using fish recorded directly during space flight, were obtained for the first time in the history of space biology .

Researchers initially assumed that the conditions of space flight will have a minimal impact on the operation of the genetic apparatus of fish, because the aquatic habitat implies a possible compensation from the stress of microgravity.

Fish in space flight

Onboard footage showed that from a behavioral point of view of the fish completely adapted to the conditions of flight, however, the comparative analysis of juvenile fish earth and space group was found 418 genes significantly increase the activity in space flight. One of the unexpected results was the analysis of genes whose activity is decreased in the fry in spaceflight. There were found 195 genes.

Currently, Russian and Japanese scientists conducted an analysis of genetic data from different organs of adult fish after months in space flight. One of the potential performance may be the identification of specific regulatory regions in the genome, specifically reacting to conditions of space flight and determine the decrease in the activity of muscle and other proteins.

This approach is a deep analysis of genome-wide strategy is highly effective for identifying potential genetic risks for astronauts.

Second joint Russian-Japanese experiment under Aquarium -AQH aims to take advantage of resting stages of aquatic organisms to understand the effects of spaceflight on organ and tissue reorganization during metamorphosis of insects.

In this case, a phenomenon cryptobiosis - organisms delivered on board completely dehydrated state and reactivated by adding water.

Container for revitalizing mosquito larvae on board the ISS

Model object serves African chironomid Polypedilum vanderplanki-kind of chironomids. The larvae of this insect is adapted to complete dehydration, and come back to life for 30-40 minutes after adding water.

Larvae in dehydrated state has a unique resistance to abiotic stresses, including radiation and vacuum. They were used in the series of experiments "Biorisk" and "Expose-R" in open space. It has been experimentally proved that terrestrial organisms such a complex level of organization can survive for years in open space.

In 2013 was completed genome African chironomids larvae included in the second experiment Aquarium-AQH. Larvae were reactivated on the ISS, the process of recovery and their life cycle was recorded on high-resolution video camera. After recovery of the space larvae were preserved and sent back to Earth for further genetic studies.

Two experiments Aquarium-AQH can be considered as components of a single unit of genetic research program "traskriptomika Space", which will allow for a few years to create a consolidated database for eukaryotic genomes work (in cells with nucleus) organisms in space flight.

ROSCOSMOS Press Release: http://www.federalspace.ru/20652/

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

Best regards, Orbiter.ch