samedi 5 mars 2016

Rocket landing missed for SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket


















SpaceX - Falcon 9 / SES-9 Mission patch.


March 5, 2016


Image Above: The launch of the Falcon 9 carrying the SES-9 satellite for communications services to several countries in Asia and the Pacific.

Friday a SpaceX rocket placed a communications satellite into orbit but the recovery of reusable stage, which had to land on a platform off the coast of Florida, failed.

video
Launch & Landing of SpaceX Falcon 9 with SES-9

After four posponed launches, the US company SpaceX successfully launched Friday a telecommunications satellite for Luxembourg-based SES but again failed to do then ask the first stage of its launch vehicle on a barge in the Atlantic.

SES-9 satellite


The satellite was deployed after separation from the second floor a little more than 30 minutes after launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 23:35 GMT. He then reached the planned altitude of 40'600 km above the equator, said on Twitter Elon Musk, the founder and head of SpaceX.

Several consecutive failures
But the private company failed to make a soft landing on the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean 640 km coast of Florida.

video
First Stage Landing Attempt for SpaceX Falcon 9 SES-9

"The first stage crashed on the barge," wrote Elon Musk, adding that he "did not expect a success but there was a good chance for the upcoming launch."

For more information about SpaceX, visit: http://www.spacex.com/

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: SpaceX/Günter Space Page/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

vendredi 4 mars 2016

Hubble and a Stellar Fingerprint











NASA - Hubble Space Telescope patch.

March 4, 2016


Showcased at the center of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is an emission-line star known as IRAS 12196-6300.

Located just under 2,300 light-years from Earth, this star displays prominent emission lines, meaning that the star’s light, dispersed into a spectrum, shows up as a rainbow of colors marked with a characteristic pattern of dark and bright lines. The characteristics of these lines, when compared to the “fingerprints” left by particular atoms and molecules, can be used to reveal IRAS 12196-6300’s chemical composition.

Under 10 million years old and not yet burning hydrogen at its core, unlike the sun, this star is still in its infancy. Further evidence of IRAS 12196-6300’s youth is provided by the presence of reflection nebulae. These hazy clouds, pictured floating above and below IRAS 12196-6300, are created when light from a star reflects off a high concentration of nearby dust, such as the dusty material still remaining from IRAS 12196-6300’s formation.

For images and more information about Hubble, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/hubble
    http://hubblesite.org/
    http://www.spacetelescope.org/

Text Credit: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Ashley Morrow/Image Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA, Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Sentinel-3A rides the waves









ESA - Sentinel-3 Mission logo.

4 March 2016

Following the first impressive images* from Sentinel-3A, this latest Copernicus satellite is now showing us how another of its instruments, an altimeter, will track sea-level change.

Just after the radar altimeter instrument was turned on, it traced the height of the sea surface over a stretch of the North Atlantic, some of the most dynamic ocean waters in the world.

Showing features relating to the Gulf Stream, the track compares very well with the background map of sea-surface height.

Sea-level track from Sentinel-3A

The map, produced by the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service, comprises near-realtime data for one day from the CryoSat, Jason-2 and SARAL/AltiKa satellites.

The altimeter is designed to deliver accurate measurements of sea-surface height, significant wave height and surface-wind speeds over the world’s oceans for Copernicus ocean forecasting systems and for monitoring sea-level change.

On average, the global sea-level has been rising at a rate of just over 3 mm/yr over the last 20 years. However, this figure varies considerably around the world.

The Sentinel-3 mission will offer valuable insight into these important variations.

Pierre-Yves Le Traon from Mercator Ocean said, “These first results are very promising and illustrate the great potential Sentinel-3 has for the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service.

“Sea-surface height data from the satellite’s altimeter will, for example, significantly improve our capability to analyse and forecast ocean currents. This is essential for the applications we serve such as marine safety, ship routing and predicting the fate of marine pollution events.”

Wave height

Another set of data shows how the altimeter will be used to map ‘significant wave height’, which again is important information needed for ship safety.

It will also provide accurate topography measurements over sea ice, ice sheets, rivers and lakes.

The altimeter has heritage from the CryoSat and Jason missions. This first image is in low-resolution mode but it will provide measurements at a resolution of approximately 300 m in the along-track direction after processing.

Sentinel-3 over land and ocean

It will be the first satellite altimeter to provide 100% coverage over all of Earth’s surfaces in ‘synthetic aperture radar mode’, directly resulting from experience with CryoSat.

Sentinel-3A has shown that the first two instruments are working well. Now engineers and scientists are expecting the first data from its radiometer – which measures radiation from Earth’s surface – in the next couple of days.

Related article:

*First views of Earth from Sentinel-3A:
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2016/03/first-views-of-earth-from-sentinel-3a.html

Related links:

Synthetic aperture radar mode: http://www.eetimes.com/document.asp?doc_id=1278931

Thales Alenia Space: http://www.thalesgroup.com/space/

International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group Meeting: http://www.ioccg.org/ioccg21.html

Copernicus: http://copernicus.eu/

EUMETSAT: http://www.eumetsat.int/website/home/index.html

Satellite Constellation: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Sentinel-3/Satellite_constellation

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Copernicus data (2016)/CMEMS/ATG medialab.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

jeudi 3 mars 2016

CERN - Congratulations to SuperKEKB for “first turns"












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

3 Mar 2016

Congratulations to the SuperKEKB (link is external) electron-positron collider in Tsukuba, Japan. On 10 February, the collider succeeded in circulating and storing a positron beam moving close to the speed of light through more than a thousand magnets in a narrow tube around the 3-kilometre circumference of its main ring. Then, on 26 February, it succeeded in circulating and storing an electron beam around its ring of magnets in the opposite direction.

The achievement of "first turns", which means storing the beam in the ring through many revolutions, is a major milestone for any particle accelerator.

SuperKEKB, along with the Belle II detector, is a facility designed to search for New Physics beyond the Standard Model by measuring rare decays of elementary particles such as beauty quarks, charm quarks and tau leptons.


Image above: View of the SuperKEKB collision point in autumn 2015. The accelerator beam line is now covered with a concrete shield. The Belle II detector can be seen in the background. (Image: KEK).

Unlike the LHC at CERN, which is the world's highest energy machine, SuperKEKB/Belle II is designed to have the world's highest luminosity – a factor of 40 higher than the earlier KEKB machine that holds many records for accelerator performance. Thus, SuperKEKB will be the leading accelerator on the "luminosity frontier".

The Belle II detector at SuperKEKB was designed and built by an international collaboration of more than 600 physicists from 23 countries. This collaboration is working closely with SuperKEKB accelerator experts to optimize the machine performance and backgrounds.

At the same time as first turns were achieved, the BEAST in its cave at Tsukuba Hall awakened from its slumber. The BEAST II detector is a system of detectors designed to measure beam backgrounds of the SuperKEKB accelerator. The parasitic radiation produced by electromagnetic showers when the beam collides with the walls of the vacuum pipe, not only obscure the signals that we wish to observe, but can also damage the detector. Therefore, when operating the new accelerator, these beam backgrounds must be well understood.

The BEAST II detector will collect data in the unique environment produced by SuperKEKB’s first beams, thus paving the way to allow Belle II to safely roll into the beam in 2017.

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 22 Member States.

Related links:

SuperKEKB: https://www.kek.jp/en/Facility/ACCL/SuperKEKBRing/

Standard Model: http://home.cern/about/physics/standard-model

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

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

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/ Kate Kahle.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Versatile Instrument to Scout for Kuiper Belt Objects












Palomar Observatory logo.

March 3, 2016


Image above: This image of the Crab Pulsar was taken with CHIMERA, an instrument on the Hale telescope at the Palomar Observatory, which is operated by the California Institute of Technology. This pulsar is the end result of a star whose mass collapsed at the end of its life. It weighs as much as our sun, but spins 32 times per second. The instrument focused on the pulsar for a 300-second exposure to produce a color image. CHIMERA zoomed in on the pulsar and imaged it very fast, then imaged the rest of the scene slowly to create this image. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

At the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, astronomers are busy tinkering with a high-tech instrument that could discover a variety of objects both far from Earth and closer to home.

The Caltech HIgh-speed Multi-color camERA (CHIMERA) system is looking for objects in the Kuiper Belt, the band of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune that includes Pluto. It can also detect near-Earth asteroids and exotic forms of stars. Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology, both in Pasadena, are collaborating on this instrument.

"The Kuiper Belt is a pristine remnant of the formation of our solar system," said Gregg Hallinan, CHIMERA principal investigator at Caltech. "By studying it, we can learn a large amount about how our solar system formed and how it's continuing to evolve."

The wide-field telescope camera system allows scientists to monitor thousands of stars simultaneously to see if a Kuiper Belt object passes in front of any of them. Such an object would diminish a star's light for only one-tenth of a second while traveling by, meaning a camera has to be fast in order to capture it.

"Each of CHIMERA's cameras will be taking 40 frames per second, allowing us to measure the distinct diffraction pattern in the wavelengths of light to which they are sensitive," said Leon Harding, CHIMERA instrument scientist at JPL. "This high-speed imaging technique will enable us to find new Kuiper Belt objects far less massive in size than any other ground-based survey to date."


Image above: The CHIMERA instrument is located at the Hale Telescope at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, California. Image Credits: Gregg Hallinan.

Hallinan's CHIMERA team at Caltech and JPL published a paper led by Harding describing the instrument this week in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Astronomers are particularly interested in finding Kuiper Belt objects smaller than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) in diameter. Since so few such objects have ever been found, scientists want to figure out how common they are, what they are made of and how they collide with other objects. The CHIMERA astronomers estimate that in the first 100 hours of CHIMERA data, they could find dozens of these small, distant objects.

Another scientific focus for CHIMERA is near-Earth asteroids, which the instrument can detect even if they are only about 30 feet (10 meters) across. Mike Shao of JPL, who leads the CHIMERA group's near-Earth asteroid research effort, predicts that by using CHIMERA on the Hale telescope at Palomar, they could find several near-Earth objects per night of telescope observation.

Transient or pulsing objects such as binary star systems, pulsing white dwarfs and brown dwarfs can also be seen with CHIMERA.

"What makes CHIMERA unique is that it does high-speed, wide-field, multicolor imaging from the ground, and can be used for a wide variety of scientific purposes," Hallinan said. "It's the most sensitive instrument of its kind."

CHIMERA uses detectors called electron multiplying charged-coupled devices (EMCCDs), making for an extremely high-sensitivity, low-noise camera system. One of the EMCCDs picks up near-infrared light, while the other picks up green and blue wavelengths, and the combination allows for a robust system of scanning perturbations in starlight. The detectors are capable of running at minus 148 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 100 degrees Celsius) in order to avoid noise when imaging fast objects.


Image above: The globular cluster M22, located in the constellation Sagittarius, was imaged by the CHIMERA instrument. The team will observe M22 and other star fields to look for signs of Kuiper Belt objects. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

"Not only can we image over a wide field, but in other modes we can also image objects rotating hundreds of times per second," Harding said.

One of the objects the CHIMERA team used in testing the instrument's imaging and timing abilities was the Crab Pulsar. This pulsar is the end result of a star whose mass collapsed at the end of its life. It weighs as much as our sun, but spins 32 times per second. The instrument focused on the pulsar for a 300-second exposure to produce a color image.

"Our camera can image the entire field of view at 40 frames per second," Hallinan said. "We zoomed in on the pulsar and imaged it very fast, then imaged the rest of the scene slowly to create an aesthetically-pleasing image."

Highlighting CHIMERA's versatility, the instrument also imaged the globular cluster M22, located in the constellation Sagittarius toward the busy center of our galaxy. A single 25-millisecond image captured more than 1,000 stars. The team will be observing M22, and other fields like it, for 50 nights over three years, to look for signatures of Kuiper Belt objects.

Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Related links:

Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: http://mnras.oxfordjournals.org/content/457/3/3036.full

Palomar Observatory: http://www.astro.caltech.edu/palomar/homepage.html

Jet Propulsion Laboratory: https://www.nasa.gov/centers/jpl/home/index.html

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Elizabeth Landau.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Methane Snow on Pluto’s Peaks












NASA - New Horizons Mission logo.

March 3, 2016

The New Horizons team has discovered a chain of exotic snowcapped mountains stretching across the dark expanse on Pluto informally named Cthulhu Regio.


One of Pluto’s most identifiable features, Cthulhu (pronounced kuh-THU-lu) stretches nearly halfway around Pluto’s equator, starting from the west of the great nitrogen ice plains known as Sputnik Planum. Measuring approximately 1,850 miles (3,000 kilometers) long and 450 miles (750 kilometers) wide, Cthulhu is a bit larger than the state of Alaska.

Cthulhu’s appearance is characterized by a dark surface, which scientists think is due to being covered by a layer of dark tholins – complex molecules that form when methane is exposed to sunlight. Cthulhu’s geology exhibits a wide variety of landscapes—from mountainous to smooth, and to heavily cratered and fractured.

The reddish enhanced color image shown as the left inset reveals a mountain range located in southeast Cthulhu that’s 260 miles (420 kilometers) long. The range is situated among craters, with narrow valleys separating its peaks. The upper slopes of the highest peaks are coated with a bright material that contrasts sharply with the dark red color of the surrounding plains.

Scientists think this bright material could be predominantly methane that has condensed as ice onto the peaks from Pluto's atmosphere. "That this material coats only the upper slopes of the peaks suggests methane ice may act like water in Earth's atmosphere, condensing as frost at high altitude," said John Stansberry, a New Horizons science team member from Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, Maryland. Compositional data from the Ralph/Multispectral Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) on NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, shown in the right inset, indicates that the location of the bright ice on the mountain peaks correlates almost exactly with the distribution of methane ice, shown in false color as purple. 

New Horizons spacecraft

The resolution of the enhanced color image is about 2,230 feet (680 meters) per pixel. The image measures approximately 280 miles (450 kilometers) long by 140 miles (225 kilometers) wide. It was obtained by New Horizons at a range of approximately 21,100 miles (33,900 kilometers) from Pluto, about 45 minutes before the spacecraft’s closest approach to Pluto on July 14, 2015.

For more information about New Horizons, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/newhorizons/main/index.html

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI/Tricia Talbert.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

Hubble breaks cosmic distance record












ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

3 March 2016

Most distant galaxy

By pushing the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to its limits astronomers have shattered the cosmic distance record by measuring the distance to the most remote galaxy ever seen in the Universe. This galaxy existed just 400 million years after the Big Bang and provides new insights into the first generation of galaxies. This is the first time that the distance of an object so far away has been measured from its spectrum, which makes the measurement extremely reliable. The results will be published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope an international team of astronomers has measured the distance to this new galaxy, named GN-z11. Although extremely faint, the galaxy is unusually bright considering its distance from Earth. The distance measurement of GN-z11 provides additional strong evidence that other unusually bright galaxies found in earlier Hubble images are really at extraordinary distances, showing that we are closing in on the first galaxies that formed in the Universe.

Previously, astronomers had estimated GN-z11’s distance by analysing its colour in images taken with both Hubble and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. Now, for the first time for a galaxy at such an extreme distance, the team has used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) to precisely measure the distance to GN-z11 spectroscopically by splitting the light into its component colours.

“Our spectroscopic observations reveal the galaxy to be even further away than we had originally thought, right at the distance limit of what Hubble can observe,” explains Gabriel Brammer of the Space Telescope Science Institute and second author of the study.

This puts GN-z11 at a distance that was once thought only to be reachable with the upcoming NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) [1].

Hubble spectroscopically confirms remotest galaxy today

“We’ve taken a major step back in time, beyond what we’d ever expected to be able to do with Hubble. We managed to look back in time to measure the distance to a galaxy when the Universe was only three percent of its current age,” says Pascal Oesch of Yale University and lead author of the paper.

To determine large distances, like the one to GN-z11, astronomers measure the redshift of the observed object. This phenomenon is a result of the expansion of the Universe; every distant object in the Universe appears to be receding from us and as a result its light is stretched to longer, redder wavelengths.

Before astronomers determined the distance to GN-z11, the most distant measured galaxy, EGSY8p7, had a redshift of 8.68. Now, the team has confirmed GN-z11’s distance to be at a redshift of 11.1, which corresponds to 400 million years after the Big Bang.

“The previous record-holder was seen in the middle of the epoch when starlight from primordial galaxies was beginning to heat and lift a fog of cold, hydrogen gas,” explains co-author Rychard Bouwens from the University of Leiden, the Netherlands. “This transitional period is known as the reionisation era. GN-z11 is observed 150 million years earlier, near the very beginning of this transition in the evolution of the Universe.”

The combination of observations taken by Hubble and Spitzer revealed that the infant galaxy is 25 times smaller than the Milky Way and has just one percent of our galaxy’s mass in stars. However, the number of stars in the newborn GN-z11 is growing fast: The galaxy is forming stars at a rate about 20 times greater than the Milky Way does today [2]. This high star formation rate makes the remote galaxy bright enough for Hubble to see and to perform detailed observations.

video
Zoom on GN-z11

However, the discovery also raises many new questions as the existence of such a bright and large galaxy is not predicted by theory. “It’s amazing that a galaxy so massive existed only 200 million to 300 million years after the very first stars started to form. It takes really fast growth, producing stars at a huge rate, to have formed a galaxy that is a billion solar masses so soon,” explains Garth Illingworth of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Marijn Franx, a member of the team from the University of Leiden highlights: “The discovery of GN-z11 was a great surprise to us, as our earlier work had suggested that such bright galaxies should not exist so early in the Universe.” His colleague Ivo Labbe adds: “The discovery of GN-z11 showed us that our knowledge about the early Universe is still very restricted. How GN-z11 was created remains somewhat of a mystery for now. Probably we are seeing the first generations of stars forming around black holes?”

These findings provide a tantalising preview of the observations that the James Webb Space Telescope will perform. “This new discovery shows that JWST will surely find many such young galaxies reaching back to when the first galaxies were forming,” concludes Illingworth.

Notes:

[1] The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope is a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). It is scheduled for launch in 2018.

[2] GN-z11 transforms about 24 solar masses of gas and dust per year into new stars.

More information:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of P. A. Oesch (Yale University, USA), G.Brammer (STScI, USA), P.G.van Dokkum (Yale University, USA), G.D.Illingworth (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA), R. J. Bouwens (Leiden University, Netherlands), I. Labbe (Leiden University, Netherlands), M.Franx (Leiden University, Netherlands), I. Momcheva (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA), M. L. N. Ashby (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA), G.G.Fazio (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA), V.Gonzalez (University of California, Riverside, USA), B.Holden (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA), D.Magee (University of California, Santa Cruz, USA), R. E. Skelton (South African Astronomical Observatory, South Africa), R. Smit (Durham University, UK), L. R. Spitler (Macquarie University; Australian Astronomical Observatory, Australia), M.Trenti (University of Melbourne, Australia), S.P.Willner (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, USA).

Links:

Images of Hubble: http://www.spacetelescope.org/images/archive/category/spacecraft/

Link to hubblesite release: http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2016/07/

Link to science paper: http://www.spacetelescope.org/static/archives/releases/science_papers/heic1604a.pdf

Related links:

NASA Spitzer Space Telescope: http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3): http://www.spacetelescope.org/about/general/instruments/wfc3/

NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): http://sci.esa.int/jwst/

Images, Text, Credits: NASA/ESA/P. Oesch (Yale University)/A. Feild (STScI)/Video Credits: NASA/ESA/G. Bacon (STScI).

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

mercredi 2 mars 2016

Mystery Feature Evolves in Titan's Ligeia Mare












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

March 2, 2016

Labeled version

These images from the Radar instrument aboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft show the evolution of a transient feature in the large hydrocarbon sea named Ligeia Mare on Saturn's moon Titan.

Analysis by Cassini scientists indicates that the bright features, informally known as the "magic island," are a phenomenon that changes over time. They conclude that the brightening is due to either waves, solids at or beneath the surface or bubbles, with waves thought to be the most likely explanation. They think tides, sea level and seafloor changes are unlikely to be responsible for the brightening.

The images in the column at left show the same region of Ligeia Mare as seen by Cassini's radar during flybys in (from top to bottom) 2007, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The bottom image was acquired by Cassini on Jan. 11, 2015, and adds another snapshot in time as Cassini continues to monitor the ephemeral feature (previously highlighted in PIA18430). The feature is apparent in the images from 2013 and 2014, but it is not present in other images of the region.

Monochrome version

Cassini has observed similar transient features elsewhere in Ligeia Mare, and also in Kraken Mare (see PIA19047). These features are the first instances of active processes in Titan's lakes and seas to be confirmed by multiple detections. Their changing nature demonstrates that Titan's seas are not stagnant, but rather, dynamic environments.

The Cassini radar team plans to re-observe this particular region of Ligeia Mare one more time during Cassini's final close flyby of Titan in April 2017. The results may further illuminate the phenomenon responsible for the appearance of the transient features.

The large image panel shows Ligeia Mare in its entirety. Ligeia is Titan's second-largest liquid hydrocarbon sea, and has a total area of about 50,000 square miles (130,000 square kilometers), making it 50 percent larger than Lake Superior on Earth. This panel is a mosaic of five synthetic aperture radar images acquired by Cassini between 2007 and 2014. It shows a region approximately 330 by 305 miles (530 by 490 kilometers) in area.

An earlier version of the mosaic was released as PIA17031; the new version includes new data to fill in some gaps in coverage and to improve the quality of coverage in some of the previously imaged areas.

Cassini spacecraft Titan flyby

The images have been colorized and processed for aesthetic appeal. Labeled and monochrome versions of this image are also available.

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, DC. The Cassini orbiter was designed, developed and assembled at JPL. The radar instrument was built by JPL and the Italian Space Agency, working with team members from the United States and several European countries.

Related links:

PIA18430: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA18430

PIA19047: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA19047

PIA17031: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA17031

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

Images,Text, Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/Cornell/Tony Greicius.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

First views of Earth from Sentinel-3A









ESA - Sentinel 3 Mission logo.

2 March 2016

Just two weeks after launch, the latest Sentinel satellite has offered a taster of what it will provide for the EU’s Copernicus programme.

Sentinel-3A’s very first image, captured at 14:09 GMT on 29 February, shows the transition from day to night over Svalbard, Norway.

First image from Sentinel-3A

As well as showing the snow-covered archipelago, the image also details Arctic sea ice and some cloud features.

Another image delivered on the same day shows California, USA. It also captures Los Angeles, which coincidentally is where the International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group Meeting is taking place.

The following day, one of the images shows Spain, Portugal, the Strait of Gibraltar and North Africa.

These images were captured by its ocean and land colour instrument, OLCI. With heritage from Envisat, this new instrument has 21 spectral bands, a resolution of 300 m and a swath width of 1270 km.

Iberian Peninsula

Offering new eyes on Earth, this improved instrument will allow ocean ecosystems to be monitored. It will also support vegetation, crop conditions and inland water monitoring as well as provide estimates of atmospheric aerosol and clouds – all of which bring significant benefits to society through more informed decision-making.

Volker Liebig, ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, said, “This first image already reveals the true versatility of Sentinel-3A.

“The mission will be at the heart of a wide range of applications, from measuring marine biological activity to providing information about the health of vegetation.

“Given its extensive payload, Sentinel-3A is a real workhorse that is set to make a step change in the variety of data products provided to users.”

California from Sentinel-3A

Carrying a suite of instruments working together, Sentinel-3A is arguably the most complex of all the Copernicus Sentinels. Once commissioned, it will systematically measure Earth’s oceans, land, ice and atmosphere to monitor large-scale global dynamics and provide critical near-realtime information for ocean and weather forecasting.

Philippe Brunet, Director of the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises, said, “The launch of Sentinel-3A further expands the fleet of dedicated missions for Copernicus services.

video
Colour of life

“This mission is particularly important as it will contribute to the Copernicus Marine Environment Monitoring Service and the global land component of the Copernicus Land Service.”

Following the satellite’s launch and early operations phase, which was completed in record time, it is spending the next five months being commissioned for service. The satellite is expected to be in its ‘reference’ orbit by 3 March.

Sentinel-3A satellite

Once commissioned, ESA will hand over satellite operations to EUMETSAT. The mission will then be managed jointly, with ESA generating the land products and EUMETSAT the marine products for application through the Copernicus services.

Alain Ratier, EUMETSAT’s Director-General, added: “This first image is a promise to the marine user community. As the operator of the Sentinel-3 marine mission, we are delighted to see the first fruit of our cooperation with ESA and the European Commission, and we are looking forward to delivering many more images and products to users after the commissioning.”

Sentinel-3A liftoff

These first images are just the beginning. OLCI was the first instrument to be switched on. In the coming days there will be more news from Sentinel-3’s altimeter, which measures the height of the ocean surface, and the radiometer, designed to measure land and sea-surface temperatures.

Related links:

Thales Alenia Space: http://www.thalesgroup.com/space/

International Ocean Colour Coordinating Group Meeting: http://www.ioccg.org/ioccg21.html

Copernicus: http://copernicus.eu/

EUMETSAT: http://www.eumetsat.int/website/home/index.html

Satellite Constellation: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Sentinel-3/Satellite_constellation

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/Copernicus data (2016)/ATG medialab.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

The Realm of Buried Giants












ESO - European Southern Observatory logo.

2 March 2016

The sky around the star formation region RCW 106

In this huge new image clouds of crimson gas are illuminated by rare, massive stars that have only recently ignited and are still buried deep in thick dust clouds. These scorching-hot, very young stars are only fleeting characters on the cosmic stage and their origins remain mysterious. The vast nebula where these giants were born, along with its rich and fascinating surroundings, are captured here in fine detail by ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at the Paranal Observatory in Chile.

The sky around the star formation region RCW 106 (wide-field view)

RCW 106 is a sprawling cloud of gas and dust located about 12 000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Norma (The Carpenter’s Square). The region gets its name from being the 106th entry in a catalogue of H II regions in the southern Milky Way [1]. H II regions like RCW 106 are clouds of hydrogen gas that are being ionised by the intense starlight of scorching-hot, young stars, causing them to glow and display weird and wonderful shapes.

The sky around the star formation region RCW 106 (annotated)

RCW 106 itself is the red cloud above centre in this new image, although much of this huge H II region is hidden by dust and it is much more extensive than the visible part. Many other unrelated objects are also visible in this wide-field VST image. For example, the filaments to the right of the image are the remnants of an ancient supernova, and the glowing red filaments at the lower left surround an unusual and very hot star [2]. Patches of dark obscuring dust are also visible across the entire cosmic landscape.

Astronomers have been studying RCW 106 for some time, although it is not the crimson clouds that draw their attention, but rather the mysterious origin of the massive and powerful stars buried within. Although they are very bright, these stars cannot be seen in visible-light images such as this one as the surrounding dust is too thick, but they make their presence clear in images of the region at longer wavelengths.

The star formation region RCW 106 in the constellation of Norma

For less massive stars like the Sun the process that brings them into existence is quite well understood — as clouds of gas are pulled together under gravity, density and temperature increase, and nuclear fusion begins — but for the most massive stars buried in regions like RCW 106 this explanation does not seem to be fully adequate. These stars — known to astronomers as O-type stars — may have masses many dozens of times the mass of the Sun and it is not clear how they manage to gather, and keep together, enough gas to form.

video
A close look at the sky around the star formation region RCW 106

O-type stars likely form from the densest parts of the nebular clouds like RCW 106 and they are notoriously difficult to study. Apart from obscuration by dust, another challenge is the brevity of an O-type star’s life. They burn through their nuclear fuel in mere tens of millions of years, while the lightest stars have lifetimes that span many tens of billions of years. The difficulty of forming a star of this mass, and the shortness of their lifetimes, means that they are very rare — only one in every three million stars in our cosmic neighbourhood is an O-type star. None of those that do exist are close enough for detailed investigation and so the formation of these fleeting stellar giants remains mysterious, although their outsized influence is unmistakeable in glowing H II regions like this one.

Notes:

[1] The catalogue was compiled in 1960 by three astronomers from the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia whose surnames were Rodgers, Campbell and Whiteoak, hence the prefix RCW.

[2] The supernova remnant is SNR G332.4-00.4, also known as RCW 103. It is about 2000 years old. The lower filaments are RCW 104, surrounding the Wolf–Rayet star WR 75. Although these objects bear RCW numbers, detailed later investigations revealed that neither of them were HII regions.

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 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. 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 a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre European Extremely Large Telescope, the E-ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.

Related links:

O-type stars: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O-type_star

Wolf–Rayet star: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf%E2%80%93Rayet_star

Mount Stromlo Observatory: http://rsaa.anu.edu.au/observatories/mount-stromlo-observatory

Links:

Photos of the VST: http://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/surveytelescopes/vst/

For more information about the European Southern Observatory (ESO), visit: http://www.eso.org/public/

Images, Text, Credits: ESO/Richard Hook/IAU and Sky & Telescope/Video: ESO/Music: Johan B. Monell.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

One-Year Crew Returns to Earth












ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz TMA-18M Mission patch.

March 2, 2016


Image above: The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft is seen as it lands with Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 (Kazakh time). Kelly and Kornienko completed an International Space Station record year-long mission to collect valuable data on the effect of long duration weightlessness on the human body that will be used to formulate a human mission to Mars. Volkov returned after spending six months on the station. Photo Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko returned to Earth Tuesday after a historic 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station. They landed in Kazakhstan at 11:26 p.m. EST (10:26 a.m. March 2 Kazakhstan time).

Joining their return trip aboard a Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft was Sergey Volkov, also of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, who arrived on the station Sept. 4, 2015. The crew touched down southeast of the remote town of Dzhezkazgan.


Image above: NASA astronaut and Expedition 46 Commander Scott Kelly and his Russian counterpart Mikhail Kornienko enjoy the cold fresh air back on Earth after their historic 340-day mission aboard the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA TV.

“Scott Kelly’s one-year mission aboard the International Space Station has helped to advance deep space exploration and America’s Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Scott has become the first American astronaut to spend a year in space, and in so doing, helped us take one giant leap toward putting boots on Mars.”

During the record-setting One-Year mission, the station crew conducted almost 400 investigations to advance NASA’s mission and benefit all of humanity. Kelly and Kornienko specifically participated in a number of studies to inform NASA’s Journey to Mars, including research into how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and the stress of long-duration spaceflight. Kelly’s identical twin brother, former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, participated in parallel twin studies on Earth to help scientists compare the effects of space on the body and mind down to the cellular level.

One particular research project examined fluid shifts that occur when bodily fluids move into the upper body during weightlessness. These shifts may be associated with visual changes and a possible increase in intracranial pressure, which are significant challenges that must be understood before humans expand exploration beyond Earth’s orbit. The study uses the Russian Chibis device to draw fluids back into the legs while the subject’s eyes are measured to track any changes. NASA and Roscosmos already are looking at continuing the Fluid Shifts investigation with future space station crews.

video
Expedition 46 Lands Safely to complete One Year Mission

The crew took advantage of the unique vantage point of the space station, with an orbital path that covers more than 90 percent of Earth’s population, to monitor and capture images of our planet. They also welcomed the arrival of a new instrument to study the signature of dark matter and conducted technology demonstrations that continue to drive innovation, including a test of network capabilities for operating swarms of spacecraft.

Kelly and Kornienko saw the arrival of six resupply spacecraft during their mission. Kelly was involved in the robotic capture of two NASA-contracted cargo flights -- SpaceX’s Dragon during the company’s sixth commercial resupply mission and Orbital ATK’s Cygnus during the company’s fourth commercial resupply mission. A Japanese cargo craft and three Russian resupply ships also delivered several tons of supplies to the station.

Kelly ventured outside the confines of the space station for three spacewalks during his mission. The first included a variety of station upgrade and maintenance tasks, including routing cables to prepare for new docking ports for U.S. commercial crew spacecraft. On a second spacewalk, he assisted in the successful reconfiguration of an ammonia cooling system and restoration of the station to full solar power-generating capability. The third spacewalk was to restore functionality to the station’s Mobile Transporter system.

Including crewmate Gennady Padalka, with whom Kelly and Kornienko launched on March 27, 2015, 10 astronauts and cosmonauts representing six different nations (the United States, Russia, Japan, Denmark, Kazakhstan and England) lived aboard the space station during the yearlong mission.


Image above: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Sergey Volkov and Mikhail Kornienko of the Russian space agency Roscosmos review procedures aboard the International Space Station in September 2015. Image Credit: NASA.

With the end of this mission, Kelly now has spent 520 days in space, the most among U.S. astronauts. Kornienko has accumulated 516 days across two flights, and Volkov has 548 days on three flights.

Expedition 47 continues operating the station, with NASA astronaut Tim Kopra in command. Kopra, Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) and Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos will operate the station until the arrival of three new crew members in about two weeks. NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka are scheduled to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, on March 18.

The International Space Station is a convergence of science, technology and human innovation that enables us to demonstrate new technologies and make research breakthroughs not possible on Earth. It has been continuously occupied since November 2000 and, since then, has been visited by more than 200 people and a variety of international and commercial spacecraft. The space station remains the springboard to NASA's next giant leap in exploration, including future missions to an asteroid and Mars.

Related links:

Journey to Mars: http://www.nasa.gov/journeytomars/

U.S. commercial crew spacecraft: http://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

For more information about the one-year mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/oneyear

For more information about the International Space Station and its crew, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station

International Space Station (ISS): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Stephanie Schierholz/Sarah Loff/Johnson Space Center/Dan Huot/Karen Northon.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

mardi 1 mars 2016

Expedition 46 Trio Leaves Station for Ride to Earth












ROSCOSMOS - Soyuz TMA-18M Mission patch.

March 1, 2016

video
One Year Crew Departs Space Station

Astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov undocked from the station at 8:02 p.m. EST to begin their voyage home. Volkov, the Soyuz commander, is at the controls of the Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft.

They will perform a separation burn to increase the distance from the station before executing a 4-minute, 49-second deorbit burn at 10:32 p.m. The crew is scheduled to land at 11:25 p.m. southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

All three crew will participate in Field Tests immediately after landing. Scott Kelly will conduct Functional Task Tests once he is back at NASA’s Johnson Space Center which will assess how the human body responds to living in microgravity for such a long time. Understanding how astronauts recover after long-duration spaceflight is a critical piece in planning for missions to deep space.


Image above: The Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft undocks carrying Expedition 46 crew members Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The Expedition 47 crew members, Commander Tim Kopra of NASA, Yuri Malenchenko of Roscosmos, and Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) will continue research and maintenance aboard the station and will be joined March 18 by three additional crew members, NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and Russian cosmonauts Oleg Skriprochka and Alexey Ovchinin.

NASA Television will air live coverage of the Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn and landing beginning at 10:15 p.m.:  http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.

Related link:

Functional Task Tests: https://www.nasa.gov/content/when-you-land-can-you-stand-one-year-mission-video-miniseries-functional-performance

For more information about the International Space Station and its crew, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station

International Space Station (ISS): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch

Expedition 46 Undocking and Landing Timeline











ISS - Expedition 46 Mission patch.

March 1, 2016


Image above: The six Expedition 46 crew members gather one last time before saying farewell and closing the hatches between the Soyuz spacecraft and the International Space Station. From left are, Yuri Malenchenko, Tim Kopra, Mikhail Kornienko, Sergey Volkov, Scott Kelly and Tim Peake. Image Credit: NASA TV.

Today is homecoming day for International Space Station Commander Scott Kelly of NASA and Flight Engineers Mikhail Kornienko and Sergey Volkov of Roscosmos as they prepare for landing in their Soyuz TMA-18M spacecraft at 11:25 p.m. EST tonight, southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

At this time, there are no concerns or issues being worked, and hatch closure is scheduled to occur at 4:40 p.m.


Image above: Astronaut Scott Kelly photographed the Soyuz spacecraft he is riding home. Image Credits: NASA/Scott Kelly.

Kelly handed over command of the orbiting complex to NASA astronaut Tim Kopra in a ceremony on Monday, Feb. 29. When the Soyuz undocks, Expedition 47 formally will begin.

The landing of Expedition 46 marks the end of a year in space for Kelly and Kornienko. This is the first time that extensive research using exciting new techniques like genetic studies has been conducted on very long-duration crew members. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly is the first American to complete a continuous, year-long mission in space and is now the American who has spent the most cumulative time in space.

video
One Year Crew Ready for the Ride Home

NASA Television coverage times for Soyuz activities are listed below. These activities also will stream online at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.

Tuesday, March 1 Timeline:

EST                            EVENT

4:15 p.m.                   NASA TV: Expedition 46 farewell & hatch closure      coverage
4:40 p.m.                    Soyuz TMA-18M/space station hatch closure
7:45 p.m.                   NASA TV: Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M undocking coverage
8:01 p.m.                    Soyuz undock command sent
8:02 p.m.                    Soyuz TMA-18M undocks from space station
8:05 p.m.                    Soyuz manual separation burn
10:15 p.m.                 NASA TV: Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn and landing coverage
10:32 p.m.                    Soyuz TMA-18M deorbit burn (4 minutes, 49 seconds duration)
10:37 p.m.                    Soyuz deorbit burn complete
10:59 p.m.                    Soyuz module separation (altitude 87 miles)
11:02 p.m.                    Soyuz atmospheric entry (altitude 62 miles)
11:10 p.m.                    Command to open parachute (6.6 miles)
11:25 p.m.                 Expedition 46 Soyuz TMA-18M landing southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

For more information about the International Space Station and its crew, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station

International Space Station (ISS): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Greetings, Orbiter.ch

lundi 29 février 2016

CERN - Historic moment as SESAME begins storage ring installation












CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

Feb. 29, 2016


Image above: In a historic moment for science in the Middle East on 10 February 2016 the first cell of SESAME’s storage ring was installed in the Centre’s experimental hall in Allan, Jordan. (Image: SESAME).

The first of the 16 cells of SESAME (link is external)’s storage ring was installed recently in the shielding tunnel in the Center’s experimental hall in Allan, Jordan.

SESAME will be the Middle East’s first synchrotron light source.

The installation was led by SESAME’s Technical Director, Erhard Huttel, with help from members of CERN forming part of the CESSAMag (CERN-EC Support for SESAME Magnets) team as well as scientists and technicians from the SESAME region.

Each cell consists of magnets (dipole, quadrupoles and sextupoles) and the vacuum chamber, supported by a girder.

video

Video above: A timelapse video showing the installation of SESAME’s storage rings (Video: SESAME).

After many years in the making, commissioning of SESAME is scheduled to begin in 2016, serving a growing community of some 300 scientists from the region. The initial research programme will cover topics as diverse as the search for new cancer drugs to the exploration of the regions shared cultural heritage. SESAME is also a pioneer in promoting international cooperation in the region.

The laboratory is expected to become operational with two beamlines in 2017.

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 22 Member States.

Related articles:

Last main ring components leave CERN for SESAME:
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2016/02/last-main-ring-components-leave-cern.html

SESAME passes an important milestone at CERN:
http://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.ch/2015/04/sesame-passes-important-milestone-at.html

Related links:

SESAME: http://www.sesame.org.jo/sesame/

CESSAMag (CERN-EC Support for SESAME Magnets): http://cessamag.web.cern.ch/

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

Image (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Harriet Kim Jarlett.

Best regards, Orbiter.ch