среда, 26 сентября 2018 г.

Roman road, artefacts found during digging for new motorway in Netherlands

A 125 metre stretch of Roman road has been uncovered in the province of Zuid-Holland during excavations carried out in preparation for work on the Rijnland Route  motorway which will link the seaside resort of Katwijk to Leiden.











Roman road, artefacts found during digging for new motorway in Netherlands
Roman building material with plastering [Credit: Zuid Holland Province]

The provincial authorities have said the find, near Valkenburg along the N206, includes an adjacent settlement where traces of homes have been found as well as a drainage system and a cemetery.
Among the finds is a piece of Roman building material complete with plaster and traces of paintwork, something that is rarely found in the Netherlands.











Roman road, artefacts found during digging for new motorway in Netherlands
Jeroen Loopik from ADC with a part of a wooden post from the Roman road
[Credit: Zuid Holland province]

Archaeologists have been surprised by the relatively good condition of the road, which they think dates from 125 AD. The roadside ditches formed by scooping up earth to support the road were still there as were large segments of the vertical wooden poles used to keep it from subsiding
The drainage canals beside the road were found to contain pottery shards, fragments of leather shoes, coins, wooden objects, roof panes and a fish trap.











Roman road, artefacts found during digging for new motorway in Netherlands
Human remains in a grave [Credit: Zuid Holland province]

The excavation site is part of the Roman Limes which is the ancient northern border of the Roman Empire and which has been nominated to become a UNESCO world heritage site in 2021.


The site is open to the public on Saturday October 13. The most important finds will gon on show at the Rijnland Route information centre at the beginning of 2019.


Source: DutchNews [September 25, 2018]



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CT technique expands possibilities of imaging ancient remains

Researchers in Sweden using computed tomography (CT) have successfully imaged the soft tissue of an ancient Egyptian mummy’s hand down to a microscopic level, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.











CT technique expands possibilities of imaging ancient remains
Photograph of human hand that was imaged shows palmar (left) and dorsal (right) views
[Credit: Radiological Society of North America]

Non-destructive imaging of human and animal mummies with X-rays and CT has been a boon to the fields of archaeology and paleopathology, or the study of ancient diseases. Imaging studies have contributed to a better knowledge of life and death in ancient times and have the potential to improve our understanding of modern diseases.
Both X-ray and conventional CT take advantage of the fact that materials absorb different amounts of X-rays. This phenomenon, known as absorption contrast, creates different degrees of contrast within an image.


“For studying bone and other hard, dense materials, absorption contrast works well, but for soft tissues the absorption contrast is too low to provide detailed information,” said Jenny Romell, M.Sc., from KTH Royal Institute of Technology/Albanova University Center in Stockholm, Sweden. “This is why we instead propose propagation-based phase-contrast imaging.”











CT technique expands possibilities of imaging ancient remains
Images show propagation-based phase-contrast CT of mummified hand. (a) Photograph of human hand that was imaged
 shows palmar (left) and dorsal (right) views. Hand and parts of fingers are wrapped in linen. Most of skin and all
fingernails are well preserved. (b) Schematic of experimental arrangement shows microfocus x-ray source,
sample placed on rotation stage, and x-ray detector [Credit: Radiological Society of North America]

Propagation-based imaging enhances the contrast of X-ray images by detecting both the absorption and phase shift that occurs as X-rays pass through a sample. The phase effect with X-rays is similar to how a ray of light changes direction as it passes through a lens. Capturing both absorption and phase shift provides higher contrast for soft tissues.
“There is a risk of missing traces of diseases only preserved within the soft tissue if only absorption-contrast imaging is used,” Romell said. “With phase-contrast imaging, however, the soft tissue structures can be imaged down to cellular resolution, which opens up the opportunity for detailed analysis of the soft tissues.”


Romell and colleagues evaluated phase-contrast CT by imaging a mummified human right hand from ancient Egypt. The hand, today in the collection of the Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities, was brought to Sweden at the end of the 19th century, along with other mummified body parts and a fragment of mummy cartonnage (papier-mâché case). The cartonnage belonged to an Egyptian man and has been dated to around 400 BCE (before common era). They scanned the entire hand and then performed a detailed scan of the tip of the middle finger.











CT technique expands possibilities of imaging ancient remains
Regions for tomographic scans. For the imaging of the hand, a total of nine tomographic scans
were performed. Here, the field of view for each scan is shown. Before tomographic reconstruction,
the left regions of the fourth and fifth scan from the bottom were stitched together with
 their respective right counterpart. The scale shows centimeters
[Credit: Radiological Society of North America]

The estimated resolution of the final images was between 6 to 9 micrometers, or slightly more than the width of a human red blood cell. Researchers were able to see the remains of adipose cells, blood vessels and nerves; they were even able to detect blood vessels in the nail bed and distinguish the different layers of the skin.
“With phase-contrast CT, ancient soft tissues can be imaged in a way that we have never seen before,” Romell said.


The findings point the way to a role for phase-contrast CT as an adjunct or alternative to invasive methods used in soft-tissue paleopathology that require extraction and chemical processing of the tissue. Due to their potentially destructive nature, these methods are undesirable or unacceptable for the analysis of many old and fragile specimens.











CT technique expands possibilities of imaging ancient remains
Images show CT of mummified hand. (a) Palmar view of volume rendering depicts bones. (b) Axial view of hand. Arrows
 indicate linen (A), skin (B), tendons of extensor digitorum communis (C), tendons of extensor digiti minimi (D), tendons
of extensor pollicis longus (E), tendons of flexor pollicis longus (F), tendons of flexor digitorum profundus (G), tendons
 of flexor digitorum superficialis (H), distal portion of carpal ligament (J), median nerve (K), ulnar nerve and/or
superficial branch of ulnar artery (L), and possibly deep branch of ulnar artery (M). Scale bar represents 5 mm.
(c) Axial section through proximal phalanges of third and fourth fingers. Arrows indicate linen (A), skin (B),
tendons of extensor digitorum (C), tendons of flexor digitorum superficialis (D), tendons of flexor digitorum
 profundus (E), proper palmar digital arteries (F), proper palmar digital nerves of median nerve (G)
and of ulnar nerve (H), and residues from embalming process (I)
[Credit: Radiological Society of North America]

“Just as conventional CT has become a standard procedure in the investigation of mummies and other ancient remains, we see phase-contrast CT as a natural complement to the existing methods,” Romell said. “We hope that phase-contrast CT will find its way to the medical researchers and archaeologists who have long struggled to retrieve information from soft tissues, and that a widespread use of the phase-contrast method will lead to new discoveries in the field of paleopathology.”


Source: Radiological Society of North America [September 25, 2018]



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New insights into the role of Coptic monasteries in the economy of late antique Egypt

Greater insight into the economy of late antique Egypt (fifth to eighth centuries AD) has been revealed by an EU project which examined the evidence of Coptic monastic sources from the Nile valley.











New insights into the role of Coptic monasteries in the economy of late antique Egypt
Coptic hermitage in Wadi Arabah, Eastern Desert, Egypt [Credit: Jan Ciglenecki]

Monasteries have been a significant part of the Egyptian landscape since the beginnings of Christianity in the country, with records made primarily in the Coptic language. Although there are still many extant monasteries, and their significance within past power structures is known, not much research has been carried out into their impact on the Egyptian administrative and economic framework of prior times.


Their role in these areas has been overlooked largely because the primary sources have either been difficult to access or have not attracted enough interest. “The material can only be read by specialists studying Coptic, and they are often more interested in religious or literary texts, rather than administrative documents,” explains MONASPOWER’s lead researcher Dr. Jennifer Cromwell.


Gathering the evidence


MONASPOWER set out to study the economic position of Coptic monasteries during late antique Egypt based on the neglected evidence from two sources: the monastery of Apa Thomas at Wadi Sarga and the corpus of non-literary Coptic texts in the collection of the University of Copenhagen.


“I wanted to provide material that would enable a more realistic understanding of the economy of late antique Egypt (the fifth to eighth centuries) by focusing on the evidence from Coptic sources from monasteries in the Nile valley,” says Marie-Curie Fellow Dr. Cromwell. Letters, legal documents, accounts, lists, receipts, of the type considered by the project, provide evidence about the reality of day-to-day life. “They give us an insight into personal relationships, disputes, food, property, wealth, health – the good and the bad of actual life.”











New insights into the role of Coptic monasteries in the economy of late antique Egypt
The Deir el-Bachit monastic site in Western Thebes [Credit: DAI Kairo, LMU]

To build up a clearer picture, Dr. Cromwell benefitted from the documents found during the excavations of the Wadi Sarga monastery in central Egypt, in 1913/14. A few hundred short texts were published in 1922, but many more were not. One of the project’s goals was to publish and study the entire corpus.


Ceramic wares from the site, along with textile fragments, terracotta figures and wooden, metal and bone objects were also brought back and now form part of the British Museum’s collection. This archaeological record complemented the textual record, to produce a better understanding of life at the monastery. “Combining specialist skills from a range of individuals working on this material was one of the goals. It highlights the need for collaborative effort in order not to neglect potentially vital information,” says Dr. Cromwell.


MONASPOWER also drew on the unpublished papyrus documents in the Papyrus Carlsberg Collection, in Copenhagen. As a result of the project, hundreds of unpublished Coptic documents have been translated and are currently being submitted to open access journals for publication.


An unprecedented focus


Dr. Cromwell is happy to acknowledge that by presenting a holistic study of the economic reality of Coptic monasteries, her findings can now be used in wider studies of the economy of the antique Mediterranean world. The project has also produced a volume on monastic economies in Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine. Currently under review, it is the first effort to examine these geographic areas collectively through this lens.











New insights into the role of Coptic monasteries in the economy of late antique Egypt
Saint Simeon Monastery Aswan Egypt [Credit: ETL Egypt Travel]

MONASPOWER also brought together a diverse group of specialists across a range of disciplines, for the first time. “The project’s multidisciplinary approach generates new perspectives on the topic and brings to the fore material that is often overlooked by historians – archaeology (including theoretical approaches), art history, palaeobotany (the study of ancient floral remains), Greek texts, Coptic texts, literary and non-literary approaches,” says Dr. Cromwell.
The scholars contributing to the volume on monastic economies, themselves came from a wide variety of backgrounds, both in terms of nationalities (across Europe, the US, Egypt, and Israel), as well as career stage (doctoral students, early career researchers, and professors).


MONASPOWER has helped to reveal the extent to which Coptic monasteries contributed to the economy of late antique Egypt; underlining the fact that monasteries should not be considered solely as spiritual institutions reflecting specific forms of religious experience. Dr. Cromwell explains, “In future studies of social and economic life in Egypt, the evidence from monasteries cannot be overlooked, doing so omits part of the picture and generates a skewed image of the ancient world.”


Source: Cordis [September 25, 2018]



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Painted tomb discovered in Cumae: A banquet frozen in time

At the foot of the hill on which sits the ancient city of Cumae, in the region of Naples, Priscilla Munzi, CNRS researcher at the Jean Bérard Centre (CNRS-EFR), and Jean-Pierre Brun, professor at the Collège de France, are exploring a Roman-era necropolis. They now reveal the latest discovery to surface in the archaeological dig they have led since 2001: a painted tomb from the 2nd century B.C. In excellent condition, the tomb depicts a banquet scene, fixed by pigments.











Painted tomb discovered in Cumae: A banquet frozen in time
Burial chamber interior and scenes depicting figures, preserved on the entrance wall and half of the side walls. The entrance
wall right of the door depicts a naked servant, standing and holding a silver-plated jug and vase for wine. To his left,
a krater (vase) on a stand is visible. To the left of the door are a silver-plated situla, a type of bucket-shaped vessel,
a wooden table and a wine amphora on a stand. On the side walls are what appear to be landscape scenes
[Credit: © E. Lupoli, Jean Bérard Centre (CNRS/École française de Rome)]

Twice the size of Pompeii, the ancient city of Cumae is located 25 km west of Naples on the Tyrrhenian Sea facing the island of Ischia, at the Campi Flegrei Archaeological Park. Ancient historians considered Cumae the oldest Ancient Greek settlement in the western world. Founded in the latter half of the 8th century B.C. by Greeks from Euboea, the settlement grew quickly and prospered over time.
In recent years, French researchers have focused on an area where a Greek sanctuary, roads and a necropolis were found. Among the hundreds of ancient sepulchres unearthed since 2001, they have discovered a series of vaulted burial chambers made of tuff, a volcanic stone found in the area. People entered the tomb through a door in the façade sealed with a large stone block.











Painted tomb discovered in Cumae: A banquet frozen in time
Preserved paintings on the right side of the entrance wall (detail) [Credit: © E. Lupoli, Jean Bérard Centre
(CNRS/École française de Rome)]

The space inside was generally composed of a chamber with three vaults or funerary beds. The tombs were raided in the 19th century, but recovered remains and traces of funerary furnishings, which archaeologists have used to date the tombs to the second century B.C., indicate the high social status of those buried within.
Until now, only tombs painted red or white had been found, but in June 2018 researchers discovered a room with exceptionally executed figure painting. A naked servant carrying a jug of wine and a vase is still visible; the banquet’s guests are thought to have been painted on the side walls.











Painted tomb discovered in Cumae: A banquet frozen in time
View of the inside of the funeral chamber with beds for burial [Credit: © E. Lupoli, Jean Bérard Centre
(CNRS/École française de Rome)]

Other elements of the banquet can also be distinguished. In addition to the excellent state of conservation of the remaining plaster and pigments, such a décor in a tomb built in that period is rare; its “unfashionable” subject matter was in vogue one or two centuries earlier. This discovery is also an opportunity to trace artistic activity over time at the site.
To preserve the fresco, archaeologists removed it, along with fragments found on the ground, in order to re-assemble the décor like a puzzle.











Painted tomb discovered in Cumae: A banquet frozen in time
View of the excavations at Cumae [Credit: © E. Lupoli, Jean Bérard Centre
(CNRS/École française de Rome)]

The digs were carried out with financial support from the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Ecole française de Rome and the Fondation du Collège de France. This research is part of a concession granted by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities in partnership with the Phlegraen Fields archaeological site.


Source: CNRS [September 25, 2018]



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‘Rediscovered Aphrodite’ in Italy’s National Archaeology Museum...

The recently restored statue of Aphrodite housed in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale (National Archaeological Museum/the Museum) in Florence, Italy, was unveiled in a public celebration on September 11, 2018. Funded by Friends of Florence with a donation by Michael and Sandy Collins, the cleaning and restoration process revealed a surprising development. Long thought to be a representation of the Spartan queen Leda that had been marred with dirt and grime over centuries, it was discovered to be the Greek goddess Aphrodite sculpted in now immaculately white marble.











'Rediscovered Aphrodite' in Italy's National Archaeology Museum restored by Friends of Florence
Aphrodite, (first century AD). White marble. Before (left) and after (right) restoration
[Credit: Friends of Florence]

“It is a great pleasure to present this ‘Rediscovered Aphrodite’,” said Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, President of Friends of Florence. “In addition to the restoration, the project—originally a candidate in the first edition of the Friends of Florence Award Grant at the Florence Art and Restoration Fair in 2012—provided the unique opportunity to study the work in depth. The process was designed to allow the public to observe the restoration in an ‘open work site’ thanks to the kind cooperation of Mario Iozzo, director of the Museum, his staff, and restorer Daniela Manna who previously has worked on other important Friends of Florence projects. The open work site allowed us to help visitors understand what it means to restore a work of art, how delicate and precise the entire process is, and how important it is to conserve our artistic-cultural heritage. We thank all those who made this project possible, starting with our donors Michael and Sandy Collins, whose generosity enabled us to replace another tile in the great mosaic of Western art history and civilization.”
New source research during the restoration led to the identification of the statue as the one purchased in 1882 by Luigi Adriano Milani, then director of the Museum. It came from Palazzo Da Cepparello, in Florence. The building originally belonged to the Portinari family (Dante’s great love, Beatrice, was a Portinari). Subsequent owners include the Salviati family (a daughter Maria married Cosimo I de’ Medici). From its origins as a stately home, it later became a bank and is now being redesigned as apartments.











'Rediscovered Aphrodite' in Italy's National Archaeology Museum restored by Friends of Florence
The statue during restoration [Credit: Friends of Florence]

The statue has been identified as a good, first century A.D. Roman copy of a Hellenistic original dating from around 300 B.C. Restorers discovered that the marble (from the island of Paros) used for the body is different from the material of the head, which they revealed is antique but not original. The arms were sculpted and added in the eighteenth century when it was customary to repair broken statues by adding ancient or specially-made parts to make them whole and “beautiful,” in keeping with the times.
Before starting the restoration, which was conducted by Daniela Manna and assistants, the statue was photographed and subjected to a series of diagnostic studies aimed at identifying any original polychrome, traces of which were indeed found on the drapery and hair (red ochre and gilding). After having analyzed the conservation condition and identified alterations and deterioration, the restoration team selected the most appropriate methods and tools for cleaning, partially removing previous restorations and repairing lacunae. The cleaning was done with a laser device that gradually removed the black incrustations. The final phases involved re-gluing an original fragment using the same types of materials as in antiquity—materials which are still valid and appropriate for a statue displayed inside a museum.


Provenance research unearthed a catalogue entry and photography from the late 1800s of the statue in the Museum’s garden loggias which corroborated the figure’s identity. The “rediscovered” Aphrodite, on her beautifully carved, early nineteenth-century wooden base, will remain where she was studied and restored, on the ground floor and visible to all who enter the Museum.


Source: Friends of Florence [September 25, 2018]



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New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan

A team of archaeologists has uncovered evidence indicating that Mayan elites lived in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacán, located northeast of Mexico City more than 1,000 kilometers from the center of their civilization.











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Mauricio Marat, INAH

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said in a statement that the remains of a Mayan-style mural and offering as well as fragments of Mayan ceramics and bones of thousands of sacrificed people were found in the Plaza of the Columns, which is positioned between the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon.











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Plaza de las Columnas Project, INAH

The discoveries confirm the existence of a relationship between the Mayan and Teotihuacán civilizations, which were geographically separated by 1,300 kilometers, INAH said.











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Mauricio Marat, INAH

The project to explore the site began four years ago under the supervision of Saburo Sugiyama, Verónica Ortega Cabrera, Nawa Sugiyama and William Fash.











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Mauricio Marat, INAH

“Epigraphic texts found in [pre-Hispanic] metropolises like Tikal, in the Petén Department of Guatemala refer to the contact that both cultures maintained during the fourth century of our era.











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Plaza de las Columnas Project, INAH

However, until today, little evidence of the same had been found at the great metropolis of the Mexican highlands [Teotihuacán], where new discoveries indicate the residence of the Mayan elite in the City of the Gods,” the archaeologists said.











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Plaza de las Columnas Project, INAH

“Through the excavation of wells in addition to the outline of a tunnel, it has been determined that the structures of the Plaza of the Columns were used for administrative and ceremonial activities and probably as a residence not just for the Teotihuacán elite but also the Mayan elite, at least until 350 A.D., when both [cultures] dominated the scene during the classic period in Mesoamerica.”











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Mauricio Marat, INAH

Saburo Sugiyama, a Japanese academic at Arizona State University who has conducted field work at Teotihuacán for the past 38 years, said the discovery of the mural was a key part of the puzzle that allowed the archaeologists to reach their conclusion.











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Plaza de las Columnas Project, INAH

“The remains of the mural in the Plaza of the Columns allow us to affirm the presence of the Mayan elites in Teotihuacán, and that their presence wasn’t periodic for ritual purposes but permanent.











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Plaza de las Columnas Project, INAH

“It’s probable that the artists who painted the mural and the highest-ranking Mayan political officials lived in a building to the north of that site,” he said.











New finds reveal Mayan elite resided in Teotihuacan
Credit: Mauricio Marat, INAH

While the mural remains in pieces, its features including Mayan glyphs and small human figures along with its distinctive style leave no doubts that it is the work of an artist or artists “who knew to perfection the iconography” of the Mayan culture, Sugiyama said.


Source: Mexico News Daily [September 26, 2018]



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2018 September 26 The Sun’s Spectrum with its Missing…


2018 September 26


The Sun’s Spectrum with its Missing Colors
Image Credit: Nigel Sharp (NSF), FTS, NSO, KPNO, AURA, NSF


Explanation: It is still not known why the Sun’s light is missing some colors. Here are all the visible colors of the Sun, produced by passing the Sun’s light through a prism-like device. The spectrum was created at the McMath-Pierce Solar Observatory and shows, first off, that although our white-appearing Sun emits light of nearly every color, it does indeed appear brightest in yellow-green light. The dark patches in the above spectrum arise from gas at or above the Sun’s surface absorbing sunlight emitted below. Since different types of gas absorb different colors of light, it is possible to determine what gasses compose the Sun. Helium, for example, was first discovered in 1870 on a solar spectrum and only later found here on Earth. Today, the majority of spectral absorption lines have been identified – but not all.


∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap180926.html


Gaia finds candidates for interstellar ‘Oumuamua’s home


ESA – Gaia Mission patch.


25 September 2018


Using data from ESA’s Gaia stellar surveyor, astronomers have identified four stars that are possible places of origin of ‘Oumuamua, an interstellar object spotted during a brief visit to our Solar System in 2017.


The discovery last year sparked a large observational campaign: originally identified as the first known interstellar asteroid, the small body was later revealed to be a comet, as further observations showed it was not slowing down as fast as it should have under gravity alone. The most likely explanation of the tiny variations recorded in its trajectory was that they are caused by gasses emanating from its surface, making it more akin to a comet.



Artist impression of ‘Oumuamua

But where in the Milky Way did this cosmic traveller come from?


Comets are leftovers of the formation of planetary systems, and it is possible that ‘Oumuamua was ejected from its home star’s realm while planets were still taking shape there. To look for its home, astronomers had to trace back in time not only the trajectory of the interstellar comet, but also of a selection of stars that might have crossed paths with this object in the past few million years.


“Gaia is a powerful time machine for these types of studies, as it provides not only star positions but also their motions,” explains Timo Prusti, Gaia project scientist at ESA.


To this aim, a team of astronomers led by Coryn Bailer-Jones at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, dived into the data from Gaia’s second release, which was made public in April.


The Gaia data contain positions, distance indicators and motions on the sky for more than a billion stars in our Galaxy; most importantly, the data set includes radial velocities – how fast they are moving towards or away from us – for a subset of seven million, enabling a full reconstruction of their trajectories. The team looked at these seven million stars, complemented with an extra 220 000 for which radial velocities are available from the astronomical literature.


As a result, Coryn and colleagues identified four stars whose orbits had come within a couple of light years of ‘Oumuamua in the near past, and with relative velocities low enough to be compatible with likely ejection mechanisms.



Gaia

All four are dwarf stars – with masses similar to or smaller than our Sun’s – and had their ‘close’ encounter with the interstellar comet between one and seven million years ago. However, none of them is known to either harbour planets or to be part of a binary stellar system; a giant planet or companion star would be the preferred mechanism to have ejected the small body.


While future observations of these four stars might shed new light on their properties and potential to be the home system of ‘Oumuamua, the astronomers are also looking forward to future releases of Gaia data. At least two are planned in the 2020s, which will include a much larger sample of radial velocities, enabling them to reconstruct and investigate the trajectories of many more stars.


“While it’s still early to pinpoint ‘Oumuamua’s home star, this result illustrates the power of Gaia to delve into the history of our Milky Way galaxy,” concludes Timo.


Notes for editors:


“Plausible home stars of the interstellar object ‘Oumuamua found in GaiaDR2” by C.A.L. Bailer-Jones et al is accepted in Astronomical Journal:  https://arxiv.org/abs/1809.09009


Related article:


Gaia’s second release: Gaia creates richest star map of our Galaxy – and beyond: https://orbiterchspacenews.blogspot.com/2018/04/gaia-creates-richest-star-map-of-our.html


Related links:


Gaia: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Gaia


Gaia Data Release 2 Media Kit: http://sci.esa.int/gaia/60174-media-kit-for-gaia-data-release-2/


Gaia overview: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Gaia/Gaia_overview


Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Hubble, NASA, ESO, M. Kornmesser.


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Our Sun: Two Wavelengths, Two Different Images


NASA – Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) patch.


Sept. 25, 2018



NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory views our Sun in ten different wavelengths because each wavelength reveals different solar features. This Sept. 21, 2018, view of the Sun uses two selected images taken at virtually the same time but in different wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The red-tinted image, which captures material not far above the Sun’s surface, is especially good for revealing details along the edge of the Sun, like the small prominence at the ten o’clock position. The brown-tinted image clearly shows two large coronal holes (darker areas) as well as some faint magnetic field lines and hints of solar activity (lighter areas), neither of which are apparent in the red image. This activity is occurring somewhat higher in the Sun’s corona. In a way it is like peeling away the layers of an onion, a little at a time.


SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sdo/main/index.html


Image, Text, Credits: NASA/Yvette Smith/GSFC/Solar Dynamics Observatory.


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NASA’s 60th Anniversary: What’s Out ThereIn the past 60 years,…


NASA’s 60th Anniversary: What’s Out There


In the past 60 years, we’ve advanced our understanding of our solar system and beyond. We continually ask “What’s out there?” as we advance humankind and send spacecraft to explore.

Since opening for business on Oct. 1, 1958, our history tells a story of exploration, innovation and discoveries. The next 60 years, that story continues. Learn more: https://www.nasa.gov/60


Make sure to follow us on Tumblr for your regular dose of space: http://nasa.tumblr.com.


NASA Is Taking a New Look at Searching for Life Beyond Earth


NASA logo.


Sept. 25, 2018


Since the beginning of civilization, humanity has wondered whether we are alone in the universe. As NASA has explored our solar system and beyond, it has developed increasingly sophisticated tools to address this fundamental question. Within our solar system, NASA’s missions have searched for signs of both ancient and current life, especially on Mars and soon, Jupiter’s moon Europa. Beyond our solar system, missions, such as Kepler and TESS, are revealing thousands of planets orbiting other stars.



Image above: A zoom into the Hubble Space Telescope photograph of an enormous, balloon-like bubble being blown into space by a super-hot, massive star. Astronomers trained the iconic telescope on this colorful feature, called the Bubble Nebula, or NGC 7635. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), F. Summers, G. Bacon, Z. Levay, and L. Frattare (Viz 3D Team, STScI).


The explosion of knowledge of planets orbiting other stars, called exoplanets, and the results of decades of research on signatures of life – what scientists call biosignatures – have encouraged NASA to address, in a scientifically rigorous way, whether humanity is alone. Beyond searching for evidence of just microbial life, NASA now is exploring ways to search for life advanced enough to create technology.


Technosignatures are signs or signals, which if observed, would allow us to infer the existence of technological life elsewhere in the universe. The best known technosignature are radio signals, but there are many others that have not been explored fully.


In April 2018, new interest arose in Congress for NASA to begin supporting the scientific search for technosignatures as part of the agency’s search for life. As part of that effort, the agency is hosting the NASA Technosignatures Workshop in Houston on Sept. 26-28, 2018, with the purpose of assessing the current state of the field, the most promising avenues of research in technosignatures and where investments could be made to advance the science. A major goal is to identify how NASA could best support this endeavor through partnerships with private and philanthropic organizations.


To view the workshop online, visit: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/asteroid-initiative-idea-synthesis—3


On Thursday, Sept. 27 at 1 p.m. EDT, several of the workshop’s speakers will be answering questions in a Reddit AMA.


What are Technosignatures?


The term technosignatures has a broader meaning than the historically used “search for extraterrestrial intelligence,” or SETI, which has generally been limited to communication signals. Technosignatures like radio or laser emissions, signs of massive structures or an atmosphere full of pollutants could imply intelligence.


In recent decades, the private and philanthropic sectors have carried out this research. They have used such methods as searching for patterns in low-band radio frequencies using radio telescopes. Indeed, humanity’s own radio and television broadcasts have been drifting into space for a number of years. NASA’s SETI program was ended in 1993 after Congress, operating under a budget deficit and decreased political support, cancelled funding for a high-resolution microwave survey of the skies. Since then, NASA’s efforts have been directed towards furthering our fundamental understanding of life itself, its origins and the habitability of other bodies in our solar system and galaxy.


History of the Search for Technological Life


Efforts to detect technologically advanced life predates the space age as early 20th century radio pioneers first foresaw the possibility of interplanetary communication. Theoretical work postulating the possibility of carrying signals on radio and microwave bands across vast distances in the galaxy with little interference led to first “listening” experiments in the 1960s.


Thanks to NASA’s Kepler mission’s discovery of thousands of planets beyond our solar system,including some with key similarities to Earth, it’s now possible to not just imagine the science fiction of finding life on other worlds, but to one day scientifically prove life exists beyond our solar system.


As NASA’s 2015 Astrobiology Strategy states: “Complex life may evolve into cognitive systems that can employ technology in ways that may be observable. Nobody knows the probability, but we know that it is not zero.” As we consider the environments of other planets, “technosignatures” could be included in the possible interpretations of data we get from other worlds.


Debate about the probability of finding signals of advanced life varies widely. In 1961, astronomer Frank Drake created a formula estimating the number of potential intelligent civilizations in the galaxy, called the Drake equation, and calculated an answer of 10,000. Most of the variables in the equation continue to be rough estimates, subject to uncertainties. Another famous speculation on the subject called the Fermi paradox, posited by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, asserted that if another intelligent life form was indeed out there, we would have met it by now.


NASA’s SETI work began with a 1971 proposal by biomedical researcher John Billingham at NASA’s Ames Research Center for a 1,000-dish array of 100-meter telescopes that could pick up television and radio signals from other stars. “Project Cyclops” was not funded, but in 1976, Ames established a SETI branch to continue research in this area. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) also began SETI work.


In 1988, NASA Headquarters in Washington formally endorsed the SETI program leading to development of the High Resolution Microwave Survey. Announced on Columbus Day in 1992 – 500 years after Columbus landed in North America – this 10-year, $100 million project included a targeted search of stars led by Ames using the 300-meter radio telescope in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, and an all-sky survey led by JPL using its Deep Space Network dish. The program lasted only a year before political opposition eliminated the project and effectively ended NASA’s research efforts in SETI.


Why Start Looking at Technosignatures Now?


Fueled by the discovery that our galaxy is teeming with planets, interest in detecting signs of technologically-advanced life is again bubbling up. Kepler’s discovery in 2015 of irregular fluctuations in brightness in what came to be known as Tabby’s Star led to speculation of an alien megastructure, though scientists have since concluded that a dust cloud is the likely cause. However, Tabby’s Star has demonstrated the potential usefulness of looking for anomalies in data collected from space, as signs of technologically-advanced life may appear as aberrations from the norm.


Scientists caution that we will need more than an unexplained signal to definitively prove the existence of technological life. For example, there can be a lot of radio frequency interference from Earth-based sources.


NASA will continue assessing promising current efforts of research in technosignatures and investigating where investments could be made to advance the science. Although we have yet to find signs of extraterrestrial life, NASA is amplifying exploring the solar system and beyond to help humanity answer whether we are alone in the universe.


From studying water on Mars, probing promising “oceans worlds” such as Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus, to looking for biosignatures in the atmospheres of exoplanets, NASA’s science missions are working together with a goal to find unmistakable signs of life beyond Earth. And perhaps that life could indeed be more technologically advanced than our own.


Fascinating.


Related links:


NASA Technosignatures Workshop: https://www.hou.usra.edu/meetings/technosignatures2018/


NASA’s 2015 Astrobiology Strategy: https://nai.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2015/11/NASA_Astrobiology_Strategy_2015_FINAL_111815.pdf


Astrobiology: https://www.nasa.gov/content/the-search-for-life


Universe: https://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/index.html


Hubble Space Telescope: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/main/index.html


Kepler and K2: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/kepler/main/index.html


TESS (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite): http://www.nasa.gov/tess


Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tricia Talbert.


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Commander Leads Japanese, Russian Spaceship Preps and BEAM Checks


ISS – Expedition 56 Mission patch.


September 25, 2018


The Expedition 56 crew is ramping for a busy traffic period at the International Space Station during the next couple of weeks. This all comes as the orbital residents ensure BEAM’s operational life and continue ongoing microgravity science.


Japan’s seventh “Kounotori” resupply ship is nearing the orbital complex and closing in for a Thursday morning capture. Commander Drew Feustel practiced on a computer today the procedures he will use when he commands the Canadarm2 to grapple Kounotori around 8 a.m. NASA TV is broadcasting the live coverage of the HTV-7 arrival and capture starting at 6:30 a.m.



Image above: Expedition 55/56 crew members (from left) Ricky Arnold, Drew Feustel and Oleg Artemyev, pose for a portrait inside the Bigelow Expandable Aerospace Module (BEAM). Image Credit: NASA.


Feustel is also getting ready to return to Earth on Oct. 4 with crewmates Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos and Ricky Arnold. During the morning, the three crewmates checked the Sokol launch and entry suits they will wear when they reenter Earth’s atmosphere inside the Soyuz MS-08 spacecraft.


The commander also joined Flight Engineer Serena Auñón-Chancellor opening up the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) for maintenance and stowage work.The duo reinforced and stiffened struts inside BEAM to increase its safety margin and extend its operational life. They also stowed a variety of hardware inside the station’s newest module.



International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

DNA sequencing from microbe samples is taking place onboard the station today to help scientists understand the impacts of living in space. The atomization of fluids continues to being studied potentially improving fuel efficiency on Earth and in spacecraft. A variety of space gear housing experiments and research samples was checked out today as part regularly scheduled maintenance.


Related links:


Expedition 56: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition56/index.html


Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM): https://www.nasa.gov/beam


DNA sequencing: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7687


Atomization of fluids: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=282


NASA TV: https://www.nasa.gov/nasatv


Space Station Research and Technology: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/index.html


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


Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.


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Opportunity Emerges in a Dusty Picture



NASA – Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) logo/ NASA – Mars Exploration Rover B (MER-B) patch.


Sept. 25, 2018


NASA still hasn’t heard from the Opportunity rover, but at least we can see it again.



Image above: NASA’s Opportunity rover appears as a blip in the center of this square. This image taken by HiRISE, a high-resolution camera onboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows the dust storm over Perseverance Valley has substantially cleared. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona.


A new image produced by HiRISE, a high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows a small object on the slopes of the Red Planet’s Perseverance Valley. That object is Opportunity, which was descending into the Martian valley when a dust storm swept over the region a little more than 100 days ago.


The storm was one of several that stirred up enough dust to enshroud most of the Red Planet and block sunlight from reaching the surface. The lack of sunlight caused the solar-powered Opportunity to go into hibernation.



Mars Exploration Rover (MER). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The rover’s team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, hasn’t heard from it since. On Sept. 11, JPL began increasing the frequency of commands it beams to the 14-year-old rover.


The tau — a measurement of how much sunlight reaches the surface — over Opportunity was estimated to be a little higher than 10 during some points during the dust storm. The tau has steadily fallen in the last several months. On Thursday, Sept. 20, when this image was taken, tau was estimated to be about 1.3 by MRO’s Mars Color Imager camera.


This image was produced from about 166 miles (267 kilometers) above the Martian surface. The white box marks a 154-foot-wide (47-meter-wide) area centered on the rover.



Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The University of Arizona in Tucson operates HiRISE, which was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., in Boulder, Colorado. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.


For more, visit: https://www.uahirise.org/ESP_056955_1775


Updates about Opportunity can be found here: https://mars.nasa.gov/mer/mission/status.html


Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/index.html


Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/main/index.html


Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/JPL/Andrew Good.


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Arianespace Flight VA243 Mission Success



ARIANESPACE – Flight VA242 Mission poster / ARIANESPACE – 100th Ariane 5 logo.


September 25, 2018


100 + 300 = Arianespace and Ariane 5’s history-making success for three long-time customers



Image above: Ariane 5 ascends from the Spaceport’s ELA-3 launch zone on its 100th flight, carrying a dual payload of the Horizons 3e and Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38 telecommunications satellites. Image Credit: Arianespace.


Arianespace’s on-target mission with Horizons 3e and Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38 marked the milestone 100th flight of a heavy-lift Ariane 5, confirming this workhorse vehicle’s role as the launch services industry reference in reliability, flexibility and performance.


With the deployment of its latest two passengers during a 42-minute flight from the Spaceport in French Guiana, Ariane 5’s combined lift performance over these 100 missions exceeds 790 metric tons – including a total of 207 satellites for 68 customers around the globe. Overall, the launcher has achieved a remarkable 98.1% reliability rate during more than 22 years in service.



Arianespace Flight VA243 – Horizons 3e & Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38 Launch Sequence

Tonight’s success also marked the 300th flight by a member of the company’s family of launchers, in which Ariane 5 is joined by the medium Soyuz and lightweight Vega in side-by-side operations at the Spaceport.


“For Ariane 5 mission number #100, our heavyweight launcher has once more performed flawlessly. Congratulations to all!” said Arianespace CEO Stéphane Israël in his post-launch speech. “Ariane 5 joins Ariane 4 in the heavy-lift launcher hall of fame, with Ariane 4 having delivered 116 times. And we think Ariane 5 will deliver more.”


A success for loyal customers


Designated Flight VA243, today’s heavy-lift success continues long relationships of trust between Arianespace and the mission’s customers. Horizons 3e was released first in the flight sequence, being deployed from the upper slot in Ariane 5’s payload configuration, followed by Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38, located in the lower passenger position. Total lift performance to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) was estimated at 10,827 kg.


Horizons 3e was lofted for a joint venture of Intelsat and SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation. Built by Boeing using Intelsat’s EpicNG design, it will provide coverage for aeronautical and maritime mobility, fixed and wireless operators, as well as mobility and government customers. It also is the first satellite in Intelsat’s EpicNG spacecraft series to feature entire Ku-band spot beams utilizing multiport amplifiers that optimize power across the spacecraft.



Horizons 3e

The spacecraft is a special payload on multiple fronts: Horizons 3e is the 60th Intelsat satellite to be launched by Arianespace, as well as the 20th for SKY Perfect JSAT. In addition, it is the 56th Boeing-built spacecraft orbited by the company to date.


“Arianespace is known for delivering, and we are very appreciative of another flawless mission,” stated Ken Lee, Intelsat’s Senior Vice President of Space Systems. “Ariane 5 has delivered 17 Intelsat satellites over the past 18 years, and we are thrilled that we could be part of Ariane 5’s 100th launch.”
Building on long-term cooperation


Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38 – built by SSL, a Maxar Technologies Company – offers 35 active transponders in Ku-band and has designed lifetime of more than 15 years. With today’s success, Arianespace has now orbited a total of 65 satellites produced by SSL.



Azerspace-2/Intelsat 38

Azerspace-2 will increase the coverage area and spectrum of services provided by Azercosmos, expanding on the current capacity of Azerspace-1 – the operator’s first relay platform, launched on an Arianespace Ariane 5 mission in February 2013. The spacecraft’s planned orbital position is only one degree away from the current Azerspace-1 orbital location at 46° East, which creates favorable opportunities for existing and new customers to start expanding their current satellite solutions.


The satellite will offer enhanced capacity, coverage and service offerings to support growing demand in the region for Direct-to-Home (DTH), government and network services in Europe, Central and South Asia, the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa.


Azercosmos Vice Chairman Dunay Badirkhanov thanked Arianespace for a “spectacular launch and an exciting journey,” adding that Arianespace’s launch services have enabled Azercosmos to become a leading satellite services operator in its region of the world.



Arianespace TV – VA243 Sucessful Mission

In his speech from the Spaceport’s Jupiter control room, he explained that Azercosmos also is contributing to the development of human resources in the country by training a new generation of skilled personnel – including satellite engineers. “Today, there are students among us from the leading universities of Azerbaijan. In some years, they may be standing here delivering a congratulatory speech after another successful launch.”


Intelsat 38 will provide Ku-band capabilities and deliver continuity of service for the Intelsat 12 satellite located at 45° East. The satellite will host leading Direct-to-Home television platforms for the fast-growing Central and Eastern Europe and Asia-Pacific regions, as well as provide critical broadband connectivity for corporate network and government services in Africa. It is the 61st Intelsat spacecraft lofted by Arianespace.


Related link:


ARIANESPACE: http://www.arianespace.com/


Images, Videos, Text, Credits: ARIANESPACE/ EpicNG/Azerspace/SSL.


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