суббота, 6 октября 2018 г.

Testing Times Toxoplasma gondii is an unpleasant parasite,…

Testing Times

Toxoplasma gondii is an unpleasant parasite, responsible for causing a disease called toxoplasmosis. Although it can infect virtually all warm-blooded animals, it can only reproduce in cats, and is transmitted to humans through contact with cat poop or by eating undercooked contaminated pork. Most adults infected with the parasite experience few symptoms, if any, it can be far more serious in pregnant women, resulting in developmental defects, blindness, premature birth or miscarriage. But testing for Toxoplasma infection is tricky and expensive, requiring sophisticated lab equipment that isn’t available in many parts of the world. Researchers have now developed this simple for the parasite, using a small sample of blood from a finger prick. Like a pregnancy test, the appearance of the second line (labelled ‘T’) means that a pregnant woman is carrying the parasite and needs immediate treatment. Cheap and simple, these small plastic sticks could turn out to be lifesavers.

Written by Kat Arney

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2018 October 6 Aurora: The Frog’s View Image Credit…

2018 October 6

Aurora: The Frog’s View
Image Credit & Copyright: Mia Stalnacke

Explanation: What does an aurora look like to a frog? “Awesome!” is the likely answer, suggested by this imaginative snapshot taken on October 3rd from Kiruna, Sweden. Frequented by apparitions of the northern lights, Kiruna is located in Lapland north of the Arctic Circle, and often under the auroral oval surrounding planet Earth’s geomagnetic north pole. To create a tantalizing view from a frog’s perspective the photographer turned on the flashlight on her phone and placed it on the ground facing down, resting her camera’s lens on top. The “diamonds” in the foreground are icy pebbles right in front of the lens, lit up by the flashlight. Reflecting the shimmering northern lights, the “lake” is a frozen puddle on the ground. Of course, in the distance is the Bengt Hultqvist Observatory.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap181006.html

Serandite with Polylithionite | #Geology #GeologyPage…

Serandite with Polylithionite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Mont Saint-Hilaire, Rouville Co., Quebec, Canada, North America

Dimensions: 9.5 × 7.3 × 4.0 cm

Photo Copyright © Crystal Classics

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Zakynthos Island | #Geology #GeologyPage #Greece Zakynthos is a…

Zakynthos Island | #Geology #GeologyPage #Greece

Zakynthos is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. Zakynthos is a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and its only municipality. It covers an area of 410 km2 (158 sq mi) and its coastline is roughly 123 km (76 mi) in length. The name, like all similar names ending in -nthos, is pre-Mycenaean or Pelasgian in origin. In Greek mythology the island was said to be named after Zakynthos, the son of a legendary Arcadian chief Dardanus.

Zakynthos is a tourist destination, with an international airport served by many charter flights from northern Europe. The island’s nickname is To fioro tou Levante , given by the Venetians.

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Fluorite with Quartz | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality:…

Fluorite with Quartz | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Ehrenfriedersdorf, Erzgebirge, Saxony, Germany, Europe

Dimensions: 7.5 × 4.5 × 3.9 cm

Photo Copyright © Crystal Classics

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Strontianite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality:…

Strontianite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Oberdorf An Der Laming, Laming Valley, Bruck An Der Mur,, Styria, Austria, Europe

Dimensions: 9.7 × 8.0 × 6.8 cm

Photo Copyright © Crystal Classics

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Quartz Var. “Amethyst” | #Geology #GeologyPage…

Quartz Var. “Amethyst” | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Goboboseb Mountains, Brandberg, Erongo Region, Namibia, Africa

Dimensions: 16.1 × 8.1 × 5.1 cm

Photo Copyright © Crystal Classics

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ICESat-2 Laser Fires for 1st Time, Measures Antarctic Height

NASA – ICESat-2 Mission patch.

Oct. 5, 2018

The laser instrument that launched into orbit last month aboard NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) fired for the first time Sept. 30. With each of its 10,000 pulses per second, the instrument is sending 300 trillion green photons of light to the ground and measuring the travel time of the few that return: the method behind ICESat-2’s mission to monitor Earth’s changing ice. By the morning of Oct. 3, the satellite returned its first height measurements across the Antarctic ice sheet.

“We were all waiting with bated breath for the lasers to turn on and to see those first photons return,” said Donya Douglas-Bradshaw, the project manager for ICESat-2’s sole instrument, called the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, or ATLAS. “Seeing everything work together in concert is incredibly exciting. There are a lot of moving parts and this is the demonstration that it’s all working together.”

ICESat-2 launched on Sept. 15 to precisely measure heights and how they change over time. It does this by timing how long it takes individual photons to leave the satellite, reflect off the surface, and return to receiver telescope on the satellite. The ATLAS instrument can time photons with a precision of less than a billionth of a second, which allows the mission to detect small changes in the planet’s ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice.

Photon Jump

Video above: Pho, a plucky bright green photon of light, must travel from a NASA spacecraft down to Earth and back again to help complete a crucial science mission in this educational short film. The animation was created and produced by media art students from the Savannah College of Art in Design in Georgia, in collaboration with ICESat-2. Video Credits: NASA/Goddard/Savannah College of Art and Design et al.

Once ICESat-2 was in space, the ATLAS team waited to turn on the lasers for about two weeks to allow any Earthly contaminants or gases to dissipate.

“It’s very critical when you fire the lasers that you don’t have contaminants because you could damage the optics,” Douglas-Bradshaw said. “Fourteen days is well beyond the time needed for that, but we wanted to be safe.”

During those two weeks, the ICESat-2 operations team turned on and tested the various systems and subsystems of the spacecraft and instrument, and fired thrusters to start placing the satellite in its final polar orbit, approximately 310 miles (500 kilometers) above Earth.

Image above: Illustration of ICESat-2. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Before the laser was even turned on, however, the team eagerly awaited another milestone, Douglas-Bradshaw said. The door that protected the telescope and detector elements during launch had to be opened. The team had two chances to release one of two spring-loaded pins to open the door. This was successfully accomplished on Sept. 29.

The following day, it was the laser’s turn. The engineering team had been working with the operations team that controls the instrument on orbit, so the commands were ready to go — first turning on the laser itself, waiting for it to warm up, and then issuing commands to put it in fire mode.

The laser energy levels jumped up, and the device that starts ATLAS’s sophisticated stopwatch was active — two different, independent indicators that the laser was firing away.

“We were all incredibly excited and happy, everyone was taking pictures of the screens showing data plots,” Douglas-Bradshaw said. “Someone noted: ‘Now we have a mission, now we have an instrument.”

Three days later, the ICESat-2 team had the first segment of height data, taken as the satellite flew over Antarctica.

Image above: A visualization of ICESat-2 data, called a photon cloud, shows the first set of height measurements from the satellite, taken as it orbited over the Antarctic ice sheet. Each blue dot represents a photon detected by the ATLAS instrument. This photon cloud shows the elevation measured by photons in the middle of the ice sheet, following along 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) of the satellite’s ground track, from left to right. The speckled dots are background photons from sunlight, but the thick blue line is actually a concentration of dots that represent laser photons that returned to the ICESat-2 satellite. Image Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Computer programmers were up all night analyzing the latitude, longitude and elevation represented by each photon that returned to the ATLAS instrument — and by 6 a.m., Tom Neumann, ICESat-2 deputy project scientist, was texting screenshots of the height data to the rest of the team.

“It was awesome,” Neumann said. “Having it in space, and not just simulating data on the ground, is amazing. This is real light that went from ATLAS to Earth and back again.”

When scientists analyze the preliminary ICESat-2 data, they examine what is called a “photon cloud,” or a plot of each photon that ATLAS detects. Many of the points on a photon cloud are from background photons — natural sunlight reflected off Earth in the exact same wavelength as the laser photons. But with the help of computer programs that analyze the data, scientists can extract the signal from the noise and identify height of the ground below.

The first photon cloud generated by ICESat-2 shows a stretch of elevation measurements from East Antarctica, passing close to the South Pole at a latitude of 88 degrees south, then continuing between Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica.

NASA – Laser Focus: The Receiver

Video above: Opto-Mechanical Engineer Tyler Evans explains how the photons that bounce back from Earth are received and filtered by the ATLAS telescope. ATLAS is the primary instrument on board the ICESat-2 spacecraft, which measures the height of Earth’s features. Video Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Next up for ICESat-2 is a suite of procedures to optimize the instrument, Neumann said, including tests to ensure the laser is pointing at the precisely correct angle and lasing at the precisely correct wavelength to allow as many photons as possible to hit the detector.

“It will take a couple of additional weeks,” he said, “but about one month after launch we’ll hopefully start getting back some excellent science-quality data.”

ICESat-2 launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the final United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. The spacecraft was built by Northrop Grumman, which also controls the observatory from their Mission Operations Center in Dulles, Virginia.

For more information on ICESat-2, visit:


Images (mentioned), Videos (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Rob Garner/Goddard Space Flight Center, by Kate Ramsayer.

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Sentinel-2 maps Indonesia earthquake

ESA – Sentinel 2 Mission logo.

5 October 2018

A 7.5-magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit Indonesia on 28 September, destroying homes and hundreds of lives. As the death toll continues to rise, the effects of this natural disaster are far-reaching, with hundreds of thousands of people seeking access food, water and shelter in the aftermath of this tragedy.

Fault line land movement

Satellite data can be used to support international disaster risk management efforts, such as those in Indonesia. One of the ways in which ESA is contributing to this area is through leading a range of activities in the framework of the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) Working Group on Disasters.

In particular, the Geohazards Office, led by the French Geological Survey (BRGM) liaises with practitioners on the exploitation of Earth observation processing services to support hazard mapping and risk assessment. This is in the spirit of the International Forum on Satellite Earth Observation and Geohazards.

BRGM experts have generated displacement maps using Copernicus Sentinel-2 acquisitions from 17 September and 2 October.

Displacement map

Thematic experts from the Corinth Rift Laboratory in Greece have generated similar results using the Cloud processing platform GEP, which has been designed to rapidly provide automated measurements.

As shown in the images, the earthquake triggered deformations of several metres and a tsunami. Around 1400 people are reported to have lost their lives, hundreds have been hospitalized and many more thousands are thought to have been displaced. It has been estimated that up to 1.5 million people will be affected by these events.

The Vice-President of the country, Jusuf Kalla, has said that the final death toll could reach the thousands. The International Charter Space and Major Disasters was triggered by the Asian Disaster Reduction Centre on 29 September for this event. International collaboration is in place to organise Earth observation-based disaster response activities.

Displacement data

Scientific products such as the map created by BRGM are helping us to better understand hazards. Beyond this example it is foreseen that Earth observation data will also be useful for supporting recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in Indonesia.

Related links:

Sentinel-2: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Observing_the_Earth/Copernicus/Sentinel-2

Sentinel data access: https://scihub.copernicus.eu/

International Charter: https://disasterscharter.org/

Disasters charter Indonesia earthquake activation: https://disasterscharter.org/web/guest/activations/-/article/earthquake-in-indonesia-activation-587-?DanaTimeoutCtx=600001

Geohazards: https://geohazards-tep.eo.esa.int/

Satellite Earth Observation for Geohazard Risk Management: http://esamultimedia.esa.int/docs/EarthObservation/Geohazards/esa-geo-hzrd-2012.pdf

Animation, Images, Text, Credits: ESA/contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/processed by the Corinth Rift Laboratory/processed by the French Geological Survey (BRGM).

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VLA Discovers Powerful Jet Coming from “Wrong” Kind of Star

Artist’s conception shows magnetic field lines around neutron star, accretion disk of material orbiting the neutron star, and jets of material propelled outward. Credit: ICRAR/Universiteit van Amsterdam. Hi-res image

Artist’s conception illustrates superdense neutron star, right, drawing material off its “normal” companion. Material forms an accretion disk rotating around the neutron star. Jets of material are launched perpendicular to the disk. Credit: ICRAR/Universiteit van Amsterdam. Hi-res image

Astronomers using the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) have discovered a fast-moving jet of material propelled outward from a type of neutron star previously thought incapable of launching such a jet. The discovery, the scientists said, requires them to fundamentally revise their ideas about how such jets originate.

Neutron stars are superdense objects, the remnants of massive stars that exploded as supernovas. When in binary pairs with “normal” stars, their powerful gravity can pull material away from their companions. That material forms a disk, called an accretion disk, rotating around the neutron star. Jets of material are propelled at nearly the speed of light, perpendicular to the disk.

“We’ve seen jets coming from all types of neutron stars that are pulling material from their companions, with a single exception. Never before have we seen a jet coming from a neutron star with a very strong magnetic field,” said Jakob van den Eijnden of the University of Amsterdam. “That led to a theory that strong magnetic fields prevent jets from forming,” he added.

The new discovery contradicts that theory.

The scientists studied an object called Swift J0243.6+6124 (Sw J0243), discovered on October 3, 2017, by NASA’s orbiting Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, when the object emitted a burst of X-rays. The object is a slowly-spinning neutron star pulling material from a companion star that is likely significantly more massive than the Sun. The VLA observations began a week after the Swift discovery and continued until January 2018.

Both the fact that the object’s emission at X-ray and radio wavelengths weakened together over time and the characteristics of the radio emission itself convinced the astronomers that they were seeing radio waves produced by a jet.

“This combination is what we see in other jet-producing systems. Alternative mechanisms just don’t explain it,” van den Eijnden said.

Common theories for jet formation in systems like Sw J0243 say the jets are launched by magnetic field lines anchored in the inner parts of the accretion disks. In this scenario, if the neutron star has a very strong magnetic field, that field is overpowering and prevents the jet from forming.

“Our clear discovery of a jet in Sw J0243 disproves that longstanding idea,” van den Eijnden said.

Alternatively, the scientists suggest that Sw J0243’s jet-launching region of the accretion disk could be much farther out than in other types of systems, where the star’s magnetic field is weaker. Another idea, they said, is that the jets may be powered by the neutron star’s rotation, instead of being launched by magnetic field lines in the inner accretion disk.

“Interestingly, the rotation-powered idea predicts that the jet will be significantly weaker from more slowly rotating neutron stars, which is exactly what we see in Sw J0243,” Nathalie Degenaar, also of the University of Amsterdam, said.

The new discovery also implies that Sw J0243 may represent a large group of objects whose radio emission has been too weak to detect until new capabilities provided by the VLA’s major upgrade, completed in 2012, were available. If more such objects are found, the scientists said, they could test the idea that jets are produced by the neutron star’s spin.

The astronomers added that a jet from SwJ0243 may mean that another category of objects, called ultra-luminous X-ray pulsars, also highly magnetized, might produce jets.

“This discovery not only means we have to revise our ideas about jets from such systems, but also opens up exciting new areas of research,” Degenaar said.

Van den Eijnden, Degenaar, and their colleagues are reporting their discovery in the journal Nature.

The National Radio Astronomy Observatory is a facility of the National Science Foundation, operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc.

Media Contact:

Dave Finley, Public Information Officer
(575) 835-7302


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Heteromorph Ammonites with spikes | #Geology #GeologyPage…

Heteromorph Ammonites with spikes | #Geology #GeologyPage #Ammonite #Fossils

Heteromorph Ammonites with spikes (Emericiceras alpinum, Ancyloceras vandenbecki, Emericiceras barremense)

Age: Cretaceous, Lower Barremian

Location: Agadir, Morocco

Photo Copyright © Bonhams

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Emerald | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality: Cincho Mine,…

Emerald | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Cincho Mine, Mun. de Muzo, Boyacá Department, Colombia

Size: 5 x 4 x 3.2

Photo Copyright © Saphira Minerals

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Tourmaline with Smoky Quartz | #Geology #GeologyPage…

Tourmaline with Smoky Quartz | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Sosedka Mine, Malkhan, Siberia, Russia

Size: 11.5 x 7.5 x 6 cm

Photo Copyright © Anton Watzl Minerals

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Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park “China’s Rainbow…

Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park “China’s Rainbow Mountains” | #Geology #GeologyPage #RainbowMountains #China

The Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, also known as Zhangye Danxia (Landform) Geopark, is located near the city of Zhangye in China’s northwestern Gansu province.

Read more & More Photos: http://www.geologypage.com/2016/02/zhangye-danxia-national-geological-park-chinas-rainbow-mountains.html

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Amethyst | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality: Goboboseb…

Amethyst | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Goboboseb Mts., Brandberg Area, Erongo Region, Namibia

Size: 11.7 x 7 x 6.6 cm

Photo Copyright © Anton Watzl Minerals

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Rhodochrosite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality: Sweet…

Rhodochrosite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Sweet Home Mine, Mount Bross, Alma District, Park Co., Colorado, USA

Size: 6.4 x 6 x 4.5 cm

Photo Copyright © Anton Watzl Minerals

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Space Station Science Highlights: Week of October 1, 2018

ISS – Expedition 57 Mission patch.

Oct. 5, 2018

It was a busy week aboard the International Space Station as Expedition 56 Commander Drew Feustel and Flight Engineer Ricky Arnold of NASA, along with Flight Engineer and Soyuz Commander Oleg Artemyev of the Russian space agency Roscosmos returned to Earth. With their departure comes the start of Expedition 57 and a new space station commander.

Image above: NASA astronauts Drew Feustel and Ricky Arnold, along with Oleg Artemyev of Roscosmos returned aboard the 54S Soyuz spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA.

Feustel, Expedition 56 Commander, handed off the station command to Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency during a Change of Command Ceremony on Wednesday.

In addition to all of the crew excitement, science was being conducted in the areas of human research, technology development, plant biology and more.

Learn more about the science happening on station below:

Blood and Saliva samples collected for ambient return

Protecting crew health is important as NASA prepares for long duration, deep-space missions. Functional Immune studies previously uninvestigated areas of the body’s immune response and if spaceflight alters a crew member’s susceptibility to disease.

The immune system is a complex weaving of biological structures and processes. Decreased activity in just one piece can cause changes in disease risk within the human body. Studies have shown in microgravity there are immune system modifications. This may create an environment where, in some crew members, rashes, unusual allergies and latent virus reactivation may present themselves.

This week, crew members collected saliva and blood samples for an ambient return aboard the 54S Soyuz spacecraft.

Read more about the investigation here: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/functional_immune

Japanese satellite prepares for upcoming deployments

The JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD) provides a novel, safe, small satellite launching capability to the space station. The J-SSOD is a unique satellite launcher, handled by the Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS), which provides containment and deployment mechanisms for several individual small satellites.

Animation above: The J-SSOD-10 was installed onto the MPEP in preparation for this weekend’s satellite deployments. Animation Credit: NASA.

This week, the crew installed the J-SSOD-10 onto the Multipurpose Experiment Platform (MPEP) in preparation for this weekend’s satellite deployments.

Arabidopsis plants thinned to allow for more growth

Understanding how plants grow and thrive in harsh environments, both on Earth and in space, is important for advancements in agriculture. The Advanced Plant Habitat Facility (Plant Habitat) is a fully automated facility used to conduct plant bioscience research and provides a large, enclosed, environmentally controlled chamber aboard the space station.

Image above: NASA astronaut Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor thinned the Arabidopsis plants, growing as a part of the Plant Habitat-1 investigation, contained within the Advanced Plant Habitat. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew performed plant thinning as a part of the Plant Habitat-1 investigation. In this activity, the young Arabidopsis plants, small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard, were thinned. This gives the remaining plants a better chance to continue their growth.

Learn more about the Plant Habitat here: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/Giving_Roots_and_Shoots_Their_Space_APH

Other work was done on these investigations:

– BEST seeks to advance use of sequencing DNA and RNA in space: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7687

– Food Acceptability examines changes in how food appeals to crew members during their time aboard the station. Acceptability of food – whether crew members like and actually eat something – may directly affect crew caloric intake and associated nutritional benefits: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7562

– The Sally Ride EarthKAM program allows students to remotely control a digital camera mounted on the space station and use it to take photographs of coastlines, mountain ranges and other features and phenomena. The images are posted online where the public and participating classrooms can view Earth from the station’s unique vantage point: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=87

– The Life Sciences Glovebox (LSG) is a sealed work area that accommodates life science and technology investigations in a workbench-type environment. Due to its larger size, two crew members can work in the LSG simultaneously: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=7676

– MATISS investigates the antibacterial properties of materials in space for possible application in future spacecraft: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7333

– MobiPV aims to improve the efficiency of activity execution by giving crewmembers a wireless set of wearable, portable devices that utilize voice navigation and a direct audio/video link to ground experts: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1818

– Meteor is a visible spectroscopy instrument used to observe meteors in Earth orbit: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1174

Space to Ground: Hello, Goodbye: 10/05/2018

Related links:

Expedition 57: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition57/index.html

Functional Immune: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=2011

JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer (J-SSOD): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=883

Plant Habitat: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=2036

Plant Habitat-1: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=2032

Spot the Station: https://spotthestation.nasa.gov/

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

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Erling Holm/Yuri Guinart-Ramirez, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 55 & 56.

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NASA Voyager 2 Could Be Nearing Interstellar Space

NASA – Voyager 1 & 2 Mission patch.

Oct. 5, 2018

NASA’s Voyager 2 probe, currently on a journey toward interstellar space, has detected an increase in cosmic rays that originate outside our solar system. Launched in 1977, Voyager 2 is a little less than 11 billion miles (about 17.7 billion kilometers) from Earth, or more than 118 times the distance from Earth to the Sun.

Since 2007 the probe has been traveling through the outermost layer of the heliosphere — the vast bubble around the Sun and the planets dominated by solar material and magnetic fields. Voyager scientists have been watching for the spacecraft to reach the outer boundary of the heliosphere, known as the heliopause. Once Voyager 2 exits the heliosphere, it will become the second human-made object, after Voyager 1, to enter interstellar space.

Since late August, the Cosmic Ray Subsystem instrument on Voyager 2 has measured about a 5 percent increase in the rate of cosmic rays hitting the spacecraft compared to early August. The probe’s Low-Energy Charged Particle instrument has detected a similar increase in higher-energy cosmic rays.

Cosmic rays are fast-moving particles that originate outside the solar system. Some of these cosmic rays are blocked by the heliosphere, so mission planners expect that Voyager 2 will measure an increase in the rate of cosmic rays as it approaches and crosses the boundary of the heliosphere.

Image above: This graphic shows the position of the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 probes relative to the heliosphere, a protective bubble created by the Sun that extends well past the orbit of Pluto. Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause, or the edge of the heliosphere, in 2012. Voyager 2 is still in the heliosheath, or the outermost part of the heliosphere. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

In May 2012, Voyager 1 experienced an increase in the rate of cosmic rays similar to what Voyager 2 is now detecting. That was about three months before Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause and entered interstellar space.

However, Voyager team members note that the increase in cosmic rays is not a definitive sign that the probe is about to cross the heliopause. Voyager 2 is in a different location in the heliosheath — the outer region of the heliosphere — than Voyager 1 had been, and possible differences in these locations means Voyager 2 may experience a different exit timeline than Voyager 1.

The fact that Voyager 2 may be approaching the heliopause six years after Voyager 1 is also relevant, because the heliopause moves inward and outward during the Sun’s 11-year activity cycle. Solar activity refers to emissions from the Sun, including solar flares and eruptions of material called coronal mass ejections. During the 11-year solar cycle, the Sun reaches both a maximum and a minimum level of activity.

Voyager 2. Animation Credit: NASA

“We’re seeing a change in the environment around Voyager 2, there’s no doubt about that,” said Voyager Project Scientist Ed Stone, based at Caltech in Pasadena. “We’re going to learn a lot in the coming months, but we still don’t know when we’ll reach the heliopause. We’re not there yet — that’s one thing I can say with confidence.”

The Voyager spacecraft were built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which continues to operate both. JPL is a division of Caltech. The Voyager missions are a part of the NASA Heliophysics System Observatory, managed by the Heliophysics Division of the Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For more information about the Voyager spacecraft, visit:



Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Tony Greicius/Karen Fox/JPL/Calla Cofield/Jia-Rui Cook.

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Caerleon Roman Barracks Baths, Caerleon, nr Newport, South Wales Caerleon Roman Barracks...

Caerleon Roman Barracks Baths, Caerleon, nr Newport, South Wales

Caerleon Roman Barracks Baths must have been a huge complex at its height of construction with an extended series of plunge pools and a complex drainage system. The buildings were opulent in design and scope. It is here that large numbers of decorated gem stones were found in the drains.

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The Welsh Crannog Centre, Brecon Beacons, South Wales

The Welsh Crannog Centre, Brecon Beacons, South Wales

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Teeth of Homo antecessor shed light on trends in Pleistocene hominin dental evolution

Some of the dental features characteristic of Neanderthals were already present in Early Pleistocene Homo antecessor, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Laura Martín-Francés of the University of Bordeaux, France and colleagues.

Teeth of Homo antecessor shed light on trends in Pleistocene hominin dental evolution
These are enamel thickness cartographies of the H. antecessor upper M1 (ATD6-103) from Gran Dolina (Atapuerca)
compared with those of Neanderthal and modern human [Credit: Martín-Francés et al., PLOS ONE 2018]

Dental tissue proportions and enamel thickness are helpful features for identifying and distinguishing ancient hominins, reflecting unique developmental processes that arose in among hominin species. Neanderthals possess uniquely thin enamel compared to other hominins, but the origin and evolution of this condition is unknown.

In this study, Martín-Francés and colleagues examined teeth from the Early Pleistocene hominin Homo antecessor, a potential ancestor of Neanderthals, to determine when this and other Neanderthal tooth features arose.

The authors examined 17 molars of Homo antecessor from the Gran Dolina-TD6 cave site in Sierra de Atapuerca in Northern Spain, dating back to the Early Pleistocene, 0.8-0.9 million years ago. They compared these teeth to more than 300 molars from other Homo species, living and extinct, from Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Through micro-CT scans and high-resolution imaging, they determined that H. antecessor did not share the Neanderthal trait of thin enamel, but that the overall distribution of tooth tissues (enamel and dentine) in H. antecessor was in fact more similar to Neanderthals than to Homo sapiens and other hominins.

These findings suggest that certain aspects of Neanderthal tooth structure had already arisen in earlier hominins of Early Pleistocene Europe, but that the full suite of Neanderthal traits did not appear until later. The authors note that future study on hominins across the Early and Middle Pleistocene of Europe will further elucidate the evolutionary steps that produced the unique dentitions of Late Pleistocene hominins.

Martín-Francés summarizes: “The Early Pleistocene species, Homo antecessor (Atapuerca, Spain) shares the same molar enamel thickness with most hominins, including Homo sapiens. However, as early as 900,000 ago, Homo antecessor shows a few structural characteristics that are absent in the rest of the hominin species and will become the typical Neanderthal configuration.”

Source: PLOS [October 03, 2018]



2,000 year-old Buddha images unearthed in Laos’ Savannakhet province

Hundreds of Buddha images and other ancient relics, estimated at up to 2,000 years old, have been found in the grounds of That Inghang Stupa recently by local residents carrying out renovations at the site in Kaisone Phomvihane City, Savannakhet province.

2,000 year-old Buddha images unearthed in Laos' Savannakhet province
Credit: Vientiane Times

The images are made of gold, silver, bronze, wood and other materials and range in height from 8cm to 10cm. All Buddha images, jars and other ancient objects are now being kept in a secure location, according to a provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department official.

In an interview with Vientiane Times yesterday, the department’s Deputy Director Mr Khamsith Phommachanh, said the surprise find is currently being kept securely in the city.

“The section’s officials will work with district authorities and other concerned sectors to further study and identify other potential items of interest around the scene,” Mr Khamsith said.

The surprise find of Buddha images and other ancient items is the first major archaeological discovery for many years in the city.

The 16th century That Ing Hang Stupa is about nine metres high with ornate decoration and is said to house a relic of Buddha’s spine.

The stupa is located in Savannakhet, central Laos, renowed as the birthplace of Laos’ popular former leader, Kaysone Phomvihane. It was also known as a French trading outpost back in colonial times. There are a number of vintage French colonial and Sino-Franco buildings in the business districts.

Source: Vientiane Times [October 04, 2018]




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