вторник, 18 декабря 2018 г.

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators

Magnetic field lines tangled like spaghetti in a bowl might be behind the most powerful particle accelerators in the universe. That’s the result of a new computational study by researchers from the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, which simulated particle emissions from distant active galaxies.

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators
SLAC researchers have found a new mechanism that could explain how plasma jets emerging from the center of active
galaxies, like the one shown in this illustration, accelerate particles to extreme energies. Computer simulations
(circled area) showed that tangled magnetic field lines create strong electric fields in the direction of the jets,
 leading to dense electric currents of high-energy particles streaming away from the galaxy
[Credit: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory]

At the core of these active galaxies, supermassive black holes launch high-speed jets of plasma — a hot, ionized gas — that shoot millions of light years into space. This process may be the source of cosmic rays with energies tens of millions of times higher than the energy unleashed in the most powerful human-made particle accelerator.

“The mechanism that creates these extreme particle energies isn’t known yet,” said SLAC staff scientist Frederico Fiúza, the principal investigator of a new study published in Physical Review Letters. “But based on our simulations, we’re able to propose a new mechanism that can potentially explain how these cosmic particle accelerators work.”

The results could also have implications for plasma and nuclear fusion research and the development of novel high-energy particle accelerators.

Simulating cosmic jets Researchers have long been fascinated by the violent processes that boost the energy of cosmic particles. For example, they’ve gathered evidence that shock waves from powerful star explosions could bring particles up to speed and send them across the universe.

These movies show how distortions of the helical magnetic field of a cosmic jet (center) generate a strong electric field

 in the jet direction (left). The electric field boosts the energy of charged particles, effectively creating a dense 

electric current along the jet (right) [Credit: PhysRevLett.121.245101]

Scientists have also suggested that the main driving force for cosmic plasma jets could be magnetic energy released when magnetic field lines in plasmas break and reconnect in a different way — a process known as “magnetic reconnection.”

However, the new study suggests a different mechanism that’s tied to the disruption of the helical magnetic field generated by the supermassive black hole spinning at the center of active galaxies.

“We knew that these fields can become unstable,” said lead author Paulo Alves, a research associate working with Fiúza. “But what exactly happens when the magnetic fields become distorted, and could this process explain how particles gain tremendous energy in these jets? That’s what we wanted to find out in our study.”

To do so, the researchers simulated the motions of up to 550 billion particles — a miniature version of a cosmic jet — on the Mira supercomputer at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory. Then, they scaled up their results to cosmic dimensions and compared them to astrophysical observations.

Tangled magnetic fields power cosmic particle accelerators
This is a composite image of the active galaxy Centaurus A, showing lobes and jets extending millions
of light years into space [Credit: Optical: ESO/WFI; Submillimeter: MPIfR/ESO/APEX/
A.Weiss et al.; X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al.]

From tangled field lines to high-energy particles The simulations showed that when the helical magnetic field is strongly distorted, the magnetic field lines become highly tangled and a large electric field is produced inside the jet. This arrangement of electric and magnetic fields can, indeed, efficiently accelerate electrons and protons to extreme energies. While high-energy electrons radiate their energy away in the form of X-rays and gamma rays, protons can escape the jet into space and reach Earth’s atmosphere as cosmic radiation.

“We see that a large portion of the magnetic energy released in the process goes into high-energy particles, and the acceleration mechanism can explain both the high-energy radiation coming from active galaxies and the highest cosmic-ray energies observed,” Alves said.

Roger Blandford, an expert in black hole physics and former director of the SLAC/Stanford University Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (KIPAC), who was not involved in the study, said, “This careful analysis identifies many surprising details of what happens under conditions thought to be present in distant jets, and may help explain some remarkable astrophysical observations.”

Next, the researchers want to connect their work even more firmly with actual observations, for example by studying what makes the radiation from cosmic jets vary rapidly over time. They also intend to do lab research to determine if the same mechanism proposed in this study could also cause disruptions and particle acceleration in fusion plasmas.

Author: Manuel Gnida | Source: DOE/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. [December 13, 2018]



Moun­tain birds de­clin­ing in Europe

Population data for European mountain birds have been for the first time combined in a recent study, with worrying results: the abundances of mountain-specialist birds has declined by as much as 10% in the 2000s.

Moun­tain birds de­clin­ing in Europe
Snow bunting is the mountain-specialist which population has been declined
[Credit: Aleksi Lehikoinen]

Ecological communities in mountain areas include species not found in any other habitats. These species are also very susceptible to climate change, as global warming is reducing their liveable habitats. In principle, species may relocate further up the mountains, but closer to the top their habitat inevitably shrinks.

According to the new article published in Global Change Biology, the abundance of European mountain birds has in fact declined in line with climate change projections.

The recently released study examined the population trends of 44 bird species in the 2000s in the mountain and fell regions of Fennoscandia, Great Britain, the Alps and the Iberian Peninsula. A decline was seen in 14 of the observed species, while eight of them saw significant increase.

“On average, population decline among the species studied was 7% over the 13-year research period, making the situation of mountain birds distinctly worse compared to, for example, European forest birds, whose numbers did not change during the same period,” explains Aleksi Lehikoinen, an Academy of Finland research fellow at the Finnish Museum of Natural History Luomus (part of the University of Helsinki), who headed the study.

The situation is the direst for species that only inhabit mountain regions and are unable to live in other European environments. For these species, known as mountain specialists, the numbers dwindled by as much as 10% during the monitoring period.

Changes in land use also threaten mountain birds

Regional differences were noted in the population trends of mountain birds, their numbers significantly dropping in Finland, Sweden and Norway, as well as on the Iberian Peninsula. In Great Britain and the Alps, the numbers remained more stable.

“In addition to climate change, an abundance of mountain birds are affected by human land use. For example, on the Iberian Peninsula the reduction of grazing on mountain fields may result in afforestation, which in turn will lead to a decline among mountain species inhabiting open terrain,” notes Päivi Sirkiä, a research coordinator at Luomus.

Indeed, the researchers emphasise the importance of carrying on the monitoring and research to determine regional causes of the trend. Monitoring mountain birds is more challenging than that of birds living in low-lying areas.

“The bird count target species often live far from human settlements, which is why we are particularly appreciative of the contribution made by volunteer bird-watchers,” Sirkiä notes.

Source: University of Helsinki [December 13, 2018]



The long dry: Why the world’s water supply is shrinking

A global study has found a paradox: our water supplies are shrinking at the same time as climate change is generating more intense rain. And the culprit is the drying of soils, say researchers, pointing to a world where drought-like conditions will become the new normal, especially in regions that are already dry.

The long dry: Why the world's water supply is shrinking
A dried up Lake Hume on the border between New South Wales and Victoria
[Credit: University of New South Wales]

The study — the most exhaustive global analysis of rainfall and rivers — was conducted by a team led by Professor Ashish Sharma at Australia’s University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney. It relied on actual data from 43,000 rainfall stations and 5,300 river monitoring sites in 160 countries, instead of basing its findings on model simulations of a future climate, which can be uncertain and at times questionable.

“This is something that has been missed,” said Sharma, an ARC Future Fellow at UNSW’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “We expected rainfall to increase, since warmer air stores more moisture — and that is what climate models predicted too. What we did not expect is that, despite all the extra rain everywhere in the world, is that the large rivers are drying out.

“We believe the cause is the drying of soils in our catchments. Where once these were moist before a storm event — allowing excess rainfall to run-off into rivers — they are now drier and soak up more of the rain, so less water makes it as flow.

“Less water into our rivers means less water for cities and farms. And drier soils means farmers need more water to grow the same crops. Worse, this pattern is repeated all over the world, assuming serious proportions in places that were already dry. It is extremely concerning,” he added.

For every 100 raindrops that fall on land, only 36 drops are ‘blue water’ — the rainfall that enters lakes, rivers and aquifers — and therefore, all the water extracted for human needs. The remaining two thirds of rainfall is mostly retained as soil moisture — known as ‘green water’ — and used by the landscape and the ecosystem.

As warming temperatures cause more water to evaporate from soils, those dry soils are absorbing more of the rainfall when it does occur — leaving less ‘blue water’ for human use.

“It’s a double whammy,” said Sharma. “Less water is ending up where we can store it for later use. At the same time, more rain is overwhelming drainage infrastructure in towns and cities, leading to more urban flooding.”

Professor Mark Hoffman, UNSW’s Dean of Engineering, welcomed Sharma’s research and called for a global conversation about how to deal with this unfolding scenario, especially in Australia, which is already the driest inhabited continent (apart from Antarctica).

“It’s clear there’s no simple fix, so we need to start preparing for this,” he said. “Climate change keeps delivering us unpleasant surprises. Nevertheless, as engineers, our role is to identify the problem and develop solutions. Knowing the problem is often half the battle, and this study has definitely identified some major ones.”

The findings were made over the past four years, in research that appeared in Nature Geoscience, Geophysical Research Letters, Scientific Reports and, most recently, in the American Geophysical Union’s Water Resources Research.

In the latest paper in Water Resources Research, Sharma and colleagues write that despite widespread global evidence of rising precipitation extremes, there’s no evidence of an increase in flooding, with evidence pointing more towards decreased flood peaks for the moderate flood events that form the key refill events in water supply reservoirs.

“While extreme floods may increase due to the larger storms that are occurring, these floods are often too large to be stored for water supply. It is the less extreme floods our reservoirs depend on,” Sharma said.

“On the whole, flood magnitudes are decreasing,” write Sharma and his co-authors, Dr Conrad Wasko of the University of Melbourne, and Professor Dennis Lettenmaier of the University of California Los Angeles. (Wasko was Sharma’s PhD student at UNSW during most of the research).

They suggest that large declines in the amount of moisture in the soil, coupled with the contraction in the geographical spread of each storm event, are the major reasons why increases in extreme rainfall are not resulting in corresponding increases in flooding.

They point to previous U.S. research that shows that, in extreme rainfall events, if surrounding soils are wet before a storm, 62% of the rain leads to flooding that is captured by catchments. But when soils are dry, only 13% of the rain results in flooding.

“This is kind of contradicting the increasing flood argument in past IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] reports, but pointing to possibly a far worse scenario,” said Sharma. “Small floods are very important for water supply, because they refill dams and form the basis of our water supply,” said Sharma.

“But they’re happening less often, because the soils are sucking up the extra rain. Even when a major storm dumps a lot of rain, the soils are so dry they absorb more water than before, and less reaches the rivers and reservoirs.”

Past research has so far missed this. “Everybody has been obsessed by the flood side of the equation but have ignored the more critical component, which is the embattled water supply that comes from reduced flows into our reservoirs,” he added.

So what is the solution? “One option is to wait for international agreements to take effect, so greenhouse gas concentrations can be reined in — but this will take a long time. The other option is to be proactive, and re-engineer our water systems so we can better adapt and cope.”

To adapt to this new reality, new policies and infrastructure is needed. In areas where water supply is shrinking, water-intensive farming will need to be curtailed or moved elsewhere, while reservoir storage capacities may need to be expanded. In urban areas, where flooding is becoming more common, incentives to create ‘green cities’ and to store or divert flood water will need to be explored.

“We need to adapt to this emerging reality,” said Sharma. “We’re going to need re-engineering on a massive scale in some places if we are to continue living in them. But it’s possible: places like Arizona and California receive barely 400mm of rain each year, but have engineered their water supply systems to make previously uninhabitable places liveable.

“Or take the Snowy Mountain Scheme: it’s not just about hydroelectricity, it’s also a complex water supply scheme with 225 km of tunnels, pipelines and aqueducts.”

Sharma said the answer was not just more dams. “Re-engineering solutions are not simple, they have to be analysed on a region-by-region basis, looking at the costs and the benefits, looking at the change expected into the future, while also studying past projects so mistakes are not repeated. There are no silver bullets. Any large-scale re-engineering project will require significant investment, but the cost of inaction could be monstrous.”

In urban areas, the reverse will be needed: flooding is becoming more common and more intense. Global economic losses from flooding have risen from an average of $500 million a year in the 1980s to around $20 billion annually by 2010; by 2013, this rose to more than US$50 billion. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects this to more than double in the next 20 years as extreme storms and rainfall intensify and growing numbers of people move into urban centres.

Adapting to this is possible, but will require large-scale re-engineering of many cities, says Sharma. “Tokyo used to get clobbered by floods every year, but they built a massive underground tank beneath the city that stores the floodwater, and releases it later. You never see floods there now.”

Source: University of New South Wales [December 13, 2018]



Skin game: Study peels back details on mammalian keratin genes and adaptation to living...

Whether by land or by sea, mammals live in a diverse variety of protective skins adapted against the elements, from swimming in the deepest azure oceans to climbing precipitous mountain peaks.

Skin game: Study peels back details on mammalian keratin genes and adaptation to living on land or sea
The main proteins of the outermost skin layers of terrestrial mammals, including humans, are dispensable in aquatic
 mammals, such as dolphins, whales, and manatees. The epidermis of dolphins is approximately 50 times thicker
 than normal human epidermis. Keratins K1, K2, and K10 have been lost and replaced by keratins K6 and K17
in dolphins [Credit: Leopold Eckhart, Department of Dermatology, Medical University of Vienna]

Now, Medical University of Vienna professor Leopold Eckhart and colleagues have performed one of the largest comparative genomic studies to help determine the key molecular and evolutionary origins of mammalian adaptations seen in skin proteins.

In a new study appearing recently in the advanced online edition of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, Eckhart’s team homed in on which genes, among the dozens of mammalian keratin genes, are required for living on land or in the sea. The products of these keratin genes assemble to form the girders of the cytoskeleton in skin cells, called keratinocytes, that maintain a tight barrier between the body and the outside world.

“The results of the present study provide important new data on the evolution of keratins that control the mechanical stability of the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin,” said Eckhart.

In terrestrial mammals, the epidermis depends on different keratins to maintain the barrier to the environment and to regenerate the epidermis if the skin is wounded. The new report proposes that fully aquatic mammals continuously use the epidermal regeneration program and therefore require only one of the two sets of epidermal keratins.

“It is surprising that the main proteins of the outermost skin layers of terrestrial mammals, including humans, are dispensable in aquatic mammals, such as dolphins, whales, and manatees,” said Eckhart. “And it is remarkable that a stress response program was the starting point of an evolutionary innovation: the new architecture of the epidermis in aquatic mammals.”

The epidermis of dolphins is approximately 50 times thicker than normal human epidermis. Keratins K1, K2, and K10 have been lost and replaced by keratins K6 and K17 in dolphins.

Both the thickening of the epidermis and the key roles of K6 and K17 are also found in human skin wound healing and in lesional skin of patients with psoriasis. In this common skin disease, so-far-unknown genetic factors predispose skin cells to trigger the evolutionarily ancient wound healing program of the epidermis.

“At this point evolutionary biology meets dermatological research, and we hope that this type of ‘translational research’ will yield further insights for the benefit of patients in the future,” said Eckhart.

The research team at the Medical University of Vienna also discovered previously underestimated complexity in the epidermal keratin composition due to so-called “alternative splicing” keratin K10 mRNA and adaptations of keratin gene sets in terrestrial mammals. However, an entire remodeling of the keratin cytoskeleton has occurred only in fully aquatic mammals.

“Our data point to a general pattern of skin evolution: proteins of innermost skin layers are the most conserved, and proteins of the outermost layers are the most diverse,” said Eckhart. “The interactions between keratins and other epidermal proteins need further studies. With progress in comparative genomics and new lines of experimental research, the evolution of the skin will remain an exciting and fruitful research topic.”

Source: Molecular Biology and Evolution (Oxford Press) [December 13, 2018]



For these critically endangered marine turtles, climate change could be a knockout blow

Hawksbill turtles aren’t the only marine turtles threatened by the destabilizing effects of climate change, but a new study from researchers at Florida State University shows that this critically endangered species could be at particular risk.

For these critically endangered marine turtles, climate change could be a knockout blow
Hawksbill turtle nests are under threat from rising air temperatures
[Credit: WikiCommons]

In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from FSU’s Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science suggest that projected increases in air temperatures, rainfall inundation and blistering solar radiation could significantly reduce hawksbill hatching success at a selection of major nesting beaches.

Earth’s history abounds with examples of climate shifts, but researchers say today’s transforming climate, paired with unabated human development, imperils hawksbills and other marine turtles in new and alarming ways.

“Marine turtles have been around for millions of years, and during this time they have adapted to substantial climatic changes,” said Assistant Professor of Oceanography Mariana Fuentes, co-author of the study. “In the past they have adapted by shifting their nesting grounds and nesting season to align with more favorable conditions. However, increasing impacts to nesting habitats from coastal construction, storms and sea level rise are jeopardizing their ability to adapt.”

To evaluate climate change’s effects on hawksbill hatching success, FSU researchers analyzed more than 5,000 nests from the five Brazilian beaches where a majority of the region’s hawksbill nesting occurs. The team focused specifically on five climatic variables — air temperature, rainfall, humidity, solar radiation and wind speed — in order to render a more comprehensive model of the various and subtle effects of a changing climate on the sensitive incubation process.

“Research is lacking on how climate change may influence hawksbills, and this population in particular,” said former FSU graduate student Natalie Montero, who led the study. “We chose to study how climate change may impact hatchling production because significant changes to how many baby marine turtles are born can dramatically alter population stability.”

As reptiles, marine turtles’ body temperature regulation relies on external sources of heat. That makes hawksbills and their cousins especially dependent upon and responsive to air temperature. Nowhere is that responsiveness more apparent than in marine turtle nests, where extreme temperature fluctuations can influence egg incubation, dictate sex ratios and determine hatching success.

For some marine turtle species, rising temperatures may not necessarily mean less successful incubation. For example, a study from Montero and Fuentes published earlier this year revealed that, for loggerhead turtles in the temperate nesting beaches of North Florida, changing conditions could yield potential short-term increases in hatching success by 1 to 7.6 percent.

The outlook for the hawksbills, however, is not as rosy.

Montero and Fuentes found that rising air temperatures, accompanied by increased rainfall and solar radiation, are projected to reduce overall hatching success at the Brazilian nesting sites by up to 11 percent by the year 2100. Higher temperatures may warm nests beyond the threshold for healthy incubation, they said, and increased rainfall could saturate the soil and suffocate the embryos.

If the turtles do incubate successfully and hatch, they then have to contend with skyrocketing solar radiation, which could bake the sand and cause the nests to cave in — a major hazard for the hatchlings as they seek the safety of the open sea.

While that may seem a dire and difficult future for a species whose numbers are already dwindling, Montero said there’s still time for humans to soften the blow.

“Humans can help marine turtles in many ways,” she said. “Reducing coastal construction and protecting more coastal habitat will help ensure present and future nesting habitat is available. Reducing human impacts on dune structure and beach vegetation is also important. Additionally, reducing trash and microplastics on the beach can create a higher quality nesting and incubating environment.”

Source: Florida State University [December 14, 2018]



2018 December 18 Methane Bubbles Frozen in Lake Baikal Image…

2018 December 18

Methane Bubbles Frozen in Lake Baikal
Image Credit & Copyright: Kristina Makeeva

Explanation: What are these bubbles frozen into Lake Baikal? Methane. Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Russia, is the world’s largest (by volume), oldest, and deepest lake, containing over 20% of the world’s fresh water. The lake is also a vast storehouse of methane, a greenhouse gas that, if released, could potentially increase the amount of infrared light absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere, and so increase the average temperature of the entire planet. Fortunately, the amount of methane currently bubbling out is not climatologically important. It is not clear what would happen, though, were temperatures to significantly increase in the region, or if the water level in Lake Baikal were to drop. Pictured, bubbles of rising methane froze during winter into the exceptionally clear ice covering the lake.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap181218.html

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of December 10, 2018

ISS – Expedition 57 Mission patch.

Dec. 17, 2018

Crew members aboard the International Space Station had a busy week of science and spacewalks as they prepared for the departure of veteran station residents Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency), Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA, and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos.

Cosmonauts Oleg Kononenko and Sergey Prokopyev conducted a seven-hour, 45-minute spacewalk to inspect the Soyuz MS-09 crew ship docked to the station. The duo took detailed photos and captured video of some of the sealant on the outer hull of the Habitation Module used in the repair of a hole discovered inside the vehicle in August.

Image above: The three Expedition 57 crew members are gathered inside the cupola, the International Space Station’s “window to the world,” for a portrait wearing t-shirts displaying their home in space. From left are Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA and Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency). The space station was orbiting nearly 253 miles above the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Image Credit: NASA.

Here’s a look at some of the science conducted last week aboard the orbiting lab:

Crew tracks sleeping habits

In addition to studying alternative lighting options to improve sleeping habits in space, researchers are also examining changes in in circadian rhythms in humans during long-term spaceflight. The Circadian Rhythms investigation provides important insight into adaptations of the human autonomic nervous system in space over time, helps to improve physical exercise plans, rest- and work shifts and fosters adequate workplace illumination during future spaceflight.

This week, a crewmember donned the wearable hardware and initiated the data collection. The hardware is to be worn for three days. Learn more about how we study sleep in space here: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/catching_zs_microgravity

Investigation studies muscle loss in space

In space, the human body loses muscle mass. Although living in microgravity requires no heavy lifting, this loss of muscle reduces physical performance. Decreased muscle mass could also prove particularly problematic on future missions to destinations such as the Moon or Mars. Molecular Muscle aims to understand how this loss occurs so scientists will know more about how to keep astronauts strong.

Image above: ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst inserts sample cartridges for the Molecular Muscle investigation into the Kubik centrifuge facility. Image Credit: NASA.

This investigation examines the mechanisms behind muscle loss at the molecular level, and the potential for developing countermeasures targeting those mechanisms. It looks specifically at the activity of genes involved in insulin signaling and cell attachment. Previous research shows that spaceflight affects this activity, leading to muscular and metabolic abnormalities in a variety of organisms.

This week, crew members inserted samples into the Kubik facility, photographed the samples and conducted a status check of the experiment run.

Stems cells tested against microgravity environment

Understanding stem cell growth in microgravity is an important concept of space-based biophysiology, as microgravity has been show to affect all such systems. The STaARS BioScience-4 investigation examines how oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) react to microgravity, specifically the rate at which the cells proliferate and differentiate in the microgravity environment. OPCs are precursors to a type of central nervous system cells and results may help to improve neural stem cell studies, including those on tissue regrowth and organ farming.

Animation above: NASA astronaut Anne McClain activated NanoRacks Module-74, Hydrogel Formation and Drug Release in Microgravity Conditions. Animation Credit: NASA.

This week, crew members processed samples in the STaARS facility, then removed and stowed them in the Minus Eighty-Degree Laboratory for ISS (MELFI).

Crew studies plants response to microgravity

Plants are likely to make up a large part of future bio-regenerative life support systems, used to sustain crew survival during future long-duration spaceflight. The molecular mechanisms behind spaceflight-induced stress responses in plants remains poorly defined.

When grown in the microgravity environment of the space station, plants do not seem to get enough air and as a result, exhibit a stress response in their genes and proteins. The Spaceflight-induced Hypoxic/ROS Signaling (APEX-05) experiment grows different wild and mutant varieties of Arabidopsis thaliana, in order to understand how their genetic and molecular stress response systems work in space.

This week, the APEX-05 petri plates were inserted into the Veggie Facility.

Image above: Petri plates for the APEX-05 investigation were inserted into the Veggie plant growth facility this week. Image Credit: NASA.

Other work was done on these investigations:

– The MVP facility is used to conduct research with a wide variety of sample types, such as fruit flies, flatworms, plants, fish, cells, protein crystals and many others. It includes internal carousels that simultaneously can produce up to 2 g of artificial gravity.  MVP Cell-05 investigates the complex process of cement solidification at gravity levels of interest: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=1777

– Behavioral Core Measures examines an integrated, standardized suite of measurements for its ability to rapidly and reliably assess the risk of adverse cognitive or behavioral conditions and psychiatric disorders during long-duration spaceflight: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7537

– Rodent Research-8 (RR-8) examines the physiology of aging and the effect of age on disease progression using groups of young and old mice flown in space and kept on Earth. This week, crew members prepared for the arrival of the mice by installing two habitats and stowing habitats used in previous investigations: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7713

– Hydrogels are often used for tissue regeneration purposes due to their high water content and how easily they can be customized.  Hydrogel Formation and Drug Release in Microgravity Conditions takes advantage of reduced fluid motion in microgravity to more precisely study behavior of the gel and its potential as a wound-healing patch: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7749

– The Made In Space Fiber Optics-2 investigation demonstrates the merits of manufacturing fiber optic filaments in microgravity. The fiber optic material chosen for this demonstration is ZBLAN: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7388

– On Earth, oil floats above water due to the liquids’ different densities. NanoRacks-NSL Satellites Ltd-Oil Bubbles explores whether microgravity affects this mixing phenomenon in space: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1217

Space to Ground: A Second Chance: 12/14/2018

Related links:

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

Soyuz MS-09: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/soyuz-launches-arrivals-and-departures/

Circadian Rhythms: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=869

Molecular Muscle: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7576

STaARS BioScience-4: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7503

MELFI: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=56

APEX-05: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1775

Veggie Facility: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=374

MVP Cell-05: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7874

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/Michael Johnson/Vic Cooley, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 57/58.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

New Shepard to Fly 9 NASA-sponsored Payloads to Space on NS-10

Blue Origin logo.

Dec. 17, 2018

Blue Origin’s next New Shepard mission (NS-10) is currently targeting liftoff tomorrow at 8:30 am CST / 14:30 UTC. This will be the 10th New Shepard mission and is dedicated to bringing nine NASA-sponsored research and technology payloads into space through NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

New Shepard on the launch pad the morning of Mission 9, July 18, 2018

NASA’s Flight Opportunities program is an essential program for researchers providing access to microgravity for technology development. Blue supports NASA’s Flight Opportunities program and its role in perfecting technology for a future human presence in space.

The payloads flying with us on NS-10 include:

Carthage College Space Sciences Program: The Modal Propellant Gauging experiment led by Dr. Kevin Crosby is a joint effort with the NASA Kennedy Space Center Cryogenics Laboratory. It demonstrates a way to measure fuel levels in microgravity by using sound waves: https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/technologies/123/

Controlled Dynamics Inc.: The Vibration Isolation Platform (VIP) aims to separate payloads from the normally occurring vibrations experienced during spaceflight. The payload led by Dr. Scott Green allows researchers to have a clear understanding of microgravity’s effects on their research results: https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/technologies/77/

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab: On its second flight with Blue, the EM Field experiment will observe and collect data on the naturally occurring electromagnetic fields both inside and outside New Shepard during the launch. Principal Investigator Dr. Todd Smith will use success of this experiment to determine how global measurements of the Earth’s electromagnetic field can be conducted in the future: https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/technologies/15/

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center: Cooling tightly-packed electronics onboard a spacecraft can be challenging, and many solutions have not been able to undergo robust testing. Principal Investigator Franklin Robinson will test one of these solutions in his Flow Boiling in Microgap Coolers experiment: https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/technologies/173/

NASA Johnson Space Center: On its third flight on New Shepard, the Suborbital Flight Experiment Monitor-2 (SFEM-2) led by Dr. Katy Hurlbert will analyze various aspects of the flight environment during New Shepard’s mission profile, measuring cabin pressure, temperature, CO2, acoustic conditions, acceleration and more. The data collected will help future researchers on New Shepard design the most effective experiments for the vehicle: https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/technologies/168/

Purdue University: Dr. Steven Collicott’s payload looks at Zero-Gravity Green Propellant Management Technology, which aims to help advance the use of a safer and more environmentally friendly rocket propellant by better understanding the fuel’s behavior in microgravity: https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/technologies/128/

University of Central Florida: Two teams led by Dr. Josh Colwell and Dr. Addie Dove both have planetary science payloads on NS-10. The Collisions Into Dust Experiment (COLLIDE) aims to understand how dust particles react after surface contact during exploration missions to places such as the Moon, Mars and asteroids. The Collection of Regolith Experiment (CORE) addresses the unique challenge of collecting and analyzing material samples in microgravity: https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/technologies/36/ and https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/technologies/52/

University of Florida: Dr. Rob Ferl and Dr. Anna-Lisa Paul are adapting technology designed for the ISS to suborbital uses with their experiment, Validating Telemetric Imaging Hardware for Crew-Assisted and Crew-Autonomous Biological Imaging in Suborbital Applications. By recalibrating the way data is collected, the experiment will enable more biological research on suborbital missions: https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/technologies/53/

Image above: Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. Image Credit: Blue Origin.

For more information about Blue Origin, visit: https://www.blueorigin.com/

Images, Text, Credits: Blue Origin/Team Blue/Gradatim Ferociter.

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HiPOD (17 December 2018): Chryse Chaos   – In planetary…

HiPOD (17 December 2018): Chryse Chaos

   – In planetary nomenclature, the term chaos means “distinctive area of broken terrain.” The general morphology of chaos is steep-sided mesas in close proximity. The interconnected channel forms erode, and mesas are created by erosion of the bounding channels. (Alt: 279 km, less than 5 km across.)

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Chalcedony (Var: Agate) | #Geology #GeologyPage #Agate…

Chalcedony (Var: Agate) | #Geology #GeologyPage #Agate #Mineral

Photo Copyright © Don Windeler

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Hubble Goes Deep

NASA – Hubble Space Telescope patch.

Dec. 17, 2018

This image from the Hubble Deep UV (HDUV) Legacy Survey encompasses 12,000 star-forming galaxies in a part of the constellation Fornax known as the GOODS-South field. With the addition of ultraviolet light imagery, astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have captured the largest panoramic view of the fire and fury of star birth in the distant universe.

Hubble’s ultraviolet vision opens up a new window on the evolving universe, tracking the birth of stars over the last 11 billion years up to the busiest star-forming period in the cosmos, which happened about three billion years after the big bang.

So far, ultraviolet light has been the missing piece of the cosmic puzzle. Now, combined with data in infrared and visible light from Hubble and other space- and ground-based telescopes, astronomers have assembled the most comprehensive portrait yet of the universe’s evolutionary history. The image straddles the gap between the very distant galaxies, which can only be viewed in infrared light, and closer galaxies, which can be seen across different wavelengths. The light from distant star-forming regions in remote galaxies started out as ultraviolet, but the expansion of the universe has shifted the light into infrared wavelengths. By comparing images of star formation in the distant and nearby universe, astronomers can get a better understanding of how nearby galaxies grew from small clumps of hot, young stars long ago.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

The observation program harnessed the ultraviolet vision of Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3. This study extends and builds on the previous Hubble multi-wavelength data in the CANDELS-Deep (Cosmic Assembly Near-infrared Deep Extragalactic Legacy Survey) fields within the central part of the GOODS (Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey) fields. This mosaic is 14 times the area of the Hubble Ultraviolet Ultra Deep Field released in 2014.

For more information about Hubble, visit:


Image, Animation, Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA/Text credit: European Space Agency (ESA)/NASA/Karl Hille.

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Drains and Veins Just as leaky plumbing can damage your house,…

Drains and Veins

Just as leaky plumbing can damage your house, so leaky blood vessels in your retina can damage your eyes. This is due to the build-up of fluid. Researchers have long studied the leaky side of things but now are also turning to the role of fluid removal, focusing on angiopoietins, proteins involved in blood vessel development. In mice genetically altered to produce fluorescently-tagged angiopoietin 4 (Angpt4), researchers used fluorescence microscopy to image their retinas. They found Angtp4 in cells that support neurons called astrocytes (pictured, green), which were located close to developing veins. In mouse mutants lacking Angpt4, they noticed retinal veins were narrower and nearby neurons were swollen. These faults occurred alongside poor drainage of fluid through the veins and defective neuron function. Angpt4 is therefore one part of a vital mechanism to clear fluid from the retina and so protect the health of neurons that underpin vision.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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