пятница, 22 февраля 2019 г.

Hayabusa2 Latest Status, the Successful First Touchdown

JAXA – Hayabusa2 Mission patch.

February 22, 2019

Artist’s impression of Hayabusa2 asteroid Ryugu touchdown

National Research and Development Agency Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) executed the asteroid explorer Hayabusa2 operation to touch down the surface of the target asteroid Ryugu for sample retrieval.

Asteroid Ryugu

Data analysis from Hayabusa2 confirms that the sequence of operation proceeded, including shooting a projectile into the asteroid to collect its sample material. The Hayabusa2 spacecraft is in nominal state. This marks the Hayabusa2 successful touchdown on Ryugu.

Related links:

Hayabusa2 Asteroid Probe (ISAS): http://www.isas.jaxa.jp/en/missions/spacecraft/current/hayabusa2.html

Asteroid Explorer “Hayabusa2”: http://global.jaxa.jp/projects/sat/hayabusa2/index.html

Images, Text, Credits: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/National Research and Development Agency/Hayabusa2.

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Copernicus Sentinel-1 reveals shared plumbing led to Agung awakening

ESA – Sentinel-1 Mission logo.

22 February 2019

When Mount Agung in Indonesia erupted in 2017, the search was on to find out why it had stirred. Thanks to information on ground deformation from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission, scientists now have more insight into the volcano’s hidden secrets that caused it to reawaken.

After lying dormant for more than 50 years, Mount Agung on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali rumbled back to life in November 2017, with smoke and ash causing airport closures and stranding thousands of visitors.

Volcanic uplift

Fortunately, it was preceded by a wave of small earthquakes, signalling the imminent eruption and giving the authorities time to evacuate around 100 000 people to safety.

The prior event in 1963, however, claimed almost 2000 lives and was one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century. Knowing Agung’s potential for devastation, scientists have gone to great lengths to understand this volcano’s reawakening.

And, Agung has remained active, slowly erupting on and off since 2017.

Bali is home to two active stratovolcanoes, Agung and Batur, but relatively little is known of their underlying magma plumbing systems. A clue came from the fact that Agung’s 1963 eruption was followed by a small eruption at its neighbouring volcano, Batur, 16 km away.


A paper published recently in Nature Communications describes how a team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol in the UK, used radar data from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission to monitor the ground deformation around Agung.

Their findings may have important implications for forecasting future eruptions in the area, and indeed further afield.

They used the remote sensing technique of interferometric synthetic aperture radar, or InSAR, where two or more radar images over the same area are combined to detect slight surface changes.

Tiny changes on the ground cause differences in the radar signal and lead to rainbow-coloured interference patterns in the combined image, known as a SAR interferogram. These interferograms can show how land is uplifting or subsiding.

Juliet Biggs from Bristol University’s School of Earth Sciences, said, “Using radar data from the Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar mission and the technique of InSAR, we are able to map any ground motion, which may indicate that fresh magma is moving beneath the volcano.”

In study, which was carried out in collaboration with the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation in Indonesia, the team detected uplift of about 8–10 cm on Agung’s northern flank during the period of intense earthquake activity prior to the eruption.

Radar vision

Fabien Albino, also from Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences and who led the research, added, “Surprisingly, we noticed that both the earthquake activity and the ground deformation signal were five kilometres away from the summit, which means that magma must be moving sideways as well as vertically upwards.

“Our study provides the first geophysical evidence that Agung and Batur volcanoes may have a connected plumbing system.

“This has important implications for eruption forecasting and could explain the occurrence of simultaneous eruptions such as in 1963.”

Part of European Union’s fleet of Copernicus missions, Sentinel-1 is a two-satellite constellation that can provide interferometric information every six days – important for monitoring rapid change.

Each satellite carries an advanced radar instrument that can image Earth’s surface through cloud and rain and regardless of whether it is day or night.

ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission manager, Pierre Potin, noted, “We see the mission is being used for a multitude of practical applications, from mapping floods to charting changes in ice.

Agung from Copernicus Sentinel-2

“Understanding processes that are going on below the ground’s surface – as demonstrated by this new research – is clearly important, especially when these natural processes can put people’s lives and property at risk.”

There are four Copernicus Sentinel missions in orbit so far, each carries state-of-the-art technology to deliver a stream of complementary imagery and data to monitor and manage the environment. Importantly, the data are free and open to users worldwide.

The image on the right, for example, is from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission, offering a ‘camera-like’ view of the Agung and Batur volcanoes.

While the European Union is at the helm of Copernicus, ESA develops, builds and launches the dedicated Sentinel satellites. It also operates some of the missions and ensures the availability of data from third party missions contributing to the Copernicus programme.

Related links:

Nature Communications: Dyke intrusion between neighbouring arc volcanoes responsible for 2017 pre-eruptive seismic swarm at Agung: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-08564-9

University of Bristol–School of Earth Sciences: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/earthsciences/

Centre for Observation and Modelling of Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Tectonics: https://comet.nerc.ac.uk/

Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation in Indonesia: http://www.wovo.org/1601_1607.html

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA/contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by University of Bristol/COMET.

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Fresh Water Muscles Just as tissues develop from a blend of…

Fresh Water Muscles

Just as tissues develop from a blend of different cells, our cells each have sets of proteins that must work together. Looking for clues to these delicate early relationships in human life, researchers turn to simpler, but genetically similar, organisms. In this four-day-old zebrafish larva, a high-powered microscope captures fin muscles forming. Ribbon-like muscle cells (with their nuclei stained blue) contain two different types of myosins (artificially coloured red and green): elastic proteins that will help the fin to pull and flip in the water. Researchers can compare changes in such vivid pictures to measure the effects of genetic mutations – examining how different genes balance the pattern of different myosins, or form the muscle as it develops. The shaping, or morphogenesis, of early zebrafish tissues may hint at how similar genes contribute to human skeletal muscle development.

Written by John Ankers

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Signs of ancient flowing water on Mars

ESA – Mars Express Mission patch.

21 February 2019

Perspective view of ancient river valley network on Mars

These images from ESA’s Mars Express satellite show a branching, desiccated system of trenches and valleys, signs of ancient water flow that hint at a warmer, wetter past for the Red Planet.

We see Mars as a cold, dry world, but plenty of evidence suggests that this was not always the case. Research in past years instead increasingly indicates that the planet once had a thicker, denser atmosphere that was able to lock in far greater amounts of warmth, and therefore facilitate and support the flow of liquid water on the surface below.

Mars river valley network in context

While this is no longer the case, we see clear signs of past water activity tracing across the martian surface. This image shows one such region: a system of valleys in the southern highlands of Mars, located east of a large, well-known impact crater called Huygens and north of Hellas, the largest impact basin on the planet. At 3.5 to four billion years old, the southern highlands are some of the oldest and most heavily cratered parts of Mars, with many signs of ancient water flow observed here.

Topographic view of dried out river valley network on Mars

The topography of this region suggests that water flowed downhill from the north (right in the main colour, topography and 3D images) to the south (left), carving out valleys up to two kilometres across and 200 metres deep as it did so. We see these valleys as they stand today, having undergone significant and heavy erosion since they were formed. This erosion is visible in the form of broken down, smoothed, fragmented and dissected valley rims, especially in the valleys cutting from east to west.

Overall, the valley system appears to branch out significantly, forming a pattern a little like tree branches stemming from a central trunk. This kind of morphology is known as ‘dendritic’ – the term is derived from the Greek word for tree (dendron), and it is easy to see why. Various channels split off from the central valley, forming little tributaries that often split again on their journey outwards.

Dried out river valley network on Mars

This kind of dendritic structure is also seen in drainage systems on Earth. A particularly good example is that of the Yarlung Tsangpo river, which snakes its way from its source in western Tibet down through China, India, and Bangladesh. In the case of this image of Mars, these branching channels were likely formed by surface water runoff from a once-strong river flow, combined with extensive rainfall. This flow is thought to have cut through existing terrain on Mars, forging new paths and carving a new landscape.

While it is unclear where all of this water came from originally – precipitation, groundwater, melting glaciers? – all of this required a far warmer and more watery past for Mars than the planet we see today.

Mars river valley network in 3D

A tantalising question raised by this warmer and wetter climate is whether conditions would have been suitable for life – a topic at the heart of Mars exploration. Next year, ESA and Roscosmos will launch the ExoMars mission comprising a rover – recently named Rosalind Franklin – and a surface science platform. The rover will drive to interesting locations to drill below the surface in search for signs of life – the first mission of its kind. Meanwhile, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter continues to analyse the atmosphere in greater detail than ever, with a particular interest for gases potentially related to biological or geological activity, and to identify subsurface locations where water-ice or hydrated minerals are present.

Mars Express

This succession of spacecraft at Mars – both in orbit and on the surface – ensures ESA’s long-term presence in Mars science and exploration. The next step that ESA together with international partners are considering is returning a sample of Mars to Earth – an ambitious task that will provide scientific treasures for generations to come. 

Related links:

Mars Express: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Mars_Express

ExoMars: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Exploration/ExoMars

Robotic exploration of Mars: http://exploration.esa.int/science-e/www/area/index.cfm?fareaid=118

Mars Webcam: http://blogs.esa.int/vmc

Images, Text, Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO/NASA MGS MOLA Science Team; Map compilation: Freie Universitat Berlin.

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NASA-Funded Research Creates DNA-like Molecule to Aid Search for Alien Life

NASA logo.

February 21, 2019

In a research breakthrough funded by NASA, scientists have synthesized a molecular system that, like DNA, can store and transmit information. This unprecedented feat suggests there could be an alternative to DNA-based life, as we know it on Earth – a genetic system for life that may be possible on other worlds.

This new molecular system, which is not a new life form, suggests scientists looking for life beyond Earth may need to rethink what they are looking for. The research appears in Thursday’s edition of Science Magazine.

Image above: This illustration shows the structure of a new synthetic DNA molecule, dubbed hachimoji DNA, which uses the four informational ingredients of regular DNA (green, red, blue, yellow) in addition to four new ones (cyan, pink, purple, orange). Image Credits: Indiana University School of Medicine.

DNA is a complex molecule that stores and transmits genetic information, is passed from parent to offspring in all living organisms on Earth, and its components include four key ingredients called nucleotides – all standard for life as we know it. But, what about life on other worlds?

“Life detection is an increasingly important goal of NASA’s planetary science missions, and this new work will help us to develop effective instruments and experiments that will expand the scope of what we look for,” said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA’s Planetary Science Division.

One way to imagine the kinds of foreign structures found on other worlds is to try to create something foreign on Earth. A team of researchers, led by Steven Benner at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution in Alachua, Florida, successfully achieved the fabrication of a new informational molecular system that is like DNA, except in one key area: The new molecule has eight informational ingredients instead of four.

The synthetic DNA includes the four nucleotides present in Earth life – adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine – but also four others that mimic the structures of the informational ingredients in regular DNA. The result is a double-helix structure that can store and transfer information.

Benner’s team, which collaborated with laboratories at the University of Texas in Austin, Indiana University Medical School in Indianapolis, and DNA Software in Ann Arbor, Michigan, dubbed their creation “hachimoji” DNA (from the Japanese “hachi,” meaning “eight,” and “moji,” meaning “letter”). Hachimoji DNA meets all the structural requirements that allow our DNA to store, transmit and evolve information in living systems.

“By carefully analyzing the roles of shape, size and structure in hachimoji DNA, this work expands our understanding of the types of molecules that might store information in extraterrestrial life on alien worlds,” said Benner.

Scientists have much more to do on the question of what other genetic systems could serve as the foundation for life, and where such exotic organisms could be found. However, this study opens the door to further research on ways life could structure itself in environments that we consider inhospitable, but which might be teeming with forms of life we haven’t yet imagined.  

“Incorporating a broader understanding of what is possible in our instrument design and mission concepts will result in a more inclusive and, therefore, more effective search for life beyond Earth,” said Mary Voytek, senior scientist for Astrobiology at NASA Headquarters.

One of NASA’s goals is to search for life on other planets like Mars, where there was once flowing water and a thick atmosphere, or moons of the outer solar system like Europa and Enceladus, where vast water oceans churn under thick layers of ice. What if life on those worlds doesn’t use our DNA? How could we recognize it? This new DNA may be the key to answering these questions and many more.

This work also interests those interested in information as part of life.

“The discovery that DNA with eight nucleotide letters is suitable for storing and transmitting information is a breakthrough in our knowledge of the range of possibilities necessary for life,” said Andrew Serazin, president of Templeton World Charity Foundation in Nassau, The Bahamas, which also supported this work. “This makes a major contribution to the quest supported by Templeton World Charity Foundation to understand the fundamental role that information plays in both physics and biology.”

This research was supported by NASA’s Astrobiology Program through the Exobiology Program. To learn more about NASA’s Astrobiology Program, visit https://astrobiology.nasa.gov/

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Dwayne Brown/Elizabeth Landau.

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Roscosmos – Launches of the satellite Egyptsat-A


21 February 2019

Soyuz-2 carrying Egyptsat-A lift off

Today, February 21, 2019, from the Baikonur cosmodrome at 19:47 Moscow time, the launch vehicle Soyuz-2 with the Fregat accelerating unit (RB) and the satellite Egyptsat-A, created in the interests of the Arab Republic of Egypt, was launched.

After the separation of the head unit from the third stage of the carrier rocket RB “Frigate” continued the removal of the spacecraft. The separation of the satellite from the upper stage took place normally after two inclusions of the marching propulsion system in strict accordance with the flight sequence chart.

Egyptsat-A satellite

The Egyptsat-A spacecraft is designed to capture the earth’s surface with high spatial resolution. After the flight test program has been completed, the satellite will be transferred to the Egyptian side.

EgyptSat-A was built by RSC Energia for Egypt’s National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences.

Roscosmos Press Release: https://www.roscosmos.ru/26042/

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

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2019 February 22 NGC 4565: Galaxy on Edge Image Credit &…

2019 February 22

NGC 4565: Galaxy on Edge
Image Credit & Copyright: Christoph Kaltseis, CEDIC

Explanation: Magnificent spiral galaxy NGC 4565 is viewed edge-on from planet Earth. Also known as the Needle Galaxy for its narrow profile, bright NGC 4565 is a stop on many telescopic tours of the northern sky, in the faint but well-groomed constellation Coma Berenices. This sharp, colorful image reveals the galaxy’s bulging central core cut by obscuring dust lanes that lace NGC 4565’s thin galactic plane. An assortment of other background galaxies is included in the pretty field of view, with neighboring galaxy NGC 4562 at the upper right. NGC 4565 itself lies about 40 million light-years distant and spans some 100,000 light-years. Easily spotted with small telescopes, sky enthusiasts consider NGC 4565 to be a prominent celestial masterpiece Messier missed.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190222.html

Cairn Holy Prehistoric Burial Chamber, Watercolour and Ink Sketch, February 2019.

Cairn Holy Prehistoric Burial Chamber, Watercolour and Ink Sketch, February 2019.

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American whalers left rock engravings on north Australian coast in 1840s

A team of archaeologists from The University of Western Australia working with Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation and mining company Rio Tinto have discovered that Indigenous people were not the only ones to leave their mark in the Dampier Archipelago.

American whalers left rock engravings on north Australian coast in 1840s
Colour filters bring out the inscriptions left by the crew of the American whaling ship Connecticut
on a rock on Rosemary Island [Credit: Alistair Paterson]

Archaeologists working across the archipelago to document Aboriginal habitation and long-term creation of ancient rock art have found evidence that the area was visited by the whale ships Connecticut (1842) and Delta (1849), with crew members documenting their respective voyages to the other side of the world from their home ports in the north-eastern US.
Lead author Professor Alistair Paterson, from UWA’s Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, said whaling of the ‘New Holland Ground’ between the Indian and Southern Oceans was an overlooked aspect of early north-west Australian contact history.

“Throughout the 19th century American, British, French and colonial Australian whaling ships plied these waters. American vessels were successful at a time when the British colony at Swan River was young (founded in 1829),” Professor Paterson said.

American whalers left rock engravings on north Australian coast in 1840s
Archaeologists believe the etchings were made in the rocks while crew members looked for whales
[Credit: Alistair Paterson]

Whaleships followed migrating herds of humpback whales along the coast and fished the offshore grounds for sperm whales, also undertaking ship-based bay whaling, anchoring in protected bays for up to three months. It was likely that the ships’ crew members shared knowledge about safe anchorages, hazards and resources.
The discoveries are detailed in a research paper published n the journal Antiquity, asthe earliest report of North American whalers’ inscriptions discovered anywhere in Australia.

The Dampier Archipelago represents one of Australia’s most significant heritage sites and one of the world’s largest rock art complexes. Located about 1550km north of Perth, near the Pilbara mining town of Karratha, the National Heritage-listed archipelago comprises 42 islands as well as the Burrup Peninsula which is home to an estimated one million Indigenous rock carvings.

American whalers left rock engravings on north Australian coast in 1840s
The carvings were discovered on Rosemary and West Lewis islands, off WA’s Pilbara coast
[Credit: Alistair Paterson]

Little is known about activity in north-west Australia before the arrival of pastoralists and pearlers in the 1860s and the subsequent, infamous, ‘Flying Foam Massacre’ of the Yaburara people in 1868.

Project leader Professor Jo McDonald said the research highlighted the activities of American whalers in the Dampier Archipelago.

“It shines a light on a brief period when Indigenous people and visiting whalers shared the same territory without obvious major conflict,” Professor McDonald said.

“The whaling inscriptions are both a rare example of maritime inscriptions on rock, and represent the only tangible evidence of this earliest phase of white colonisation of the Australian North West so far discovered.”

Archaeologists working on islands on Australia’s remote north-west coast have discovered engravings left by 

whalers crews in the 1840s [Credit: Patrick Morrison, Centre for Rock Art Research and Management, 

University of Western Australia/ABC]

The authors suggest that the placement of the Delta and Connecticut inscriptions on already richly decorated rock surfaces illustrated a deliberate process of selection, which attempted to engage with the Aboriginal carvings and, indirectly, the Yaburara people themselves.

“There is no other historical or archaeological evidence for contact between the whalers and the Yaburara, making these inscriptions especially valuable,” Professor Paterson said. The dated engravings were also potentially of use in future rock art dating studies, he said.

The research is part of a larger Australian Research Council (ARC) project in partnership with the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation (representing traditional custodians the Ngarluma-Yindjibarndi, the Yaburara, the Mardudhunera and Won-goo-tt-oo), and industry partner Rio Tinto.

Source: University of Western Australia [February 18, 2019]



LOFAR radio telescope reveals secrets of solar storms

An international team of scientists led by a researcher from Trinity College Dublin and University of Helsinki announced a major discovery on the very nature of solar storms in the journal Nature Astronomy.

LOFAR radio telescope reveals secrets of solar storms
The Sun and a radio burst captured in September 2017 by a NOAA spacecraft and the LOFAR radio telescope
[Credit: NOAA, LOFAR]

The team showed that solar storms can accelerate particles simultaneously in several locations by combining data from the Low Frequency Array, LOFAR, with images from NASA, NOAA and ESA spacecraft.
The Sun is the closest star to our planet in the Universe, and like many stars, it is far from quiet. Sunspots, many times the size of Earth, can appear on its surface and store enormous reservoirs of energy. And it is within these regions that huge explosions called solar storms occur. Solar storms are spectacular eruptions of billions of tonnes of hot gas travelling at millions of kilometres an hour. The Nature paper studied a particularly large solar storm on September 10, 2017, soon after the LOFAR station in Ireland had been turned on.

How to predict space weather

“Our results are very exciting as they give us an amazingly detailed insight into how solar storms propagate away from the Sun and where they accelerate fast particles with speeds close to the speed of light”, says Dr Diana Morosan, the lead author on the publication, and affiliated with Trinity College Dublin and the University of Helsinki.

These results may in the future help us to produce more accurate forecasts of when solar radio bursts occur and how the solar storm impacts the Earth. If they impact the Earth, they can produce beautiful displays of the aurora, but they can also cause problems with communication and navigation systems and power grids.

Our society is now even more dependent on technology, and solar storms have the potential to cause significant effect on their performance.

In 1859, the largest solar storm ever observed – the so-called Carrington Event – erupted. Within hours, it generated displays of the aurora as far south as Italy and Cuba and caused interruptions in early telegraph systems in Europe and the US.

In 2003, transformers in South Africa were damaged, while Swedish air traffic control systems were closed down in 2015 for more than an hour due to effects associated with a solar storm. More than 50 satellites reported problems. More recently, emergency response communications were interrupted during hurricane season in September 2017 in the Caribbean.

“We used data from the Low Frequency Array, LOFAR, together with images from NASA, NOAA and ESA spacecraft to show where solar storms accelerate fast particles”, says Morosan.

Source: University of Helsinki [February 19, 2019]



Wheels in motion: what’s planned for ATLAS in the next two years?

CERN – ATLAS Experiment logo.

21 February, 2019

Enhancing ATLAS’s detection capabilities in preparation for the LHC restart 

Image above: One of the existing small wheels was brought to the surface (Image: Jacques Herve Fichet/Maximilien Brice/CERN).

How is the ATLAS detector preparing for the future? When the CERN accelerator complex switched off in December 2018, ATLAS scientists and technicians promptly got to work opening the shaft leading from ground level to the underground ATLAS cavern, as well as opening up the detector itself. They will be maintaining and upgrading the detector over the next two years, the time CERN has allocated for a technical break called Long Shutdown 2 (LS2). Some of the improvements are part of the upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC), set to run from 2026. The upgrade will greatly increase the rate of particle collisions, bring higher readout rates and create more opportunities for physics discoveries.

Wheels in motion what’s planned for ATLAS in the next two years

Video above: Time-lapse of the ATLAS cavern opening (Video: Emma Ward/ATLAS/CERN).

Image above: This diagram of the ATLAS detector shows some of the maintenance and upgrade work in store in the coming two years. Image Credit: CERN.

ATLAS is the largest LHC experiment. Installed between 2003 and 2008, it aims, like CMS, to understand the properties of the Higgs boson and search for new physics.

New not-so-small wheels

A major improvement to the experiment will be the installation of two new wheel-shaped detectors to track particles called muons. Muons can be thought of as heavier cousins of electrons and pass through the inner parts of the detector with little disturbance. If you imagine the detector as an onion, the muon spectrometer is the outer skin. Muons that speed away at angles smaller than 40 degrees from the beam direction are measured by a series of three layers of subdetectors, the innermost of which is known as the small wheel – because it is “only” 9.3 metres in diameter.

Image above: One of ATLAS’s new small wheels, measuring almost 10 metres in diameter. (Image: Julien Marius Ordan/CERN).

The new wheels will improve ATLAS’s triggering capabilities and will be able to cope with the higher muon rates expected from the HL-LHC. Each wheel consists of 16 wedges, or sectors, covered with layers of detector chambers known as micromegas (MM) and small-strip thin-gap chambers (sTGC). Both MMs and sTGCs have excellent precision tracking capabilities, at the level of 100  micrometres, and the very good response time needed to uniquely identify the collision time.

Assembly is currently taking place on the surface and the wheels will then be transported to ATLAS and lowered through the shaft to the detector. One of the existing small wheels was brought to the surface last week and the first new wheel is scheduled to enter the ATLAS cavern in spring 2020.

Remodelling ATLAS inside and out

Linked to the upgrades of the muon detection system is the addition of 16 new stations to improve ATLAS’s capability to detect muons in the region between the barrel and the endcaps. The stations contain gas-filled small monitored drift tubes (sMDT) and resistive plate chambers (RPCs). Physicists can track muons using the trail of electrically charged particles caused by the muons passing through the gas. The reconstruction of the muons’ paths will be improved thanks to sMDTs with a smaller diameter and new-generation RPCs with reduced electrode thickness.

Another major task happening during LS2 is the replacement of some components of the Liquid Argon Calorimeter’s (LAr) front-end electronics. This will improve ATLAS’s ability to preserve important signals coming from electrons and photons. On top of that, the upgrade of the trigger and data-acquisition systems will prepare the experiment for the HL-LHC.

In parallel to work on the detector, construction work is also continuing apace around ATLAS on the surface and underground, in preparation for the HL-LHC. A 62-metre-deep shaft has just been completed and civil engineers are now busy digging a service cavern and galleries for new equipment.

While many of ATLAS’s upgrades and installations will take place during Long Shutdown 3 (LS3), which is scheduled to begin in 2024, the activities taking place over the next two years will make it a better performing detector, ready to take data when the LHC restarts in 2021.

More photos from ATLAS are available on CDS: https://cds.cern.ch/record/2658165


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

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

Related article:

Upgrading ALICE: What’s in store for the next two years?

Related links:

ATLAS upgrades in LS2: https://cerncourier.com/atlas-upgrades-in-ls2/

ATLAS: https://home.cern/science/experiments/atlas

Long Shutdown 2 (LS2): https://home.cern/tags/long-shutdown-2

Large Hadron Collider (LHC): https://home.cern/science/accelerators/large-hadron-collider

High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC): https://home.cern/science/accelerators/high-luminosity-lhc

For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit: https://home.cern/

Images (mentioned), Video (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Letizia Diamante.

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SpaceX – NUSANTARA SATU Mission Success

SpaceX – NUSANTARA SATU Mission patch.

Feb. 21, 2019

SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying NUSANTARA SATU and Beresheet launch

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Nusantara Satu satellite, the Beresheet lunar spacecraft and Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) S5 spacecraft from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 22 February 2019, at 01:45 UTC (21 February, 20:45 EST).

Falcon 9 launches Nusantara Satu mission and Falcon 9 first stage landing

Following stage separation, Falcon 9’s first stage (Block 5 B1048) landed on the “Of Course I Still Love You” droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported the Iridium-7 mission in July 2018 and the SAOCOM 1A mission in October 2018.

Beresheet lunar spacecraft deployment

The Beresheet lunar spacecraft was successfully deployed approximately 34 minutes after being launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 22 February 2019, at 01:45 UTC (21 February, 20:45 EST).

 SpaceIL Lunar Lander

SpaceIL’s lunar spacecraft Beresheet (Hebrew for “in the beginning”) will travel for two months to the Moon using its own power. Once it arrives, Beresheet will be the smallest spacecraft to ever land on the Moon, at 600 kgs, Israel’s first spacecraft and the world’s first privately-funded spacecraft to reach the Moon.

Nusantara Satu satellite deployment

The Nusantara Satu satellite was successfully deployed approximately 45 minutes after being launched by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 22 February 2019, at 01:45 UTC (21 February, 20:45 EST).

 Nusantara Satu satellite

Nusantara Satu is Indonesia’s first high-throughput satellite that will serve to improve internet connectivity in the region.

Related articles:

NASA is Aboard First Private Moon Landing Attempt

Israel wants to land on the Moon

Related links:

SpaceX: https://www.spacex.com/

Israel Space Agency (ISA): https://www.space.gov.il/en

Images, Videos, Text, Credits: SpaceX/SciNews/Günter Space Page/SpaceIL/Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

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Chang’e-4’s landing site named Statio Tianhe & Yutu-2 seen by NASA’s LRO

CLEP – China Lunar Exploration Program logo / NASA – Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) patch.

21 February, 2019

Chang’e-4’s landing site named Statio Tianhe

The International Astronomical Union has approved official names for five sites on the far side of the Moon. Chang’e-4’s landing site was named Statio Tianhe from Statio – Latin for outpost, station, and Tianhe – Chinese name for the Milky Way. Zhinyu, Hegu and Tianjin correspond to characters in the folk tale “The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl”, which references Tianhe as the sky river that separated Niulang and Zhinyu. Video Credits: China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/SciNews.

Image above: Chang’e 4 lander-rover relayed back by Queqiao lunar satellite (Magpie Bridge).Image Credits: CASC/CNSA.

Chang’e 4 Lander: A Closer Look

Just after midnight (UTC) on February 1, 2019, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) passed nearly overhead the Chang’e 4 landing site. From an altitude of 82 kilometers the LROC Narrow Angle Camera pixel scale was 0.85 meters (33 inches), allowing a sharper view of the lander and Yutu-2 rover. At the time the rover was 29 meters northwest of the lander, but the rover has likely moved since the image was acquired. This view has close to the smallest pixel size possible in the current LRO orbit. In the future however, LROC will continue to image the site as the lighting changes and the rover roves!

Image above: Looking down on the Chang’e 4 landing site; lander is just beyond tip of large arrow, rover at tip of small arrow. Image is 850 meters (2789 feet) across, LROC M1303619844LR. Image Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University.

Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 seen by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter captured images of the Chang’e-4 lander and Yutu-2 rover in the Von Kármán crater. Chang’e-4’s landing site was named Statio Tianhe by the International Astronomical Union. Video Credits: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University/CNSA/CPEL/SciNews.

Chang’e 4, the second Chinese lunar lander, set down on a relatively small farside mare basalt deposit that is extensively mixed with highland ejecta from the nearby and relatively young Finsen crater (73 kilometer or 45 mile diameter). Scientists have long wanted to know the composition of farside basalts; are they significantly different from the nearside basalts? According to the China National Space Administration, Chang’e 4 instrumentation includes the visible near infrared spectrometer (VNIS) which takes measurements that can be used to address this question. This new information from the surface will provide important ground truth, while the combination of on-surface and orbital measurements provides synergy that will advance knowledge of the farside.

Image above: Chang’e 3 (left, M147290066LR) and Chang’e 4 (right, M1303619844LR) are very similar in size and instrumentation. The Chang’e 3 image looks a bit fuzzier because the landing site is at 44° north latitude where the LRO orbit is about twice as far from the Moon relative to the Chang’e 4 site at 45° south latitude (1.6 meter pixels enlarged to 0.85 meter pixels; 5.2 feet vs. 2.8 feet). Each panel is 463 meters (1520 feet) wide, large arrows indicate landers and small arrows indicate rovers. Image Credits: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University.

Image above: Illustration of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Image Credits: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Related links:

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/LRO/main/index.html

For more information about China National Space Administration (CNSA), visit: http://www.cnsa.gov.cn/

Videos (mentioned), Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Karl Hille/Goddard Space Flight Center/Nancy Neal Jones/Arizona State University/Mark Robinson/SciNews/Orbiter.ch Aerospace.

Greetings, Orbiter.chArchive link

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Captioned Image Spotlight (21 Feb 2019): Jumbled Blocks on the…

Captioned Image Spotlight (21 Feb 2019): Jumbled Blocks on the Floor of Melas Chasma

This part of Melas Chasma has been the target for many previous HiRISE images due to its diversity of terrains and materials. This observation covers an area not previously imaged, revealing a chaotic jumble of bright layered sediments, perhaps resulting from large landslides.  

In a closeup with enhanced colors, we can see an assortment of materials. Dark sand covers the low areas of the scene.

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

Darwin’s finches don’t tell the whole story of avian evolution

The connection between bird diet and skull shape is surprisingly weak for most species according to a new study led by UCL and the Natural History Museum, rewriting our understanding of how ecosystems influence evolution.

Darwin's finches don't tell the whole story of avian evolution
This shows the very different skull shape in four different bird species that all eat the same diet: aquatic animals.
Despite eating similar diets, they acquire their prey in very different ways and have very different skull shapes.
The coloured dots on each skull are the 3D landmarks used to quantify skull shape, and each color represents
a different sub region of the skull. From top to bottom, the northern gannet (Morus bassanus), Eurasian
spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), and the Adélie penguin
(Pygoscelis adeliae) [Credit: Dr. Ryan Felice, UCL]

Charles Darwin’s 19th century observations of finches on the Galápagos Islands concluded that bird speciation was primarily influenced by ecosystem; the way a bird forages and eats forms its skull shape and drives evolutionary change.

However, a new study by UCL and NHM researchers testing a wider range of species than ever before has found that on a global scale, shared ancestry and behaviour are more important factors than diet.

The study, published in Royal Society journal Proceedings B, tested the skull shape of 352 bird species, representing 159 out of the 195 existing families, making it the largest study of its kind.

“If we apply Darwin’s conclusion for different kinds of birds who primarily eat fish, pelicans and penguins should have exactly the same head and beak shape, as they both use their beaks to eat fish. However, pelicans have a long beak and large throat pouch, while penguins’ beaks are comparatively small,” explained Dr Ryan Felice (UCL Biosciences), one of the authors of the study.

“Although they eat the same thing, pelicans and penguins acquire their prey in different ways, demonstrating the important role behaviour plays in cranial evolution.”

Penguins’ mouths have a series of spines pointing down their throats, so that food stays in there when caught. Pelicans ingeniously catch fish in their pouch and then tip it back to drain out the water and swallow the fish immediately.

“It is evolutionary history, rather than diet, that has most significantly influenced cranial shape. If you are descended from a duck-like ancestor, you will probably have a duck bill, no matter what diet you have. However, shared diet establishes the parameters of skull evolution, determining the range of potential shapes which can evolve,” added Dr Felice.

The researchers also discovered that birds who eat grains – such as finches and quail – and those who survive on the nectar of flowers – like hummingbirds – exhibit the highest rate of cranial evolution. By contrast, terrestrial carnivores – hawks, falcons, owls and other birds who hunt and eat using their talons – exhibit a very slow rate of cranial change.

“This is where natural selection comes into play,” said Professor Anjali Goswami, a Research Leader at the Natural History Museum and a co-author on the study.

“Birds that eat nectar or seeds are going to experience lots of competition for resources and must evolve in order to survive.”

“Our study focused on the skull, but we hypothesise that other parts of the body could be shaped by diet and ecology, such as wings, talons, and stomachs, as these are the parts of their bodies which are crucial for catching and digesting prey.”

The study used state-of-the-art equipment to build high resolution 3D digital models of the bird skulls. This allowed researchers to plot many more points on the skull than previously possible, allowing them to make robust and accurate measurements.

“Our next step is to expand this analysis to other groups of animals, like mammals, reptiles, and dinosaurs,” said Dr. Felice. “Our goal is to understand all of the different factors that have shaped skull evolution through time.”

Source: University College London [February 19, 2019]



British Museums grapple with rise in pleas for return of foreign treasures

Neanderthal skulls and the remains of an extinct sloth named after Charles Darwin are among the items requested for repatriation from British institutions, as documents reveal museums are facing calls to return some of their most treasured items to their places of origin.

British Museums grapple with rise in pleas for return of foreign treasures
The Hoa Hakananai’a statue from Easter Island is among the artefacts displayed in the British Museum
asked to be returned [Credit: Neil Hall/EPA]

The pressure on museums to grapple with the provenance of their collections has been revealed by freedom of information requests submitted by the Guardian.

A series of high-profile restitution claims have been received by institutions including the British Museum and the Natural History Museum in recent months. They include a call from the government of Gibraltar for the return of Neanderthal remains, including the first adult skull to be discovered by scientists, and a request from Chile for the repatriation of the remains of a now extinct giant ground sloth.

The letters, almost all of which resulted in the requests being rejected, show that long-running restitution claims for high-profile exhibits such as the Parthenon marbles are the tip of the iceberg as debate rages over the right of museums to keep hold of contested collection items.

Last month the Egyptian government called on the National Museum of Scotland to produce certification documents for its Egyptian antiquities after a row broke out over plans to display a casing stone from the Great Pyramid of Giza.

In October last year, the British Museum faced calls to return Hoa Hakananai’a, a basalt statue taken from Easter Island in 1868 and given to the museum by Queen Victoria the following year. In April, the ministry of cultural heritage in Italy requested the return of a marble relief depicting the freedmen Publius Licinius Philonicus and Publius Licinius Demetrius.

British Museums grapple with rise in pleas for return of foreign treasures
The Parthenon sculptures in the British Museum [Credit: British Museum]

A British Museum spokeswoman said discussions about the future of both items were continuing. “We believe the strength of the collection is its breadth and depth, which allows millions of visitors an understanding of the cultures of the world and how they interconnect – whether through trade, conflict, migration, conquest, or peaceful exchange,” she said. “Research into provenance and how objects entered the British Museum’s collection is an active area of work for all of our curatorial departments.”

Among the most recent repatriation claims is a request from Gibraltar for two Neanderthal skulls which are on display at the Natural History Museum in London.

The skulls, known as Gibraltar 1 and 2, have played a crucial role in shaping understanding of Neanderthals. Gibraltar 1, an adult female skull, was found in Forbes’ Quarry in 1848 and is believed to be about 50,000 years old. It is described by the museum as a “highlight specimen” in its human evolution gallery. Gibraltar 2 comprises five skull fragments of a Neanderthal child and was discovered at Devil’s Tower in 1926.

In a letter dated 10 September last year, the Gibraltar National Museum wrote to the Natural History Museum director, Sir Michael Dixon, to “formally request the return of the Gibraltar Neanderthal remains” on behalf of the British overseas territory’s government.

“It has been our desire for some time, and we feel that the moment is now the right one, that these human remains should return,” the letter said. “You will agree, I am sure, that it is entirely appropriate for these human remains return [sic] to their place of origin where they will be treated with the care and respect which they deserve.”

British Museums grapple with rise in pleas for return of foreign treasures
Marble relief depicting Publius Licinius Philonicus and Publius Licinius Demetrius
[Credit: British Museum]

Responding to the letter on 20 September, Dixon cited the British Museum Act 1963, which allows for the disposal of collection items only in limited circumstances. “I must therefore decline your request for donation to your museum,” he said.

Dixon wrote that the Neanderthal remains played “a central part in our innovative engagement with the public on human evolution” and were “also in active use for collaborative international research on human origins and variation as part of a large comparative collection”.

In August, the museum received a separate request from Chile to return remains of Mylodon darwinii, an extinct ground sloth named after Darwin. That request was also rejected under the terms of the British Museum Act.

A Natural History Museum spokeswoman said: “We are continuing dialogue with both authorities and have confirmed our willingness to meet and discuss any other issues of interest and continue ongoing collaboration in research and public engagement with these countries.”

Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar National Museum, confirmed the organisation was in contact with the Natural History Museum and that possibilities were being discussed.

British Museums grapple with rise in pleas for return of foreign treasures
Gibraltar 1, a skull from an adult female Neanderthal, is on display
at the Natural History Museum [Credit: Alamy]

In March 2017, the V&A received a request from the Welsh Conservative MP Guto Bebb for the return of two “firedogs” taken from Gwydir Castle in Conwy, north Wales. A museum spokeswoman said: “The V&A was gifted these firedogs by a benefactor in 1937. The V&A’s director wrote back to Guto Bebb MP and offered to make the firedogs available as a loan or as a reproduction. To date, this offer has not been taken up by a local museum or the present-day owners of Gwydir Castle.”

The art historian Alice Procter, whose Uncomfortable Art Tours seek to inform visitors about the colonial history of museums, said British institutions would increasingly be forced into “soul-searching” about the provenance of their items – and whether they should be returned.

“This is a really critical time for museums to work out where they stand on these questions,” she said. “Stop hiding behind historical acts. They have little justification for continuing to cite something like the British Museum Act.”

Procter referred to a recent report commissioned by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, which caused a stir in the museum world last November with a call for thousands of African artworks held by French museums to be returned to their countries of origin.

“It’s one of those situations where [museums] are going to have to figure it out or someone is going to figure it out for them,” said Procter.

Author: Mark Wilding | Source: The Guardian [February 19, 2019]




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