среда, 15 мая 2019 г.

Exercise Pill Rodents that engage in physical activity –…

Exercise Pill

Rodents that engage in physical activity – running on a wheel, exploring their environment, and so on – have been found to recover better after spinal injuries than their sedentary counterparts. And now scientists are beginning to uncover the molecular nuts and bolts that explain why. Exercise, it turns out, modifies the chromatin [DNA’s packaging material] of nerve cells (red). Specifically, it increases the acetylation of histones [chromatin proteins] and this, in turn, increases the cells’ regenerative capacity. Excitingly, scientists have also discovered a small molecule that can recapitulate the effects of exercise, increasing histone acetylation (green/yellow) and regeneration capacity of nerves and improving recovery after spinal injury. While this molecule may lead to the development of a drug that promotes recovery and rehabilitation after nerve damage, such a drug is unlikely to replace the additional health benefits of exercise, so don’t go cancelling your gym memberships just yet.

Written by Ruth Williams

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Chalcophyllite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality:…

Chalcophyllite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Spania Dolina, Banská Bystrica, Slovakia (Slovak Republic)

Size: 4.5 × 3.5 × 2 cm

Photo Copyright © Gminerals /e-rocks. com

Geology Page



A (simulated) Universe for Everybody – IllustrisTNG releases Petabyte data set

The TNG simulations model the univers from the large-scale cosmic structure right down to the substructure of galaxies

Image: Illustris-TNG

One of the largest and most detailed simulations of the cosmos has released most of its data to the public, as described in an article that has just been published.

The IllustrisTNG family of simulations is the closest astronomers have yet gotten to recreating a whole universe in a computer. These simulations include not only the ubiquitous Dark Matter, believed to be the most common form of matter in our cosmos, but gas in and between galaxies, stars, and even large-scale magnetic fields.

Now, in what is one of the largest astronomical data sets ever released, the IllustrisTNG team are making more than 1 Petabyte of their data available to the public. One Petabyte corresponds to 1000 Terabytes, or a million Gigabytes. Users can register at http://www.tng-project.org/data/ to obtain access to the data.

The IllustrisTNG simulation is special for the diversity of length scales it includes: Not only the largest possible structures in the cosmos, tens of millions of light-years, but details right down to the scale of structures within galaxies, less than a few thousand light-years. This makes for diverse applications within astronomy – from studies of the large-scale structure of the universe to studies of galaxy formation, star formation within galaxies, or the intergalactic medium.

The data release is accompanied by an accompanying article in the journal Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology, which has just been published. The current data release concerns the TNG300 and TNG100 data sets; the even more fine-grained simulation TNG50 will follow in due course. The data sets themselves have been available to the public since December 2018. The data is not only available for download, but can also be explored interactively, using a Google-Map-Like online interface and even a three-dimensional fly-through representation of the galactic halos within the IllustrisTNG universe, accessible at http://www.tng-project.org/explore/


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Молнии и НЛО облако

Lightning from a tornado producing supercell over Chapman, Kansas on May 25 2016

молнии, нло, инопланетяне, грозы

2019 May 15 Anemic Spiral NGC 4921 from Hubble Image Credit:…

2019 May 15

Anemic Spiral NGC 4921 from Hubble
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble; Processing & Copyright: Kem Cook (LLNL) & Leo Shatz

Explanation: How far away is spiral galaxy NGC 4921? It’s surpringly important to know. Although presently estimated to be about 300 million light years distant, a more precise determination could be coupled with its known recession speed to help humanity better calibrate the expansion rate of the entire visible universe. Toward this goal, several images were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in order to help identify key stellar distance markers known as Cepheid variable stars. Since NGC 4921 is a member of the Coma Cluster of Galaxies, refining its distance would also allow a better distance determination to one of the largest nearby clusters in the local universe. The magnificent spiral NGC 4921 has been informally dubbed anemic because of its low rate of star formation and low surface brightness. Visible in the featured image are, from the center, a bright nucleus, a bright central bar, a prominent ring of dark dust, blue clusters of recently formed stars, several smaller companion galaxies, unrelated galaxies in the far distant universe, and unrelated stars in our Milky Way Galaxy.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190515.html

Caption Spotlight (14 May 2019): A Frosted SurfaceThis is the…

Caption Spotlight (14 May 2019): A Frosted Surface

This is the first of a new monitoring series to track seasonal processes. It is also a striking image with late winter angled illumination over dunes covered by carbon dioxide frost mixed with dust.

Dark spots may be where sand is exposed from very early defrosting activity. The incidence angle is 87 degrees, or just 3 degrees above the horizon.

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

New water cycle on Mars discovered

Approximately every two Earth years, when it is summer on the southern hemisphere of Mars, a window opens: Only in this season can water vapor efficiently rise from the lower into the upper Martian atmosphere. There, winds carry the rare gas to the north pole. While part of the water vapor decays and escapes into space, the rest sinks back down near the poles. Researchers from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany describe this unusual Martian water cycle in a current issue of the Geophysical Research Letters. Their computer simulations show how water vapor overcomes the barrier of cold air in the middle atmosphere of Mars and reaches higher atmospheric layers. This could explain why Mars, unlike Earth, has lost most of its water.

New water cycle on Mars discovered
Billions of years ago, Mars could have looked like this with an ocean covering part of its surface
[Credit: NASA/GSFC]

Billions of years ago, Mars was a planet rich in water with rivers, and even an ocean. Since then, our neighboring planet has changed dramatically. Today, only small amounts of frozen water exist in the ground; in the atmosphere, water vapor occurs only in traces. All in all, the planet may have lost at least 80 percent of its original water. In the upper atmosphere of Mars, ultraviolet radiation from the sun split water molecules into hydrogen (H) and hydroxyl radicals (OH).
The hydrogen escaped from there irretrievably into space. Measurements by space probes and space telescopes show that even today, water is still lost in this way. But how is this possible? The middle atmosphere layer of Mars, like Earth’s tropopause, should actually stop the rising gas. After all, this region is usually so cold that water vapor would turn to ice. How does the Martian water vapor reach the upper air layers?

In their current simulations, the Russian and German researchers find a previously unknown mechanism reminiscent of a kind of pump. Their model comprehensively describes the flows in the entire gas envelope surrounding Mars from the surface to an altitude of 160 kilometers. The calculations show that the normally ice-cold middle atmosphere becomes permeable to water vapor twice a day—but only at a certain location, and at a certain time of year.

New water cycle on Mars discovered
Vertical distribution of water vapor on Mars during the course of a Mars year, here shown at 3 am local time.
Only when it is summer on the southern hemisphere can water vapor reach higher atmospheric layers
[Credit: GPL, Shaposhnikov et al.: Seasonal ‘Water’ Pump in the Atmosphere of Mars:
Vertical Transport to the Thermosphere]

The orbit of Mars plays a decisive role in this. Its path around the sun, which lasts about two Earth years, is much more elliptical than that of our planet. At the point closest to the sun (which roughly coincides with the summer of the southern hemisphere), Mars is approximately 42 million kilometers closer to the sun than at its furthest point. Summer in the southern hemisphere is therefore noticeably warmer than summer in the northern hemisphere.
«When it is summer in the southern hemisphere, at certain times of day, water vapor can rise locally with warmer air masses and reach the upper atmosphere,» says Paul Hartogh from MPS, summarizing the results of the new study. In the upper atmospheric layers, air flows carry the gas along the longitudes to the north pole, where it cools and sinks down again. However, part of the water vapor escapes this cycle: under the influence of solar radiation, the water molecules disintegrate and hydrogen escapes into space.

New water cycle on Mars discovered
Time and again, Martian dust stroms span the entire planet, as here in June 2018. The image was taken
from the NASA’s rover Curiosity. Storms of this kind can facilitate the transport of water into
 the upper atmosphere of Mars [Credit: NASA]

Another Martian peculiarity can fortify this unusual hydrological cycle: huge dust storms that span the entire planet and repeatedly afflict Mars at intervals of several years. The last such storms occurred in 2018 and 2007 and were comprehensively documented by space probes orbiting Mars. «The amounts of dust swirling through the atmosphere during such a storm facilitate the transport of water vapor into high air layers,» says Alexander Medvedev from MPS.
The researchers calculated that during the dust storm of 2007, twice as much water vapor reached the upper atmosphere as during a stormless summer in the southern hemisphere. Since the dust particles absorb sunlight and thus heat up, the temperatures in the entire atmosphere rise by up to 30 degrees. «Our model shows with unprecedented accuracy how dust in the atmosphere affects the microphysical processes involved in the transformation of ice into water vapor,» explains Dmitry Shaposhnikov of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, first author of the new study.

«Apparently, the Martian atmosphere is more permeable to water vapor than that of the Earth,» Hartogh concludes. «The new seasonal water cycle that has been found contributes massively to Mars’ continuing loss of water.»

Source: Max Planck Society [May 10, 2019]



Suppressed star formation in the early universe

Massive clusters of galaxies, some with more mass than a hundred Milky Way galaxies, have been detected from cosmic epochs as early as about three billion years after the big bang. Their ongoing star formation makes them bright enough to be detected at these distances. These kinds of clusters were predicted by simulations of cosmological evolution but their properties are very uncertain. Astronomers piecing together the evolution of stars in the universe are particularly interested in these clusters because of their abundance of stars and activity.

Suppressed star formation in the early universe
A galaxy cluster map portraying the density of galaxies members in the massive cluster SPT-CLJ0421.
Astronomers studying five such clusters in the epoch about 4.5 billion years after the big bang
conclude that their star formation is quenched. Symbols show the positions of individual galaxies
and the cross marks the position of the SPT detection [Credit: Strazzullo et al. 2019]

Star formation in galaxies is by no means a steady process. Not only can there be bursts of activity, prompted perhaps by a collision with a neighboring galaxy, but the opposite can occur. Star formation can be self- limiting because its massive young stars produce winds and supernovae that can blow apart the natal molecular clouds and disable future star formation. Combined with the disruption induced by jets from an active nuclear supermassive black hole, this disruptive process is called quenching and is thought to be able to bring star formation to a halt. Whether or not this occurs in the early universe, and when and how it proceeds, is a key area of comic research.
CfA astronomers Matt Ashby and Esra Bulbul are members of the South Pole Telescope (SPT) team that discovered and studies massive galaxy clusters in the early universe. They recently completed a follow-up study of star formation and the stellar populations in most distant clusters found in the SPT surveys. Using the IRAC camera on the Spitzer Space Telescope along with the Hubble Space Telescope Wide Field camera, they probed five clusters located in the epoch about 4.5 billion years after the big bang, a time when galaxies in general were particularly active in producing new stars. Clusters of this size are exceedingly rare at these distances, and this is the first such study ever done of them.
Using the infrared colors of the galaxies in the selected SPT clusters, the scientists were able to characterize the stars and the star formation activity. The scientists found that, curiously, during this epoch the massive clusters tend to host a mixture of galaxy types with quiescent galaxies being quite common. Apparently in these quiescent cluster members the quenching of star formation has already occurred. The astronomers conclude that star formation can be efficiently suppressed in the central regions of the most massive clusters even in these early cosmic epochs when the most intense star formation is occurring.

The study is published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Source: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [May 10, 2019]



Our history in the stars

Astronomers map the substance aluminum monoxide (AlO) in a cloud around a distant young star — Origin Source I. The finding clarifies some important details about how our solar system, and ultimately we, came to be. The cloud’s limited distribution suggests AlO gas rapidly condenses to solid grains, which hints at what an early stage of our solar evolution looked like.

Our history in the stars
The Orion Nebula where the distant young star Origin Source I resides [Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Robberto
(Space Telescope Science Institute/ESA) and the Hubble Space Telescope Orion Treasury Project Team]

Professor Shogo Tachibana of the UTokyo Organization for Planetary and Space Science has a passion for space. From small things like meteorites to enormous things like stars and nebulae — huge clouds of gas and dust in space — he is driven to explore our solar system’s origins.
«I have always wondered about the evolution of our solar system, of what must have taken place all those billions of years ago,» he said. «This question leads me to investigate the physics and chemistry of asteroids and meteorites.»

Our history in the stars
A small chondrite meteorite, just smaller than a golf ball, containing minerals rich in calcium and aluminum
[Credit: Rohan Mehra/University of Tokyo]

Space rocks of all kinds greatly interest astronomers as these rocks can remain largely unchanged since the time our sun and planets formed from a swirling cloud of gas and dust. They contain records of the conditions at that time — generally considered to be 4.56 billion years ago — and their properties such as composition can tell us about these early conditions.
«On my desk is a small piece of the Allende meteorite, which fell to Earth in 1969. It’s mostly dark but there are some scattered white inclusions (foreign bodies enclosed in the rock), and these are important,» continued Tachibana. «These speckles are calcium and aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs), which were the first solid objects formed in our solar system.»

Our history in the stars
The white inclusions called CAIs are among the oldest solid matter in the solar system
[Credit: Rohan Mehra/University of Tokyo]

Minerals present in CAIs indicate that our young solar system must have been extremely hot. Physical techniques for dating these minerals reveal a fairly specific age for the solar system. However, Tachibana and colleagues wished to expand on the details of this stage of evolution.
«There are no time machines to explore our own past, so we wanted to see a young star that could share traits with our own,» said Tachibana. «With the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), we found the emission lines — a chemical fingerprint — for AlO in outflows from the circumstellar disk (gas and dust surrounding a star) of the massive young star candidate Orion Source I. It’s not exactly like our sun, but it’s a good start.»

Our history in the stars
ALMA image showing AlO around the star at wavelengths of 497 gigahertz (left) and 650 gigahertz (right)
[Credit: Shogo Tachibana et al. 2019]

ALMA was the ideal tool as it offers extremely high resolution and sensitivity to reveal the distribution of AlO around the star. No other instrument can presently make such observations.

«Thanks to ALMA, we discovered the distribution of AlO around a young star for the first time. The distribution of AlO is limited to the hot region of the outflow from the disk. This implies that AlO rapidly condenses as solid grains — similar to CAIs in our solar system,» explained Tachibana. «This data allows us to place tighter constraints on hypotheses that describe our own stellar evolution. But there’s still much work to do.»

The team now plans to explore gas and solid molecules around other stars to gather data useful to further refine solar system models.

The study is published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Source: University of Tokyo [May 10, 2019]



Rare-Earth metals in the atmosphere of a glowing-hot exoplanet

KELT-9 b is the hottest exoplanet known to date. In the summer of 2018, a joint team of astronomers from the universities of Bern and Geneva found signatures of gaseous iron and titanium in its atmosphere. Now these researchers have also been able to detect traces of vaporized sodium, magnesium, chromium, and the rare-Earth metals scandium and yttrium.

Rare-Earth metals in the atmosphere of a glowing-hot exoplanet
Artist’s impression of KELT-9b und its host star KELT-9
[Credit: © NASA/JPL-Caltech]

Exoplanets are planets outside our solar system that orbit around stars other than the Sun. Since the discovery of the first exoplanets in the mid-90’s, well over 3000 exoplanets have been discovered. Many of these planets are extreme compared to the planets in our solar system: Hot gas giants that orbit incredibly close to their host stars, sometimes within periods of less than a few days.
Such planets do not exist in our solar system, and their existence has defied predictions of how and why planets form. For the past 20 years, astronomers from all over the world have been working to understand where these planets come from, what they are made of, and what their climates are like.

An extremely hot gas giant

KELT-9 is a star located 650 light years from the Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Its exoplanet KELT-9 b exemplifies the most extreme of these so-called hot-Jupiters because it orbits very closely around its star that is almost twice as hot as the Sun.

Rare-Earth metals in the atmosphere of a glowing-hot exoplanet
Artist’s impression of a sunset over KELT-9b. Under this blazing star, the atmosphere of the planet
 is warm enough to glow in reddish-orange tones and to vaporise heavy metals such
as iron and titanium [Credit: © Denis Bajram]

Therefore, its atmosphere reaches temperatures of around 4000 °C. In such heat, all elements are almost completely vaporized and molecules are broken apart into their constituent atoms – much like is the case in the outer layers of stars. This means that the atmosphere contains no clouds or aerosols and the sky is clear, mostly transparent to light from its star.
The atoms that make up the gas of the atmosphere absorb light at very specific colors in the spectrum, and each atom has a unique «fingerprint» of colors that it absorbs. These fingerprints can be measured with a sensitive spectrograph mounted on a large telescope, allowing astronomers to discern the chemical composition of the atmospheres of planets that are many light-years away.

The exoplanet as a treasure trove

A team of researchers from the Universities of Bern and Geneva collaborated to use this technique, and made an interesting discovery: «Using the HARPS-North spectrograph on the Italian National Telescope on the island of La Palma, we found iron and titanium atoms in the hot atmosphere of KELT-9 b,» explains Kevin Heng, Director and Professor at the Center for Space and Habitabilty (CSH) at the University of Bern and a member of the National Centre of Competence in Research PlanetS.

Rare-Earth metals in the atmosphere of a glowing-hot exoplanet
A high-resolution image of the spectrum of our Sun [Credit: © N.A.Sharp,

The team observed the KELT-9 system for a second time last summer, with the goal of confirming their previous detections, but also to proceed to search for additional elements that could be present in the data as well. Their survey included 73 atoms, among which some so-called rare-Earth metals. These substances are less common on Earth, but are applied in advanced materials and devices.
Jens Hoeijmakers, who is the first author of the study which is now published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics and who is a Postdoc at the CSH in Bern and at Geneva Observatory, says: «Our team predicted that the spectrum of this planet could well be a treasure trove where a multitude of species can be detected that have not been observed in the atmosphere of any other planet before.»

After careful analysis, the researchers indeed found strong signals of vaporized sodium, magnesium, chromium and the rare-Earth metals scandium and yttrium in the spectrum of the planet. The latter three of these have never been detected robustly in the atmosphere of an exoplanet before.

«The team also advanced their interpretation of this data, and were able to use these signals to estimate at what altitude in the planet’s atmosphere these atoms are absorbing,» says Jens Hoeijmakers. What is more, the researchers also know more about strong global wind patterns high up in the atmosphere that blow the material from one hemisphere to the other.
«With further observations, many more elements may well be discovered by using the same technique in the atmosphere of this planet in the future, and perhaps also on other planets that are heated to similarly high temperatures,» explains Jens Hoeijmakers.

Kevin Heng adds: «The chances are good that one day we will find so-called biosignatures, i.e. signs of life, on an exoplanet, using the same techniques that we are applying today. Ultimately, we want to use our research to fathom the origin and development of the solar system as well as the origin of life.»

Source: University of Bern [May 10, 2019]



Comparison of global climatologies confirms warming of the global ocean

The global ocean represents the most important component of the Earth climate system. The oceans accumulate heat energy and transport heat from the tropics to higher latitudes, responding very slowly to changes in the atmosphere. Digital gridded climatologies of the global ocean provide helpful background information for many oceanographic, geochemical and biological applications. Because both the global ocean and the observational basis are changing, periodic updates of ocean climatologies are needed, which is in line with the World Meteorological Organization’s recommendations to provide decadal updates of atmospheric climatologies.

Comparison of global climatologies confirms warming of the global ocean
Credit: GlobalChange.gov

«Constructing ocean climatologies consists of several steps, including data quality control, adjustments for instrumental biases, and filling the data gaps by means of a suitable interpolation method», says Professor Viktor Gouretski of the University of Hamburg and a scholarship holder of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ President’s International Fellowship Initiative (PIFI) at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the author of a report recently published in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science Letters.

Comparison of global climatologies confirms warming of the global ocean
Deployment of an APEX float from a German research ship [Credit: Argo]

«Sea water is essentially a two-component system, with a nonlinear dependency of density on temperature and salinity, with the mixing in the ocean interior taking place predominantly along isopycnal surfaces. Therefore, interpolation of oceanic parameters should be performed on isopycnals rather than on isobaric levels, to minimize production of artificial water masses. The differences between these two methods of data interpolation are most pronounced in the high-gradient regions like the Gulf Stream, Kuroshio, and Antarctic Circumpolar Current,» continues Professor Gouretski.

Comparison of global climatologies confirms warming of the global ocean
Warming of the global ocean between 1984 and 2009, as seen on the zonally averaged section
of the temperature difference between the WAGHC and WOA13 global ocean climatologies
[Credit: Viktor Gouretski]

In his recent report, Professor Gouretski presents a new World Ocean Circulation Experiment/ARGO Global Hydrographic Climatology (WAGHC), with temperature and salinity averaged on local isopycnal surfaces. Based on high-quality ship-board data and temperature and salinity profiles from ARGO floats, the new climatology has a monthly resolution and is available on a 1/4° latitude-longitude grid.
«We have compared the WAGHC climatology with NOAA’s WOA13 gridded climatology. These climatologies represent alternative digital products, but the WAGHC has benefited from the addition of new ARGO float data and hydrographic data from the North Polar regions», says Professor Gourteski. «The two climatologies characterize mean ocean states that are 25 years apart, and the zonally averaged section of the WAGHC-minus-WOA13 temperature difference clearly shows the ocean warming signal, with a mean temperature increase of 0.05°C for the upper 1500-m layer since 1984».

Source: Institute of Atmospheric Physics Chinese Academy of Sciences [May 10, 2019]



Remains of rare prehistoric crocodile found in Denmark

The white cliffs of Stevns Klint are at the centre of yet another mesmerising palaeontological find following a discovery at the UNESCO Heritage site.

Remains of rare prehistoric crocodile found in Denmark
Thoracosaurus teeth and armour plates with rendering of the
prehistoric sea crocodile [Credit: Jesper Milàn]

Inside a block of chalk, the locally-based amateur geologist Peter Bennicke discovered the remains of a crocodile that existed some 66 million years ago. The find includes two well-preserved teeth and two crocodilian armour plates.

“The patterns in the armour plates vary among different types of crocodiles, but along with the two long and slender teeth we can confidently deduce that the crocodile is of the Thoracosaurus genus, which was the most prevalent sea crocodile of the time – just about the end of the Cretaceous period and the beginning of the Tertiary period,” said Jesper Milan, a museum curator with Geomuseum Faxe.

Milan said the find was very exciting as there have been very few similar discoveries in Denmark until now. It fills an important gap in history, he contended.

The remains are expected to be displayed at Geomuseum Faxe later this year.

In an interesting side note, it’s worth pointing out that the amateur geologist Bennicke has been behind several major finds at Stevns Klint – including the remains of a mosasaur, a prehistoric marine reptile, and an enchodus, a long extinct predatory fish.

Source: The Copenhagen Post [May 11, 2019]



Study Finds New Wrinkles on Earth’s Moon

NASA — Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) patch.

May 14, 2019

Image above: New surface features of the Moon have been discovered in a region called Mare Frigoris, outlined here in teal. This image is a mosaic composed of many images taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Image Credit: NASA.

Billions of years ago, Earth’s Moon formed vast basins called «mare» (pronounced MAR-ay). Scientists have long assumed these basins were dead, still places where the last geologic activity occurred long before dinosaurs roamed Earth.

But a survey of more than 12,000 images reveals that at least one lunar mare has been cracking and shifting as much as other parts of the Moon — and may even be doing so today. The study adds to a growing understanding that the Moon is an actively changing world.

Image above: Scientists have discovered these wrinkle ridges in a region of the Moon called Mare Frigoris. These ridges add to evidence that the Moon has an actively changing surface. This image was taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Image Credit: NASA.

Taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), the images reveal «wrinkle ridges» — curved hills and shallow trenches created by a lunar surface that is contracting as the Moon loses heat and shrinks. The features are described in a study published in Icarus on March 7, 2019, and led by Nathan Williams, a post-doctoral researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Previous research has found similar surface features in the Moon’s highlands, but wrinkle ridges have never been seen in basins before now. For this study, Williams and his co-authors focused on a region near the Moon’s north pole called Mare Frigoris, or the Cold Sea.

The study estimates that some of the ridges emerged in the last billion years, while others may be no older than 40 million years old. That’s relatively fresh in geologic terms; previous studies have estimated these basins all stopped contracting about 1.2 billion years ago.

Image above: This image of lobate scarps — a kind of curved hill — was taken near a region of the Moon called Mare Frigoris by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).
Image Credit: NASA.

Both Earth and its Moon experience what’s known as tectonics, processes that push up mountains, rip apart land masses and create quakes. On Earth, these processes occur constantly as the planet’s mantle causes pieces of crust, called plates, to shift against one another. The Moon doesn’t have tectonic plates; instead, its tectonic action occurs as the Moon slowly loses heat from when it was formed nearly 4.5 billion years ago. The heat loss causes its interior to shrink, crinkling the surface and creating distinctive features like those identified in the study.

«The Moon is still quaking and shaking from its own internal processes,» Williams said. «It’s been losing heat over billions of years, shrinking and becoming denser.»

The effect is similar to a car tire in winter: As the temperature drops, air inside the tire contracts and creates a squishier surface.

Evidence of a Shrinking Moon

The Moon’s tectonic action is especially visible in Mare Frigoris. By poring over more than 12,000 images taken by LRO’s camera, Williams and his co-authors identified thousands of tectonically created features.

Image above: These graben — a kind of trench that is formed as a surface expands — were imaged near a region of the Moon called Mare Frigoris by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Image Credit: NASA.

As the ground under Mare Frigoris shifts, it pushes up wrinkle ridges, which typically snake along the ground for several miles. The longest ones stretch about 250 miles (400 kilometers) — greater than the distance between New York City and Washington, D.C. — and rise as much as 1,000 feet (333 meters). Tectonic pushing and pulling of the lunar crust also sculpt curved hills called lobate scarps and shallow trenches known as graben.

Geologists can date them by studying another common lunar feature: impact craters. The longer a surface is struck by meteors, the more debris gets flung up from the impacts and covers nearby terrain, altering the landscape in a process called «impact gardening.»

Craters collect more debris the longer they are around. The smaller they are, the less time they take to fill: Craters smaller than the size of a football field would typically fill to the brim in under a billion years. LROC’s images revealed crisp tectonic features like the wrinkle ridges that formed after — and cut through — small, unfilled craters. That allowed Williams and his co-authors to deduce that the ridges emerged within the past billion years or so.

From Moonquakes to Marsquakes

Studying seismic activity on the Moon isn’t new. The Apollo astronauts brought several seismometers to the lunar surface, which recorded thousands of moonquakes between 1969 and 1977. The vast majority were quakes that occurred deep in the Moon’s interior; a smaller number were determined to be of shallow depth, occurring in the lunar crust.

A new paper in Nature Geoscience takes another look at these shallow moonquakes and establishes connections to some very young surface features called lobate thrust fault scarps. This opens the door to looking for similar connections with young wrinkle ridges described in the Icarus study.

Scientists — including Williams — now hope to glean similar science from Mars. NASA’s InSight lander recently detected what is likely its first marsquake, along with several other seismic signals. The way a quake’s seismic waves travel inside a planet can tell geologists about how rocky bodies are layered. That, in turn, can deepen our understanding of how Earth, its Moon and Mars first formed.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). Animation Credit: NASA

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was built and is operated by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Goddard manages the LRO mission for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leads the InSight mission.

Related article: 

Shrinking Moon May Be Generating Moonquakes

For more information on LRO, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/lro

For more information about InSight, visit: https://mars.nasa.gov/insight/

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

Greetings, Orbiter.chArchive link

Space Station Science Highlights: Week of May 6, 2019

ISS — Expedition 59 Mission patch.

May 14, 2019

The six crew members currently aboard the International Space Station received a new batch of science experiments on SpaceX CRS 17 last week. The Dragon’s arrival on Monday, May 6, also brought to six the number of spacecraft docked to the orbiting lab.

Space to Ground: Reservations for Seven: 05/10/2019

Here are details on some of the scientific investigations that the Expedition 59 astronauts and cosmonauts conducted the week of May 6:

Helping astronauts see clearly in space

The crew collected measurements using the Lower Body Negative Pressure or Chibis suit for the Fluid Shifts investigation. This joint NASA-ROSCOSMOS investigation measures the amount of fluid that shifts in the body in space and determines the effect on vision and the eye. More than half of American astronauts experience changes in vision and the structure of their eyes during and after long-duration space flight. Scientists suspect that a shift of fluid into the head that occurs during space flight increases pressure in the brain and pushes on the back of the eye, changing its shape. Results from this study may help investigators develop measures to prevent lasting changes in vision and eye damage.

Improving the space food menu

Image above: NASA astronaut Christina Koch waits for personal-size pizzas cooking in the space station’s galley. The Food Acceptability investigation works to improve the food system in space to support crew health and performance. Image Credit: NASA.

The crew completed questionnaires for the Food Acceptability investigation during the week. Food acceptability refers to whether crew members like and actually eat a food, which may directly affect their caloric intake and nutrition. “Menu fatigue” from consuming the limited foods repeatedly available in a closed system could lead to decreased acceptability and even aversion to some foods. That fatigue may in turn contribute to the loss of body mass often experienced by crew members, potentially affecting astronaut health, especially as mission length increases. Results from this investigation may help improve the food system, supporting crew health and performance on long missions.

Welcoming mice to their space home

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

The JAXA Mouse Mission analyzes changes in gene expression in several organs as well as how those changes affect development of germ cells in mice exposed to the space environment long-term (more than 30 days). It also serves as verification of the Habitat Unit designed to take mice to and from the space station for scientific investigations. Results could provide fundamental information about how prolonged exposure to space affects humans. The crew completed preparations of the hardware for the investigation and transferred mice into their new habitat.

Antioxidants from algae

Image above: Culture bags for the MicroAlgae investigation activated on the space station. MicroAlgae studies the effects of microgravity on Haematococcus pluvialis, a tiny, freshwater algae capable of producing astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant. Image Credit: NASA.

MicroAlgae studies the effects of microgravity on Haematococcus pluvialis, a tiny freshwater algae capable of producing astaxanthin. This powerful antioxidant could provide a readily available dietary supplement to help prevent effects of radiation exposure, eye damage caused by bodily fluid pressure changes, cardiovascular system damage, and bone loss on long space exploration missions. The crew deployed culture bags to begin the investigation.

Other investigations on which the crew performed work:

— Rodent Research-12 (RR-12) examines the effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory using a mouse model: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7868

— Nano Antioxidants studies cellular stimulation approaches to counteract the negative effects of long-term microgravity exposure on the musculoskeletal system. This work may contribute to therapies for musculoskeletal issues in the elderly and people with muscle atrophy disorders: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7744

— MVP Cell-01 studies a disease called Post-traumatic Osteoarthritis, in which a traumatic joint injury may lead to arthritis after loss of cartilage and bone: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7663

— Actiwatch, a sleep-wake monitor worn by crew members, analyzes circadian rhythms, sleep-wake patterns, and activity: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=838

Animation above: Kidney Cells investigation activities underway in the Life Sciences Glovebox. Image Credit: NASA.

— Kidney Cells examines how microgravity and other factors of space travel, including water conservation and recycling and altered dietary intake, affect kidney health: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7819

— STaRS Bioscience-3 studies alterations in vascular cells seen in crew members upon return from spaceflight, with the goal of figuring out the mechanism of vascular cell damage in the space environment: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7485

— VeggiePONDS uses a newly developed passive nutrient delivery system and the Veggie plant growth facility to cultivate lettuce and greens on the space station for on-orbit consumption and analysis on Earth: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7581

Image above: Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques working with the Microgravity Science Glovebox inside the U.S. Destiny laboratory module on Solidification Using a Baffle in Sealed Ampoules (SUBSA), a study exploring how to produce high-quality semi-conductor crystals in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

Related links:

Expedition 59: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition59/index.html

Fluid Shifts: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=1126

Food Acceptability: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7562

JAXA Mouse Mission: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=1537

MicroAlgae: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7689

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

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

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

Images (mentioned), Animations (mentioned), Video (NASA), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist Expeditions 59/60.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

Microbiology Research and Spacewalk Preps on Orbit Today

ISS — Expedition 59 Mission patch.

May 14, 2019

The Expedition 59 astronauts are moving full speed ahead today with continuous space biology research. Two cosmonauts are also pressing forward with plans to conduct the fourth spacewalk this year at the International Space Station.

NASA Flight Engineers Anne McClain and Christina Koch joined fellow astronaut David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency checking on mice throughout the day Tuesday. Scientists are monitoring the rodents’ immune systems, which are similar to humans, for changes that take place due to microgravity.

Image above: NASA astronaut Nick Hague works with the miniPCR hardware for the Genes In Space-6 experiment that is exploring how space radiation damages DNA and the how cell repair mechanism works in microgravity. Image Credit: NASA.

Saint-Jacques and NASA astronaut Nick Hague also explored how weightlessness affects different microbiological phenomena. Hague inoculated culture bags inside the Life Sciences Glovebox for research operations to understand why pathogens become more virulent in space. Saint-Jacques checked DNA samples for the Genes In Space-6 experiment that explores how space radiation damages DNA and the cell repair mechanism.

International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Commander Oleg Kononenko and Flight Engineer Alexey Ovchinin are both collecting spacesuit parts and tools, as they get ready for a spacewalk planned for May 29. The duo will spend about six hours outside the station’s Russian segment collecting experiments, cleaning windows and sampling module surfaces. This will be Kononenko’s fifth spacewalk and Ovchinin’s first.

Related links:

Expedition 59: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition59/index.html

Spacewalk: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/spacewalks/

Rodents’ immune systems: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7868

Life Sciences Glovebox: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=7676

Pathogens: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7642

Genes In Space-6: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7893

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), Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia.

Best regards, Orbiter.chArchive link

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