пятница, 9 августа 2019 г.

Mimetite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral Locality:…

Mimetite | #Geology #GeologyPage #Mineral

Locality: Sabine’s Shaft, Mt Bonnie Mine, Grove Hill, Victoria-Daly Region, Northern Territory, Australia

Dimensions: 5.3 × 4.3 × 3.3 cm

Photo Copyright © Crystal Classics

Geology Page



HiPOD 8 August 2019: The Story in LayersOur objective is to…

HiPOD 8 August 2019: The Story in Layers

Our objective is to examine some very nicely exposed layers in a mesa wall in Aureum Chaos. As the name “chaos” suggests, this terrain is characterized by randomly oriented, large-scale mesas and knobs that are heavily eroded and dominate the area. 

ID: ESP_055017_1785
date: 22 April 2018
altitude: 269 km

NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

2019 August 9 Atlas at Dawn Image Credit & Copyright: …

2019 August 9

Atlas at Dawn
Image Credit & Copyright: Michael Seeley

Explanation: This single, 251-second long exposure follows the early flight of an Atlas V rocket on August 8, streaking eastward toward the dawn from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, planet Earth. The launch of the United Launch Alliance rocket was at 6:13am local time. Sunrise was not until 6:48am, but the rocket’s downrange plume at altitude is brightly lit by the Sun still just below the eastern horizon. Waters of the Indian River Lagoon in Palm Shores, Forida reflect subtle colors and warming glow of the otherwise calm, predawn sky. The mighty Atlas rocket carried a military communications satellite into Earth orbit. Of course, this weekend the streaks you see in clear skies before the dawn could be Perseid Meteors.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190809.html

Dark meets light on Mars

ESA — Mars Express Mission patch.

8 August 2019

Mars Express

ESA’s Mars Express has captured the cosmic contrast of Terra Cimmeria, a region in the southern highlands of Mars marked by impact craters, water-carved valleys, and sand and dust in numerous chocolate and caramel hues.

Mars is often referred to as the Red Planet, due to the characteristic hue of its orb in the sky. Up close, however, the planet is actually covered in all manner of colours – from bright whites and dark blacks to yellows, reds, greens, and the cappuccino tones seen here.

Plan view of Terra Cimmeria

These differences in colour are visible from telescopes on Earth. They are undeniably visually striking, but also reveal a significant amount about the composition and properties of the surface material itself.

These views based on Mars Express data are a great example of the diversity found on the martian surface: the darker regions towards the right (north) in the image at the top of this page are rich in minerals of volcanic origin, the most common of which found on Mars is basalt. The lighter patches to the left (south) are instead largely covered in fine silicate dust. 

Perspective view of Terra Cimmeria

Mars is thought to have once seen significant volcanic activity. The planet hosts some of the largest volcanoes in the Solar System, including the very biggest, Olympus Mons, and has several notable volcanic provinces (two of which are Tharsis and Elysium). The volcanoes within these regions once released ash and dust that covered and coated the surface of Mars, forming dark basaltic sands that were swept around and covered up by other material over time.

The largest crater in the image measures 25 km across and is 300 m deep – this relatively shallow depth is likely due to the crater being filled up with other material since its formation. Surrounding this crater are various plains, valleys, and ‘mesas’ – steep-sided mounds rising up from the martian surface.

Some of these features are the remnants of a former water-filled valley system, seen most clearly to the upper right of the frame. These valleys spread across Terra Cimmeria, once moving water and material throughout the area.

Perspective view of Terra Cimmeria

This water was locked up within surface ice and snow, but recent research points towards several episodes of melting that unlocked the water from glaciers and sent it flowing across Mars in liquid form.

To the left of the frame, thin dark trails can be seen snaking and sweeping across Terra Cimmeria – a tell-tale sign that ‘dust devils’ were once present here. Dust devils form as eddies of wind that displace the top layer of dust from the martian surface, sending it swirling up into the air. This in turn reveals a deeper layer of material that is different in colour, creating a sharp visible contrast. 

Terra Cimmeria in context

Another group of dark, but larger, wind-formed features known as ‘wind streaks’ can be seen near the centre-left of the image at the top of the page – shown below also as an anaglyph. These form in a similar way to dust devil tracks, except that they are caused not by eddies, but by local winds being forced over topographic features such as craters or cliffs.

Because of this, streaks can appear to emanate from these features. Wind streaks are useful indicators in atmospheric studies; for instance, the wind that formed the streaks in this image was blowing in a roughly south-easterly direction (given that north is to the right).

Whether altered by water, wind, impact or other means, the surface of Mars is a dynamic environment – and ESA’s Mars Express, in orbit around Mars since 2003, has managed to capture all manner of phenomena on the Red Planet in the past 16 years. 

Terra Cimmeria in 3D

Using instruments including its High Resolution Stereo Camera, responsible for these new images, the spacecraft has watched as giant dust storms kicked up material into the airto obscure wide regions of the surface from view; spotted signs of ancient sub-surface water systems that hint at the planet’s wetter past; and probed the martian atmosphere for signs of molecules we know to be linked to life on Earth.

It has found signs of tectonic activity at far more recent timescales than previously thought; watched strange clouds form and dissipate with the seasons; explored the patches of ice found at Mars’ northern and southern poles; and characterised the planet’s two small, mysterious moons, Phobos and Deimos.

Topographic view of Terra Cimmeria

ESA’s fleet at Mars grew with the arrival of the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter in 2016, which has been making a detailed analysis of the planet’s atmosphere and mapping its surface. Next year, the ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover and its accompanying surface science platform will be launched to further our understanding of Mars from the planet’s intriguing surface.

Relate links:

High Resolution Stereo Camera: https://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Mars_Express/Mars_Express_instruments

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

ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Exploration/ExoMars/First_results_from_the_ExoMars_Trace_Gas_Orbiter

ExoMars Rosalind Franklin rover: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Exploration/ExoMars/ExoMars_2020_rover

ESA Planetary Science archive (PSA): http://www.rssd.esa.int/PSA

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

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Synchronization of ice cores using volcanic ash layers…

Synchronization of ice cores using volcanic ash layers http://www.geologypage.com/2019/08/synchronization-of-ice-cores-using-volcanic-ash-layers.html

Ancient drop of water rewrites Earth’s history…

Ancient drop of water rewrites Earth’s history http://www.geologypage.com/2019/08/ancient-drop-of-water-rewrites-earths-history.html

ALMA Identified Dark Ancestors of Massive Elliptical Galaxies

ALMA identified 39 faint galaxies that are not seen with the Hubble Space Telescope’s most in-depth view of the Universe 10 billion light-years away. This example image shows a comparison of Hubble and ALMA observations. The squares numbered from 1 to 4 are the locations of faint galaxies unseen in the Hubble image. Credit: The University of Tokyo/CEA/NAOJ.

Artist’s impression of the distant galaxies observed with ALMA. ALMA identified faint galaxies invisible to the Hubble Space Telescope. Researchers assume that those HST-dark galaxies are the ancestors of massive elliptical galaxies in the present Universe. Credit: NAOJ

Astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to identify 39 faint galaxies that are not seen with the Hubble Space Telescope’s most in-depth view of the Universe, 10 billion light-years away. They are ten times more numerous than similarly massive but optically–bright galaxies detected with Hubble. The research team assumes that these faint galaxies precede massive elliptical galaxies in the present Universe. However, no significant theories for the evolution of the Universe have predicted such an abundant population of star-forming, dark, massive galaxies. The new ALMA results throw into question our understanding of the early Universe. These results appear in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

“Previous studies have found extremely active star-forming galaxies in the early Universe, but their population is quite limited,” says Tao Wang, lead author of this research at the University of Tokyo, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). “Star formation in the dark galaxies we identified is less intense, but they are 100 times more abundant than the extreme starbursts. It is important to study such a major component of the history of the Universe to comprehend galaxy formation.”

Wang and his team targeted three ALMA windows to the deep Universe opened up by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST): the CANDELS fields. The team discovered 63 extremely red objects in the infrared images taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope: they are too red to be detected with HST. However, Spitzer’s limited spatial resolution prevented astronomers from identifying their nature.

ALMA detected submillimeter-wave emission from 39 out of the 63 extremely red objects. Thanks to its high resolution and sensitivity, ALMA confirmed that they are massive, star-forming galaxies that are producing stars 100 times more efficiently than the Milky Way. These galaxies are representative of the majority of massive galaxies in the Universe 10 billion years ago, most of which have so far been missed by previous studies.

“By maintaining this rate of star formation, these ALMA-detected galaxies will likely transform into the first population of massive elliptical galaxies formed in the early Universe,” says David Elbaz, an astronomer at CEA, and coauthor on the paper, “But there is a problem. They are unexpectedly abundant.” The researchers estimated their number density to be equivalent to 530 objects in a square degree in the sky. This number density well exceeds predictions from current theoretical models and computer simulations. Also, according to the widely accepted model of the Universe with a particular type of dark matter, it is challenging to build a large number of massive objects in such an early phase of the Universe. Together, the present ALMA results challenge our current understanding of the evolution of the Universe.

“Like the galaxy M87, from which astronomers recently obtained the first-ever image of a black hole, massive elliptical galaxies are located in the heart of galaxy clusters. Scientist believes that these galaxies formed most of their stars in the early Universe,” explains Kotaro Kohno, a professor at the University of Tokyo and member of the research team. “However, previous searches for the progenitors of these massive galaxies have been unsuccessful because they were based solely on galaxies that are easily detectable by HST. The discovery of this large number of massive, HST-dark galaxies provides direct evidence for the early assembly of massive galaxies during the first billion years of the Universe.” More detailed follow-up observations with ALMA and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope are essential to provide further insights into the nature of these galaxies. New studies could enable a complete view of galaxy formation in the early Universe.”


Tao Wang
Postdoctoral fellow
Institute of Astronomy, The University of Tokyo / National Astronomical Observatory of Japan
Email: taowang@ioa.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp

Nicolás Lira
Education and Public Outreach Coordinator
Joint ALMA Observatory, Santiago — Chile
Phone: +56 2 2467 6519
Cell phone: +56 9 9445 7726
Email: nicolas.lira@alma.cl

Masaaki Hiramatsuv Education and Public Outreach Officer, NAOJ Chilev Observatory
, Tokyo — Japan
Phone: +81 422 34 3630
Email: hiramatsu.masaaki@nao.ac.jp

Mariya Lyubenova
ESO Outreach Astronomer
Garching bei München, Germany
Phone: +49 89 32 00 61 88
Email: mlyubeno@eso.org

Iris Nijman
Public Information Officer
National Radio Astronomy Observatory Charlottesville, Virginia — USA
Cell phone: +1 (434) 249 3423
Email: alma-pr@nrao.edu

Additional Information

These observation results are published as T. Wang et al. “A dominant population of optically invisible massive galaxies in the early Universe” in Nature on August 7, 2019.

The research team members are:

T. Wang (The University of Tokyo/CEA/National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), C. Schreiber (CEA/Leiden University/Oxford University), D. Elbaz (CEA), Y. Yoshimura (The University of Tokyo), K. Kohno (The University of Tokyo), X. Shu (Anhui Normal University), Y. Yamaguchi (The University of Tokyo), M. Pannella (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat,), M. Franco (CEA), J. Huang (National Astronomical Observatories of China), C.-F. Lim (Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics), and W.-H. Wang (Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics).

This research was supported by NAOJ ALMA Scientific Research Grant Number 2017-06B, JSPS KAKENHI (No. JP17H06130), funding from the European Union Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. 312725 (ASTRODEEP), NSFC 11573001, National Basic Research Program 2015CB857005, and Ministry of Science and Technology of Taiwan Grant (105-2112-M-001-029-MY3).

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international astronomy facility, is a partnership of the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded by ESO on behalf of its Member States, by NSF in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) and by NINS in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan and the Korea Astronomy and Space Science Institute (KASI).

ALMA construction and operations are led by ESO on behalf of its Member States; by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI), on behalf of North America; and by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ) on behalf of East Asia. The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning, and operation of ALMA.

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Crew Gears Up for Spacewalk, Scans Eyes and Practices Medical Emergency

ISS — Expeition 60 Mission patch.

August 8, 2019

The Expedition 60 crew is gearing up for an upcoming spacewalk to prepare the International Space Station for more commercial crew missions. Biomedical science also took up a portion of the astronauts’ day as they help researchers understand what happens to the human body in microgravity.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan are reviewing their tasks planned for Aug. 21 when they conduct the fifth spacewalk of the year at the orbiting lab. The duo will take about six-and-a-half hours to install the International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3) on top of the Harmony module. The IDA-3, delivered inside the Dragon cargo craft’s trunk, will be the second port at the station designed to receive the new Boeing and SpaceX crew ships.

Image above: NASA astronaut Nick Hague, in his white U.S. spacesuit, is contrasted by the blackness of space during a six-hour, 39-minute spacewalk that took place in March 2019. Image Creddit: NASA.

Flight Engineers Christina Koch and Luca Parmitano are helping the spacewalkers get ready for the upcoming excursion. They are configuring spacesuit components today and will continue assisting the pair before, during and after the next spacewalk.

Morgan first joined Koch and Parmitano during the morning for ultrasound eye exams. Koch took charge of the eye scans in the Columbus lab module with real-time inputs from doctors on the ground. She observed her crewmates’ retina, cornea, lens and optic nerve to maintain eye health in space.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Creit: NASA

Koch and Parmitano later split up feeding the station’s mice and cleaning their habitats in the Destiny laboratory module. Observing the rodents, which are genetically similar to humans, in the weightless environment of microgravity gives scientists critical therapeutic insights that can benefit Earthlings and astronauts.

The most recent trio to arrive at the station gathered at the end of the day to train for a medical emergency. Morgan, Parmitano and cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov practiced cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), checked out medical gear and reviewed emergency communications.

Related links:

Expedition 60: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition60/index.html

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

International Docking Adapter-3 (IDA-3): https://www.nasa.gov/feature/meet-the-international-docking-adapter

Harmony module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/harmony

Rodents: https://go.nasa.gov/2YojzZO

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

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

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

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Cloaked Black Hole Discovered in Early Universe Using NASA’s Chandra

NASA — Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Aug. 8, 2019

Astronomers have discovered evidence for the farthest «cloaked» black hole found to date, using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. At only about 6% of the current age of the universe, this is the first indication of a black hole hidden by gas at such an early time in the history of the cosmos.

Image above: Data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have revealed what may be the most distant shrouded black hole. Image Credits: X-ray: NASA/CXO/Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile/F. Vito; Radio: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); optical: Pan-STARRS.

Supermassive black holes, which are millions to billions of times more massive than our Sun, typically grow by pulling in material from a disk of surrounding matter. Rapid growth generates large amounts of radiation in a very small region around the black hole. Scientists call this extremely bright, compact source a «quasar.»

According to current theories, a dense cloud of gas feeds material into the disk surrounding a supermassive black hole during its period of early growth, which «cloaks» or hides much of the quasar’s bright light from our view. As the black hole consumes material and becomes more massive, the gas in the cloud is depleted, until the black hole and its bright disk are uncovered.

“It’s extraordinarily challenging to find quasars in this cloaked phase because so much of their radiation is absorbed and cannot be detected by current instruments,” said Fabio Vito CAS-CONICYT Fellow at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, in Santiago, Chile, who led the study. “Thanks to Chandra and the ability of X-rays to pierce through the obscuring cloud, we think we’ve finally succeeded.”

The new finding came from observations of a quasar called PSO167-13, which was first discovered by Pan-STARRS, an optical-light telescope in Hawaii. Optical observations from these and other surveys have detected about 200 quasars already shining brightly when the universe was less than a billion years old, or about 7 percent of its present age. These surveys were only considered effective at finding unobscured black holes, because the radiation they detect is suppressed by even thin clouds of gas and dust. Since PSO167-13 was part of those observations, this quasar was expected to be unobscured, too.

Vito’s team tested this idea by using Chandra to observe PSO167-13 and nine other quasars discovered with optical surveys. After 16 hours of observation, only three X-ray light photons were detected from PSO167-13, all with relatively high energies. Since low-energy X-rays are more easily absorbed than higher energy ones, the likely explanation is that the quasar is highly obscured by gas, allowing only high-energy X-rays to be detected.

“This was a complete surprise”, said co-author Niel Brandt of Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania. “It was like we were expecting a moth but saw a cocoon instead. None of the other nine quasars we observed were cloaked, which is what we anticipated.”

An interesting twist for PSO167-13 is that the galaxy hosting the quasar has a close companion galaxy, visible in data previously obtained with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) of radio dishes in Chile and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Because of their close separation and the faintness of the X-ray source, the team was unable to determine whether the newly-discovered X-ray emission is associated with the quasar PSO167-13 or with the companion galaxy.

If the X-rays come from the known quasar, then astronomers need to develop an explanation for why the quasar appeared highly obscured in X-rays but not in optical light. One possibility is that there has been a large and rapid increase in cloaking of the quasar during the three years between when the optical and the X-ray observations were made.

Chandra X-ray Observatory. Animation Credits: NASA/CXC

On the other hand, if instead the X-rays arise from the companion galaxy, then it represents the detection of a new quasar in close proximity to PSO167-13. This quasar pair would be the most distant yet detected.

In either of these two cases, the quasar detected by Chandra would be the most distant cloaked one yet seen, at 850 million years after the Big Bang. The previous record holder was observed 1.3 billion years after the Big Bang.

The authors plan to follow up with more observations to learn more.

“With a longer Chandra observation we’ll be able to get a better estimate of how obscured this black hole is,” said co-author Franz Bauer, also from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and associate member of the Millenium Institute of Astrophysics, “and make a confident identification of the X-ray source with either the known quasar or the companion galaxy.”

The authors also plan to search for more examples of highly obscured black holes.

“We suspect that the majority of supermassive black holes in the early universe are cloaked: it’s then crucial to detect and study them to understand how they could grow to masses of a billion suns so quickly,” said co-author Roberto Gilli of INAF in Bologna, Italy.

A paper describing these results is accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics and is available online. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Chandra program. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Astronomy and Astrophysics: https://arxiv.org/abs/1906.04241

Read more from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory: http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2019/cloaked/

For more Chandra images, multimedia and related materials, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/chandra

Image (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Lee Mohon/Chandra X-ray Center/Megan Watzke/Marshall Space Flight Center/Molly Porter.

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Meet the Promising New Researchers Making Waves on the Space Station

ISS — International Space Station logo.

Aug. 8, 2019

Each year, the president of the United States selects an elite group of scientists and engineers at the beginning of their independent research careers to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. This is the highest honor given by the U.S. government to outstanding science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals at this point in their professions.

This year’s selection of 314 scientists includes 18 NASA researchers. Although these scientists are, as the award’s name indicates, early in their career, they have already built up impressive resumes. The list of accomplishments for three of them includes important contributions to research aboard the International Space Station.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

“The work of these three scientists is helping NASA enable human spaceflight exploration while making scientific discoveries. We benefit greatly from their research,” said Craig Kundrot, director of the Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications division at NASA Headquarters. “Congratulations to Dr. Massa, Dr. Smith, and Dr. Barrila, and we look forward to them advancing the frontiers of knowledge in space biology.”

We sat down to chat with these three awardees, Jennifer Barrila, Ph.D., Gioia Massa, Ph.D. and David J. Smith, Ph.D., to learn more about how the orbiting laboratory has shaped their work.

Image above: Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers recipient and International Space Station researcher Jennifer Barrila. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Barrila.

Jennifer Barrila grew up in the 80s during the Space Shuttle Program. Her admiration for the people she saw flying to space inspired Barrila to pursue a career goal that most kids only dream of: becoming an astronaut. Many who share this daunting ambition focus on becoming aerospace engineers or pilots. But Barrila’s fascination for biology led her to a different path. “As I was finishing high school, the space station was being constructed,” says Barrila. “I knew when it was complete they would need scientists to perform experiments, so I decided to follow my passion and train in the biological sciences.”

While Barrila, who now works at Arizona State University, hasn’t yet gone to space, her research has made the trip. She has played integral roles in several experiments aboard the space station and a shuttle mission that studied how microgravity may alter infectious disease risks. Barrila co-led the first study to profile how human cells respond to Salmonella infection in space, served as a co-investigator on the first full-duration virulence study performed in space and is working on two experiments that could launch to the orbiting laboratory later this year.

She also was also part of a study that examined the impact of microgravity on Salmonella’s ability to infect a 3D cell culture model of the human colon. Barrila is now working to advance these models by incorporating fecal microbes collected from astronauts before, during and after spaceflight. “We’re looking to see whether changes that occurred to the astronaut microbiome could possibly change their susceptibility to infection with Salmonella,” Barrila says. “I’m pretty excited about this study because we just don’t know what we will see.”

While Barrila would still love to go to space, it is no longer her primary goal. “I went into this field wanting to become an astronaut, but doing the research has been so incredibly rewarding,” says Barrila. “Even if I never get to go into space, it’s been exciting to have the opportunity to contribute to the human spaceflight program.”

Image above: Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers recipient and International Space Station researcher Gioia Massa. Photo courtesy of Gioia Massa.

Gioia Massa grew up in Florida about an hour away from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral. After her middle school agriculture teacher was invited to Kennedy to learn about plant production for astronauts, he shared what he learned with Massa. “He brought back hours and hours of video. I was just completely captivated,” says Massa. “I think I watched all of it.”

From that springboard she chose to learn about hydroponics in high school, interned at Kennedy Space Center in the space life sciences training program and eventually earned her Ph.D. in Plant Biology from Penn State University. When a role for a NASA scientist opened up in 2013, Massa jumped at the opportunity.

Her work at NASA has built on her middle school passion of growing plants in space, looking at numerous aspects of agriculture in microgravity, specifically on the space station.

Image above: View of VEG-04 plant check, watering and weighing of harvested leaves in the Columbus Module. Image Credit: NASA.

She is studying the perfect conditions for plant growth in space and what species grow most effectively there. She is even getting feedback from the astronauts currently on board the station on which crops taste best. “Plants are very adaptable. They can really respond to the environment,” says Massa. “But getting that environment right is truly our hardest challenge. The biology is not as challenging as the physics to overcome.”

Right now, Massa and her team are focused on perfecting the cultivation of lettuce plants and a few other basic crops that they have learned to grow effectively. They hope to continue with their experiments on the space station and build on this knowledge to learn to grow more fruiting crops such as tomatoes and peppers. “To have an orbiting laboratory up there with astronauts continuously available to do science gives you a lot of power that you would otherwise not have. If you just do things one time, it leaves so many open questions,” says Massa. “Being able to do repeated evolutionary work on a platform like the space station is really the only way to advance these exploration systems.”

Image above: Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers recipient and International Space Station researcher David J. Smith. Photo courtesy of David J. Smith.

David J. Smith got a surprise call while in graduate school. On the other end was Crystal Jaing Ph.D., a researcher from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “I couldn’t believe my luck,” says Smith. “It was hard to believe, after having read all of her team’s literature, that she wanted to collaborate on something. She put together the dream team in microbiology.”

Jaing was recruiting a team for a new investigation of microbiology on the space station called Microbial Tracking-2. “Our goal is to identify any correlations of the microbiome community between what is in the space station versus what’s on the astronauts to see if there is any microbial transfer and the potential impacts to crew health,” says Jaing.

While Smith’s previous research was based within our atmosphere, he shared an interest with Jaing in detecting microorganisms in challenging environments. “My work in graduate school was finding microbial signals in the upper atmosphere,” says Smith. “When Crystal put together this proposal, we knew that some of those microbes would also be floating around in spacecraft air. We thought we would bring some of the methodology from the open atmosphere here on Earth to the station.”

The year after finishing graduate school, Smith got a job working at Kennedy Space Center and helped finalize the proposal for Microbial Tracking-2.

Image above: Microbial Tracking-2 hardware aboard the International Space Station, where it collects samples of the microbes and viruses floating in the air. Image Credit: NASA.

The Microbial Tracking team now has almost completed the sample collection period. Crew samples taken before, during and after flight, as well as environmental samples from station surfaces and air, make up the data. Smith and the research team will use this information to identify microbes and viruses on the orbital outpost and crew, and assess their disease-causing potential.

Smith sees this research in low-Earth orbit as a crucial step towards more than just preventing disease in space. He says it is needed to produce safe water, air and food systems on longer space missions to destinations like the Moon or Mars. “It’s going to be a whole different ball game when we go to deep space,” says Smith. “And it’s not going to be just macrosystems we have to be mindful of. It’s the invisible little passengers we bring along with us.”

The Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division (SLPSRA) of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington funds the research of these three outstanding scientists.

Relate links:

How human cells respond to Salmonella infection in space: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=790

First full-duration virulence study performed in space: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=792

Plant growth in space: https://www.nasa.gov/content/growing-plants-in-space

Microbial Tracking-2: https://www.nasa.gov/ames/research/space-biosciences/microbial-tracking-2

Previous research: https://aem.asm.org/content/aem/79/4/1134.full.pdf

Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division (SLPSRA): https://www.nasa.gov/directorates/heo/slpsra#_blank

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

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

Images (mentioned), Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Michael Johnson/JSC/International Space Station Program Science Office/Erin Winick.

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Unexpected nut eating by gorillas

Despite their large body size, gorillas are known to have a vegetarian diet consisting almost exclusively of leafy vegetation and fruit. Their teeth are large and high crested when compared to other great apes which is traditionally seen as an adaptation to them spending a large amount of time chewing tough fibrous plant material. In contrast, their teeth are not well adapted to eating hard objects, such as nuts encased in a woody shell, because the high crests on their molar teeth would be at risk of damage.

Unexpected nut eating by gorillas
Scientists have observed a population of western lowland gorillas in Loango National Park,
Gabon using their teeth to crack open the woody shells of Coula edulis nuts
[Credit: Martha Robbins]

«I was amazed when we first observed the nut eating by the gorillas», states Martha Robbins, senior author on the paper. «We can not only see it, but also hear it, as the shell gives way to the incredible strength of their bite. Gorillas obviously have large, powerful jaws, but we did not expect to see this because their teeth are not well-suited to such behaviour.»
The nuts of Coula edulis are encased in a hard, woody shell that takes around 271 kg of force to crack. Yet for the three months the nuts are available, the gorillas of Loango National Park concentrate their feeding on the energy rich kernels, spending up to three hours a day chomping through nuts.

This is surprising as animals that eat very hard food items tend to have strong, rounded molars that act like a pestle and mortar and are very efficient at cracking brittle foods. Like other foliage eaters, gorilla teeth have higher crests providing extra cutting edges for slicing tough material. Under the monumental bite force required to crack nuts, teeth with sharp edges are prone to break meaning they may be worn away quickly.

Unexpected nut eating by gorillas
Gorilla teeth have higher crests that are not typically considered conducive to cracking open nuts
[Credit: Adam van Casteren/Loango Gorilla Project/PanAF]

The researchers were surprised to learn that the gorillas at Loango are regularly gambling with their teeth and taxing them close to their predicted mechanical limits. While some primates, like chimps, protect their teeth by using tools to crack open nuts, it appears that the gorillas at Loango National Park reply on brute strength to break through the woody shells of Coula edulis nuts. The fact they do this year after year indicates that gorilla teeth may be stronger than previously thought.
The research also implies that western lowland gorillas have much greater dietary breadth than previously believed. The absence of nut cracking behavior in other populations of western gorillas where the nuts are also present suggests the behaviour may be cultural, if gorillas need to observe and learn the behaviour from other group members. «The fact that this nut eating is observed in Loango but not in other forests in central Africa where the nut occurs stresses the importance of studying and conserving gorillas throughout the habitat where they are found», says Robbins.

Discovering that some gorillas routinely partake in nut cracking with their teeth could also influence the way researchers interpret the fossil remains of human ancestors. Despite having teeth seemingly shaped for a leafy diet the study shows that western lowland gorillas are capable of routinely cracking nuts, which has important implications for the ways researchers predict the diet of human ancestors based on the shape of their teeth.

The findings are published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

Source: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology [August 02, 2019]



Looking for warm dark matter

In the last century, astronomers studying the motions of galaxies and the character of the cosmic microwave background radiation came to realize that most of the matter in the universe was not visible. About 84% of the matter in the cosmos is dark, emitting neither light nor any other known kind of radiation. Hence it is called dark matter. One of its other primary qualities is that it only interacts with other matter via gravity: it carries no electromagnetic charge, for example. Dark matter is also «dark» because it is mysterious: it is not composed of atoms or their usual constituents like electrons and protons.

Looking for warm dark matter
Two simulations of galaxy formation at the epoch when the universe was only about
one billion years old. The top («CDM») shows clumps and filaments of young galaxies
using a conventional treatment of non-interacting dark matter, while the bottom («sDAO»)
shows the slightly different — but measurable — differences that occur if dark matter instead
could interact with some particles. Astronomers show that future precise measurements
of large-scale galaxy structures could help constrain the nature of the mysterious
dark matter in the universe [Credit: Bose et al. 2019]

Particle physicists have imagined new kinds of matter, consistent with the known laws of the universe, but so far none has been detected or its existence confirmed. The Large Hadron Collider’s discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 prompted a burst of optimism that dark matter particles would soon be discovered, but so far none has been seen and previously promising classes of particles now seem to be long-shots.
Astronomers realize that dark matter is the dominant component of matter in the universe. Whatever its nature, it profoundly influenced the evolution of galactic structures and the distribution of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR). The remarkable agreement between the values of key cosmic parameters (like the rate of expansion) derived from observations of two completely different kinds of large-scale cosmic structures, galaxies and the CMBR. lend credence to inflationary big bang models that include the role dark matter.

Current models of dark matter presume it is «cold,» that is, that it does not interact with any other kinds of matter or radiation—or even with itself—beyond the influences of gravity. This version of cosmology is therefore called the cold dark matter scenario. But cosmologists wonder whether more precise observations might be able to exclude even small levels of interactions. CfA astronomer Sownak Bose led a team of colleagues in a study of one very popular (if speculative) «dark matter» particle, one that has some ability to interact with very light particles that move close to the speed of light. This version forms one of several possible warm dark matter (perhaps more accurately called interacting dark matter) scenarios. In particular, the hypothetical particles are allowed to interact with neutrinos (neutrinos are expected to be extremely abundant in the hot early universe).

The scientists used state-of-the-art cosmological simulations of galaxy formation to a model universe with this kind of warm dark matter. They find that for many observations the effects are too small to be noticeable. However, the signature of this warm dark matter is present in some distinct ways, and in particular in the way distant galaxies are distributed in space, something that can be tested by mapping galaxies by looking at their hydrogen gas. The authors conclude that future, highly sensitive observations should be able to make these tests. Detailed new maps of the distribution of hydrogen gas absorption could be used to support—or exclude—this warm dark matter possibility (see the figure), and shed light on this mysterious cosmic component.

The study is published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Source: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics [August 05, 2019]



Magnetic plasma pulses excited by UK-size swirls in the solar atmosphere

An international team of scientists led by the University of Sheffield have discovered previously undetected observational evidence of frequent energetic wave pulses the size of the UK, transporting energy from the solar surface to the higher solar atmosphere.

Magnetic plasma pulses excited by UK-size swirls in the solar atmosphere
Research led by the University of Sheffield shows the first observational evidence that ubiquitous swirls
in the solar atmosphere could generate short-lived Alfven pulses [Credit: Getty Images]

Magnetic plasma waves and pulses have been widely suggested as one of the key mechanisms which could answer the long-standing question of why the temperature of the solar atmosphere rises dramatically, from thousands to millions of degrees, as you move away from the solar surface.

There have been many theories put forward, including some developed at the University of Sheffield — for example, heating the plasma by magnetic waves or magnetic plasma — but observational validation of the ubiquity of a suitable energy transport mechanism has proved challenging until now.

By developing innovative approaches, applied mathematicians at the Solar Physics and Space Plasma Research Centre (SP2RC) in the School of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Sheffield, and the University of Science and Technology of China, have discovered unique observational evidence of plentiful energetic wave pulses, named after the Nobel laureate Hannes Alfven, in the solar atmosphere.

These short-lived Alfven pulses have been found to be generated by prevalent photospheric plasma swirls about the size of the British Isles, which are suggested to have a population of at least 150,000 in the solar photosphere at any moment of time.

Magnetic plasma pulses excited by UK-size swirls in the solar atmosphere
The photospheric and chromospheric images were recorded with the Hinode satellite, while coloured lines between
are visualizing the presence of magnetic field lines from the researchers’ realistic numerical simulations using
the Sheffield Advanced Code (SAC). Red and blue curves are swirls detected by the Automated Swirl
Detection Algorithm (ASDA) developed by the researchers [Credit: Liu et al. 2019]

Professor Robertus Erdelyi (a.k.a. von Fay-Siebenburgen), Head of SP2RC, said: «Swirling motions are everywhere in the universe, from sinking water in domestic taps with a size of centimeters, to tornadoes on Earth and on the Sun, solar jets and spiral galaxies with a size of up to 520,000 light years. This work has shown, for the first time, the observational evidence that ubiquitous swirls in the solar atmosphere could generate short-lived Alfven pulses.

«The generated Alfven pulses easily penetrate the solar atmosphere along cylinder-like magnetic flux tubes, a form of magnetism a bit like trees in a forest. The pulses could travel all the way upward and reach the top of the solar chromospheric layers, or, even beyond.»

Alfven modes are currently very hard to observe directly, because they do not cause any local intensity concentrations or rarefactions as they make their journey through a magnetised plasma. They are hard to be observationally distinguished from some other types of magnetic plasma modes, like the well-known transversal magnetic plasma waves, often called kink modes.

«The energy flux carried by the Alfven pulses we detected now are estimated to be more than 10 times higher than that needed for heating the local upper solar chromosphere,» said Dr Jiajia Liu, postdoctoral research associate.

Magnetic plasma pulses excited by UK-size swirls in the solar atmosphere
The grey cylinder represents a magnetic flux tube while green lines are magnetic field lines.
Regions with the purple color in the field lines highlight the location of the propagating magnetic
Alfven pulse. Different colours on the central disk represent different local plasma densities.
The figure illustrates how a magnetic Alfven plasma pulse will show up as the observed
 chromospheric swirls. An online animation of this figure is available
[Credit: Liu et al. 2019]

«The chromosphere is a relatively thin layer between the solar surface and the extremely hot corona. The solar chromosphere appears as a red ring around the Sun during total solar eclipses.»
Professor Erdelyi added: «It has been a fascinating question for the scientific community for a long while — how the Sun and many other stars supply energy and mass to their upper atmospheres. Our results, as part of an exciting UK-China collaboration, involving our very best early-career scientists like Drs Jiajia Liu, Chris Nelson and Ben Snow, are an important step forward in addressing the supply of the needed non-thermal energy for solar and astrophysical plasma heating.

«We believe, these UK-sized photospheric magnetic plasma swirls are also very promising candidates not just for energy but also for mass transportation between the lower and upper layers of the solar atmosphere. Our future research with my colleagues at SP2RC will now focus on this new puzzle. «

The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: University of Sheffield [August 05, 2019]



How deep space travel could affect the brain

Exposure to chronic, low dose radiation — the conditions present in deep space — causes neural and behavioral impairments in mice, researchers report in eNeuro. These results highlight the pressing need to develop safety measures to protect the brain from radiation during deep space missions as astronauts prepare to travel to Mars.

How deep space travel could affect the brain
Outside Earth’s protective atmosphere, there is nothing to shield astronauts from the dangerous
cosmic radiation of space [Credit: NASA]

Radiation is known to disrupt signaling among other processes in the brain. However, previous experiments used short-term, higher dose-rate exposures of radiation, which does not accurately reflect the conditions in space.

To investigate how deep space travel could affect the nervous system, Charles Limoli and colleagues at the University of California, Irvine, Stanford University, Colorado State University and the Eastern Virginia School of Medicine exposed mice to chronic, low dose radiation for six months.

They found that the radiation exposure impaired cellular signaling in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, resulting in learning and memory impairments. They also observed increased anxiety behaviors, indicating that the radiation also impacted the amygdala.

The researchers predict that during a deep space mission approximately one in five astronauts would experience anxiety-like behavior and one in three would experience certain levels of memory impairments. Additionally, the astronauts may struggle with decision-making.

Source: Society for Neuroscience [August 05, 2019]



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Bubbles in space

ISS — International Space Station logo.

8 August 2019

Bubbles are soon to be made in space as part of an experiment that combines scientific insight with an objectively cool process on International Space Station.  

The Reference mUltiscale Boiling Investigation experiment, known affectionately as Rubi, aims to expand our knowledge of the boiling process.

Bubbles in altered states of gravity

Understanding how boiling behaves in weightlessness is imperative because gravity plays an important role in this process.

Without gravity, boiling takes place in slow motion and produces larger bubbles. This will allow scientists to observe and measure effects that are too fast and too small on Earth. With this insight and more accurate calculations of the boiling process, products such as laptops can be improved and made more compact.  

Plug and boil

A lot of science will take place in a container the size of a large shoebox. Built by Airbus for ESA and housed in the Fluid Science Laboratory in the Columbus module, Rubi will generate bubbles under controlled conditions using a special heater.

A high-speed camera will record how the bubbles behave, while an infrared camera measures the temperature of the heated region.

It sounds simple enough, but what makes Rubi complex is that scientists are eager to observe and quantify the effect of external forces.

Rubi payload

With no gravity to disperse the bubbles, the science teams installed an electrode to observe the effect of an electric field on the bubbles. 

The experiment container also contains a small pump that, when activated, will get the liquid moving to evaluate the effect on the boiling process. 

Why space bubbles

«Making sure equipment and computer chips stay at the right temperature is of vital importance, otherwise their lifetime, as well as their performance, could decrease abruptly,» says ESA project scientist Daniele Mangini.

“Boiling is an extremely efficient way of getting rid of excess heat. It could therefore be used to keep components of future spacecraft at their optimal temperature,” continues Daniele.

Back on Earth, better heat transfer technology means a lower impact on nature, as products such as laptops can cool down more efficiently.

ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano will install Rubi on 9 August and the experiment will run for five months on the International Space Station, during which time more than 600 test runs are planned.

Follow the Rubi experiment on social media for the latest #SpaceBubbles news and developments.

Multiscale Boiling experiment science team

Institutions of the Multiscale Boiling Science Team:

— Technische Universität Darmstadt, Institute of Technical Thermodynamics

— Aix Marseille Université

— University of Pisa

— Institut de Mécanique des Fluides de Toulouse

— Institute of Thermal-Fluid Dynamics, ENEA

— Transfers Interfaces and Processes, Université Libre de Bruxelles

— LAboratoire PLAsma et Conversion d’Energie Université Paul Sabatier

— Università degli Studi di Padova

— University of Thessaloniki

— University of Ljubljana

— Institute of Thermophysics, Novosibirsk, Russia

— Kobe University

— Hyogo University

— University of Maryland

Relate links:

European space laboratory Columbus: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/Columbus

International Space Station Benefits for Humanity: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/International_Space_Station_Benefits_for_Humanity

Experiment archive: http://eea.spaceflight.esa.int/

International Space Station (ISS): http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_and_Robotic_Exploration/International_Space_Station

Animation, Images, Text, Credits: ESA/Technical University Darmstadt/Airbus.

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NASA’s Spitzer Spies a Perfectly Sideways Galaxy

NASA — Spitzer Space Telescope patch.

August 8, 2019

Image above: Galaxy NGC 5866 lies 44 million light-years from Earth and has a diameter of roughly 60,000 light-years — a little more than half the diameter of our own Milky Way galaxy. From our viewpoint, NGC 5866 is oriented almost exactly edge-on, yielding most of its structural features invisible. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

This image from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope might look like a lightsaber floating in space, but it’s actually an entire galaxy viewed on its side.

The long red beam in the center of the image is a galaxy called NGC 5866. It lies 44 million light-years from Earth and has a diameter of roughly 60,000 light-years — a little more than half the diameter of our own Milky Way galaxy. When we think of galaxies, we often imagine massive spiral arms or thick disks of dust. But not all galaxies are oriented face-on as viewed from Earth. From our viewpoint, we see only the edge of NGC 5866, so most of its structural features are invisible.

Spitzer detects infrared light, and the red color here corresponds to an infrared wavelength typically emitted by dust. With a consistency similar to soot or thick smoke, the dust absorbs light from stars, then reemits light at longer wavelengths, including in infrared. (Materials used to make blacklight posters work via this same mechanism, by absorbing ultraviolet light and reemitting visible light.) The clean edges of the dust emission from NGC 5866 indicate that there is a very flat ring or disk of dust circling the outer region of the galaxy. Dust rings and disks sometimes form in the wake of galaxies merging, but this galaxy lacks any sign of twists or distortions in the ring that often appear as the result of a merger.

Trying to learn about the history and shape of NGC 5866 is challenging due to its orientation. Our view of this galaxy is somewhat like our view of the Milky Way galaxy: Because Earth lies inside the Milky Way, we can see it only edge-on rather than face-on. But our proximity to the rest of the Milky Way has allowed astronomers to reconstruct what our galaxy would look like viewed face-on. Even the Sombrero galaxy, which is nearly edge-on as viewed from Earth, is tilted just enough to reveal a symmetric ring of dust around the galaxy’s center. If seen perfectly edge-on, the Sombrero might look a lot like NGC 5866.

Spitzer Space Telescope. Animation Credits: NASA/JPL

Spitzer took this image during its «cold» mission, which ended in 2009. The colors represent three infrared wavelengths captured by the Infrared Array Camera instrument. Blue light corresponds to Spitzer’s observations at a wavelength of 3.6 microns, produced mainly by stars; green corresponds to 4.5 microns; and red corresponds to 8 microns. In this image, the blue haze is produced by stars that make up most of the mass of the galaxy.

More information about Spitzer is available at the following site:


A visible light image of NGC 5866 from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope at the following site:


Image, Animation (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/JPL/Calla Cofield.

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