среда, 25 сентября 2019 г.

CASC — Long March-2D launches the Yunhai-1 02 satellite

CASC — China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation logo.

25 sept. 2019

Long March-2D carrying Yunhai-1 02 satellite lift off

A Long March-2D rocket launched the Yunhai-1 02 satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, northwest China, on 25 September 2019, at 00:54 UTC (08:54 local time).

Long March-2D launches the Yunhai-1 02 satellite

The Yunhai-1 02 satellite (云海一号02) will be mainly used for studying the atmospheric, marine and space environments, as well as disaster control and other scientific experiments. Zhang Zhifen, the director of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, declared: «Based on the assessment of the launch, I declare this mission a complete success!».

Yunhai 1-02 environmental monitoring satellite

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC): http://english.spacechina.com/n16421/index.html

Images, Video, Text, Credits: CASC/SciNens/Gunter’s Space Page/Orbiter.ch Aerospace/Roland Berga.

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Soyuz Rocket Blasts Off to Station With Multinational Crew

ROSCOSMOS — Soyuz MS-15 Mission patch.

September 25, 2019

Image above: The Soyuz MS-15 rocket blasts off from Kazakhstan with a multinational crew of three people. Image Creedits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Oleg Skripochka of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Hazzaa Ali Almansoori from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched safely for their mission aboard the International Space Station on the Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft at 9:57 a.m. EDT.

Soyuz-FG launches Soyuz MS-15

The crew began their six-hour trip to the orbital laboratory during which they will orbit Earth four times. Coverage of the Soyuz docking to the International Space Station will begin on NASA TV and the agency’s website at 3 p.m., with the spacecraft docking expected at 3:45 p.m. NASA TV coverage of the hatch opening between the Soyuz and the space station will begin at 5 p.m. EDT.

Image above: (From top) NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates and Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka wave to support personnel before boarding their Soyuz MS-15 spacecraft. Image Credits: NASA/Bill Ingalls.

The crewmembers will join station commander Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, NASA astronauts Christina Koch, Nick Hague and Andrew Morgan, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Luca Parmitano, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov, increasing the space station population to nine people for eight days. The crewmembers of Expedition 61-62 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the space station.

Related links:

NASA TV: http://www.nasa.gov/live

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

Expedition 61: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition61/index.html

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

Images (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/ROSCOSMOS/NASA TV/SciNews.

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2019 September 25 The Pelican Nebula in Gas, Dust, and Stars…

2019 September 25

The Pelican Nebula in Gas, Dust, and Stars
Image Credit & Copyright: Yannick Akar

Explanation: The Pelican Nebula is slowly being transformed. IC 5070, the official designation, is divided from the larger North America Nebula by a molecular cloud filled with dark dust. The Pelican, however, receives much study because it is a particularly active mix of star formation and evolving gas clouds. The featured picture was produced in three specific colors – light emitted by sulfur, hydrogen, and oxygen – that can help us to better understand these interactions. The light from young energetic stars is slowly transforming the cold gas to hot gas, with the advancing boundary between the two, known as an ionization front, visible in bright orange on the right. Particularly dense tentacles of cold gas remain. Millions of years from now this nebula might no longer be known as the Pelican, as the balance and placement of stars and gas will surely leave something that appears completely different.

∞ Source: apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190925.html

Black Hole Seeds Missing in Cosmic Garden

NASA — Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) patch / NASA — Chandra X-ray Observatory patch.

Sept. 24, 2019

In the vast garden of the universe, the heaviest black holes grew from seeds. Nourished by the gas and dust they consumed, or by merging with other dense objects, these seeds grew in size and heft to form the centers of galaxies, such as our own Milky Way. But unlike in the realm of plants, the seeds of giant black holes must have been black holes, too. And no one has ever found these seeds — yet.

One idea is that supermassive black holes — the equivalent of hundreds of thousands to billions of Suns in mass — grew from a population of smaller black holes that has never been seen. This elusive group, the «intermediate-mass black holes,» would weigh in somewhere between 100 and 100,000 Suns. Among the hundreds of black holes found so far, there have been plenty of relatively small ones, but none for sure in the intermediate mass-range «desert.»

Merging black holes. Image Credit: NASA

Scientists are working with powerful space telescopes from NASA, as well as other observatories, to track down far-flung objects that fit the description of these exotic entities. They have found dozens of possible candidates, and are working toward confirming them as black holes. But even if they do, that opens up a whole new mystery: How did intermediate-mass black holes form?

«What is fascinating, and why people have spent so much time trying to find these intermediate-mass black holes, is because it sheds light on processes that happened in the early universe— what were the masses of relic black holes, or new formation mechanisms for black holes that we haven’t thought of yet,» said Fiona Harrison, professor of physics at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and principal investigator for NASA’s NuSTAR mission.

Black Hole 101

A black hole is an extremely dense object in space from which no light can escape. When material falls into a black hole, it has no way out. And the more a black hole eats, the more it grows in both mass and size.

Types of Black Holes

    1-100 solar masses = stellar mass
    100 to 100,000 solar masses = intermediate-mass black hole 

    100,000 to billions of solar masses = supermassive black hole

The smallest black holes are called «stellar mass,» with between 1 and 100 times the mass of the Sun. They form when stars explode in violent processes called supernovae.

Supermassive black holes, on the other hand, are the central anchors of large galaxies – for example, our Sun and all other stars in the Milky Way orbit a black hole called Sagittarius A* that weighs about 4.1 million solar masses. An even heavier black hole — at a whopping 6.5 billion solar masses — serves as the centerpiece for the galaxy Messier 87 (M87). M87’s supermassive black hole appears in the famous image from the Event Horizon Telescope, showing a black hole and its «shadow» for the very first time. This shadow is caused by the event horizon, the black hole’s point of no return, bending and capturing light with its strong gravity.

Supermassive black holes tend to have disks of material around them called «accretion disks,» made of extremely hot, high-energy particles that shine bright as they get closer to the event horizon— the black hole’s region of no return. Those that make their disks shine brightly because they eat a lot are called «active galactic nuclei.»

The density of matter needed to create a black hole is mind-boggling.  To make a black hole 50 times the mass of the Sun, you would have to pack the equivalent of 50 Suns into a ball less than 200 miles (300 kilometers) across. But in the case of M87’s centerpiece, it is as though 6.5 billion Suns were compressed into a ball wider than the orbit of Pluto. In both cases, the density is so high that the original material must collapse into a singularity— a rip in the fabric of space-time.

Key to the mystery of black holes’ origins is the physical limit on how fast they can grow. Even the giant monsters at the centers of galaxies have limitations on their feeding frenzies, because a certain amount of material is pushed back by the high-energy radiation coming from hot particles accelerated near the event horizon. Just by eating surrounding material, a low-mass black hole might only be able to double its mass in 30 million years, for example.

«If you start from a mass of 50 solar masses, you simply cannot grow it to 1 billion solar masses over 1 billion years,» said Igor Chilingarian, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Moscow State University. But, «as we know, there are supermassive black holes that exist less than 1 billion years after the formation of the universe.»

Image above: This artist’s conception illustrates one of the most primitive supermassive black holes known (central black dot) at the core of a young, star-rich galaxy. Image Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

How to make a black hole you can’t see

Early in the universe’s history, the seed of an intermediate-mass black hole could have formed either from the collapse of a large, dense gas cloud or from a supernova explosion. The very first stars that exploded in our universe had pure hydrogen and helium in their outer layers with heavier elements concentrated in the core. This is a recipe for a much more massive black hole than exploding modern stars, which are «polluted» with heavy elements in their outer layers and therefore lose more mass through their stellar winds.

«If we’re forming black holes with 100 solar masses early in the universe, some of them should merge together, but you basically then should produce a whole range of masses, and then some of them should still be around,» said Tod Strohmayer, astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland. «So then, where are they, if they did form?»

One clue that intermediate-mass black holes could still be out there came from the National Science Foundation’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, LIGO, a collaboration between Caltech and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. LIGO detectors, combined with a European facility in Italy named Virgo, are turning up many different mergers of black holes through ripples in space-time called gravitational waves.

In 2016, LIGO announced one of the most important scientific discoveries of the last half-century: the first gravitational wave detection. Specifically, the detectors based in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, picked up the signal of two black holes merging. The masses of these black holes: 29 and 36 times the mass of the Sun, respectively, surprised scientists. While these are still not technically intermediate-mass, they are large enough to raise eyebrows.

It’s possible that all of the intermediate-mass black holes have already merged, but also that technology hasn’t been fine tuned to locate them.

Image above: A galaxy called ESO 243-49, is home to an extremely bright object called HLX-1. Circled in this image, HLX-1 is the most likely example of a black hole in the intermediate mass range that scientists have found. Image Credits: NASA; ESA; and S. Farrell, Sydney Institute for Astronomy, University of Sydney.

So where are they?

Looking for black holes in the intermediate-mass desert is tricky because black holes themselves emit no light. However, scientists can look for specific telltale signs using sophisticated telescopes and other instruments. For example, because the flow of matter onto a black hole is not constant, the clumpiness of consumed material causes certain variations in light output in the environment. Such changes can be seen more quickly in smaller black holes than larger ones.

«On a timescale of hours, you can do the observational campaign that for classical active galactic nuclei takes months,» Chilingarian said.

The most promising intermediate-mass black hole candidate is called HLX-1, with a mass of about 20,000 times the Sun’s. HLX-1 stands for «Hyper-Luminous X-ray source 1,» and its energy output is a lot higher than Sun-like stars. It was discovered in 2009 by Australian astronomer Sean Farrell, using the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray space telescope. A 2012 study using NASA’s Hubble and Swift space telescopes found suggestions of a cluster of young blue stars orbiting this object. It may have once been the center of a dwarf galaxy that was swallowed by the larger galaxy ESO 243-49. Many scientists consider HLX-1 a proven intermediate-mass black hole, Harrison said.

«The colors of X-ray light it emits, and just the way it behaves, is very similar to a black hole,» Harrison said. «A lot of people, including my group, have programs to find things that look like HLX-1, but so far none are consistent. But the hunt goes on.»

Less-bright objects that could be intermediate-mass black holes are called ultraluminous X-ray sources, or ULXs. A flickering ULX called NGC 5408 X-1 has been especially intriguing to scientists looking for intermediate-mass black holes. But NASA’s NuSTAR and Chandra X-ray observatories astonished scientists by revealing that many ULX objects are not black holes— instead, they are pulsars, extremely dense stellar remnants that appear to pulse like lighthouses.

M82 X-1, the brightest X-ray source in the galaxy M82, is another very bright object that seems to flicker on timescales consistent with an intermediate-mass black hole. These changes in brightness are related to the mass of the black hole, and are caused by orbiting material near the inner region of the accretion disk. A 2014 study looked at specific variations in X-ray light and estimated that M82 X-1 has a mass of about 400 Suns. Scientists used archival data from NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite to study these X-ray brightness variations.

Most recently, scientists investigated a bigger group of possible intermediate-mass black holes. In 2018, Chilingarian and colleagues described a sample of 10 candidates by re-analyzing optical data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and matching the initial prospects with X-ray data from Chandra and XMM-Newton. They are now following up with ground-based telescopes in Chile and Arizona. Mar Mezcua of Spain’s Institute for Space Sciences led a separate 2018 study, also using Chandra data, finding 40 growing black holes in dwarf galaxies that could be in that special intermediate mass range. But Mezcua and collaborators argue these black holes formed originally in the collapse of giant clouds, rather than by originating in stellar explosions.

Image above: This image, taken with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, shows the central region of galaxy NGC1313. This galaxy is home to the ultraluminous X-ray source NCG1313X-1, which astronomers have now determined to be an intermediate-mass black hole candidate. NGC1313 is 50,000 light-years across and lies about 14 million light-years from the Milky Way in the southern constellation Reticulum.
Image Credit: ESO.

What’s next

Dwarf galaxies are interesting places to continue looking because, in theory, smaller star systems could host black holes of much lower mass than those found in the centers of larger galaxies like our own.

Scientists are also searching globular clusters — spherical concentrations of stars located in the outskirts of the Milky Way and other galaxies — for the same reason.

«It could be there are black holes like that, in galaxies like that, but if they’re not accreting a lot of matter, it might be hard to see them,» Strohmayer said.

Intermediate-mass black hole hunters eagerly await the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which will peer back to the dawn of the first galaxies. Webb will help astronomers figure out which came first — the galaxy or its central black hole — and how that black hole might have been put together. In combination with X-ray observations, Webb’s infrared data will be important for identifying some of the most ancient black hole candidates.

Another new tool launched in July by the Russian space agency Roscosmos is called Spectrum X-Gamma, a spacecraft that will scan the sky in X-rays, and carries an instrument with mirrors developed and built with NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama. Gravitational-wave information flowing from the LIGO-Virgo collaboration will also aid in the search, as will the European Space Agency’s planned Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) mission.

This fleet of new instruments and technologies, in addition to current ones, will help astronomers as they continue to scour the cosmic garden for seeds of black holes, and galaxies like our own.

Related links:

NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array): http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/nustar/main/index.html

Chandra X-Ray Observatory: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/main/index.html

Black Holes: https://www.nasa.gov/black-holes

Images (mentioned), Text, Credits: NASA/Thalia Patrinos/Written by Elizabeth Landau.

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Hi. Do you have any pictures of Stanton Drew circle?

Yes. They are posted in my archive in August this year. 😊

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Japanese Space Freighter Blasts Off To Resupply Station Crew

JAXA — H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) patch.

September 24, 2019

Image above: Japan’s HTV-8 cargo craft launches on time from the Tanegashima Space Center atop the H-IIB rocket. Image Credit: NASA TV.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) H-IIB rocket launched at 12:05 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Sept. 24 (1:05 a.m. Sept. 25 in Japan) from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan. At the time of launch, the space station was flying 258 statute miles over Mali in southwest Africa.

A little more than 15 minutes after launch, the unpiloted H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8) cargo spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and began its four-day rendezvous with the International Space Station.

HTV-8 launch

The spacecraft will arrive at the station Saturday, Sept. 28. Live coverage of the spacecraft rendezvous and capture will begin at 5:45 a.m. Expedition 60 Flight Engineer Christina Koch of NASA, backed up by her NASA crewmate Andrew Morgan, will operate the station’s Canadarm2 robotic arm from the station’s cupola to capture the 12-ton spacecraft as it approaches from below. Robotics flight controllers will then take over the operation of the arm to install HTV-8 to the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module where it will spend a month attached to the orbiting laboratory. Flight Engineer Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) will monitor HTV-8 systems during its approach to the station.

Capture of the HTV-8 is scheduled around 7:15 a.m. Coverage will resume at 9:30 a.m. for the final installation of the resupply craft to Harmony by robotic ground controllers. If the installation operations are running ahead of schedule, coverage would begin earlier.

Image above: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) unpiloted H-II Transport Vehicle-6 (HTV-6) makes its final approach to the International Space Station Dec. 13, 2016. Image Credit: NASA.

Named Kounotori, meaning white stork in Japanese, the craft will deliver six new lithium-ion batteries and corresponding adapter plates that will replace aging nickel-hydrogen batteries for two power channels on the station’s far port truss segment. The batteries will be installed through a series of robotics and spacewalks by the station’s crew members later this year.

Additional experiments on board HTV-8 include an upgrade to the Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF-L), a small-sized satellite optical communication system (SOLISS), and a payload for testing the effects of gravity on powder and granular material (Hourglass).

Related articles:

JAXA — H-IIB F8/HTV-8 launch-pad in fire

JAXA Spacecraft Carries Science, Technology to the Space Station

JAXA and Sony CSL to Conduct In-Orbit Demonstrations of Long-Distance Laser Communication

Related links:

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

H-II Transfer Vehicle-8 (HTV-8): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/htv.html

Cupola: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/cupola.html

Cell Biology Experiment Facility (CBEF-L): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=333

Small-sized satellite optical communication system (SOLISS): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7750

Hourglass: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=8007

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 (mentioned), Video, Text, Credits: NASA/Mark Garcia/NASA TV/SciNews.

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New Crew Prepares for Launch as Japanese Cargo Heads to Station

ISS — Expedition 60 Mission patch.

September 24, 2019

Japan’s cargo craft is on its way resupply the International Space Station as a Russian crew ship counts down to launch Wednesday morning. Meanwhile, the six Expedition 60 crewmembers orbiting Earth today continued their lab maintenance and space research to benefit humanity.

The HTV-8 space freighter lifted off Tuesday from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan packed with over four tons of station hardware, science experiments and crew supplies. NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Andrew Morgan will welcome the HTV-8 when they capture the cargo craft with the Canadarm2 robotic arm on Saturday at about 7:15 a.m. EDT.

Image above: (From left) Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates and Expedition 61 crewmembers Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos and Jessica Meir of NASA pose for a photograph at the conclusion of a press conference. Image Credit: ROSCOSMOS.

Back on Earth in Kazakhstan, three new station crewmates are in final preparations ahead of their liftoff Wednesday at 9:57 a.m. aboard the Soyuz MS-15 crew ship. Spaceflight participant Hazzaa Ali Almansoori of the United Arab Emirates will ride to space with Expedition 61 crewmembers Jessica Meir and Oleg Skripochka. Less than six hours after launch they will dock to the rear port of the Zvezda service module.

Microgravity science kept the station inhabitants busy today as they wait for their new crewmates and cargo delivery. Flight Engineer Nick Hague strapped himself into an exercise bike and measured his aerobic capacity while attached to a variety of sensors. Astronaut Luca Parmitano of ESA (European Space Agency) explored how living in space affects time perception before processing microbe samples for analysis.

International Space Station (ISS). Animation Credit: NASA

While Koch and Morgan get ready for Saturday’s cargo delivery, the astronauts are also maintaining spacesuits and science hardware. Koch was cleaning cooling loops in U.S. spacesuits ahead of upcoming spacewalks planned in October. Morgan was servicing an advanced research furnace before wrapping up rodent research operations in the Life Sciences Glovebox.

Commander Alexey Ovchinin and Hague are still getting ready for their return to Earth next week. The duo reviewed descent maneuvers they will use when they undock from the Rassvet module on Oct. 3 inside the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft. The duo will parachute to Earth with Almansoori aboard their Soyuz crew ship and land in Kazakhstan.

Related article:

Japanese Space Freighter Blasts Off To Resupply Station Crew

Related links:

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

Expedition 61: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition61/index.html

Zvezda service module: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/elements/zvezda-service-module.html

Time perception: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7504

Microbe samples: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Investigation.html?#id=7660

Advanced research furnace: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/explorer/Facility.html?#id=1536

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

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

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NA62 spots two potential instances of rare particle decay

CERN — European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.

24 September, 2019

The NA62 experiment has detected two candidate events for the decay of a positively charged kaon into a pion and a neutrino–antineutrino pair

The NA62 experiment in CERN’s North Area (Image: CERN)

Are there new, unknown particles that can explain dark matter and other mysteries of the universe? To try to answer this question, particle physicists typically sift through the myriad of particles that are produced in particle collisions. But they also have an indirect but powerful way of looking for new particles, which is to measure processes that are both rare and precisely predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics. A slight discrepancy between the Standard Model prediction and a high-precision measurement would be a sign of new particles or phenomena never before observed.

One such process is the transformation, or “decay”, of a positively charged variant of a particle known as kaon into a positively charged pion and a neutrino–antineutrino pair. In a seminar that took place today at CERN, the NA62 collaboration reported two potential instances of this ultra-rare kaon decay. The result, first presented at the International Conference on Kaon Physics, shows the experiment’s potential to make a precise test of the Standard Model.

The Standard Model predicts that the odds of a positively charged kaon decaying into a positively charged pion and a neutrino–antineutrino pair (K+ → π+ ν ν) are only about one in ten billion, with an uncertainty of less than ten percent. Finding a deviation, even if small, from this prediction would indicate new physics beyond the Standard Model.

The NA62 experiment produces positively charged kaons (K+) and other particles by hitting a beryllium target with protons from the Super Proton Synchrotron accelerator. It then uses several types of detector to identify and measure the K+ kaons and the particles into which they decay.

In 2018, the NA62 team reported finding one candidate event for the K+ → π+ ν ν decay in a dataset recorded in 2016 that comprised about 100 billion K+ decays. In its new study, the collaboration analysed an approximately 10-fold larger dataset recorded in 2017 and spotted two candidate events. By combining this result with the previous result, the team finds that the relative frequency (known as “branching ratio”) of the K+ → π+ ν ν decay would be at most 24.4 in 100 billion K+ decays. This combined result is compatible with the Standard Model prediction and allowed the team to put limits on beyond-Standard-Model theories that predict frequencies larger than this upper bound.

“This is a great achievement and one we will build upon. Having clearly established our experimental technique, we’ll now explore ways to perfect it using a dataset that we took in 2018,” says spokesperson Cristina Lazzeroni. “The 2018 dataset is twice as large as the 2017 dataset, so it should allow us to find more events and make a more precise test of the Standard Model.”

For a detailed account of the results, see the recording of the CERN seminar and the EP newsletter article.


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

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

Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 23 Member States.

Related links:

International Conference on Kaon Physics: https://indico.cern.ch/event/769729/

CERN seminar: https://indico.cern.ch/event/846814/

EP newsletter article: https://ep-news.web.cern.ch/content/na62-experiment-presents-new-results

Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS): https://home.cern/science/accelerators/super-proton-synchrotron

Standard Model: https://home.cern/science/physics/standard-model

Dark matter: https://home.cern/science/physics/dark-matter

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

Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Ana Lopes.

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1,400-year-old ritual vessels discovered in Bolivia’s Tiwanaku ruins

Pre-Hispanic vessels over 1,400 years old have been found in the center of Bolivia’s Tiwanaku ruins, archaeologists said Wednesday.

1,400-year-old ritual vessels discovered in Bolivia's Tiwanaku ruins
An archaeologist shows a recently excavated pre-Hispanic vessel at the Kalasasaya temple
 in the ancient city of Tiwanaku, Bolivia [Credit: Juan Karita/AP]

The finding was made at the Kalasasaya temple during a research, conservation and restoration project undertaken with the support of UNESCO on the grounds of the ancient city, which is about 47 miles (75 kilometres) from the capital of La Paz, near the southern shore of Lake Titicaca.
Mary Luz Choque, an assistant archaeologist at the Archaeological Investigations Center of Tihuanaco, told The Associated Press that the circular shape in which the objects were buried suggests they formed part of an offering made at the funeral of a person of noble lineage.

1,400-year-old ritual vessels discovered in Bolivia's Tiwanaku ruins
Tiwanaku, located in the Bolivian highlands, 70 kilometres from the city of La Paz, is nearly 4,000 metres
high in the heart of South America [Credit: Ministerio de Culturas y Turismo de Bolivia]

Tiwanaku was a spiritual and political center considered to be one of the most important pre-Hispanic empires. It was declared a religious heritage site by UNESCO in 2000.
A group of four archaeologists and more than 50 researchers have been excavating at the site for 15 days and will continue to work for six weeks more before giving a final report on their findings.

1,400-year-old ritual vessels discovered in Bolivia's Tiwanaku ruins
Archaeologists extract pre-Hispanic vessels at the Kalasasaya temple in the ancient city
of Tiwanaku, Bolivia [Credit: Ministerio de Culturas y Turismo de Bolivia]

Julio Condori, director of the archaeological center, said the vessels date from the time of Tiwanaku III, between A.D. 400 and 600, and include iconography of fish and birds.
He said the initial discoveries allowed one to «rethink what the actual function of the Kalasasaya temple was and redefine the interpretation of its origin.»

1,400-year-old ritual vessels discovered in Bolivia's Tiwanaku ruins
The discovery will shed more light on the function of the Kalasasaya temple in the ancient city 
of Tiwanaku, Bolivia [Credit: Ministerio de Culturas y Turismo de Bolivia]

Tiwanaku Mayor Octavio Choque said, «This serves to revalue our heritage site, which we try to preserve over time and not lose.»

An Aymara priest presided over a ceremony dedicated to Mother Earth before the objects were extracted.

Source: The Associated Press [September 18, 2019]



Paris art sale goes ahead despite Mexico protest

A controversial sale of pre-Columbian art went ahead in Paris on Wednesday despite furious calls from Mexico for it to be halted.

Paris art sale goes ahead despite Mexico protest

The Mexican government filed a formal complaint against the auction of 120 religious and cultural artefacts from several private collections, with UNESCO also urging auctioneers Millon to postpone the sale.

But despite a last-minute appeal by Mexico’s ambassador for the French authorities to intervene, the auction went ahead, with a statue of an Aztec goddess selling for five times its estimate.

The stone figure of Chalchiuhtlicue, the goddess of water and protector of births, went for 377,000 euros ($417,000). Sculpted from volcanic rock, it shows her kneeling and looking at the sky.

Another kneeling figure of the Aztec mother goddess Coatlicue sold for 97,500 euros to bring the auction total to more than 1.2 million euros.

Mexico insisted that 95 of the 120 works were part of its «cultural heritage», with its ambassador to France Juan Manuel Gomez Robledo warning that some «could turn out to be imitations».

He told reporters that as many as 23 could be recently made fakes, according to experts from the country’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

But Millon went ahead with the auction, and all but a handful of the artefacts were sold. Last week it agreed to withdraw a pre-Hispanic artefact from neighbouring Guatemala from the sale.

Paris art sale goes ahead despite Mexico protest
An item of pre-Columbian artworks to be auctioned is displayed at the Drouot auction house in Paris.
The Mexican government called for an auction of pre-Columbian art in Paris to be halted,
 insisting that 95 works going under the hammer are a part of its cultural heritage
[Credit: Philippe Lopez/AFP]

Millon said the core of the auction was «part of the last French collections (of Pre-Columbian art) put together in the postwar period.

«It is remarkable in terms of its origin and prestige,» it said, adding that some of the pieces had featured in major exhibitions and in «indispensable works on pre-Columbian art».

But Mexico — which has been increasingly vocal about protecting its indigenous heritage — condemned the decision to press on.

«We regret that despite the efforts undertaken, we did not get the auction house to cancel the sale,» Gomez Robledo said shortly before the first objects went under the hammer at the Drouot auction house.

He said the cancellation of the Paris sale would have been «a first step towards the restitution of authentic cultural property of Mexico.»

«This type of trade encourages pillage, illegal trafficking and counterfeiting practised by organised transnational crime networks,» the diplomat told reporters, lamenting that the artefacts were being treated as «mere objects of decoration».

Under the government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico has stepped up efforts to reclaim its cultural heritage.

As well as calling for artworks to be returned, it has accused major fashion houses of cultural appropriation for lifting native designs for their clothes.

Source: AFP [September 18, 2019]



Key similarities discovered between human and archaea chromosomes

A study led by researchers at Indiana University is the first to find similarities between the organization of chromosomes in humans and archaea. The discovery could support the use of archaea in research to understand human diseases related to errors in cellular gene expression, such as cancer.

Key similarities discovered between human and archaea chromosomes
An image of Sulfolobus, a genus of archaea that prefers high temperatures. Each cell is outlined
in red. The DNA is stained blue [Credit: Stephen Bell, Indiana University]

The lead author on the study is Stephen Bell, a professor of biology and chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington. The study will publish in the journal Cell.

The similar clustering of DNA in humans and archaeal chromosomes is significant because certain genes activate or deactivate based upon how they’re folded.

«The inaccurate bundling, or ‘folding,’ of DNA can lead to the wrong gene being switched on or off,» Bell said. «Studies have shown that switching the wrong genes on or off during cellular growth in humans can lead to changes in gene expression that can ultimately be carcinogenic.»

Archaea are simple single-celled organisms that comprise one of the three domains of life on Earth. Although found in every type of environment, including the human body, archaea are poorly understood compared to the other two domains: bacteria and eukaryotes, which include mammals such as humans. They’re also more similar to eukaryotes on the genetic level than bacteria.

The IU study is the first to visualize the organization of DNA in archaeal chromosomes. The key similarity is the way in which the DNA is arranged into clusters — or «discrete compartmentalizations» — based upon their function.

«When we first saw the interaction patterns of the archaea’s DNA, we were shocked,» Bell said. «It looked just like what has been seen with human DNA.»

The study is also the first to describe the protein used to assemble archaeal DNA during cellular growth. The researchers dubbed this large protein complex as «coalescin» due to its similarities to a protein in eukaryotes called «condensin.»

The advantages to the use of archaea as a model for studying the organization of DNA during cellular growth in humans — and the relationship between that organization and the activation of genes that may trigger cancers — is their relative simplicity.

«Human cells are horrifyingly complex, and understanding the rules that govern DNA folding is extremely challenging,» Bell said. «The simplicity of archaea means that they’ve got the potential to be a terrific model to help understand the fundamentally related — but much more complicated — cellular processes in humans.»

The study was conducted using Sulfolobus, a genus of archaea that thrives at extremely high temperatures, because their physical durability allows them to be more easily used in experiments. Sulfolobus are found across the globe, notably at locations such as the volcano at Mount St. Helen’s and hot springs at Yellowstone National Park.

Source: Indiana University [September 19, 2019]



New study suggests gigantic masses in Earth’s mantle untouched for more than 4 billion...

Ancient, distinct, continent-sized regions of rocks, isolated since before the collision that created the Moon 4.5 billion years ago, exist hundreds of miles below the Earth’s crust, offering a window into the building blocks of our planet, according to new research.

New study suggests gigantic masses in Earth’s mantle untouched for more than 4 billion years
This image shows the divisions between Earth’s layers. The ancient, continent-sized rock regions
encircle the liquid outer core [Credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory]

The new study in the AGU journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems used models to trace the location and origin of volcanic rock samples found throughout the world back to two solid continents in the deep mantle. The new research suggests the specific giant rock regions have existed for 4.5 billion years, since Earth’s beginning.

Previously, scientists theorized that separated continents in the deep mantle came from subducted oceanic plates. But the new study indicates these distinct regions may have been formed from an ancient magma ocean that solidified during the beginning of Earth’s formation and may have survived the massive Moon-creating impact.

Determining the masses’ origin reveals more details about their evolution and composition, as well as clues about primordial Earth’s history in the early Solar System, according to the study’s authors.

It’s amazing that these regions have survived most of Earth’s volcanic history relatively untouched, said Curtis Williams, a geologist at the University of California, Davis, in Davis, California and lead author of the study.

Looking inward

The mantle is a layer of rock, stretching 2,900 kilometers (1,802 miles) down inside the Earth. Earth’s molten, liquid, metallic core lies beneath the mantle. The core-mantle boundary is where the solid mantle meets the metallic liquid core.

Scientists knew from past seismic imaging studies that two individual rock bodies existed near the core-mantle boundary. One solid rock body is under Africa and the other is under the Pacific Ocean.

Seismic waves, the vibrations produced by earthquakes, move differently through these masses than the rest of the mantle, suggesting they have distinct physical properties from the surrounding mantle. But geologists couldn’t determine whether seismic waves moved differently through the core-mantle continents because of differences in their temperature, mineral composition or density, or some combination of these properties. That meant they could only hypothesize about the separate rocky masses’ origin and history.

«We had all of these geochemical measurements from Earth’s surface, but we didn’t know how to relate these geochemical measurements to regions of Earth’s interior. We had all of these geophysical images of the Earth’s interior, but we didn’t know how to relate that to the geochemistry at Earth’s surface,» Williams said.

Primitive material and plumes

Williams and his colleagues wanted to determine the distinct masses’ origin and evolution to learn more about Earth’s composition and past. To do this, they needed to be able to identify samples at Earth’s surface with higher concentrations of primitive material and then trace those samples back to their origins.

Scientists often take rock samples from volcanic regions like Hawaii and Iceland, where deep mantle plumes, or columns of extremely hot rock, rise from the areas near the core, melt in the shallow mantle and emerge far from tectonic fault lines. These samples are made of igneous rock created from cooling lava. The study’s authors used an existing database of samples and also collected new samples from volcanically active areas like the Balleny Islands in Antarctica.

Geologists can measure specific isotopes in igneous rocks to learn more about the origin and evolution of the Earth. Some isotopes, like Helium-3, are primordial, meaning they were created during the Big Bang. Rocks closer to Earth’s crust have less of the isotope than rocks deeper underground that were never exposed to air. Samples with more Helium-3 are thought to come from more primitive rocks in the mantle.

The researchers found some of the samples they studied had more Helium-3, indicating they may have come from primitive rocks deep in the Earth’s mantle.

The researchers then used a new model to trace how these primitive samples could have gotten to the Earth’s surface from the mantle. Geological models assume plumes rise vertically from deep within the mantle to the Earth’s surface. But plumes can move off course, deflected, due to various reasons. The new model took into account this plume deflection, allowing the study’s authors to trace the samples back to the two giant masses near the core-mantle boundary.

The combination of the isotope information and the new model allowed the researchers to determine the composition of the two giant masses and theorize how they may have formed.

Understanding the composition of specific rock masses near the core-mantle boundary helps geologists conceptualize ancient Earth-shaping processes that led to the modern-day mantle, according to the study’s authors.

«It’s a more robust framework to try and answer these questions in terms of not making these assumptions of vertically rising material but rather to take into account how much deflection these plumes have seen,» Williams said.

Author: Abigail Eisenstadt | Source: American Geophysical Union [September 19, 2019]



Trefllys Standing Stone, North Wales, 21.9.19.

Trefllys Standing Stone, North Wales, 21.9.19.

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Moel Goedog Prehistoric Stone Row (Stones 1 to 5), Harlech, North Wales, 21.9.19.

Moel Goedog Prehistoric Stone Row (Stones 1 to 5), Harlech, North Wales, 21.9.19.

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Moel Goedog Prehistoric Standing Stone 7, Harlech, North Wales, 21.9.19.

Moel Goedog Prehistoric Standing Stone 7, Harlech, North Wales, 21.9.19.

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Division by subtraction: Extinction of large mammal species likely drove survivors apart

When a series of large mammal species began going extinct roughly 12,000 years ago, many surviving species began going their separate ways, says new research led by Macquarie University and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Division by subtraction: Extinction of large mammal species likely drove survivors apart
A life-sized display of Archie, a Columbian mammoth, at the University of Nebraska State Museum
at Morrill Hall [Credit: Troy Fedderson/University of Nebraska-Lincoln]

Published in the journal Science, the study analyzed distributions of mammal fossils across North America following the last ice age, after the retreat of massive glaciers that had encroached south to the modern-day United States. The aftermath saw the disappearance of many famously large mammal species: mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and ground sloths, among others.

Surviving mammal species often responded by distancing themselves from their neighbors, the study found, potentially reducing how often they interacted as predators and prey, territorial competitors or scavengers.

The ecological repercussions of the extinctions are likely still echoing today and could preview the effects of future extinctions, said study co-author Kate Lyons.

«For 300 million years, the (cohabitation) pattern of plants and animals looked one way — and then it changed in the last 10,000 years,» said Lyons, assistant professor of biological sciences at Nebraska. «This paper addresses how that happened in mammal communities.

«If connectedness among species makes ecosystems more stable, what this suggests is that we’ve already lost a lot of those links. What this potentially tells us is that modern ecosystems are probably more vulnerable than we think they are.»

Division by subtraction: Extinction of large mammal species likely drove survivors apart
The extinction of mammoths, saber-toothed cats and other large mammal species disrupted ecosystem dynamics
 across North America, according to a new study in the journal Science. The ecological repercussions
of the extinctions are likely still echoing today and could preview the effects of future extinctions,
the researchers say [Credit: University of Nebraska-Lincoln/Shutterstock]

Led by Macquarie’s Anikó Tóth, the team analyzed records of 93 mammal species at hundreds of fossil sites during three timespans: 21,000 to 11,700 years ago, when the extinctions began; 11,700 to 2,000 years ago; and 2,000 years ago to the present. The researchers then assessed whether, and to what extent, a given species lived among each of the other 92 at those sites.

That data allowed the team to calculate how often a random pair of species would be expected to cohabit a site, providing a baseline for whether each pair overlapped more or less often than predicted by chance — aggregating vs. segregating, respectively. The proportion of aggregating pairs generally declined following the extinctions, and the strength of associations often dropped even among species that continued to aggregate, the researchers found.

«The loss of the giant carnivores and herbivores changed how small mammals such as deer, coyotes and raccoons interacted,» Tóth said. «Our work suggests that these changes were triggered by the ecological upheaval of the extinctions.»

Tóth, Lyons and their 17 co-authors effectively ruled out climate change and geography as drivers of the growing division. Surprisingly, the team also concluded that surviving species began cohabiting less frequently even as they expanded into larger swaths of their respective geographic ranges.

Lyons said the specific reasons for the seeming paradox and the overall trends are unclear, though the ecological consequences of losing species such as the mammoth could explain them. Mammoths toppled trees, compacted soil and, by eating and excreting masses of vegetation, transported nutrients around ecosystems, Lyons said.

Division by subtraction: Extinction of large mammal species likely drove survivors apart
When the megafauna went extinct, many survivors expanded their ranges, resulting in greater range overlap.
In overlapping zones, segregations became stronger [Credit: Lt. Emöke M. Tóth]

Those behaviours helped sustain the so-called mammoth steppe, an ecosystem type that once covered vast areas of the Northern Hemisphere. The loss of the mammoth effectively doomed the mammoth steppe, possibly compartmentalizing the expanses of land that hosted many species.
«If you’re an open-habitat species that used to occupy the mammoth steppe, and now the mammoth steppe has gone away, you might inhabit, say, open grassland areas that are surrounded by forests,» Lyons said. «But that meadow is much smaller. Instead of supporting 10 species, it now might support five. And if those patches of open habitat are spread farther apart, you might expand your geographic range and potentially your climate range, but you would co-occur with fewer species.»

Also uncertain: why common species became more common, and some rare species became even rarer, following the extinctions. Continuing to study the dynamics underlying such trends could help sharpen perspectives on current ecosystems and their possible fates, the researchers said.

«We had a complement of large mammals in North America that was probably more diverse than what we see in Africa today,» Lyons said. «Additional extinctions could have a cascading effect and huge implications for the mammal communities that we have left.»

Source: University of Nebraska-Lincoln [September 19, 2019]




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